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           "Jitterbug" (A West Wight Potter-19) Takes a Cruise
                                           John Depa

This is a summation of the 6 month sailing cruise I recently made in a West Wight Potter-19’, “Jitterbug”. The trip
began on November 1, 2008 at my waterfront home in Little Egg Harbor, NJ and ended on May 2, 2009 at the
same location, for a total of 6 months - 2 days and GPS distance of 4,367 (statute) miles.

I had no intention of writing about the experience because I believe that one is influenced (acts differently) knowing
that their actions, and decisions, will later be recorded: At least I found that to be the case while making long canoe
journeys a few years back. However, it has been pointed out that others have aided me through their writing and
that I have an obligation to do the same.

I certainly benefited from, “Cruising the Bahamas in a Potter 19”, by Bill Combs and “Chubby Commutes to
Hawaii”, by Bill Teplow. Stories like these get the juices flowing and highlight the possibilities of small boat
cruising. Hopefully, this account will be of some merit to my fellow sailors.


I had only been sailing for about 6 years, first with sailing canoes and later with a series of small day sailors
ranging in size from 14’-19’. I think the learning curve is accelerated through canoe-sail racing with the ACA
(American Canoe Association).

My last big boat prior to “Jitterbug” was a 19’ Drascombe lugger, which I sailed for several weeks along the coast
of Maine, taking advantage of the MITA (Maine Island Trail Association) access to camping: What a great trip! The
lugger is certainly a seaworthy craft, and a real “looker” but the absence of a cabin left me (literally) out in the cold
on many occasions. A boom tent does not fully protect one from the elements, or from mosquitoes.

So I began the search for something better suited to an aging sailor like myself. Requisites were: A roomy cabin,
seaworthy, trailer-able and beach-able; in short, a West Wight Potter. Since most of my sailing would be done on
large bodies of salt water, I opted for the BIG 19 rather than smaller 15.

Potters are currently manufactured in California, by International Marine, so not many find their way to the east
coast. This combined with the fact that they don’t change hands too often made finding a used boat difficult. After
3 months of searching the Internet, I finally found one being auctioned on eBay. I contacted the seller several times
by email, and telephone, before deciding the boat was worth a reasonable bid and the long, long, long drive from
NJ to Birmingham, AL for pick-up. A week later, “Jitterbug”, a 1997 model, was parked in my driveway.

The Boat:

Every new owner feels obligated to do “something” to make the boat more personal. However, I resisted the urge
until after I had sailed her a few times to determine needed changes before drilling holes, or buying new gear. The
boat was little used by the previous owner, but he kept it in ship-shape condition. He had added:

New, full batten mainsail, by North Sails (only hoisted once)
Padded rail covers
New Bimini top
New sink water pump
New Max Burton portable stove
New docking fenders
New Dan forth #8 galvanized anchor
8HP Honda 4 stroke outboard (short shaft)
New tiller (handle)
New teak hand rails (all 4)
New SS telescoping ladder
New rubber floor mats in cabin and cockpit
Recovered interior cabin cushions
15 gallon inflatable fresh water tank

Most everything was purchased from the boat manufacturer. In addition, she was recently waxed and buffed,
giving her the look of a new boat. Jitterbug had always been trailered, so I had to apply a coat of Inter-Protect and
anti-fouling paint prior to launching her for an extended salt water dockage behind my house. After two shake
down cruises, and the considerations of long distance solo sailing, I made the following additions/changes:

Replaced the standard jib with a CDI-1 furling, 150 Genoa, by North Sail (best decision I have ever made).
Replaced the short shaft Honda 8hp with a Nissan 6hp extra long 25” shaft-w/alternator.
Replaced the (never used) Burton stove with a Coleman single burner propane because the cartridges are more
readily available and less expensive.
Ran all control lines to the cockpit to facilitate safer solo sailing.
Purchased a Fortress FX-11 anchor, which was mounted on the bow rail.
Made a transom mounting bracket for the galvanized Danforth anchor to sit behind the transom ladder.
Added a second set of pintles to allow the rudder to be raised completely out of the water during beaching
Purchased an Airis -10’ inflatable kayak to be used as a dinghy.
Replaced the standing rigging and carried one-each of the old wires as a spare, along with the original sails.
Purchased a Garmin 540s GPS plotter/depth-sounder unit with an “in hull” transducer to avoid drilling holes in the
Purchased five MapTech Chart Kit books to cover the area from New York to Florida (both coasts) and the
Bahamas: Total weight is 17 LBS
Purchased a SPOT unit (satellite personal tracker) for safety {911 options} and to keep family and friends informed
of my position.

