Sunday, January 29, 2017

Twenty-five Feet Around The Loop

This blog will chronicle our (Pat and Patty Anderson's) planning and preparation for cruising the Great Loop, and once on the water, our cruising adventures! 


Our choice of boat for the Loop is dictated by the fact that we own our 2005 C-Dory 25 Cruiser, Daydream, free and clear, so we have no need to buy a boat or factor that into our costs. It is a great boat, and it meets Capt John's tests, at least for us:

"The kind of boat you choose for making this voyage must be no smaller than one
you can live comfortably on. It should also be no larger than one can safely handle alone."

We know from experience we can live comfortably on Daydream. Although our longest cruise to date has been two weeks, after 11 years of cruising in the San Juan Islands, Canadian Gulf Islands, Princess Louisa Inlet, Desolation Sound, Lake Roosevelt in Eastern Washington, the Idaho lakes Priest and Pondereille, Lake Powell in Utah, and the Inland Passage to Alaska, we know what it feels like to live in such a small space and have never had any problem with that! We probably won't be the party boat however!

We do not live as total minimalists on Daydream either! Our friends Bill and El Fiero, whose website Cruising America - Halcyon Days (which is also an an Amazon Kindle book) and cruising lifestyle are admired by virtually every C-Dory owner, consider us somewhat extravagant by their standards! Their website and book are excellent reads and highly recommended!

Bill and El Fiero on Halcyon, Nisqually Delta, 2007

Bill and El first did the Great Loop on a 20' Flicka sailboat, years before people were even talking about the Great Loop. They later became liveaboards for quite a few years on the C-Dory 22 Cruiser Halcyon, and have cruised nearly every navigable body of water in the U.S. and Canada. They are the paradigms of minimalism! We learned the difference between "need" and "want" from Bill and El, although we indulge in a more few "wants" from time to time than they do! The bottom line is, we know for certain that we have everything on Daydream we need in order to live comfortably!

We are confident we meet Capt. John's second test too. Since Patty and I first took the Power Squadron Boating Safety Course in 2003, we have shared equal time at the helm, equal time navigating (she is better at it than I am), equal time docking, and equal time anchoring. I remember the first time she pulled away alone from the dock at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham to cruise for three days alone after dropping me off because I had to go back to work. She said it was exhilarating, especially because nobody was telling her to "do this" or "do that"! Mea culpa! In many ways, she is more skilled than I at handling this boat, but we are each confident that either of us can handle Daydream safely.

We also know we won't be the first C-Dory to do the Loop! It is reassuring that quite a few other C-Dorys, both 22' and 25', have successfully completed the Loop in prior years!


We know we will be the smallest, or next to smallest, boat wherever we anchor or dock on the Loop. In a world of big motorhomes, we are the VW Camper Van of boats! We are used to that! We often hear "Oh, honey, look at that cute little one over there"!

Daydream's physical dimensions are modest. Length overall is 25'5". Our beam is 8'6". The vee-berth is 6'4" (I am 5' 8" and Patty is somewhere barely north of 5', so there is plenty of room in the vee-berth for both of us plus the dog!). The cabin interior is 9' long with 6'10" of headroom, with a dinette, galley and enclosed head. The cockpit is 4'8" and we have full canvas, so it can become an extra room when needed. The draft is under 2', which allows us to go many places other boats cannot.
C-Dory 25 Cruiser Specifications

Daydream is powered by a Honda BF150 outboard, and we have added a Honda BF15 kicker. She has a 100 gallon fuel tank, which we usually conservatively count on for 150 nautical miles. The performance specifications from C-Dory are not real world numbers, but performance is not terrible either! In our home waters, at cruising at speed, 16-18 knots, our average economy is 2.0 - 2.2 NMPG, and while slow cruising, 6-8 knots, it is an average of 2.5-3.0 NMPG, sometimes better. Calculating economy as SMPG instead of NMPG, it would be approximately 15% better.

We were talking last week with friends Bob and Betsy Burks, who did much of the Loop several years ago on their C-Dory 25 Cruiser, Sea Pal, and Bob said they had no problem with the stretch from Hoppie's to Green Turtle Bay. Their boat has twin Honda BF90s, which Bob thought were less fuel efficient than a single BF150. We may be overly cautious about gas between Hoppie's and Green Turtle Bay, because we are used to cruising in waters with a lot of winds and tidal currents, which may be on our stern, on our head, or one on the head and the other on the stern, or crosswise! We have never cruised with a 3-4 knot current pushing us for several hundreds miles, and so don't really know how to factor that in.

The BF150 and BF15 both received complete services in October and Daydream has been sitting in our garage since then. I will be taking a kit with oil filters, fuel water separator cartridges, water pump rebuild kit, a set of plugs, and a thermostat. We may not need any of this but would rather have this stuff along than to have to wait while it gets shipped in wherever we happen to be when regular maintenance comes due or a repair is necessary.

Daydream came with a 12 volt starting battery and dual 12 volt house batteries wired in parallel that are isolated from the starting battery by a VSR (voltage sensing relay). We have changed out the original house batteries once or twice, and since the current house batteries were about five years old, we just changed them out for the Loop.


