Murder on The Great Loop Part Six

“We all have two lives. The second begins when you realize you only have one.”

“What in God’s name are you talking about?” he asked. “Wattaya mean you just bought this boat? Are you serious?”
Detective Gerry Sharpe looked deep into her partner’s eyes.
“As a heart attack,” she clipped. As if for emphasis, several strands of dark wavy hair escaped from her high ponytail and drifted across her long neck.
“How is that possible?” Pete asked. He was obviously taken aback, and Detective Peter Jansen– Eagle Scout, R.O.T.C., former Marine, and cop with fifteen years of service under his substantial belt– was not often so.
“Technology will save us,” she answered waving her phone. After wrangling her hair back together, and securing it under a red band, she continued, “Or more specifically, me.”

“I’m sick of it Pete. Sick to death of it. All of it. My whole goddam life. Just look at me. What do I got? I’m an old lady with a crappie job with shit for pay. What do I have to look forward to? A promotion? Hah! Chief Merryweather is ten years younger than me. She’s not going anywhere. I hate cats, so cat lady is out,” she chuckled softly. A bit of a joke, yes, but she had that resolute look in her dark eyes. Pete knew she was indeed serious as a heart attack.

“Gerry, you’re not that old,” Pete said. He softened his voice and spread his arms. “And this will make you happy?” He was trying to understand. She answered with a question of her own.
“Do you even know how old I am?”
Pete was silent. He knew the right answer, but sometimes it’s better to be kind than right. Gerry continued, “What is the single most precious commodity in the universe?” she asked. Again, Pete was silent. He did not know the answer.
“Time,” she said flatly. “Everyone is out there fighting their own battles. You, me, everybody. What does it get us? More time?”
“You sound like someone who has more questions than answers,” Pete offered. Sensing more from Gerry, he waited. It came.
“I made the call Pete. I quit the police force. I’m cashing in my pension, buying this boat, and taking back my life.” She took a deep breath, stood tall, and faced him like a woman who’s soul had been cleansed. “It’s a done deal Pete. And ya know what? I feel good about it. Damn good.”

They avoided looking at each other for a long moment while Gerry’s statement hung there like a low wet Buzzards Bay fog.
“Jeez Gerry,” Pete said, finally breaking the silence. “Was it something I said?”
There was laughter and the mood lightened.
“Why don’t you stay?” Gerry asked. “There’s plenty of room. And wine.”
“Thanks Gerry. It’s tempting, but I think I’d rather drive home alone in the dark than face the morning traffic.”
“Let me at least make you some coffee.”
“I really should get going. Some of us have to work ya know,” he said with a smile. Grabbing his jacket, he headed for the door.
“Don’t I even get a hug?” She asked. Pete put down his jacket and held her tightly. She felt warm, and small. Because of who she was, he didn’t allow himself the luxury of what would normally be considered perfectly natural feelings, but he was reminded of how long it’d been since he held a woman, been with a woman.
“You’re a good man, Peter Jansen,” she said into his chest. “And a good partner. I’m gonna miss you.”
“Oh I’ll be around. You better call me. Okay?”
“Betcha ass,” she said.
Pete picked up his jacket, opened the door, turned to face his former partner, and said the three little words she never expected to hear from him.
“I envy you.”

Slack tide on the Hudson River, that magical time when the flow is neither north or south and all is still. In as little as an hour ago, this old waterway was rushing headlong into New York Harbor at nearly five mph. Soon it will reverse direction and head north towards the St. Lawrence River before the turbulent cycle repeats itself. But for now, it seemed the whole world had slowed to a leisurely pace.
The Sun had taken its last gasp an hour ago, but a yellowish hue still clung to dear life and reflected pleasingly off the surface of anything that cared to accept it. A streetlamp tucked into a lonely corner flickered on, then another, and another. Radiating from the busy restaurant overlooking the docks, the clinking of glasses and tableware merged with the sounds of soft music and many indistinguishable conversations. Neatly dressed patrons, mostly couples, came and went. No one was in a hurry. It was a beautiful Summer evening in Yonkers.

“Oh dear,” the man said, his fingers clutching the chain-link fence. “Looks like they’re staying. I was hoping we’d have more time.”
“Huh, do you really think so?”
“I don’t know. It seems very risky. There’s two of them and one of ’em is very big.” The pair continued watching.
“Layla, look. The big one is leaving.”

Trojan F-32 Modifications for Long Term Cruising, Part One

Built in an era when boatbuilders thought that fiberglass hulls had to be as thick as their wooden predecessors, my sturdy 1975 Trojan F-32 did not start out its 44 year old life as a long distance, live-aboard cruiser. But not long after I purchased her, I knew she was up to the task with a few modifications. Its interior, after all, is already highly regarded as one of the best laid out, most spacious of all boats in its class and size, but in order to realize my dream of doing The Great Loop, I had a few ideas to maximize its potential to that end, and beyond.

All F-32’s have a galley down configuration. You walk into the main salon through a sliding glass door and step down four steps into the galley, head, and dinette area. I’ll translate for the non-mariners: walk through the living room, down into the kitchen, bathroom, and breakfast nook area. My wife and I had a problem with the dinette or breakfast nook: when sitting down to eat, the view is very limited. Two small ports are all you got.
“What was that noise?”
“I don’t know hon, let me check,” I would say, and proceed to slide out of my bench, climb the stairs, and look around.
“Oh, it’s just the Joneses starting up their new Ranger Tug.” Back down the stairs I would go to continue eating.
“Ooh! What color is it?”
Well, you get the idea. Not a great position for a couple of nosey boaters. The mechanical engineer combined with the woodworker in me and devised a simple solution:

A table connected to the bottom of the salon window with tall swivel chairs. The front one can be swiveled around to drive the boat from the lower helm. The table itself is hinged so it can be folded down for access to the starboard engine. Now we can eat and people-watch to our hearts content.

Table hinge and support detail.
The view is much better up here.

