1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: June 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Changes to Cruising in Cuba, Sail to the Sun and more....

Well - that last post certainly got some attention - nearly 7000 hits in only four days, and that doesn't count the shares and email reads. It is now my all time blog post leader...you folks seem to have an insatiable appetite for the baloney that Florida throws at us over the anchoring issue, because the next four top posts are all Florida anchoring issue stuff. I should be grateful to the politicians there for providing me so much to blog about. Hah!
President Trump has given me my next topic to discuss, Cuba. Cruising World just published my update on the changes to Cuba travel announced on June 16 in Miami. You can find that article here at Cruising World. Yes, there are changes, but it will still be possible for Americans to cruise to Cuba - as the regulations come out and we have more details, I'll update all you LiveBloggers, or you can follow the issue on my Sailing and Cruising Cuba group on Facebook. As my article for CW starts out, the devil is in the details...
Plans are continuing for this year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, and people are getting excited about joining the most fun you can have heading south. Your Rally includes the day long cruising seminar at the Annapolis Sailboat Show, which last year featured Lin Pardey as our guest speaker. Along with Lin, we had Greg Knutsen, of Mantus Anchors, and Greg gave the best anchoring seminar I've heard yet. Jeff and Jean Grossman discussed cruising as a couple, and Dave Skolnick discussed the various means of crossing the Gulf Stream and actually enjoying it.
As in year's past, the Rally will begin in Hampton VA with a brief welcoming party and some speakers with still more cruising advice.
It looks like we'll be able to do the Dismal Swamp this year, as word is it will be open for the fall migration. The Dismal is always a welcome stop, and from there, we head to Elizabeth City for their Rose Buddy greeting, an ICW tradition.
Then it's on to places such as River Dunes (rated in the top 25 of American marinas!), a visit to Dowry Creek Marina, now under new management - they're suggesting we take in a visit to a nearby rum distillery while we're there. Then on to Beaufort NC, Beaufort SC, Charleston, Savannah, Southport, and the many many other charming stops along the ICW.
One of the biggest reasons people join the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is for the assistance and advice on how to make the trip easier, safer and more fun. And perhaps the best way to demonstrate the value of that is to quote a friend of mine, Dana, who was unable to join the Rally for his first trip south and told me this just yesterday...

If I could do it over I'd have made sure I was in the rally! We had to learn a whole lot doing the ICW...(and we're still only in Jacksonville! More learning I'm sure) it would have been nice to "be led" and "be instructed" along with the other first timers. Luckily, you and only a few others were there to give advice along the way (it really did help us). One tends to listen to too many people and read too many stories, that it rather starts to confuse, than educate. I, like many I'm sure, fell into that a few times along the way. By the time we were on the last leg of our journey, we had gained enough knowledge to be a lot more relaxed, and so enjoyed that part of the trip much more. God was good to us.
I wish there was some way to express to those who will make this trip, how good for first timers your Rally is. Not just for the fun part...but to go thru the tough parts with others in the same boat, so to speak... and being led by experienced people.

Hey Dana, thanks for the kind words! I remember what my own first trip was like - very much as Dana noted above, very challenging and stressful, always wondering and worrying about what was coming next. And on top of that, you're on your own. It's so much nicer to be able to do the trip with new friends sharing the same adventure.
The best part of that is that these new friendships don't end in Miami. Everyone keeps in touch with one another, making plans to travel together to the Bahamas, the Caribbean for the more adventurous, and to keep in touch for future meetups.

One of the most enjoyable stops during the Rally is Cocoa Florida, where the Historic Cocoa Village Association rolls out the red carpet for us.
Once again, a royal welcome from Cocoa is in the plans, including a Mayor's reception and some great dining spots over the course of several days. Side trips to Cape Canaveral Space Center are organized, as well as provisioning to grocery stores and of course, West Marine.
A lot of the fun of the Rally is due to the Ralliers themselves - potlucks, side trips, adventures, croquet tournaments, shrimp bbqs (31 pounds!) and one memorable night of karaoke in St. Augustine! They even convinced me, after a few brews, to get up and sing. Yes, there is video...
Another of 2016's highlights was the Windmill Harbour Marina on Hilton Head.
The folks literally opened their doors to us, and we had an amazing time here, with tours of Savannah, GA, a pizza party, dinners and a fascinating talk about the history of Hilton Head from one of the people who helped create Windmill Harbour.
There's more, you can take a look at the public Facebook Sail to the Sun page (Ralliers have their own, private page) and hint hint!!! that video of me singing karaoke is there, along with photos of events from the past three year's rallies.
If you've been thinking about joining the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally this year, don't delay much longer - the Rally is half full, and there have been a great many recent inquiries for information. If you'd like a brochure, you can request one from the links at www.ICWally.com, or by using the contact link from this page. And there's lots of Rally information at www.ICWally.com, including an itinerary and more.
Last minute addition - for those travelling south from the Great Lakes, be aware that the Erie Canal is closing early this year, on October 11, not mid November. Adjust your plans accordingly and stay tuned either here or at Facebook Sailing and Cruising for more information.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Florida Anchoring Sneak Play....We Were Screwed!

