Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Travel Update

I stopped in Jacksonville, Florida 10 days ago to leave the boat for repair of a clogged toilet (a constant in the glamorous world of yachting), and to replace a 300-foot anchor chain that was hopelessly rusted. The toilet is working fine but the anchor chain arrived Friday and was the wrong size for the sprocket on our anchor windlass. The chain was re-ordered from a different source in Fort Lauderdale and was to arrive yesterday. So I came back to Jacksonville yesterday with the Lovely Laura Lee in hopes of departing this morning. Alas, the chain did not get here so we are now hoping it will arrive today to allow us to get away tomorrow morning.

Not only the chain delay, but terrible winter weather is complicating our plans. Temperatures have dropped to around freezing for the last two mornings and it is 34 degrees as I write this. Winds and seas have been high with a Gale Warning in this area of the Atlantic last night. A gale is defined as 34–47 knots (39–54 miles/hour) of sustained surface winds. Winds this morning in the Atlantic are 26-29 knots with gusts to 32 knots and seas at 11 feet. This does not look to improve much this week, forcing us to plan travel in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The ICW can be treacherous as there are many areas that have shoaled and it takes serious attention to drive all day and avoid running aground. Without going offshore, it could take us a week or more to get from Jacksonville to Fort Lauderdale where we could cross over to Bimini in the Bahamas.

It was seven years ago next week that I sold my last boat, and a lot of technology has changed in the world of boating, particularly with apps available for phones and tablets. They have become indispensable and I am only now beginning to understand the information that is out there. Most apps are available for both Apple and Android tablets and phones, but the Apple iOS products tend to get introduced and upgraded first. For the ICW, there is one App I have come to rely on that presents information that was just not available during my previous boating career. It is called Aqua Map.

Using Aqua Map, it was easy to download a safe track recently published by Robert Sherer, author of a book on traveling the ICW and administrator of a Facebook group called ICW Cruising Guide by Bob423. Aqua Map also displays Corps of Engineers depth surveys where they are available, and it downloads the entire Waterway Guide to marinas and user comments available on an app I also use called Active Captain. Below is the Aqua Map display of the entrance to the ICW going south from the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. The red, green and yellow portions are recent survey depths from the Corps of Engineers, while the blue dotted line is Bob's recent track. This kind of information takes much of the guesswork out of getting through the ICW.

Once we start planning to get out in the ocean and need wind and wave heights, I have come to rely on PredictWind. It provides 7-day forecasts that include wind, wave heights, and wave period (time in seconds between waves). Here are screenshots of the PredictWind wave map and a typical forecast captured several days back.

I also use two tide forecast apps, mostly just on my phone. One is called Tides Near Me which tells you tides in order of distance from your location, and the other is simply called "Tides". They both give the same official information presented slightly differently.

There are many more apps that I use on occasion. "MarineTraffic" allows you to look up the location of any ship or boat equipped with an AIS transponder. Two apps named "Snag-a-Slip" and "Dockwa" are for making marina reservations online. The Waterway Guide app gives full marina information. I have downloaded another app called "Logbook Suite", but I have resisted using it because I keep a logbook on an Excel spreadsheet, where I have the flexibility to do it as I please.

There appear to be hundreds more shown on the app store under the general headings of boating, yachting, navigation, weather, etc., but for the moment, I'll just continue to try to figure out all of the features of what I have. It's a new world.

We'll keep you posted when we finally get away headed south.

Wednesday Night Update: The chain got installed today and we moved the boat to an outer dock to prepare for an early departure tomorrow morning. In the process, in strong winds, the batteries for the stern thruster failed, leaving the lazarette area full of smoke and smelling of battery acid. Sigh... The electrical guy will look at it in the morning, but it is likely we will need new batteries. We just replaced the bow thruster batteries last month so it makes sense that the stern thruster batteries were due to fail. The only good news is that the best place for such a failure is in a boatyard, and especially not in the Bahamas where replacement would be much more expensive.

1 comment:

  1. Sigh. It's always something, isn't it? Sorry to hear of your thruster woes!


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