Friday, December 29, 2017

The Frozen Artic

Ann and I removed the Christmas decorations in 15-degree weather!
That's our poor rental car from Florida in the background. 
I can't believe I used to spend the winters up here. The temperature dropped below freezing on Christmas Day and hasn't been above 20 since. The lows are routinely at 0F and the coldest weather is yet to come with a forecast of -9F on Sunday. How did I ever stand such cold in the past? It seems like it was somebody else that ran in the morning with temps below zero. Going south in the winter has changed my tolerance for less than warm weather.

We'll start out Sunday with the temperature around -7F for our daughter's house in Pennsylvania where we'll pick up our grandson, Finn. We will be homeschooling him for about six weeks until his parents visit us in Key West. I keep an eye out on Key West where the temps have been in the high 70's so far. I moved our poor rental car into the garage to warm it up for packing on Saturday but it's still covered in ice from the last storm. Hopefully, I can chip at the ice enough to open the trunk and free the windshield wipers.

If all goes according to plan, we will arrive in Titusville Wednesday, late afternoon. Unfortunately, the cold front is supposed to even reach there by the end of the week. If that persists, then we may stay longer at Titusville waiting for warmer weather for the trip south.

Meanwhile, I've completed my first pass through the 13 nav apps and discovered there is not one best app. It all depends on what you want. I'll present some findings in my next blog.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Well, Merry  Christmas to all! We had the grandkids do all the outside decorating as directed by Sarah who has an artistic bent. We had about an inch of snow, just enough to give the ground a white covering and make everything pretty.

Meanwhile, I made the first pass evaluation on all 13 navigation apps. Reading 13 manuals on 13  different ways to make a route was illuminating. You would think there would be some commonality, that they would gravitate towards the one, simplest way - the one most intuitive way.  No such luck. Every app seems to think they have the best way. It’s easy to recognize the older apps, they don’t take advantage of the newer features of recent iOS changes such as split screens or easier sharing of routes with the “open in” dialogue  (who writes these things?j. I have an obligation to be accurate, which I take seriously, so I’m double checking as best I can. Regardless, I’m sure I will offend somebody by not mentioning or being wrong on some pet capability - such is the reviewer’s lot.

I should be ready by next week, at least that’s my target. I’m still tending to a question and answer preface on features you are looking for in a navigation app and based on your input, I can then rate the apps relative to the features you consider the most important (the features you want, not the features I like the most).  That way, you can consider the best app to fit your needs, not mine.

So, enjoy the holidays. I’ll restart the blog officially on January 4th. There may be a few posts before that date, especially on app reviews.

Monday, December 18, 2017

We're freezing up here! I put a hat on the stork in front and he has a blanket too. He still looks cold. 
I've added more iPad navigation programs and started the analysis. My list of features has greatly expanded. Some have amazing capabilities although I find it hard to visualize a situation where I would use all of them. In one, you point your camera at the horizon and the app filled in labels for everything in view such as buoys and ships, right on top of the image you see of the horizon on the iPhone or iPad. I'll plow through the list below but the end date for analysis may be a week away with such a big list. It ought to be interesting at least. Here's the revised list:
They all fit on the iPad!

Garmin Active Captain
Navionics USA HD
Navimatics Charts and Tides
Aqua Map Americas
Max Sea TN
Pro Charts
SeaNav US
Great Depths

I hate to say this, but if there are others I ought to add to the list, please let me know now. By the way, I bought them all, no gifts.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Comparing Navigation Apps for the iPad

(Edited 12/17/2017, 12:20 pm, added SEAiq to list for evaluation)

Our friends down south are waiting for us!
I'm not fond of reviews that result in a glowing recommendation of the reviewer's favorite app.  He has his own criteria and things he thinks are special so I thought I would take a different approach. I searched the internet for reviews of navigation app so I would be sure to consider all possible apps. After an afternoon of looking, I came up with the following candidates, some of which I've never used:
Garmin Active Captain
Navionics USA HD
Navimatics Charts and Tides
Aqua Map Americas
Max Sea TN
Pro Charts

In all likelihood, I've missed a few so please let me know additional programs you would like to include. My approach is to list all possible features of a navigation app and then check off for each app the features that they possess. I would also include the cost of the app and the cost of charts for the US. I then plan on looking at my own iPad memory usage to determine how much space is taken up by each app (I bought them all, no gifts!)