I've already said this several times publicly and I'm going to repeat myself - the people who negotiated on behalf of we boaters for the new Florida anchoring legislation did an excellent job this year. With very little fanfare, they got new rules put through that permit anchoring in Florida with minimal restrictions. You can read the new rules here.
However, before you break open a cold one to celebrate, you need to know what went on in the background, and what it portends for the future of boating and anchoring in Florida. It isn't good.
As most of you are aware, in 2016, the Florida legislature granted exemptions to overnight anchoring in three areas - Sunset Lake, Miami Beach; Venetian Causeway, Miami Beach; and Middle River, Fort Lauderdale.
And just coincidentally, three people who are anti-anchoring just happen to live in those three areas: Frederick Karlton, Mark Gold and the father of the bill's co-sponsor, Senator George Moraitis. I have to admit, I am stunned by the coincidence of that. Simply amazing. Ok, sarcasm 'off' now...
The bill that put those exemptions into law was HB 1051, and it was made clear at that time that the provisions would 'sunset' once the FWC ("the commission") had reported on the Pilot Program in 2017. All good, so far. I mean, really, what could go wrong?
However, THIS year's bill, CS/CS/HB 7043 had a few wrinkles. I'll come to those in a moment, but it's important to note that this year's negotiations were not contested by the usual suspects, like Karlton and Gold and their supporters.
Why was that? Why weren't they out there screaming and making a fuss this time around, as they've done every year for years now?
It's because they were assured - and I have this from a source who was close to the negotiations - that their exemptions would not be removed. The three no-anchoring overnight zones would be retained, and here's the wording in the new bill that ensured it:

This section shall remain in effect notwithstanding the Legislature's 
adoption of the commission's recommendations for the regulation of 
mooring vessels outside of 159 public mooring fields pursuant to s. 327.4105.

Another meaning for the word "notwithstanding" is: 'you were screwed'. Because that's what has happened. To ensure that there would be no serious opposition to the negotiations, the boaters' groups negotiators chose to permit that clause in the new bill. Apparently, the opposition agreed not to contest the new bill provided those three exemptions were retained.
Now I do get it. If boaters had demanded that those three areas be opened up for overnight anchoring, then the big money opposition would have swung into gear and there would have been a huge fight, as in year's past. So the decision was to blunt the opposition by accepting these exemptions to overnight anchoring.
This was a choice made by the team and as in all politics, it was a compromise. I get it, but really, what is the worst that would have happened if we fought on this issue? No bill? Everything back to what it was in 2009, when the Pilot Program began? That's not a bad thing for boaters. The legislature is tired of this fight - they wanted it over, but what has been done ensures that this fight is a long way from over.
That's because this compromise will come back to haunt us.
Very soon, some Florida community is going to demand its own anchoring restrictions because, 'if Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale can have restrictions, why can't we?'
Well, that's a very good question isn't it? And if you were that community's senator, how would you answer that question?
In other words, the demands for anti-anchoring ordinances are going to start up again, only this time, there is no way that the legislature can defend not approving them, not with these exemptions permitted by Tallahassee. What do they say? It's ok for them but not for you? That ought to go over really well.
With all due respect to the negotiating group, this situation is like picking up the ball at your one yard line and running it down to the other team's one yard line - then failing to put the ball across the goal line. They did a great job, but they have not finished it. We need that ball over the goal line.
These three no anchoring exemption areas need to be dealt with. Otherwise, we will be seeing demands to limit anchoring. Even now, I'm aware that several locations are eager to stop anchoring in their communities: Dania and Hollywood, Boca Raton to start with. Palm Beach could be another, and no doubt there are several west coast locations that will be asking about this.
I have been communicating with the negotiating team members and a few of them recognize the problem here, but are not willing to do anything about it. I've also told them that, if they choose not to act on this, that I would discuss this publicly and let the boating public know what went on.
I'm not interested in starting a fight with them. They aren't the enemy. I understand what they did, why they did it and why they thought it was the best thing to do. But we need to recognize that this fight over anchoring isn't over, and why that is.
I also don't know if anything can be done about this now. But if you disagree with what was done, you want to contact the MTOA and the AGLCA, who were the lead groups in this fight, and let them know you aren't happy about these exemptions. You could also make your concerns known to the SSCA, via their Facebook page.
After that, you can get ready to fight again, because, sad to tell you, we're not done with this issue.

(as always, please share this post to your page, and to the boating groups you belong to, so that the general boating public gets this message).