Next, I turned the dinette into a permanent full-sized bed.

The original dinette was designed to be converted to a bed, but it was a bit too narrow for the two of us to sleep in. The sides of the boat angle in, of course, so I built a platform and raised it to where it was wide enough. As you can see, it hangs over a few inches into the companionway, but not enough to be a problem.
I made the mattress from memory foam I bought at Walmart. I glued together two 4″ and one 2″ thick pads then trimmed it to size with a serrated bread knife. A conventional full-sized sheet set fits nicely. A room darkening curtain on a spring loaded rod provides privacy and keeps the morning sun off my wife’s face so she can sleep late.
There’s plenty of room for a bookshelf above the bed. I attached it to the wood panel that runs along there.
Just to the right of the bookshelf is the access panel to the back of the lower helm station. Every time I wanted to get in there I had to remove 6 screws, a real pain in the butt, so I hinged it.

Bookshelf detail.
under bed storage.
I made a step-stool for my wife to get in and out of the bed.

Since we were no longer sleeping in the vee-berth–the aptly named front part of the boat–I built two long shelves and a work bench. It became our storage and pantry area. I installed a fan and LED lights. Not shown is the Dometic countertop icemaker that fits nicely under the starboard shelf against the bulkhead. My wife duct-taped insulation around the cooler. Sure is ugly but it keeps ice for a week.

My messy workbench on the port side.

This boat had a puny holding tank. Gawd, we were always pumping out. After taking careful measurements, and doing a lot of research on line, I found a perfect match from a California outfit called Ronco. I got a 45 gallon tank designed to fit into the front of a boat. It was a stock tank right off the shelf. Ronco will supply the all the elbows and fittings you need, and tap the holes for them wherever you want.

Shipped in three days. Stock number is visible if you’re interested in getting one.
The puny old tank made out of a barrel. It looked like a real hack job in there. Pretty sure it’s not original.
Look how nicely the new tank fits.
All strapped in and done.

The original bathroom door opened out into the galley. I didn’t like that at all. It had to be shut all the time or it would get in your way. Bad for airflow, especially for a bathroom. I reversed the hinges so it lays against the bulkhead and can be held there with a drop-latch. I didn’t like the vee-berth door for the same reasons. I removed it and set up a privacy curtain with a tie-back. Guests can go in there and change out of their swimsuits or whatever.

A more open feel inside the boat.

We didn’t have much use for the factory installed electric stove and oven, in fact, we never once used it. We keep Ginger Lee on a mooring at home, and in a slip, that old appliance would require 50 amp service, which meant running two 30 amp shore power cables. Sure, the genset would run it, but who wants to listen to that for an hour while you bake that cake? Not me. We cook on our barbeque grill 90% of the time. Sometimes we use the butane canister stoves made by Kenyon. We have two. I like them because after you’re done you can tuck them away.
I’d rather have the counter space, so I tossed the old Princess stove, and put in a top loading freezer.

No more electric stove and oven. I made this false front out of the door I removed from the vee-berth.
Auto switching 12/120 volt Engel freezer. Storage on the side.

I found solar panels the same size as the hatch covers. Between those, and two on the aft-deck top, we run the Engel freezer, the refrigerator, and a 2000 watt inverter continuously.
On long passages, try a Crock-Pot or slow cooker. After three or four hours the wonderful aroma of beef, potatoes, and gravy will fill the boat.

Solar panels on the hatches.
The charge controller. Your batteries will fry without it. It’s connected to four dedicated group 27 deep cycle house batteries. I like the pictogram of the smiling battery. It frowns when it drops too much below 11 volts.

Thanks to Mr. Sun, we have all the continuous electric we need while moored, anchored, or underway. So why do we need a 4,000 watt gasoline powered generator?
I didn’t like having gasoline on a diesel boat. I dunno, it’s like bad form or something, so I removed the gen-set and put an extra fresh water tank in its place. Tank is available from Tractor Supply Co.
Would you believe that generator had a huge 42 gallon gas tank! I cleaned it and now use it as another diesel tank, increasing my range by a substantial amount. I had no problem selling the genset for $1500.

Fresh water tank between the engines where the genset used to be.

I made a cabin heater from a Ford F-150 heater core and plumbed it into the port side engine cooling system. I used the Ford one because it’s big, and for some reason, substantially cheaper than the others. This type of heater is commercially available for boats, but I’m a dog that needs a job, and I had a 12 volt fan lying around, so I made my own.
Even on a cold day, this thing heats the cabin too much, which is good, because you can always shut it off. Of course, like a car, it only works while the engine is running.

I put the heater behind the rearmost sliding panel on the starboard side.
Standard Home Depot vent slides in front. See table support detail for high-off-low switch picture.

I get a lot of comments on my aft-deck roof. I built it because my fair skinned wife is from the land of the pink people, She actually gets sunburned though a tee shirt. Not me. With my swarthy Italian skin, I’d be out there in full sunlight bronzing like Dennis Eckersley, but you know how it goes, happy wife, happy life.

My wifes kayak fits nicely up there.

Over the Winter, I built the aft deck roof in my garage. I carefully photographed every step of the process from beginning to end, including the fabrication of the stainless steel supports, the roll-up clear curtains, and finally, the installation.
Oh, I had big plans. It was going to be an epic blog entry. I would become famous among Trojan owners. The impossible has been achieved! Rick has done it! There would be write-ups in magazines, ticker tape parades down 5th Avenue, interviews on Good Morning America. My God! I would be on Ellen!
Alas. It was not to be. I somehow managed to delete everything from my camera.

Roll-up clear curtains will completely enclose the aft deck, making it an extra room.
There are two large panels on either side, and three across the back. For those times when I want to sit outside but it’s a little too breezy, I’ll open the back and leave the sides up to break the wind.