My thinking is that each of us has our own preferences and one man's or woman's ranking of an app may depend upon different valuations of the same set of criteria. So with that in mind, I plan on presenting a spreadsheet with a listing of features down the left column and then check off which features each app possesses. I'll probably include a screenshot of the same area for each app so the display of charts can be directly compared.

If there is anything else you would like to see, please respond in the comments section of this blog. In starting this effort this afternoon, I'm finding that it's a much bigger job than I anticipated so it may take a few days to do right.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Adventure at Isle of Palms - Water Levels

Today is the big day, you’re headed through the famous shallows around McClellanville in the Isle of Palms, South Carolina. It’s a bright and sunny day, perhaps a little windy but that’s no big concern in the protected waters of the ICW. You’ve done your homework and read all the posts and even one from yesterday that was corrected to MLW. You’re going through with 2 ft of tide (dropping…) so you don’t foresee any problem with a 4ft keel. – it will be tight but ought to be okay.  As you progress, the water depth seems a little less than expected so you slow down a bit to be sure to stay in the channel. Unfortunately, that allows the tide to drop even further, you hit bottom and you’re stuck! What happened?

I’m sure the first chorus will be, “Dummy, never challenge McClellanville at low tide!”  But we’re interested in just the facts. Let’s take a look at Feb 7, the day of his adventure.

The first thing you notice is the increase in wind speed with gusts up to 39 mph (34 kts). Although the chart doesn’t show it, the direction is out of the northwest. It’s the ideal direction to push water out of Charleston Bay and associated bodies of water nearby. Now let’s look at the tide level vs predicted (per tide tables).

Now you can see the problem here. The actual water level was following the predicted level until the northwest wind started blowing. At low tide and approaching low tide, there was more than a foot less water depth than predicted on Feb 9, 2017 at noon due to that west wind.  Look at how quickly that northwest wind pushed the water out! Now it’s true that the tide station measuring actual vs predicted is located in Charleston but my experience has been that it’s a pretty good predictor of what’s happening in the Isle of Palms too.

But, you may ask, how about those times when there’s more water depth than predicted? What causes that?  Let’s look at a wind report from 11/11/2017.

The wind was blowing out of the northeast (and had been for several days) with gusts to 26 mph (23 kts) on 11/11/2017. Any wind with an easterly component will tend to push water against the coast with the result shown below at the Charleston tide station for the same day. If you had transited the Isle of Palms that day, you would have enjoyed an extra foot of water above the predicted tide level. I like to see charts like the one below when I transit McClellanville!

So the moral of the story is to pay attention to the wind in your plans and take advantage of those tide stations that give the actual tide vs predicted tide. See Links, Weather, Surveys, Buoys, and Tides for the list. Of course, just an abundance of rain can also raise the water level but the same tide stations will also give you an indication of that effect. By now you should appreciate how two captains can go through the same stretch of shallow water and see a 2 ft difference in depths even when corrected to MLW! There was more than 2 ft of difference in just the two charts above. So take advantage of the data available on the web in this modern age, it can be a lifesaver (or at least a keel saver).

By the way, our friend had a nice view of the countryside around McClellanville while waiting for the tide to rise.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Blog Site Resourses

Why would anyone want to live in such cold weather? (we did for 40 years!)
In the midst of our first snow of the season up here in New York, I thought I would go over some of the resources available on this site for use by cruisers on the ICW. At the left of the site under, "Cruising Tips" is a list of information you may find useful. During the winter months is a good time while things are calm to peruse the list and make mental notes of what you could use in the spring. You just click (or tap if you're on an iPad) on the title and you will be brought to a page of data. So here goes:

Links, Weather, Surveys, Buoys, and Tides
Here are a few links I keep at the ready when cruising. Bookmark this page for quick reference They are all ordered from north to south for easy reference when underway:

- A list of weather buoys. It's good for knowing the actual wind out there, not the predicted wind for buoys along the New Jersey shore, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, and near the ICW to Key West.

The green line is the actual water level relative
to MLLW and the blue line is the level predicted
by tide tables. 
- Water heights of actual vs predicted at key tide stations. Knowing how the tide is running relative to the predicted tide can be valuable. It is especially useful to check the water level relative to predicted tide at Charleston before going through the Isle of Palms (see charts at left). If the water is higher than normal, it's good to know. Likewise, if it's lower than normal (a strong west wind) it's vital to know. It's bad enough when the predicted tide is below the 0.0 datum (-0.6 ft in the graph at right at 16:00 on 2/9) but even worse when the actual water level is more than a foot lower! Imagine trying to get through McClellanville under those conditions!

