Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Start of the 2015 Cruising Season is Here!

Oh boy! This is the day I've been waiting for since, well, yesterday. It's January 1st, 2015, and that means it's the first day of the 2015 cruising season! YAA HOO! And there's no better way to start the cruising season than with a lot of planning and preparation.

Seriously. I like all of the planning stuff; figuring out where we're going to go, how we are going to get there, fuel consumption, marina stops, pump outs, where do we provision, route planning, nautical mile to statute mile conversion, and otherwise getting engrossed in every tiny bit of detail that my warped little mind can muster. I know that there are many very successful cruising crews that just take things day by day, not knowing where their next anchorage will be until they're on top of it. But not me. I can assure you that by the time we get back to Why Knot in April I'll pretty much have the entire season planned out. It's how I roll, baby.

Now, you may say, "But doesn't all that pre-planning take the spontaneity and fun out of cruising?" Nope. For me, it makes it even more fun. Each day's plan becomes a goal. And when a day is successfully completed it becomes a goal achieved. Achieving goals is fun.

So, it's day one of the  2015 cruising season. Time to get to work. And on this first day, it's time to take stock of what the basic season goals are and to inventory the tools that I have at my disposal to make it all happen.

First, the boat.

Why Knot is currently tied up at The Marina at Ortega Landing in Jacksonville, Florida. Overall, she's in good shape. We are likely going to have to have her hauled out at some point after we get back to her to get her bottom power washed. The bottom paint was determined to be in good shape when we had her last hauled out back in October up in Maryland. While she is out of the water I need to do a quick repair to the swim ladder. We got new wider rungs for it and they need to be installed. (The wider rungs will make holding the dinghy better.) The new Phasor generator is primed and ready to be used and we will be using it much much more during 2015.

There are two major repairs that need to be done to Why Knot while we are ashore. First, the starter motor is acting up again. It is an intermittent problem and needs a permanent fix. We are not sure if that means getting it rebuilt again (which would be the third time in three years) or replaced with a factory remanufactured unit or a new one from Caterpillar. That is still to be determined. The second job that needs to be done is that the sliding windows in the aft cabin all seem to be crapping out, especially the one that is in the locker. It leaks very badly and unfortunately we didn't notice it. There has been some damage done to the interior wall. A couple of the others have leaked also, but they were tiny leaks that I could knacker together a fix for. But in keeping with the adage "a leak never gets smaller" we're going to go ahead and have all of the windows serviced. That would be the eight in the aft cabin, the four in the galley, and the four big windows in the salon. Why Knot is a 26 year old boat and all of the windows are the originals. Their gaskets and tracks are all dried up, brittle and shrunken. It's time to bite the bullet and get them all fixed. Oh, and the six non-sliding windows in the salon need to be reset and waterproofed. Swell. And yes, it's very expensive. Nearby Huckins Shipyard will be doing the work.

Another major tool change is that I have upgraded my computer situation, especially when it comes to having a pocket sized chartplotter for the flybridge. Up to now I’ve been using my cell phone, and it has worked out okay. But my older LG phablet has been on its last legs for awhile. The non-replaceable battery in it keeps pooping out, which means that I have had to replace the entire phone each time. And by now it is a discontinued model, so I've only been getting rebuilt units anyway. Time to upgrade.

I have been a faithful Verizon customer for several years now and my two year commitment to them expired recently. Naturally, they have been on a full court press to entice me to re-sign by offering me a bunch of free upgrades. Truth be told, I had been seriously considering it without all of the incentives. A newer phone would have better computing power and the applications I use would operate better.

Finally, Verizon shot me an offer that I couldn't refuse. I was eligible for a free upgrade to a new fancy, high-powered smartphone and get a computer tablet also...free! Sweet. They're both LG products. I took the bait and bit on the hook hard.

The smartphone is pretty standard but very capable -- certainly better than my old one -- but it's the tablet that I'm excited about. The two chartplotter apps that I use are Jeppesen's Plan2Nav and Navionics. They're both very capable systems. I actually like Navionics better. It's detail level is higher than Plan2Nav, but it only runs north up. There certainly isn't anything wrong with Plan2Nav and it has a course up function, but it's detail level isn't quite as good as Navionics. However, Plan2Nav does have one feature that trumps Navionics; charts for the Bahamas are part of the basic North American charts that came with it. With Navionics it would be an additional purchase. (point of info - I would use these apps only when I'm navigating from the flybridge. I would use the JRC chartplotter at the lower helm for any open water navigating. The autopilot controls are also at the lower helm.) The other big advantage for Plan2Nav is that ActiveCaptain is built into it.

So, I have made a decision that I am going to switch my computing to my new tablet instead of my trusty old Toshiba laptop. And there is a mental switch involved in doing this. Obviously, the controls are totally different. The other switch is that I would no longer be doing my route planning on OpenCPN on my laptop. (OpenCPN does not have a tablet app.) I will be using Plan2Nav instead. There will be a learning curve with that, but I think it should be fine.

Okay. We've got the boat and the tech sorted out. What's the plan for the 2015 season?

We've decided that 2015 is going to be a restful, kind-of laid back season. We definitely have some destination objectives, but it's going to be not quite as hectic as the past years. In a nutshell...

The Bahamas -- Mid-April to mid-May. I've reached out over several of the forums that I follow and have found that there are about half a dozen crews all thinking about the same thing. I'm going to try to form a flotilla to make the trip.
South Florida (Atlantic side) -- We want to hang down in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami area to see some of our looper friends that are down there. (Bob and Ivie of Karma, in particular.)
The Keys -- It's cool in the Keys, mon. Sons Bryan and Kevin may be joining us.
Fort Myers -- We only spent a day there during our loop, and many of our friends have told us what an awesome place it is. We want to see for ourselves. We also want to see Ross and Laura of The Zone. They dropped a land anchor there. (They bought a house.)
Sarasota -- Well, we love Sarasota as much as any place we have ever been. We have to stay there. Plus, we get to see Capt. Charlie Pendergrass again. Major bud.

Now, as I have already said, the new generator is primed and ready. In fact, I had been itching to use it since we had it installed back in October. But, alas, I was only able to fire her up a couple of times on our way down the coast.

Our usual modus operandi has been to usually go from marina to marina with a few nights out on the hook thrown in. But in 2015 we are planning to do beaucoup mucho anchoring. We are seriously committed to a pattern something like three or four nights out, then come in for two nights, mostly to take on water, do a pump out, do laundry, and provision. And in the Bahamas and Florida there are more favorable anchoring situations than we have had up north. (No more chesamuck mud gooing up the anchor and rode. Yuck.) Our dinghy will get more of a workout than in the past also. Oh, and we will certainly make sure to take advantage of the much ballyhooed mooring fields in Florida. (Love a mooring field.)

My planning tools are varied. Of course, there are all the e-versions of everything. And as usual, ActiveCaptain is one of my most used and trusted resources. But Lisa has also been on a guidebook buying binge, and has loaded me up with some good ones. I'm good with that. The better informed I am the better our experience will be.

So, there ya' have it. As I write this I am sitting at my desk in our house in St. Louis. At the end of January we will move on to Denver for February and March. I have three months to fully immerse myself in our cruising season before we return to Why Knot around the first of April.

Oh boy!