We almost never stay at a marina unless it is for a C-Dory gathering. On the Loop, we will no doubt stay at marinas more than we ever have before, but we always look for a good anchorage first. Most of the time in our prior cruising we have anchored (San Juans, Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound, Alaska) or nosed or backed into a sandy beach running lines to shore to secure us (Lake Powell). While the alternator of the BF150 does a good job of charging the batteries on days we are cruising, we sometimes stay several days without moving the boat, and at Lake Powell we did not move the boat for over a week the last time we were there. Everything runs on 12 volt power, so being sure our house batteries are always fully charged, whether or not we have run the engine, is pretty important.

We first added two 100 watt solar panels, originally mounted on the "wings" of the roof so we could carry our dinghy on the rooftop. They actually worked better in the San Juans than at Lake Powell because of the high canyon walls blocking the sun at Lake Powell. Still, I monitored amp hours used and amp hours recovered from the solar panels at Lake Powell with a Victron 700 battery monitor, and we only needed to use the generator once for supplemental charging. The problem with the original location of the panels was that at best only one panel was in the sun, and sometimes neither panel was, so I have recently relocated the solar panels to the flat part of the roof, which should be more efficient.

Solar panels on roof

For supplemental charging when the solar panels don't quite get the house batteries back to a fully charged state, we have a West Marine 30 amp charger powered by a Honda 1000i. I am not sure how a 1000 watt generator can power a 30 amp charger, but it does!

West Marine 30 amp charger

The next and most recent modification to the power system was to replace the five year old 12 volt flooded cell house batteries wired in parallel with two East Penn 190 amp hour AGM deep cycle 6 volt batteries wired in series. These are big heavy batteries. I wish we had room for four, but space is at a premium on a twenty-five foot boat! 

We added a 1000 watt Cobra inverter mounted near the house batteries run to a remote control switch in the cabin and a standard 110 volt outlet below the galley counter, clearly marked as "1000 watt inverter"! This will power the coffee grinder and computer chargers. We also carry a small 400 watt inverter that plugs into a 12 volt socket which can power the coffee grinder if needed.

We have replaced all the interior lights with LED lights, and have an LED anchor light. The Airhead has a 100 milliamp computer fan running continuously. Other loads are charging phones, Kindles, iPad, computers, and our two handheld VHF radios. We know our lighting uses next to no power and the ARB refrigerator/freezer uses the most power. Although we have never analyzed our total power consumption the way many more technical boaters have, at Lake Powell the Victron battery monitor typically said each morning we had used 30 amp hours overnight. I feel reasonably confident we are in pretty good shape for 12 volt power for the Loop!


When we took delivery in May 2005, Daydream was equipped with a Wallas diesel ceramic cooktop/heater, a 7 gallon 120 volt hot water tank and a Norcold refrigerator. Since we ordered Daydream at the Seattle Boat Show, and were able to make some modifications during the build, we had the marine head and macerator pump deleted for which we received a credit, which we used to purchase an Airhead composting toilet that I installed.

The Wallas. The Wallas cooktop/heater is a compromise in design from the start. It is neither a very good cooktop nor a very good heater. As a cooktop, it takes too long to heat up and cool down. As a heater, which it becomes when the lid is lowered, it blows the air out at waist height instead of down low so the heat can rise. The big knock, though, is its complexity and propensity to fail, usually in bad circumstances, such as while cruising in Alaska! I have always said that there are two kinds of Wallas owners, those whose Wallas has failed and those whose Wallas is going to fail! We removed the Wallas first.

The water heater. The 7 gallon electric water heater was located on the port side, while the shower and galley faucets were on the starboard side. While it worked fine with shore power or our prior Honda 2000i (we now have a Honda 1000i, because the 2000i was getting too heavy for me to move around), it wasted too much water pushing cold water through the lines to the faucet, so we removed the water heater and reclaimed the space for storage.

The Norcold refrigerator. The Norcold worked well enough, but was a huge power hog. The first two times at Lake Powell, it basically took our house batteries down so far we decided we had to turn it off at night. The place formerly occupied by the Norcold is also now used for storage.

Here is how we dealt with the functions of the Wallas, water heater and Norcold that we removed:

Cooking. We will more than likely cook most of our own meals on-board rather than eat out, so this is a pretty important topic. There was a large hole in the galley counter where the Wallas used to be, so I replaced the entire counter and Patty applied the laminate, and while we were at it, we replaced the sink with one with a better shape and orientation for the new counter.

We usually cook on a one burner butane stove on the counter. I am a little concerned about finding butane canisters in out of the way little towns, and even big cities without Oriental specialty stores! We buy them very cheaply in Oriental grocery stores in Bellingham but those might be few an far between on the Loop! For the Loop we have purchased a nifty little 600/900/1300 watt NuWave induction cooker, which we will run at 1300 watts on shore power and at 600 watts on the Honda 1000i. I thought it might work on the inverter until I did the math - 600 watts divide by 12 volts (not 120 volts - although the inverter is supplying 120 volts the power is coming from 12 volt batteries) equals 50 amps! We also have a Coleman single burner propane stove that we will only use in the cockpit for cooking and for heating water. We also have the mandatory Magma barbecue on a rail in the cockpit!

Hot water. We heat water in a large tea kettle on the propane burner, and dilute it down with cold water to temperature for use for washing dishes in a dishpan or in our Helio shower for showering. This is much less of a burden that it seems! More on the Helio below.

