Saturday, July 28, 2018

Long Island Sound Bound

So, we made it through the New Jersey ICW without too much ballyhoo. It was shallow but not too terrible. That got us only to Manasquan. To get to New York City and beyond we had to head out onto the ocean and motor up the coast a couple of dozen miles or so around Sandy Hook and up the Lower New York Bay.

It was a Sunday morning, and there were only a few freighters transiting the Lower Bay. The overall traffic was lighter than it would have been on a weekday, and all we had to contend with in the Narrows were a couple of sailboats and water taxis.

The last time we went through this body of water was in 2012. It was a Saturday morning and we were heading up to the Hudson River, so we had to go up the gut of the harbor. We got rocked pretty hard, but that was not entirely unexpected. We had warnings about the traffic-made heavy chop. This time, since we were heading out into Long Island Sound, we had to head up the East River. My strategy was to motor up Buttermilk Channel past Governor's Island to avoid the densest part of the harbor. We would then go up under the Brooklynn Bridge, up the river past Hell Gate and out into the sound. It sounded simple enough to me.

It was choppy but not too rough. We bounced around some, but it was not uncomfortable. That was until we reached Roosevelt Island. We took the recommended northern/western branch of the East River past the United Nations. That was where all hell broke loose.

I have to admit, I played it wrong. I completely underestimated the ferocity of that stretch of water. It was as rough conditions in a short length of water we had ever experienced. We were thrown in every direction possible. It was a big-time mess. However, we still had steerage and some power in reserve. Besides, it was a short distance; I knew I could manage it.

Except …

Like some great cosmic convergence, from the north there were four sailboats heading south spread out across the river and a poor runabout getting thrashed. And on the foredeck of the runabout were two young ladies in bikinis screaming at the top of their lungs while they clutched at the rails. I briefly caught a vision of them bouncing on the deck. From the south, the same direction as us, were two more sailboats, a high-speed water taxi and a freighter. We all met at the same place on the river at the same time. Then, to top all that off, two goddamn sport fishers plowed through on-plane heading north right through all of it. (“Gee, Skipper Darrell; don't you have any video or pics of that?” NO. Lisa was holding on and I was driving the boat. We were kinda busy.)

In a quick video I published on Facebook (and in the linked picture album) I said the experience was “Brutal. Just brutal.” I caught some flak from one guy on Facebook that said I shouldn't have been so alarmist about the experience. I stand with my description: It was brutal.

Here's my understanding of what happened, and I'm sure some of you readers will correct me and/or embellish this. The first condition had to do with the constricted nature of the channel itself, and I have a small-scale analog from back in New Jersey.

When were were back in Manasquan, we anchored in a very nice cove on the Metedaconk River, actually located in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. From there you have to transit the 1.9 mile long Point Pleasant Canal to get to the Manasquan River Inlet and the ocean. It just so happened that we had to transit the canal three times in a fourteen hour period, each time with slightly different conditions. The two times we transited the canal in the late afternoon there had been and continued to be a great deal of traffic in the canal. The combined wakes of the boats bounced off the seawalls of the canals and built up to a rough, random, multi-directional chop. I believe that was part of what we experienced next to Roosevelt Island.

The other aspect of the East River that I, and I say this with humility, completely didn't have a good grip on, was the nature of the river itself. It is not a river; it's a tidal straight connecting two tidal bodies of water. The tides and currents from the north and the south conflict, and with Hell Gate at the head with the Harlem River (another tidal straight), it's ripe for trouble. If it were a devious trap, we walked right into it. It was tough slogging.

Hell Gate wasn't as big a deal as I thought it would be. Sure, we got twisted a little bit, but Why Knot's bow generally pointed in the right direction. And on through the river we cruised until we made that big left turn after passing under the Throgs Neck Bridge. That as when we could officially say we had made it to Long Island Sound.

And that's another story.

Friday, July 27, 2018

We Cruised The New Jersey ICW And Lived To Tell The Tale

Are you cruising the #greatloop, heading north on the Atlantic ICW route, let's say in Georgia or the Carolinas? Are you going to head out into Long Island Sound or up to New England? Do you have to go north at all? (Or maybe you're heading south. That would be novel.) If so, you most likely have gone with the conventional wisdom that you have to go out into the Atlantic Ocean at #capemay and bounce up the New Jersey coast, most likely pulling into Atlantic City and/or at the cluster of communities most commonly called by just one of them: Manesquan. (For this conversation we'll talk south to north.) Then from Manesquan, you head up past Sandy Hook into New York Harbor. Loopers then head up the Hudson River, and New England bound cruisers head out the Long Island Sound. There's nothing wrong with that strategy at all. It's perfectly sound, and, frankly, very efficient. But it's not the only one.