We all make mistakes. Right? Now I can only tell you about the process:
it all started with scrap carboard…

The Great Loopers Chapter 17. DIY

“Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.” Cat Stevens

From the log book on Sunday September 10th 2017. Written by the XO.
8:04 AM Bilged away from Port Austin. Light and variable winds, waves 2′ or less.
12:10 PM Bilged at anchor in Tawas Bay, NE corner. Mantus is back!

The XO mentioned the bilge twice. I guessed it was time to tighten the stuffing boxes. These are holes in the boat bottom that the shafts go through. Ginger Lee has four. Two for the rudders, and two for the propeller shafts. They’re basically threaded tubes stuffed with graphite or Teflon infused rope that’s wrapped around the shaft. A big nut on the end squishes this rope tighter around the shaft to seal it, but not completely. It’s should leak a little bit in order to lubricate the shafts as they turn. Five drips per minute is about right.
That’s right, there’s always water coming into the boat, but there’s a pump connected to a float switch. When the water level inside the boat reaches a certain level, the float switch turns on the pump and the water leaves the boat. It’s an old-school system but reliable. If we notice the pump turning on too often, it’s time for me to contort my old bones into the bilge and make an adjustment.

A stuffing box.
The tool for adjusting a stuffing box.

Plan A was to head northwest from Port Austin to Harrisville, crossing Saginaw Bay, but the waves, though not terribly large, were hitting us the wrong way. As always in boating, your direction is dictated by the conditions. After a half hour or so of picking stuff off the floor, we set a more comfortable westerly course, pushed ourselves into beautiful Tawas Bay, and dropped the anchor.

Tawas Bay sunset.

From the log book on Monday September 11 2017 Written by me.
8:15 AM or so weighed anchor.
1:10 PM Arrive Harrisville Harbor
1288 to 1326= 38 miles

When we got to Harrisville Harbor I adjusted all the stuffing boxes, and while between the engines, I checked the oil, transmission fluid, and coolant levels. After topping up the four starting batteries with distilled water, I adjusted the belt tension on the starboard engine. I noted the engine hours at 1,720. These engines have run nearly 300 hours since we left home, that’s about four times more than they usually run for a typical New England season.
Gosh darn it! It was the dreaded oil change time. First one on this trip. Those suckers need 24 quarts. Not only did I have that much oil on board, I also carried enough filters for the entire trip, and a gizmo that sucks the oil out of the engines.
“Hey Rick. What did you do with all that used motor oil?”
“So glad you asked.” At the time I had no friggin’ idea. It turned out that any marina with a repair facility will take it if you ask nicely and tip handsomely. I asked a young dock hand and he brought over a cart and took it away. Worth a twenty buck tip any day.
I wish I could just pull her into Jiffy Lube.

They gave me a free hat at this place.
Between the engines.
My messy workbench with lots of filters.

There are those that say the prudent Looper should be past Chicago by this time, ya know, to keep from freezing your butt off. But there we were, still heading north in mid September.
There was some concern. It was almost October, and in Massachusetts, October can sometimes be awful. Snow is not unusual, and our latitude was way more north than our home in Cape Cod, in fact, it’s about the same as the northern Vermont border. Yikes! But as usual, I had a guardian angel on my shoulder. The weather was spectacular.

In our travels, we met a very nice cruising couple. Not Loopers, but they noticed our Massachusetts registration, and we noticed theirs, also from the Bay State. We started talking, and over cocktails aboard their gorgeous sailing catamaran, Rogue Angel, I discovered that they were very fortunate indeed, because in their lifetime they had amassed enough money to be able to sail their boat between their homes in Massachusetts and in Florida. They were what us New Englanders call snowbirds. They spend their Winters in Florida and Summers in Weymouth. A couple of childhood sweethearts who married young and worked hard most of their lives, they were just two years older than me.
The next day at the marina they had a mechanic aboard their boat, and after he left, I asked my new friend if everything was okay. He said yes. It’s just a minor drip that needed to be tightened. He opened the starboard engine hatch to reveal a tidy little engine compartment. I asked him why he just didn’t do it himself. After all, he looked trim and fit and was obviously no stranger to the tool box. His answer surprised me:
“Because I no longer possess the agility.”
It stuck with me and made me think. How much longer will it be before I am saying that?

Ginger Lee and Rogue Angel.

We all know somebody who doesn’t own a screwdriver and has everything done for them. I’m not putting you down, brothers and sisters, one day due to the unstoppable aging process I may walk among you, I simply wish to say that it’s not my choice. Either way there is always a cost. Some pay with money, others like myself, pay with aches, pains, and skinned knuckles. Who is wiser? I say the one who is happy.

The Great Loopers Chapter 16. The Little Things

“You could have drama, or it could be boring. Anything can happen.”

From the log book on Friday September 1, 2017. Written by the XO.

9:40 AM Left Harsens Island
4:40 PM Arrived Port Huron, Michigan, River St. Marina.
1,123 to 1,158=35 miles.

It only took two days to wrench ourselves away from Harsens Island. Any longer and I would have become a permanent resident. Because that’s what the place does to people.
We cruised north up the St. Clair River, half of which is Canada, that is, the international border runs along the middle of the river. It’s okay to cross the border in your boat because you’re not considered an illegal alien until you physically touch Canadian soil. As you can see from the log book, it took us 7 hours to go only 35 miles.
“Why so long?” you ask. It’s because we were fighting against a 3 knot current the whole way. Through some of the skinnier sections, the current increased to 4, sometimes 5 knots. It’s what the St. Claire River does.
On perfectly flat calm water, Ginger Lee does 7 to 8 knots at her engines “sweet spot” of 1600 RPM. Do the math; we were crawling. No, wait, crawling is faster. People strolling along the shoreline were passing us. I don’t wanna even think about the skull numbing boredom.
Yes, I know, the scenery is gorgeous, we’re outside and not toiling away at our job, and we are boating. All true, but after several hours of swimming upstream, what we found endearing and charming got old and stale pretty darn fast.

We would occasionally drift into Canadian waters. After getting wicked waked by a Canadian police boat, I decided we should fly a “courtesy flag” which I fashioned from materials at hand.

