Great Loop Follies

Well it’s been a week since we left Wareham and we’re still alive and floating! So far we have sunk our dinghy in Point Judith, run over a tree in the Connecticut River, and anchored way too close to a reef in the Norwalk Islands.
I covered the dinghy sinking in my last post, no sense in going over that again. So here are more adventures.
On a lovely Sunday afternoon, we had just entered the Connecticut River heading for the free mooring field in North Cove. There were like a hundred boats all coming and going. They were passing us right and left, cutting across our bow, coming too close to our stern, and generally being rude and uncaring. Everyone was completely ignoring the SLOW NO WAKE signs that were everywhere. It was a real freak show! A 50 foot snoot bucket towing a 21 foot dinghy on a 50 foot tow line, and leaving a 4 foot wake, got tired of being behind a boat (us) that was obeying the rules of the road and gunned it to pass. We were dealing with the dudes massive wave when suddenly with we felt and heard a gawd awful noise that traveled the length of our hull and crunched past the running gear.
“My God! What was that?” the XO exclaimed.
I turned around just in time to see what looked like a tree bounce off the dinghy. then slowly sink under the briny.
“Crap,” I exclaimed as I waited for engine alarms, bilge lights, prop vibrations, smoke, fire, brimstone, or anything else. But no, miraculously we were fine and we continued on our way to North Cove in Old Saybrook, CT.

Sea wall in Fenwick, CT.

Old Saybrook Town Beach

“Why isn’t this place packed? It’s incredible,” I asked aloud.
“Because there are no dock boys,” the XO answered.
What can I say? There are a certain amount of boaters who need dock boys.

North Cove morning.

The next morning we headed off to the Norwalk Islands in Connecticut. There is an anchorage right off Cockenoe Island we were excited to try.

Leaving the Connecticut River, we saw this tug pushing a mountain.

Anchored off Cockenoe Island.

Well, we anchored all right, but when the tide receded, we were really close to the rock strewn Cockenoe Reef. When we swung around with the breeze, suddenly we were in 3 feet of water. The dangerous reef was less than 10 feet away! Yikes! Panic mode! We immediately fired up the engines and moved to deeper water.

This unmanned Hobie Cat sailed by us and hit the reef.

Cockenoe Island is gorgeous, deserted, and, except for the fringe areas, really difficult to walk on. Birds have almost completely taken it over.

On Cockenoe Island.

We found this makeshift shrine.

We never saw another soul the whole time we were there. Awesome! We showered buck naked on the swim platform! SOCOBO 7/21/17



Thursday, July 20 – Boat guest, with bonus view from the front deck

We started Thursday here, anchored on the Hudson, behind Stony Point, New York, right at the Kings Ferry, then cruised up just a few miles to Iona (“I own a”) Island, where the bald eagles live, right near Bear Mountain.

Blair came to visit.

The Captain enjoyed the conversation.

Severe thunderstorms threatened, but in the end, it only rained and we got an amazing rainbow.

This view from the front deck is the Blair Mountain Bridge, a bargain at $1.50.

Sink That Dinghy!

On the second day of our Great Loop trip we managed to sink our dinghy! I don’t have any pictures because we were in full emergency mode trying to save this thing, but let me tell ya, it was sad to see our Salty ll filled to the gunwales with water. Believe it or not, It happened in about a second.
We were anchoring in the lee of Gardiner Island in the Point Judith Pond, Rhode Island. The shiny new Mantus anchor hanging from the bow pulpit was a Christmas present to ourselves. We were trying it for the very first time. Unfortunately, we were so focused on its performance that we didn’t notice our dinghy’s painter had wrapped around the port side prop. When I backed down to set the new anchor, SaIty II was instantly dragged underwater.
“What’s that noise? That doesn’t sound good,” the XO said.
When we looked aft, it was a wicked shocking sight. The bow of our aluminum dinghy was caught under Ginger Lee’s hull on the port side, nearly two feet below the water level! Thankfully, smaller boats are required by law to have a certain amount of floatation, thereby saving the expensive new Mercury outboard hanging off the transom.
In total savior mode, the XO quickly donned her wet suit and goggles and entered the water. With a serrated knife she managed to cut away the line, freeing the dinghy, but not the rope tightly looped around the prop shaft. After several attempts, and many cuts on her hands from sharp barnacles, she had enough diving, but still found the energy to rescue the dinghy’s contents which were quickly floating away.
With scoopers cut from water jugs, we furiously bailed out our sunken friend. Then, with a snorkel mask, my wife’s wet suit, and a pair of leather gloves, I was eventually able to untangle the line from the shaft. Let me tell ya, it’s hard for an adrenalin filled 65-year-old to hold his breath for more than about ten seconds. It took me five dives.
Even though it was a fairly traumatic experience, we worked the problem, solved it as a team, saved Salty II, and didn’t ever swear! It was friggin’ exhausting.
I’m proud of the way we handled it. Let’s just say the rest of the night was filled with rum and love.    SOCOBO 7/14/17

XO and Salty II.

