View Single Post
  #7   IP:
Old 01-03-2021, 06:49 PM
edwardc's Avatar
edwardc edwardc is offline
Afourian MVP
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Laurel, MD
Posts: 2,346
Thanks: 93
Thanked 415 Times in 279 Posts
First, welcome to the forum and Happy New Year!

In advance, please excuse the long rambling post.

No, you're not crazy at all. I can't speak for the Erie Canal portion, as I havent done that yet, but I do know that you will have to unstep the mast at the beginning and have it restepped at the end of the canal system.

As for the ICW, I wish Hanely was still here on the forum. He did the trip from New England down the ICW to FL and back around a dozen times in his A4 powered boat, and could tell you endless things.

We've done it twice in our A4-powered 32 ft Pearson 323, and are planning a third trip, possibly this coming fall.

Mo has a pretty complete list of things. Even with our indego oil filter system, we changed the oil & filter every 50 hrs. This meant from 10 to 12 oil changes on our whole trip, as we motored almost the entire time on the ICW. With our starting in the Chesapeake, down the ICW to FL, over to the Bahamas for 5-6 weeks, and back up the ICW, we traveled about 3000 NM and put about 500 hrs on the engine. Because they're small, I simply ordered a whole case of 12 oil filters from Amazon and carried them aboard so there would never be any problem with finding the right one. Also kept 4 one-gallon jugs of 15W40 oil aboard, and replenished those as we used them. The 15W40 "diesel oil" is readily available, unlike straight 30W heavy duty.

One item that almost caught us by surprise is the blower motor. Right before our first trip, we had one fail and I replaced it. I was surprised to discover that these are only rated for a 500 hour lifetime, and that the brushes (which are the things that wear out) are not replacable! Since we run it all the time the engine is running, this means it would only be good for one trip! I ordered a spare, and rigged up the wiring to use a terminal strip to make it easily swap-able under way, and pre-wired the spare with ring terminals. Sure enough, towards the very end of our trip, the blower failed and I had to swap it again. On our second trip, we had a similar experience, so the 500 hr life seems to be pretty accurate! Anyway, carry a spare blower.

Another item is cooling system pumps. Be sure to do a full rebuild, not just an impeller replacement, on both the fresh water and raw water pumps. Those 500 hrs represent about 5 years of normal use for us, and the seals and bearings do wear out. Much better to do the rebuild in your home port, with access to resources, than while at anchor on the water (DAMHIKT).

And rebuild the head pump as well. You REALLY don't want to do this job while you are living on the boat!!

The primary three things that will control your life while on such a trip are fuel, water, and pumpouts. Food is usually a distant fourth. In the US, finding a working pumpout was always our number 1 concern. Although they are required and subsidized, it can often be a challenge to find an operating one, particularly in the south. We repeatedly heard the story that "they were still waiting for it to be repaired after the damage from hurricane <insert name here>". Several times on our first trip, we had to make significant detours off of the ICW in search of a working pumpout. Our boat had the standard head plumbing from the 60s and early 70s, which meant that the ONLY way to empty the holding tank was from a shoreside pumpout. Combine this with our small 10 gal tank, and it meant that we needed a pumpout every other day! Before our second trip, I installed a macerator pump, and reworked the plumbing so that, in an emergency, it would be possible to find the mouth of a fast moving river and pump the tank overboard. Not that I am advocating this, you just need to be aware and make your choices.

Once in the Bahamas, there are NO pumpout facilities, and almost no restrictions. You either pump directly overboard, or sail out a bit from the anchorage and pump out your tank. The large currents from the twice daily tides carries everything off to deep water.

So in the Bahamas, the priority order became fuel, water, food. Water is generally available everywhere, although you'll usually have to pay for it, and food is expensive, but gas can be hard to come by, particularly in the Exumas. There, we only found gas at Highbourn Cay, Staniel Cay, Cave Cay, and Georgetown in Great Exuma. In the Abacos gas was more readily available.