Refrigeration. After we removed the Norcold, we bought an ARB 50 quart refrigerator / freezer. I mounted it on a slide out tray under the galley counter, with a pin to keep it in place underway. It runs on either 12 volts or 120 volts, and is wired to the same circuits that formerly powered the Norcold. 

This was a major gain in energy conservation, because it uses less than half the power of the Norcold! It has a freezer compartment, where we keep frozen food and make ice, and a smaller non-freezing section, where we keep cheeses, cured meats and other things requiring refrigeration.

We also have a large Pelican cooler, with big thick walls that keeps things cold a long time, but we are uncertain as to whether we want to bring the Pelican, since it takes up a fair amount of space in a smallish cockpit, and we should be able to reprovision frequently. Still, I am inclined to bring it, since there is a lot of stuff that should be in a cooler, like beer! Patty will be looking for a smaller cooler to save space, even if it is less efficient.

Two additional items relating to life in twenty-five feet:

Water. Not a modification, but since Daydream only has a 20 gallon fresh water tank, we carry an additional 7 gallons in an Aqua-tainer, which has a dispensing spigot and an air vent. This is sort of an emergency backup if we should use all our fresh water before we can take on more water. We also conserve water by washing dishes in either fresh or salt water and giving them a quick fresh water rinse under the tap! If I could make one modification, I would increase the size of the fresh water tank, but it is encased in foam under the vee-berth, and so that project will have to wait for another day.


Showering. The enclosed head has a built in shower but without a hot water heater, it is not particularly useful! We can shower in marina facilities but showering on the hook is pretty important to us. We found a great solution that has proven itself in use in our local cruising waters. It is the Helio Pressure Shower. In its case, it is small and takes up little space. It opens to a two gallon tank with a 7' hose with a shut off and a foot pump to pressurize the tank. Unlike a sun shower, it is not gravity fed. We put a gallon of cold water into the tank, add enough hot water from the tea kettle for a comfortable shower, pressurize with the foot pump, and we are good to go!

Helio shower in case

Product image for Gray
Helio shower ready to use

We had one of the finest inflatable dinghies available, the Alaska Series by Gary King, that we bought in 2007. At around 50 pounds, it just got to be too much for me to haul up over the bow rail to put on the roof, so we sold it and bought a Sea Eagle FT385 inflatable kayak. We had a chance to try a friend's Sea Eagle, and really liked it. Unlike most kayaks, it is very stable and we can get into it standing up by stepping over the gunwale! The Sea Eagle weighs only 32 pounds, and will be a lot easier to handle getting it up on the roof. We will put a tarp over the solar panels and strap it to the roof when we are cruising.

Sea Eagle inflatable kayak


We are computer nuts, and in addition to the Windows computer running the Coastal Explorer navigation software, which won't be used for anything else, I will have my MacBook Pro and Patty will have her Chromebook for browsing the web and email. When we are not near a WiFi hotspot, we will use our T-Mobile personal hotspots on our iPhones to connect the computers to the Internet. Where there is no T-Mobile cell coverage, we'll just have to tough it out I guess!

There is no TV on Daydream. We both have Kindles for reading, and a Bose SoundLink Mini to which the iPad with all the music on it will be connected via Bluetooth. I think the 4,000 plus tunes on the iPad will be plenty of music for the entire voyage!

Anyway, I am thinking a fair amount of our time on the hook will be devoted to planning the following day or days! I doubt that we will be bored!


I am pretty sure that once underway we will discover myriad things that we have overlooked. If you see any glaring omission on how we will live on 25 feet around the Loop, please leave a comment!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Navigation on the Great Loop

This blog will chronicle our (Pat and Patty Anderson's) planning and preparation for cruising the Great Loop, and once on the water, our cruising adventures! 


Patty and I bought our C-Dory 22 Cruiser Daydream at the Seattle Boat Show in January 2003 (this is the predecessor to the C-Dory 25 Cruiser Daydream). In February, we signed up for the local Power Squadron Boating Safety Course. This was a wonderful course. We learned so much.  How to coil a line. Understanding navaids. Red right returning. Right of way rules (I sometimes think owners of big express cruisers have a different, or should I say non-existent, understanding of right of way rules!). And navigation with paper charts.

C-Dory 22 Daydream in 2003

We had a text book, and we got parallel rulers, dividers, and other stuff. We learned about determining our position with handheld compass bearings and known features on land. We learned about time, distance and speed. We even learned a little about tide and wind, but not enough to actually deal with it. We were told we should take the Advanced Navigation course to become more proficient, but we never did. And we never actually used paper charts, only a couple of Maptech waterproof chartbooks for Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. We still have those chartbooks, and still carry and use them for the big picture view.

We never took the Advanced Navigation course because we had a new Garmin 188C chartplotter on Daydream. It used chips that had to be programmed with a special device connected to a computer with the Garmin BlueChart CD in the CD drive and a Garmin software program. Connected to the 188C were a GPS antenna and the cable from the depth sounder transducer on the transom. Our backup was a little Garmin GPSMap 76 black and white AA battery operated handheld GPS with a tiny 1.6" x 2.2" screen. The 188C never failed so we really never needed to rely on the GPSMap 76! 