The New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway (#NJICW) is sitting there waiting to be used. If you were planning on the two-stop approach to going out (Atlantic City and Manesquan) there's no change. It's the same. The lengths are different, but the outcomes are the same. The biggest advantage to the NJICW is that it is inside, not subject to the harsh winds and wave conditions that hold you up wherever you are.

The #NJICW has a reputation of being some kind of pit of hell. It's said that it is the undoing of any brave skipper and crew who would undertake it. It's shallow. It's tricky. It's nowhere for a moderate captain to take a vessel. And to a point it's true, but only to a point. On our trip north during our 2018 cruising season, we decided we would find out for ourselves if the NJICW's reputation is well-earned or just a bunch of negative hype. The short answer to that question is, “It depends.”

What kind of answer is that? An accurate one. Navigating the NJICW depends on conditions, where you are on the route, what kind of boat do you have, what your draft is, and most important, what are the tides and winds like at any particular place.

First, let me get a few basics out of the way

Sailboats, sorry, but you don't get to play here. Go out. Period, No exceptions.
That leaves powerboats. Let's be blunt, there are some very shallow places on the NJICW. My opinion, and this is only my opinion, is that the deepest draft that can safely pass the route is four feet. Maybe four and a half if you're very clever. Speed is also important. If you have a need for speed and your boat digs a nice deep hole for itself abaft when you gun it and get up on plane, you will hit mud in some places. Smaller LOA boats are also better because there are some very tight turns in places. Our boat, Why Knot, is a 45' trawler with a 3 foot draft. We never hit bottom on the NJICW, though we came close once.

The other fact to know about the NJICW that is interesting is that the markers are numbered all the way starting with Marker 1 at Manesquan to 479 at Cape May. I actually liked that more than markers elsewhere stopping and starting at landmarks, boundaries, or wherever the Coast Guard and the Army Corp of Engineers decided.

The last basic fact about the NJICW is that there are drawbridges just like you'd find elsewhere up and down the coast. While there are a few with low, low clearances, most of them are at least 22 feet tall. (Gauges measure at low steel.)


Heading north, the point of no return, so to speak, is at the George Redding Bridge. The bridge tender also responds to it being called The Wildwood Bridge or The Route 47 Bridge. It's 3.6 miles north of the Cape May basin and is the last stretch of the NJICW that is unfettered and easily accessible. After you cross under that bridge you will need to have your plan in place. You need to have your tides lined up right, and you need to know where the possible trouble spots are.

The first thing you notice about the NJICW is that if you like to drive your boat, this is nirvana for you. If you like to enable the auto-pilot, sit back and watch the State of New Jersey roll by, you will be unhappy and perturbed to no end. You need to have your hands on the wheel and your eyes out in front of you. You also need a good chartplotter with updated charts. I use Navionics Sonar Charts, and because they harvest recent crowd-sourced sonar data, their depth contours are probably more updated than most. They weren't perfect either, but they were more accurate and detailed than what NOAA charts have to say, in my opinion.

 Here's our cruising strategy for the NJICW. You're most likely going to cruise it in two day-long halves. The South Half: Cape May to Atlantic City (50.6 miles), and The North Half: Atlantic City to Manesquan (65.0 miles). Take each of those days and divide them fairly evenly in thirds. Navigating the southern 2/3s of each half requires that you pay close, close attention to tides, currents, and wind. Tidal depths on the NJICW are as dependent on wind as lunar influences. When we cruised the routes, we concluded that the upper third of each half is a bit more generous with depths and have more wide-open cruising areas. We also had very little wind.


It was also fortunate happenstance that the tides were in our favor both days. We had flooding tides during the early morning hours while we cruised through the southern 2/3s of each route where we needed the extra water. When we reached the northern third of each route, having a high tide was not as necessary. Saying all that, it doesn't mean we didn't have any challenges. We did.

Here is where we had to watch our nautical Ps and Qs the most:
Day One
North of the Rio Grand Bridge – Do not go to G-463. The marker itself is shoaled in a ways out.
Ludlum Bay – south end, between R-348 and G-349 and R-350, is very shallow, 4' to 6' one hour after high tide. It gets shallower as tide drops. The north end of the bay is deeper: 12' to 19' near high tide.
Markers 314 to 297 – Water level after high tide was 4' to 5.5' at R-314 to R-310 1.5 hours after high tide. Our sonar showed 1' under our keel. It's just plain shallow at G-297. Watch it.
Dorsett Bridge – Call the bridge tender on channel 9 way before you think you need to, around G-211. It is a very abrupt blind approach.

