Category Archives: Great Loop

Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries

Using Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries to Repower

Lithium Iron Phosphate batteriesAnyone interested in replacing their marine batteries should read the story of catamaran owners who recently repowered their boat. They replaced their AGM deep cycle batteries with marinized lithium iron phosphate batteries – for a lot of good reasons. Lithium iron phosphate batteries outperform lead-acid across the board:

  • Charging efficiency – Lithium accept charge much more quickly – without having to slowly charge  the last 15 – 20% typical of lead acid. Kill your generator sooner!
  • Discharge efficiency – Unlike lead acid (AGM, gel, or wet cell), lithium batteries can be discharged quickly without heating excessively and losing much of their rated amp-hour capacity.
  • Depth of Discharge – Lithium batteries can be routinely discharged to 70%, versus 50% for lead acid batteries.
  • Internal resistance – Lithium batteries are highly efficient, returning nearly the same number of amp-hours as were required to charge the battery.
  • Storage – Similar to AGM, lithium iron phosphate batteries have very low self-discharge rate, allowing long-term battery storage without concern for the batteries going flat.
  • Stable output – Lithium batteries maintain their full nominal voltage, even when being heavily discharged – until they're 70% discharged.
  • Expected life – Lead acid last approximately 1,500 cycles if they're not discharged beyond 50% too often, while lithium claims 5,000 cycles at 70% discharge.
  • Cost – Lifeline AGM were priced at $3,600 with 252 usable amp-hours, versus Winston lithium batteries, which cost $2,365 and provide 280 usable amp-hours.
  • Weight – The lithium deep cycle battery bank weighs 157 pounds (71 kg), while the AGMs they replaced totaled 423 pounds (192 kg).
  • Environmental – Lithium batteries are far less toxic than lead acid batteries.
  • Safety – Lithium batteries don't generate flammable gasses while charging. Perhaps of interest – you can watch a LiFePO4 battery being cut and crushed while still powering a light.

The downside is that you need to have an effective battery management system which both limits the voltage while charging and shuts off loads if the voltage while discharging drops too low. Violating either of these rules can substantially reduce battery life.

Battery management system for lithium iron phosphate batteriesIf you're interested in reading a bit more about lithium iron phosphate batteries, there's a thread at cruiserforum you can peruse – or you can fire up your favorite search engine.

I'm still just thinking about installing lithium iron phosphate batteries, but they look good from here!

Outboard Weed Guard

Outboard Weed Guards

In my area (western Lake Erie), June brings weeds – lots of weeds. I've hunted all over for an outboard weed guard to keep weeds from balling around the propeller. It's no surprise that outboards don't have much thrust or steerage when the prop is weed covered. In addition, weeds clinging to your propeller could damage the seal or block cooling water intakes – either of which can ruin your whole day.

The best solution has been to put the outboard in reverse for a few feet to let everything unwind and disperse. That solution hardly qualifies as an outboard weed guard though. If you're at the tiller and the gearshift isn't easily reached, constantly putting the motor in reverse is a nuisance and a distraction. It can be a disaster if weeds strike as you approaching an obstacle. This year I'm going to fight back. I didn't find a suitable outboard weed guard, but I did find a weed cutter that may work well.

Moss HawgThe weed cutter is a fairly tough plastic, intended for fishing boats commonly used in heavily vegetated waterways. The cutter is called “Moss Hawg“, and it's designed to fasten easily to electric trolling motors motors commonly used while fishing. As it turns out, the Moss Hawg can be modified to fit many small outboard motors by cutting the plastic support ring and gluing it to the bottom end of your outboard. The ring feels like HDPE, a plastic which doesn't glue well. Fortunately, West System markets G/Flex, a glue which is both resilient and tough – and engineered to stick well to plastics, as well as metals, glass, wood, fiberglass, etc. According to the developer, it will even stick if applied underwater! The picture to the right shows it glued to Thumbnail - Moss Hawg outboard weed guardthe bottom end of my Bigfoot (click to enlarge). The support ring for the Moss Hawg is round, and the casing at the bottom of the Bigfoot isn't – so the G/Flex between the two is fairly thick in places. Regardless, the G/Flex has a firm hold of both the Bigfoot and the Moss Hawg, and the serrated blades sweep the hub right up to the roots of the blades.

I saw my first group of weeds yesterday, and will report back in a month or two – as soon as I have a solid feel for how well the combination works. It's not an outboard weed guard, but if it cuts weeds as advertised, I'll be a happy camper!

