Sunday, June 21, 2009

When I was a senior in high school, I remember winning one of those ridiculous awards they hand out at the end of the school year.  You probably remember someone winning 'most likely to succeed' or 'best smile'.  Well, the one I won was called 'most unflappable.'  I must tell you that when the category was announced, I had no idea what it was.  Graciously accepting the award, I sheepishly didn't know if it was a joke or not.  It wasn't.

The dictionary will tell you that unflappable means 'not easily ruffled, stoic or not excitable.'  So, okay.  It wasn't 'most handsome' or 'best body' or one of the other sexy categories, but at least I won something.  I think the background on this award stemmed from some incidents that occurred at some of the proms we held.  I was class president and the person - defacto- in charge of the events.  We had a few small meltdowns at the dances, (but they are the subject of another post or made for TV movie) but I must have handled the situations with the desired level of calmness.  Hence the award.  

So far, my unflappable qualities have served us well while boating.  I never do seem to get too excited when things don't go right.  I attribute much of that to the planning we put into each trip.  Right now for example, we are getting ready for Voyage #2.  We will be leaving New Bern within the week and continue our journey south towards Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Putting together the logistics and details for this trip is no small endeavour.  

Where to start?  Initially, we planned trips based on where we would like to end up.  Ideally, it would be a city that was served by Delta, as it makes it much easier to get home (and get back when the next trip starts).  After that, we have to account for the time and distances involved.  As I have mentioned, we only go about 9 miles per hour and seeing as how we like to be at anchor or in a marina no later than three p.m., we typically plan to go about 50 miles a day.  What we like to see is a suitable anchorage or marina near that 50 mile point along the way.  As anchoring is free, that is always our first preference.

The hard part in the planning stage is when you cannot find a place to stop that fits in with your travel day.  We don't want to stop short, as it will take forever to get somewhere, and and we don't want to go too far as weather and sunlight become players.  It is a balance.  Of course we have all the usual books, plotters, charts and websites to help us plan.  There is literally an avalanche of information.  The difficult part is weeding through all of it to find what applies to you.

For instance, we found an anchorage that would work well for us on the second night into the trip.  It was the right distance from our previous anchorage (about 50 miles).   It was in an area that was deep enough and had enough swing room for us in case the wind changed direction.  No large tidal swings is good too.  Unfortunately, as I later found out, this anchorage is part of a large Marine Corps base and often times they practice dropping bombs and simulating water attacks during the night.  Now they don't mind if you park your boat in their waters, however you have to put up with their exercises in the wee hours of the morning.

Bridges and tides also play a part in trip planning.  As everyone knows, the tides rise and fall with predicable regularity.  As the tides move in and out, it creates crosscurrents, tail 'winds' and 'head' winds.  It also lifts and lowers your boat, relative to slack tide.  So for instance, if you thought you were going to be anchoring in 10 feet of water and the ebb tide (low tide) drops the water level by 5 feet, you might find yourself in waters that are too skinny to accommodate your boat.  

Most new bridges are tall enough that we can pass beneath without any problems.  There are however, many drawbridges and pontoon bridges that we must plan around.  Their opening schedules are erratic and you don't want to find yourself waiting an hour or so for the next opening.  As they say, timing is everything and bridge openings another factor you must plan for.

Beyond that, there are the easier planning items like food menus, rental cars and fuel stops.  If you know me very well, you can vouch for the fact that I leave no stone unturned in search of a discount.  It is not that I am cheap, its more like an adventure for me, trying to get the lowest price... or at least that is my story. Anyway, we have spent a lot time on the internet and telephone finding the best prices.  I am not bashful in asking for discounts.  I know it embarrasses some people, but not me.   As long as you ask with a smile, people generally don't take queries about pricing the wrong way.

So after what seem like several weeks of planning, out trip has come together.  Our float plan looks very doable and has more opportunities for us to explore some towns along the way. The wild card, as always will be the weather.  Being the unflappable guy I am though, I have built in a few days of slack in case we have to sit out some storms or high winds.  Not knowing what is around the corner is what makes these trips so much fun.

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