The Intercostal Waterway & South to the Islands
This page is written for Canadians headed south although many of the comments apply top anyone considering spending time cruising offshore and out of territorial waters.
For the gun side of the great cruising security debate check here.
I expect to have a 2005 Island update available within a few weeks as another lucky friend is headed south to join a cruising boat. Much of this update is based on 3 friends who have returned from the 2001- 2002 winter in Florida, Cuba, a circumnavigation of Cuba and the T & C.
Cruising Seamanship Thoughts
This is Cruising Canada, cruising 2004.A friend asked me what the five things that I would take (extra) when going cruising? The question caused me to return to some of the older pages I had written about cruising preparations to “Go South” and revisit the thoughts.
Before the things, I believe mindset is equally important and offer the following cruising wisdom:
I would take with me when leaving on a voyage:
.1. You should have more fire fighting capability, and at least offshore-recommended safety equipment.
.2. Your flares should conform SOLAS standards and contain at least 3 parachute flares, never skimp, be identifiable from the air.
.3. Duplicate spares and any special tools that might be required for maintenance while underway. Reference manuals for equipment.
.4. Exposure or survival suits and emergency abandon ship bag.
.5. Secondary communications above a VHS, or even SSB, such as a cellular or a satellite phone that handles voice and data, and an antenna.
For current political and travel advisories in any country, phone toll-free 1-800-267-6788 or in Ottawa, Ontario phone 944-6788.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade provides Travel Advisory Reports for general travel information and requirements for the United States and Florida. The Foreign Affairs Department also has a brochure called Crossing the 49th which covers many of the twists and turns for Canadians chasing the sun southward with a listing of Canadian diplomatic contacts in the US which may be useful were you to run afoul of the law.
You are a foreign vessel, and you are the Captain. Do not take things for granted.
Boats can sink - I recommend keeping important papers in a waterproof pouch with a spare duplicate set in your abandon ship bag (also in waterproof pouch).
You must have:
Health Canada will provide bulletins on communicable diseases in other countries and travel. As a rule of thumb any time you leave the Canada for over 6 months, you may loose health care eligibility. You should check your provincial residency requirements carefully and do not count on Canadian standards of health care, or take anything for granted. We recommend additional travel insurance, as emergency care can be amazing some places.
Settle on a long term discount international phone provider where you can maintain an account even if you shut off your home phone or pick up pre paid phone cards as you go through the USA for long-distance phone calls. If you have the bucks a satellite phone would be cool, but not cheep. A normal PCS with a good roaming deal will see you through most of the USA.
VHF, SSB, or HAM RADIOS
Have appropriate radio licenses for any radios on board. You will find a handy Cruising Canada navigation desk VHF channel guide you can print out on our site here. I tended to use VHF 13 constantly as it is where the commercial inter ship traffic happens on most of the east seaboard, as well as bridges or locks.
But I SURVIVED TWO MAJOR ENCOUNTERS IN 5 YEARS and have been boarded too many times to count, so I have been there on both sides of the argument.
I believe in armed cruising for international waters. Not gung ho crazy but responsible legal firearms. Know how, and be prepared to use it once clear of Canadian and USA waters if your life is threatened.
True this is a sticky point these days. When there is no one else there, my choice and conscious was always clear. Many southern states are an easy palace to finalize your requirements at a gun show or many dealers if you have a clean record or do a little hunting.
YOU WILL BE BOARDED. On the average you can expect to be boarded more often in USA waters than offshore, particularly on the way back north.Florida, Carolina's and Georgia are very vigilant due to smugglers as are Savannah and Charleston.
When you are boarded in US waters, the Captain will taken forward and the crew aft as a matter of procedure, with armed seaman at the ready. So don't be surprised this is standard a procedure.
ABOVE ALL! Do not bring guns back into the USA or Canada due to current regulations loose them in deep water.