Equipping the Galley

hackerBack in early March, I wrote that I had to become better acquainted with the care and feeding of a website. Since then, I've read of a massive, ongoing attack on WordPress sites – and I've felt the effects of that attack, often having nearly 100 attempts to hack the site every day! The arrival of waves of hackers has prevented me from enjoying the arrival of spring and  the zen associated with spending time on the boat & preparing for the Great Loop. Bummer. I think there are lots of sites out there that are more vulnerable than this one, and hope that the hackers will grow weary of beating on my door and take their act elsewhere. Regardless, I'm done hardening the site for a while – life beckons.

On a lighter note, I have taken a little time to check out the CorningWare microwave browning dish as a possible addition to the galley on Magic Moments. My initial test – reheating a piece of pizza – was enough to convince me it was not a match made in heaven. Some of the reasons for I'm leery of the pan are:

  • It's glass, and however tough it may be, it's a liability on a boat that may pitch or roll violently at any moment.
  • It's heavy, and even if it doesn't break when the boat is dancing on the waves, I don't relish getting hit in the head with a brick if it finds its way free of its designated storage spot. Murphy Law says that at some point the CorningWare or its lid will become airborne.
  • It takes a lot of power to heat the tin oxide layer on the bottom of the pan enough to sear meat (or reheat pizza) – and power isn't something in abundance while cruising. I plan on installing two relatively large solar panels (about 250 watts each), but I also plan on conserving the power they generate.
  • It's large, and doesn't fit well in the compact microwave I'm considering. Further, it doesn't lend itself well to storing compactly (with the lid nested securely in the pan).

Microwave browning dishBottom line – I'm going to pass on the browning dish. I am impressed with the pressure cooker though, and still plan to take it along for use in a small microwave – in lieu of having a gimballed stove on board – and the associated flammable fuel. Any searing I do will have to be on the small, gas fueled grill on the pushpit rail.

I'll see if I can find a good home for the browning dish on eBay.

Building a Better Composting Toilet


The Thunder Mug

I'll be taking the shrink wrap off Magic Moments shortly and putting the arm on my brother to take the trailer, pick up the boat at the ramp, and bring it back to the house. (Are ya with me here Kevin ol' buddy??) Once the boat is back, I can clean the hull and deck, finish installing the new outboard motor mount, measure for the stainless steel bimini parts, etc. I have a lot of design work to do too: the rigid solar bimini, a new composting toilet, the new mast lowering system, etc. – all which have to come into focus on the computer before any dollars begin to fly. I haven't used SolidWorks (the CAD program) for years, so I expect to be staring at a blank screen for a while and making a lot of dumb mistakes while I get my head around it again. It's a pricy program, and one I wouldn't even have were it not for the Army's decision to fund a few years worth of R&D for improvements to conventional suspension systems currently on their vehicles. Soooo… I have broom out the CAD cobwebs between my ears before getting carried away with design and validation of those new boat systems.

composting_toilet_1I did make a bit of progress with my first CAD effort last week, beginning the design for a different type of composting toilet. There are already a variety of composting toilets on the market, but I'm always trying to make a better mousetrap. In particular, headroom on Magic Moments is limited, so the head itself needs to be close to the ground – only a foot (or 27 cm) from top to bottom. Natures Head and Air Head make some (pricey) composting heads, but they're too tall (about 20 inches, or nearly 51 cm). I'm 6'2″ (the metric me is 188 cm), and sitting on one of those commercial composting toilets would require that I have an open hatch directly overhead. Interesting visual, isn't it? For those who are curious about my weight, I'm just a little over 14¼ stone – you can work out the imperial or metric equivalent yourself!

There are a couple of issues I'd like to address in a new composting toilet design:

  • I don't believe existing composting toilets are legal for boats in Canadian waters. Part of Canadian maritime law requires that the head must be permanently affixed to the boat, and must be set up so the only way to empty it is to use a shore based pump out facility. Many port-a-potties commonly installed on smaller recreational vessels are illegal under this second criteria , since the head cannot legally be emptied by removing a tank and taking it ashore to empty it. The same holds true for composting toilets; no bags or jugs can be disposed of or emptied ashore.
  • In addition, a composting toilet would ideally allow solids to sit undisturbed a month or more while completing the composting process, but units currently on the market such as Nature's Head, Air Head, and C-Head have only a single composting chamber, so when it's time to empty the unit, there will be fresh umm… payload in the mix. You can read more about other conventional composting toilets online; you'll find that many land based composting toilets are designed to hold compost in a second chamber for a full year before being emptied. The design I'm working on uses 3 common 5 gallon buckets (about 19 liters each for readers in most of the world). The proposed design segregates the composting bin into two chambers for solids – and yes, ultimately there will be a liquid compartment too! A moveable divider will isolate one solid chamber from the other, and helical agitator bars will help push the composting material away from the drop zone. Whew! enough with the euphemisms…