Garmin 188C chartplotter

The Garmin 188C with the BlueChart cartography and the sounder gave us what we needed to know. In particular, it allowed us to know with a fairly high degree of accuracy where our boat was on the chart at any point in time, and where it was as it moved through the water in relation to hazards. It also allowed us to know lat/lon coordinates, depth and speed. It allowed us zoom in for a close view or out for a big picture view.

What makes the electronic chartplotter possible is the marriage of GPS (Global Position System) and electronic charts. There are actually many charts in any chartplotter of different areas and scales, which are quilted together seamlessly so it appears on the display as one huge continuous chart.

And yet the debate continues over the need for paper charts, with even Skipper Bob recommending paper charts for navigation on the Great Loop, notwithstanding that NOAA stopped producing paper charts for the coastal waters in 2013 entirely, and some USACE Districts have recently stopped producing paper charts for the inland waters. Still the paper chart issue is as close to a religious debate as exists in Looping!

Here is why we come down on the side of no paper charts. Actually navigating with paper charts requires quite a bit of training and practice. You need a hefty portfolio of paper charts for the Great Loop - you need paper charts for every cruising area and at various scales. Just look at Skipper Bob's recommendations for paper charts at the start of each chapter of The Great Circle Route. You need a chart table, parallel rulers, dividers, and pencils. Paper charts are expensive, and are out of date practically the moment they are printed. Paper charts cannot be zoomed in or out to show more or less detail.

Most importantly, with paper charts you never know precisely where you are at any moment or as your boat moves through the water. You may know where the rock is on the chart but you don't know, really know, where your boat is in relation to that rock! Other people should do what makes them feel more comfortable and safe, but in 2017 in our view, paper charts are in the same category of necessity as LORAN (a technology from WWII that was finally turned off by the Coast Guard in 2010). Paper charts may be valuable to see the big picture, but are not really useful for navigating at the helm.

But the big argument for carrying paper charts always has been "What if your electronic chartplotter fails?" Hold that thought, because I will get to that!


Daydream's current chartplotter is a 2005 vintage Raymarine C-80 Classic Multifunction Display. As rigged in 2005, it has an external GPS antenna, radar, and a depth sounder module to which the transducer is connected. It uses Navionics cartography on now obsolete CF (Compact Flash) cards. We bought CF cards for the West Coast, Vancouver Island, Northern BC to Alaska and Western Lakes. This system has served us well in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. It allowed us to cruise safely on four trips to Lake Powell in Utah. It allowed us to find our way safely from Blaine, WA, to Ketchikan, AK, in 2006.

Raymarine C-80 chartplotter

Over the years, we have added a Navman Fuel Flow meter, a Raymarine S-1000 autopilot, and an Icom DSC VHF radio, all connected to the C-80. If we were not going to cruise the Great Loop, we would probably continue to use the C-80 for the rest of our boating years, despite great advances in chartplotters in recent years. I have heard some of them can not only chart your way, they can practically make your breakfast and wax your hull (this is facetious for the humor impaired!), but they are pretty impressive. And pretty expensive.

Our dilemma is (was) that we have no CF cards for anywhere we would cruise on the Great Loop. Navionics no longer provides cartography on CF cards, and if they did, it would require quite a few new CF cards and would be very expensive. If money were no object, we could completely replace the antique C-80 with a new system including a multifunction display, radar, sounder, autopilot, AIS, and a bunch of all new charts on SD cards. This is not going to happen. It would be nice but wasteful, since the C-80, as old as it is, is completely adequate for our cruising from California to Alaska.

So, what to do?


Our solution would make Rube Goldberg proud! It has been installed and tested only in our garage. I am pretty sure it will work on the water! Feel free to give this part the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading once-over, because it is not likely to be useful to a whole lot of other people. Still, I hope you find it interesting!

Recall the cruise from Blaine to Ketchikan. I had no backup for the Raymarine C-80, but I did have a Windows computer. So I bought Coastal Explorer PC software from Rose Point Software. It came with all the NOAA and USACE electronic navigation charts on a CD, and I bit the bullet and bought the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) raster charts for the West Coast of British Columbia. I connected a GPS puck to it, and dang, if it did not work, and work very well! It did not show depth, but it quite accurately showed where my boat was in relation to the chart display and the hazards on the chart.

Daydream in Alaska in June 2006
Last year we saw Coastal Explorer in action on our friends Lyle and Shelly Von Essen's West Coast 46, when we met them at Sucia Island in the San Juans. They had a dedicated little "hardened" PC behind the helm, and a dedicated marine monitor mounted neatly at the helm. Lyle gave us a great demonstration of Coastal Explorer, and I saw my way clearly to a solution to our Great Loop navigation problem!

I contacted Rose Point Software to inquire if I could still upgrade my 2006 version of Coastal Explorer ten years later in 2016. Yes, they said, any version, no matter when purchased, could be upgraded to the current version for only $99.

Next I needed a Windows computer, so I checked the Bellingham Craigslist, and there were quite a few used Windows laptops ranging from around $50 to over $300. I settled on a two year old Toshiba Satellite laptop with a fresh install of Windows 7 for $140. I used Coastal Explorer's built in Chart Downloader to obtain all the NOAA and USACE vector electronic navigation charts for free. Computer, software and most charts are now taken care of!

Coastal Explorer needed some way to get GPS and other NMEA 0183 data from the C-80, so I got the Digital Yachts AISPRO100 AIS receiver/multiplexer. This neat little unit takes input from the C-80, multiplexes it with received AIS data, and outputs it to the computer via a USB cable to display in Coastal Explorer.