Day Two
Entering Great Bay – G-131A: the deeper water was not in the locations indicated on charts, including Navionics.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the challenges we faced, but they were the most notable to us. These are the places we had to hold our breaths.

So, now I've scared you into thinking that you would never, ever travel on the NJICW. Don't be so judgmental about it. There are lots of good reasons to travel it. It's meandering route reminds you a lot of cruising on the AICW in Georgia and the Carolinas. There are basic marina services available. If you're into gambling, you're going to spend the night in Atlantic City. There are some very beautiful bodies of water, like Barnegat Bay. But perhaps it's most redeeming quality is that you CAN keep on the move if you so desire rather than languishing at either of its ends waiting for perfect ocean conditions.

Now, there is one question that we have been asked that I want to touch on. We have been asked if cruising the NJICW is like cruising the AICW. Yes and no. It is an ICW, with the gold reflective shapes on the markers, and you keep the red markers on the right as you head south. And it is a channel like the AICW. It would be easy to let your mind slip into thinking they are the same. They are not. Your captain's mindset needs to be different. You have to pay a lot closer attention to what you're doing on the NJICW.

The best way that I can describe it is that motoring on the NJICW is not for the faint of heart nor deep of draft. But it's doable if you have the right boat and play it right. We educated ourselves about it. We sought out the advice of a very seasoned local captain who gave us invaluable information. And when we set out up the NJICW, we took our time; we didn't press it so hard that we were forced into making poor choices.

I'm very glad we chose to climb New Jersey on their Intracoastal Waterway. It was a great boating and skippering experience. And as Lisa and I like to rack up bragging rights when we cruise, this fills the bill very nicely.

So, have you ever cruised the NJICW before? We have.

#boating #boater #trawler #greatloop #liveaboard #wkglgt #theonboardlife #skipperdarrell

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Marina Review – Schooner Island Marina – Wildwood, NJ (Cape May)

Marina Review – Schooner Island Marina – Wildwood, NJ (Cape May)

Here's another marina review on the Why Knot Great Lakes Grand Tour. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll fill you in on what my experience was. The views expressed are strictly my own.

Sometimes you're good. Sometimes you're lucky. Sometimes you're good and lucky. That's how we felt about finding and staying at Schooner Island Marina in New Jersey during the Nor'easter that socked the Eastern Seaboard during late July of 2018. For all of us coastal cruisers that zip through Cape May without giving it much thought, or who stay at one of the marinas in the Cape May basin waiting for the right conditions to go outside to Atlantic City, I have a great idea for you.

Schooner Island Marina is a large, full service marina with all the amenities you might be looking for. But you sailboat sailors out there? This might not be an option for you. But you powerboaters, most definitely make this part of your cruise plan.
N: Navigability – Schooner Island Marina is only 3.6 miles north of the main Cape May basin on the New Jersey ICW. You do have to go through one drawbridge that opens on request. There is plenty of depth in the channel. The marina itself is on the green side, and when you're navigating it may appear to be a little shallow in places, but it's not formidable.

D: Dockage The best way to describe the marina is that it is a combination party town or a fishing village. There are several big sport fishers that come in and out (not many). But most of the boats are tied up semi-permanently in their slip and are weekend getaways for their owners, mostly from Philadelphia. The floating slips all have finger docks on both sides.

S: Services – Schooner Island Marina is a full service marina. They offer electricity, water, and a complete service department. They do haul-outs and on-the-hard storage during the off-season. Their fuel dock is large enough and sticks out in the channel very conveniently – easy to get fuel or a pump-out. They also have pump-out at the slips Monday through Thursday for $10.00.

Big boats in the back. Just as well. It's better protected.

A: Amenities – You name it, they have it: large bathrooms and showers, laundry, a small store, and a swimming pool. There are three large patio restaurants around the outside of the marina, as well as docks for several excursion boats. There are plenty of trees on the central island. A 24 hour Wawa is literally two blocks away (1/10th of a mile). A full-service Acme Supermarket is only 2/10ths of a mile away; it opens at 0600. See provisioning below.

Rent a car. Go to Atlantic City. What the hell.
A: Accessibility – Enterprise picks you up. There is Uber and Lyft. There's probably some kind of public transit, but we didn't check that out.