When in service, the user turns the central rod after each use, causing the helical bars along the barrel walls to aerate and move the compost laterally within the barrels. There will be a divider secured to that central rod, which will normally be at one end of the threads on the rod or at the other end. When one side of the composting toilet becomes full, the user would reverse the direction of rotation of the rod – moving the divider to the other end of the threads on the rod. The ‘full' side of the head would then be isolated, and able to compost in peace while the other side took over ‘active' duty. Compost on both sides of the divider is aerated each time the user turns the rod.

Incidentally, the term ‘Thunder Mug' was used by my Dad to refer to the little stool and mug my brothers & sisters & I used to potty train. It just seemed appropriate for this little venture – and it amuses me.

There's more CAD work to do, but hopefully the design intent is apparent. Stay tuned for part 2 of this exciting saga!

Microwave on Board?


Fast Meals While Cruising

Living and cruising long term on a boat requires some adjustments, as most boats have a fraction of the space available in a small home – and Magic Moments is a small boat. Think of it as living in a closet. Space is at such a premium that everything you own needs to do double or triple duty – a five gallon bucket might be key to cleaning your laundry while underway, carrying tools aloft to repair the masthead light, rinsing salt off the deck, dragging it overboard to slow the boat in stormy weather, or using it to bail the cockpit if you've been pooped by an unruly wave. I hold that same ‘double or triple duty' standard when considering the use of a microwave on board. My post about making bread in a pressure cooker touched on using the pressure cooker in a microwave; here are some further thoughts. Why consider using a microwave when gimballed burners have long been the norm on board cruising vessels?

The answer is somewhat convoluted, and goes something like this:

  • Picture of Chef Pepin, from wikimediaA microwave lets me cook quickly in the storage container (read: Zip Lock bag or Tupperware container), without having to mess up a lot of pots & pans or dishes. The associated reduction in water consumption for cleaning dishes is also noteworthy.
  • The microwave will heat just the food, and not the container it's in or the surrounding area. The boat isn't air conditioned, so this could be a good thing in tropical areas. There may be times I'd like more heat, but I'd like to control how much additional heat is added below decks. Similarly, any water vapor from cooking is limited by both the container and the microwave – also a good thing below decks. Using conventional gimballed burners to cook (or having any open flame below) adds moisture to the air, and can make life below unpleasant.
  • There is no risk of a fire or explosion otherwise associated with propane, butane, or alcohol stoves, nor is there any danger of putting something down on a hot burner. Power will come from two solar panels (240 watts each), run through MPPT controllers, and stored in lithium batteries (LiFePO4) – the subject of another post. Renewable, clean… you've all heard the marketing drill. What you may not have heard is that installing the system may qualify for an energy tax credit (yet another post).
  • The microwave can control the food being cooked while the boat rolls or pitches, without having to resort to gimbals and pot holders. If pushed, I can stuff old socks and tee shirts into the microwave to hold food being cooked in place while underway. Appetizing, eh?
  • I can use small zip-lock type plastic bags designed for steam sterilization of baby bottles to cook different foods simultaneously in the microwave or in the pressure cooker. At only 2.5 quarts, the pressure cooker is too small to stack internal dividers and cook different parts of an entire meal all at once. I can easily stack the sterilization bags in the microwave or pressure cooker though.
  • I can easily cook small, pre-packaged meals I've prepared and stored, and the nature of the beast makes using a microwave while underway quick and easy – very much a plus if the boat is dancing while I'm trying to put together a hot meal.
  • I can do a limited amount of searing of meats or reheating pizza (and keeping it crisp) in a microwave using a browning dish (you've got it, ‘nother post), but to truly grill something, I'll have to press the propane powered grill on the pushpit rail into service. Yeah, it's powered by propane <groan>, but at least the propane won't be stored or used in the cabin.
  • It's never really comfortable being on a sailboat in a thunderstorm with lightning providing a light show – but you can use the microwave as a Faraday cage to help protect some of your electronics.
Inverter Microwave
Click for information about inverter microwaves

The bottom line: I guess the microwave has a secure place on board (I'm eyeing the small Panasonic inverter microwave pictured to the left), but the question remains – where will it fit?

