Sunday, December 8, 2013


It is always a bit of a quandary; we are living on a boat, moving south toward warmer weather and sunshine, setting our own schedule (broken boat allowing), not reporting to work everyday, meeting good folks and seeing some interesting things. It seems absolutely cold hearted to even hint that some things about doing this are a compromise. Pretty much everyone we know, who also knows us and knows what we are doing, would gladly trade places. (The only exception being other cruisers who have, in fact, made it to that warm weather and sunshine.) We are living an adventure in a world where that is increasingly difficult to do.

But, had I known then what I know now, the ICW would not have been part of the adventure. It would have been a better decision to ship the boat to GA or FL and have no weather window to worry about. Combined delays totaling over a month (while maintenance issues were resolved) would not have pushed us outside the window. "Shake down" runs could have been made by day sailing on the ocean until the glitches and jitters were worked out. As it is we have been on the boat for months and covered hundreds of miles (564.7 to be exact), but are no better prepared for big water than the day we left Oak Harbor. A potential problem now is that "The Ditch" from here south may be untenable for Kintala (something we are still trying to figure out) but there are no one-day open water sails given the very few hours of sunshine in a late December sky. A night sail as a first sail may end up the only option, but it isn't a good one, and it will be a cold one. Starting in Annapolis might have made sense had we left in early to mid spring and headed North; sadly spring wasn't an option.

To tell the truth traveling in "The Ditch" has nothing going for it. We used to sail Kintala for hours up and down Carlyle lake just for the joy of being underway, of feeling the boat heeled over, of hearing the water hiss down the hull while getting as far away from the shore as possible. We worked the sails, played with the wind, made the boat go and loved that moment the engine noise died away. Anchoring up meant watching the sun set while swinging in the hammock and chatting with Captain Morgan, sleeping soundly and without much concern.

Here on the ICW the best days have been those we paid to stay on the dock. During those days we met good people and saw new sights. The heater was available for when the temperature dropped into the 20s and one night we even had access to a hot tub. (Soaked in it for hours and felt truly warm for the first time in weeks.) Days off the dock mean endless engine noise (Kintala's port side is dark with exhaust stain), tedious helm work, and unrelenting cold. Some of the anchoring has been easy, but more of it has been crowded, in tight spaces, with warnings about the holding, and often not very protected. Captain Morgan helps chase away the chill after a long day and ease the tension from shoulders and back sore from being hunched over a helm for hours. Sound sleeping is never an option. Each of us wakes up several times every night just to "check on things" after a noise or a motion we can't explain.

But the overriding characteristic of the ICW is just how shallow it is. I would never have believed there was a place where running aground was a bigger concern than it was on Carlyle. Here on the ICW it is a constant threat. Even though we are running way behind the main pack and there are few boats around, we have seen 3 hard aground since we left Oriental. Shoaling is a constant problem yet the Army Corps of Engineers has no plans of dredging due to budget cuts; and say so plainly on their website. Pretty soon big parts of the ICW may be untenable for anyone with a boat big enough to live on.

Uhhhh...was I supposed to turn at that curve????

Those little boats are a bit of a problem as well. As mentioned Kintala almost finished her days impaled on one while skirting a shallow area. We have had numerous occasions where they buzzed by at full speed and much closer than needed. (Honest, at this moment we are anchored alone in a big open spot, a local just blasted close by us at full song rocking our boat apparently for fun.) It seems every bridge, every narrow spot, and every blind corner has a fishing skiff parked in the worst possible place. We have had several troll directly across in front of us trailing long lines and one, I am not kidding, was hauling a drag net. And everyone has heard of the crab pots lying everywhere, including in the middle of the channel.

At the moment I'm not really sure how to unfix the fix I got us into. But I guess that's part of adventuring as well.


Capt. Mike said...

Given what you have seen so far, would you attempt the trip with a 6 ft draft?

Unknown said...

Hmm? I now could say I told you so. Doing the bixby and than hang in Florida before you go up in Spring. But I wont...
Always keep the alternatives in plain view, we have 20 degrees, pure ice sheets on the roads to our offices where we have to be at a certain time, for a long time every day.
Now a word of warning, too often I read about the blue water, open seas, etc etc etc.. Dont get your epectations so high that nothing can actually match these, when you reach open water ! I want you to live the dream and a couple days/week in the ditch aint all that bad compared to almost everybody else dailies ..:-)
Chin up ... and than go outside before you know it ...

Deb said...

@Mike - You could do it in a 6' draft, but you would have to time it with high tides in the shallow places and you would have to have good cruising guides and lots of local knowledge. There are lots of places that friends of ours went through even just a month ago that are now shoaled in. It's pretty depressing because the Army Corps of Engineers says right on their site that they have no intention of dredging in the near future due to budget cuts.

Capt. Mike said...

Thanks for the input Deb, reading charts just doesnt tell the real story.