Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Dinner

We're docked in St. Petersburg for a few weeks, including Christmas thru New Years. We walked downtown on Saturday to the farmers market for some fresh veggies, interesting lunch and some good live Irish music. The weather has been fantastic, every day in the low 80's & sunny. We did buy a few strings of Christmas lights to string up in the main cabin along with some ornaments, stockings and Chris' moms bells.

We went to one of the finest waterfront restaurants in all of St. Petersburg for Christmas dinner. We ordered Ribeye Roast for two; with mushroom sauce, potatoes & fresh seasoned asparagus and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was fantastic! The meat melted in our mouths like butter. The mushroom sauce was soooo tasty & the fresh asparagus was perfect! The wine added to the perfection of the meal. And to top it off, we shared a bit of a special Christmas desert of Peppermint stick ice cream! WOW, what a great meal. Worth every bit of $200!
But we didn't pay $200...Chris prepared it in the galley aboard s/v Freedom! We eat like royalty thanks to chef Christine's excellent skills!!

We have visitors coming Monday & Tuesday. So we'll do some socializing early in the week and then get back to the long list of projects that we need to knock off. New Years has several options. There is a party at the marina restaurant or we can go down to the public pier for a big bash. We'll play it by ear. At least we won't need to worry about freezing rain that seems to materialize every New Years up north.

Hope you had a very Merry Christmas like we did!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Night Before Christmas on s/v Freedom

'Twas the night before Christmas, and out in the sea
Our vessel was sailing, as nice as could be

The stockings were hung from the teak trim with care
With hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there

The crew were nestled all snug in their beds
As visions of new gear danced in their heads

And the skipper and I relaxed and calm
A nice warm day under the palm

When up in the sky, there arose such a clatter
I leapt from my bed to see what was the matter

To the companionway, I flew to look at the ocean
To see what was causing all the commotion

And what to my skeptical eyes should appear
But a giant osprey expelling droppings next to my ear!

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Apalachacola to Clearwater and St. Chris  

 We got up bright and early to begin our next overnight trip to Clearwater.  Don't ask me what time it was, we have now switched back to Eastern Standard time and I am still trying to adjust.  We were delayed getting under way for an hour by fog, once again.   I was eager to get further south for the warmer weather but had some trepidations after our less than perfect previous night crossing experience This weather window sounded perfect, so no need to worry.  We had anchored in site of a bridge with a 65' reported vertical clearance.  As we approached, I got out of the cockpit to look for the vertical clearance board.  Our mast is approximately 63'.  As we neared, I read the gauge.......exactly 63'......Yikes!  We crawled towards the bridge, watching very closely.  The problem is, it never looks like we will make it under the bridge with enough spare room.  Needless to say, we made it under but it was too close for my comfort.  Sailing lore talks about never starting a trip on a Friday, it is supposed to be bad luck.  Hopefully our close bridge encounter was the worst of the luck.  There are two passes, or openings out to the Gulf of Mexico from Apalachcola.  The West pass will cut a few hours from our trip but requires "local knowledge" due to shoaling and shallow waters.  We recieved advice from the gentleman running the fuel dock, he tells use that as long as we hug the green markers we will be fine.  Leson learned;  if there is doubt about a pass take the sure thing.  We took the short cut and ran aground.  I had to go up to the bow of the boat and jump up and down as Ed maneuvered to get us off the sand bar.  Surely, now that will be the last of our bad luck?  We took the east pass and made it out to the gulf.  It was a beautiful day, light wind, so we motor sailed a close reach.  Our daylight hours keep getting shorter and shorter so sunset came sooner than we would like and the wind died as the sun set so it was an evening of motor sailing ahead of us.  Almost as soon as the sun set a haze engulfed us.  It was not as strong as a fog but it was difficult to distinguish the sky from the water.  Luckily our radar was working well.  There was not a cloud in the sky and the stars were spectacular, we saw 5 shooting stars!  The seas really calmed, just a light ripple of waves.  The moon finally rose around 11:00 and really made visibility much better.  It turned into a magical night.  We each got a little sleep, we were visited by dolphins, had spectacular starry
skies and a nice comfortable ride.  At first light we could hear, but not see some loons.    We arrived in Clearwater around noon and decided to take the inland passage to a nice anchorage we had planned.  As always, we have a few options in case we do not like the looks of certain anchorages.  The first two were just not right so we ended going another 20 miles and had to pass through about 7 Bascule bridges.  Most opened on request, a few opened at specified time, 20 - 30 minutes.  We had a nice relaxing evening at anchor and proceeded on to our Christmas home this year.  We are at a marina that is within walking distance of St Petersburg, Florida.  We are cleaning and provisioning for the holidays and the weather could not get any better!  Highs in the 80s for the next few weeks!  Merry Christmas!   

Thursday, December 15, 2011


We tried sailing from Panama City Beach to St. Joe's Bay but once again the wind was right on the nose. We tried tacking back & forth but that would have taken us forever. Plus it was pretty lumpy further offshore, so the heck with it. We sailed back in and then motored east, close to shore, in easy 2 foot seas. We entered a canal at St. Joes that connects to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. A short way down the GICW is the small town of White City. They have a small cut in the waterway with some space to tie up. No services, nothing around except a boat launch ramp and a bunch of Black Vultures. It was free, Perfect! This was all a flashback to our river cruising complete with fog at dawn. We waited an hour before getting underway with still a fair amount of fog hanging low. Sure enough, a half mile up the ICW we encounter the only barge within 50 miles looming out of the fog bearing right down at us. No problem, call him on the VHF and discuss passing. After 4 tries on 2 frequencies and him closing fast he finally responds. With thick Louisiana drawl he casually agrees on a starboard to starboard pass. No problem. The rest of the morning was quite scenic as the fog lifted, including the largest Bald Eagle we've ever seen. He looked every bit the part of a BALD EAGLE sitting atop a tree overlooking the waterway.
Freedom arrived in Apalachacola early afternoon. We topped off the diesel tank & the spare jugs too for the long run upcoming. We then anchored across the river from town to settle in, get a few preparations done for tomorrow and relax.
Tomorrow is the much anticipated crossing of the Big Bend corner of the gulf. There is no good place to stop for a deep draft boat between Apalachacola and Clearwater, a run of about 160 miles. At 6 knots, that's about 27 hours. We've had rotten luck every time we've headed out to the open waters of the gulf. Friday & Saturday sea conditions look good...we'll see!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pensacola to Panama City Beach

We took a first stab at this run on Friday 12/2. We aborted after a few hours because of steep, sloppy seas and wind on the nose. After waiting several days we departed a second time on Tuesday 12/6 around 3pm. The seas were rolling from leftover southerly winds but not too bad and the forecast was for it to settle down. It did for a while. But around 3 AM it swung around to the north much earlier than predicted and started blowing in the high teens. That switch stirred up the southerly swell and made things very uncomfortable once again. The boat can handle it fine, can the crew? Well, nobody barfed! That's something. By dawn, the wind reached 30 knots. We had to run cross wise to the seas to get into the inlet which created quite a bit of rolling. This is one place where a sailboat does much better than power as the sails act as a huge roll damper. It was quite a wild roller coaster ride into the inlet in 10' waves. The inlet is plenty wide and deep so there was no real danger, just more 'entertainment'.