Talk to your doctor get adequate prescriptions for an extended time. Most doctors will help you with correct prescriptions and usage directions for an emergency medical kit if they know you and know you are headed for international waters. Take a StJohns course, you may be the only resource aboard. Drugs are a problem. Keep ALL DRUGS in original bottles.Keep a copy of the prescriptions separate (in that waterproof pouch) and the drugs in their bottles. The USA does not allow some common over the counter pain killers.
Stock drugs needed for common health problems along with a comprehensive first aid kit. You probably will use at least one of them, saving yourself a lengthy search for a doctor if you already know you have dysentery or cracked ribs.
Have a emergency dental kit, you would be amazed what you can do when choices are limited. Ensure your mouth is A-OK long before leaving and take care of them when you go. Loosing your dentures can be a real loss away from home.
Most can not have enough of this stuff, but still go. On the other hand most cruisers learn how to pick up little cash infusions along the way after a year or so. what you can do and when depends how far south and for how long. I have met some talented and resourceful individuals and cruisers as a group tend to be resourceful and interesting folk.
An Email Communications successful practice.
You are on the net now, so set up a hot mail or the like email account where you will have the same log on. Most recreation destinations now have some sort of way to log on, be that an Internet cafe or as marina guest. Worst case a old fashioned acoustic modem or that nice new little organizer will do the job.
Most of all your home mail and affairs require someone locally to field queries. An extended voyage will require setting up a mail forwarding system like several who cater to cruisers.
You will need to plan how will you handle this snail/postal mail be that a friend, family, service, money (money machines, credit card company with auto-payment, travellers checks), investment decisions.
Animals require health papers. A rabies certificate must current carried. Bahamas requires very current veterinarian documentation so one of the last Florida visits is the vets. Some places may not allow your pets to leave the boat, which caused my feline to become stressed out puss on several occasions when denied shore leave.
Cruising & Piracy
Cruising Security thoughts from the editor. In ten years of cruising I had two incidents which are the solid basis for my statements here as I am.
These are not uncommon scenario's that will ring a bell with many a cruiser. On the high seas third world port or anchorage.
Secure your vessel by a secondary secure means such as a hidden SS cable on strange public mooring docks. Sometimes locals get nasty and untie the unwary visitor at night. This can be dangerous. I remember the first time I went south at Watertown, on the Erie canal we were untied at night. Twice in different boats I have had lines untied. In Troy this can be particularly dangerous as the current will carry you downstream, out of the pond toward the dam.Visit "Headed South" a Cruising Canada mini-site.
Set your guard band radar at night, and do not trust unidentified approaching vessels. A burst of dozen or so is usually enough to discourage the would be boarding party.
In some anchorages Boat Boys can be a pest and a trip to your local marshal arts supplier for a bunch of (spike balls) which you to lay on the deck at night provide a great alarm for bare footed visitors, and get a good night sleep.
Your basic flare gun, can also be purchased in a stainless version designed to handle a slug known as the MACHETE STOPPER, and other than trying to break your wrist provides a great companionway weapon.
Knowledge, Knowledge and outright port gossip all provide the solitary cruiser insight into what areas are HOT and should be avoided. Once in the islands the local pub and marina gossip will pretty much tell you where to beware of.
The increase in the numbers of attacks by pirates and armed robbers on merchant ships has been causing concern. It is believed that this increase applies also to yachts, but these are not necessarily reported to the relevant authorities and the statistics do not take them into account.
The International Maritime Organization is mounting a campaign to improve the steps taken by governments throughout the world to combat this growing menace. It believes that this should take account of attacks on yachts and other recreational vessels. The International Sailing Federation has agreed to help in obtaining reports of these attacks. Only by having the figures can pressure be applied to the Security authorities throughout the world for improvements to the protection which they give to small boats both in ports and at sea. Reports should cover all incidents of piracy or of robbery in which the perpetrators are armed wherever they occur.
The word "armed" should not be restricted to firearms but includes any weapon which is used to assist in the crime. Reports should include the following information:
ISAF will collate the reports and send regular returns to IMO.
Report 1: 27 January 2000
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