It's time to become re-acquainted with the use of CAD, and to realistically plan how all the pieces of the puzzle will come together by making an accurately scaled drawing of the interior of the boat, and seeing how all the pieces can best come together.

Making Bread – in a Pressure Cooker!!


 A Bit of Culinary Magic

Bread - fresh out of the pressure cooker!!I never would have believed it possible; the concept of making bread in a pressure cooker just seems wrong. How do you get something like bread (relatively dry and fluffy) out of a pressure cooker (very moist and pressurized)? Making stews, vegetables, rice and noodles, soups, potatoes and yams in a pressure cooker… all these make sense to me – but bread?

As unlikely as it may seem, making bread or cake in a pressure cooker is very doable, and the results are both tasty and hearty – meaning they're a treat for your tongue and they'll stick to your ribs. There's not much by way of a crust on the bread, but I don't view that as a deterrent.

If you make a sandwich, you won't have to worry about having any hunger cravings for hours. Don't let the fact that it has substance fool you into thinking it has no flavor – quite the contrary! What's more, you can play with the recipe to your heart's content, swirling in cinnamon or adding vanilla, using different flours, etc. What a wonderful discovery!

Interior - pressure cookerSo I've made room in my thinking for making bread in a pressure cooker. The next hurdle is getting my head around using a pressure cooker inside a microwave. The pressure cooker is ‘old' technology, used for canning and such, right? Why would I even consider putting one in a microwave? It turns out that Nordic Ware makes a ‘real' pressure cooker designed to be used in a microwave – unlike some cookware being marketed as microwave pressure cookers, which don't build up any internal pressure. That pressure is what sets pressure cooking apart from conventional cooking, making it faster, healthier, and more energy efficient than conventional cooking. I even found two recipe books online which Nordic Ware provided with the purchase of the pressure cooker in years gone by, but recently the number of recipes seems to have dwindled significantly. The earlier recipe book has about 150 recipes for appetizers, beef, pork, lamb, veal, and poultry main dishes, soups, vegetables, and desserts, while a newer recipe book offers only a tenth of that number of recipes. You can click on the links to view the recipe booklets (they're in pdf format), or right click on them to download them to your computer. There are also a number of other recipe books for pressure cookers available online, but you'll need to adapt the recipes for use with the smaller pressure cooker.

On top of the questions I've raised above is another, over riding question – who would even think of putting a microwave on a such a small boat? (and why!)

That will be the subject of my next post.

Using Legos to Raise and Lower Your Mast?


 Raise and Lower Your Mast – While on the Water

In my last post, I indicated that this post would be about making warm, aromatic bread in a microwave pressure cooker. I lied. I will get to that post next, promise.

I mentioned a radical new mast lowering system in my first post back in January though, and mentioned it again in an ongoing thread about cruising around the Great Lakes that Ron started on a Rhodies discussion forum (that's what card-carrying owners of Rhodes 22 sailboats call ourselves). The new system allows single-handed sailors to raise or lower sizable masts while on the water, even if the water isn't entirely smooth. The work can be done from the cockpit (for the most part), and leaves the mast centered in the mast crutches – there is no need to shift it forward or aft before securing it.

Trouble is, I sort of indicated I'd get a video up this week showing the system in action, so now
I've gotta put up or shut up – so please be patient with a little delay before I finally unveil that loaf of bread.

And… just so you're not expecting a professionally produced video, know that this is an unscripted and unrehearsed demonstration of the mast lowering system – using Legos as the prototype medium. And now that I've set the bar so low that no one could possibly crawl under it – without further ado…

If the video above won't stream even after you've given it a few minutes, you can download it by right clicking on the filetype you'd like (mp4, ogg, or webm), and save the file to your computer.