P: Provisioning – An full-service Acme Supermarket is only 2/10th of a mile away. It has everything you need. Three blocks away; that's all. SCHOONER ISLAND MARINA IS A GREAT PROVISIONING STOP.

If you need to go to anything else, you will need to ride-share or rent a car. A Lowe's is closer than a Home Depot. There is a West Marine down nearer the Cape May basin.

P: Price – Their published transient rate on Active Captain is $2.75 per foot plus electricity.

Verdict – We originally booked a single night at Schooner Island Marina just to get a leg up on what was to be our first day on the NJICW. We ended up staying there an entire week to sit out the storms that blew through the area. We're glad we did. The staff is very good, the facilities are very nice, and with the Acme Supermarket just a few blocks away, and an easy channel to get to the marina in the first place, it really is an ideal place to visit. Besides, as I've said in the past, pump-out at the slip and a swimming pool are hard to beat in my book.

We had a great experience at Schooner Island Marina in Wildwood, NJ. You will too.

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tags: marina, liveaboard boat, liveaboard boating, liveaboard sailboat, boating as a couple, living aboard a trawler, liveaboard cruiser, liveaboard boater, trawler, liveaboard, the on board life, someday's here, boating adventures, boating websites

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Marina Review – Penn's Landing Marina, Philadelphia, PA

Marina Review – Penn's Landing Marina

Here's another marina review on the Why Knot Great Lakes Grand Tour. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll fill you in on what my experience was. The views expressed are strictly my own.

Penn's Landing Marina is located smack-dab in the heart of Philadelphia on the Delaware River. It's part of a larger development of attractions and can be quite busy. What it lacks in marina-like amenities it more than makes up for in its location. It's fabulous.

Click to enlarge
If you think of yourself as an adventurous boater and haven't been to Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, you should go.
N: Navigability – Penn's Landing Marina is located in a small man-made basin on the shore of the Delaware River in Philadelphia. It's easily Identified by the Spirit of Philadelphia excursion boat that docks at the mouth. The entire eastern side of the marina is a large, heavy concrete seawall and pedestrian walkway. The current on the river can be substantial so plan your entrance accordingly.

Click to enlarge
D: Dockage I'm sorry, I don't have depth information when we entered. I was more concerned about not running into a fiberglass swan. BIG FAT WARNING – Once you enter the marina you are faced with an attraction area with paddleboats, canoes, rowboats, and small sailboats scurrying around the basin. They most definitely get in your way like one swan-shaped paddle boat did with us. The basin is large so maneuvering is easy. I didn't notice a current effect once in the basin. The dockhands are johnny on the spot helping you get in your slip. It is big-boat friendly. The floating docks are new-ish. It's all very secure.

S: Services – Penn's Landing is not a full-service marina. They offer electricity and water and that's it. There is no reasonable pump-out available. Make sure you pump-out down in Delaware before you motor up to the marina. However, we did notice a pump-out rig on a small dock tied up to the Olympia warship attraction when we were on our way out. What's up with that? No dedicated bathrooms for marina guests. No showers. No laundry. Get the picture?
Philadephia is one of Lisa's favorite destinations.
A: Amenities – The entire Penn's Landing attraction area is very, very busy. It's loud and raucous. But everyone seems to be in a happy mood. We've never got even a sniff of trouble. The marina itself is very secure with two code-lock gates. The large public walkway on the riverside is closed and locked at 2200 hours and opens back up at 0600. You have the combination to the lock so you can come and go as you please.

Bathrooms – If you would like access to a bathroom, there is a large public bathroom further north on Penn's Landing. It's open 0600 to 2200 and is on the north side of the amphitheater. There is a Starbucks 1.0 mile away at South Street and 4th Street that opens at 0530. But the closest accessible bathroom is a Wawa convenience store .7 miles away on 2nd Street. The Hilton Hotel is closed-off like Fort Knox.

Click to enlarge
A: Accessibility – Get ready to walk. The entire downtown Philadelphia area is right at your doorstep. But just like all downtowns you have to hoof it some. Everything you want to see is nearby: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, numerous museums. The Philadelphia Phlash bus line is cheap and convenient, and it runs from a bus loop at the north end of Penn's Landing out to all of the attractions. If you want to see where Rocky ran up the steps you have to take the Phlash out to the art museum.

P: Provisioning – None. Not really. There are bodegas to fill in provision holes, but there aren't really any heavy-duty grocery options.