If you happen to hit a day when the opposite is true, like in the second graph at right, then you'll wonder what all the fuss was about - you had plenty of water and you'll pat yourself on the back for being so good at finding deep water when everybody else was plowing mud earlier in the month.

The Savannah tide station lets you know the water delta to be expected at Hell Gate. It can be the difference between getting through or waiting for a higher tide.

- ACOE Surveys: I looked through the ACOE surveys and picked out those depth surveys that showed shallow areas and listed them here with links to a PDF picture of the passage. I check these sites just before a transit through one of the listed shallows. You ought to do the same thing.

For example, there's the latest survey of Lockwoods Folly. It looks like it's closing up between AIWW Waypoint 3 and 2. It ought to be fun in the spring. The link to this chart is included under ACOE Surveys.

-Weather Sites. Also included are the key weather sites for hurricanes I used daily during the fall.

GPX Routes
Fernandina shallows route for 9 MLW
It's one of the GPX routes
Throughout the year I will post routes in GPX format on the blog page under this heading. The GPX routes can be downloaded into any iPad app that accepts route downloads. The present list included both Garmin apps (the discontinued Garmin Bluechart Mobile and the new Garmin Active Captain) and AquaMap. Unfortunately, the Navionics app does not support importing of GPX routes from a non-chartplotter source. Navimatics Charts and Tides also accepts importing of GPX routes but you have to use iTunes to load the routes via a PC. It's certainly doable but it's an extra step. For the Garmin and AquaMap apps, all you do is access the blog using Safari and click (or tap) on GPX Routes and then tap on the route you want to download. You will get a choice of apps to download the GPX file to. Just select the one you want and it will appear in your app under user data.

You will seldom see routes from me for the areas that change rapidly like Lockwoods Folly or Brown's Inlet. The channel moves too often and it's best just following the buoys. I may list such a route for a limited period of time when I go north in the spring but will delete it shortly thereafter due to changing conditions. Some of the routes have been relatively stable. Examples are Fernandina Shallows (route pictured above for 9 MLW), St Andrews shoal passage, Dawho River, and Haverstraw Cove. I feel pretty comfortable with those routes, they don't seem to change from year to year. However, use them at your own risk since all things on the ICW will eventually change - the captain takes full responsibility for his or her vessel. There are no guarantees on the ICW or in life!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ann's Pastels Updated

Ann has been busy painting over the last few years in traveling the ICW from New York to Key West and back for the last eight years. She paints in pastels on the boat and when we're home up north. She recently added more paintings to her webpage which can be accessed at the left column in this blog. For this blog post, I've included the link to her paintings which is reproduced below. She enjoys painting and perhaps you will too. We both just love the sights and sounds of the ICW and she tries to capture the images in her paintings.

Here's a little about her background and a listing of her current paintings:

Ann is a member of Barrett Art center, Kent Art Association, and the Northeast Watercolor Society. Her work has been accepted for juried shows at Barrett Art Center, Kent Art Association, Northeast Watercolor Society and Hudson River Watercolor Society. She has also served as Juror of Awards at Kent Art Association. Ann’s paintings are in the corporate collections of McCabe and Mack, C. B. Strain and many private collections. She has studied with Mel Stabin, Carlton Plummer, Arne Lindmark, Franklin Alexander, Christine Debrowsky, Linda Novack and Artie Johansen.

Ann works in pastel and watercolor, painting landscapes of the Hudson Valley and scenes along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). In recent years she has worked mainly in pastels on our boat Fleetwing, a Beneteau 423 sailboat while cruising the last eight years from New York to Key West and back every winter. Ann accepts commissions as well as offering her paintings for private sale.

Samples of her most recent pastels are shown below. All pastels are originals, there are no reproductions. You will be the owner of a one of a kind piece of art. The pastels are professionally framed and matted by They only lack glass due to the possibility of breakage during shipment. Any local art store will install glass for a nominal fee. Due to our love of cruising the ICW, Ann can only ship artwork while in New York from November through December and from June through August. At all other times, we are on Fleetwing enjoying the ICW or down in Key West at our dock for February and March. The prices listed include framing, matting, and shipping, there are no extras. All measurements are in inches of the pastel. Framing and matting will increase the overall size of the picture.

