Categories
Uncategorized

Northeast Lake Michigan Heritage, Part 2

The clear water of Grand Traverse Bay made it seem like our 18 ton boat was floating in mid-air

We continued our journey to our most southern Lake Michigan destination for the summer, Suttons Bay in Grand Traverse Bay for two nights.

An intermediate stop was the bay by Northport, Michigan.

We left our anchorage at Lake Charlevoix’s South Arm at 8:30 am to make the 10:00 am Bascule Bridge opening in Charlevoix. We arrived at 9:55 and proceeded through at 10 to Lake Michigan.

Our progress was uneventful until we rounded the corner from Charlevoix and headed down Grand Traverse Bay.

The weather was winds from the south at 15-20 knots, generating a pretty good set of waves coming north from the long fetch from the bottom of Grand Traverse Bay.

We reduced speed and snuck along the eastern shore for a time before pointing Selkie’s bow towards Northport.

Crossing a quartering sea made life a little more comfortable with Selkie’s stabilizers. We were able to go back to our normal speed.

While crossing, I had the radar on with a chart overlay. I was happy to see some rain squalls on the radar, which helped us be better prepared for when we entered them.

It was fascinating to see the dense rain appear, shift shape and then disappear.

Two rain squalls appear here. One to Selkie’s port side stern quarter and one ahead of Selkie more to the north. A small squall appears just to Selkie’s starboard bow.
The small rain squall that was to Selkie’s starboard bow really intensified and followed us across Grand Traverse Bay. The other two had pretty much disappeared by this time.

We crossed without incident and entered the bay by the point across from Northport.

The winds that were coming from the south were supposed to intensify and swing around to come out of the north. We chose an anchorage that was suitable for that.

After dropping anchor, the weather cleared, and we relaxed. Libbie caught her second Smallmouth Bass. She also paddle boarded for a while. I just took it all in.

The next day, we headed to Suttons Bay where we had a 2 night reservation.

The trip to Suttons Bay was uneventful as we had those north winds generating a following sea.

Once we got to Suttons Bay, we realized that our place in the harbor was close to the end of the break wall, so it was a bit of a rocky berth for a while.

That evening, the winds died and we had a very comfortable berth.

The reason that we went to Suttons Bay was that we had yet another family reunion, this time on my mother’s side of the family.

It was great to catch up with some cousins I have not seen in a long time. In a couple of cases, it has been decades.

We are a bit of a prank playing family on my mom’s side, starting with my grandfather.

True to form, as the reunion wound down, I received a special door prize from a special cousin at the reunion.

My special prize at my family reunion

It was a fun time.

The next day, Lib and I rode our bikes along one of the many great Rails to Trails bike trails in Northern Michigan.

This one went from Suttons Bay to Traverse City along the old railroad line that used to service the west side of Grand Traverse Bay.

Some of the great scenery in Northern Michigan along a great paved bike trail
One can clearly see the railroad grade going through a tunnel of trees. There are many bike trails in Northern Michigan like this.

After a good night’s rest, we headed back to Charlevoix, where we had a 2 nights reservation at the marina we could not get into before.

The trip back up was in calm seas and uneventful.

Calm and following seas on Selkie

We pulled into Charlevoix and tied up.

We rode our bikes around town, including past the hospital where I were born. It was a smaller hospital. It had the same red brick color from more than 60 years ago, but the building itself had been refreshed and updated a few times since.

The next day, we hopped on our bikes again and headed to another part of town. We walked some dunes at the park on the north side, and then went back to Selkie.

That evening before dinner, we gathered with more than a dozen other Loopers and had a great evening of Docktales, making some new acquaintances.

One of the couples we met was from Maine near a town where one of Libbie’s parents best friends were from. As it turned out, the couple knew those friends. We spoke of our memories of them, and marveled about what a small world it truly can be.

The next day we traveled down Lake Charlevoix to Boyne City where some of my cousins lived. As we had not spent much time together recently, it was important to spend time together.

It was also important that we come down because we were going to a Sugar House with some of my cousins where a bunch of their friends brewed beer together regularly.

A Sugar House is a place where maple sap is boiled down into maple syrup. It sits idle in the summer usually, but this band of friends who work in the spring for 6 weeks to make syrup make beer together the rest of the time.

It’s quite the set up.

At the Sugar House they set up quite a series of beer taps. We enjoyed sampling everyone’s work all night.
The main part of the Sugar House, with the syrup making equipment on the right and the beer brewing equipment on the left. Did you know it takes 30 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup?

We enjoyed our time with our cousins and their friends, telling stories, sipping different brews and eating. It was a great night.

The next day was a fun day as well.

We went on another bike ride to Boyne Mountain.

Libbie in front of Boyne Mountain.

It was a reflective time for Libbie, as the last time she had come to Boyne Mountain, she was an eight year old, with her sister, mom and grandmother. It was a girls weekend and she had a wonderful memory of the trip.

Lib and I at the entrance to Boyne Mountain

We went back to the boat and got ready to meet our cousins again.

We went to a JV football game and then dinner with more cousins.

It was the first JV football game I’d been to since I played JV football.

My first 8 man JV football game ever

My cousin’s son only played the first quarter as he was also needed for the varsity team. They played 8 man football, which I had not seen in a looong time.

We then went out to dinner. Stories were told, more laughter ensued, and we resolved that next year we would spend more time together than a decade at a time. It was a great evening.

When we got back to the boat, a siren went off. It was 9:30. They still have curfew sirens in Boyne City.

Selkie at Curfew

We then headed to Harbor Springs on another calm day.

I do have to mention that not all days we traveled were calm. When we were in Boyne, the winds howled down the lake at 30 knots. It wasn’t until the day we left when they calmed down.

Harbor Springs is a pretty cool place, and one where Lib and I were to celebrate 38 trips around the sun as a married couple.

The harbor was changed from what I remembered as a young man, but it was beautiful nevertheless.

Lib and I went to dinner at a restaurant at the foot of the dock to celebrate our anniversary, and the restaurant did not disappoint.

The next day, we rode our bikes from Harbor Springs to Petoskey, another town where I had lived for a couple years.

It was a long ride on a hot windy day, but we made it there and back.

We then grabbed our swimsuits and swam at the public beach down the street from the dock. The water was cool and cleansing after our hot dry ride.

This afternoon we moved Selkie to an anchorage next to the marina where we stayed. We enjoyed the marina, but there was a lot of foot traffic next to Selkie, and we wanted a little more privacy, and we had to get ready for our trip north back to the Straits of Mackinac.

Selkie at anchorage in Harbor Springs

We dinghied around the harbor like many were doing on this Labor Day Weekend. We ate dinner on the boat and enjoyed another Great Lake Michigan sunset.

The half moon setting with another great sunset.

We will continue on Selkie for less than a week more before we put Selkie in storage next Thursday, and then return to Tahoe for the winter in Friday

We have cleaning and tidying up to get Selkie ready to be put to bed. There’s a punch list for things we need done for Selkie while she is in the yard this winter.

We expect we will be back on her for more adventures next June. But we is flexible, and time is on our side.

I’ll do one more post for Selkie this year, reflecting on what a ride it’s been.

In the meantime, I appreciate all the interest you’ve shown in our summer on Selkie, and look forward to continuing the journey next year.

Cheers!

Categories
Uncategorized

Northeast Lake Michigan Heritage, Part 1

The shore of the northeast part of Lake Michigan, from Traverse City north to Mackinaw, is my favorite part of the lower peninsular of Michigan.

It’s home to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, where monstrous sand dunes a few hundred feet high rise out of the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

It’s where many of my Mom’s side of the family were raised or still live.

The towns along the way have American Indian names, like Petoskey, Onaway, Kewadin and more.

It’s one of my favorite places in the US.

There are great (and sometimes challenging) waters from Waugoschance Point out to Beaver Island and south down to the Fox Islands.

This area of the Great Lakes is one of the prettiest and most challenging areas to sail in. The area from Mackinaw City to Beaver Island to the Fox Islands just above Glen Arbor mark the southern portion of some of the most difficult areas to be in bad weather, and the site of a lot of shipwrecks from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The latest ship to founder there was an ocean-going freighter in the 1960’s.

There are a lot of shipwrecks in this area, most from the 1800’s and early 1900’s, and all caused by some kind of issue due to weather. A wreck could have been a bad storm, or a collision in the fog. Many sailors lost their lives in this area.

Some wrecks are nothing more than shattered wood on beaches, while others are almost perfectly preserved sailing ships in deep water.

Photo Credit: Chris Roxburgh The Westmorland shipwreck located in a 200’ deep unpublished location in Lake Michigan. She used a prop instead of sails. She hauled many tons of grain and meat across the Great Lakes.

Libbie and I decided to go from Mackinaw City to Beaver Island. It was our first time to go to the island, even though I’d grown up in the area.

If you’re familiar with the British Virgin Islands, Mackinac Island is more like Jost Van Dyck, where you have the Pink Pony on Mackinac and the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyck, while Beaver Island is like Anegada, remote and with not a ton of services.

Beaver Island is serviced with two to three daily trips by the car ferry from Charlevoix. There’s a small town at the north end of the island where the harbor is, and a higher end resort on the west side of the island.

Beaver Island has a strong Irish heritage. The Ferry is called Emerald Isle, and there are shamrock flags all over the place. Of course we had to have dinner at the local pub where I enjoyed my first Guinness in a while.

We spent the night at anchor.

We had a “major incident” that night.

About 2am, Libbie woke me up as she came back to bed. That doesn’t happen unless she hears strange noises coming from our garage in Tahoe. That means I need to investigate.

In this case, there was a light, very annoying tapping coming from outside our hull at the waterline. It started in one location but soon spread all around the hull.

I got out of bed after I couldn’t stand it anymore to see what was happening.

It was a herd of about 2 dozen ducks pecking insects off our hull.

I grabbed a boat hook and started going around the boat splashing the water and knocking against the hull. I’m glad it was 2:00AM as I was not dressed for being outside at that hour, so no one saw me.

The ducks realized their peril and left.

We slept better after that.

The next morning was a great forecast for light winds and smooth water.

We headed to more familiar territory in the Lake Charlevoix area. It was a six hour trip.

At the head of Lake Charlevoix is the town of Charlevoix, one of the nicer ports on the east side of Lake Michigan.

It’s a fun place to visit in the summer.

It’s also my birthplace.

I remember family trips as a kid coming to Charlevoix to shop and have lunch at the Weathervane, one of my grandmother’s favorite restaurants.

As we entered the harbor, there was the Weathervane, updated with a new sundeck.

The harbor is called Round Lake. You enter coming in the inlet, and going under a Bascule Bridge that opens every 30 minutes for pleasure craft.

The entrance to Round Lake and Charlevoix’s harbor. The Weathervane Restaurant is just to the left of the bridge.

Anchoring is a little difficult as the average depth is 50 feet, which is about four times deeper than we like to anchor. The harbor was full, so we had to continue on, but I made reservations for our return trip north back to Mackinaw City.

Earnest Hemingway grew up on Lake Charlevoix, and some of his short stories reflect that with his typically gloomy writing style.

A couple of family connections exist with Hemingway.

My grandparents had met Hemingway and were friends with his brother.

Libbie’s mom went to Sun Valley to go skiing around 1948 and danced with Hemingway while she was there.

We spent our first night in Oyster Bay, a little bay on Lake Charlevoix. It’s a very nice, quiet bay with plenty of shelter from prevailing winds. There were a lot of families on their boats playing in the water as we came in to anchor.

After dark on Oyster Bay

Oyster Bay was a happening place 100 years ago.

Hemingway was rumored to have frequented the place as a young man.

There was an old barge schooner, the Keuka, transformed into a gambling casino that was anchored there.

It was one of those legal gambling establishments that the authorities tried numerous times to shut down, to no avail. It was not until there was a shooting on the Keuka before things wound down.

Eventually the old barge mysteriously sank. The wreck of that barge is in Oyster Bay.

There’s a pretty interesting writeup about the Keuka at this site:

https://www.northernexpress.com/news/feature/the-mystery-of-the-keuka/

A 3d model of Kueka as she sits on the bottom. This is from a photo survey found on http://www.3dshipwrecks.org, a really cool site you can use to explore Great Lakes shipwrecks from your computer.

The next day we went down the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix to the small town of East Jordan.

My mom’s family is from East Jordan, where she grew up . Her dad was one of 13 children raised in the town, and so there were a bunch of relatives we always ran into when visiting.

Her grandfather, father and two of her uncles founded the East Jordan Iron Works. It is still a very successful business today, run by distant cousins of mine.

Selkie in front of the Iron Works. There’s a lot of family legacy here. My grandfather was CEO and Chairman before he retired. I spent a summer working there.

You can walk down a lot of streets in the US and find street gratings, manhole covers and fire hydrants that say East Jordan Iron Works, EJIW or EJ on them.

It’s a source of pride for our family, and why I’m always looking down at the pavement when walking through a new town.

When I find a manhole cover, I’ll touch it with my toe and think of my childhood and family in Northern Michigan.

Coming down the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix, we anchored outside of East Jordan. I dinghied into shore and went to shop at the local Family Mart. I bought provisions while Lib did Pilates on the boat.

We then walked through town a little to see the changes that have happened since I was there last. Lib wanted to see the Iron Works, so we walked up to the hill overlooking the foundry and I pointed out various parts of it to her.

We then weighed anchor and headed to an anchorage at the north end of the South Arm. We dinghied into The Landing in Ironton.

The view at the Landing

We had a great meal there. It’s known as a fun place to celebrate. My grandfather and two uncles took me there as a young man to celebrate my college graduation.

The Landing is right next to the Ironton Ferry, which is a cable-guided ferry that carries roughly six vehicles at a time. When we were kids, we begged our parents to use the Ironton Ferry to visit our grandparents. They often agreed to do so. Good memories.

The Ironton Ferry. We used to beg our parents to take the ferry to my grandparents house. It was a disappointing day when we couldn’t.

We went back to the boat and settled in for the night.

Selkie at anchorage with her anchor light on

The next day we planned on heading further south. I’ll talk about that in another post soon.

Categories
Uncategorized

Mackinaw’s Legacy

Libbie and I posing when we reached Mackinaw City

There has been a lot of activity since we brought Selkie to Mackinaw City more than a month ago.

There have been a lot of celebrations. That is what happens when you have family that hasn’t seen each other a lot since COVID started.

S’mores Time with a couple of rambunctious grandsons

I don’t know how many people came up to one of us and said, “we stopped by the marina to see Selkie today. She’s pretty cool.”

Celebrating family on Selkie

I agree.

In the meantime, we’ve celebrated. Reunions with family from all sides. A 70th birthday. And new memories with our grandsons.

Mackinaw has always been special to me.

My dad’s parents were thoughtful enough to set up a legacy for their family, one that my extended family enjoys to this day.

A typical Mackinaw Sunset

My parents met there.

My parents honeymooned there.

My grandparents lived there.

I had several summer jobs during college there.

My Sheldon cousins come back every summer. It’s like a spontaneous family reunion.

There’s other history here for me as well.

I was checking on Selkie and saw the ferry boat, Straits of Mackinac II, one of the older Mackinac Island ferries and one I worked back in the late ‘70’s.