I'd made arrangements to shoot a video for a local marina in Panama City, so that was the destination. It was 6am and the wind was blowing like stink. So we dropped anchor in the lagoon inside the pass to wait for the marina staff, wait for the wind to die down a bit and take a well deserved nap.

That front blew in some chilly overnight temps. But that has passed and now we're looking forward to about a week of hi's in the 70's and lows in the 50's. I successfully completed the video and we're ready to continue on. We'll head for Apalachacola over the next few days and then another overnight to Clearwater and Tampa/St. Pete's.

Video: Cruising from Chicago to Mobile

Here is a longer compilation video of our river cruise from Chicago to Mobile. Some shots are reprieved from previous videos but there is plenty of new video as well.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Underway Again

We finally wrapped up everything (well almost everything) at Turner Marine and cast off early Tuesday morning. We had a great experience at Turner getting the mast back up, changing shaft zincs, participating in their Thanksgiving lunch on Wednesday, hosting Thanksgiving dinner aboard our boat on Thursday and producing a video for Turner Marine.
Temps were in the low 30's overnight so it was a tad chilly getting underway. But we have a full enclosure for the cockpit and it keeps us pretty warm, especially if the sun is shining, which it was. The wind started to pick up just as we we turned south on Mobile Bay, a nice low teens breeze from aft. We set just the jib and managed to sail at 6 to 7 knots most of the way down the bay. A great way to get back to sailing after 2 months as a power boat on the rivers.
We decided to stop at LuLu's on the GICW (Gulf Intra Coastal Waterway) for lunch on our route east. LuLu is Jimmie Buffet's sister so we both dove into the "Cheeseburger In Paradise". They were excellent. While sitting at our table overlooking our boat & the GICW we had our first dolphin spotting. It's shaping up to be a great day! A perfect sail, a great lunch and our first dolphin sighting. Don't count your chickens yet...
Speaking of chickens we met some fellow cruisers at the dock. A young couple on a floating shanty complete with a pair of chickens! Really, it was a wood shanty on pontoons. They came down from Pittsburgh!
We cruised on a short distance to Ingraham's Bayou for the night. A very nice anchorage. We have a Lectrasan which is a waste treatment system for our head (toilet). It only works with salt water so we haven't used it since we bought the boat. We're now in good salt water so time to fire it up. Well, coincidentally, the toilet decided to crap out! The plastic impeller cracked. I had to disassemble much of the mechanism that flushes and macerates our solid waste. A big happy birthday from Jabsco (the manufacturer)! I epoxied the plastic impeller and we await the curing of the epoxy before re-installation. Luckily we have 2 heads...yes it's true; two heads are better than one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

We're a sailboat!

We got the mast stepped Friday and sat in the slings over the weekend getting stuff done. Today we were launched back into the water and we put the sails back on. We're a sailboat again! Now all we need is to get some time to actually go sailing. That won't be till next week.
Other than that, not much to report. Hacking away at projects and the marina video Tuesday and Turkey day parties Wednesday & Thursday. Suffering through 80 degree heat with high humidity. Life is so tough for us now, but we're surviving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

High & Dry

We finally got the mast re-stepped today. The winds have been blowing pretty hard the last few days, which is not good for slinging a large hunk of aluminum around. Ours is extra heavy due to the added furling mechanism on the back of the mast. Makes it wider & heavier. But the guys here are very experienced at rigging and it posed very little difficulty for them. We have all the rigging on & tuned, all we need are sails.
But that will have to wait till Monday. We're hanging in slings over the weekend so I can remove a leaking thru-hull fitting and replace it. The forward sink drain was oozing just a bit and that isn't good long term. So it's a good time now to get it replaced. Since it's under water, it's rather easier to do it while the boat is out of the water! So we're hanging in the slings of the hoist for the weekend while I get it done. This afternoon I cut out the thru-hull fitting and pulled the wood backing plate. Tomorrow I'll fit up a new thru-hull, backing plate & valve and seal it in tight. While we're out of the water, we'll also do some touch up on the bottom paint and replace the shaft zinc which prevents corrosion from salt water. Meantime we have to climb a 12 foot extension ladder to "go home".
We had a great evening socializing with a bunch of fellow sailors who all had their masts shipped down here from Lake Michigan. Hope I don't have a hangover tomorrow, I've got a lot of work in front of me! The party included several couples from Michigan plus NY, Ontario & Sweden.
We should get back in the water on Monday morning. We'll get sails on, get the mast wiring hooked up and tend to a few other chores. Hope to take er out for a spin Tuesday on the bay. Wednesday is a big Thanksgiving pot luck with the marina providing the bird. I added a TV antenna to the mast so we'll be able to watch the Lions on Thanksgiving day while Chris cooks a bird in our little oven. Shortly after that, we'll finally get underway further south.
All in all, we're doing very well. A bit of work to tackle is part of the cruising life unless you have very deep pockets to hire everything out. I like getting my hands dirty once in a while...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update from Chris in Mobile

Yes, we have the most sparkling mast in the whole yard, but it is still horizontal. We are running tests of some of the wiring that runs through the mast and decided to add a TV antenna. This should allow us to pick up some limited stations and we hope to watch the Lions Game on Thanksgiving day. It is a huge undertaking to un-step and step the mast. We dont often have access to it like we do now, but I am really anxious to get the mast back up to go sailing. We will take Freedom out for a day sail in Mobile bay once we do get it stepped.

We have had some time for some fun too. We toured battleship park. They have a WW ll battleship and submarine that you can walk through. They also have various aircraft! Very interesting. We have been enjoying fresh shrimp...right off the shrimp boat. We can have it fried, boiled, grilled Cajun style, etc. etc. (imagine Bubba Gump). We have met a number of people along the way and have enjoyed getting to know them. Many people end up here in Mobile after cruising the river system. Lots of fun comparing experiences and re-telling tales of the cruise.

We have decided to stay here, in Mobile for Thanksgiving. The Marina is hosting a potluck, should be fun! This will give us a chance to begin catching up on that long list of projects that we have. I have more sewing projects, and Ed has a long list of varnishing projects. I need to point out something here. One of my major misconceptions about cruising has been that we could tackle projects while underway. I have been able to do some minor projects, like sewing "disposable" vendor covers to use in the locks. I purchased two pair of sweatpants at Salvation Army, cut the legs off and sewed bungee cord top and bottom. We used these in the locks. They got really dirty and torn up and now can be tossed. But, for the most part we have needed our full attention on navigating the rivers so the projects went un-done.

So, we are somewhat land based for a while. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hangin In Mobile

We arrived in Mobile on Monday afternoon and tied up at Turner Marine on the Dog River. Since then we've been doing a variety of things. The mast was quite dirty from getting trucked from Chicago and then sitting here. We washed it, then spot cleaned with Fantastic, then rubbed with a cleaner compound and then polished with two coats of paste wax. On a 68 foot long mast. I use the term "we" very generously. Chris did about 80% of the work. I was busy getting lines rigged, checking the internal wiring and various other maintenance details. I've also been busy producing a video for the marina. Happy to continue using my 30 years of experience. Hopefully I'll pick up many more productions along the way to help fund our excursion.