Boat visitors

Rick took off in Salty the dinghy, went from the anchorage to the Upper Point Judith Pond, and came back with Pokey and Billy.

Billy swam, explored the boat, corrected me a few times and ate all of the Snickers.

Pokey played the banjo. We tried it out, and now guess who wants one…

Then the osprey came around.

I love boat visitors.


It’s been a week of lasts; the last day of employment; last mowing of the lawn; last drive in my old Chevy; last day of cable TV; last letter retrieved from the beat up mailbox across the street; last friendly wave from our neighbors; last night in our big, comfortable bed.

The old Chevy.

We have dozens of plants, our little house is full of them, full of life. They flourish in every window, especially the sun-room. They have stories and names. Grown from cuttings or rescued from inattentive co-workers, I rarely bought. It’s amazing how attached we’ve become. But you see, we’re going on a year-long boat trip so they all have to go. We give away all but the three which will adorn our boat’s interior. It’s okay though, I will begin filling the house with lush greenery as soon as we return. You can bet on it.
We say our good byes to family, friends, and neighbors, cover our lovely Jeeps, take one last look at the land-bound life we have gotten so very good at, and board our new home, Ginger Lee, an old 32 foot Trojan cabin cruiser.

Our neighbors Joe and Bernadette see us off.

On a clear July morning, my wife stands on the fore-deck and looks slowly around at the beauty that is Swifts Neck. The lone Osprey circling overhead does not go unnoticed. My wife is drawn to them more than any other creature. Her spirit animal is tattooed permanently on her fair skin. With a sigh, she unceremoniously drops the mooring lines into the sea. Freedom from land bound rules and rituals has occurred. We lock eyes through the windshield and I find myself mouthing the words “I love you”. We understand each other and the importance of this moment. The seemingly endless Great Loop planning and preparation is over. There is only one last thing to do: enjoy.

Is the Great Loop Prep Over Yet?

Holy crap! In just a few days my wife and I will be moving into our 32 foot cabin cruiser for a whole year. Talk about shaking up your life! I expect nothing less than a life changing experience. Or maybe a life affirming experience. That would be cool.

“How does one prepare a 6,500 mile journey around the eastern United States?” you ask. Well for starters, take a year leave of absence from your job and save up a bunch of money. Easy peasy. Ya right! Easy my ass! It took us five years to get that done. After that, everything else was pretty painless. Oh, we did a few extra things to the boat, but nothing too major, a couple of new shelves, some grab-rails, new goodies for the engines, just stuff we probably would have gotten around to sooner or later. Because we’ve had her for 7 years, Ginger Lee is already set up for long cruising, which we do every Summer, but this is different. I suppose during a year-long cruise unexpected things could happen, but since there is no way to plan for that, there’s no sense in worrying about it.

Changing out the alternators.

New safety rail that runs the length of the salon.

New tranni oil coolers installed.

More solar panels installed on the hatch covers.

Our 5 solar panels make 13.9 volts and 11 amps! I like the pictogram of a happy battery. It frowns when there is not enough charge.

But ya know, I’m excited about this trip in spite of all its unknown factors. Why not shake it up for a while? I feel just like I did when I was a kid waiting for Christmas, worried that I might get hit by a bus before it all happens.
No! I’m not taking my usual morning walk through the woods. I’ll get Lyme’s disease from a deer tick for sure. I’ll just walk the streets and the beaches.
No! I won’t ride my bicycle on busy route 6. A hung-over driver will surely sideswipe me and knock me into the cranberry bogs where I’ll drown in a foot of water and never be seen again. I’ll just stay on the sidewalks and side streets.

Will the boat be ready? I think so. I mean, she’s floating; the engines start and run; the props turn; the electronics work. When you think about it, whatever problems come up will be handled where ever we happen to be, same as always, business as usual. Just the scenery will be different. Oh, there will be problems, I’m sure of it, but we’re not going to Siberia; we’re travelling the open waterways of the good ol’ U. S. of A., where there are plenty of enterprising people ready to make money from our misfortune. It’s the American way. Yup. If I can’t fix it myself, I’ll be paying big bucks to have somebody else fix it. I can accept that. At least we’ll be under way, and the Great Loop prep will finally be over.