The Straits of Mackinac II

That brought a lot of memories, carrying passengers and freight over to the Island for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week.

That summer paid for almost half my college.

I can remember how special it was to be able to experience a summer on the water. I learned a lot.

I took pride in handling a crowd of 500 anxious and seasick passengers during stormy crossings.

I took pride in using a spring line to stop a ferry boat in the same spot every time.

I also learned to follow orders if I wanted to stay working on the ferryboat. That was a hard lesson but served me well later in life.

We spent one night on Mackinac Island to celebrate Katie and Nate’s 5th Anniversary. It was a special time with them.

Coming into Mackinac Island, watching for ferries with their huge wakes
Selkie at the dock on Mackinac Island

The month we were in Mackinaw, I spent some great times with my grandsons, all 3 of them. They are the fifth generation to be on our beach.

Selkie at Mackinac Island with the Bell Boys on watch

My sisters and I spent a weekend plus a day or two together along with much of our families. We all really enjoyed our time together as it had been a long time since we were all together.

Introducing my newest grandson to Mackinaw.

Now, Selkie is on a three week wrap up trip before heading to winter storage in Cheboygan, Michigan.

A string of Starlink satellites just launched over Selkie

We are headed to more familiar territory in the Lake Charlevoix and Grand Traverse Bay area before we return back to Mackinaw.

More later.

Categories
Uncategorized

Epilogue for the summer of 2022

Libbie and I paddling back to Selkie for the evening

We’ve had quite the summer.

We wrapped up our trip to Harbor Springs and headed north in some rather rough weather to Cecil Bay, where our family cabin is.

We anchored in front for the night. It was one of our best nights at anchor. The sunset was spectacular.

Selkie at anchor in Cecil Bay

We then spent two memorable days in Mackinac Island’s harbor.

We rode bikes 13 miles all over the island. Most tourists who visit are familiar with the eight mile circumference bike ride by the island shores.

Libbie with Lake Huron in the distsnce

There is a spectacular set of trails in the woods of her interior. We thoroughly enjoyed those trails.

There is some interesting geology with the island’s formation.

Libbie by Sugar Loaf, a limestone formation at the top of the island when the island was mostly submerged thousands of years ago.

We also had two great meals, the best being at the Rebel Yankee Tavern up a side street in downtown.

The sunset views were great, and listening to the horses clopping up and down the street after dark was mezmerizing.

Yesterday, we took Selkie back to Mackinaw City for the day to get her cleaned and ready for storage.

Today was a day of mixed emotions, a day I’ve been dreading a little.

We put Selkie in storage.

Selkie during haulout in Cheboygan

She looked good coming out of the water. She will be given some TLC by the yard over the fall and winter months and will be put back in the water next season better than ever.

We started in Maryland and finished an epic journey of more than 1,700 miles in Mackinaw City.

We did 23 locks on the Erie Canal, 7 locks on the Oswego and 44 locks on the Trent Severn Waterway, a total of 74 locks.

We saw foliage shift from the deciduous mud-latitude trees like sycamore and cottonwood with their snowy seeds drifting down to more birch, maple, oak and pine in the Canadian and Northern Michigan.

We also saw the colors start to appear in the clear crisp mornings sipping coffee in Northern Michigan.

We saw weather both good and bad, including getting caught crossing a lake in 55 mile per hour winds and a tornado warning at an anchorage.

Those experiences were scary and thrilling at the same time.

They also made us feel very grateful to have Selkie.

But those moments were few.

The sunrises and sunsets, the starlit nights including at least three with the Northern Lights, the satellites crossing the heavens, the warm days and cool clear waters to swim and to fish when we weren’t moving made the journey an amazing experience, with almost too much to remember.

It’s been a summer to remember. I’m sorry it is over…for this summer at least.

Our last view of Selkie before we left her

I’m glad I have this blog in future years to enjoy the memories we’ve generated together on Selkie. We are very much looking forward to next year to continue our journey on Selkie.

Until then, we hope you all have fair winds and following seas. Enjoy your fall.

Categories
Uncategorized

Arrival

Selkie with us in her slip at Straits State Harbor in Mackinaw City, Mi, Photo by cousin Ron Cooper

We entered the US after 6 weeks of crossing southern Ontario a few days ago.

Crossing the border between St. Joseph Island and Neebish Island was a seminal moment for us. We felt like it was coming home.

It really was coming home.

The people, water, terrain and scenery were the same. The difference was the flags flying in front of cottages along the waterways.

The check-in with US Customs and Border Patrol was on line (once we found cell service), and required a 5 minute phone call to confirm a couple of details of our boat and our crossing. If only traveling through airport customs was so easy.

We anchored in the St. Mary’s River and did a little housecleaning, getting Selkie presentable for the relatives we would see the next morning. 

It’s not that we let Selkie go, but as anyone knows, when you live in a house or apartment, there is always dust that accumulates, and dishes to be washed, and just general living debris that accumulates. So, we cleaned up.

The next morning, we moved Selkie to an anchorage very close to my uncle’s and aunt’s home. They invited us for breakfast.

That was the first time we’ve been in someone’s land home since we started the Loop on May 12.

My aunt and uncle served a great breakfast, and we sat on their deck above the St. Mary’s River overlooking the river with boats going by. As always, stories were told.

We gave them a tour of Selkie, and then headed off to complete this year’s part of the Loop.

Family time is the best time

We headed to Cedarville in the Les Cheneaux Islands on the northern shore of Lake Huron in the UP (pronounced “yoo pē”, not “up”) of Michigan.

My mom’s family had been in Cedarville on and off all my life, including the fishcamp my grandfather had on the northeast side of Big Lasalle Island.

I have many fond memories there, including the cabin that Libbie and I honeymooned in for a few days.

As we left, my uncle texted me, “You have a friend about 6 miles back following you out.”

He was referring to a freighter that was coming down the river from the locks in Sault Ste. Marie that we would have to make room for as the freighter passed us.

Typical Great Lakes freighter. Some are more than 1,000 feet long

I looked up the AIS who it was coming down (it was a big tug/barge coming through).

I noticed one of my favorite freighters, the 70 year old Arthur M Anderson, heading north towards Lake Superior on the other side of Neebish Island.

The Arthur M Anderson, the freighter that had a visual sighting of the Edmund Fitzgerald when she sank in Lake Superior in the mid 1970’s

You may recall the song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot.  One of the lines in the song goes, “… and later that night, when her lights went out of sight, came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

It was the Anderson that had the Fitzgerald’s light in sight when she went under that cold stormy night on Lake Superior over 45 years ago, only about 100 miles away from where we were now.

The thought still gives me chills when I see the Anderson or think about her.

Several freighters passed us that morning.

An ocean going bulk carrier
A Great Lakes bulk carrier

We entered the mouth of the St. Mary’s and anchored for a lunch break.  The winds had been strong, but were forecasted to die down. 

We picked up anchor, and headed out onto Lake Huron, turning right and heading towards Cedarville.

The winds did not die down, and in fact picked up, along with the waves. We decided to run for cover in a bay we’d passed, St. Vital Bay.

It proved to be a good anchorage, except for the waves coming around the point, causing us to roll all afternoon and evening. Sleep was not the easiest, but we got through the night.

Thunderstorms at sunset from our anchorage

The next morning, we decided to forgo Cedarville and just head to Mackinaw City. We had made reservations in Straits State Harbor for a month while we were in Mackinaw.

Sunrise next morning, photo by Libbie

We were disappointed we could not make it to the Les Cheneauxs. However, the weather was not proving to be very cooperative based on the forecasts we were receiving, so we decided to bypass the islands for now.

Our course towards Mackinaw City

We also felt pressure to get in, as the Chicago to Mackinac Yacht Race had the boats scheduled to depart that Saturday, and slips were few and far between. 

A herd of sailboats was headed our way in the first wave, with many more ready to leave Chicago

We headed out onto a much calmer Lake Huron, accompanied by the Edwin Gott, one of the bigger ore carriers on the Great Lakes. The Gott is one of the “thousand footers”, freighters constructed to just fit inside the locks in Sault Ste. Marie between Lakes Superior and Huron.

Then we ran into fog. 

I could see the Gott as a huge smudge on the radar. I turned Selkie to be behind the stern of the Gott to not put us in a position to be run over.

We ran like that for about ten minutes, and then the fog cleared. There was the Gott, less than a half mile away from us. We turned parallel to her as she was going our way and let her pass us.

Once we passed a couple of reefs and their associated lighthouses, we put the nose of Selkie on “The Cut”, the passage between Mackinac Island and Round Island. 

We were on our way home. 

Libbie at the helm on the way to Mackinaw, with an audiobook.

As we came into The Cut, a lot of memories flooded my mind.

The Cut

The time I swam in the Grand Hotel swimming pool and then raided the lobby of the hotel for snacks before heading back to Mackinaw on the ferry (it’s because of kids like me that the Grand Hotel now charges $10 to just visit the hotel grounds).

The Grand Hotel

The times we biked around the island.

Good times at the Pink Pony, right by the ferry docks.

Being a deck-hand in the late 1970’s on one of the ferries, the Straits of Mackinac II. That same ferry was the night boat when the regular night boat broke down. We were running the regular schedule starting at 7am seven days a week, but then we continued our shift through midnight as the last boat back.

One of my best memories was sitting at the Island House bar drinking tea and having a song dedicated to “The Nightboat Crew” before heading back to the ferry to get her ready to return one last time that evening to the mainland. That’s the only time anyone has ever dedicated a song in my honor.

The best memory was walking back to the ferry one starlit evening past the private yacht harbor, listening to a phenomenal trumpeter quietly playing jazz on the transom of his yacht.

The music echoed across the harbor under the stars.

It was awesome.

It was Herb Albert.

Round Island Lighthouse at the east side of The Cut.

We continued and put Selkie’s nose on Mackinaw City, her home for the next month, but where I’ve considered home for most of my life, and where I’ve spent at least part of the summers of my life for all my life.

As we rounded the breakwater entrance to Straits State Harbor, I could see a familiar form waving at us and taking pictures. It was my cousin, capturing the moment of us wrapping up this part of our trip.

Selkie, arriving. Photo by cousin Ron Cooper
Selkie making her entrance into Mackinaw City. Video by cousin Ron Cooper

We docked, did our arrival routine, and got Selkie ready for a well deserved rest for the next month.

Then we went to the family cabin on our bikes to sleep on land beds the first time since we boarded Selkie on May 12.

We’ve been outside Mackinaw City in the family cabin for the past two days, reflecting on what we’ve accomplished on our trip so far.

We really did not know what we were in for, although we had an idea.

But the friendships we’ve developed, the beauty, the experiences in the waterways in the US and Canada, the skills we developed with Selkie moving, docking, anchoring and even just quietly and confidently communicating between the two of us about what to do when situations with Selkie got tense are elements of our trip we will never forget.

We plan to bring Selkie around occasionally and anchor her for the day off in the bay in front of our cabin.

We plan on taking her for a couple of weeks later in August down to Grand Traverse Bay to visit more family along the way.

But for now, we are going to enjoy the legacy my grandparents left us, our family cottage.

We have seen literally thousands of summer cottages in all shapes and sizes over the past two months.

But I like ours.

Our grandsons arrive in a week. They are the fifth generation living on our beach.

Me, on our family beach, taking it all in at sunset.
Our bay. I’ve enjoyed 64 years of this view. My hope is that my family can enjoy it for a long time.

I’ll continue to blog here about Selkie as we move her here on http://www.mvselkie.blog.

For now, I hope you enjoy this season as much as Libbie and I have.

Categories
Uncategorized

Time and Distance

We’ve come a long way over the past two plus months to where we are today.

We are anchored within three miles of the US border, still in Canada, and will transition through Customs via a new app, CBPRoam that’s similar to the CanArrive app that we used to get into Canada.

Libbie and I looked at each other today with the realization that our trip for this year is almost over. It was a little shocking for both of us.

Here’s what we’ve done since leaving Killbear Marina after getting Selkie’s exhaust fixed.

Our previous buddy boats that made up the Tres Amigos were headed our way, and in fact before sunset one evening at Killbear, one of the boats pulled in a few slips down.

We got caught up over Docktales and decided to go to an anchorage close by the next morning.

As we were preparing to depart the next morning, our friend said, “There goes the neighborhood.”

I looked up and saw our third boat of the Tres Amigos pulling in to the dock next to ours.

We caught their lines, got caught up, and then cast off for Kilcoursie Bay, where one of Ontario’s provincial parks is.

We had a beautiful anchorage at Kilcoursie.

Our buddy boat, Dashaway, parked at Kilcoursie Bay

We dinghied to our buddy boat for Docktales,. During Docktales we discussed plans for the next day, and agreed we would take a long run the next day up to the Bustards, a group of islands that had a great reputation for anchoring.

Through text we communicated our plans to the third of the Tres Amigos back at Killbear.

We then returned to Selkie to prepare dinner and go to bed.

The next morning, we left early, and as we rounded the point to go past Killbear Marina, we were pleased to see that our friends on the third boat had cast off and was headed out to join us.

It is a long day to the Bustards and there are two ways to get there.

One is the inside passage, which has twists, turns, lots of submerged rocks and takes much longer than the other choice, going “outside”.

The issue with “outside” is that it works great until the weather decides not to cooperate. If things get tough outside, it’s often very difficult to get back in because the channels between the two routes are few and far between, so you are stuck in rough weather.

As it was, the forecast for fair weather held, and we made the Bustards after 7 hours.

The Bustards were an idyllic place for anchoring. We all anchored, and hopped in our dinghies to explore the place.

The Bustards proved to be an idyllic anchorage.

We picked an island and decided to do Docktales on land, with nothing but nature and our boats surrounding us.

The Tres Amigos in the Buatards. From the left, Cat Bottom Girl, Dashaway and Selkie

Then, we had dinghy races.

The next day, we had a four hour run to Killarney, where Libbie’s parents honeymooned back in the middle of the last century.

It proved to be a beautiful stop. The other two boats from Tres Amigos chose to use slips, but our friends from the Killbear Marina recommended we try Covered Portage Bay.

We were very glad we did as Covered Portage proved to be the best anchorage of our trip.

Covered Portage was our best anchorage
Selkie in Covered Portage

After two days, we continued on to Baie Fine (which was translated as “Fine Bay”, and it was indeed).

Baie Fine is a 7 mile long fiord with tall granite cliffs on both sides. Although it did not had the same height and elevation as Lake Tahoe, it reminded us of our home in many ways.

At the end of the fiord was a narrow shallow passage that opened into a smaller fiord only two miles long and then opened to the right into a small bay appropriately named The Pool.

Headed towards The Pool

This bay proved to be full of panfish and smallmouth bass, including the one that Libbie caught, and that we had for dinner.

The Pool
Dinner

From there, we traveled a couple of hours to Little Current at the top of Manitoulin Island. There’s an old railroad swing bridge that has been converted into the only vehicle bridge onto this large island. The bridges opens on the hour for 15 minutes.

Headed towards Little Current on Baie Fine

The current can be substantial, up to five knots, similar to tidal currents we have seen on either coast. Some say the town was misnamed.