                                            New motor, anchor mount & added pintles               

                                                    Sign reads, “Key West or Bust”

The Cruise South:

I launched from my dock, located in Little Egg Harbor, NJ, on November 1, 2008 for what was to be a 6 month
cruise. Jitterbug was “loaded to the gills” with drinking water (20 gal), food (enough for a month), clothing (all four
seasons), fishing tackle, Airis kayak, snorkel gear, maps, charts and various other provisions. My “Float Plan”, if it
could be called that, was to head south down the ICW with the intention of eventually landing at Key West, with
the possibility of a detour to the Bahamas. I intended to follow the advice of Lao-Tzu, “A good traveler has no fixed
plans, and is not intent on arriving”. Being single, and retired, allows one the luxury of time. However, I kept open
the option bailing out at any point, which is one nice feature of a trailer-able boat.

The first day took us (“us” being Jitterbug and I) across Great Bay to the ICW, and on to Absecon Inlet where we
took the outside ocean route to Egg Harbor Inlet, then inside again to Somers Point where a friend had arranged a
free slip for the night. Bright sunshine and light westerly breezes made for a perfect sailing day, covering 33 miles
by mid-afternoon: This was going to be so easy… right!

Next day was cold, raw and windy, only to worsen over the next month. I did have the pleasure of hailing my first
(of many) bridges for an opening, “This is the south-bound sailboat, Jitterbug, calling to request an opening”:  I
liked the sound of that ; south-bound sailboat! We also spent our first night anchored-off in Cape May, NJ.

Next day I had a sailor’s dream trip (favorable wind and tide) through the Cape May Canal and up Delaware Bay,
to anchor for the night by the Salem nuclear plant. Night #4 was spent in Chesapeake City, MD taking advantage
of their hospitality and free dockage. I woke in the morning to learn that we had a new president, Obama. The next
night found us in Rock Hall, MD where I was again provided free dockage at the Waterman’s Restaurant, after
enjoying the best Seafood Buffet I have ever tasted.

On Nov 6th we had a SCA (small craft advisory) with north winds 20-30mph, during which both Jitterbug and I
were tested while on a downwind run under mainsail alone, negotiating following seas of 4-6’. Truth be known, I
was caught off guard and feared turning into the wind to lower the main, so I just kept going until we reached
Annapolis Harbor, where I breathed a sigh of relief and lowered the main. We continued on with a partially furled
jib to Herring Bay for the night anchorage. From that point on, I never left the dock/anchor if wind predictions were
25mph or above: 15-20 was the max!! This was November; I am sailing solo with water temperatures in the mid-
50s and very few other boats on the bay. A capsize would surely end in death by hypothermia, so why even
consider taking a chance?  That being said, I still got caught with my pants down a few times due to faulty weather

Next day we traveled another 38 miles to Solomon Island, MD where Jitterbug was again given free dockage. This
late in the season, cruiser traffic had dwindled and dock-masters seem to take kindly to such a small craft as the
Potter. He looked at Jitterbug and said, “Hell, I can’t charge you; we have dinghy’s bigger than that”. While there, I
visited the Calvert Museum which was well worth the time. Three days later we reached the Hampton Public
Docks for a day of rest. Dockage was only $1 per ft (no minimum size) with clean, hot showers (much needed by
this time) and a free loaner bicycle, which allowed me to tour the town and re-supply. This was our first “paid
dockage”, but by no means the last.

I should mention that the temperature had dropped drastically, dipping into the low 20s several nights. Always a
problem, condensation became even more annoying when it froze on the cabin ceiling. Needless to say, I was very
glad to have a down-filled sleeping bag rated for ZERO, wool socks and a stocking cap. The only source of heat
was a tea-lite candle. However, the cabin did heat up quickly in the morning while brewing tea with the propane
stove. Still, we sometimes didn’t hoist anchor until 9am when the outside temperature had warmed a bit. Keep
moving south, John!!!

I should also mention that the Nissan outboard motor generated enough power to keep the12 volt battery charged
almost the entire trip: We only used shore power one time, after an all night sail with running lights and GPS. The
masthead and cabin lights had been changed to LED to conserve energy. Biggest battery drain was the GPS,
which was ON constantly. VHF radio is hand-held and operates with 6 - AA batteries.