Some things I didn't throw into the video commentary:

  • The geometry of the system actually lifts the mast slightly, and would allow a mast to clear a step of several inches. It won't do any good for keel stepped masts, however.
  • As shown in the video, you can pause while raising or lowering the mast, whether to pass under a bridge and put the mast back up again immediately, or to disconnect / reconnect wiring between the mast and the boat.
  • This should work well with larger masts, as the lower quarter of the mast counterbalances the next quarter of the mast (up to the half way point), and the halyard from the bow to the mast head helps support the top half of the mast. I'm working with the Rhodes' in-mast furling system, and anticipate no problems with its weight, particularly given that the mainsheet has a 4:1 purchase on the line attached to the mast. Note that you'll have to tie the lower end of the mainsheet to something other than the traveler on the Rhodes – the backstays probably won't provide adequate support while slack. I intend to move the traveler overhead to the front of a rigid bimini.
  • There is no need to loosen the rear lower stays or the backstays on the Rhodes. The shrouds will need to have a little slack in them, and the forward lowers will need a bit more slack in them (possibly disconnected entirely). The jib or genoa furler will need to be disconnected entirely before lowering the mast.
  • Another comment specifically for the Rhodes – it should be possible to use the hardware for the rear lowers to secure the lower end of the 6 foot poles.
  • The system will be able to support the mast while motoring under reasonable conditions. If you'd like to put up a sail however, you need to reconnect and re-tension the headstay, the forward lowers, and the shrouds. You should reconnect and re-tension the rigging if you'll be in rough weather though (even if you only intend to motor) as the upper end of the mast could whip around unsupported – and a bent or broken mast could ruin your whole day.
  • I know… the mast is too far forward in the model; work with me here though, will ya? The prototype was designed with Crayons and fabricated with Legos!

I'll add another post in a week or two about design and construction considerations. Life beckons and time is short, so that's it for now. Your comments – good or bad – would be appreciated. They may make for a better Lego Mast System 2.0!

A cruising schedule, part 4


Sailing upstream against the Labrador Current

In my last post, I mentioned that the offshore area near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina was known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic“, and that many of the shipwrecks that occurred in the area were the result of wild weather and heavy seas stirred up by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream streaming north and hitting the cool, southbound waters of the Labrador Current. Sadly, this means that as I proceed north from Cape Hatteras, I may find myself bucking the Labrador Current, which runs a bit over 1 mph (1.6 kph) in places. That doesn't sound like much, but Magic Moments top speed is only about 6 mph, and any hindrance can be significant. I don't have to be out in the current for most of the trip though – if I'm content to motor along in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW – also known as “the ditch”) for most of the way. Decisions, decisions…

The final leg of the Great LoopRegardless of how I proceed (staying inside the ICW or going outside along the coast), the cool water of the Labrador Current will mean the amount of fog will increase as I head further north – just another of life's little challenges. Sticking with the worst case scenario, I have the following:

  • The route takes me from Cape Hatteras, NC to Atlantic City, NJ within the ICW – a total distance of about 375 miles (604 km). I should be arriving in Atlantic City toward the end of May. If you recall from part 1 of my itinerary, I'd like to be off the Gulf and east coast by the time hurricane season begins in June – so I'll be cutting that part of my schedule a little close. It's only another 100 miles to the shelter of the Hudson River though, so I should be in reasonably good shape. If you're reading this and haven't seen the earlier parts of the trip, you can also take a moment and read through part 2 and part 3 of the trip.
  • I'll continue along the ICW from Atlantic City, NJ to Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, then head outside along the coast and across the bay, entering the Hudson River and the Erie Canal. I'll follow the Erie Canal north to a point just a little north of Albany, NY, then continue west along the canal to Utica, NY – a total distance of 366 miles (or 589 km), arriving near the end of June. I will actually have completed the loop near Bronson, NY, shown below where the short yellow segment of the trip hits my earlier red segment. Those who travel the Great Loop call themselves “Loopers”, and refer to completing the loop as crossing their own wake.
  • Even though the loop will be complete at Bronson, NY, I won't be home until I've returned to the west end of Lake Erie. The  remaining distance from Utica, NY back home is 513 miles, and I should be securing the anchor lines near the end of July, 2016 – 15 months and 6,737 miles after leaving.

That's the plan – now we'll see how it plays out.

The entire route for my Great Loop adventure

A cruising schedule, part 3


Route up the east coast to Cape Hatteras, North CarolinaTrippin' up the Gulf Stream

The title is a little misleading, since the route laid out in the picture to the left is entirely within the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), well clear of the Gulf Stream. My planning to date has all been on protected waters, either on rivers or along the ICW – with the exception of a short run across the Gulf of Mexico from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs, Florida. From a scheduling perspective, staying within the ICW is kind of a worst-case scenario. You can only travel during the day, your route will at times be tortuous as the river or ICW snakes around (definitely not the shortest distance between two points), and you'll be tied to the tiller for much of the time you're traveling. You can't use any autopilot if you need to dodge barges, motorboats, or newly shifted shoals while you're on those protected waters.  In addition, it would be a real challenge sailing where surrounding terrain obstructs the wind and the meandering waterway prevents you from staying on the same bearing for any distance. Translation: lots and lots of motoring – not what I have in mind for a pleasurable trip. The bottom line is that I'll be looking to head offshore in a few places, and I'll also be taking note of places where I can duck into inlets to take shelter if the weather begins to look threatening. If you missed the earlier posts, you can backtrack and look at the routing shown in part 1 and part 2.