Little Current is in a narrow channel between the Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron. Water current is generated when the wind blows from either direction through the narrow pass between the island and the mainland, similar to tidal flows on the east and west coast.

The current can be substantial, up to 5 knots.

One of the locals joked as they helped us dock about the town name.

It should have been “Lotta Current.”

While we were there a cruise ship pulled in. There are a series of smaller cruise ships that ply the Great Lakes now, but I’m pleased Libbie and I are blessed to do it on our own vessel.

After Little Current, we went to a great anchorage in Moiles Harbour. It is one of the thousands and thousands of anchorages available in this part of the Great Lakes.

Then, our mission changed. We were coming out of the island chains where we’d spent the last few weeks into open water on the North Channel, which can be quite treacherous.

There was one more day of nice weather before a string low pressure weather system was forecast to rotate through the region.

We couldn’t dally any longer.

We bolted (if you can say 8.5 miles per hour is bolting) for St. Joseph Island, which was close to an eight hour run from Moiles Harbour. Selkie handled the run with aplomb.

We pulled into Moffat Bay in St. Joseph Island. It was much like my family’s cabin bay of Cecil Bay on Lake Michigan, lined with cabins, beaches and a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees lining the shore.

After a swim and a dinghy ride, we went to bed.

The next morning, we headed to Anderson Bay. To get there we had to cross an open stretch of a few miles in 25 to 30 knot winds, so we headed towards the lee shore to minimize the wave action.

As we crossed, we noticed a rolling swell, something we hadn’t felt in a while. The North Channel must have really been rocking with big waves for us to feel the swell as far in as we were.

We anchored in Anderson Bay just before we were hit with a series of big storms, where we saw winds clocking above 30 knots in our anchorage in a major downpour.

The storms hit us pretty hard. The nice thing about anchorages is that even if it is blasting in the anchorage, the wave action is very small. We enjoyed watching the storm.

Tomorrow, we reenter the US for the first time since June 11 when we entered Canada.

We’ve been on Selkie since May 15.

When we arrive in Mackinaw in a few days, we will have traveled over 1,500 miles on her, starting in Solomons, Maryland.

That’s a lot of time and distance.

We aren’t done yet. In fact, when we stop in Mackinaw we will have done about 25% of the Loop.

Libbie and I wrapped up our day reflecting about our time on Selkie and the distance we have come so far.

To us, it doesn’t seem like a long time or long distance, because we have been only focusing on the present, except for a few days ahead planning our routes based on weather.

My grandfather had a saying, “Yard by yard, life is hard, but inch by inch, life’s a cinch.”

I guess we’ve been living his mantra for a while now.

Still, when I think about it, it’s been a lot of time and distance.

Categories
Uncategorized

Anchorology

Selkie at anchor in the Bustards Islands of Ontario

Anchorology: ā’nk-or-ô-lō-gee

“The art of anchoring in quiet, bucolic settings abounding in wildlife, including fish, beautiful songbirds, soaring raptors and wonderful trees, with the ability to stay or move on, based on whatever suits the anchorer.”

(The “ology” part is a nod to a good friend, Spence, who is an excellent writer and used to be a music critic (actually still is, just not paid to do it now).)

We love to anchor, and we’ve been finding some spectacular anchorages on the Georgian Bay and North Channel of Lake Huron.

We’ve anchored the past two months in all kinds of weather, from flat calm to severe thunderstorms with tornado warnings.

There’s five essential elements that make a successful anchorage.

One is shelter. The Anchorage must protect from inclement weather.

A second is the right depth… not so shallow so your boat hits bottom, but not too deep that your anchor won’t grab the bottom and hold on in inclement weather.

A third is the size of the anchorage. You need enough distance to allow enough anchor line (called “rode”) to allow the anchor to set.

A fourth is the anchor itself. Many anchor designs are out there, and lots of arguments are had over adult beverages as to which is the best design.

The fifth is power. You need power, whether from propane for stoves, electrical for lights, or whatever power you need to get through the night… and get going the next morning.

For shelter, the ideal anchorage has towering trees and cliffs that lift the winds over the anchorage and protects us from getting blasted during storms, and the ability to not generate anything bigger than a ripple on the water when it is blasting outside.

High cliffs and walls help with providing shelter from strong winds

If the anchorage is open in any direction, we prefer it is open to the northeast, as that is the direction we have the least likelihood of strong winds in the Great Lakes.

For the second element, the correct depth, we prefer an anchorage that is in 10 to 15 feet of water, which gives a swing space of about 150 feet in radius.

A screenshot of one of our better anchorages, Covered Portage in Ontario

We can do up to 30 feet deep comfortably, but we prefer less.

The deeper the water affects the third element. If you have deeper water, you need to put out more anchor rode, which will increase the area you need to anchor in.

Our swing radius helps define the third element, anchorage size. But there are many other factors that help define a good anchorage size .

That includes accounting for other boats that arrived ahead of us. If there are already boats there, you must respect their space.

If you are the first boat in your location, everyone must respect your location.

Usually the wind will blow at least a little bit, and keep all the boats pointing in the same nice orderly direction.

We need to account for how our boat will swing when the wind changes direction.

If there is no wind or water current, boats can swing at anchor in any direction, so if one boat doesn’t respect the space of another boat that came before, boats could swing enough to hit each other, usually at 3:08 in the morning.

Typically, when we anchor in a tight space, we will check in with any boats that were there before us to make sure they don’t feel like we’ve encroached in their space.

Once we anchor, we monitor Selkie with an anchor alarm app, as well as the Garmin chart plotter software.

The last thing we want to do is have our boat come loose and drift through a fleet of boats in the middle of the night. That happened to us once in San Francisco Bay, and that will not happen again!

Larger areas will cause the waves to build across the fetch (the distance across the water for wind to act on the water to make waves).

Even ripples lapping against the hull can keep us up at night.

The anchorage should have a bottom that consists of mud, sand or clay so the anchor can dig in.

Rocks are ok for us if the weather is not going to be stormy and the winds remain less than 10 knots (12 miles per hour).

That brings us to the fourth element, anchor design.

Basically, you want an anchor that will dig in as soon as it hits the bottom. But some anchors don’t do that.

There’s a guy out on the west coast who has taken it upon himself to test anchors. He has a YouTube channel, and funds himself with donations, but he does a really good job. 

You can spend hours watching his videos on anchor design. This is a link to a smaller version of the anchor we chose

https://youtu.be/cPSQxoRVrIw

The anchor we chose was Rocna Vulcan. It has proved to be an excellent choice, allowing us to sleep well at night.

Last but not least, is having power at your anchorage.

If you may recall, when we entered Canada, we anchored in Half Moon Bay in a wonderful setting. Libbie caught her first fish, a beautiful Northern Pike that was dinner.

Then, our generator did not start. We lost our power source.

That was a problem, as we needed to keep Selkie’s batteries charged.

When our generator died, we had to leave our anchorage at Half Moon Bay. It was disappointing.

One thing about Selkie: she’s got big batteries.

They keep our refrigeration running, our lights working, and our navigation operating.

We are able to keep the cell phones charged and use other household items like our vacuum cleaner or hair dryer.

We can start our engine.

But to keep our batteries charged, we need our generator.

It’s living off the grid on the water.

We are talking about putting a bigger alternator on her main engine, and maybe some solar panels up top to be able to run our generator less.

But without our generator to back up everything, Selkie’s systems would die and she would turn into a beautiful, cold hunk of iron, copper and fiberglass.

Luckily, after a repair, the generator is working well now. So we can anchor as much as we want.

That pretty much wraps up my dissertation on Anchorology, and is probably more than you wanted to know.

But it’s what we do to sleep well at night when we anchor.

Categories
Uncategorized

Finishing the Trent Severn

Dawn at Sparrow Lake

We spent a peaceful night at Sparrow Lake in an idyllic bay called Duck Bay.

We needed our rest because the next day was going to be one of the most exciting days of our trip yet.

We were going to do the Big Chute Railway or as everyone calls it, “The Big Chute.

It can carry several boats on a large platform braced by cables and straps operated both with electric cable reels and hydraulics on a railway that goes over the top of a hill down around seven stories in elevation to the water below.

If that sounds complicated, you would be correct.

The Big Chute, entering the water for another load of boats

Someone once said, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and the Big Chute fills that definition to a “T”.

There is nothing pretty about it, it’s built for functionality alone.

Loading boats in The Big Chute

Five well trained operators are needed to run it.

The Trent Severn Waterway has had several people retiring recently, and with the issues caused by COVID it’s been difficult keeping the Big Chute staffed with experienced staff to run it on the weekends.

If your boat can sit flat on the ground without impacting your propellers and rudder, they will take you at any time.

The Big Chute crossing a road

If you have some configuration requiring special treatment, or if you are wider or heavier than a certain size, you needed to wait until Monday to go.

Boats loaded and being taken to the other side down about 7 stories in elevation.

We had heard this, so we planned our arrival time at the Big Chute to be later in the afternoon on Monday.

We left Sparrow Lake after a rather quiet and peaceful night at our anchorage, and headed to Lock 43 at Swift Rapids.

Lock 43 is the deepest lock on the Trent Severn, at about five stories in elevation. There are two double locks we already went through that were higher, but the individual locks were closer to three or four stories, not five.

We arrived and were the first ones locking through for the day.

By now, locking was pretty standard for us, as we had our procedures down. We locked through without an issue, except it was a bit unnerving how far down we dropped before stopping.

Selkie exiting Lock 43, the deepest lock in the Trent Severn. Photo by unknown

As we exited the lock, the operators informed us about a cruise ship coming through, the Kawartha Voyageur.

The Kawartha Voyageur a cruise ship on the Trent Severn Waterway. It is basically a 4 story building on a barge sized to just fit in the smallest lock on the Trent Severn… with its bow folded up.

Like the Big Chute, it’s not pretty to look at but it’s very well suited for its intended purpose. The people on her enjoy their time cruising the waterway in grand style.

The Kawartha Voyageur is built to barely fit through the smallest parts of the Trent Severn Waterway, but is big enough to take several dozen passengers on a several day trip exploring the Waterway.
The Kawartha Voyageur, and how she barely fits in each lock, bow folded up or down.

Hearing about the Kawartha Voyageur coming our way made us plan to make sure we were not in a narrow section of waterway so that we could pass each other.

Thankfully, we passed each other just fine.

We continued on another couple of hours to the end of the waterway where the Big Chute was.

By the time we had arrived, we found that the backlog of larger boats had cleared.

We pulled up to the wall where they organize which boat gets loaded where.

I wanted to make sure the lock staff knew about Selkie’s stabilizers (2 fins that stick out of the hull that when activated, keep Selkie from rolling too much), as there was a chance of damage if they supported Selkie in the wrong place.

They assured me there would be no problem, and that I should get ready to load.

So we did.

The crew did a great job with Selkie snuggling into her perch on top the Big Chute.

And off we went.

At the top of the hill
Looking forward
Looking back up the hill

It was a pretty rough ride as there is no softening of the suspension on the Big Chute.

Entering the water on the other side

We bounced up the hill, across the road, and down the other side, every vibration and shake the Big Chute felt being transmitting into Selkie.

There is no suspension on The Big Chute, making for a jarring ride

The ride took less than 2 minutes, and it was almost anti climatic when we were gently deposited back into the water.

Once we were underway, we proceeded to the last lock, Lock 45.

It’s the smallest lock in the Trent Severn… which means it’s the smallest lock to go through so far for us.

We locked through with no issues.

Just like that, we were done with the Trent Severn.

Looking back, I felt some emotions that surprised me.

I felt a strong sense of accomplishment doing something not very many people do.

I also felt a sense of arriving home, as we were in Lake Huron waters, in the Great Lakes, where I spent my formative years learning what cruising was all about.

I was home.

The Trent Severn Waterway was an experience I look forward to repeating in the future. Now we know where the good places are and where the bad karaoke is, and will do even better next time.

We continued on to Midland Ontario, where we would be berthed the next three nights, which gave us time to give Selkie, and both of us, a little attention.

I have more adventures to report on soon.

Categories
Uncategorized

E-Stop

We had to make an emergency stop last Friday.

There was nothing wrong with Libbie or me.

But a problem did develop with Selkie, hence an emergency stop, or “E-Stop”.

But before I get in to that, I have a confession to make.

We bought another boat.

The new dinghy

We were feeling a little limited with our little Trinka, which is an elegant little dinghy, but doesn’t go very far without some major effort. In fact, it doesn’t go very far with major effort.

It’s like having a house 59 miles out in the hills with a 60 year old single speed bike.

You don’t get very far or see many things.

In our case it’s more like a 550 square foot house that floats with a very large utility room.

While traveling through the Loop, we’ve kept a lookout for a used inflatable dinghy that would hold up with the abuse the Loop would give it.

We found one almost by accident a few days before.

We were looking at an old beat up dinghy at the marina in Midland, Ontario when a young man (ok, he was in his 30’s) walked up and asked if we were looking for a dinghy.

We said yes.

He had one for sale. It was a 5 year old 9’ 8” aluminum bottom inflatable dinghy with a 15 HP motor on the back. It was in great shape. And it was at a great price.

So we bought it.

Libbie enjoying the new dinghy, also called PF Albert

As it turned out, this young guy was a marine mechanic. We discussed what we were doing on the Loop and where we were headed.

He mentioned that if we ran into any trouble, a marina we would be passing by would be Killbear Marina about 40 miles away up the Georgian Bay and that they were very skilled at fixing stuff.

We made a note of it.

So, here we are, stopped in Killbear, because we had an issue that cropped up unexpectedly.

We’ve been on the boat since mid-May, and have been on the move constantly during that time.

When cruising around, Libbie and I share navigation duties. I try to get into the engine room at least every couple hours to check for any problem.

During my regular check last Friday, everything looked fine. Everything smelled fine. Everything sounded fine. But as I put my flashlight away, I caught some unusual movement out of the corner of my eye.

My process is to put my earmuffs on, enter the engine room, grab my flashlight and look at all the areas that have a potential for leaks, and anything else that looks off.

Not once have I found an issue with Selkie while underway… until today.

Today, we were an hour out from our next anchorage when I went into the engine room to look around.

I looked a little closer and was startled to see water coming out of the exhaust inside the engine room. And not just a little water. It was a shower.

I yelled at Libbie to slow the engine down to idle and it slowed down the flow quite a bit. But it was still a lot of water.

What had happened is that the exhaust line from the engine was made up of sections of 5” high temperature hose and 5” fiberglass pipe. The hose is installed on the pipe with double hose clamps.

It looked like a clamp was loose, so I tried to tighten the clamp, which slowed down the flow, but didn’t stop it.

Looking a little closer, I noticed the fiberglass pipe was deformed a little and that seemed to be the source of the leak.

If we kept the speed of the engine down, we didn’t leak that much, but who knows how long that would last.

The problem area

So we called it. And went to Killbear.

We pulled in and shut the engine down. I confirmed that there was no leak with the engine off. So we settled in for the weekend.

The manager of the place was busier than a one armed paper hanger (as the saying goes) but was still courteous enough to hear about our issue. We knew we were most likely waiting until Monday, so we went to dinner at the local restaurant and had a good meal.