Daydream's helm with computer monitor and C-80

"AIS" stands for Automatic Identification System, a collision avoidance system that provides information on the names of other vessels in the vicinity and their bearing, distance and speed. This seemed pretty important on the inland rivers especially, where we will be dodging tows and barges! I also needed an antenna splitter, since I wanted to share the existing VHF antenna with the AIS receiver, so I bought the Vesper amplified antenna splitter. 

The laptop sits on the shelf right below the center window, and is configured to run with the lid closed. The USB cable from the AISPRO100 is plugged into it. Finally, I bought a USB monitor and mounted it next to the helm.
So here is the cost to put this together:
Used Windows laptop computer, $140
Microsoft Wireless mouse, $20
Coastal Explorer upgrade, $99
NOAA and USACE charts, $0
AIS receiver/multiplexer, $$249
Amplified antenna splitter, $241
USB monitor, $99

Total: $848.

I was not quite done spending money. Since we are going to take the Trent-Severn, Georgian Bay and North Channel route, I needed Canadian charts. It would be nice if the CHS considered the safety of boaters as their primary mission, but evidently they do not, so they charge extortionate prices for their vector charts. I swallowed hard and bought C-Map Canadian charts for this area through the Rose Point Chart Store for $199 for coverage of Lake Ontario, the Trent-Severn Canal, Georgian Bay and the North Channel, still hundreds less than the CHS vector charts. 

I connected it all together, powered everything up in the garage, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Everything worked, as far as I could tell. In the photo above, both the Coastal Explorer display and the C-80 display are showing the chart of Birch Bay, where we live. Although it is not visible, it is also displaying Daydream's location - on shore about a block above the bay in our garage!

Coastal Explorer, in addition to using free NOAA and USACE charts, can, whenever we have an internet connection, automatically download updated NOAA and USACE charts to ensure we always have the most current version of all charts. It has tide and current prediction capability - no little tide and current books required. It also has the capability to view the same chart in split screen mode, so one window may be zoomed in to get a close view of hazards, while the other window of the same area is zoomed out for a view of the big picture. It has many more capabilities than we will use on Daydream's Loop. I can, however, see us ultimately removing the C-80 and going with a complete Coastal Explorer system with the GPS antenna, AIS, radar and depth sounder connected to the Coastal Explorer computer through the appropriate interfaces.


So, what if our chartplotter fails and/or our Coastal Explorer computer crashes? Won't we be in trouble without paper charts? Absolutely not! We will only be in trouble if the government turns off the GPS satellites!

If electronic GPS chartplotters were the first game changer, iPads and iPhones are next game changers! The key component is the internal GPS in iPads and iPhones. The first iPhone came out in 2007, and the first iPad in 2010. We purchased a new iPad recently, as our original iPad from 2010 was way past its life cycle and was just not up to the job. We also both have iPhone 5s that replaced our iPhone 4s. Pretty much all iPhones since the iPhone 4 can be used for navigation (we never had iPhone 3s, so cannot speak to what capabilities they had). The iPad, however, is the preferred device because of its larger screen. To be used as a backup to the chartplotter, an iPad must be WiFi + cellular, as WiFi only iPads do not have an internal GPS. All iPhones have an internal GPS in them, so any iPhone will work as a chartplotter backup. Everything I say here about iPads and iPhones applies equally to newer Android tablets and smartphones, but we have a distinct Apple bias!

As neat as iPads and iPhones are, they are useless for marine navigation without navigation apps. There are many navigation apps available, but we have two that we like, for different reasons.

The first is the the Navionics US & Canada app, which costs about $55. It has superior cartography, and in fact, it appears to be exactly the same as the cartography on the Navionics CF cards used by the C-80 chartplotter. The other is Navimatics, for which I bought three different versions, US&CA West (not needed for the Loop, but these are my home waters), Great Lakes, and US&CA East. The Navimatics cartography is not up to the standard of Navionics, but to be fair, I am using versions I purchased in 2011, and the cartography may be better now. These cost about $20 each, and I just did not want to spend another $60 since I already had purchased them, and there does not seem to be any upgrade option. The big reason we like Navimatics, though, is that is supports Active Captain, as does Coastal Explorer. The significance of Active Captain support cannot be overstated.

Navionics screen shot

Navimatics screen shot

The iPad and iPhones will also be used on the cruise for other apps, particularly Weatherbug for weather information, Sailflow for wind information, and a host of other apps for web browsing, email, online banking and so forth.


I was an early adopter of Active Captain. Active Captain is a website started eight years ago by Jeff and Karen Siegel on which you must create a free account. It contains a lot of content but primarily a crowd-sourced database of every conceivable item of interest to boaters. It shows marinas, anchorages, hazards, bridges, locks, and much more, all viewable on a live map on the website. It allows boaters to contribute to the database.

If that were all it was, it would still be a fabulous resource. It is much more than that, however. The real magic of Active Captain is that the data is made available to developers of navigation applications to download to the application for offline storage to be displayed from within the application, whether or not the device has an active internet connection. The Navimatics screen shot shows a blue box in the cove on Manitoulin Island in Canada. If you click on the blue box, the information above is displayed, telling us that this is the location of the Kagawong Municipal Marina, and all the pertinent information about the marina. It is the ultimate cruising guide!.

