Saturday, November 3, 2012

ASA 104/114 Live Aboard Course, Day 1

I know, I know...haven't been posting anything the last couple weeks...but I have a good wife and I were in Florida working on our Intermediate Cruising/Bareboat Chartering/Cruising Catamaran combined course and our first bare-boat charter.  So, I'll be catching up over the next several posts.

On Friday October 19th we flew to Miami to meet Tracey and his Maine Cat 41 for the last leg of his annual migration bringing the boat from it's summer home in New Jersey to it's winter home in Bradenton, Florida.  My wife and I and another couple are taking a combination ASA 104/114 course as we crew the cat down thru the keys and then up the Gulf Coast.  There are also two other gals on the boat that are accompanying Tracey just for fun.

We don't arrive in Miami until the afternoon, so we spend a little time going over the particulars of the boat and getting settled in.  The Maine Cat is a very utilitarian designed boat, you won't find a lot of pretty woodwork on it...or doors separating the berths.  But it has ample galley space, enough room for 6~7 to live aboard for several days, and a nice open patio style saloon/cockpit.

We spend the night on the boat at Dinner Key Marina, enjoy our last infinite hot water shower, and head out early the next morning as the sun rises.  We depart the marina and motor across Biscayne Bay, passing Stiltsville as the sun rises.

We follow the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) thru the upper Keys and over to Florida Bay.  Winds were light and we tried putting up the sails, but other than a small leg, we were forced to motor-sail or steam (play motorboat) most of the day.  From a learning perspective we each got our turn at the wheel and coaching on how to stay in a channel when there are currents, etc. to deal with.  We also did a fair amount of navigation work, looking for appropriate anchoring spots using the charts, Skipper Bob's guides, etc.

It ended up being a long day and at dusk we still had a little bit more to go.  To make things more difficult, it is stone crab season and the area we were in just adjacent to the Everglades park was full of crab pots.

So, motoring slowly with spotters at both bow pulpits we made our way over to the park boundary (where fishing isn't allowed so there shouldn't be pots to get wrapped in the props).  We make our way to the lee side of Sandy Key (a small dot of uninhabited land in the Everglades park boundary) and drop the anchor in the light of the moon...and the steaming light.  We then learn how to set a bridle for the anchor so we don't sail on the anchor (wind will catch the hull and cause the boat to swing excessively).

We then hung out on the cat's trampoline enjoying the pristine night.  Not a bad ending to the first day of class.


  1. This looks like a great way to not only gain some seafaring skills, but also experience what it's like to liveaboard for a while. Is this part of an actual course, or are you just crewing aboard?


    1. Hey Mike,
      Yes, this was a special ASA 104/114 combined course. Tracey Dell does instruction and charters his Maine Cat in New Jersey during the summer and then moves it to Florida for the winter. So, twice a year he does special passage courses ( where he splits his trip up into 3 or 4 legs. He shipped us the ASA course books to read ahead of time (with the expectation that one would read ahead of time and ask questions if you had them), then we got some real world experience while crewing his boat during one of these legs. We did do some maneuvers the last day and we did get our 104 and 114 certifications (I'm working on that post right now).

      Unfortunately Sandy took quite a toll on New Jersey, so I don't know what Tracey's plans are moving forward. Last I heard he wasn't sure if he would have a marina to return to in the spring. There are a number of places that do combined 101/103/104 courses (Colgate and Blue Water come to mind) but this was the best option we found given we had already taken 101 and 103.

    2. Ahh, very cool indeed! That's a great way to get the training and experience. Too bad about Sandy and the possible repercussions, but hopefully he'll be back in business. I'd definitely consider doing that. Thanks for the info!