The next morning, we met our dock neighbors and asked if they wanted to get together for Docktales that evening. They said they had other plans, so we decided to try out the new dinghy and go fishing.

Libbie giving the dinghy a test drive.

We didn’t catch anything, but we were in very good weather in an idyllic setting so we made the most of it.

When we returned to the boat, we found an invitation from our boat neighbors asking us to join them that evening.

We accepted.

We met and put 6 people in a 14’ boat and took a very scenic tour of the waterways on the way to Gilly’s a local landmark.

We had one of the best dinners we’ve had on the Loop there.

We also really enjoyed our new friends. The wife had grown up in the area and two of her brothers joined us, so we not only had a lot of fun telling stories, but also getting some more local knowledge of the Georgian Bay and North Channel.

This morning, a very nice technician showed up at our boat and fixed our problem, making it better that it was before.

Yesterday, one of our buddy boats from the Tres Amigos showed up.

It was good to catch up with them.

Now, we wait for a weather window.

We are doubly glad we ran into that young man two days ago.

Call it what you will, but Fate has been kind to us this trip.

If we hadn’t been held up by the high waters of the Trent Severn, we would have not met our friends and formed the Tres Amigos.

We would have missed the young man with the dinghy.

If we had not bought the dinghy we would not have known about Killbear Marina where we are now.

We would not have made new friends.

We would not have had one of the best dinners we’ve had on the Loop.

And Selkie would not be in better shape than when we arrived.

All is well, and we are stil on schedule to get to Mackinaw.

Postscript: the new dinghy goes really fast, and Libbie smiles when it does.

Lib is enjoying last night’s sunset
Categories
Uncategorized

On the Downslope

Looking over the bow of Selkie at the canal almost 50 feet below us while suspended in the air. A bit nerve wracking.

Everything is backwards now. We’ve spent ten days on the Trent Severn, and until yesterday it was all up hill.

Yesterday, we reached the pinnacle of the Trent Severn Waterway with our passage through our second Lift Lock, the Kirkfield Lift Lock.

That meant the red buoys were the right (“red right returning as the old adage goes), but now they are on the left.

That’s important to remember with the narrow channels and shallow water.

Everything is a lot skinnier now… meaning the water isn’t very deep.

This is the Trent Canal, part of the TSW. Long, straight, narrow and shallow. You have to pay attention in these sections.
What’s waiting if you get too close to the edge of the Trent Canal

Before you enter the Trent Severn, you have to declare how much you will draw (how deep your hull is in the water).

If you draw five feet or more, you have to sign a release form saying you knew you were entering shallow water and there was a chance you would hit bottom somewhere along the 240 miles or so of the canal system.

We draw 4.5’.

Today, the depth finder was alarming so much I just shut it off.

We knew we were in shallow water, but there were plenty of boats like ours who had not run aground, so on we went.

We stirred up mud, but never touched.

The locks are different now because we can barely see them. At least they don’t look insurmountable as some did coming up hill.

On the other hand, we can’t tell if we are going three feet down, or 30 feet down until we are in the lock.

Imagine driving a 36,000 pound vehicle towards a four story cliff with bad brakes.

Looking over the edge at the top

That’s how it felt with the Kirkfield Lift Lock today.

You don’t appreciate how high up you are until you enter the lock chamber and look over the bow, and then you realize you are suspended in your boat more than four stories in the air.

Who needs an E-ticket ride to Disneyland… if there is such a thing when you do that.

Luckily, nothing happened other than we got the boat stopped and we made it through safely.

We continued on.

Selkie creeping along under a bridge built in 1907, with shallow water.

At one point, the channel was so narrow that we were required to broadcast a warning on channel 16 so that anyone that was similar to our size would know we were coming… and decide whether they wanted to wait, or if they wanted to risk getting caught with us in the channel.

The section where we were required to report on the radio we were coming through

That was 5 miles of wondering who was coming the other way, and if we would all fit. The channel was narrow enough that we would have difficulty turning Selkie around.

We ended at the mouth of the Trent Canal at Simcoe Lake for the evening.

The entrance to the Trent Canal from Simcoe Lake at sunset.

The Tres Amigos got together for Docktales and discussed the next day.

Then Libbie and I made pizza and went to bed.

The next day (today) the Tres Amigos decided to split up at least for a couple days.

We all had different agendas, and needed to be in different places.

But that’s what doing the Loop gets you: new friends and contacts to stay in touch with, scouting out different parts of the Loop and keeping each other informed.

We will see each other in a couple days. And if it suits us, we will hang together some more.

Tonight after an uneventful day, we found ourselves anchored in Duck Bay of Sparrow Lake. There wasn’t a soul in sight as the sun set.

At anchor in the long twilight up north. The moon is starting to show itself as well.

It was just Libbie, me, a few loons calling and a million mosquitos.

Luckily, the wildlife are all outside and Libbie and I are comfortably resting inside.

We continue on tomorrow.

Categories
Uncategorized

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!

We were in Buckhorn this morning by Lock 31 across the lock channel from the Mainstreet Bar and Grill. It was a hoppin’ spot last night.

So hoppin’ that they did Karaoke from 8:30pm to 12:30am.

Terrible karaoke.

It was a miserable night for us, at least until 12:30 am. We finally got to sleep at 1am.

We were outa there this morning so fast and are now settled in at Lock 35 next to a bucolic campground with friendly people.

Quiet people. Very quiet people.

I hope we catch up on our sleep tonight!

I’ve been sitting on the back of Selkie reflecting on our trip so far.

We are more than halfway through the Trent Severn.

It’s July 1 in Canada, otherwise known as Canada Day. It’s a big holiday up here, just like the Fourth of July in the US.

According to Wikipedia, “A federal statutory holiday, it celebrates the anniversary of Canadian Confederation which occurred on July 1, 1867, with the passing of the British North America Act, 1867 where the three separate colonies of the United Canadas, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into a single Dominion within the British Empirecalled Canada.”

(I left all those hyperlinks in there in case you wanted to do more research. )

The Tres Amigos

Our buddy boats and ourselves (we call ourselves the Tres Amigos) have been pretty compatible.

We had to go through a bunch more locks and some long lakes with no wake (meaning very slow) zones in several days, not an unreasonable objective as long as all the locks were working.

I’ve learned that when breakdowns hold you up from proceeding, there is usually something to do.

Or you take a nap.

Either way, the time goes by faster when you do either.

That proved the case when we pulled into Lock 19 just before Peterborough. It was down hard with a broken valve. Our destination that afternoon was just around the corner about a mile away. But we needed the lock functional to get there.

Fortunately some ingenious maintenance guys were able to fix the lock by closing the broken valve.

We were able to pull into Peterborough Marina for one night to provision.

We also had one of the best Indian Dinners we have had since leaving the Bay Area.

We left Peterborough the next morning and went through the Peterborough Lift Lock.

To get to the Lift Lock we had to get through Lock 20 at 9am. It wasn’t ready when we got there as too much water had accumulated above the lock and they had to release water through both gates to get the water level down to a safe level.

We locked through Lock 20 at 10 am.

We arrived at the Lift Lock to find it was down too, for an electrical issue.

That was fixed as well, but that delayed us another hour.

If you want to see an impressive amount of engineering from the early 1900’s, you should plan a trip to visit the Lift Lock. It’s an amazing thing to look at.

Libbie standing next to the Loft Lock to give some perspective in it’s size
The bottom of Peterborough Lift Lock 21 showing the hydraulic ram that lifts it up. It’s the largest Lift Lock in the world.
A diagram showing how the locks work

It takes a bit of shuffling, but the capacity for boats was bigger than most locks in the Trent Severn.

Once you are in, you are in one of the largest elevators in the world.

You start to rise, and then the acceleration rate increases until you are rising at a startling rate. Essentially, it takes about 45 seconds to raise who knows how many tons of water and boats almost six stories.

Then, you’re at the top, the gate opens and you drive out.

One interesting thing: we were waiting for the lock to start rising but there was a pause.

One of the lock attendants grabbed a curiously built shovel, and started picking rainbow trout out of the top of the gate where they had become trapped and flipping them into the lock water.

The trout also took a six story ride up with us.

The view from the top of the Lift Lock

We continued on our trip with no more lock incidents for the rest of the day.

Each time we entered a lock that day, we were asked by the Lock Attendants, “how far are ya going today?”

The answer we always gave was, “as far as we can go today.”

At which point, they would call ahead to the next locks to let them know we were coming.

We then pulled into Lock 27 and decided to call it. That was the 8th lock for the day, and the Tres Amigos and their crews were tired.

The next day, we proceeded through some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen to date. We had officially entered Ontario’s cottage country.

Ontario Cottage Country

We wound through Stony Lake with its small channels around little islands with pristine cottages, docks and various water toys.

There was a white church on an island all by itself.

We started seeing the red granite that is part of the Precambrian Shield, some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth

The scenery was breathtaking. The water was clear and smooth with barely a whisper of wind to stir its surface.

We then arrived at Buckhorn, not knowing what terrible karaoke we would be subjected to that night.

Today, we continued on through a couple more locks.

Fenelon Falls was the most popular lock. There were a ton of people celebrating Canada, watching us lock through.

Everyone saw the US flag on our stern. They were asking us about where we came from and where we were headed.

The locks are very busy on Canada Day.

We asked someone if there was a parade in town

They responded we were the parade.

That was fun.

We are settled in at Lock 35, next to a very quiet campground.

We will sleep well tonight.

Categories
Uncategorized

Routines and Logistics

One of our buddy boats moving through Ontario Cottage Country

We had a short day moving from Healey Falls to the bustling metropolis of Hastings, a distance of 12 miles in over two hours.

We agreed with a buddy boat that we would stop there, as we were faced with a very breezy 40 mile crossing on a shallow lake. Whereas 50 mph gusts weren’t in the forecast, they weren’t that other time either.

We chose to lay low and hang with other Loopers.

One of the fun things about doing the Loop is our routine when we arrive at a new place.

Once the boat is put away from the day’s voyage, two things generally happen.

1. We break out the folding bikes to do some exploration and shopping if we are tied up to something attached to land.

Our trusty, reliable fold up bikes

2. Regardless of where we are, the fishing tackle gets pulled out.

Our tackle box

We’ve had a lot more productivity with biking than fishing.

But, as the old joke goes, that’s why they call it fishing, not catching.

Libbie, being the more inquisitive and social person between the two of us (at least when it comes to fishing), talks to most fisher-people she sees.

Libbie enjoying one of her favorite things

“How many have you caught?”

“What are you catching?”

“What sort of bait / lure / jig are you using?”

Fisher-people, particularly fishermen, are often loath to share information.

Libbie is so nonchalant and friendly about it that they not only soon open up, they often give her their favorite lure.

Libbie’s favorite lures, donations included

I just wish we could catch more fish!

Then again, that’s why they call it fishing.

Back to the bikes: it’s amazing how our little fold up bikes have gone so many miles and places.

We bought them in the early days of our sailing adventures in San Francisco Bay. They’ve seen the entire state of California.

Libbie with her latest fishing tackle purchase and her folding bike

They’ve been on camping trips around the country.

They’ve gone with me to the National Parks.

They are now on the Loop.

These bikes have gone more places than some people we know.

They have increased our ability to go shopping for goods that we need. They are also a great form of exercise.

They are strong enough to take me with a case of tall boy beer cans on my back.

Some fellow Loopers have Ebikes. But the horror stories of failed batteries, battery fires, bikes falling in the water, etc. make us glad we have our simple little Dahon folding bikes.

Other than that, we play a lot of Gin. It’s a tradition Libbie’s parents used to do every evening.

They played for quarters.

Libbie about to beat my my supposed winning hand.

We don’t play for money, mostly because I’d lose my shirt if we did.

We have been having a lot of fun.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Peterborough, the 60 foot lift lock, which I’m very excited to see, and getting stocked up for the rest of the Trent Severn Waterway. We will use our bikes to get around.

We will probably buy more fishing gear too.

Categories
Uncategorized

Day 2 and 3 on the Trent Severn Waterway

Exiting the channel above Lock 6

It was a great day Saturday.

We had some interesting experiences with new kinds of locks, beautiful waterways, watching people swim and fish, and just generally enjoying the day.

We spent the night before at Lock 6 by Frankford.

The night has been perfect…except for the mosquitoes. In terms of mosquitoes, they were of the Southern Ontario Canadian variety, which meant they buzzed around you politely, almost apologetically and quietly until they landed.

We’ve fallen in with a group of Loopers.

It’s one of the fun things about doing the Loop.

Selkie and Cat Bottom Girl in our first double lock

People have different ways to do the Loop in terms of speed, length of travel day, and things to do when you tie up to the dock for the day.

Sooner or later, people with like minds and boats generally start hanging with each other.

So it is with us.

We have met a couple of other boats. We travel at the same speed, we enjoy the same after boating activities, and have similar interests beyond the Loop.

Selkie, Dashaway from Houston, Tx and Madam O, a non-looping boat headed to the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior.

We talk on the radio coordinating our lockage, we text each other with important information, and enjoy each other’s company.

Fellowship was one of the attributes of the Loop that attracted Libbie and me to do it.

It took us time to learn that in order to make friends, you have to stop every so often to let it happen.

We have moved enough to know better, but it was reinforced once we hit Canada and slowed down.

But now we have a stack of boat cards, and contact information. And a bunch of really nice people who are doing the same thing we are.

We are getting news about the Loop from those ahead of us, and relaying news back to those behind us.

On top of all that is the daily morning blast of the Loopers Forum that keeps us all connected.

Humans are, after all, social creatures, and we do better being with a group than being by ourselves at least some of the time.

We made it to Campbellford for the day mid afternoon.

Selkie at the Wall in Campbellford

Lib and I popped our bikes together and pedaled over to inspect a used dinghy for sale.

It was a foot or two too long, so we went around town and scouted it out for stocking up and dinner plans.

That evening, we joined some friends at a restaurant and had a good dinner.

A couple of things about the dining in Canada so far:

1. The food is good, but not great.

2. The service is very friendly. Even at short handed restaurants still recovering from COVID, you don’t really mind because they are so friendly.

In fact, I have to mention that more than once, when they hear we are from the USA, they almost sigh with relief and thank us for being up here in Canada.

It’s been tough on people and business up here too.

One sailboat saw our flag and motored over to us.

Usually, when that happens in the states, you become wary because the sailboater sometimes chide you for too big a wake (which we don’t do) or for too loud a generator (ours is very quiet).

In this case, the sailboat’s captain asked us if we were from the states. When I affirmed that we were, he said, “that’s awesome, we’ve missed our US friends. Welcome back!”

When you get that kind of greeting it makes you want to stay.

Lock fully filled, waiting to open to let us continue

It’s nice to have no agendas or timetables when boating.

If you trap yourself into deadlines and destinations, it puts an unnecessary pressure on you that can quickly get you into trouble.

It’s taken us a month of moving and a thousand miles for us to get to that point.

We have to be in Mackinaw the end of July. That’s probably 3 solid weeks of travel time, and we have 4+ weeks to get it done.

So we decided when we got into a group of boaters this morning that we might take the lead of one of our new friends and just hang back for a night.