P: Price – Their published transient rate on Active Captain is $2.00 per foot plus electrical.

Verdict – Sometimes we select a destination just so we have a bragging right. Penn's Landing Marina in Philadelphia is one of those places. Have you taken your boat up there? Nope, you probably haven't. Well, we have. So there. Nanner nanner. I dare you to do the same.

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tags: marina, liveaboard boat, liveaboard boating, liveaboard sailboat, boating as a couple, living aboard a trawler, liveaboard cruiser, liveaboard boater, trawler, liveaboard, the on board life, someday's here, boating adventures, boating websites

Friday, July 20, 2018

Marina Review – Summit North Marina

Marina Review – Summit North Marina

Here's another marina review on the Why Knot Great Lakes Grand Tour. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll fill you in on what my experience was. The views expressed are strictly my own.

Summit North Marina (Bear, DE) is located on a branch off of the C and D Canal 8-ish statute miles west of where the canal intersects with the Delaware River. From there it's a short cruise north to Philadelphia (which should be a must-do for every adventurous boater) and Delaware Bay and Cape May to the south.

A lot of people like the docking options at the marinas further west on the canal. This is better.
N: Navigability – Since you're on a canal you can't get lost. It's easy to get in and out of the marina. But there are two cautions worth mentioning. First, it can be shallow. We moored at Summit North twice in a week as bookends to our trip to Philadelphia. The first time we went in there at low tide, Why Knot kicked up a lot of mud while maneuvering at the dock, and for a three-foot draft boat to do that, that tells you that it can be shallow. The second time we went in, we were at high tide and didn't stir anything up. The other thing worth mentioning is the current in the canal. Our speeds in the canal varied from just under 7 smph to over 11 smph depending on the current. And to me, trying to get a grip on what the current was going to do was like trying to grab the wind. I couldn't do it. We just went with whatever was occurring at the time. The funny thing is that while, obviously, the tide raises and lowers the water level in the marina, the current seems to be a non-thing. There was never a sense of it. There were patches of grass and other floating stuff that seemed to just hang in one place or drifted slowly in or out.

D: Dockage According to Active Captain, Summit North has 400 floating slips. I'm not sure I buy that, but there are a lot of 'em! Each floating dock and thoroughfare are nicely organized by length and beam, and every slip has a finger dock on each side of your boat. The thoroughfares seem to be adequately wide. There is also a long facing dock on the right as you pull in they call the Perimeter Dock; that's where we tied up, and I think that's where all transients go. There is a large turning basin at the end where the fuel and pump-out dock is. They're open and staffed until 2000 hours, at least during boating season.

S: Services – Summit North is a full-service marina with repairs, haul-out, and storage on the hard. This strikes me as a good place where you can also work on your boat yourself if you need to. There are technicians available. They seem to be very accommodating folk.

A: Amenities – The overall vibe of the place is rustic, but comfy. It is adjacent to Lums Pond State Park. It is also a trailhead for the varied walking, running, and bike paths up and down the canal shoreline. It's busy. For bathrooms and showers you have a choice of either the facilities at the marina office (rustic but clean. Big showers) or at the new restaurant building (The Grain). This is where the laundry is too. There is a swimming pool at the new building that boaters have access to. Yay!

I'm going out on a limb (pun intended) and say that the campground-like setting of the marina is one of its nicest amenities. The entire marina is surrounded by a tall, mature forest that is cooling and comfortable. It is a pleasant place to be.

A: Accessibility – There ain't nothing around that you can walk to. Lisa did venture out on her bike to find quarters for laundry. She found a liquor store and a small market that were open at 0900 hours about two miles away. There are a few stores five or so miles north of the marina, but we didn't explore those opportunities.

P: Provisioning – None. Not really.

P: Price – Their published transient rate on Active Captain is $2.00 per foot plus electrical.

Verdict – Comfortable and easy to navigate, Summit North Marina is a great alternative to the conventional stops at either end of the C and D Canal. Big boats are welcome and you don't have to fight the current.

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tags: marina, liveaboard boat, liveaboard boating, liveaboard sailboat, boating as a couple, living aboard a trawler, liveaboard cruiser, liveaboard boater, trawler, liveaboard, the on board life, someday's here, boating adventures, boating websites

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Marina Review – Baltimore Finger Piers

Marina Review – Baltimore Finger Piers

This is another marina review on the Why Knot Great Lakes Grand Tour. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll fill you in on what my experience was. The views expressed are strictly my own.