One place I'm likely to travel outside the ICW is shown in white in the picture above, from Jacksonville, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina. I understand maintenance dredging of the ICW hasn't been a priority in Georgia, and that grounding is fairly common. Having said that, Magic Moments' draft is under 2 feet, so if the weather doesn't cooperate through that stretch, I'll join the parade of boats motoring their way up the ICW. Here are my best guesses at distances and scheduling:

  • The blue segment shown on the map above runs from Miami, Florida to Jacksonville, Fl – about 352 miles or 566 km. Assuming all has gone well to this point, I should be arriving in Jacksonville at the end of March or beginning of April.
  • Then I'll have to decide whether to follow the ICW through Georgia or not. If I stay inside the ICW as shown in white, the trip will be about 251 miles (404 km). If I can catch some good weather, I could head offshore and complete the same trip in under 200 miles (321 km) – including traveling 20 miles offshore and 20 miles back again. It would be nice to see the night sky without no ambient urban lighting to spoil the view, and to see the phosphorescent trails of dolphins at night – as well as watching them play during the day! Regardless, the trip as plotted above should put me in Charleston, South Carolina by the middle of April.
  • The last leg shown above (in red) is about 356 miles (573 km), which means I should be docking in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina early in May. I doubt I'll tempt fate too much on this leg by going outside the ICW as I near the cape, an area known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Confused seas and sudden, severe weather changes can result when the warm waters of the Gulf Stream flow north and hit the cold waters of the Labrador Current as it flows south.

I don't generally do intensive planning like this for trips, but it's not as if I'm jumping in a car and driving to Florida and back. I can't just twiddle my thumbs for the next two years, so I may as well try to get my act together before shoving off. Next up – I'll finish my trip up the east coast and head up the Hudson River in New York, where I'll have to drop the mast again to travel the length of the Erie Canal on my way back west to Lake Erie in part 4.

A cruising schedule, part 2


‘Best Guessing' my way around the Great Loop

Great Loop itinerary, part 2I've been working on establishing some kind of cruising schedule – without specifying departure or arrival dates . For a better idea of what I'm referring to, see part 1 of this scheduling effort. Magic Moments and I were last ‘scheduled' to be in Tennessee, with the intent to hit the waterways again in late November, 2015. After departing, my cruising will be done in several steps, as follows:

  • First, I'll head back downstream along the Tennessee River, partially retracing my earlier route. When I reach the Tenn-Tombigbee Waterway, I'll depart my earlier route and head south to Demopolis, Alabama. This leg is about 564 miles long (907 km). With luck, the boat and I will arrive in late December, with our sights set on points south.
  • The next leg of the journey will be from Demopolis to Panama City, Florida, about 381 miles according to Google Earth (about 613 km), and will put me on the Gulf of Mexico in mid-January.
  • The short white segment of the Great Loop is shown in white in the picture to the right, from Panama City to Carrabelle, Florida. It's only about 87 miles (or 140 km) long – so I should arrive by late January. What happens next will be determined in part by weather windows opening on the Gulf, so I may be held up in Carrabelle for a bit. The next bit of the Great Loop involves crossing the Gulf, whether along the shore (as shown in red, south of Carrabelle), or heading south-east across the open waters of the Gulf to Tarpon Springs, Florida. When I'm finally able to scoot across the Gulf, I may duck back inside the Intracoastal Waterway and continue south to the southern tip of Florida – where I'll have to hole up again and wait for a weather window to head to Dry Tortugas National Park at the  western tip of the Florida Keys. Magic Moments and I will follow along the south side of the keys on the way back up to mainland Florida, View from the cockpit while beating upwind in Lake St Clairand should hit Miami in the middle of March, after traveling 816 miles (or 1313 km) around the western and southern sides of the state.

I'll begin laying out my trip up the United States' east coast in part 3 of my planning effort. It'll be interesting to see how closely my rough timetable and my actual schedule coincide. I don't plan on biting my nails over the issue though – especially on this leg of the trip. I'll be too close to Margaritaville to worry!