Another thing that will rule your daily life is your electrical power budget.

Again, while on the ICW and motoring every day, your batteries should get fully charged every day, and this isn't as much of a problem. But once you're at anchor for days at a time, either waiting in FL for a weather window or in the Bahamas, the equation changes. You need auxillary means of producing power to equal your daily consumption. We have 200W of solar panels, and a wind generator. In the Chesapeake, the wind generator is pretty useless, but in the Bahamas, the wind blows a lot and the windgen can make a big difference. Anyway, what we found is that 200W of solar by itself is not enough. With our 12V refrigeration running, we needed to make up power daily in Florida. (My research has since showed that about 400W of solar is the "sweet spot" for a cruising couple). Our original plan was to run the engine daily to get the batteries charged. This turned out to be unworkable, as we found we were running the engine as much as four hours per day to break even. This both consumed too much fuel, and put too much heat into the boat, further causing the refrigeration to work harder and consume even more power.

Our solution was to buy a small "suitcase" generator. Many of the cruisers we met favored the 2000W honda EU2000i, but this was more than we needed, and weighed in at around 39 lbs. We got a 1000W EU1000i. It weighs a mere 19 lbs and I can lift it with one hand. It can do everything we would want except run the water heater. We perch it on the stern and use it to power our boat's shore charger. It is super quiet, and the little 1/2 gallon tank will run it for anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, depending on how hard we're loading it down. And it runs on the same fuel as our main engine, so no need for a separate set of jerry jugs. As a bonus, it lets me run small A/C powered tools onboard ('cuz you're always fixing something!). And it gives us options. Options are always good. On our second trip, our windgen broke, and we had to fall back on daily charging with the generator.

Motoring range with the A4 has not been an issue for us, but we don't do any long offshore passages. We consume around 1 gal per hour under normal motoring conditions around 5 kts, and have a 30 gal tank. This translates into about a 150 nm motoring range. In addition, I carry five 6 gal jerry jugs on deck, for an additional 30 gal. This is also used for the generator and the dinghy outboard (we're a one-fuel boat). On our first trip, we went offshore from Charleston SC to St Mary's on the GA FL line. It took about two days, but we were able to sail a lot of it. On this last trip, we departed Florida from Marathon Key and motored all the way to Bimini, taking around 24 hours. Normally, we leave from Miami to Bimini, a mere 10 hrs and 42 nm.

While offshore in the Gulf of Florida, crossing to the Bahamas, an AIS receiver is HIGHLY recommended. There are a LOT of freighters and Cruise ships (well, there used to be...) out there and the AIS in invaluable in sorting out which ones are on a converging course and which ones you don't have to worry about, especially at night. And a radar reflector is an absolute requirement so they can see you!

The last thing I want to touch on briefly is weather. It's not as big a deal when you stay in the ICW, but it's crucially important when going offshore, particularly when crossing the Gulf Stream. We subscribe to Chris Parker's weather service, and it has been outstanding. Chris has daily HF radio broadcasts and simultaneous webcasts for each day's weather, and will address specific quesrtions from subscribers, submitted either by radio or online. We've used him every time to recommend a crossing windows both there and back, and he's always come through for us. I've read so many horror stories from people who did not plan their crossing properly, and had a very rough and unplesant experience. We also use Windfinder and Predictwind online to suppliment our knowledge.

I'm sure there's lots more I haven't covered, but I'll be happy to try and answer any questions you have. And I want to encourage you to make this trip. It has been the highlight of our sailing careers.

In the words of Lin and Larry Pardy, "Go small, go simple, go now!"
@(^.^)@ Ed
1977 Pearson P-323 "Dolce Vita"
with rebuilt Atomic-4

Reply With Quote
The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to edwardc For This Useful Post:
Mo (01-04-2021), sastanley (01-04-2021), Surcouf (01-04-2021), TimBSmith (01-03-2021)