Despite the challenge we faced on only our second day in the Inner Harbor, we would not hesitate to go back there again. I think they are taking steps to make things better. Perhaps you might like to make the trek there yourself. This review is about the actual workings of getting there and how to enjoy your time there.

One captain commented that every captain and crew must make a reasonable risk assessment as to where one travels. He was absolutely correct. My risk assessment is that there is an elevated risk of trouble at the Finger Piers at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. But this elevated risk when weighed against the opportunity to visit Baltimore up close and personal is worth it. There are other considerations against going there that may be more meaningful.

NOTE: These docks are known locally as “The Finger Docks” or “The Finger Piers.”

N: Navigability – Easy. Just above the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, head up towards the busy commercial harbor on the well-marked channel of the Patapsco River. There is a split in the channel just in front of Fort McHenry. Go right, not left. Just keep going until you reach the end. That's the Inner Harbor.

D: Dockage There are three 130 foot fixed piers sticking out from the west seawall, just in front of the two large white excursion boats. As you look at them from the water, the dock furthest to the left has a large old-fashioned looking tour boat tied up to it. The center and right dock are available to tie up to. They are first come, first serve. My advice is to tie up to the left side of the right pier or the right side of the center pier. The left side of the center dock is available too, but we saw sporatic use by tour boats there. There is electricity (iffy) and water. SPECIAL NOTE: This is not a full service marina and does not have pump out itself (nor it's own bathrooms and showers. More about that.) If you need to pump out upon arrival the nearest and easiest marina is Inner Harbor Marina to the left as you enter the Inner Harbor. $5. When you approach the piers to dock, you are on your own. No one is available to help you.

After you arrive and get tied up, call the dockmaster at 410-396-3174. Patricia or someone on the staff will come down, get your registered and take your money. They do take credit cards, but not Discover.

S: Services – None

A: Amenities – No showers of any kind available. No laundry. There are some public bathrooms nearby:
The Baltimore Visitor's Center – 1000 to 1700 hours
Public bathrooms in the building where Bubba Gumps and the Ripley's museum are located.
There is a Starbucks very close at 100 E Pratt St, just off the inner harbor attraction area. Opens at 0530. Buy a cup of coffee and they'll give you the passcode.
Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, up on the fifth floor.

A: Accessibility – This is an area where things are actually in very good shape. There is a free bus service called the Charm City Circulator. The multiple routes actually go places rather than it being a little downtown circular trolley. The two routes you'd be most interested in are the Purple route and the Banner route. The Purple route takes you into downtown, and most helpfully, to Penn Station (more about that later). The Banner route is the bus you take to the Harris Teeter grocery store in the McHenry Row neighborhood, as well as other stores and shops. See the next section about that. But the Purple route is helpful also. Uber and Lyft are everywhere.

P: Provisioning – Harris Teeter, 1.6 miles, is almost directly on the Banner route. Pick up the bus across Light Street from the Inner Harbor area. Go south. Get off at Whetstone Way, walk two short blocks – boom, there you are. When you're going back you walk back to where you got off the bus, cross East Fort Street to the corner at the Woodall Stop. There's also a Whole Foods around the other side of the harbor, but we don't count that as a provisioning resource. There's also a CVS 1,500 feet away from the piers. Baltimore hustles, so there are lots of stores and services of all kinds available.

P: Price – Their published transient rate on Active Captain is $2.00 per foot plus electrical. That's it. No discounts.

One of the great features of Baltimore is access to Washington D.C. Remember the Purple Circulator Route? Hop on the bus north that takes you directly to Penn Station. From there you can take the MARC commuter train that will whisk you off to Washington's Union Station in an hour for only $8 per person each way. Cheap. The aforementioned Visitors Center has all the info you need about it. Then in Washington you can buy a prepaid transit pass card and take the DC Circulator all around the town. It's really easy, and fun. The MARC train also goes to BWI (the Baltimore airport).

Verdict – It is unfortunate that Baltimore's Public Finger Piers have so much baggage. It is a high-energy and exciting destination. Maybe one of the gated marinas are more to your liking. That's perfectly understandable. But the Finger Piers puts you smack dab in the middle of all the action.

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tags: marina, liveaboard boat, liveaboard boating, liveaboard sailboat, boating as a couple, living aboard a trawler, liveaboard cruiser, liveaboard boater, trawler, liveaboard, the on board life, someday's here, boating adventures, boating websites

Friday, July 13, 2018



As I write this we are at Summit North Marina in Bear, DE. We skipped going to Skipjack Cove Marina on the Sassafras River because we needed to pick up a day.

