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Trawler talk about cruising grounds

Kevin and Donna Steele, Nordic Tug 39 Carefree
On weekend cruising and beyond

The good: The solar panels on the pilothouse roof allow us to keep Carefree on a mooring all season and have enough juice to keep all of our food and beverages cool, so when we come on board, it’s plug-and-play. And the boat has a combination of liveability, solid construction and reliability, seaworthiness and fuel economy that make it the right boat for us.

Kevin and Donna Steele cruise on their Nordic Tug, Carefree.

The bad: The only thing I’ve found after owning several planing hull boats is the attitude adjustment needed for displacement speed. On a planing boat, we used to get from Point A to Point B quickly. The drawback to that is that you’re pounding along and can’t talk to the person next to you. With our Nordic Tug, it’s like cruising in our living room at 8 knots, a really enjoyable experience. Sometimes I still get a little antsy and want to get there. I’m learning to just relax and enjoy the trip.

And a lesson: We did a lot of investigation into what we wanted and how we planned to use the boat — and we got exactly what we were looking for. I can’t stress enough to do your own thorough investigation before making the jump. It’s a big purchase, and it just makes a lot of sense to do your homework.

Bob Bond, Krogen 42 Big Run
On the Bahamas

Bob Bond prefers cruising the Bahamas.

The good: The beaches and the clear water are always a favorite. The Bahamians from the outer islands are very friendly people and that has a special appeal to us. It’s also a great way to meet fellow cruisers that are like-minded. Not all cruisers are willing to make the open ocean crossings, so those that have made it to the Bahamas, whether it’s their first time or cruisers returning for many years, they are unique.

The bad: A friend of ours, Bill on S/V Puddlejumper, once told us that no one is coming to save you in the Bahamas. It may be a little overstated because BASRA — the Bahamian Air Sea Rescue Association — is the Bahamian version of the U.S. Coast Guard, and the volunteer organization will help in emergency situations. But unlike the U.S. Coast Guard, BASRA is spread out very thin.

And a lesson: We have found the clear water to be very beneficial with learning how your ground tackle works in different conditions. I know of many boaters in the United States who could learn a great deal about anchoring if they have the opportunity to spend a few weeks or months in the Bahamas.

Ralph Yost, DeFever 41 Say Goodbye
On the Great Loop

Bob Yost, owner of Say Goodbye

The good: Other cruising grounds are single specific cultures for that area. For example, the Chesapeake Bay Eastern Shore is one culture, different from the Western Shore. But New England is yet another culture. When you take a boat trip there, that is the single culture you will experience. In contrast, the Loop will take us through the many different cultures of upstate New York, the French Canadian provinces, Midwestern United States, the rivers, the South, East Coast cultures, all in one trip. The scenery will change accordingly.

The bad: Say Goodbye hasn’t gone yet. So far, so good.

And a lesson: The open-water segments of the Loop — know and understand weather forecasting, as well as your personal limitations for boat operations. Remember that you don’t have to go. Don’t create artificial schedules that drive you to move the boat when you shouldn’t. Don’t allow other events in your life to impose schedules on you. Tell your visitors the only way they can do this trip with you is that they have to “wing it” and be completely flexible.

Craig Mudge, Krogen 42 Moon Star
On Down East Maine

Craig Mudge on Moon Star

The good: We like the short runs to countless pristine anchorages, combined with numerous picturesque towns and villages. We like the ability to gather our own mussels and buy lobster “over the gunwale” that was hauled minutes earlier. We like exploring a tidal beach with our dog and returning to a glass of wine on the boat deck, topped off by a fabulous sunset against the Camden Hills.

The bad: You need to be prepared for fog. If there is a chance of fog in the day’s forecast, it’s best to have an alternative destination close by in case you get socked in. It’s more fun to relax in an anchorage than to nervously pick your way through the soup. The lobstermen will be out working and they are like water bugs on your radar screen.

And a lesson: Maine is less marina-oriented than other cruising grounds. If you don’t have easy access to a dinghy, you will be missing much of the allure of the coast. We also tend to anchor the majority of nights, so we’ve grown comfortable setting the hook in a variety of conditions.

Douglas Pohl, custom 55-foot steel trawler
On the Great Loop

Douglas Pohl cruises The Great Loop

The good: The Great Loop is a wonderful “socializing” cruiser’s route — with no worries about exotic destinations where cruising is called “fixing your boat in exotic places” and yachting is “paying someone to fix your boat in exotic places.” There are many marinas and service providers along the route.

The bad: Many miles of navigation will be in shallow waters. It’s not going to be if you run aground, but when you run aground. Be prepared with a plan. I’d also suggest you consider your boat purchase from this standpoint. Look below the waterline, understanding what is going to touch bottom first and the consequences of buying this particular style or design of boat. Not all boats are built the same. For those boats that do run aground or hit flotsam, the price could be tens of thousands of dollars. Ouch!

And a lesson: Expect the unexpected. People know there are boating Rules of the Road, but few recreational boaters have any idea what it’s all about, so remember to expect the unexpected. Your boat and crew's safety will depend on it.

John Love, Grand Banks 42 Maramor
On the East End of Long Island Sound

John Love cruises on his Grand Banks, Maramor.

The good: There are many uncrowded, pristine anchorages with access to beaches, hikes, interesting kayaking and good restaurants. A sample cruise for a week could be the anchorages at Coecles Harbor on Shelter Island, Montauk Lake, Great Salt Pond at Block Island, R.I., and West Harbor at Fishers Island, N.Y., with a mooring at Stonington, Conn., and a berth at Mystic Seaport. If homeward bound is west, an evening on a mooring at Essex, Conn., up the Connecticut River, or if east, a mooring at Cuttyhunk, Mass., at the entrance to Buzzard’s Bay is always memorable. The swimming is great in the summer and fall, the anchorages are sheltered, the holding ground is good, and all the amenities are within reach of your dinghy.

The bad: Some municipalities are restricting the anchorage areas.

And a lesson: When the wind pipes up at night or while you are ashore, you want to be confident in your ground tackle. Carry the biggest anchor your boat can accommodate, and an all-chain rode is best, especially if the anchorage is crowded. With the right ground tackle, 4-to-1 scope is sufficient in most conditions in Eastern Long Island Sound. However, use more scope in Great Salt Pond if conditions allow.

Barry Kallander, Nordhavn 40 Commander
On Down East Maine

Barry Kallander enjoys cruising the Maine coastline.

The good: Maine offers quaint villages, small cities, countless islands and remote anchorages, all within a few hundred miles of coastline. While the Maine coast is rugged, consisting of deep water and rocky outcrops and islands, there are well-marked channels providing navigation and safe anchorage in large bays and estuaries. Finding a quiet anchorage or even picking up a mooring or slip in places like Camden, Northeast Harbor and Boothbay Harbor is fairly easy, and the prices are much less than the Cape Cod and island areas.

The bad: Even in summer, the water rarely warms above 60 degrees and usually is lower. Though suitable for a quick dip on a hot day, you wouldn’t want to spend any extended time in the water.

And a lesson: Maine is deep and rocky. You can be in more than 100 feet of water and only 50 feet off an island. Charts are marked well and generally reliable, though water depths can change quickly and you have to pay attention. To run at night, you have to move well offshore. Inshore, you have to stay on your toes to avoid picking up a lobster warp in your running gear or stabilizers.

See related articles:

- A new adventure every day

- Easy cruising at 65 mph

- Soundings on board

- Checklist for your cruising destination

- About this month's cover shot

This article orignally appeared in the June 2012 issue.