Our plan is simple: quit our jobs, ready the boat, delete lots of stuff like cars, furniture, etc, rent the house, figure out and subscribe to American health insurance, phones & banks, quit the choirs, the curling, the book clubs that we love, give our loved ones a big kiss, and then slip the lines. Head south, in August, before the cold arrives. Spend the winter in the Bahamas. Then figure out what’s next.
I guess we are on track. But that’s not the plan you probably care about. You want to know where we are going, what we’ll see, how we’ll get there and when we’ll be there. Of course, all those things are subject to a great number of variables, but it’s gonna look something like this:
The New York State Canals – Aug 5-20th (ish)
Our first few weeks will be spent in canals. The Oswego Canal has 7 locks (interestingly numbered from 1-8, skipping #4) and runs from Lake Ontario until it connects with The Erie Canal. The Erie Canal runs from Buffalo to the Hudson River, but we’ll only use the Eastern half of that canal. These canals have low bridges, so our mast will be taken down before we enter the canal and put back up once we reach the Hudson.
The Hudson & Manhattan – Aug 21- Sept 21 (ish)
I hear the Hudson River has some very nice anchorages, so we will probably take our time getting down the river and into Manhattan. Apparently, a mooring ball at the 79th Street Marina is the way to go in the city. It’s very rolly with all the boat traffic, but a decently priced place to stay, providing you’re happy to spend all your time off the boat.
Passage to Delaware River – End of Sept (ish)
The vast majority of our trip south to Florida will be spent in sheltered rivers and canals that join them, but from New York City to the Delaware River, we have a passage of about 140 nautical miles – basically 24-36 hours of non-stop, ocean sailing. There are a couple of places we can head for if the weather sours, but not many along this coast. So, we’ll be looking for a very good weather window before we leave Sandy Hook for this passage.
Delaware, Chesapeake and Boat Show – Late Sept to Mid October
The Annapolis Boat Show is mecca for sailers along the eastern seaboard. I’m not one for shopping, and I’ve already taken most of the courses they offer twice, so I’m not sure I will be going. But others from our ICW Rally that starts immediately after the show will be meeting there, so we may want to get in on the fun. Of course, we may also want to enjoy more “gunkholing” – anchoring in the shallow waters of the Chesapeake. Time will tell.
ICW Rally – Oct 15 – Dec 15 (ish)
The Inter-Coastal Waterway is a series of protected rivers and channels that will be taking us from Norfolk, Virginia all the way to Miami. That’s 1,100 nautical miles (about 2000km) of alternating parks, marshes, rivers, military bases, industrial complexes, barges, and unfortunately, the ubiquitous powerboat operators. Some parts have up to 13′ of tides, strong currents and shallow bottoms.
So, rather than go it alone, we’ve decided to join up with a group of about 20 other boats. We will meet up in Norfolk and stay together(ish) as a group throughout the 2 months of travel. Travelling in a rally helps ease the decision making and provides some good back up when something breaks – and something always breaks! Rumour has it, though, that travelling in an ICW Rally can be quite hard on one’s liver. We shall see.
Apparently, we should expect to see a good deal of wildlife during our time in the ICW. Manatees, dolphins and many other wild things are found there. But as we get further south, I expect it will become more suburbanized, and filled with the worst of all invasive species: the jet skier. Once that happens, we will be looking for opportunities to get back to the ocean for quieter, straighter passages. Florida in particular, seems like something I’d prefer to see off in the distance rather than up close and personal. But these breaks from the inland waters may be rare because, often, transitioning from inside to outside and back again later add extra miles that can cancel out the benefits of time at sail in open ocean. We’ll see what happens.
The Bahamas – Dec 15ish onward
We plan to depart the US from No Name Harbor, which is near Miami. If we point the boat east, we should end up travelling northeast because of the Gulf Stream current. And that will put us on a good course to the northwest corner of Grand Bahama island. Once in the Bahamas, our plan is to move about from anchorage to anchorage as the whims and the wind permit.
Getting Back – no time set
Sometime in the spring, we will head back to Florida and start to head home. There are many questions about what that will look like. Here’s a list of options:
- Retrace our footsteps. If it’s what we want, we can basically follow the same course that we took to get here, back. (Likelihood: 20%)
- Have the boat shipped. The cost of having the boat shipped from Florida to the Great Lakes is really not much different than the cost of food, fuel, etc needed to move the boat back up through the same route, so we may do so to save time and wear. (Likelihood: 80%)
- Head to Georgian Bay – If we ship the boat, we could have it shipped to Lake Erie and, from there, head to Georgian Bay for the summer before we returning to Lake Ontario. (Likelihood: 40%)
- Leave the boat in Florida – We could decide that we want to spend many winters in the Bahamas. Having the boat stored in Florida would mean that we are ready to head back the following winter. (Likelihood: 10%)
- Head South & Stay Out Longer – We can continue heading southeast, but we’d need to make it to Trinidad or the Grenadines before hurricane season (June). (Likelihood: very low – we’ll miss our kids too much!)