So far this cruising season we have been dead on or slightly ahead of the schedule. (And yes, I know. Boaters are not supposed to keep a schedule. Yeah, yeah. I do. Planning is my jam.) At this moment we are almost a week ahead. That is, to me, awesome as all get out. It gives us an opportunity to call an audible and do something extra special.

And what is this extra special thing? We're going to Philadelphia by boat, again. We made the trek a few years ago at the prodding of our friends on Sareanna. It was a wonderful time. As a matter of fact, it is in our Top Five Boating Destinations along with Boca Chita, Annapolis, Stoney Lake, and Charlevoix. We're really looking forward to going there again.

But, to do so we had to make some changes to the cruise plan. As mentioned, we skipped Skipjack Cove and doubled-up our day from Baltimore to Summit North on the CandD Canal. We downsized our stay in Atlantic City from three days to one. (For some reason I have my mind set on seeing the Boardwalk. We don't need three days to do that.) And then we'll consider going directly from Philly to Cape May in one very, very long day. The tides look favorable for that.

We're excited to go back to Philadelphia. And Lisa is particularly happy about it, and I'll do anything for her.

Let's see – Spend three days in Atlantic city or make Lisa happy? Hmmmm. That's easy.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Trouble In Baltimore – UPON FURTHER REVIEW

Trouble In Baltimore – UPON FURTHER REVIEW

What's fair is fair.

A week ago I published a blog post titled “Trouble In Baltimore”. In it, I described how our boat was boarded by a couple of wannabee thieves in the middle of the night. I told how we heard them climbing around on the deck and how I shooshed them off the boat when I confronted them with a flagpole I brandished as a club. That's all true and is a cautionary story about mooring in urban waterfront environments. Now, though, I believe it is only fair to finish the narrative.

We were on the public finger docks in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore for an entire week, July 5 to July 12, and I am glad to report that we did not have a speck of trouble of any kind since that incident early on. Nothin'. Zero. Nada. Not only that, due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to leave the boat unattended for twenty-four hours and nothing happened.

Let me put it this way: we felt perfectly safe and comfortable on the finger docks in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore after that initial incident. There was no gunfire, no riots, no trouble of any kind at all. We wish we had more time there so we could have really dig deep into the city and everything it had to offer.

Vandalism can happen at any un-gated marina to anybody's boat. It just so happened that it happened to us in Baltimore which had a rap sheet of trouble already. But I observed that Baltimore Police had a very sizable and robust presence all around us the entire time, 24 hours a day. I know for a fact in talking with the downtown dockmaster, they have security cameras that cover 100% of the waterfront, and these cameras are monitored 24 hours a day. There are certainly reasons not to avail oneself of the city docks in Baltimore, such as there not being any shoreside amenities like showers and laundry, but, with a grain of cautionary forethought, security does not necessarily need to be a hindrance to enjoying oneself there.

Now, I know there are a lot of readers that have already voiced their opinion that being down at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore is a bad idea and that the city is doomed to become America's next downtown hellhole. Whatever. Our experience ended up being a positive one.

So, instead of everyone bitching about how horrible the Inner Harbor is, I have a better idea. I want to use this as a forum to talk about boat security in general.

What are your thoughts on how to secure your boat better? I am quite certain we all could do a better job at it. Here are some that I have.
  • Don't leave bicycles exposed on deck. That's an open invitation for someone to scamper on board. And you boaters that just leave them secured to your boat's grab rails with just a bungee cord are asking for trouble no matter where you are. And cover your bikes with a tarp. Don't advertise that you have them on deck. Or, if you can manage, put them on your highest deck.
  • And speaking of bungee cords, if you do have to secure something valuable on your deck and insist on using bungee cords, use a lot of them. Part of your deterrence protocol should be to make theft as difficult and inconvenient as possible.
  • Use eyed cables and padlocks on anything you want to keep. You can buy bike cables at any big-box store, but I make my own that are longer. Every hardware store has rolls of flexible, plastic-covered steel cable of several different gauges that you can have cut to any length you want. Crimps are also available. Padlocks are cheap.
  • Put your covers on your windows so nobody can spy inside your boat. If they can't see something tempting to steal, they may not bother.
  • Most thieves are not familiar with boat interiors and wouldn't know where to look for anything valuable even if they did get inside. If you have to leave your boat, stow valuables in hiding places.
  • Lock your damn doors and hatches when you leave your boat. (I'm guilty of this one. I get sucked into the “safe marina” mindset.)