Next point of interest is in Norfolk, VA, the location of buoy marker #36, which is the official start of the ICW mile
markers, mile “0”: Key West Bight Marina is the end, located at mile “1,243”. Just beyond Norfolk the ICW splits
into two possible routes, the older (more scenic) Dismal Swamp route or the newer Albemarle & Chesapeake
Canal route.

We chose the Dismal Swamp, and arrived at the lock entrance just in time for the last opening of the day. I was a
bit nervous, this being my first lock-through, but the friendly lockmaster made the procedure a piece of cake. Three
of us went through together and all moored at the free public dock for the night, there to await the drawbridge
opening in the morning. The nearby town (another Chesapeake City) is just a short walk down the road, so I
treated myself to dinner. Unfortunately, next day was marred with rain and drizzle, which made the Dismal Swamp
really dismal (pun intended), so we motored to the North Carolina Welcome Center where we were again treated
to free dockage and true Southern hospitality: Free internet, clean restrooms, lounge area with a small library &
book exchange, nearby hiking trail and a free shuttle service for needed supplies.

                                                                Dismal Swamp Lock                             

                                                     Navigating the Dismal Swamp

The next morning, two of us headed for Elizabeth City, NC, which also provides free dockage, to wait out a SCA
forecast before crossing the often hazardous Albemarle Sound. There are only 9 boat slips at the Elizabeth City
dock, but the friendly “Rose Buddies” (as they are called) will make room elsewhere for late arrivals. This is
another city that bends over backwards to accommodate ICW cruisers. The “Rose Buddies” got their name
because one of them would present a complimentary rose to each woman aboard ship. They will also provide a
free shuttle to get needed supplies such as gas, or propane. Everything else in town is within easy walking
distance. This is Day 14 and Jitterbug has traveled a total of 440 miles, for a daily average of 31.4 miles.

The entire fleet remained at Elizabeth City for 3 more days, enduring heavy rain and gusty winds, until we finally
got a “window of opportunity” to cross some big, open waters. I was the first to leave the dock, at 6:30am, in the
chill of morning light: traveled 10 miles down the Pasquotank River, 25 across Albemarle Sound and then 19 more
miles up the wide Alligator River to the mouth of the Pungo Canal, for a total of 54 miles just at dusk. Needless to
say, we motor-sailed all day, and even though first to leave, I was last to arrive.

The Potter-19 has a lot going for it, but speed is definitely, positively, absolutely not one of its shinning attributes.
In fact, I only passed one boat (yes, just one) during the entire 6 month trip; and that particular craft was jury-
rigged to look like a pirate ship, with sails so out of balance that it could barely make headway. By this time, I was
used to being the fleet slow-poke, and happily exchanged waves while playing hop-scotch with the others. We
were usually the first to hoist anchor in the morning and last to set anchor for the night, so Jitterbug became well
know, and respected, among the southbound cruisers as a tenacious little craft.

The narrow Pungo canal required 100% motor power, but we later got to sail a section of the river, at least for a
while, until the wind turned gusty and “on the nose”, at which point we anchored for the night in a sheltered cove.
Next day was more of the same with a rough ride across Pamlico Sound, into Goose River.

Very cold night, 22 deg, and had to start early in the morning to traverse the big Neuse River before winds picked
up. Arrived at Oriental, NC at noon, after only 19 miles for the day, and tied to the city’s free dock (last such
amenity) to once again wait out strong winds. While there, I met cruisers from several other boats and we became
friends over the weeks and months to come.

Early next morning I made the 4 mile crossing of the Neuse River and arrived at Morehead City, NC in time to beat
the worst of a nor’easter that lasted 2 more days. I docked at Portside Marina ($30 per night) where the owner was
kind enough to give me a 3 mile ride to the nearest Quality Inn hotel, where I stayed 2 nights to dry out and warm
my chilly bones. I enjoyed dinning at local restaurants and caught up on laundry and supplies. It turned out that I
would only spend 2 other nights “on shore”, the remainder of the cruise was spent “aboard ship”.

On Nov 24th the skies cleared enough for me to resume cruising, and 2 days later I tied up at Barefoot Landing,
SC. The “Cruiser Guide” listed it as a free dockage, but they now charge $1.75 ft. with the only “facilities” being
the public restrooms in the shopping complex; not much bang for the buck, but it was late and this section of the
ICW really is a “ditch” (very narrow canal) so I had no choice and paid the price.

