LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
After getting the boat ready for
the long trip, I agonized over how
to obtain real-time weather info.
On previous trips I had found
that NOAA data was not always
applicable to ICW conditions and did
not contain sufficient time-related
predictions for my relatively short
(daylight-only) schedule. I looked
at the satellite weather systems,
and they are excellent but probably
overkill for ICW cruising. I went with
the AT&T AirCard and the hope that
Internet connectivity would be good
enough for most of the trip.
For the roughly 45 days spent
cruising, the low-speed network was
available everywhere except a bayou
just west of Port Arthur, Texas, and in
the Little Shark River on the west
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coast of Florida. I did purchase
a passive cell phone antenna but
did not find it to be useful, as the
additional 3–6dB of gain was not
enough in the dead zones.
The highest speed network (3G)
was not available on the ICW
through Texas, Louisiana (except
New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama,
the Florida Gulf Coast, or the Keys.
Florida’s east coast had the best 3G
network connectivity from Miami
through St. Petersburg. I also found
the 3G network not available through
Georgia, South Carolina (except
Charleston), and North Carolina. But
the low-speed network was sufficient
for weather data, even with the longer
download times for weather charts.
On the ICW, the best weather
sites I found were for the cities on
the ICW where hourly projections
are usually available. If you are
cruising during daylight hours, you
can start earlier or later to avoid the
most likely times for higher winds
I was also able to monitor the
water depth in the Okeechobee
waterway on a daily basis on the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers site as I got
closer to Fort Myers. The friendly
folks at Roland Martin Marina were
a great source of info on who was
actually crossing the lake. I was
disappointed with the 4-foot depth at
the time I was there, which prevented
me from taking that route, but I really
enjoyed cruising through Florida Bay
and a portion of the Keys and seeing
the megayachts in Ft. Lauderdale.
Of special value on the Internet
was wave height prediction for the
big bend crossing and offshore on
Florida’s west coast. We waited
five days for suitable weather for
crossing the big bend and used the
Weather Underground marine site
( wunderground.com) for wave height
predictions with excellent results.