We went through the series of locks planned for the day.

Included in that series was our second double lock. What that means that in the space of two football fields, you go up over 50 feet, or five stories in elevation.

It can be very intimidating pulling into a lock, and realizing there’s nothing between you and a 50 foot wall of water except a lock gate.

Coming into Locks 14/15, our second set of double locks
Entering the lock
Parked and waiting for the gates behind us to close
What going up more than 5 stories looks like on Selkie

By now, we’ve has enough practice to handle Selkie in the locks. It’s pretty routine. Even the slime on the walls doesn’t seem as bad as it did in the New York Canal System.

An interesting aspect of the Canadian locks is that you don’t talk to the lock operators by radio.

They wait until you are close, or tied up to the “Blue Line” before they talk to you, either in person or by loudspeaker.

The system is definitely not New York style, and it works very well.

They always chat us up in the lock, giving us information about what we can expect ahead, or what a good restaurant might be in the next town, or where the better lock walls are.

But today, with the boats we were with, we decided to hang back and not go all the way to Hastings.

We made a left turn and stopped on the wall above lock 15 in Healey Falls.

There is nothing here.

Selkie above Lock 15 at Healey Falls

It’s so quiet. All you can hear is the birds, leaves rustling in the trees and a distant water rushing sound from the dam releasing the still large amount of water that’s in the Trent Severn Waterway.

This has been a trip of a lifetime for both of us. We’re only twenty percent through it.

We can’t wait for the next day.

Categories
Uncategorized

Locking Through In Canada

Sunset at Trent Port Marina

As some may know, the Trent Severn Waterway (TSW) had been closed to traffic due to high water levels.

Some people had arrived at Trent Port Marina a week ago anticipating they would continue on, only to be held up for a week.

So one could imagine the relief that was felt when things reopened today.

Yesterday the TSW lock 1 operators came down to the Marina to organize our passage through.

Those that were at Trent Port Marina the longest were given first choice and were chomping at the bit to get on their way.

The rest of us were happy to let them go first.

We then met on the dock at Docktales to seal the deal.

Finalizing the departure arrangements at Docktales

I have to give a shout-out to Trent Port Marina.

It’s a great marina with probably the best showers on the Loop and free laundry machines.

The staff is very helpful.

At least 7 loopers and at least 5 other boats proceeded through Lock 1 today, the first day the system opened after the closure due to high water the past several days. The early crowd went to Campbellford, the later crowd went to Frankford.

It is a different experience here compared to the NY Canal System. One needs to be patient.

Currently most of the system is a no-wake zone because of the high water and the property damage that big wakes will cause, so anyone traveling needs to account for these delays.

Another reason to plan on taking your time is that the locks are about 1/2-2/3 the volume of the NY canal system locks, so it will take more lock cycles to send through the same amount of boats.

Today we locked 2 40+’ boats at a time, whereas in New York we would have locked through 2-3 times that number.

With the increased water flow from releasing all the water above Lock 19, the currents are still very strong, and there is a lot of debris in the water. We had to be careful coming up to the dam outlets next to the locks as there are a lot of eddies and reverse currents that would send you in surprising directions.

It reminded me of my canoeing days,

High water levels and currents made for some tricky maneuvering on Selkie

Whereas the NY canal system lock operators were nice, the Canadian attendants are amazing. They will do most anything to help you. And everyone is happy to see Loopers again.

I also found that if you arrive at a lock with the strong currents and the gates haven’t opened, you will be using a lot of maneuvering controls to hold your boat in place waiting for the lock to empty.

Despite all of the excitement, we are happy and relieved to be able to keep going.

On to Campbellford tomorrow!

Categories
Uncategorized

Flyover Country

Sunset at Sand Cove

Have you ever heard the term, “Flyover Country?”

According to Wikipedia, “Flyover country” refers to the part of the country that some Americans…only view by air when traveling and never actually see in person at ground level.”

Flyover Country can have a derogatory connotation, as it infers a place isn’t worth the time to visit.

My roots are in Flyover Country.

It doesn’t get much more flyover than Northern Michigan. There are aspects of poverty and a lack of an economic recovery since the late ‘70’s that still exist there.

Yet, it’s my home.

It’s beautiful.

And I love it.

For me, Flyover Country is a wonderful place that hasn’t yet been “discovered”, and many of the locals would prefer it to stay that way.

It’s definitely Flyover Country where we are now in Ontario.

It’s beautiful, the people here are very friendly, and they speak with my home town dialect.

Typical scenery here in Flyover Country

Where we wound up in Kingston, Ontario, we were in a minor metropolitan area.

Kingston is a beautiful little city, home to two universities, some European architecture, some awesome restaurants, pretty parks and a nice marina.

The people are typical Canadians as well. They are very nice. They apologize too much when they think they did something to bother you.

It feels like home.

Libbie and I spent 2 nights in Kingston at the Confederation Basin Marina.

We met other Loopers there. There’s a bunch starting to arrive in Canada.

We did some provisioning and then went east down the headwaters of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

We stopped in an amazing anchorage called Half Moon Bay. We spent a wonderful day and night there.

Half Moon Bay Anchorage

Fishing wasn’t bad either. Libbie caught a Northern Pike that we had for dinner.

Libbie caught dinner

Then, the generator died. That forced us back to Kingston as we arranged for a service call to fix the generator.

Luckily, some work that I’d done with an ABYC certified electrician had uncovered an issue with Selkie’s generator, and between the service tech and myself, we quickly debugged the problem, it was repaired, and Libbie and I were free to keep going.

The generator is now much better.

We thought long and hard about going back to Half Moon Bay but decided to continue towards our next objective, the Trent Severn Waterway.

We motored a couple hours and stopped in Kerr Bay on the north side of Amherst Island west of Kingston.

Libbie trying to catch dinner again in Kerr Bay

We picked that spot because it has a nice shelter from a storm system that was forecast to come through the next 24 hours.

Kerr Bay opens to the Northeast, which was the best exposure.

A typical system will have winds starting from the southeast, building and clocking to the south to southwest, then crescendoing into a short period ferocious wind set, and turn clocking to the west for an extended, but less strong blow.

Kerr Bay Anchorage is a great choice for anchoring in stormy weather

This storm proved to be all of that.

Except for the Tornado Warning.

We didn’t expect that.

We were very startled by this tornado warning

How do you shelter in place from a tornado on a boat?

Basically, you can’t.

So we just hung on.

Luckily, most of the storm went to our north.

I guess even tornadoes will sometimes fly over Flyover Country. In this case we didn’t mind.

We left our anchorage the next day with a forecast for moderate winds.

We have no problems with moderate winds.

However, we wound up going into some major winds, seeing up to 50 knot gusts on our anemometer.

50 knots is considered storm force winds on the Beaufort Scale, and that is not when you should be out on the water.

There we were, struggling a bit to get through it (Selkie handled it fine, but we humans were a little uncomfortable).

Weather forecasting on many US weather mobile apps are not as accurate in Canada. It is a bit irritating.

I saw a couple of apps saying we were supposed to be in 20 knot winds, while I was seeing consistent 40 knots on my anemometer.

Luckily we were on a lake that was only a few miles long, so the waves could not build into something too big for Selkie. Selkie handled it well, but we bailed into a safe anchorage as soon as we could.

We anchored in Sand Cove in 30 knot winds, with occasional gusts to 40 knots.

Shortly after we anchored, we received word that the Trent Severn Waterway would be partially closed due to high water levels for an unknown period until water levels come down. Most estimates said one week.

Eventually the winds died down, we went to bed and woke to a beautiful morning the next morning.

Aside from some cottages along the shore, we were the only ones that we could see in the area.

With the news on the Trent Severn shutdown, it looks like we will be here a little longer than we planned.

That’s ok. It’s beautiful here.

Sunset at Half Moon Bay

It’s Flyover Country.

Categories
Uncategorized

Crossing Lake Ontario

Crossing a big body of water takes some planning.

In order to cross, you need to watch the weather.

You need to arrange for a dock space at your destination.

You need to know how to report to Customs when you arrive and before you do anything else.

You need to be aware of other traffic, particularly big commercial ships as it’s surprising how they can sneak up on you.

In other words, you need to plan.

In case you think a lake isn’t a big body of water, let me introduce you to the Great Lakes.

Lake Ontario, the furthest east and last of the Great Lakes in terms of water flow, is much like her sisters. It is smallest in surface area, but is larger than Lake Erie in terms of water volume.

An interesting fact is that the land surrounding and under Lake Ontario is still rebounding from the weight of the glaciers.

Some estimates have the land around the St. Lawrence Seaway rising at a rate of 12” per century.

Ontario, like 3 out of the other 4 Great Lakes, was formed primarily by glaciers during the ice age.

Ontario, like her sister lakes, is to be respected as storms build up quickly over the forests and pastures of the Canadian province of Ontario.

There are around 200 commercial ships lost in Lake Ontario over the past couple hundred years.

It’s estimated that a total more than 6,000 ships have sunk in all of the Great Lakes, with a loss of life of more than 30,000 sailors and passengers.

The most recent big tragedy was the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking close to Whitefish Bay in Lake Superior with a loss of 29 sailors back in the 1970’s. Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about that. It’s one of my favorites.

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=PH0K6ojmGZA&feature=share

I’ve had a bit of experience when the Great Lakes turn ugly.

I spent one summer as a deckhand of one of the Mackinac Island ferries, the Straits of Mackinac II.

The Straits of Mackinac II: some of my best memories of a summer job was as a deckhand on this ferry

We were one of the few ferries that would run in any sea state, and I remember a couple pretty bad days due to bad weather.

Of course, when the weather turned bad on the island, everyone would want to get off the island at the same time, even when fewer boats were running.

Not only fewer boats were running, but we reduced our capacity to only the lower deck as we needed to keep our center of mass on the boat as low as possible to help stability.

We would depart the dock and start the trip over to Mackinaw City. I would hand out bags for seasickness and the passengers’ eyes would get big.

Once we were in the Straits of Mackinac we were committed to the crossing.

A gale strikes the eastern shore of Lake Michigan

I remember seeing a few waves close to one story and very close together. That’s a very violent sea state for a 110’ ferry, but the Straits of Mackinac II was built to take it.

Even with that knowledge, it was still very disconcerting being a deckhand responsible for a few hundred passengers.

Invariably, people would start yelling (I call it yelping), like when you’re on a really bumpy airline flight. It’s far from pleasant.

The sea sickness would start, and by the time we got to calm waters, quite a few people had lost their lunch or their drinks or their fudge or any combination of the aforementioned.

We’d offload everyone, helping the wobbly ones off the boat.

And then we’d turn around for another load.

On the way back, we’d break out the fire hoses and wash the partially digested effluent out the scuppers and overboard.

And then we would do it again until everyone was safely off the island.

Back to our trip: We arrived in Oswego, New York Friday afternoon and tied up on the wall in the harbor. It was a very blustery day, making it pretty difficult to lock through the last 3 locks into Oswego.

We could see the waves breaking over the breakwater at the entrance to Oswego Harbor. It was a very blustery day, and no one was venturing into the lake. I certainly did not want to.

We were watching the weather for the appropriate weather window. It turned out to time perfectly with our arrival in Oswego to go the next day. We could rest in Canada.

The Saturday we departed was forecast with light winds and waves 1-2 feet. The weather was forecast to get rougher the next day, so we went for it.

Our track on Nebo from Oswego to Kingston

As it turned out, it was an uneventful crossing. It took 7 hours to cross from Oswego to Kingston, Ontario in Canada.

But the seas were beautiful and clear.

Our first view of Canada

No one got sea sick.

Because we planned for it.

We pulled into Kingston, and docked successfully.

We checked into Customs via phone. We were allowed into Canada with no issues. Ok, we were a little over on our liquor allotment but they let us in anyway.

Because we planned for it.

I’ll provide more updates later, as there were a couple of unplanned events that have happened since our arrival into Canada. Stay tuned.

Categories
Uncategorized

Locking Through

Entering Lock 3

Going through the locks was very much part of the New York Canal System experience.

The locks are often associated with dams that not only are used for generating hydroelectric power, their more important function is to control the water level below and above the locks. Without these dams, the canals would not function.

There is a dam next to each lock

Most locks have gates that open up-current like a double door. The water pressure upstream helps pin the gates closed during operation.

Typical Lock Doors

One lock had a guillotine gate that we actually had to go under as it dripped ominously onto our heads.

The Guillotine Lock, closing
Closed and draining.

The procedure to enter the lock was as follows:

1. When in sight, hail the lock master (several were women) on VHF Channel 13.

2. State your direction (east or west on the Erie, north or south on the Oswego) and request passage.

3. Wait for the lock master to set up the lock (fill or empty and open the gates). If you were heading up, you could see the water boiling in front of the locks as the locks emptied. Once lock master was done, a signal light turned green and it was safe to enter.

4. Proceed slowly into the lock, grab onto a vertical rope, cable or pipe attached to the side of the lock wall.

5. The lock operator then closes the gate and walks (usually slowly) to the other end.

6. Once at the other end, the operator opens the valves that control the water into or out of the lock. You can usually here a metallic sliding sound, followed by a very deep rumbling sound, and you start to move up or down.

7. The water swirls in the lock when going up, and the swirling action helps pin your boat against the side of the lock. The rumbling sound dies off as the lock fills or empties. When going down, there is no swirling, just a sinking feeling. But that’s the lock, not your boat!

Selkie and Tug Life on a draining Oswego Lock 2. Photo credit: the lock operator, Mr. Metz

8. When the water level reaches the appropriate level, the lock master then opens the gates and off you go to your next lock.

Some thoughts about what we experienced in the locks are as follows:

A. Different locks have different personalities. Each is custom built to the needs of the drop required at that lock, the surrounding topography and the whims of whomever built the lock

B. As their locks, each lock master has a different personality, but most all are kind, helpful and want you to have a fun time. masters.

C. Whatever organism was the first sign of life and caused the so-called first primordial slime exists in these locks. The slime covers the fenders and then gets on the boat, your hands and clothes. There’s no point in washing it off before exiting the canal system as it just keeps coming in each lock.

D. Setting fenders (the bumpers boats carry) is a critical strategy to keep Selkie from bumping the wall. We quickly learned that because each lock was different we needed to set our fenders at different heights to properly fend Selkie off the wall.

We gained quite a bit of experience handling Selkie going through the locks. Learning to manage 36,000 lbs or so of trawler has been a challenge.

The locks will be different in the Trent Severn Waterway. It should be interesting. We will keep you posted on our progress.

Categories
Uncategorized

Experiencing the Erie Canal

Commerce.

That’s what the Erie Canal was about back in its beginning when it was finished in 1825. It put New York on the map as a gateway to the upper Midwest through providing access to the upper Great Lakes.

One doesn’t remember that except for the bustling methods of transportation that have replaced it along its route.

On one side are the continuous trains that shuttle goods back and forth.

Perhaps ironically, trains did not become popular until a little after the Canals were built, starting in the 1830’s.

On the other is I-90, and other busy roads with their trucks rumbling along.

Henry Ford popularized cars in the 1900’s, and trucks followed about the same time.

Between the competition with trains and cars, the Erie Canal has lapsed into a more recreational source of transportation.