Sporting my new buzz cut.

Shakedown 2017

Moby Dick Marina, Fairhaven Massachusetts.
It’s early morning; the sun is gorgeous; the wind is calm; the seas are flat. As part of a long-standing good-luck tradition, I place a quarter between the feet of the gull statue that guards the docks, then head down the gangway to our boat, Ginger Lee. The XO is already rolling up the isinglass curtains in preparation of our annual cruise to our home port in Wareham.

Getting ready for boating.

It’s not just the first cruise of the season, this is the shakedown cruise, where we find out if anything is wrong with any of the boat’s systems. Obviously, there is nothing major going on, she’s still floating, but there are a few relatively minor problems. First of all, our new aft deck rug, which we had custom cut and bound, is the wrong size. A quick check of the receipt reveals that it’s the rug company’s fault and thankfully not ours. Okay, so we’ll just return it for the correct size. Next, the depth sounder wont turn on. Bummer. I open the access panel to the gauge cluster and discover a corroded connection which I quickly fix. Not unusual on a boat. Undeterred, I fire up the engines one at a time. Huh, that’s odd. The starboard engine alarm is blaring but all the gauges are normal. After awhile it quiets down and then shuts off. I know that alarm is connected to the oil pressure sender. I make a note to replace it or check the wiring. On to the next problem.
The voltage gauges are only reading 12.5 volts. They should be showing somewhere around 14 volts with the engines running. I may have to replace one or both alternators, or maybe the connections are a little funky. Not really a big deal right now, because unlike gasoline engines, diesel engines don’t have an ignition system and therefore need no electricity to keep them running. They only need power to start them. Once started, they’ll run until they run out of fuel, break, or are shut off. We’re still good to go. Next problem please.
The port engine water temperature gauge is fluctuating  between normal and zero. I recall recently messing around with the sender connections while adjusting the fan belt. I make yet another note to tighten them up. Finally we’re off.
The XO remains on the deck to stow the fenders and dock lines. I see she’s very concerned about the shallow water. Apparently the bottom is quite visible. My depth sounder reads 2.6 feet. So yeah, I confirm the shallow water sighting. I slow down and hug the docks and soon we have 4 feet of water under us. Typical low tide hijinks at Moby Dick. Never a dull moment!

Concerned XO.

I call the New Bedford bridge to ask when they will open and quickly discover our main radio isn’t working. I switch to the secondary radio and get an immediate response. Good thing I’m big on redundant systems! My to-do list is growing.

The New Bedford Bridge opens.

We slip past the bridge and enter a fairly busy New Bedford Harbor. Fishing boats, both private and commercial are underway on this nice day. Ferries and rowing club longboats are everywhere as well, all heading towards the narrow opening of the Hurricane Barrier.

F/V Italian Princess.

Rowing club longboat.

Approaching The New Bedford Hurricane Barrier.

Once clear of the harbor traffic, we set a course for home, more or less hugging the coastline. I’ve never seen seas so flat in this area, and as any boater knows, the wave height is everything. The XO knocks on wood at our good fortune. I follow suit.

On the marine radio, we listen intently to a boater calling for help. He’s lost steerage in the turbulent Woods Hole Cut, not far from our position.
“Not a great place to lose rudder,” I comment.
“I don’t like The Woods Hole Cut,” the XO says.
“Nobody likes The Woods Hole Cut,” I say, nodding my head in respect.
The Coast guard answers his plea almost immediately.
“Vessel calling Coast Guard. What is the nature of your distress? Over.”
“I think we hit a rock. I have no rudder,” the Captain answers in a surprisingly calm manner.
“Vessel in distress. How many people on board? Are there any children on board? Name and description of your boat. Over.”
“Four adults. 40 foot power boat. Black and white hull,” the same calm voice replies.
“Please have everyone put on their life jackets. Over.”
Suddenly, the Tow Boat US joins the conversation. These guys are one of the two organizations who make a living out of rescuing boaters. The other is SeaTow. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy job, but one that deserves recognition. The former is quickly on scene and assisting, demonstrating the most important purpose of the marine band radio, which is: everyone within range can hear you. Everyone can potentially save your ass! But in this area, 9 times out of 10, if you’re a boater who needs help, Tow Boat U.S. makes the save. For a mere 150 bucks a year, they will tow your disabled boat anywhere. It’s like AAA on the water, except they will help you even if you’re not a member. It won’t be free, but they will help you.

Towboat US to the rescue.

We take a left at Bird Island Light and cruise into familiar waters. It may as well be the Caribbean, because right now, there is nothing more beautiful than our home port of Swifts Neck, Wareham, Massachusetts.