Nov 27th, Thanksgiving Day found us on the Waccamaw River, SC after a 54 mile day of motoring with the jib: My
holiday dinner was a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup. Night temperatures were still near freezing, and for the
umpteenth time I chattered, “I left home a month too late….brrrr”. Keep moving south, John!! Next day I stopped at
McClellanville for gas and while there bought 3 pounds of fresh shrimp, right from the boat, for a total of $8.00. I
considered it a late Thanksgiving dinner. Anchored in the Harbour River, SC and caught a small redfish (released)
just before dark.

Note: I tried fishing, both casting and trolling, on several occasions but only caught a few small striped bass (rock
fish) in the Chesapeake. It was just too cold!

We arrived at Charleston, SC, Nov 30th, on a cold, windy afternoon. Stopped at the City Marina to learn that
dockage was $2.00 per ft with a 35ft minimum, or $70.00 per night for little 19’ Jitterbug. This is one of the things
that irked me though-out the trip, a “MINIMUN CHARGE” of a 30’-35’ boat. On top of that, they wanted me to tie to
the face dock, which was exposed to crashing waves before the tugboat traffic passed by. Jitterbug would have
been reduced to a heap of battered fiberglass by morning, so I bade them farewell and motored across the harbor
to a lovely river anchorage on the leeward side of a park picnic area.

Next morning I got a slip at the Marriot Hotel, with a room, for just a few dollars more than City Marina wanted to
charge for just dockage. The Marriot also provided a shuttle service into center city where I took a long walk and
had dinner.

Next day found us anchored in the Dawho River, then on to Beaufort, SC where I tied to the City Courtesy Dock
(daytime only) for a tour of the town, and later anchored a few hundred yards off, amid a large fleet of other
sailboats, for the night. On the following day we crossed the Georgia state line to an anchorage in front of the
Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous by the book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.  Still cold, keep
moving south, John!!

On Dec 5th we another 54 mile day, which put us over the 1,000 mile GPS odometer reading, and anchored in
Sapelo Sound, GA. Calm winds were a blessing while crossing the wide open sounds in Georgia – no ICW “ditch”
here, the Georgia section is mostly comprised of natural rivers & sounds. Took an alternate route, Frederick
Creek, around St. Simon Island and encountered our first bout with mosquitoes during the night.

Next day we docked at Brunswick Marina, GA. This was Dec. 7th, a Sunday, and I learned that “Georgia is closed
on Sunday”:  Very southern Baptist. Forecast was for another bone-chilling night so I opted for a room at the
Comfort Inn. This was the last hotel room for the remainder of the cruise; all subsequent nights were spent aboard
Jitterbug. Next day was “sloppy” crossing St. Andrew Sound, but a calm anchorage in Delaroche Creek, near St.
Mary, GA. Once there we spent 5 days alternating between day trips to “town” (St Mary’s) and the Cumberland
Island National Wildlife Area. Hiking there is fantastic, with two daytime docks suitable for a dinghy, or small boat
like Jitterbug, while St. Mary’s has free daytime dockage at the public boat ramp.

Friends of mine were just completing a 4 day canoe paddle in the upper St Mary River, so I paid for dockage at
Land’s Marina and arranged for a shuttle ride to meet them. We had a few laughs during the afternoon, but it was
too cold for camping so I returned to Jitterbug for the night. Next morning, on Dec 13th (6 weeks since leaving NJ)
we crossed the Florida state line, sailed right by Fernandina Beach and continued on to anchor for the night near
Jacksonville Beach, FL where a huge regatta of various craft, brightly lit and decorated for Christmas, cruised by
for over an hour just after dark.

The weather finally began to moderate this far south, and I spent a pleasant day docked at St. Augustine City
Marina ($2.00ft, no minimum). This is one of the most historic cities in America, complete with its own fort and
stunning architecture; a definite “must see” stop-over.  

Continued south, spending nights at Flagler Beach, New Smyrna Beach and Titusville, where I paid $2.00 for a hot
shower and spent time walking the town. The Indian River is dotted with spoil islands, created by the US Army
Corps of Engineers with the sand and mud from dredging the channel. These islands are excellent camping
locations. Jitterbug was beached several times for an afternoon of exploration and fishing, or a night anchorage.
The ability to raise the keel and navigate in 10 inches of water is the #1 reason I wanted a Potter.

                                               View from St. Augustine City Marina            

                                                       Indian River spoil islands

We continued south to spend one night at Melbourne Beach and stopped at popular Vero Beach, but they were
fully booked. This is the “final destination” for many cruisers, who spend the winter here before returning north in
the spring. I did tie up long enough to take the shuttle bus for groceries, and then continued on to beach at another
spoil island for the night. Next anchorages were Manatee Cove, Hobe Sound and then Peanut Island near Palm
Beach, which is a beautiful state park well worth a visit. One of its attractions is the bomb-proof shelter built for
JFK for use while he visited the family home in Palm Beach.