Active Captain data displayed on iPad with Navimatics app

A number of dedicated chartplotters that use C-Map cartography incorporate Active Captain data. I suspect over time many chartplotter manufacturers will see the benefit of Active Captain support in their products. That would be a powerful motivator to me in choosing a new dedicated chartplotter if we were to ever do that.

For reasons unknown to me, Navionics has not elected to incorporate Active Captain support into its iPad / iPhone navigation apps. For now, the strength of their cartography is good enough reason to stick with the Navionics app. Navimatics has Active Captain support, as does Coastal Explorer on the PC. As long as the PC is functioning, we have the best of both worlds, with free NOAA and USACE charts and Active Captain data. If the PC crashes, we have as backup Navionics for navigation while cruising and Active Captain on Navimatics for planning on an iPad and two iPhones. I should say that there are many other apps available that support Active Captain, and I have not purchased any them! But to me, Active Captain support in your iPad / iPhone app is like having Skipper Bob books on board - don't depart the dock without it!


For my part, I would rather cruise the Great Loop with a computer running Coastal Explorer as my primary electronic navigation device and an iPad or even an iPhone running Navionics and Navimatics than with paper charts any day. As I say, you should do whatever makes you feel safe and comfortable!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Planning Philosophy and Resources

This blog will chronicle our (Pat and Patty Anderson's) planning and preparation for cruising the Great Loop, and once on the water, our cruising adventures! 


We will be doing at least part of the Loop with Flint and Leslie Firestone, owners of the C-Dory Venture 26 Grace Full. Flint and I were discussing planning the trip a few days ago. The Firestones have done the Loop previously on a large trawler. Flint remarked "I'm just going to wing it." Of course, not all who wander are lost!

Grace Full - See the Family Resmblance to Daydream?

I'm not a "wing it" kind of guy! We're going to plan a bit, but we will not have a set itinerary or a day-by-day schedule. We'll decide each night how far we want to go the following day and where we want to spend the night. We will make a lot of stops to "smell the roses." We will have folding bikes, and will explore the many towns along the way that strike our fancy. If we like some place, we might decide to stay a day or a week.

In a nutshell, we are planning so we will know where we want to go, what lies along the way, and what the best anchorages and marinas are. We are planning to be prepared to cope with hazards and challenges, such as big open water crossings, weather, swift currents in some locations, shoaling (as Kitty Nicolai said on the America's Great Loop Cruisers Association forum she found that "there is actually no water in the Gulf of Mexico and along Florida's west coast - it's all an optical illusion") and even alligators (everyone says alligators are not a problem, but I am not so sure).


From the planning done to date (and there is a lot more to do!), we have chosen our route and general timetable. The red line on the map below graphically illustrates our route (map from The Great Circle Route by Skipper Bob Publications, used with permission). 

We'll start in Florida at the Caloosahatchee River near Ft. Myers and cross the Okeechobee Waterway. Then we'll proceed up the Atlantic ICW to the Chesapeake Bay. Then we'll cruise up the Chesapeake Bay to the C&D Canal to Delaware Bay, and the Delaware River down to Cape May, N.J.

From Cape May, we'll take the New Jersey ICW to Manasquan, going out into the ocean there to reach New York Harbor and the Hudson River. We'll go up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal, across the eastern half of the Erie Canal and up the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario. We'll hopscotch around the eastern end of Lake Ontario, and work our way to Trenton, Ontario, to start the Trent-Severn Waterway. We'll cross the Trent-Severn Waterway to Georgian Bay, then take the North Channel to Village de Tour, where we will re-enter the U.S.

We'll go to Mackinac Island and to Lake Michigan. We'll cruise the eastern shore of Lake Michigan to Chicago. Then we will head from Chicago to Mobile, AL, via the inland river system, including the Illinois River, the Mississippi River, the Ohio River, the Cumberland River, the Tennessee River, the Tenn-Tom Waterway and the Tombigbee River. Finally, we will return to Florida via the Gulf ICW, cross the Gulf of Mexico, and "cross our wake" at the Caloosahatchee River where we started. There are a number of alternate routes, but this is a pretty standard route.

How long will it this take? We don't know. We have decided not to do the Loop in "legs" but rather to do it all at one time. We have given ourselves eight months. Some do it faster, others do it slower, but we are pretty sure eight months should be adequate.

If you assume an average of 50 miles cruising per day (no, we are not planning to go exactly 50 miles per day!), this route would take about 120 days of cruising. We have given ourselves about twice that much time. Some of that time will be spent exploring on our bikes. Some of it will be waiting for good weather. Our only schedule imperative is to be headed back to Washington State by December 1 for Christmas with our kids and grandkids in a lodge we have rented in Skykomish, a little town on Highway 2 just before the start of the Stevens Pass

Our route and general timetable also take into account the sort of general seasonal imperatives for the Loop ("Spring up, Fall down"). There are some more specific guidelines most Loopers try to follow, but not slavishly. Start from Florida in April. Cruise the Chesapeake Bay the second half of May. Start the Erie Canal around the middle of June (it isn't open before that). Be at the northern end of Lake Michigan in mid-August. Be off the Great Lakes and departing Chicago the first week of September (remember the Edmund Fitzgerald?). Get to Mobile by the last week in October. Finally be back in Florida in early December. If we are a little ahead of this general timetable or little behind, it won't matter much except we need to be on the road to get home by Christmas.