At a couple of spots where we passed by, the Interstate had construction and lanes down to one lane.

We were actually moving faster than the backed up traffic at one point. That felt oddly gratifying.

One of the I-90 Bridges

Often, both rail and road disappear and one is left with a sense of nature.

Birds and wildflowers are plentiful along the Erie.

The calls of the various warblers, sparrows, kingfishers and other birds can be heard.

A typical scene along the Erie

The Pasture Rose was in bloom so much that one could occasionally smell the fragrance as you traveled along.

Very lush vegetation along the Erie

For part of our trip on the Erie, my sister accompanied us. It was nice to have an artist and biologist (she’s both) along on the trip. It was also nice to have an extra set of hands to go through the locks.

(Some of the pictures shared here are hers)

I asked my sister to catalogue what we had seen along the Erie in the 3 days she was with us.

Here’s her list of both flora and fauna.

All along the canal, the Cottonwoods were shedding cotton , and on the windier days the cotton filled the air.

We also saw otter, beaver and muskrat.

As we continued along the Erie, my thoughts drifted back to the commerce that was sent along its waterways.

When the Erie was finished, there were only 24 states. The US population was 12 million.

Today, the metro area population around New York City is 20 million.

Food, durable goods, and other commodities were much different then. You could ship something a month and it would not lose value.

Today’s economy is much different. it’s driven by different products requiring Just In Time Delivery, and a canal system would not work.

Times certainly have changed since my great grandparents lived. I wonder if any actually traveled the canal.

One thing we noticed: in June, there were a lot fewer boats transmitting the Erie. Most were our size, but there were some 70’ “gunboats” that passed us.

The canal system had different personalities as we traveled along its banks.

In the beginning, there were more small towns, with cliffs and rock cuts, and more meandering as the canal followed the Mohawk River

In the middle, there were levees and long straight stretches.

One part reminded us of the monotony of driving Interstate 80 across the Great Salt Flats of Utah.

We then started to descend through the locks and the terrain became more hilly. The canal returned to following the river.

It took us 4 days to transit the canal, and another to turn north on the Oswego Canal. Thank goodness I had laid a route in our chart plotter as the turn to Oswego can easily be missed if one isn’t paying attention.

Where the Erie and Oswego meet

We finally reached Oswego after 5 days. Up until this point, we had felt pressure to keep moving.

Now, our thoughts have turned to focusing less on reaching a destination and more about making the journey. We are at the Great Lakes, and we have 6 weeks before we have a stop in the town I call my home.

We will start taking our time now.

The next post will be our experience locking through the Erie.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Hudson

The Hudson could be a great psychiatric patient with her many moods and multiple personalities.

Heading north, it’s a little astonishing how quickly the metropolitan feel of Manhattan gives way to a more wilderness feeling, with the occasional statue, bridge, military academy, nuclear power plant, airline controlled water landing site and riverfront small town sprinkled along the way.

There’s the terminus for the Hudson in New York Harbor. As I said elsewhere, it’s an amazingly busy place to observe, let alone drive your pride and joy through.

Coming up on Manhattan

After passing Manhattan we came upon a familiar looking part of the river, unremarkable in appearance, but significant nevertheless.

It was where Sulley landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson.

The site where Flight 1549 had landed

There was a childhood book my grandmother and mother loved to read to my sisters and me, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge by Hildegard Swift. I think more than a few of my contemporaries would remember this book.

The George Washington Bridge with the fabled little Red Lighthouse

I had forgotten the story until we passed the under the George Washington Bridge. There was the little red lighthouse, and there was the big grey bridge.

We continued past the north part of New York City up the Hudson. The scenery turned from urban to bucolic with the beautiful weather we were having.

Further up the Hudson from New York City, the scenery quickly shifts to a more wilderness feel
Someone was kind enough to take our picture as they passed us

I remember as a youth crossing the Tappanzee Bridge several times traveling back east. The new one we traveled under was finished only 2 years ago.

The new Tappanzee Bridge

It reminded me of another bridge I traveled under as a very young person. Technically, I was 3 months old, but the stories and pictures make me think I remember it.

That’s a story for later this summer.

A few hours later we stopped for the night at Croton on Hudson (see my most recent posts for more on that).

Two days later we continued past Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, where I had worked as a Field Service Engineer on a turbine overhaul there. It was probably about 40 years ago when I had last seen the place.

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. I worked on the unit in the foreground back in the early ‘80’s.

We continued on past West Point. Having been next to Annapolis for a couple nights, I thought it was interesting how different the two places looked.

West Point…. very much a fortress appearance

We then anchored behind Pollepel Island for the night. Pollepel Island is famous for some guy trying to build a castle on it. He was partially successful.

Bannerman’s Castle. We anchored behind it one night.

It was very quiet with the stormy weather we had.

The view from north of West Point from our anchorage, looking south through a depleting rain squall

The next morning we continued up the Hudson towards Albany.

It was a long motor up. Timing the tidal flow could make our trip increase in speed due to the push from the flood tide.

Or it could slow us down depending on how the tide and river worked against us when going upstream. Many people don’t realize how far up the Hudson the tide goes.

In our case, it worked well the first half of the Hudson, but worked against us on the second half. We could have chosen to use the tide to help us out but the time we would have traveled would have been mostly late in the afternoon or after dark.

As it was, we made the most of the situation and enjoyed the view.

One of the many lighthouses closer to Albany

Before exiting the Hudson, we picked up some more fuel. We can carry 750 gallons of fuel. It takes probably a half an hour to put 200 gallons in.

Selkie teaches us to be patient when treating her well.

We now had enough fuel to get us through Canada, in case we didn’t want to pay Canadien fuel prices.

Our last night on the Hudson we stopped at the Albany Yacht Club. We washed the boat down to get rid of any residual salt as well as the pollen that had been accumulating on Selkie.

We topped off our water tank. We carry a 300 gallon water tank, and using a dedicated hose and water filter causes us to fill at about 3 to 5 gallons a minute depending on the water pressure. We put in about 150 gallons in Albany, which took about 45 minutes.

Patience. Patience.

There was one more task we had to do before we left the next day.

Selkie’s mast with antennae on top is 23’ from the waterline.

We were going to pass under bridges that were around 21’, so we made adjustments to be able to fit.

I scrounged around the yacht club, found some old lumber, borrowed the club’s circular saw, and made a special post to support the mast in a lowered position.

We then lowered Selkie’s radar mast.

We tied everything down securely.

Selkie looked a little odd with her mast down, but we were starting to see many boats who had done the same thing, including many sailboats with elaborate trusses holding their masts off their deck in a horizontal position.

That evening, to celebrate our long day and the work we had successfully completed so far, we went to a fun restaurant for dinner. Lib had an excellent salad and I had a hoagie. We shared.

The next day we cast off for the Troy Lock.

Almost to the Troy Lock

I’ll post about all the locks we went through, as well as the locking process later.

Suffice to say that going through the Troy Lock, we started to understand the locking process, and how Selkie was going to behave. This lock was going to be the first of more than 200 locks we will go through before we finish the Loop.

We emerged from the Troy Lock relatively unscathed, but wiser for the experience.

We also were, for the first time, in a non-tidal river, where the water flowed only in one direction. We were also no longer at Sea Level.

We continued on to Waterford, where we docked for the day. We were officially in the Erie Canal!

Selkie resting after her journey up the Hudson River

We had a great trip up the Hudson. Our confidence in Selkie continued to grow as we learned how she operated.

It was now time to head west. But that’s for another post.

Categories
Uncategorized

Check the Box Addendum

One of the things Libbie and I had struggled with was naming our dinghy.

We didn’t like what we had come up with so far.

Baby Selkie. Selkie Junior. A Little Dinghy.

Our dinghy without a name

None really had the panache we were looking for.

A tradition in my family has been to name a boat after a family member. That is, unless you are a duck hunter, in which case you name it after a duck.

We met someone on the Loop who named his boat after his wife, hoping it would make her want to be on the boat. As far as I know, he’s still waiting for his wife.

I must admit, it is cool to have a boat named after you. Especially an Aircraft Carrier. But that won’t happen in my lifetime, at least for me. It might happen for Libbie.

We started thinking about our grandsons. We have 3 so far, and maybe another one might come along some day.

We struggled with naming the dinghy after one of the grandsons, but we didn’t want to make the other boys jealous.

Albert. Pete. Finley.

How can you work with that combination of names?

So we did what any sane set of grandparents would do to sort it out.

We called their mothers.

After some discussion, we had success.

The dinghy has been been named PF Albert.

Check the box.

It was a long two days coming up the Jersey shore.

After arriving at Atlantic Highlands Marina, we decided we were going to launch our dinghy and try to sail it.

Atlantic Highlands Harbor

When we first purchased Selkie, I inspected the dinghy (now named PF Albert) with all its components. There was a sailing setup for her, which had Libbie excited. The sailing package had never been unwrapped.

It was up to us to figure out how to not only rig the sail, but also how to launch the dinghy and put the sail kit together without rolling the dinghy over.

Typically small boats are rigged for sailing on shore, but we needed to do it off the back of Selkie in the water, a much less stable platform.

Suffice to say, after trial and error and only one of us (ok, me) getting partially wet, we had a dinghy that sailed!

Libbie in her element.

PF Albert sailed beautifully. It was a light wind morning. In a heavy wind afternoon, it might be a little different, but at least the sail has reefing points to reduce the sail size in higher winds.

Check the box.

One of my objectives of this trip was to hook up with old friends who live on the east coast and elsewhere around the Loop.

For example, I went to a Prep School named The Hill outside Philadelphia.

The Hill School. When Libbie and Katie saw it, Katie said it seemed like Hogwarts. Based on my memories, I could kind of see that.
(Photo credit Hill School)

When I graduated from Hill and went home to Northern Michigan, I really never had the opportunity to come back into the area or hook up with any of my buds with a very few exceptions.

I have good memories of all of my high school classmates.

I had lost touch with many of them for decades…until recently.

Even though I haven’t been a big fan of Social Media lately, I’m happy that it brought many of us back together.

On the way up the Jersey Coast, a classmate, Jim, had reached out and urged me to come to Atlantic Highlands, close to where he had grown up and now lived.

That’s why we chose Atlantic Highlands as a destination.

Jim and his wife, Mindy, had stayed with Libbie and me in our home at Lake Tahoe, and were eager to reciprocate.

Jim and me. I don’t know why all my Holl classmates are taller than I remember.

Jim came down to the boat and picked us up. Mindy and Jim were excellent hosts in their lovely home, and took us to Bahrs Landing for dinner. It was a wonderful evening.

Check the box. Big time.

The next day was one of the anticipated highlights of the Loop: sailing through New York Harbor and up the Hudson to a marina close to transportation that would get us into Manhattan.

The trip was in beautiful weather. The harbor was as expected. Busy.

New York Harbor had lots of radar targets

We passed by the Statue of Liberty.

We passed by Manhattan.

We went under the George Washington Bridge.

Check the box

Libbie wanted to see a Broadway play, and I wanted to pay tribute at the 9/11 Memorial.

We tied up at Half Moon Bay Marina in Croton-on-Hudson.

We went into New York the next day via train.

We walked from Grand Central Station to Broadway and purchased matinee tickets to Music Man.

Lib got the goods!

We walked to Macy’s and had lunch.

We walked back to Broadway and saw the musical.

Before the curtain came up

Libbie and I agreed that it was a great production.

Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster and their supporting cast were amazing, the orchestra was spot on, and the general production was fabulous.

Check the box.

We then hopped on the subway and headed to the Memorial in the rain.

It started to rain, and as the Memorial closes at 5, we arrived after closing. There was no one else around, and the Reflecting Pools had been surrounded by a barrier to prevent people from getting too close.

That was ok with me, as it was very quiet and peaceful and beautiful despite being in NYC. We stood under a tree in the rain and reflected on that terrible day in 2001.

The North Tower Memorial.

Check the box

We then returned home to continue our journey up the Hudson. We enter the Erie Canal tomorrow. “Low bridge, everybody down!”

Categories
Uncategorized

Check that box

Selkie headed up the coast from another Looper’s vantage point

We’ve had a busy few days since leaving Cape May. I’m finishing this post a few days behind schedule, but there is a lot to report on our trip up here. This will be the first of 2 posts to catch us all up.

We left Cape May for Atlantic City, about 43 miles and 6 hours along the coast.

Our 43 mile trip from Cape May to Atlantic City

We wanted to test out the boat on the ocean, but wasn’t going to be a very strenuous test (after all, this is supposed to be PLEASURE boating).

It was forecast to be similar to a light day on the Pacific Coast, a weather forecast that we would have not hesitated to go in While I Can, our 36’ sailboat. We wanted to check out how she handled, particularly with the newly overhauled Stabilizer System.

I’ve mentioned this before, but here’s a refresher: This system consists of a hydraulic system tied to two fins that control the roll rate of Selkie.

Selkie has a very fair hull, which helps a lot with her efficiency.

But that same hull will cause her to roll like a drunken sailor, making the ride very uncomfortable without Stabilizers.

The seas were forecasted at 5 feet high 5 seconds apart, lowering to a 3.5 foot sea at 5.5 seconds apart before the end of the day.

The trip up proved to be sporty, but Selkie handled it well. The stabilizer performance was awesome. We rolled a little, but nothing fell over.

We cruised the coast. The water was a teal blue, and we saw dolphins working baitfish for a meal.

The waves were as predicted, except they got a little more aggressive as we turned towards the inlet to Atlantic City. They gradually grew to 6-7 footers as we got to shallow water, but Selkie surfed her way in without too much difficulty. The stabilizers performed beautifully.

Check that box.

As we entered Atlantic City, we considered several anchorages. There was a squall line forecast to come through that afternoon, so we anchored off the main channel close to a marina. We set anchor and settled in for an overnight stay.

Our anchorage at sunset in Atlantic City

We saw the storms approaching, and prepared Selkie. The wind picked up.

One of the biggest concerns I’ve had with our trip is getting a good anchor that would hold us in adverse conditions without dragging. I had purchased a Rocna Vulcan 55 pound anchor based on ratings and reviews. This was going to be the first big test.

We watched the wind speed climb and climb. 15 knots. 23 knots. 30 knots. 37 knots.

Our track at anchor in Atlantic City. The two groups are our track at either flood (top) or ebb (bottom). The scribbles say 15’ depth, 150’ rode (anchor line)

We did not budge.

Check that box.

The next day we headed north to Atlantic Highlands where we planned on anchoring out.

Suffice it to say that an 81 mile, 11.5 hour sail is about as long as we want to go. (Remember the pleasure cruise part)

Our trip up to Atlantic Highlands

The oceans were much calmer. We saw dolphins, fish jumping, other Loopers passing us, osprey catching fish, crab pots, fish trap pots…

For being on the ocean, it can be pretty busy.

However, we had not seen any whales. We wanted to see a whale.

We came up around Sandy Hook and started to turn west when suddenly, right in front of the boat less than 10 yards a Humpback Whale suddenly surfaced.

The whale dove, and Libbie went out on the bow to look for it.

It suddenly surfaced about 50 yards from the boat, with its head out of the water.