1 - Georgia Marsh, 9 x 12 $400
You are surrounded by marshlands as you travel through Georgia on the ICW, enchanting

2 - White Hibiscus 8 x 10 $350
Key West is full of flowers during the winter. It's great fun just to walk along the sidewalks and enjoy the views
3 - The Hammock  11 x 17  $450
A hammock is a rise of land only slightly higher than the surrounding marsh, but high enough to support trees that don't like to get their feet wet
4 - Iris  8 x 11  $350
More flowers from Key West. There's never any frost.
5 - Evening Color  9 x 12  $400
We always enjoy sitting in the cockpit and watch the sunset with drinks in hand, paradise
6 - Key West Color  9 x 12  $400
Just one block from our dock in Key West, flowers every year
7 - Clearing  9 x 12  $400
We never tire of sunsets
8 - Bougainvillea  9 x 12  $400
Our favorite street in Key West leads to the local grocery store and along the way there's always a huge display of bougainvillea in many colors. the reds are the showiest. 
9 - Hobucken  12 x 14  $425
We were docked at RE Mayo and looked across the channel to see the setting sun highlighting the woods, it was spectacular. 
10 - Daisies 12 x 12 $425
These are from our backyard - we do go home occasionally
11 - Storm Coming  6 x 8  $225
The skies darken, the wind picks up and you'd better find a place to tuck in
12 - Golden Sunset  9 x 12  $400
As we clink wine glasses together to toast the day on the ICW
13 - Yellow Iris  8 x 10  $300
An iris from our backyard
14 - Marsh Sunset  12x18  $475
Yet another spectacular sunset on the ICW
15 - Clematis  8 x 16  $350
We have a climbing clematis in our backyard
16 - Old Town Key West  9 x 9  $300
A typical house in the old part of Key West. Don't let looks deceive you, it's worth $600k to $900k
17 - Wahoo River Anchorage  13 x 20  $500
One of my favorite pastels. We dropped the anchor with nobody else around and were treated to a beautiful sunset.
18 - Rose of Sharon  11 x 12  $425
Another example of what you'll see when going for a stroll in Key West
19 - Palm  11 x 14  $425
Palm trees are survivors, they may lose a few branches to high winds but they seldom tip over
20 - Last Light  13 x 20  $500
Ann catches the delicate colors of an ICW sunset
21 - Lilies  13 x 18  $500
Lilies in our backyard. For some reason, they bloomed profusely this time
22 - Fall  14 x 18  $500
Fall colors for our southern friends and for us in case we forget
23 - Approaching Georgetown  10 x 14  $425
One of the prettiest areas of the ICW is the Waccamaw River, we enjoy that ride every year from Myrtle Beach to Georgetown, SC. 
24 - Palms Together  11 x 16  $450
They seem to grow everywhere but not far north
25 - Sunset IV  4 x 10  $150
We like the reflections off the water too
26 - Key West Pathway  10 x 12  $425
The archway was over a lane just off a side street in Key West. You never know when you'll happen upon beauty in Key West
27 - Key West Pride  13 x 17  $500
Another one of my favorite pastels. The chickens rule Key West, everything stops when a chicken crosses the street. You'll often see a hen with her brood waddling along. At Blue Heaven, they mix in with the dining crowd.
28 - Tropical Sunset  8 x 12  #350
Sigh... I know, another sunset - but we enjoy them
29 - Palms II  11 x 16  $450
In Key West, you will often see them among the flowers

30 - Sunset II  6 x 9  $250
A splash of color along the way
31 - Marshland  12 x 16  $450
The marshes of Georgia are endlessly fascinating to us
32 - Day's End  11 x 16  $450
We were just in awe when we were privileged to see this sunset, wow
33 - Marshland II  8 x 9  $300
Another example of Georgia traveling sights
34 - Storm Brewing  8 x 12  $350
It looks pretty but a storm was on the way
35 - Palm III  6 x 9  $250
Flexibility is the key to survival for a palm - and for others too
36 - Sunset Blues  8 x 6  $150
The changing of colors always fascinate us - have another glass of wine...
37 - Summer Beauties  12 x 12  $375
From our backyard, we enjoy the view off our backporch in the summer
38 - Last Light  12 x 16  $450
As the light fades, we fade to the cabin below
39 - Black-Eyed Susans  8 x 10  $300
We do enjoy our backyard
40 - Maine Bedrock  11 x 16  $450
We spent three summers in Maine about 10 years ago. It was a fantastic place for cruising with a steady wind coming up every afternoon and tons of places to anchor.
41 - Towards Evening  13 x 17  $500
The view from our backyard with the sun setting behind the hill, enchanting
42 - Last Snow  12 x 16  $450
Ann has the water receding nicely, it's harder to paint that than it appears. We used to spend the winters up north but I think we've found a better plan