“Look inside yourself. See what you’ve done. See where you are. See where you are going. Is it what you want? Is it what you need? Is it what you expected? Answer truthfully and there is much hope for your future, whatever that may be.”
I have so much time to reflect on my life. Buckets full of time. I’m shocked at how easy this is to get used to. When we leave port, I point Ginger Lee in the right direction and turn the helm over to the XO for the next several hours. The woman can hold a course like autopilot. No, better than autopilot.
After I wash the breakfast dishes and make the bed, there’s not a heck of a lot to do, so I sit in the passenger seat and watch the world go by. Oh sure, we talk, but not constantly– there’s no fear of silence in our relationship– there’s a lot of time for inner rumination.
The engines hum and breathe beneath us. Like riding a horse, you can feel their heat, power, and rhythm. It becomes meditation. The XO mentioned this phenomena, so I know she feels it too. Not only is this something that I didn’t expect, it’s something nobody else talks about. Perhaps they don’t find it as pleasing as I do. Somebody once wrote that he thought parts of The Great Loop were boring. I don’t think I could feel that way if I made this trip a thousand times.
It’s not the circumstances that creates the joy. It’s you.
From the log book on July 21, 2017. Written by the XO.
6:32 AM Weighed anchor. Headed for Kingston, Forecast is NW winds 7, sunny and hot later, but this morning is cool and dry.
12:12 Arrived at Rondout Yacht Basin. No follies. Very helpful dock boys (Nash and Keith). (Kingston NY.)
First time paying for a pumpout. ($5)
Boats can be somewhat unpredictable in the way they move in the water. Other more experienced captains might disagree with that statement, but it seems to me that the wind always comes up when you are docking. Stray currents, wakes from passing vessels, misbehaving engines, anything can and will happen right when you don’t want it to, causing inelegant and sometimes embarrassing moments. On Ginger Lee, we call this Boat Follies.
Boat follies are to be avoided at all cost. Still, they happen. Unless the conditions are very still, you may have only one shot at tossing a line to a guy on the dock, and if he misses it, which they often do, it could get ugly. What if a guy tosses you a line and you miss it? What if your anchor doesn’t set? So many things can go wrong. All boaters know this. It’s the reason why complete strangers will help you. It’s the reason I will walk to the other end of a marina to help someone dock if there’s no one else around. I just can’t sit back and do nothing. What if it was me? Boat karma is real.
Kingston, New York was a city of firsts. It was the first time we paid for a pump-out. It was our first trip (on the loop) to Walmart. When the taxi didn’t show up at Walmart to take us back to the marina, we took our first Uber ever, and on the loop, it was our first visit to a museum, and the first time we had to use our air conditioner.
From the logbook on July 23 2017. Written by the XO.
10:37AM. VERY smooth exit from the Rondout Yacht Basin slip D2 with the entire breakfast crowd watching. Back to frugality. Destination Catskill. Weather is clear. 79 degrees WNW wind 3 mph.
1:33PM. After narrowly escaping the wake wings of Dr. No, we anchored opposite Catskill in 12 feet of water at Rogers Island north of Greendale.
In the busy restaurant over looking our slip, all eyes were upon us as I backed out, stopped, and spun 180 degrees on axis in an area not much bigger than the boat itself, then slowly threaded my way through the crowded marina. Sorry guys, no boat follies today. I knocked on wood, and waved goodbye to the Rondout Yacht Basin, a very friendly place. Three hours later we were anchored in the lee of Rogers Island.
In the log book, my wife’s Dr. No entry refers to a certain style of boat. Large, low profile, dark and sinister, rude, massive wake, and doesn’t care. We later changed this name to Doctor Doom. Here are some other Gingerisms:
(1) Weenie Wangers: Men’s shorts (not underwear) that are made out of very light material. Extremely comfortable but definitely not to be worn in public.
(2) Sneaker Boat: Any boat with “modern” swoopy lines where the bow curves downward towards the water, like you could slide off it. Looks like a fancy high-tech sneaker.
(3) Sea Wake: It’s just funnier than saying Sea Ray. Another name for number 2.
(4) Lobstah Yacht: The opposite of numbers 2 and 3. Boatbuilders have copied the design and lines of traditional northeast style fishing and lobstering boats, and equipped them with fancy interiors for the lucrative pleasure craft industry.
(5) Pink Drink: Black Seal dark rum, orange juice, grenadine, and seltza water. The XO likes them.
(6) Cute Ice: The small and tubular ice from our ice maker. So named by a fellow looper during docktails.
Rick: “What’ll ya have Hon?”
XO: “A pink drink with cute ice.”
(7) Bum Boat: Any vessel at anchor that obviously hasn’t moved in a long time, and has people living on it. Usually found in warmer climates. Like a sailboat with no sails, heavy green slime on the waterline, and a dinghy hanging off it.
(7) Monkey Bird: Not sure what kind of bird this is. They live in the South and sound like monkeys.
(8) Clown line: Towel clips are wicked handy on a boat. We have a bunch of them that look like clown fish. I bolted a couple to the bow of the dinghy to hold the lines attached to the port and starboard rear cleats. When we need to put Salty on the hip, like when we go through a lock, we can grab the tow line and pull Salty along either side of the boat to the midship cleat. That controls the front, but to keep the rear from swinging out, we pick up the Clown Line with a boat hook and secure it.
(9) The Net of the Fisher: Marine band radio is a great source of entertainment, we always have it on 16 as all boaters should while underway. One day we heard a call to the Coast Guard from a guy with a heavy French accent. The Coasties asked him how many souls were on board, if anyone was injured, and what was the nature of his distress. He answered: four adults, everyone is just fine, and his sailboat had stopped moving because it was caught in the net of the fisher. Then he asked when they will come to free him. The Coasties replied that they will not come to untangle his sailboat and hailed Towboat US for him. So now every time we see that familiar pole with a flag on it, signifying there’s a net underneath, we break out our finest French accent.
(10) Ball of the Crabber: Well, you get it. Crab traps are marked with a white ball.
We were living in the moment. That’s what it’s like on Ginger Lee. One waterway at a time, one day at a time. I knew where we were going and it frightened me a little bit. It’s the locks. There’s like 40 of them. I’ve been through the Griddly Locks in Boston a bunch of times, but that’s it. Fear of the unknown.
We’d just got used to the ways of Old Man Hudson, but after only two more ports–Castleton on Hudson, and Troy–we enter The Erie Canal, where we gotta forget about the familiar and learn the ways of this new-to-us westward waterway. I had no idea what it would be like. All I knew is that it’s long, non tidal, full of locks, and ends at Lake Erie.
Truthfully, cruising the Great Loop with my wife is what I wanted. She inspired me to take this leap and I jumped at the chance to share it with her. Do I need this? Absolutely not, but the older I get, the more I realize how special it is to find something that you love to do, and be able to do it. Some things take more effort, well, just looping took a tremendous amount of effort, both in money and time. That was unexpected. I guess I didn’t think that part would take so long. For years we scrimped and saved and tortured our souls, blah, blah, blah… Ya know what? After all is said and done, we did the one thing that really mattered: we made the decision to go. Once that was done, our hearts did the rest. Maybe there is hope for our future, whatever that may be.