We also borrowed the courtesy car for a half day to go shopping and to get a long overdue haircut! Everybody noticed that one, I hadn't had it cut since late August!

We're taking the car out to Mobile on Sunday to shoot some of the local attractions I'll feature in the video. I'm interested in seeing the USS Alabama battleship. There's also a lot of museums here for a relatively small city.

We're not sure exactly how long we'll stay here. I have a fair amount of work left on the video and we need to get the mast stepped onto the boat plus other projects. We may stay here through Thanksgiving! Hard to say. Currently the weather is very pleasant. Hi's are in the 70's and lows in the 40's to 50's. That will start to drop in December and we hope to be in St. Petersburg by mid-December.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Goin' Mobile!!!

We couldn't resist the lure of salt! And our boat really missed its mast. So we got a good start this morning and pushed on down the last of the river, into Mobile harbor and out into Mobile Bay. The harbor is a narrow fairway lined with ocean going ships, tugs and barges. I love heavy metal! The bay was wide open water, the first we've seen since Lake Michigan. There were waves, real waves! Not just wake from passing boats.
Because we pushed on faster than we had planned, I got caught not updating our towing policy till this morning. Boat US is the AAA for boaters. The annual premium for inland waters is quite low but they charge extra for coastal coverage. Towing is NOT cheap. So this is a good deal even with the higher coastal premium. But the update can't take effect till midnight after signing on!!! Everyone we talked to about the approach to the marina said Do Not Leave The Channel! The channel has 8' of water and out of the channel it gets as low as 2'. We draw 5' 6". I just knew we'd run aground and get stuck with no towing coverage for this one day. But that was just one more nightmare that did not come to fruition. Me worried? Naah. (Chris, not a word!).
Even this morning it was quite chilly, low was around 40d on the river. But the gulf water is 77d and wow that makes a big difference. Shorts & T-shirt weather!!

I've contracted with the marina to produce a marketing video for them. We'll be hangin around here for 10 days to 2 weeks. We'll get used to it!
We've gone Mobile!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Our Ups And Downs Are Behind Us

We had a great visit with Mary & Tony in Demopolis. They drove over 2 hours just to come see us. And they came bearing gifts, a dozen eggs fresh from their own chickens! Chris made me a tasty omelet while underway the next morning. YUM! Thank you Tony & Mary. Speaking of Demopolis, the tow boats stop there to fuel up. I managed to get a tour of one. Twin 1800 hp diesel/electric motors! Nice to see the insides of what we've been passing often for 2 months. Very impressive piece of machinery.
We shoved off early Friday morning, headed for 'Bashi Creek', allegedly a decent anchorage. The first of our pack of 5 boats went into the creek, barely. There was less than 4' of water and several logs. He did manage to anchor inside but the rest of us had to anchor in the river. The river that gets tow traffic with massive barges, any time day or night. This was a fairly wide section of the river and the tows use the one side only so we were fine. One passed around midnight, commenting on the large pack of boats on his radio. The second came by in the pre-dawn fog. Thick fog! I can't believe they can run massive barges up this very narrow, winding river at night in fog.
This Saturday morning the fog took an extra long time to lift. We didn't get underway until 9AM. And we're off to find another sketchy anchorage. This one is even worse, there is no wide spot out of the sailing line. I crept in to a small inlet till I found 6' and dropped the anchor, then backed out and dropped a second anchor out in the main river. I ran the stern anchor down the side and tied it to the bow so we can pivot in the wind if necessary. The mouth of the inlet is wide enough to allow me to swing. Not very good, but there is no wind so we should be fine. I think! This is reported to be the last of the poor anchorages...we hope so!

This WAS the last day of locks! No more ups & downs for S/V Freedom. We did 12 on the Tenn-Tom & 24 in all from Chicago on down. For the most part, they were very easy, especially the locks on the Tenn-Tom that all have floating bollards. I drive the boat up abreast of the bollard, Chris tosses a line around the pin and we tie the line off. Piece of cake. A few times we had to wait for tows/barges to use the lock but most of the time when we radioed ahead to the lockmaster, he'd have it waiting for us on our arrival. All in all, a very interesting experience.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Moments Like This

We're anchored in an off channel below the Heflin Lock. I like to keep the VHF radio on to monitor activity around us. The night lockmaster comes on the radio. In a fantastic Alabama drawl, she gives colorful instructions to a downbound tow entering her lock. That alone was priceless. I went up on deck to watch the action. In a black night with clear sky I can see the first wisps of fog rolling in as the massive barges emerge from the lock. They are pushed by one hell of a piece of machinery with 2 piercing spotlights shooting laser beams of light down the river. I just happened to look up to the million stars above when the biggest shooting star I've ever seen goes streaming across the sky. It was brightly illuminated for at least 6 or 8 seconds. I'm sure my wish will come true!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Living On The Edge!

We had a nice day of river cruising after departing Midway Marina. But we don't travel at night so we needed to find a place to drop the hook. Several guide books recommended a few coves above the Aberdeen lock & dam. When we tried to get into these coves, we ran aground. Now what? Called the lockmaster and he suggested anchoring above the spillway. Really? Above the spillway that the river flows to and drops about 30'? That spillway? Well, there was 10' of water there and it was a calm night and we were out of options. So that's where we anchored last night, on the edge of the spillway! I had dreams of our little "barrel" going over Niagara Falls!

We're living on another edge today, sort of. We're on the edge of the Alabama / Mississippi border. And we found a very peaceful anchorage on the edge of a deep side channel. Fired up the BBQ for some good grillin' while enjoying a fine sunset under a clear blue sky.

There was no fog this morning so we were able to get underway 2 hours sooner than usual, plus we timed 2 locks perfectly, avoiding delays of waiting on tugs. These variables of weather, locks and anchorages make scheduling just about impossible. Which is why 'we have no schedule and we're sticking to it'.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hot Tub Halloween

We left Grand Harbor on Friday morning. Nice place. We're now off the Tennessee River and in the Tombigbee Waterway. This canal was cut in the 70's, connecting the Tennessee & the Black Warrior Rivers, it was a bigger project than the Panama canal. We anchored out Friday night above the Whitten lock & dam. The temps dropped into the 30's but we stayed very warm by baking spaghetti squash in the oven. Toasty warm. We re-warmed up the boat by baking muffins in the morning. We did much better at staying warm than I expected.

Weather like this generates fog, a LOT of fog. Luckily it lifts fairly fast once the sun comes up. We got underway to the Whitten lock around 9am. This lock down is an 87' drop, the largest lock we'll travel. It's BIG! We shared the lock with 4 other boats, the largest pack to date. There are a string of locks along the Tombigbee and they like to coordinate lockings. So we 5 all traveled together to 2 more locks. Freedom was the slowest boat in the group but we didn't really hold up the pack by more than about 10 minutes.
We dropped out of the pack to stop at Midway Marina, they all pushed on further. We're glad we did. Stopping earlier in the day gives us some time off the boat, always nice to get out and stretch the legs. Midway was hosting a Saturday night Halloween party for their seasonals & us transients. So we got some free food, some time to hang out with the locals, a great costume display and some live music. Plus we met up with a new pack of boaters that came in after us. We'll all form up in the morning to lock down several more locks on Sunday. We topped off the evening with a dip in the marina hot tub, under a crisp starry night. WOW, that was the hottest hot tub I've ever soaked in!