From this point on it’s a long motor south through metropolitan areas with condo after condo, built just a few feet
apart. Much time is spent waiting for draw bridges to open, and very little opportunity to hoist sail. On Dec 25th,
Christmas Day, we arrived at Ft. Lauderdale and docked at the city marina: After cruising almost 2 months (55
days) and traveling a total of 1,540 GPS statute miles, for an average of 28 miles per day.

                                             Jitterbug docked at Ft. Lauderdale                 

                                                 Las Olas – Ft Lauderdale beach

Ft. Lauderdale represented a milestone on the trip: It was a destination point in and of itself, and also the place
where a decision would be made on whether to cross the gulf-stream to the Bahamas, or continue down the ICW
to Key West. I decided to rest for a few days, enjoy the local scene, watch the weather pattern and reflect on the
trip to date.

Lessons Learned:

First and foremost, I left NJ too late in the season; should have left a month earlier.

When selecting a marina for dockage, I learned to look for one with floating docks because those with fixed pilings
where designed for much larger boats which made it difficult to moor Jitterbug, and even more difficult for me to
climb onto the dock at low tide.

During one of my early anchorages, the tidal change resulted in the anchor line wrapping around the keel, which
prevented hoisting in the morning. After several futile attempts, and much deliberation, I realized that all I had to do
was raise the keel – DUH. For the remainder of the trip, I set an additional stern anchor when anchoring in a swift
tidal flow. This also prevents the Fortress Danforth type anchor from braking loose with the swing of the tide.

I had considered installing an automatic pilot, but decided against it because most of the ICW trip is navigating in
confined areas. I did, however, use a tiller-tamer which worked well enough for me to leave the helm for (very) brief
periods. I will not add the auto pilot.

The Fortress FX-11 anchor, with 6ft of 5/16” coated chain never broke free, even in some VERY rough conditions.
However, we never anchored in water over 20ft in depth.

The decision to use the Coleman propane stove proved to be wise: Replacement canisters for the Burton stove
were not readily available. A cylinder lasted between 5-7 days. The cooking unit, fabricated from a Tupperware
container, also worked well.

                                                       Cooking unit and folding bicycle

I did not leave home with a bicycle on board, but later bought a folding one made by Dahon, model Curve, with 16”
wheels, which just barely fits in one of Jitterbug’s aft berths. I paid more for this bike than I did for my first car, but it
really added to the experience. I would consider it a “must have” for this kind of trip.

The Bimini top was somewhat useful on rainy days, but sagged badly in the middle due to its faulty design, which
resulted in water dripping on me anyway. I later made a “prop” with the adjustable boat hook, but will try to come
up with a better solution.

The guide-book I used was “Dozier’s Waterway Guide” which definitely favors those marinas who pay for
advertising (surprise!!). Many cruisers seem to prefer, “Skipper Bob’s Guide”. Either way, I would look on the
Internet for a used copy, as they are expensive.

The “Maptech ChartKit” books worked very well in conjunction with the GPS unit. I purchased all five books for
$100 from craigslist.com. Several are not the most current issue, but islands don’t move that much from year to
year, and $400 is a big savings.

The Nissan 4-stroke, 6hp outboard motor worked flawlessly. The alternator kept the battery fully charged. In fact, I
later purchased a voltage regulator to prevent over charging. (which may not have been necessary?). Fuel
consumption, overall, was 27 MPG; this includes ALL miles covered, even those under sail alone. I found the most
efficient motoring hull speed to be about 5.5mph, which was roughly half throttle. I reached as high as 8mph (under
sail alone) and at times struggled to maintain 2mph against a strong wind and tide.

The single lever, adjustable motor mount was not able to handle the added weight of a    4-stroke motor, swaying
badly during heavy seas. I jury rigged it several times during the trip and replaced it with a heavier model upon my
arrival home.

The old style wooden rudder on the Potter-19 was “less than efficient” to say the least. It is probably fine for day
trips, but many miles were lost due to its excessive drag: Later in the trip it failed completely and required extensive
repairs. It has since been replaced with a new composite rudder from IdaSailor.com.

In Conclusion:

I am sure that I have omitted many details that would benefit those who plan a similar trip, but this is my
recollection. A few days later I crossed the gulf-stream to reach the Bahamas, so the story is to be continued…….

John Depa  

                                             Sections of the ICW are nicknamed "The Ditch"