When we docked in Port Huron, Michigan, we knew full well what we were getting ourselves into.

Our irrepressible friends Michele and Dale. Proud residents of Port Huron.
Dinner party at their home.

Have you noticed how the pictures are fuzzy and out of focus? It’s like my brain after two crazy days in Port Huron. Really, we barely escaped with our lives!
Some of the bullet points:
*The laundry monster was growling and it was the XO’s turn. Our friend Michele has a washer and dryer and she graciously offered the use of them, and even came by in her car for transport, a big deal for the XO and I, who envy loopers with boats large enough to have a washing machine on them. That was early afternoon. I didn’t see my wife until the next morning! Apparently, doing laundry involved a trip to the packey.
*After a dinner party at Dale and Michele’s place, the XO and I were riding back to the boat, when suddenly, I fell off my bike! I tried to say it was loose dirt but the XO wasn’t buying it. I was schnockered. Jeez, I hate when that happens. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t get drunk. Not since I retired from being a kick-ass, hell-raising, rock and roll mega star.
Sure, I like a cold beer on a hot day, I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, and an occasional cocktail. I’m like Joe Sixpack. Just your average overachiever. Anyway, I was okay. Falling off a folding bike with little 20″ wheels is a breeze. You’re so low to the ground it’s more like rolling off the seat. We walked the rest of the way back to the boat with no further incidents.

Bascule bridge in Port Huron.

From the log book on Sunday September 3rd 2017. Written by the XO.
8:40 AM Left for the 9:00 bridges out of Port Huron.
12:09 @ the fuel dock, Lexington.

We fought our way north up the St. Claire River. I doubt if we were making 3 knots against the terrific current, especially under the Blue Water fixed bridge where the river is at its narrowest. But in less than a mile we were out of its grip and into Lake Huron. Our speed increased and the engines thrummed happily. I drew a straight line course to Lexington Harbor, Michigan.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen another Looper. The last time was way back in New York nearer to Connecticut. I remember this because it was the first time anyone had ever called me on the radio to request a slow pass. The name of the boat escapes me, but the hailing port was from North Carolina, home of America’s most courteous boaters.

In the background you can see the huge breakwater.
The Lexinton Harbor of Refuge has a pub! You must try the Rueben.
Lexington sunrise.
The State of Michigan puts out a very useful book of all the harbors along its coastline. Cruising is so easy around “The Mitten”.

From the log book on Tuesday September 5th 2017.

8:25 AM Left Lexington.
10:15 Into Port Sanilac on the starboard engine alone after the portside overheated.

1,180 to 1,195= 15 miles est.

We were cruising to Harbor Beach on a chilly gray morning, just minding our own business, following another straight line course along the Michigan coast. The XO was at the helm and I was trying to find something to do to pass the time. I had already washed the dishes and made the bed, fixed the water pressure switch, painted the trim and watched it dry. Suddenly, engine alarms! It’s a horrible noise specifically designed to make your heart race and knock you off your chair. Think angry pterodactyl. I picked myself off the floor and scanned the gauges. The port engine temperature spiked to nearly 220 degrees before I shut it down.
“That’s not good,” I said. But luckily, the great state of Michigan has provided boaters with a harbor every 20 or so miles, and we happened to be within a few miles of one. I called Port Sanilac, and right away, a real person answered the phone! That is exactly what I needed to happen at that moment. I explained the situation and requested a slip that we could pull into easily since our maneuverability was compromised.
“I got slip for you. It’s a straight shot in from the breakwater,” was my answer. Sometimes all you need is a little cooperation.
We pulled straight in. There was someone waiting to help us but it was a perfect 3 point landing. Better than I do with both engines running! It didn’t take long to discover the engine had a broken vee belt. It would be our second on this trip, which is not even a third of the way over.
“Should I stock up on vee belts?” I pondered.
“No problem,” the Dockmaster said. She pointed to the huge marine repair and parts facility right next door.
“I love Michigan!” I gushed.

From the log book on Tuesday September 6 2017.
9:35 AM Left the dock at Port Sanilac.
Futile attempt to anchor in weeds.
3:00 PM At Harbor Beach Marina in a slip.

We tried to anchor in heavy weeds. I didn’t work. After several attempts, all we got was a four foot ball of salad attached to the anchor. We finally gave up and grabbed a slip at the Harbor Beach Marina. A good decision because bad weather kept us there for three days. The marina had fuel, pump-out, clean showers, and was close to a quaint downtown with lots of shops. There were also well-cared-for walking and biking paths with lots of historic markers. It was very nice, but…

The noise from a nearby waterfront processing plant was a constant, unrelenting din. Not to mention the slight chemical smell. During the day you almost get used to it, sometimes even forget about it, but at night it’s difficult to ignore. Especially at the marina where there is nothing but a short expanse of water separating it from the plant.
The XO went online to find out what they make. The answer was somewhat cryptic: they make palatants for the food industry. What? Palatants? My spellcheck doesn’t think that’s a real word.
Aha! Artificial flavoring. Hey, somebody’s got to make the stuff. Why use the real thing when you can use all kinds of chemicals with unpronounceable names? And who the hell am I to complain about a factory that employs thousands of hard-working Americans, and keeps this historic city thriving? Shame on me.
“Oh dear. A visiting yachtsman from the Colonies doth turn up his nose. What ever shall we do?”
“We must close down the factory this instant!”

From the log book on Saturday September 9th.
8:20 AM Left well in Harbor Beach.
12:37 PM Port Austin fuel dock, slip at about 1:00

We arrived at Port Austin, Michigan to the aroma of something delicious cooking on somebody’s grill. After we secured the boat, a total stranger approached us. In his hands were two big beautiful bratwurst sandwiches slathered with mustard.
“Enjoy,” he said as he handed them over to me. I was so starving it was like the guy gave me a Porterhouse steak. I couldn’t thank him enough.
“You’re welcome,” he said. “It’s no big deal.”
He’s right, it’s just a couple of brats, but that is what I will remember whenever I think of Port Austin. Sometimes it’s the little things.