Of course, it is another foggy morning. I'm getting some computer work done while we have good internet. Fog will lift soon enough.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's A Small World After All

We spent 3 very peaceful days anchored in Dry Creek, well illustrated in our previous post. Today we upped anchor and moved about 6 miles to Grand Harbor marina. One of the reasons for stopping here is to take advantage of their courtesy car to get some shopping done. We hit the local super mart and found it lacking so we drove into Savannah, Tn; about 15 miles further. It was getting on lunch time so we started looking for a place to stop. Hmmm, A & W! Love A & W root beer, but we wanted something local. We were about to go back to the A & W when we saw this place called Fish Hut. Lots of cars in the lot, lets try it! Casual dining, very friendly locals, and catfish from the Catfish Capitol of America! All the small tables were occupied so we sat at the end of a large one. A few minutes later we were joined by four local businessmen. Nice guys, we talked fishing. I then asked about the local businesses and we hear they all work for a manufactured home company. Chris almost didn't say anything but decided to ask if they new her former co-worker from Detroit who moved to Mississippi and is working for a manufactured home company. SURE, we know Tony!!! What are the odds? They all had plenty of good things to say about Tony (imagine that!). We're trying to meet up with Tony & Mary next week further down the trail. And the catfish was EXCELLENT!
After a fine lunch we did stop at a Kroger. Good selection of what we needed so we dropped almost $200 stocking up.
Where we're tied up at the marina is a long walk to the laundry, so they lent us a golf cart. Chris volunteered to do laundry and took the golf cart. The run includes some steep inclines down to the docks and hard turns to avoid going into the drink. I think she spent more time on the links than she's let on..."Hellen Wheels" is her NASCAR name down here.

Too many cold nights here so we're pushing south. We should be in Mobile in about 2 weeks!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Land Ho!!

Yet another interesting situation. We decided to anchor in Dry Creek on Picwick Lake today. The Army Corps of Engineers chart shows plenty of depth. As we approach the area, I'm also checking my Garmin chart plotter. Dry Creek isn't there! We keep going in with around 20' of depth. Soon, according to the chart plotter, we're on dry land! We dropped anchor in 12' of water in a VERY nice cove, just as the Army charts show. I would have expected Garmin to make their charts based on the Army charts. Who knows. Here is a shot of the chart plotter. The red line is our track:

Garmin, what's up with that?

We'll be staying here a few days. Hi Tuesday is reported to be 80 degrees!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We're all in the same boat

Chris and I have discussed our cruising plans with a lot of friends and family. More than a few have expressed concerns with our being together 24/7 in a small space. Really, a legitimate concern! There's no place to go to get away. We're together all the time while underway, dealing with whatever the waterway throws at us. We're together all evening when at anchor. We do split up a bit when we're at a marina, but not for long.
The first few weeks were quite stressful. We had to change plans at the last minute, diverting away from the Erie canal and sailing north around all of Michigan late in the season. We had to figure out what to do with our mast while running down the rivers and through the locks. We had the rather inhospitable Mississippi River to deal with. And we cut all ties back on land, there was no turning back! Good reasons to stress out.

I'm happy to report that after 6 weeks, we're getting along better than ever! Does Captain Bligh bark on occasion? Never! Does the Admiral question the captains judgement? Perish the thought! Well, nobody's perfect. But we've both noticed that we are working well together and we're having a lot of fun together.

Just thought you'd like to know!

Today was animal day. Along with the many bald eagles, herons and pelicans we've been seeing on the Tennessee, today we saw a raccoon, a fox & a bull trying to mount a cow! Tomorrow we lock up at Pickwick dam into Pickwick lake. We hear there are some very pretty anchorages and the weather is projected to be excellent. Hi of 80 on Tuesday!! It just keeps getting better and better.

Thanks for tuning in.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I've got my love to keep me warm!

We anchored out in a very nice cove last night off Kentucky Lake. The overnight temp dropped well into the 30's, but we kept plenty warm inside the boat. Chris baked spaghetti squash (more excellent dining), the hot engine radiated some warmth and we have plenty of blankets to snuggle under. In the morning I fired up the oven and Chris baked banana nut bread. The sun rose bright and warm, heating up our full cockpit enclosure very quickly. It wasn't long before we were peeling off clothes. I finally put on shorts for a few hours in the afternoon! This cold snap will reportedly last one more day and then we'll have low's in the 50's for a while. I'll still have my love to keep me warm, so wearing shorts will continue to be necessary!

We'll be leaving Kentucky Lake tomorrow morning where it narrows down into the Tennessee River. Back to being river rats.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mississippi & Ohio

We're on the Cumberland River now above Barkley Dam.
It took us 5 days to run the Mississippi & Ohio rivers. They were interesting; but rather tedious. Finding stopping places to get off the river at night was not easy. Most of the 'scenery' was industrial with barge/tows punctuating the trip. We feel we really accomplished something by conquering this hurdle. But it wasn't 'fun'.
We sat an extra day at Green Turtle Bay marina to wait out some weather. They provided a courtesy car for us to make a grocery run so we're stocked up for the next leg. Can't wait to push on up the Tennessee River. The plan includes a short side trip up to Chattanooga, we hear the scenery there is fantastic. We'll pass by the turn onto the Tombigbee waterway that takes us downstream to Mobile. When we get to Chattanooga we'll backtrack to the Tombigbee to resume the treck south.
We're beginning to catch up with the 'herd' of cruisers that are headed south. We'll slow down a bit now to avoid the crowds, such as they are.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Our trip summary so far

Thought we'd list where we've been so far.

9/12 Departed St. Clair Shores & Jefferson Beach Marina; anchored in Port Sanilac harbor.
9/13 Stayed put in Port Sanilac harbor to ride out weather
9/14 Sailed to Harbor beach, anchored in harbor
9/15 Rode out weather in Harbor Beach
9/16 Sailed to Port Austin; stayed in Port Austin Marina
9/17 Sailed to Harrisville; anchored in harbor
9/18 Sailed to Presque Isle in blustery weather; took dockage in the closed marina
9/19 Stayed in Presque Isle for the free electricity...for heat!
9/20 Sailed to Hammond Bay harbor of refuge; took dockage in the closed marina
9/21 Sailed to Mackinaw City; docked in Mack City Muni marina
9/22 Stayed in Mack city; shopping, chores, weather
9/23-24 Motored 36 hours straight to Lake Macatawa, Holland, Mi; anchored off Eldeans Shipyard
9/25-26 Stayed in Lake Macatawa; relaxed
9/27 Sailed to St. Joseph Municipal marina
9/28 Sailed to Crowley's Yacht yard, East Chicago.
9/29, 30 & 10/1 Crowleys; dropped mast, prepped for shipping, dinner with friends, chores & shopping
10/2 Motored to Joliet on the Illinois river; tied to town wall. Avoided prison time.
10/3 Motored to Springbrook Marina in Seneca, Il
10/4 Motored to Buffalo Rock State Park; anchored in the river. Beautiful spot
10/5 Motored to Peoria; tied to free town dock
10/6 Stayed in Peoria; shopping, chores
10/7 Motored to Quiver island; anchored, dodged massive barges in the middle of the night!
10/8 Motored to Bar island; anchored in the river. Beautiful spot
10/9 Motored to Diamond island; anchored in river
10/10 Motored to Alton marina; Alton Il on the Mississippi
10/11, 12 Stayed in Alton 3 nights to relax, hot tub, shopping & many chores
10/13 Motored past St. Louis to Hoppies in Kimmswick, Mo. Tied to their barge & fueled up for the long run down

That sums up one month on the run from old man winter!