What are your thoughts on this subject? How do you play it safe with your boat's security?

Let me sum up:
  • By all means, you should make plans to visit the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. Whether you stay at the city docks or one of the nearby marinas is up to you. It's a fantastic place. You just have to be vigilant. And don't buy into the vision that the area is a wrecked, treacherous, unsafe shambles. It's not. It's bright, vibrant, and exciting. It's a downtown area, to be sure, but the city appears to be making a strong effort to lock it down and secure it.
  • On board security is something you should practice everywhere no matter if you're in an urban environment such as Baltimore or at a small dock in Podunk.
One more morsel to think about – are we boaters any more exposed and vulnerable than when we are on the hook at some isolated anchorage? Billy-Bob and Floyd have a jon boat and a shotgun, and they know where all the getaway creeks and channels are. I think I'm more worried about them. The only other time we've had any trouble was when we were boarded at night AT AN ANCHORAGE at Lake Worth in Florida.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Marina Review – Annapolis Harbor Mooring Field (2018) New

Marina Review – Annapolis Harbor Mooring Field (2018) New

Is this really a marina review? It's a mooring field.

The views expressed are strictly my own.

I don't care what anyone says. Annapolis is my #1 favorite destination and the mooring field is the coolest place ever to tie up. So there!

N: Navigability – Annapolis bills itself as the Sailing Capital of America, or the East Coast, or wherever, so it is an extremely well-maintained harbor. Plenty of water everywhere. Well marked channels.

D: Dockage The mooring balls are available first-come-first-serve, but they do attempt to track how many balls are available if you would call them the morning you plan on arriving. We arrived at the mooring field just shy of noon on the Saturday before the 4th of July and found several mooring balls available. We chose #17. We were told that the main mooring field is now set up for boats up to 55 feet long. They are directing smaller boats to a ball in the mooring field past the drawbridge down Spa Creek. 36' max back there. If you are in a smaller boat and tie up to one of the big-boat balls, they will ask you to move to the other field.

As you can guess, there's lots of boat traffic. It can get roll-y.

S: Services – Several of the surrounding marinas have fuel and pump-out available. Annapolis Harbor has two unique features: a pump-out boat and water taxis. When you need a pump-out, call for the boat on channel 17 and get on the schedule. It's better to call right when they come online at 9:00 am. $5 per pump-out. If you have multiple holding tanks, you have to pay the $5 per tank. The water taxis can be hailed on channel 68. They're a little pricey, but very convenient and fun. Note that the pump-out boat and the taxis are operated by different entities and don't speak for each other. After you arrive and get acclimated, you take a taxi or your dinghy and go the harbor master's office and pay up.

BIG NOTE: Fresh water is available on shore down either Ego Alley or a short-use slip off of the field that may have spigots for water. We didn't check that out ourselves. These water sources are not for public use, only for those that have paid for a mooring ball.

BIG NOTE #2: There is a protocol for saving your mooring ball you paid for if you depart to get water or for a day cruise. Tie your dinghy to the ball when you leave. That is the “reserved” symbol. We heard the harbor master himself say so. He also said that any other floating item such as a PFD or paddleboard or some such thing will not be honored and can be untied or cut loose.

A: Amenities – 24 hour locked bathrooms with showers, laundry, AND THE ENTIRETY OF ANNAPOLIS.

A: Accessibility – Once you're on land, you're on your own. Uber, Lyft, a limited free trolley. There is public transportation, but the streets downtown are too narrow. One of the purposes of the trolley is to funnel bus users out to the main lines. BUT YOU'RE IN ANNAPOLIS! If you've prepared ahead of time you don't need to go anywhere else anyway.

P: Provisioning – Very limited. There's a CVS downtown with a few things: eggs, milk, snacks. Otherwise you need to head out into the residential areas. If you're going to spend any amount of time in the field, you need to provision for your stay ahead of your arrival.

P: Price – $35 per night for a mooring ball. 7th night free.

Staying in the Annapolis Mooring Field is a singularly amazing feat. It's fun, exciting, and surprisingly easy. And you're in Annapolis, fer cry-yi-yi. There's the Naval Academy, the State Capital, museums, bars, restaurants, shops, Chick and Ruth's Delly, and so much more. It is an amazing place, and being out in the mooring field is as exciting as anything you can do on your boat. And what is my favorite store? Hats In The Belfry. I buy a new hat every time we're there.

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