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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Trip planning for an unplanned trip

We've spent hours with the Internet resoruces, charts, and guidebooks “planning” our trip. Here's the thing with small boats, you don't actually pick routes, times and destinations. We have a number of places we want to get to and they are goals of sorts. Exactly how, when, and even if we get there are dependent on factors that are often out of our control.

Active Captain is a darn useful web site for anyone traveling on the water. Crusing guidebooks are nice. I own several, but they can't but help be out of date by the time they are printed. Active Captain is constantly updated by people who are out on the water, so the information is about as current as it gets.

Take sailing down the west coast of Florida as an example. Do we take the outside route or the more protected inside route? Weather is the big one here, as it always is. Under the right conditons we could cover a lot more distance on the outside route. We've done it and it's great sailing.

It can be rough out there, so taking the inside might be wiser. Then we have to deal with narrow channels, shallow water, bridges, and a lot more boat traffic. On the other hand, where's there's traffic, there are services like marinas and dockside restaurants.

We won't remember everything we've looked at, but we'll retain a general overview. For places we really want to see we take notes: channels, approaches, compass bearings, GPS waypoints -that sort of thing.

One of the best things about traveling on a boat is that we don't have to be anyplace at all. We've good food, drink and a place to sleep. We live on a little place on the water, the real estate's agent's dream. If we want to spend a few extra days anchored at a nice protected beach, that's what we do. It's what we've done.

The beauty of a small trailer sailor is that we can always put the boat on a trailer and do 50 knots against the wind. That's a safety factor bigger boats don't have. We don't have to sit in the water waiting for a hurricane.

That's why one of the things we keep an eye out for is good boat ramps. You never know.