Monday, October 17, 2011

River boating, by Chris

Boating on the rivers is very different. We do not worry about the big waves, our decisions to stay or move to our next destination is not nearly as dependent on the weather. Having no mast or sails makes the decision easy, we will NOT sail today. We do have to worry about all the commercial traffic. Tows, freighters, barges all have preference at the locks and through the other words, we need to communicate with them and get out of their way! As we worked our way south, the tows and barges got bigger because the last lock on the Mississippi is near St Louis. The barges are huge and take up the entire navigable river, in certain areas. Now that we are on the Cumberland and Tennesse rivers, there is a LOT less commercial traffic.

Locks are also what makes river travel so different. Some are very easy to negotiate and others...not so much. Yesterday we had two locks to go through. The first one was open. We were told to pass right over the wickets, there was plenty of depth. This was true, but the wind was blowing against the current and it made for a very choppy, confused sea. In other words it felt like going through a washing machine. The second
lock was open and we only waited for about 30 minutes to get in. We were told to have two thirty foot lines ready and available. Ed and I navigated in and got set up fairly quickly but others locking with us kept getting blown off the wall before they could get the lines set. It took them three tries. This was a very stressful situation with the wind howling and nothing we could do to help. This was our first lock that we traveled up.

Today we traveled through the largest lock yet. This one was 57 feet up. You enter into a big cavern and the gates close....very intimidating. Despite the intimidation factor, we did just fine. It was one of the easiest locks yet.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Missississississippi River

We spent 3 more days cruising down the Illinois River to the mouth of the Mississippi. Several nice peaceful anchorages and great weather.

The Mississippi, just below the Illinois River junction, is very pretty with high bluffs. The leaves are just turning. The river is wide and the traffic is minimal. Made for a nice afternoon introduction to the Mighty Mississippi. First stop for us is Alton, Il., just in time for Monday Nite football featuring the Deee-troit Lions. Good to see them playing well! Tuesday & Wednesday were chores time at the marina. Laundry, cleaning, waxing, fuel filter change and other assorted details. Tuesday nite was a beautiful night in the marina hot tub under a full moon! NICE!
I needed some extra fuel jugs for the long upcoming run on the river. I asked a dock neighbor where to go and he volunteered to drive me to the farm store. Always great people hangin' around the marinas.
The need for extra fuel jugs is because of a 250 mile run between fuel stops. There are no services from just south of St. Louis down the Mississippi to the Ohio River and up the Ohio past Paducah to the Cumberland River and Lake Barkley.
The fuel stop just south of St. Louis is called Hoppies. It's run by a great elder couple Fern & Charlie. Hoppies is just several barges strung together on the river. Very basic, rustic, primitive. But they have fuel & water so it is a must stop before the 250 miles. They also have afternoon sessions conducted by Fern on what to look for and where to stop. She is a very colorful character. Charlie is the last living "lamplighter" on the Mississippi. He used to light lamps on bouys every night. Made the stop worthwhile just to chat with her. We enjoyed our stay at Hoppies.
The Miss. river water levels are always down in the fall but this year is especially low. One good stop recommended to us is the Kaskaskia River just off the Miss. So we pulled in there the first night after Hoppies. Well, we TRIED to. WHACK!! Hard into a sand bar. OOOPS. Luckily, my solid fiberglass keel didn't mind a sharp encounter with a sand bar. But we sure did stop quick. So back out & head further down the river. Time to improvise. There are wing dams on the river to control the flow. We picked one and pulled in behind it. We weren't totally out of the flow of the river but good enough, barely. On top of the current flow, the wind was blowing pretty hard down the river as well. These two things combined for concern with a dragging anchor. So I set alarms of 11pm, 2am & 4 am to get up and check position. Made for a fitful night of sleep but we didn't move at all.

We got back underway at dawn. With all the current flow, we averaged 9 knots instead of our usual 6. So we managed to run 91 miles almost all the way to Cairo at the mouth of the Ohio. Another beautiful night at anchor with a little shrimp sauteed in the cast iron skillet. But the day wasn't without some excitement. We came upon a big barge/tow rig that was negotiating a sharp turn and holding up traffic, including us in the process. When he finally did make the turn it was time for us to pass. This rig was 5 barges long & 3 barges wide. Each barge is about 100' long & about 40' wide. He's moving about 8.5 knots and the best I can do is about 10 knots. It takes a LOOOONG time to pass. I hailed him on the radio to see if he was OK with it and if there was traffic ahead. He said to come on through! Well, we get about half way past and I can see another big barge rig coming upstream at us. The river is not THAT wide. I sent Chris to the bow with some vaseline to grease the hull so we could squeeze between them. It was a hairy moment running between those two barge rigs! Just another day of "Rollin On The River".

Tomorrow we head up the Ohio River. We loose the favorable downstream current of the Mississippi and our fuel consumption will go up fighting the current. How much will our fuel burn increase? Will we have enough? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Video: Cruising The Cal-Sag Canal

River critters

This is Chris.

I am always on the lookout for interesting wildlife on the water. We have been seeing Egrets and Great Blue Heron along the banks of the river. They are so common that we joke that they are mile markers! Saturday night we anchored behind Bar Island on the Illinois River. Just up from us was a point of land that had hundreds of Pelicans resting for the night. Sunday morning they formed into some interesting formations as they flew past us on their migration south. We have been seeing hawks and those CRAZY jumping carp. Early morning and just before dusk they start jumping. We have had them get so riled as we go by that one or two have thumped into the bottom of our boat. It has been very far. As the saying goes, it is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. I have heard, but not seen an owl and we saw a family (I think) of Bald Eagles, along the bank. Two adults with white heads and one juvenile without the white head. I will maintain my lookout and maybe there could be a critters video in the making?

Monday, October 10, 2011

A bad day on the river is better than a good day at the office!

Friday started out great. We had a good evening Thursday night in Peoria and the morning weather was perfect. We cast off at 8AM with the Peoria lock a few miles downstream. That’s when the day started to deteriorate. First, we had to dodge falling concrete from construction on the bridge just above the lock. Then we had to circle while waiting for a very large tow to lock down or anchor. Circling is tedious so we decided to anchor. Just as we were about to drop it, we were hailed by another working tow headed right at us. He needed room to enter a small creek with his barge. So we decided to head back upstream under the debris bridge to cool our heels in more open space. That lasted 4 hours! There was another tow in line ahead of us and he was a chemical barge so we could not join him even if there was room. As we’re finally getting ready to enter the lock, fellow cruisers who slept in came motoring up just in time for our opening. Nice timing! We also shared the lock with a canoeist who is paddling all the way to New Orleans. And we thought we were adventurous in our 42’ boat!