Libbie ran back into the pilot house.

We had seen our first whale (and probably last for 2022).

Check that box.

We continued on to the anchorage by Atlantic Highland, dropped anchor and high-fived each other. We were bushed, but Selkie and we had made it after a very long day.

At anchor
Sunset at Atlantic Highlands

More boxes will be checked on this trip, but the past few days have been a great challenge, and we had fun to boot. More to come.

Categories
Uncategorized

Boat Sounds, Cape May, Docktales and Plans

We are learning how Selkie sounds.

New sounds.

So far, nothing bad.

But when you are in a boat, you hear things you otherwise would not hear at home.

You hear sounds transmitted through the water. Other boats. Boats docking. Boats moving slow or fast. Big ships. Small runabouts. Waves lapping against the hull.

Sometimes there are sounds we can’t identify, and we talk about what they might be.

Then, there are sounds that Selkie makes in the middle of the night.

Sounds that make you get out of bed to investigate what those sounds were.

The sounds are different when she’s at dock, versus out at anchorage. 

So far, she’s been fine, just making little noises.

However, the worst sound we’ve heard so far was when I was taking a nap in our berth in the middle of the afternoon.

We were at dock, and I woke to the sound of a boat coming into the harbor. 

I heard the boat getting closer.  Then I heard bow thrusters and shifting transmissions in rapid succession, and loud voices rising in panic….

And then…

CRUNCH. (It was really more of a very, very loud metallic bang close to my head, like a rather large collision.)

Another boat had hit Selkie’s bow sprit and anchor. 

Worse, I could feel Selkie move suddenly. 

Not only another boat hit us, they hooked one of the flukes of our anchor and were struggling to get away, dragging Selkie with her.

I shot out of the berth and ran up to the pilot house.

I looked up front, and by then Selkie was free. I could not see much of any damage. But I saw another boat trying to turn and back into the adjacent slip to us.

Two dockhands were standing there with their mouths open, looking at me.

For those who haven’t boated on the east coast, many marinas have slips with pilings and tiny finger docks.  This means you must back into the slip if you want to get off your boat. 

There is usually not much room to make a turn between docks and boats. 

Backing your boat is not a difficult thing to do if you can see what is behind you, and there is no wind or cross current pushing your boat one way or another.

In this case, it was another trawler, with no visibility towards the rear, there was a 2-knot cross current, and a 20-knot crosswind in the same direction.

There was a woman on the back of the trawler, trying to direct her husband while he steered from the pilot house, and neither were speaking in a calm voice.

It was a very difficult situation, and every boater in the marina was sympathetic to this couple’s situation. We’d all been there.

But we all were not only paying attention, but also standing by to fend the trawler off from our boat if it came close.

After a lot of yelling and confusing direction giving, we were able to get the trawler in the slip. 

I checked over Selkie, sorted out the anchors that were bounced around, and determined that Selkie had not suffered any damage.

I then decided I no longer needed a nap.

Cape May

We’ve been enjoying Cape May.

Enjoying downtown Cape May

It hasn’t changed much in the nearly 50 years since I’d last been here.

Flower gardens are everywhere

We have been riding our bikes around, talking to the fishermen, looking at the Victorian homes around here, and enjoying the fresh sea food. We have gotten our groceries, walked the beaches and in general had a good time.

Some of the Architecture
The beaches are beautiful, and starting the week after Memorial Day will cost $8 to access

But we are starting to feel restless in the harbor and waiting for the weather to clear.

There are probably 20 boats doing the Loop in Cape May right now. We are all waiting for the weather window to open. It’s been windy and a little rough outside the Cape May inlet.

We all got together and had a little cocktail party. Except we don’t call it “cocktails”, we call it “docktales.”

Docktales was something Libbie and I had been looking forward to, because it meant we would meet fellow Loopers.

Docktales

One of the things about doing the loop is that you meet people who have a similar passion as you. People from all over the US, Canada and a few other countries.

We come from different walks of life, but we all have something in common: a love of boating. 

It’s a fun community. 

More Docktales

Docktales are all about meeting other fellow Loopers, making friendships, exchanging information and telling stories (hence the “tales” part of the name). 

All the boats are different.  There are Tolleycrafts, Mainships, Albins, and many other makes and models of boats.  Some were built in the 1970’s or earlier, others are brand new.  Some have a lot of stuff on them, others have barely any navigation equipment on them at all.

And now we’ve met some new people.

Including the people who hit us.

We also have bumped into friends we have out here.  It’s been fun to see everyone.

Plans

We are targeting to leave Saturday morning after a line of thunderstorms projected to come through late Friday night passes by us.

We still plan to move up to Atlantic City and anchor out Saturday, and then go up the rest of the Jersey Coast to Sandy Hook. 

With any luck, the next post will be somewhere close to New York City. We expect to be there later this week.

Categories
Uncategorized

It’s been a busy few days…

The Trinka in the water with a happy Libbie

It was a great overnight at our first anchorage on the Loop at Rhode Creek.

The next morning I woke up to no Libbie in bed. I found her on the back deck, with rod in hand casting lures. No surprise there.

Libbie has been testing the fishing waters to no avail. But to repeat the old joke, that’s why they call it fishing, not catching.

Before we left the river, we bought some fuel at the marina there. The price is as cheap as we will see this summer, so with the stock market “tanking” we decided to invest in fuel.

That’s the biggest fuel bill we have ever paid by about 10 fold. But, we knew this was something we would do.

In reality, a sail uses a ton of petroleum products to make, and what we paid for was 35% of a mainsail on our old sailboat. So we can justify it that way.

Plus we can’t get to Michigan without it!

We cruised on a very flat, cool day up the Chesapeake to Annapolis,

Between the boating scene, the US Naval Academy, and all the tourists shopping along Main Street it was very much a bustling place.

We grabbed a mooring in front of the main part of town.

The mooring field between the Annapolis Yacht Club and the US Naval Academy
(Selkie front and center)

Annapolis has a water taxi that shuttles people all over the harbor, from one dock to another or even to your boat. We accomplished a few errands and went to dinner this way. It was way better than Uber or Lift.

Using the Water Taxi to ferry ourselves and bikes to and from Selkie

We arrived just before the Wednesday Night Beer Can Sailboat Races.

There was a lot of testosterone in the air as more than 100 boats tried to leave the harbor at once, and then tried to back in at the same time. Shouts of “STARBOARD” rang through the air.

This all in less than 10 knots of wind. I wondered how they all would do in San Francisco Bay with the 30 knot breezes we have back there. I have my doubts.

Even in the mooring field, racers were trying to sneak through without hitting moored boats like ours. In addition, there were spectator boats weaving around with beer drinking crews. Several were discretely taking pics of Selkie as they passed by.

In the middle of all this, a power boat started sinking, so the harbor patrol was scrambling with flashing lights in the middle of all the sailors trying to race.

Boat rescue in progress

With drama like that, who needs to watch TV?

Being moored next to the Naval Academy has its advantages. You get to hear Taps play at sunset along with a cannon fired when colors are lowered for the evening.

Then there is a bugle playing reveille to wake you up along with the Star Spangled Banner piping through the Academy in the morning.

Our second day in Annapolis, we built a lifting harness for our dinghy, a Trinka. Trinkas are 10 foot hand built sailing dinghies. Libbie was dying to get it into the water, for both fishing and for sailing.

We successfully engineered the solution, using our crane to move The Trinka from the Boat Deck behind the Flying Bridge to the water below without damaging anything or hurting anyone. And then putting it back on the Boat Deck.

The Trinka rows beautifully. We are looking forward to sailing her.

It seems like we’ve been doing this for a while now, but Thursday was our 1 week anniversary of living on Selkie. Time flies as they say.

Categories
Uncategorized

Moving Day

We’ve done the deed.  We’ve moved onto Selkie.  We are on her for the next 3 months.

We flew from Austin yesterday after spending 10 days visiting Betsy and Garrett, and watching our grandson while the new parents went to a wedding for a few days of well-deserved adult time.  We arrived in the evening into Washington, D.C. 

The plane ride from Austin to D.C. was interesting.  We flew into Reagan next to Crystal City, which brought a ton of memories back for me from my Westinghouse days (getting chewed out by the Navy for issues with a submarine main engine program I oversaw).  That’s a story for another time.

For this trip, there was a national holiday the coming weekend in D.C. Every year on May 15, it’s National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day where the Nation honors all the policemen and others who have died in the line of duty. 

As it turned out, we had over 40 local Texas peace officers on the plane on the way to D.C.  They were allowed to board the plane before everyone else, and no one complained.  Instead of taking the first rows on the plane, most went to the back of the plane, something most business travelers would not do.  

It was the safest I’ve felt on an airplane.  I mean, anyone who was going to hijack that plane would have been stopped within a second. 

To get to Selkie, Libbie arranged for some good friends to pick us up in the middle of the evening rush hour at Reagan International in Washington D.C. 

Anyone who agrees to do that is a friend indeed. 

We’ve known these two for a long time. Libbie and I’ve known the wife since before Libbie and I were married.  They reminded us that we witnessed the couple becoming an item on a sailboat trip on an old schooner, the Pride of Cockaigne in the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin.   We had not seen them in years.  But like all good friends, they answered the call when Libbie asked them to help us out. 

The fact that they were interested in seeing the boat helped.

Lib and I had packed 4 bags for check in and had 4 carry-ons.  Mind you, this was Libbie’s move to Selkie.  I had already made two trips, so I packed light and Libbie packed in some of the luggage for 3 month.  This included:

  1. 3 Fishing Poles with tackle (anyone who knows Lib is not surprised by this) in a 4” diameter by 55” long sewer pipe rod holder I’d built.
  2. One (1) fold up bike (see 1 above)
  3. Anything else that I had not already packed to Selkie that we needed (hence all the rest of the luggage)

When we landed, our friends headed to the airport.  We waited for our luggage for quite a while, but that was ok because they were stuck in rush hour D.C. traffic.  

When we got to the curb to meet them, we saw that they had brought two cars.  As it turned out, the wife drove a tiny Mini, and the husband drove a Porsche.  The Mini won out in terms of luggage capacity, but it was a good thing that the husband brought the Porsche with our 8 pieces of luggage.

We drove down to Solomons, and went to dinner (fresh Crab Cakes are much better in Maryland than anywhere else).

After dinner, it was the big moment. 

Perhaps our reader will recall that between Libbie and me, only I had seen Selkie, and that this indeed Libbie’s first time. 

She demonstrated a lot of faith in me, given the size of this purchase.  I was anxious that her first impression would be a good one.

The yard had been doing work on Selkie to correct some things that had been called out in the Ship Survey I had done when we bought Selkie. 

A Ship Survey is like a Home Inspection when one buys a house, and is a necessary step that one does when considering a used boat for purchase. 

In this case, there wasn’t much wrong with Selkie, other than just some normal wear items.  In fact, the surveyor had told me that Selkie looked 10 years younger than her age, which was a testament to the love and care her previous owner, Fritz, had put into her. 

When we arrived at the marina, it was well after dark, and I didn’t know where Selkie was.  She had been placed back into the water that afternoon and was towed to a slip somewhere in the marina.  I didn’t know where she was. 

I was the first out of the car and asked everyone to wait, as I needed to scout out where she was. 

I walked the docks in the dark and could not find her.  After 10 minutes of increasingly apprehensive searching on my part, I finally saw her at the opposite end of the marina from where I had left her in April. 

Selkie just sat there in the dark.  She looked beautiful.

I called Libbie and let her know where to come, and I got on Selkie to open her up. 

The worker-folks were not quite done with her, with some hatches up inside to access the engine room, so I worked to make her more presentable.

When Lib finally saw her, she said Selkie was smiling at her. 

Libbie’s first view of Selkie

We moved all the luggage on board, bid our friends a good night so they could check into their hotel, and then unpacked our clothing before we went to bed.

The next morning, we met our friends for breakfast, bid them farewell, and proceeded to unpack, shuffle stuff around the boat and generally get her situated to our satisfaction.

We rode our fold-up bikes to the grocery store and provisioned as much as one can provision with a back pack on a bike.  But we are set for the next few days with food and drink.

Tonight, we had a bowl of soup on the boat, and enjoyed the evening.  We called some family and some friends to check in.  While talking to both of our daughters, they asked their mom what she thought of Selkie on a scale of 1 to 10.

Libbie said Selkie was a 10. 

I’m breathing easier tonight.

Post Script:  the carry-on bag I used this trip was the same one I’d been using for the past 15 years. 

That bag probably saw 500,000 air miles as I used it to fly all over the world, including my 10 trips a year to Taiwan and Asia for 6 years. 

But when that bag came off the carousel in Baggage Claim, it arrived battered with the pull up handle missing.  

A lot of memories were associated with that bag.   So, it now lies at rest from all its travels in the dumpster here at the marina, an inauspicious end. 

Categories
Uncategorized

The Transition Begins…

Libbie and I finished our ski instruction for the year. It was a difficult year by many standards but also one of our best seasons yet. It was difficult because of the weather with no significant snowfall from Christmas until the end of the season, but one of the best because we continue to grow in our “careers” as instructors, trainers and in Libbie’s case, an examiner.

Some of the Northstar Crew ready for First Tracks

To conclude our season, Libbie and I went to Mammoth Mountain for the PSIA-AASI Western Convention. This was the first time ski and snowboard instructors could get together since COVID. As one would expect, it was quite the party.

Mammoth is a beautiful place to slide down slippery slopes

We saw old friends. We made new friends. Libbie led several clinics and gave an exam. I’m on the Western Board, and this was only the second time COVID happened where the Board met face to face. I’m pretty pleased with the progress the Board is making in leading the organization into the future.

We were very productive. And we came home, tired but happy that the season ended so well, and that all our friends and we had a chance to say good bye for the summer. Like a lot of things, instructor life hasn’t been easy with COVID.

Now, we have to pack, and get the house ready. We don’t know when we will return home. Pulling summer clothes out of storage is something we do this time of year, but we have a different focus now. We may not be back home before Labor Day, so we have to pack accordingly.

For me, I’ve transported most of my stuff back to Selkie, including tools and supplies. It wasn’t easy. Did I mention how during the last trip I was not only escorted out of TSA for the first time, but lost my laptop? We aren’t going to repeat that again!

Selkie has been hauled and the work has begun to get her ready. A few important things called out on the Survey are being addressed. And when the work is done, she will be in even better shape.

In the cradle of the lift at Spring Cove Marina
Before the prop is pulled
Starting to pull the shaft

We leave next week, but have an intermediate stop in Texas seeing our youngest grandson while his parents take a break at a friend’s wedding. We are looking forward to seeing that little guy again!

Then, on May 12, Lib and I fly to DCA and head to Selkie to start our journey to the Great Lakes, and eventually Mackinaw.

Libbie has not seen Selkie yet. I can’t wait for her to meet Selkie. Our adventure begins soon!

Categories
Uncategorized

The Next Phase

I’m on my way back to Tahoe, via Minnesota where I meet Libbie and we see Katie’s family.

I am writing this sitting in Washington Reagan airport waiting for my flight and reflecting on the past two days.

My next ride…

(And no, there is no sign of my laptop, so this blog entry is happening on my phone).

