The Great Loopers Chapter 12. Loopy Land

Sometimes we have to be reminded NOT to think.

From the log book on Sunday August 13th 2017. Written by me:
10:05AM Leave Tonowanda for the Erie Basin Marina Buffalo, NY.
1:55PM Arrive in Buffalo. No more ditch.

A new waterway. We have to learn the ways of the Great Lakes one lake at a time. First up is Erie. I’m an old dog. I don’t particularly want to learn a new trick. Have you ever felt that way?
Well, you can forget about that nonsense. Here in Loopy Land, it’s what boaters do. It’s all they do. The Great Loop is a series of connected inland waterways. Each with their own personalities.
Right brain: “Don’t get lazy, Rick. Travel is an education, this is the learning part.”
Left brain: “Gosh darn it, it’s not always about learning, sometimes it’s about feeling.”
Right brain: “As usual Rick, you’re absolutely right. I feel that it’s time to learn all about the ways of Lake Erie.”
Left brain: “You used to be so charming. What happened to you?”
The good news is: we wont see another lock until we get past Chicago, five states away.

There’s a big poker run happening. Hot rod boats are everywhere. We snagged the very last available slip in this huge marina.
As seen in Buffalo, NY.

From the log book on Monday August 14th 2017. Written by the XO:

11:30ish Away from Buffalo, home of the hot rod boats.
4:25 At the municipal dock of Dunkirk, NY.

So much open water. Weird. Since we left our mooring in Wareham, Massachusetts, 800 miles ago, we’ve always been in sight of land, culminating in 18 days on the Erie Canal, a waterway barely wide enough for two boats to pass. Now we have this open expanse of Lake Erie. It’s like: ahhh, room to breathe.

Leaving Buffalo. Entering Lake Erie.

We had a devil of a time trying to figure out if transient boats were allowed to tie up to the municipal wharf in Dunkirk. The poorly written review on Active Captain only hinted at it, and left us wondering. At just a bit over a month into this trip, we had not yet turned into the devil-may-care mariners we are now. If only we knew then what we know now.
Just do it. You’re good until somebody says you’re not.
We called city hall. Nobody seemed to know. Not even the cops. Just in case, I called one of the marinas and inquired about a slip.
Plan “A” was to go directly to the Dunkirk municipal wharf. If they kick us out we’ll go with plan “B” and move to the marina.
When we arrived, there were a couple of other boats tied up, so we docked as well. The police drove by and tossed us a friendly wave. Mystery solved, but then it got strange.

Free wharf in Dunkirk, NY.

A guy from the marina tried to hustle us into paying for a slip! We called it The Dunkirk hustle.

Dunkirk morning.

From the log book on Tuesday, August 15th. Written by the XO.

8:35 AM From Dunkirk, NY to Presque Isle, OH.
South winds 5-10, Sunny, waves 1 foot or less.
3:15PM Anchored in Misery Bay, Presque Isle, Erie, Penna

Huh? Is it Ohio or Pennsylvania? A little of both? The northwest corner of Pennsylvania touches Lake Erie. So yes, Sometimes we’re in PA, and sometimes OH, depending on where we float. Either way, we’re finally out of New York state!
We anchored in a sweet little cove called Misery Bay. It’s adjacent to a park with walking and biking trails, which we took full advantage of. It was absolutely beautiful. The maritime museum in nearby Erie has a dinghy dock! The weather was so nice we stayed two days.

Beautiful Misery Bay. Salty in the foreground. Floating in the background: Ginger Lee on the right, fellow loop boat Insandity on the left.
1000 ft laker docked in Erie, PA.
A Great Lakes beach in PA. It’s sometimes hard to image you’re not on the ocean.
Water cops from PA. They “pulled us over” because we only had one registration sticker displayed. They were shocked to discover we cruised here from Massachusetts, where only one registration sticker is required.

From the log book on August 8th 2017. Written by the XO.

7:15AM Pulled the anchor from the salad at Misery Bay, Erie PA.
3:15PM At the dock Geneva State Park Marina, Ohio.

Mile 849 to 906=57

Fifty-seven miles in eight hours is a wicked long trip for us, way out of our comfort zone, but the choices were few.
The State Park Marina in Geneva, Ohio, was dug out. It’s a man-made harbor with tons of dock space, fuel, and most importantly for us, a laundry.
We have a big net bag that would devour dirty clothes and grow to enormous walrus-like proportions. When we arrived, the Laundry Monster was so well fed that we needed a dock cart to support its girth. I couldn’t believe we had that much stuff on our boat. Armed with a shovelful of quarters, gallons of detergent, and a hard cover book, my brave wife muscled the behemoth down the dock, leaving me alone to change the fuel filters and the injector pump oil.
This job entails taking almost everything out of the salon and peeling back the carpet. After opening the starboard side engine hatch, I drop myself down between the engines with a bucket, rags, and wrenches. It’s impossible not to make a smelly mess, but it’s got to be done. To complete the job, both engines have to be bled until they run smoothly.
It’s my understanding that many boaters pay to have this done. I respect that, but I get a great deal of satisfaction out of doing it myself. I got into the habit of checking the engines once a week, sometimes more if they talk to me, as they often do.

Excerpt from our August calendar. We put a lot of information in there, like weather conditions and the daily price of our stay. A-$0 means anchorage, D means dock, W means wall, S means slip. It’s also a good way to keep track of engine maintenance and dinghy-flipping storms.

Small craft warnings kept us in Geneva 4 productive days. Laundry, groceries, and engine maintenance all got done. We also fueled up, pumped out, and filled our fresh water tanks. Now that’s a good stay.

From the log book on August 20th 2017. Written by the XO.
Fueled & pumped out & watered up.
8:40AM Left the fuel dock @ GS Park
11:20AM Anchored in Fairport Harbor.

Miles 906 to 925=19

The XO risks a swim in Fairport Harbor.

Something always happens in every port of call. It could be huge, or it could be the smallest thing that tickles the memory. Fairport, Ohio, is memorable because of the many boaters who came flying through the harbor at full speed. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. A small, scenic harbor full of anchored boats, paddleboarders, kayakers, and swimmers, all enjoying the day. Meanwhile, large powerboats are blasting right through the middle of it, ignoring them all. But here’s the weird part: it was like it was normal to everyone. The paddleboarders would simple scramble back atop. Kayakers would right their crafts, bail them out, and go on their way. Just another day in the harbor. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the Harbormaster? The wake from a 40 footer sent us airborne in our dinghy. A runabout on plane came within 3 feet of our stern, and its captain gave us a friendly wave! We were in Twilight Zone. Reality is merely a suggestion.

A dinghy ride in Industrial Fairport, OH.

On our trip, the August weather was so nice. It was filled with warm sunny days, mild evenings relaxing on the aft-deck, and cool nights sleeping with the windows open. How long can it last? I began to think about the fact that it’s late August and we still had the whole northern section ahead of us, all the way to Mackinaw, Michigan.
We joined the party late. Most of the other loopers, or the herd as they call them, have already headed south, many past Chicago.
The weather, the waves, the boat, the distance, the timing, the lions, tigers, and bears, oh my.
Ya know what? Screw it. If you start overthinking this voyage you need a good slap. That’s right. A good hard slap right in the kisser. The Great Loop is a series of short trips. The shorter the better. The only thing that matters is where you will go tomorrow. Believe me, it’s a good way to live, so enjoy it while you can. You may never visit Loopy Land again.

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