Places to stop for the night get sparse on this part of the river. And low water levels make it much more difficult for a deep draft sailboat. We pulled into the backside of an island after reading reports of deep water well past the coal docks. Well, the deep water ended right at the end of a line of barges. There weren’t any good alternatives, so we dropped the hook there along with our companion. Around 11pm, we were awoken by a tow with 4 barges wanting our space. We chatted with him on the radio, very friendly and helpful. We upped anchor and moved out of his way and re-anchored in a small space between two sets of barges tied to shore. He promised there would be no issues there. He did come back later and haul away the coal barges downstream of us. We had to be gone by 7am as the coal unloading would begin then. No need for coal dust showers in the morning.

Oh well, it all worked out fine. No real danger, just many inconveniences. Saturday made up for it with another beautiful day.

Sorry for the delay in posting. Internet was very thin on the lower Illinois River.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Wednesday was a good day, we made 71 miles including one lock. The scenery has changed from mostly industrial to almost all rural tree lined banks. Very pretty scenery. We passed some VERY large tows in some VERY narrow channels.
We pushed on all the way to Peoria where we are tied to a free town dock. Pretty quiet down on the river right downtown, even though there are 4 restaurants within a block. We went to the pub & had a few beers and sandwiches. Good to not have to cook & clean for a change! We'll stay here an extra day to catch up on projects. AND, they have a Walmart right across the river! Time to break out the folding bike and join the Walmartians! I'll fit right in!!!

Finished my latest masterpiece, now I need good internet to upload the large file.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Video: Cygnets

While you're awaiting the next new video, due shortly, I hope you don't mind this re-run!

Answering some questions a reader had, from Chris

The charts for the Illinois rivers are decades old and have no depths listed. We are using the Waterway guide, it is very helpful but not 100% accurate. We have managed to hook up with a "mast shipping consortium". There are six boats that have all gone before us. They are emailing the conditions that they find. We are in an area right now with very few deep water anchorages and marinas and we are a deep water boat. We had really long waits today at the two locks, 2 and 3 hours. Both allowed us to tie up at walls outside. The locks here have concrete caissons that the tows and barges can tie to but limited areas for pleasure boats ( that would be us). The tows push barges, sometimes 2-3 wide and 2-3 long. The problem today was one carrying combustable liquid that by law could not share a lock with us.

The river has cut outs that you can see on the charts, these are for the barges, turning basins and docking areas.

Today was stressful at the end of the day because our planned stop for the night was another 20 miles "down bound". We scrambled since the Dresden lock, trying to adjust our plan. We finally settled on a marina that allowed us to tie up at the fuel dock, the only available deep water tie up.

We are learning all the right lingo, as you approach a tight bend you need to announce yourself and know exactly where you are and be prepared to get out of the way of a tow and to determine if you will pass one whistle or two whistle ( port to port, or starboard to starboard). Diesel is another issue, not all marinas have it. This will be tomorrows issue. We know that the Starved Rock marina has it but don't know if they have depth for us. They close up at 4:00.

Today was a beautiful, sunny, warm day. We are starting to see some fall colors. Most of the trip has been very industrial scenery with some nice scenic areas mixed in. Tomorrow should be even better! We might travel a half day and take half the day to catch up on some projects and to rest and enjoy the warm weather....well see, no schedule here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

River Rats

We departed Crowley's Yacht yard this morning headed down the Cal-Sag canal. The mast is in good hands at Crowleys and we're now a motor boat. We watched 2 small tugs maneuver a 700' ore carrier up a very narrow channel prior to departing. We soon caught up to them and had to pass them at another very narrow spot. The tugs put out a LOT of prop wash. First pucker of the day!
Soon we were out of the heavy industrial part of the Cal-Sag and into a mix of light scrub forest and a smattering of marinas & industrial sites. Barges are the main use for the canals here. We were cruising along nicely when I spotted a double wide barge set on the left, port side bank and another double on the right bank, leaving me with only about 20'. As I approached this, I realized the starboard double wide was moving toward us! I quickly circled back before getting next to the port side double and getting stuck in that precarious spot with the moving barge bearing down on us! Lots of jockeying around till we finally nestled up to the front of the stationary port side barge and waited for the starboard barge & tow to pass by. Second pucker of the day!
The next adventure was our first real locking. The Lockport lock dropped us 45'. Quite impressive. We had a lot of concern with handling these large locks. All went very well. Hopefully that will be the norm for all our locking. Third pucker of the day!

Collected plenty of video for another clip. We may take a day off soon and I'll get back to editing. We'll need more wifi to upload. We're finding open wifi is not common. So that will limit my upload capabilities.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Who knew relaxing would be so much work?

We're dead dog tired! We pushed for 2 weeks to get around Michigan and down to Chicago. We made Crowley's Yacht Yard on Wednesday where the mast will get removed. That last afternoon on the lake was taxing. It started out very nice but the seas built up to about 4 feet broadside to us causing quite a roll. The sails helped calm that motion down. But I quickly took them down when I saw a line of water spouts headed right for us. In Red October fashion, I turned toward the most threatening one and it dissipated before causing trouble. That was quite unsettling and I kept the sails down for fear of another one developing. So we rolled and rolled and rolled. We finally made port around 4pm, totally exhausted from trying to remain upright in a washing machine.

No rest for the weary, Crowleys expects us to get our work done and move on. They are not charging by the day but will start, if we dawdle. So we got busy first thing Thursday by removing the sails & the sail control lines. By then it started to rain so we thought we were done. I stopped by the office and the manager said Friday was going to be gale force winds and he wanted to get the mast down NOW. I hustled back to the boat to disconnect all the wires that run into the mast and other last minute stuff. Very quickly there were 6 guys on deck disconnecting all the wire stays and hooking up the crane. In no time flat, we had no mast. That was quite the frenzy. Unfortunately, between the frenzy and the rain I couldn't shoot any video. Bummer.
The mast was moved to a storage building where we can prep it for truck shipment. There are fixed bridges of 19' height on the route to Mobile, Alabama so the mast had to come down. Some sailors build a cradle and carry the stick on the boat. But our mast is too long, it would stick out the back by 15'. Way too easy to crunch it into a lock wall. I was getting quotes of $3000 to truck to Mobile. But at the last minute, late Thursday, I got hooked up with a group of sailors who were going down together. That reduced my cost well below $1000!!
As soon as the frenzy of pulling the mast was over, we had to jump in the shower, get cleaned up to go to dinner. We've made some very good friends in Chicago through sailing, and a dinner gathering was planned. We had a great evening meeting old friends and making some new ones. HUGE thanks to Tim for putting it together.

Meanwhile, back at Crowleys; it's Friday morning & time to get crackin. We spent all day removing all the wire stays from the mast, the radar & mount, spreaders and other items to make for better shipping. That was a LOT of work. At lunch we had a visit from Gary & his daughter Malia as well as Bob & Alice of Lucky Bird and their friends Mary & Tom. We feel like celebrities!
We finished the day by going shopping for supplies at Ace, Radio Shack & Jewel grocery store. How did we get to all those places in East Chicago? Hitch-hike? No. Cab? No. Walk? No. The aforementioned Tim dropped off his spare Ford truck for us to use!!! Tim, that was very generous of you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

So we're ready to zonk out at 9pm on Friday night! Paarty animals!