The Great Loopers Chapter 15. Dreams

“You can loop all you want, many do, but the experience will never be like the first.

From the log book on Monday August 28, 2017. Written by the XO.

8:20 AM Left Sandusky Bay anchorage. Winds SE 5-15k, chance of showers, maybe thunderstorms. Waves 1-3, decreasing to 1′ or less.
3:30 PM At the Lake Erie Metro Park Marina, in Brownstown, MI.
1016 to 1069=53 miles

All loopers have a comfort zone. It’s a distance and time factor based on either the speed of your vessel or the speed your are allowed to go, and the amount of time you’re willing to stand behind the wheel. As you can see, 53 miles took us over 7 hours, way above our comfort zone.

What was our reward for travelling so far and traversing the shallowest entrance channel we’ve encountered so far on the trip? Muddy props and a very bewildered Dock Master.

“Why are you here?” he said. “I have nothing available for a boat your size.”
Our relatively small cruiser looked like a behemoth among all the runabouts.
“Well, because I called and made a reservation. ‘Bout two hours ago. I was told to come on in!”
“I just started my shift. Who told you that?”
“A woman’s voice on the phone is all I got. I didn’t get a name.”
“Aw man,” he said, shaking his head.
I got the distinct impression someone was in trouble.
Well, okay,” he rubbed his chin. “What’s your beam?”
“Thirteen,” I answered.
“That’s what we got in the Travelift bay. See if you can get her in.”

I squeezed her in there all right. Bet your ass I did. The next available port was another five hours away, and the weather sucked . Fortunately, the small Travelift bay had low walls, and Ginger Lee’s max beam is measured at the rub rail, four or five feet above the waterline, and tapers in from there. I figure I had less than a foot on each side. Just enough for the fenders.

From the log book on Tuesday August 29 2017. Written by the XO.
8:45 AM Slowly and carefully left Lake Erie Metro Park Marina. Forecast is for showers off and on, possibly thunderstorms.
Sometime around 2 or 2:30 we stopped on the wall of Millikan State Park under the lighthouse because of a tremendous thunderstorm.
Later, Keans Marina after getting slammed against the wall.

We said our goodbyes to our old friend Mister Lake Erie. From Buffalo, NY to Brownstown, MI, there were some great memories.
We began our northward climb around the mitten as the Michiganites say. Our destination was Keans Marina in Detroit, but on the way there, as the XO wrote in the log, the early afternoon rain got too heavy for our wipers to clear away. When the thunder and lightning started crashing all around us, we got spooked and quickly tied up to the wall along Milliken State Park and waited until conditions got better.

As seen on the Detroit River leaving Brownstown, MI.
Sharing the road with some big friends.
Waiting out the storm.

We thought we were so fortunate to find a wall to tie up to.
“Let’s stay the night. It’s nice here,” I said.
Then it started happening. Rude boaters repeatedly slammed us against the wall with their uncaring wakes. Welcome to Detroit! We decided to move on and take the slip we reserved.

Slipped at Keans Marina in Detroit.

The Keans Marina is so huge they didn’t know we were there. Yup, we could have stayed for free. They had no record of us being there, nobody remembered taking our reservation, or assigning us a slip.

From the log book on Wednesday August 30 2017. Written by then XO.
10:50 AM Late start; had to wait for the fog to clear; fueled up and pumped out.
2:40 PM On D dock at the South Channel Yacht Club
1095 to 1123=28 miles.

After the fog cleared we left busy Detroit and crossed Lake St. Clair: the lonely lake, forgotten amongst the greats.
We followed our GPS and the nav. aids straight across to the South Channel, and Harsens Island, a most wonderful and unusual place.

Harsens Island canal.
A market on a canal.
Another canal market.
Boats are not kept in a slip. They’re kept in a well.
Harsens Island scene.

Harsons Island is one of those places that just made me feel good. I’m not sure why. It’s an inner thing, a warm glow. If dreams do come true, I imagined they came true there. I’m not the only one who felt it. Every single person I talked to said the same thing: I arrived here, fell in love with it, and never left.
This made me rethink where I belong. Who wouldn’t want to call this place home? I’m jealous. Good God! The allure of Harsens Island had captivated me too!
We’re always cruising, always moving on, never in one place for very long, like American Gypsies on the water. It’s just incredible.
“How did I get here?” I asked myself.
The answer was sitting right next to me. It’s through the Herculean efforts of my wife. Simply put, she knew I dreamed of doing The Great Loop, and so she made it come true for me. I’m a fortunate man to have her in my life.
On a beautiful island in southern Michigan, where the miles gone by under our keel could be counted in thousands, and the miles of waterways ahead of us could be as well, I promised myself to always remember one thing: home isn’t a location, it’s a person.

The Great Loopers Chapter 14. One Thousand

“The water excites the mind and soothes the soul.”

From the log book on Saturday August 26th 2017. Written by the XO:

8:48 AM Left Edgewater Marina. Goodbye Cleveland!
Sunny, east winds 5-10 kts., seas 1ft. or less.
12:45 PM Dropped anchor in Lorrain Harbor, west side by the breakwater, which is full of little shacks.

Miles travelled: 960 to 985=25

A duck hunting shack in Lorain Harbor, Ohio.

After a week of six to nine foot waves and a wicked wind, Lake Erie smoothed out. It was a nice little run to Lorain.
I’m really digging our Mantus anchor. It’s batting a thousand, absolutely reliable, but our windlass refuses to free drop like it’s supposed to. We have to wait until it spools slowly out until proper amount of rode is achieved. In this case–ten feet deep–we need to let out around 70 feet. The boat drifts quite a bit before the anchor reaches the bottom. It’s a problem that needs to be dealt with.

The Lorain Harbor Police stop by to say hello.