Needless to say, the trip coming down the Chesapeake from Baltimore was fun. Driving Selkie is a dream, and she handles very well regardless of what the conditions are. She just purrs steadfastly along at around 7.5 knots.

I remarked to Libbie in a phone call that this was the first time I sat in my own boat in 38 knot winds at 42 degrees and I was bone dry and comfortable. Mind you, this was turning the corner into

Annapolis Harbor and not out on the open ocean, but as we went in, a Catalina 36 like our old boat While I Can, was heading out, reefed, and everyone on the boat was looking cold in the 42 degree weather.

The stabilizers (which are big moving fins on the bottom of Selkie to keep her from rolling side to side) function well and make for a comfortable ride.

Having the heat set to 68 degrees on a blustery, cold day in the boat certainly helped.

This is a new phase of boating for me.

Selkie at her temporary berth

Selkie now sits at Solomons, Maryland waiting for work to be done. I talk to the yard manager and things should start next Tuesday.

When Libbie and I return in a month, she should be well ready to go for our extended trip to the great lakes and eventually Mackinaw City, Michigan.

In the meantime, Libbie and I have a ski season to wrap up, before we turn our attention to getting the final packing done for our extended trip. There is a possibility than when we leave Tahoe, we may not be back before September. We shall see what happens there.

In the meantime, Selkie has checked as many boxes for me as possible for now, and when Libbie finally sees her, I think she will be very pleased.

I can’t wait until she finally sees Selkie for the first time.

Categories
Uncategorized

Murphy got me after all…

Soooo…. Here’s the thing.  

Murphy got me but good. 

In my last blog entry, I spoke a more than a little about this guy, Murphy and his law.  And I spoke of how I have this thing about thinking about things that could go wrong with Selkie.  And it’s cost me some restless nights 

(And yes, Mr. Elliot, I should not start a sentence with a conjunction, but I can’t help myself)

So, on my flight out to down to LAX and on to Baltimore, I did a little laptop blogging on the plane.  I spoke of many great family and personal memories that popped back into my consciousness as I flew down over California from Reno to LAX.  

It was a great blog entry if I do say so myself.  

I wish I could share it with you.  

I might still yet.  

You see, Libbie and I worked hard to find a boat that would take good care of us, if we took care of her.  We scored with Selkie.  

This trip to Baltimore was all about getting Selkie ready for her extended cruising this spring, summer and fall.  

I expected to get Selkie ready for the season, but not without some hiccups.  But then, if it wasn’t boating, there would be a lot less chance of hiccups, right?  

But this latest thing Murphy did to me (and was he ever nasty this time) was not boat related, it was more self inflicted. 

In my trip east I flew into Baltimore from Reno via LAX on the same plane.  Of course, I’ve spent less time flying to Japan from SFO in more comfortable seats.   

But that was not the issue (although my left hip still has not recovered). 

The flight was actually pretty good except for the last hour as we entered a band of storms crossing from West Virginia all the way to BWI.  That’s when the yelping and screaming started and it really didn’t stop until we were on Final coming into BWI. 

But that wasn’t the issue. 

After we landed, my blood pressure started to subside…. but when I got to baggage claim, my 80 lb bag full of expensive tools was missing. The airline found the bag. 

So that wasn’t the issue

I had to schlep everything to my boat in a raging downpour with 2 trips (I swear the dock is at least 1/4 mile long).  

But that wasn’t the issue. 

The issue:  

I left my laptop 

On

The

Plane. 

That was the issue.  And it wasn’t a company laptop.  It was my very own that I had puchased with my very own money.  

Murphy strikes again!  

I’m praying that honest people will find it and I’ll get it back.  Wish me luck, but it will probably be a few weeks before I see it.  If I see it.  

(I’ve done all the “Find My Phone” stuff and as soon as someone opens it it will be locked with a message and my phone number…if someone opens it)

In the meantime, Selkie survived the winter in the inner harbor of Baltimore.  She’s really in great shape, and it’s in part to her prior owner, Fritz and the great care he gave her.  I still can’t thank him enough, and I hope I live up to the “Selkie Standard”. 

Selkie after the 3 days of rain

I have spent the last 3 days in Baltimore in the rain shopping and schlepping, figuring out the storage and where things were versus where I wanted them.  

It finally stopped tonight on a cool, crisp spring night. 

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor from Selkie’s home this winter, Harborview Marina

That time working on Selkie doesn’t include the 3 trips back to BWI to see if my laptop reappeared.  No such luck. 

This is another life lesson for me.  

As much as I want to be ready for Murphy, he’s going to get me in ways I never saw coming. 

I’m still going to prepare as much as I can. 

But perhaps there are times I should just let things go, so I can watch for that cliff coming at me before I walk off of it. 

Nah.

I’m gonna do what I’ve always done. 

In the meantime, Selkie is ready for her adventures.  That make me the loss of my laptop a lot more palatable. When I think about what lies ahead for Libbie and me, I become very excited.

Although, thinking about it, I could buy a lot of diesel fuel for the price of a new laptop.   

Nope. Can’t think about it. Ever forward. 

If my laptop shows up, I’ll share that other blog with you.  

PS:  writing a blog on a phone is easier than I thought it would be. 

Peace. Out

Categories
Uncategorized

It’s Getting Real…

It’s starting to get real.

I’m flying to Baltimore Tuesday, April 5, 2022 to get Selkie.

I finished my ski instruction job last Monday to give myself some time off before I head to Selkie.

Part of that time has been spent attending the Winterwondergrass Festival at Palisades Tahoe (the resort formerly known as Squaw Valley).  Winterwondergrass is a Bluegrass and Beer festival that has been held each year, but has been cancelled the past 2 years due to COVID.  It’s back on this year, and I highly recommend it for next year for anyone wanting an all-day music festival for 3 days. 

I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to finally listen to a live band in person.  And all these bands really are tight with their musical jams.  Nothing gets my blood pumping better than a great fiddler, and they are everywhere at Winterwondergrass. It’s been cathartic to attend, and certainly has gotten Libbie, me (and a few thousand of our closest friends) in the mood to move on to the next season.

But now it’s time to move Selkie from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor where she has spent the winter to the yard in Solomons, Maryland and get her Survey punchlist addressed.  I’ve mentioned the work that needs to be done in a prior post, but there is enough that requires her to be hauled out of the water.

The thing is, Murphy’s Law is transitioning from my brain’s Temporal Lobe to front and center in my Frontal Lobe.   You remember Murphy’s Law, right?  It’s the one that says, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”  It’s the doctrine I use for operating and maintaining a boat.  It’s also the thing that keeps me up at night, thinking about what could go wrong, and then adding to my commissioning punchlist for Selkie at 2 in the morning.

So far, I think I’ve got things well covered. 

I’ve got all my tools packed from While I Can, our sailboat of 20 years in San Francisco.  This probably includes the tools that will get me in trouble if I try to repair something on my own, something that happened more than once on While I Can.

I’ve checked in with the folks in Baltimore who have been supporting me on Selkie.  They came recommended, and they’ve been great to work with. 

The shrink wrap is scheduled for removal Saturday.  The shrink wrap was scheduled to be removed earlier this week, but it’s been blowing like snot there and after having owned a sailboat I understand what it means to wrestle big pieces of material in 30 knot winds.  However, a call this morning to Ships Ahoy confirmed the shrink wrap is coming off today.

The mechanic, Phil, from Phil’s Boat Repair will be on Selkie to recommission her Monday.  He must do it Monday because the harbor’s water has not been turned on, and he has to wait for a “Winter Watering Day” where the harbor runs the water down each dock via a hose to happen.  That’s Monday.  Murphy, stay away!

So… I hope (and am somewhat but not totally confident) I will arrive to a fully commissioned, unwrapped boat Tuesday evening.  If I do, I’ll sleep much better Tuesday night with the HVAC system functioning.  If not, there’s extra blankets on Selkie, and I’ll have extra work to do when beginning Wednesday morning.

I’ll have from Wednesday to Saturday to further prepare Selkie for her “Maiden-to-Me” voyage.  I’ve a lot to do with her to get things ready:

  • Running and learning the maintenance of her main engine
  • Running, learning the maintenance, testing and possibly repairing her generator (there is a possible issue with it)
  • Making sure her hydraulic controls and her steering work properly
  • Understanding how her electronics integrate with each other, including the autopilot functions
  • Understanding her electrical systems, and what works well on battery power vs dock power
  • Getting her propane tanks filled for operating the galley
  • Ensuring her water systems are functional, including the drinking water filtration system (we don’t want to be buying bottled water for our extended time on Selkie)
  • Updating her safety systems
  • Stocking the fridge for a few days’ worth of food
  • Getting her liquor locker stocked (a very important function for participating in après sailing activities)
  • Laundering all the items that spent the winter on Selkie
  • And there are other items I’m sure that will be apparent once I’m there.

Next Sunday will be the big day

My brother-in-law and nephew are coming in Saturday to help me move Selkie to Solomons.  They are quite the pair, and fun to spend a lot of time with… when I am with them.  Unfortunately, our schedules have not had a lot of time to be together, so I’m looking forward to spending time with them for a few days doing something we all love to do.

However, there’s a special reason I’ve asked them to join me.  Remember my friend, Murphy?

You see, both are very experienced watermen.  Both spent a total of 30 years serving our country in the Coast Guard. 

My brother-in-law was number 1 in his class piloting the 44 footers in the Coast Guard’s Columbia River Mouth Surf School and was stationed on the Pacific Coast of the state of Washington doing search and rescue in some of the nastiest waters the planet earth has.  He has some stories…

My nephew has just retired after 2 decades as a Chief Petty Officer as an Engineer.  His last assignment was commissioning one of the newest Coast Guard cutter’s engine rooms, and is now working as a Marine Diesel Mechanic on the Carolina coast.  He’s also has some stories…

I’m very proud of both.

So, between the three of us, I think I’ve covered most everything my friend Murphy can toss at us. 

BUT:

Note that I said “most everything” as I don’t like taunting Murphy.  I would never say, for example, “Ok Murphy, do your worst!”  Whenever I’ve done that, his law gets me in some way I never imagined.  At least I haven’t lost any body parts…  just parts of body parts.

So, let’s just say, the punch list I’ve written down at 2am most recent mornings, and the people I have coming with me will help me resolve anything we do run into. 

Wish us luck this coming week and next week.

Categories
Uncategorized

And so it begins…

And so it begins…

I’m getting excited.  I have a trip scheduled to go to Selkie the end of January.  It will be the first time I have seen her since I was on board to purchase her.  It still seems amazing to me that Libbie and I took that first big step to do the Great American Loop (otherwise known as the Loop) by purchasing Selkie last fall.

I have not felt this excited in a while.  The last was probably our decision to pull up roots from our home of 30 years and move to the Lake Tahoe area.  Of course, that does not include our two grandsons arriving (and a third on the way by the way).  But I think its safe to say that this idea of doing the Loop has energized us together in a really good way.

We still must get through commitments we’ve made (which are not hard commitments, really… I mean, teaching skiing is not like taking care of an elderly parent, for example, something we’ve done).  But when mid-May comes, we’ll be off on the first part of our adventure, which will be to take Selkie from the East Coast of the US to the Great Lakes.

Before then, there is a lot of preparation to do for Selkie.  We don’t know what’s on her. We do know there is stuff that was left by the prior owner with our blessing.  Selkie is pretty turn key.  But exactly what is on her (other than the very detailed list of spare parts for repairs), we don’t know.  So, we need to know before we can outfit her properly.  That’s why I’m going the end of January. 

Once I have completed the inventory of things on Selkie, we then can decide what we need to do to augment everything.  This includes, dishes, utensils, cookware, appliances, bedding, towels, safety gear, navigation guides and anything else we need to make our trip an enjoyable and safe one. 

The other things we need to do to Selkie are maintenance items that are part of the normal wear and tear of a 21-year-old boat.  We must:

  • Replace some fuel hoses
  • Replace the cutlass bearing (which supports the propeller shaft coming out of the hull),
  • Correct a couple of wiring issues
  • Replace the stabilizer seals (the stabilizers are big fins on the bottom that help Selkie from rolling in heavier seas)
  • Modify the anchor windlass to add a capstan, the winch drum part that helps raise more than one anchor
  • Replace one anchor with an newer design anchor (the main one is one we had on While I Can that we had difficulty setting some times on San Francisco Bay)
  • Inspect and repair the anchor rode (all the anchor rope and chain)
  • Repaint the bottom to prohibit marine growth. 
  • …plus some other minor stuff

Some of these things I can do in January, but most will be done in April when I return and move Selkie (with the help of two retired Coast Guard relatives, a brother-in-law and nephew I’m looking forward to seeing) to a boat yard that can do most of this work.  Some of these items I can do, but most will be done by the yard.  With any luck, we will have everything done and ready to go in May.

In the meantime, Selkie has been winterized and shrink wrapped and sits in Baltimore’s inner harbor at her slip.  She looks like a huge marshmellow.  I can’t wait to see her in person.

Stay tuned for more news.

Categories
Uncategorized

FAQ’s

One big question we are getting as people find out about Selkie is, “Where is Selkie?”

Selkie is on the East Coast in Baltimore.

Why is Selkie in Baltimore?

The simplest explanation is that our plan is to do America’s Great Loop.

What is the America’s Great Loop (otherwise known as “The Loop”)?

It is essentially a circumnavigation in a boat of your choice of roughly one-third of the eastern US, with some Canadian waters thrown in. The people who do it are called “Loopers.”

Wait, you say, “How can you circumnavigate only part of a continent?”

Well… believe it or not, you can, and many have. I’ll bet you didn’t know the eastern third of the US was surrounded by water, but it is. Let’s say you start in Florida like many people do.

This is the Loop:

Florida coast to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the Hudson River to the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario up into Canada to the Trent-Severn Waterway to Lake Huron back into the US to Lake Michigan to the Chicago River to the Illinois River to the Mississippi River to the Ohio River to the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River to the Gulf Coast back to Florida.

Another question we get is, “Gee, that sounds like a lot. How long is it?”

In time, it’s a minimum of 145 cruising days. In distance, its several thousand miles, depending on where you go and how much you wander along the way.

How safe it?”

Well, lets compare this arduous journey to say… climbing Mount Everest:

For each year:Mount EverestThe Loop
Number of people who
finish it
800150
Number of people who
die trying
50

Even though a fraction of the people who climb Everest do the Loop, no one dies doing the Loop. That’s not to say there are trials like storms, dangerous reefs, mechanical failures, or other challenges that might face Loopers, but it certainly is safer than climbing Mount Everest. And more to our talents.

“When do you plan to do this?”

We will start this spring by taking Selkie north and west, eventually winding up in Mackinaw City, Michigan this summer. We plan to explore the Northern Great Lakes this summer and fall, before putting Selkie on the hard for the winter in Northern Michigan. The following year, we will put her back in the water, and in the fall, continue our journey and complete the loop.

We hope, during this journey, to see many of our friends and family. We will be visiting the following states and provinces:

Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

We will keep you posted on where we are, so if we are nearby, please reach out to us and let us know!

For more information on the Loop, please visit the America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association Website.

Stay tuned.