We still have some work to do prepping the mast plus some items that were on the mast will need to get relocated elsewhere on the boat before we cast off. Might get that done Saturday, might finish Sunday. We found the location here at Crowleys very interesting. We're practically under the skyway as well as a RR lift bridge. The Cal-Sag canal is heavily traversed by commercial traffic, mostly tugs with barges. Very cool industrial action all day long. And train whistles & clickety clacking of steel wheels most of the night. But it's windy and getting colder and we want to get going. We hope to start relaxing sometime soon!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thoughts on our overnight sail, from Chris

We have been weighing our need to get south, to warmer areas with our desire to enjoy the sights of beautiful northern Michigan. Warmth won out! Marinas, gas docks have been closed and water shut off. This was our sure sign that we needed to get moving. 24 hour sailing can be taxing but I tend to be a night owl so I took the 2:00 to 6:00 am shift. Yes, I missed the sunset and the sunrise, but oh those night skies are mesmerizing! This overnight trip was not sailing, the wind was on the nose so we had to motor. There was a thunder storm off to the southwest. I could see it in the distance but it was not going to effect us. Looking straight up, it was clear, there was a small crescent moon and stars galore. Living near a city makes you wonder how constellations get their names, out on the lake it is clear why the were named; Big Dipper, Orions Belt, etc. This is only the third overnight we have done, but I really enjoy it. I am looking forward to overnight sailing when I don't have to bundle up in layers!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Heading South

We departed Mackinaw City at 7:30AM for Lake Michigan & south. Got to cruise under the "Mighty Mac" Mackinac bridge heading west, quite a sight from the water. Cut through Gray's Reef Passage and made the turn south. There are plenty of reefs scattered all over this part of the lake. The Garmin chartplotter with GPS makes picking your way through very easy. Wind & waves were non existent. That is fine for a while but we never got any favorable winds the entire trip.
We reached the Manitou Passage at sunset & were able to see Sleeping Bear sand dunes in the fading light after sunset. Red Sky At Night, Sailors Delight, and we had a very clear, red sky. The saying held true for us all night. But it is still a bit disconcerting to be out on the open water all night long.
We've not run the engine for 36 straight hours before. There is a bit of roughness on the alternator crankshaft pulley and after 18 hours, it was really wearing down. I decided I should change it before it broke so we put up sails and altered course about 30 degrees to be able to sail while the engine was off. Sailing keeps the boat much steadier in the 2' waves we were in. It didn't take long to swap out with a spare belt & we were on our way again. Now I need to take some time to sand the pulley smooth. If you're keeping score, that's 3 repairs. The anti-siphon loop, the battery combiner and the alternator far!!! That's the nature of long range cruising.
And that provided the only pure sailing we could do the entire trip. I was expecting to sail at least part of the way. So our fuel burn was much greater than expected. That meant a quick fuel stop before we could continue on to Holland. I think we could have done much better in the fuel consumption department. I'm still looking for the optimum speed to motor for best efficiency.
We made Holland just before sunset and Tim, a sailing friend, met us in his dingy out in the channel. We had a great visit, good to see him again.
So here we sit at anchor in Lake Macatawa relaxing and waiting for a storm front to move through. Then it's up anchor and on the move again.
I've edited a new video, but I'll need a strong wifi connection to upload it. Should be able to do that in St. Joe's Monday or Tuesday night. Stay tuned!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Turning the corner

Friday morning we're casting off from Mackinaw City to head south down Lake Michigan. Time to get going. Took care of a few chores while we were here.
We're going to try an overnight all the way to Holland. We can bail out anywhere along the way as there are plenty of easy access harbors. Our only concern is the cold...upper 40's Friday night. Weather reports are excellent for calm seas. Only problem is that we may have to motor a fair bit of the way.
Chris made up a batch of stew and a batch of chili so we'll eat easy & well. Always good stuff from her galley.
We'll be cruising under the Big Mac. Not a hamburger, the Mackinac Bridge! Should be a great view. I have a video in the works that includes this, stay tuned.
Spot should be active all the way.
Casting off around 7:30AM Friday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hookin Up

We stopped at Hammond Bay harbor of refuge Tuesday afternoon. It was howling overnight in Presque Isle but the trip to Hammond Bay was quiet. We had moderate wind to sail the first half of the trip but it died and we motored the rest of the way. Hammond is closed for the season so we got more free dockage. Yea!
But hookin up to the internet was impossible. Hammond Bay harbor is not close to anything. The smart phone would occasionally pick up some e-mails but then nothing. The place was empty and at night it got DARK. We forget how much light pollution there is anywhere near a city.

Wednesday we departed for Mackinaw City. We sailed fast in a stiff breeze with following seas for about half the morning. A very good ride. Then as we closed on Bois Blanc Island, the wind slacked off and the rain started. But we had enough breeze to continue sailing at an easier pace. We went from 7 knots early to 4 to 5 knots later in the morning. But it was a short trip so we still got in by 1pm. Gave us time to fuel up and pump out the holding tank and try to resolve connectivity issues. The wifi here isn't working so I have to use my Verizon tethering to connect.

We're trying to balance the "get there" pressure with some enjoyment of the locations. Sometimes the schedule push gets on our nerves. We'll feel much more relaxed once we get off the Lake by October.

The battery combiner has gone Tango Uniform. I removed it this afternoon & will ship it out to be replaced by a larger unit capable of handling my alternator output. Meanwhile I have to manually switch from start battery to house battery as appropriate. No big deal.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Talk Like a Pirate!!!

In honor of "Talk Like A Pirate Day" we bring you the cutest pirate on the water. AAARRRGGG MATEY!

Video: Underway!!

Finally got the first video uploaded. Hope you enjoy...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Free is GOOD!

We pulled up stakes in Harrisville at 7:30am, headed for Presque Isle harbor. We needed to head east out of the harbor to find deep water. That was into steep 6' seas. We finally turned north and set sails. Under reefed main & reefed jib we easily made 6+ knots. The rolling beam seas were not too uncomfortable because the sails keep us from rolling. A slow moving power boat would have become a vomitorium.

When we rounded the corner at Alpena/Thunder Bay we were sloshing around from following seas and wind on the stern. So we fired up the motor & made tracks west. Kept the main up to steady the ride. The fish nets are heavy in this area. We had to keep a sharp lookout for the small flags and try to avoid them.

We planned on anchoring in Presque Isle harbor for one or two nights. But the bottom is weed covered and we couldn't get a bite. The fact that the wind was gusting well over 20 didn't help. Discretion and valor and all that meant it was time to take a dock for the night. We kept calling in to the harbor master with no answer. I'd heard it is very shallow on approach and wanted info. No response. So in we went. With the cross wind blowing 20+ we managed fine at docking. We had our choice as the marina is almost empty. Then we found out why...they are closed for the season! Another cruiser stopped by to help take a line and gave us the news. Water is shut off but the power is on!! Yea; free dockage AND free heat!

Rain in the forecast so we'll likely stay put Monday.