Lorain is a quiet, well protected harbor, but if offers little else to the cruising boater. Once a bustling center of commerce, filled with dock workers toiling about huge lakers, loading and unloading cargo for the many manufacturing plants. One by one they closed down. One of the last to go was Ford Motor Company. Lorain is the poster child for deindustrialization.

There is nothing in Lorain Harbor.

From the log book on August 27th 2017. Written by the XO:
8:55 AM. Left Lorain Harbor of bugs.
12:30 PM. Anchored in Sandusky Bay between Johnsons Island and Bay Point.
12:30 – 2:30 PM. Killed many bugs

That’s right. Not a typo. We spent 2 hours killing and cleaning up bugs. Somewhere between Lorain Harbor and Sandusky Bay, two things happened:
(1) We were swarmed by disgusting mayflies. Apparently their sole purpose in this world is to reproduce, die, and smell very bad. Their dead little bodies piled up 2 inches thick on our aft deck. Meanwhile, while we did battle with tee-shirts tied around our head, several nearby runabouts filled with local teenagers frolicked in the warm bay, seemingly unaffected by this plague. We were being singled out by bugs! Look guys, boaters from Massachusetts. C’mon, let’s get ’em!
(2) We travelled one thousand miles!

From our August 2017 calendar. Bugs! 1000 miles!

The Great Loopers Chapter 13. Mister Scaredy Cat.

“People go on adventures to find things they never knew were out there.”

From the log book on August 21 2017. Written by the XO:

7:40 AM Up anchor. Weather partly cloudy w/ small waves and south or southwest wind 10 knots or less.
11:30 AM Forest City Yacht Club, Cleveland, OH.
Miles travelled: 925 to 955 = 30

We had decided that we definitely did not want to visit Cleveland. Absolutely not. Uh-uh. Nope. No friggin’ way. Not interested. Screw that.
Yet there we were at the Forest City Yacht Club in Cleveland Ohio. The thing is, there were not a lot of options within our cruising range. We were lucky to find a spot in this private club. As it turned out, Cleveland was awesome. Who Knew?

The calmest marina anywhere. Just outside it’s breakwater were awful lake conditions.

Living is easy at the Forest City Yacht Club. It’s members are very happy boaters. They have a pool! Air conditioned showers! The XO found yoga nearby, and we both enjoyed the bike and walking paths that Cleveland has everywhere. We stayed three days and caretaker Jerry only charged us for two.

From the log book on August 24 2017. Written by the XO:

Left sometime in the morning (8:45?)
The course was west, the wind was north, so we stayed in Cleveland on the west side (Edgewater Marina).
9:43AM At the fuel dock.

Apparently, Cleveland was not ready to let us go. Here’s what happened:
At about a quarter to nine in the morning, we left the Forest City Yacht Club for the port of Loraine which is about 30 miles away, but we never made it further than the length of the massive breakwater that guards Cleveland’s waterfront.
After a half hour of waves pounding us broadside, we were going nuts. Twenty miles of this? I don’t think so! I made a somewhat frantic call to the Edgewater Marina on the westernmost end of the aforementioned breakwater. They had one slip left. Yay! We ducked in, fueled up, pumped out, and restocked the beer locker. Distance travelled: 5 miles, our shortest trip. We nestled in snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug for the next three days while Lake Erie pumped out nine foot waves.

The Last Slip in Cleveland. Note the massive breakwater in the background.
Bike paths are everywhere in Cleveland. We followed one to this huge downtown marketplace.
On a dinghy adventure.
We followed this waterway. Small boats only.
Clearing skies in Cleveland Ohio.

Why didn’t I want to stop in Cleveland? Fear of the unknown? Perhaps. I can be a bit unwilling to try new things. Anytime I’m boating to an unfamiliar destination, I go over scenarios in my head. Mostly about stuff that can go wrong. But this was our first loop. Everywhere was unknown. That’s a lot of scenarios echoing off my skull, like every single day. Funny thing is, in pretty much every circumstance my fears were totally unfounded. Yet I still had it, this inexplicable trepidation. I dunno. Maybe it’s my minds way of keeping us safe by being ready for anything. Or maybe I’m just not that comfortable with the unknown. Is anybody?
This whole Great Loop thing was a real stretch for me, Mister Scaredy Cat, but I was somehow driven to do it. It taught me something about myself and about this world we share with others. It made me want to be a better man every day. If you’re looping, you know what I’m talking about.
Life is uncharted territory. All I can think about is how much richer mine has become.

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.

The Great Loopers Chapter 11. The Other Side

I want something real. I want to experience life and come out the other side. I want to put my heart out into the world and see what happens, come what may. I won’t let fear keep me from being happy. Tell me I’m wrong about this and I will tell you you’re wrong.

From the log book on August 5th 2017 Written by the XO:
7:40 AM Left Lockview Marina in Lake Cayuga (Kewga)
10:20 Worlds fastest pumpout in Clyde, NY.
12:00 Tied up at the free wall in LYONS (free electric / water / Wifi!) at the sound of the noon whistle.

The free wall at Lyons. Later, we pulled up under the bridge to get out of the blazing hot sun.

From the log book on August 6th. Written by the XO.
Sometime before 9:00 left Lyons wall (getting sloppy with the log).
12:48 Pulled in (awkwardly because of bad directions from the marina) to the Mid-Lakes Marina Macedon, NY.

The state of New York was our host for a whopping 32 days. 18 days on the Erie Canal. There’s a song in there somewhere. If I could only find a word that rhymes with canal.

Erie Canal party boat.
This is Mike. We met him on the wall at Baldwinsville. The next day he brought us a box full of interesting foods. I still talk to him. He’s looking for a boat to do the loop.
The wall at Ilion.
The wall in Rome, NY. We had pizza delivered!
A lift bridge. The bridge attendant stops traffic and raises the bridge; after we pass under it, he lowers it, then drives to the next one to meet us and repeats the process. The same person can operate 3 lift bridges!
The wall at Spencerport.
Mead tasting in Medina.
The wall at Tonowanda.
Loud “go- fast” boats terrorizing the neighborhood in Tonowanda NY.