Our friend Dr. Bob Austin from Pensacola, who has also done the Loop, sent me a boxload of older (2006-2009 vintage) cruising guides and other books. I have read through them enough to know mostly the route we want to take. I have since purchased updated cruising guides but more is the same than different! There are a lot of planning resources, but here are the ones I am using (hint: the last one is THE indispensable resource!).

Capt. John's website provides an excellent overview and covers a lot of territory. You can just click from page to page using the "Next" and "Back" buttons at the bottom of each page, or choose specific topics from the menu at the top. This is really more about getting motivated to move from "interested" to "committed"! 

America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association (AGLCA) is a membership organization, and most of its resources are only available to members, but there is a fair amount of information available to the general public as well. The public interactive map is especially interesting, as it very nicely illustrates the alternate routes. But for me the single most useful resource AGLCA offers is the Forum. The wealth of knowledge shared on the Forum is pretty amazing to me. I receive Forum posts as a daily digest, but frequently go to the online Forum to find some specific information, to post a question, or just browse topics. Flying the AGLCA burgee gets members discounts at some marinas. There are just so many other resources and benefits that an AGLCA membership should be considered pretty much essential.

Google Earth (the computer program, versions for Windows, Mac and Linux) has proven extremely useful for planning when I want to see exactly what a particular place looks like. Bear with, this is a bit of an epistle!

One example: Derrick Baan, author of America's Great Loop, Aussie Style, chartered Grace Full from the Firestones to do the Loop. On the one long stretch of the Mississippi River without a marina or fuel stop, Derrick figured out a way to obtain fuel in Cape Girardeau, MO, which is within the range of a C-Dory from the prior fuel stop in Kimmswick, MO.

Derrick contacted an AGLCA member in Cape Girardeau, Bob Williamson, who told him about the Farmer's Co-op driver, Roy, who will deliver fuel to the Red Star Access Boat Ramp on the north end of Cape Girardeau provided prior arrangements are made. Derrick told me about Roy and the Red Star Access Boat Ramp, but I wanted to see exactly what this boat ramp looks like and how it would work, so I fired up Google Earth and searched for Cape Girardeau. I found the Red Star Access Boat Ramp, and captured the satellite image above from Google Earth. This is right on the main channel of the Mississippi, exposed to the wakes of passing tugs with their huge rafts of barges in tow. Derrick had to stand in the water near the shore to hold Gracie (as they affectionately called her) off the ramp and shore, but they did get fuel, about 40 gallons, which allowed them to reach the next fuel stop.

Google Earth view of Red Star Access Boat Ramp

Standing in the river holding the boat off the ramp and shore does not seem not very appealing. I started exploring the surrounding area with Google Earth, and it appears there is a potentially better place at the south end of Cape Girardeau on the Diversion Channel. There is a boat ramp some distance up the Diversion Channel, which is out of the main channel of the Mississippi, and would not be subject to wakes.

Google Earth view of Diversion Channel and Boat Ramp

I emailed Bob Williamson, who did not think this would be a good spot because the channel is so shallow and the boat ramp is used only by jon boats, but C-Dorys have less than a two foot draft, and I am reasonably sure that a C-Dory can go any place a jon boat can! Bob's other concern was that Roy's tanker truck could manoeuver better at the Red Star Access Boat Ramp than at the ramp on the Diversion Channel. Once again, Google Earth shows me exactly what this would involve. I dropped pins at the entrance to the Diversion Channel and the boat ramp. We'll find out when we get close to Cape Girardeau whether it will be Red Star Acces Boat Ramp or the Diversion Channel!

Google Earth shows me the lat/lon co-ordinates of these places, which become marks in my navigation software (more about that in the next installment of this blog). Most importantly, though, Google Earth allows me to have a good look at any place on the planet, in a way that the text in a cruising guide really cannot. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and a clear satellite image is worth even more!

However, the absolutely indispensable planning resource is Skipper Bob's The Great Circle Route that covers the whole Loop, including the various alternate routes, and the other Skipper Bob books that cover specific areas of the Loop. Collectively, the Skipper Bob books contain the detailed information needed to comfortably and safely cruise the Loop in all its variations. These are very inexpensive thin black and white comb-bound books that contain only cruising information without any advertising. Although there are a number of other excellent cruising guides, such as the Waterway Guides, the Skipper Bob books are the ones that we will carry on-board. The Great Circle Route and the specific book for the area in which we are cruising will be at the helm and will be consulted daily.

The other books in the series that I have purchased are Cruising the Gulf Coast, Anchorages Along the Intracoastal Way, Marinas Along the Intracoastal Waterway, Cruising the New York Canal System, Cruising the Trent-Severn Waterway, Georgian Bay and North Channel, and Cruising from Chicago to Mobile. The Great Circle Route connects all the dots and covers areas for which there is no specific book, for example, getting from the Erie Canal to the Trent-Severn Waterway via Lake Ontario and cruising Lake Michigan from the North Channel to Chicago.