Still trying to upload video. Need a faster wifi connection. Or I'll start to use FTP for file uploads.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ever Onward

The siphon loop was an easy fix. The hardware store had just what we needed so I bought a replacement &  2 spares. We still had time to visit the Saturday morning street market. Bought some fresh goodies for the pantry and then headed out for Harrisville. Since we want to make good time, we motored the whole way. There was no wind in the AM. We could have sailed the last few hours but we wanted to get in early and get settled for the evening.

Fried up a few burgers on the cast iron skillet. We'll be keeping warm this evening with fresh hot cider and cinnamon and Pandora on the stereo.

I finished editing the latest video last night but the slow internet connection at Port Austin prevented my uploading it. I'll upload this evening. Hope you like it. Your comments would be appreciated.  And feel free to send a link to this blog to anyone you think might be interested

Friday, September 16, 2011

I told ya

Yesterday I said we have no schedule...we're sticking to it. Decided to pull up stakes at Harbor Beach and head for Port Austin. It will get into the 30's tonight so we splurged on a slip at the marina and get plenty of juice to power electric heaters.

It was a lumpy day of motoring into 3' to 5' seas. No big deal for the boat but tiresome and tedious for us. We'll continue on to Harrisville tomorrow...IF...I can fix the engine siphon loop. I noticed a drip in the fitting so I tried to put a new hose clamp on the hose. The corroded hose barb snapped off!! Hopefully the hardware store has a replacement. Just part of keeping an old boat running. No duct tape and bailing wire, but constant 'stuff' to keep me on my toes.

Got the Spot Messenger working. Just took an application of $$ to get the instant tracking feature. So follow along in real time when we are on the move...Tracks to Freedom

We have no schedule, and we're sticking to it!

It was howling all day yesterday while we sat firmly hooked to the bottom with our Manson Supreme anchor. Love that tool! We were planning on heading to Harrisville from Harbor Beach today. The winds have subsided but the waves take longer to calm down. We don't mind 6 foot seas, we don't mind setting out in the dark and we don't mind (too much) temps in the upper 30's. But combine all of those and we're sitting tight for another day.
We'll take some time to work on the endless list of projects. Today will include finishing the bike bag and editing my St Clair River video. Stay tuned for that!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First day is in the books

Monday, we pushed off from Jefferson Beach Marina at 5:15AM. We had a surprise visit from Pam & Pete to help us cast off. VERY nice of them to show up at such an early hour.
The plan was to cover 70 miles to Port Sanilac. That is across Lake St. Clair and all the way up the St. Clair River and up the Lake Huron coastline. The river flows down against us at 3 to 4 knots so we loose quite a bit of speed, especially at the mouth under the Bluewater Bridge at Port Huron. Sanilac was chosen because there is sufficient room to anchor (free!). Anchor down at 5:45pm.
We had one bad thing and one good thing happen. The engine drive refrigeration compressor wasn't working right and was actually warming the freezer! The 12 volt system was fighting the good fight and trying to keep it cold. In the process the 12 volt system was consuming a LOT of battery juice. Fortunately I installed a BIG battery bank, 900 amp/hours of wet cell golf cart Trojan batteries. It took me until Tuesday morning to realize what had happened. Overnight everything settled down because the engine was not running and I'd turned off the engine drive compressor. Called Cleve at Seafrost to confirm the diagnosis. Now all I have to do is find the leak in the engine drive system and fix it, then recharge that system. Great to have redundant refer systems!
The "good thing" is the Manson Supreme. Our 45 lb. primary anchor. We anchored in Sanilac harbor with winds of 12 to 20 knots with a 5:1 scope of chain. We had a 180 degree wind shift this morning with more gusty wind into the low 20's. Didn't budge an inch! Good? GREAT!!
I thought I activated my Spot Messenger tracking feature. Evidently something did not work right so we did not record a track of the first day trip. Bummer. More confusing techno gadgets to figure out. Hopefully we'll be able to post maps with tracks of our journey here on the blog.
This entry sent courtesy of free WiFi at the Port Sanilac Municipal Marina!
Still looking for time to figure out my new camera...stills & video to come.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

From Chris:
Part of our preparations for leaving has been to inform everyone about our plans and to say goodbye so we arranged a 3 day long open "house" for family and friends. It was a chance to show off our new home including all the improvements we have made. What a great time we had, but the Labor day weekend was as variable as my emotions. Saturday was so screamingly hot that I was afraid our guests would just melt away. By evening we had little storm bursts, off and on and by Monday, it was really chilly! Sunday evening my sister threw us an incredible going away party at her house, complete with pirate eye patches, Hawaiian leis, beachcomber hats, fish nets and even a live green parrot. Very emotional, lots of fun and with the assistance of gift cards we splurged and purchased a spot messenger so that our loved ones could feel better about our sailing away into the unknown.

So here we sit, scrambling to finish projects. We've sold our final land-based items and are waiting for a weather window to begin our trip. Tropical Storm Lee sat on top of us for several days; rained buckets and winds howled. Lee seemed like he was in no hurry to leave. Right now, it looks like Monday is the day, but this is subject to change.

It is rather amazing how things fell into place. We sold our house at almost the last possible moment to leave this year. Our vehicle sales went very smoothly and happened at the very last moment. We were even able to trade some large house sized Persian rugs this week for new boat sized ones.

Video: A look back at the future of the S/V Freedom

Friday, September 9, 2011

Car-less in Deetroit!!

Sung to the tune of "Panic In Detroit", by David Bowie!

We sold Chris' car Wednesday and now I've sold my van today. We're car-less! That was the last big step before taking off. We have a few last minute projects to attend to before casting off Monday.

We hauled the boat out this morning to clean the bottom, change the "zinc" and check the running gear. Everything looks good and went smoothly.

Here is a snap from my crappy Verizon phone:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Final preparations

After years of planning & prep, we're almost there! I started thinking about buying a boat & going cruising in 1998. Chris bought into the idea around 2004. We sold our express cruiser power boat in 2005 and bought the sailboat in 2007. We were almost departing in 2008 when the poop hit the fan. We finally sold the house this summer and promptly sold off just about everything. No storage unit, no house; a few boxes at the relatives is all we kept that we aren't taking with us.
This last month has been extremely hectic trying to get rid of the last of our stuff, finish boat projects and sell the cars. But the end...and the near!!!

We were planning on cruising from the Great lakes to Buffalo & the Erie Canal to the Hudson River and down to the Atlantic. But hurricane Irene did significant damage to dams on the Erie and they have closed it for the rest of the season. It's questionable if they will even open the canal next year. So implement plan B. We'll be sailing north up Lake Huron, under the Mackinac bridge into Lake Michigan and down to Chicago. We'll harbor hop along the way as weather permits. Don't need to give Gordon Lightfoot more material.

In Chicago we pull the mast for low bridge clearance down to the Mississippi River, up the Ohio and into the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The Ten-Tom is a series of locks, dams & canals, built in the Great Depression by the TVA. It will take us to Mobile, Ala. and the Gulf of Mexico. From there we'll sail down the west side of Florida to the Keys and hopefully make the Bahamas by January.

We hope to post regular updates here on this blog along with photos & videos. We also have a Spot Messenger tracking device that will plot our course on Google maps. All I need is to find the time to configure all this stuff!!

Hope you enjoy following our cruising adventure!