From the log book on August 7th 2017 written by the XO.
Around 10:30 to the fuel dock.
Around 10:50 Away from Macedon.
11:20 Fuel off to port engine. Cruising to Fairport, NY on starboard engine. (Oops)
12:20 Docked at the DPW pumpout to bleed and restart Pollux.
12:35 Rick apologizes to Pollux and all is well.
1:00 First lift bridge in Fairport.
5:10 PM On the wall in Spencerport.

How I managed to shut off the fuel tanks is beyond me. Thirty minutes after fueling up, the port engine –who we named Pollux–petered out. I knew what it was right away and a quick check under the aft-deck hatch confirmed it.
Ginger Lee still has its original port and starboard 66 gallon cylindrical tanks. They are not connected to each other like the modern new fangled ones, so to balance the load, we must periodically switch from one to the other. This is accomplished by opening the aft-deck hatch, reaching in, and manually shutting off the petcock of the tank we don’t want to empty. It sounds like a pain in the ass, but it’s not so bad, and it doesn’t need to done that often. The trick is to make sure at least one tank is on. If not, the engine closest to the tank will starve itself first. In this case, the port engine. When that happens, as any diesel owner knows, you gotta purge all the air from the lines by a process known as bleeding.
On our Lehman 120’s, there are bleeding screws that you open and hand operate a lever on the fuel lift pump which is specifically designed for this purpose. Open the screw, pump the lever until all the air bubbles out, and fresh diesel spurts out making a smelly mess. Rinse and repeat. If you have diesels, you should learn how to do this yourself.
It happened once before many years ago when we first bought the boat. We were taking it home to Wareham from Wickford, Rhode Island. The port engine died, I tried several times to restart before checking the petcocks. Yup, they were both off. Oh duh. After turning on the fuel, the dead engine miraculously restarted and stayed running. I am told that never happens without bleeding. It’s a good thing too, because at the time I had no idea how to bleed them. That’s when we decided to name our engines Castor and Pollux, after the mythical twins who have the ability to temporarily transfer a portion of life from one to another, in order to save themselves.

Bocce in Illion. She won.

I fell in love with the Erie Canal. Much of its charm is in its age. It’s palpable. I could feel it all around. We cruised a waterway over a hundred years old. It’s still doing the thing it was dug out for, and doing it very well. Life is slow and easy. There’s no tricky currents or tides to contend with. No speeding wake-boats to jostle the nerves. No slips to wriggle in and out of, just nice, welcoming walls to sidle up to. They even make the locking process easy. Friendly Lockmasters will call ahead to the next lock and tell them you’re coming, so when you arrive, it’s all open doors and green lights.
But Ol’ Erie is not for everybody, there’s a fixed railroad bridge with a vertical clearance listed at 15 feet, 7 inches. No problem for Ginger Lee. She is 15 and a half with her hat on.
We entered the Big Ditch in Waterford as apprehensive and anxious novices. We left it in Tonowanda as happy, knowledgeable mariners, no longer in fear the big bad locks. Not after 40 of them. For me, it was the perfect introduction to The Great Loop. It’s all downhill from there. Literally. From then on, all the locks will begin to lower you back down to sea level.

Entering Lock 17 where we will be lifted up over 40 feet.

I felt like I did something very special, and learned things about myself, as a boater and as a person. The Erie Canal: a metaphor of life. You encounter walls. Some are free, some are quite costly, but they all have something to show you, and teach you. You’ll learn something from them. I guarantee it.
Look at the water: it has direction, an ebb and a flow. Sometimes it lifts you up, and sometimes lets you down. It’s a waltz that directs you if you let it.
Sometimes life gets stressful, we fall out of synch, like there’s a disturbance in the force. Do you have the depth to cruise through real life struggles, and come out the other side?

Buffalo and Lake Erie, our next challenge.

The Great Loopers Chapter 10. The Chemistry of Cruising

“Before you begin this adventure there is an emotional state of mind you must have. Having a sense of adventure means accepting the fact that resilience and fortitude will play a huge part here. You must have complete faith and trust in your partner. It’s not always going to be docktail parties.”
-Jan Rychel-

Basically, you move into a boat with your partner for a whole year. Think about that for a minute. It’s so easy to say that you are comfortable with your partner, but try living in a fraction of the space you’re used to. The Great Loop is not for everyone.
Before we started our trip, the XO and I were experienced seasonal cruisers. In Massachusetts the boating season is four, or maybe five months a year, if we’re lucky. Our house is near our boat so we spend most weekends on it. Even if we don’t take it anywhere, we still enjoy staying overnight on it. We both work day jobs, so Summer vacations, usually two weeks, are always spent exploring new ports and revisiting our favorites. We are very fortunate to be able to do that, but it is still part-time. There’s no way we could’ve been prepared for full time cruising.

From the log book on August 2nd 2017. Written by the XO.
8: 46 AM Away from the Brewerton dock.
12: 45 PM At the $5/night Baldwinsville, NY dock next to the graveyard!
Nice and quiet, but buggy.

7:55AM. Off the dock.
1:15PM At the dock, Lockview Marina, Lake Cayuga.

