A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Active Captain

As follow-on from my last post, I find myself compelled to write one about Active Captain. For those followers who already know what it is and think “Duh – has he only just found out!!”, then my defence is that it is a well kept open secret amongst the US boating fraternity. I only found it by searching the net after finding an oblique reference to it in another AGLCA member’s blog that I am following. I have since done a search in the AGLCA forum and, while it says there are 109 references to Active Captain, none really detail what it is or what a brilliant, almost essential, resource it is for planning.

"So what is it then?" (I hear the uninitiated few ask). It is an interactive website that details marinas, anchorages and points of interest to boaties, displayed in formats of either road maps, NOAA charts, satellite images or satellite/map hybrids. You can move around anywhere in the world and view data without having to download individual pages or charts. Once you have registered for FREE membership, you can access the data for individual sites and add reviews or update the data yourself. You can even add anchorages or other points of interest yourself. It is a huge resource for any planning of boating activity and particularly in our case for planning the Loop, as the information for that part of the USA is very detailed.  I recommend anyone who didn’t know of it before now to go to www.activecaptain.com and join up.

Prior to finding Active Captain, my research required guide books, NOAA chart downloads one at a time, and hours on Google Earth. Active Captain rolls all of those up into one package and allows, or more correctly encourages, input from the members. I only wish I had found it earlier – it would have saved me an awful lot of time.

And yes, Kiwi boaties, New Zealand is there. No charts of course (NOAA doesn’t do charts of NZ),but most of the marinas and boat ramps appear to be shown. There is only one anchorage showing at present – Chamberlins Bay (North Harbour), Ponui – and that’s because I put it in to try the system out. It would be great to see all the anchorages around the country input as well as I reckon this is going to be of huge benefit to any passionate boatie.

23 DTG

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Follow the Magenta Line

The Magenta Line is apparently a route that defines the Great Loop shown on many GPS chartplotters in the USA. There is a vigorous discussion going on in the AGLCA forum regarding the logic of following this line versus using traditional methods of navigation such as paper charts, observing navigational markers etc. Personally, I think I will try using all the above with maybe a bit of common sense thrown in.

When I began planning for the Loop a little over a year ago, the place-names on other Loopers Blogs describing their travels, such as Cape Girardeau to Kentucky Lake, meant as little to me as “Owhanaki to Waikalabubu” would mean to anyone unfamiliar with Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. I found this quite frustrating so, since then, I have “virtually” cruised the Loop via Google earth, read all the waterway guides and checked out such place-names on maps and the intenet. Thus I have become quite familiar with them when I now read about them on AGLCA members blogs. But that was just me researching, and it struck me that readers of our blog may want to know exactly where we are, and where we are going, without having to go to all that trouble. Sure, the AGLCA website has a “Looper Locator” resource that we will utilise, but I figured on trying to make it as simple as possible so people don’t have to go to a lot of trouble to know where we are.

So I have put a Magenta Line on a map of the Eastern US which shows our intended route. On this one I have put some relevant data such as river names, but these will not be on later versions. As we cruise the Loop, I will track our passage in Red and add place-names of significance (I won’t put every stop, or the map would just get too busy). I hope it will help those who are geographically challenged, and be interesting to people (like me) who like to know where everything fits in. Calumet Harbour, just south of Chicago, is where we enter the river system and Indiantown is where we intend to finish “Stage 1”. The dotted line in the Gulf of Mexico depicts an alternative route (The Big Bend) to cutting straight across which we will decide on when we reach it. GICW is the “Gulf IntraCostal Waterway”.  

I will show earlier passage on this map of Lake Michigan that I used for our shakedown cruise route a couple of posts ago.

As anyone who has planned for this adventure will probably testify, there is never enough time for everything to be done as you would have liked before you embark, and our preparation is no exception. But as someone once said; “Time and Tide wait for no man”, and come 13th June at 7.40pm NZST, the big silver bird will be taking us away regardless of how the best laid plans (of mice and men) often turn to custard.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Good days and bad days

After an abysmal summer of wind and rain, Autumn has turned out to be a pearler!! April was the warmest and driest for many years and, so far, May is following suit. This morning it dawned crisp and clear and still and I just had to get up and take some pix of the upper Waitemata Harbour and Auckland City from our upstairs deck. From the blogs I’ve been reading on the AGLCA website, we can expect a lot of the Loop to look quite similar and therefore familiar. Hopefully the weather will be kind and bring us lots of good days like this.

An hour later though, around 7am, this guy began to have a real BAD day. In perfect conditions, he has managed to sail out of the clearly marked channel to our marina and on to a sand bar. Perhaps he was following a Magenta line instead of watching the channel markers.

Since the tide had begun to fall, he was always going to get stuck and with tidal ranges at the moment around 3 metres (10ft) he’s going to be there for some time. By low tide at 1.30pm he is high and dry.

Still, its a nice day for a stroll on the sand, and you've got to do something to while away the hours.

If he is lucky, he should be afloat again around 7 o’clock tonight. So yes, we do have groundings in New Zealand too – in fact they are a regular occurrence up this way. But get caught just after high tide and you’ve got a 12 hour wait before you get off.

Everyone either goes aground sometime in their boating career (and yes, I have), or lies about it - but right here it soooo public. It can really ruin your day