One oddity, however, is that although The Great Circle Route, and virtually every other guide, recommends doing the Loop in a counterclockwise direction in order to cruise with the current on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, and Loopers therefore proceed from Florida to New York along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the Anchorages and Marina books are organized from New York down to Florida! I suppose a Looper could read these books from back to front, but it would be much more useful to Loopers if these books were reorganized to follow the same counterclockwise direction, so they would start in Florida and end in New York! This suggestion has been passed along to Skipper Bob Publications!

Here is the biography of the late Skipper Bob. The Skipper Bob books now continue under the editorship of Ted Stehle as part of the Waterway Guides family.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Welcome to Daydream's Great Loop Blog!

This blog will chronicle our (Pat and Patty Anderson's) planning and preparation for cruising the Great Loop, and once on the water, our cruising adventures!


The Great Loop is a circumnavigation of the eastern United States and usually includes some cruising in Canadian waters as well. There are various routes illustrated on this map from Capt. John's website, a great free resource on the Great Loop (map used with permission). 

Map of Great Loop
Our Great Loop cruise will start in Florida around April 1, 2017, and go up the East Coast on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to New York and the Hudson River. We'll enter the eastern end of the Erie Canal and then turn north to Lake Ontario via the Oswego Canal. After going around the eastern end of Lake Ontario, we will cruise the Trent-Severn Canal, Georgian Bay and the North Channel in Canada. We will then re-enter the U.S. and cruise the eastern shore of Lake Michigan to Chicago. We'll next cruise the inland rivers from Chicago to Mobile, and finally return to Florida on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which among Loopers is called "crossing your wake"! We anticipate "crossing our wake" in approximately eight months.

We will cruise the entire Great Loop without ever taking Daydream out of the water! This is made possible by many locks along the route. Nearly every waterway we will cruise has locks, ranging from the big Army Corps of Engineers locks on the inland rivers, to the 100 year old small locks on the Erie Canal.

We are Pat and Patty Anderson from Birch Bay, Washington. Birch Bay is just below the Canadian border about 4 miles west of I-5. Pat retired three years ago after 31 years as the Snoqualmie City Attorney, but worked part time for a small municipal firm after retiring from the City, finally retiring once and for all at the end of 2016! Patty is a retired substitute teacher.

Pat Whacking the Wily Crab

Patty on the Cockpit at Matia Cove
We bought our Birch Bay home in 1989 as a vacation retreat. At the end of 2013, we moved the "beachy" stuff out, moved the "regular" stuff in, and moved in full time. The first thing we did was to build a big garage for Daydream! The garage also has a 150 square foot finished craft room for Patty and a 150 square foot finished office / music studio for Pat, where Pat makes multi-tracked ocarina-guitar music videos for his YouTube channel!

We will be accompanied by our 10 year old Lhasa Apso, Baxter! Baxter is an experienced boat dog, having cruised since puppyhood with us in the San Juan Islands, and all four times on Lake Powell in Utah, where he is affectionately known as "Dog of the Desert"!

Baxter Barrett Anderson, Dog of the Desert
Up until now, we have mainly cruised the San Juan Islands and Canadian Gulf Islands, a couple of trips to Princess Louisa Inlet, a great trip to the Idaho lakes Priest and Pondereille, and our four trips to our favorite place of all, Lake Powell. In 2006 Pat cruised from Blaine, WA, to Ketchikan, Alaska, with a friend and Patty flew in to cruise Misty Fjords National Monument.

We love anchoring in secluded little coves in the San Juans and chasing the wily crab! We love coffee in the morning and sundowners in the evening in the cockpit with classical guitar music playing on the Bose SoundLink Mini! We love swinging on the hook with the water gently lapping at the hull lulling us to sleep!

We are diehard C-Brats, the website for C-Dory people. We hosted the 2015 and 2016 CBGT (C-Brat Get-Together) at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham. Before C-Brats, there was C-DOGS (C-Dory Owners Group). Two guys broke a few silly rules, got kicked out of C-DOGS (hence "Brats"), and started C-Brats, which grew and grew while C-DOGS withered away and died! As of today, there are 7,356 registered users of C-Brats. We are C-Brats #62. Pat has (as of today) 7,516 posts on C-Brats! Our friend Brock remember's Pat's first post: "I don't know when, I don't know how, but one day I WILL have a C-Dory!"


Daydream is a trailerable 2005 C-Dory 25 Cruiser, with a Honda BF150 main and a Honda BF15 kicker. Our prior boat was a 2003 C-Dory 22 Cruiser, also named Daydream. We didn't know we needed a new boat but then we went to the 2005 Seattle Boat Show!

Daydream at Tombolo Cove, Decatur Island
For what it's worth, Daydream was named after Sir Percy Blakeney's yacht, The Daydream, from our favorite movie, the 1982 Anthony Andrews - Jane Seymour made-for-TV movie The Scarlet Pimpernel!

Patty liked the 25 a whole lot at the boat show, not just for the enclosed head, but for its overall extra elbow room. It had a windlass, trim tabs, and a Wallas stove/heater as standard equipment that were extra cost options in 2003. And the price was considerably lower than it had been in 2003. When she said "Well, let's just go over and see what the deal is," I knew I was getting a new boat!

Daydream has a vee-berth, a dinette, a galley and a fully enclosed head. We have full canvas for the cockpit, so it is in effect an extra room. It will be tiny compared to the 40' trawlers on the Great Loop, but it has everything we need!

Baxter is a real "dinghy" dog!