On August 4th we left the Erie Canal and locked through to Lake Cayuga (pronounced CUE-GA by the locals) and docked at the Lockview Marina. We met up with our friend Lisa who lives a mere 45 minutes away. She graciously offered to deliver some packages to us.
When I walked down the dock to grab a quick shower it was an awesome day on the lake. Everyone was outside enjoying themselves. Swimming, kayaking, sailing, barbequing, and what-have-you. I finished my shower, dressed, and was surprised that I couldn’t open the door to the outside. I mean, it was unlocked, and it moved an inch or two, but it was like someone was pushing back from the other side. I knew that wasn’t the case because I could see through the window and there was nobody there. I put my shoulder into it and gave it everything I got. Suddenly, the door whipped open and slammed hard into the wall with a loud bang. I scrambled outside to what can only be described as a disaster scene.
All hell had broken loose! The sky was a roiling, angry, dark gray, and was spitting huge nickel-sized pellets of rain. The wind whistled and screeched and knocked over a tree that crashed through the roof of a building on the marina property. The once tranquil lake was whipped up into a frothing, ugly monster with large whitecapped waves. I could barely walk against the gale so I broke into a run. Aboard Ginger Lee, The XO and Lisa had everything buttoned up by the time I got there, but poor Salty, tied to the hip, was aft into the wind and waves. I tried to turn his bow into the maelstrom but all I could do was watch helplessly as a sudden gust picked him up like a leaf and flipped him completely over, dumping his contents everywhere. Meanwhile, the XO witnessed a pack of kayaking cub scouts get overrun with sheets of spray and waves. Helplessness quickly turned into concern when one of the kayaks floated by empty.
“Call 911! We got a missing kid.” she said to Lisa, who was holding her phone, trying to capture the moment for posterity.
Then, just a suddenly as it began, the storm subsided, and it was once again a nice summer day. We pulled our upside-down dinghy to the face-dock, righted it, and bailed it out. The missing scout turned up after swimming to the nearest shore, and a friendly couple on their boat retrieved the oars, PFD’s, gas tanks, and all the stuff that was dumped from Salty.
The situation was looking much better, but the small Mercury outboard motor attached to the dinghy had gone underwater. Not good. Outboards aren’t made to be submerged, but since it was not running when it went under, I knew there’s a good chance it could be brought back to life. I immediately rowed to the launch ramp and pulled Salty out of the water by deploying its retractable wheels. I placed a bucket under the motor and opened the crankcase drain. There was a surprising amount of water mixed with the oil, but it’s a fresh water lake, which is good. Salt water is much more corrosive. Then I removed the spark plugs and sprayed fogging oil into the cylinders. After installing new plugs, and filling the crankcase with oil, I connected a tank of fresh gasoline, and hit the electric starter. Nothin’. Not even a sputter. “Crap!” I muttered.
I removed the carb, took it apart, cleaned it, reinstalled it, then hit the starter again. Still nothin’. “Double crap!”
After removing the spark plugs once again, I noticed they were pretty wet with water, not gas, so I blew out the cylinders by engaging the starter without the plugs installed. Without compression the motor spun fast enough to clear out any moisture. When everything was put back together, I sprayed starter fluid into the intake.
“C’mon baby,” I said as I pushed the starter button. It reluctantly sputtered to life like a nearly drowned man, coughing and spitting up lake water. I twisted the throttle to keep it running until it returned to its normal, burbling idle. When I zoomed that dinghy past Ginger Lee, I heard the XO let out a loud triumphant cheer. Salty’s back!

Here we are furiously bailing out our dinghy.
Friendly boaters rescued Salty’s gear that was floating away. The also grabbed the scouts kayak

Nobody makes it though the Loop unscathed. There is always something. Ask any Looper. It’s not just how you deal with it, it’s all about how you deal with it together, as a couple. It’s the resilience and fortitude part Jan Rychel mentioned in the opening paragraph.
On the waterways of The Great Loop, there are no days off. You are floating in your home, with your possessions and your loved ones. You have to be constantly aware. Your lives depend on it.
There’s a state of mind you enter for the duration. But once that’s achieved, everything becomes easier. We got into a daily rhythm. We knew where each other would be and what we had to do. We trusted and relied on each others abilities, so much so that our intercom headsets became extraneous jewelry that we put on only to chat with each other while we docked, locked, or dropped anchor. Me, inside at the helm, and her, outside on the foredeck, handling the lines.
“There’s no one on the dock, looks like we’re on our own.”
“Oh wait a sec. Here comes someone.”
“Do you have any tip money?”
“Should we tip the Dockmaster?”
“Ooh, there’s a manatee in the lock with us!”
“I see him! Hey, check out those egrets. They’re waiting for the lock to empty so they can grab the fish stranded on the ledge.”
“There’s Shangri-La.”
“And Miss Norma too.”
“They’re always together.”
“Connected at the hip. Literally!”
“Isn’t that Breeze in the slip across the fairway?”
“Yup, haven’t seen ol’ Lee since Tarpon Springs.”

Choose your battles wisely, don’t sweat the small stuff, be kind, and respect each others alone time.
“But gee wilikers! Why would anybody not want to be with me 100% of the time?”
“Jeepers creepers Rick! There are loads of reasons. Your insufferable vanity comes to mind. You drink beer and belch, and you smoke those stinky cigars. Shall I go on?”
“No need to. They’re my only faults!”
I made it a priority to take a long walk or bike ride whenever possible, usually daily, just leave the XO alone for an hour or two. If we were anchored, I’d dinghy ashore.
She would often take off on her kayak, or go to the beach alone. In almost every port she found a yoga class to attend. Sometimes she would just hop in the dinghy and putt putt around.

The XO recently told me that she was afraid most of the time. That surprised me. I didn’t see that. Well, not so often. I had fears too, but I guess I was good at hiding mine as well.
After nearly nine months on land, the sense of adventure is still very strong within my soul. I miss that more than anything else.
Many people ask me the same two questions. The first one: “How was your trip?” I struggle with. How does one answer that? There’s just so much. So many things happened.
“Perhaps you could narrow it down for me. Do you mean physically? Mentally? Psychologically?” It’s difficult to answer quickly while passing a co-worker in the hall at the water cooler. “Great!” I will say, but that just doesn’t quite cover it ‘cuz it wasn’t all great. “Amazing!” Another standard answer that also falls short. Sometimes it was damn boring. “Super! Wonderful! Spectacular!” I feel like I’m giving them what they want to hear so they can scurry off to file those papers. Is there a short answer? I doubt it very much. The second question I can answer right away.
“Yes. In a heartbeat.”