DAYS ON TRIP 4/27/16 – 4/25/17 363 (CRUISED 115)
ENGINE HOURS 765
DIESEL FUEL CONSUMED 2,297.5 GAL.
STATES VISITED 17
LOCKS 60 PLUS SEVERAL WING DAMS
CASHEWS EATEN 20 LBS!
BAGS OF ICE 300 +/-
LIQUOR CAN NOT REMEMBER
BEST MARINA BELLE MARINA- (private facility by invitation only!)
DAYS IN DINGHY 0 (aka dog house)
There were a few boat names that caught our eye. These two took the top prize for being the most clever! “O T B” —– (Over The Bitch) and “Hell Froze Over”
The Wild Life encounters were super special. Many Bald Eagles, especially along the Rivers, as well as thousands of White Pelicans. All so beautiful. We will not ever forget the Hump Back Whale encounter in the Raritan Bay at Staten Island. The Bay is only about 20 – 25 feet deep, but sure enough, there was this whale. A week or so later it had moved into New York Harbor and was featured on the front page of the New York Times.
A lone coyote was spotted one day along a river bank. And of course the dolphin who love to play at the bow and ride the wake of the boat. They have this uncanny ability to roll over to one side and look up at you , all the while they are riding at the bow! It seems as if they are saying –“hey there human, thanks for the fun ride!” What a beautiful World we live in.
The Human Life (in some cases, also wild) encounters – We felt blessed to meet so many interesting and wonderful individuals including those making the Great Loop journey, those just cruising around their local waters, and those on shore who greeted us at marinas, in shops, restaurants and boat yards all along the waterways.
This is Janet’s blog. She has regularly recorded the events of our trip, documenting our daily activities, places, history, people we’ve met along the way. She’s done a great job with little, if any input from me. She has, however, asked for any comments as she wraps up this blog. Here we go.
This has been an awesome and amazing journey. I didn’t have many expectations when we left Hilton Head late April 2016. I just brought my curiosity along and it was fulfilled. Once out of “home waters” (somewhere around Southport, NC) my head was on a swivel. The little towns of Beaufort (Bo-fort), Belhaven, Coinjock and the “inland marshes” were a nice transition to waters ahead.
The Chesapeake with its rich history, beautiful boats and wonderful food provide enough interest for a lifetime. Too bad we had to move on.
New Jersey will be remembered for a literal “river” of fish between Manasquan and Sandy Hook, about 25 miles. Billions, perhaps trillions, of schooling fish the entire way. Then, as we were approaching Staten Island, NY a whale breaches the water in front of Salt Lick – four times! A sight surpassed only by cruising in front of Lady Liberty.
Then the Hudson, the Erie Canal, and the turn north yet again. Lake St. Clare, Huron and the geographic apex of our voyage, Mackinaw Island, MI. Then south. Friends in Charlevoix Thank you Wig & Vickie). The very different, and not always friendly, waters in Lake Michigan. The people were.
Chicago. Two nights at the Chicago Yacht Club and dinners in town. Very nice! Visit with friends (Thank you Jeff & Charlotte). Then cruising right through the skyscrapers on our departure. Pretty cool!
What a difference in the inland rivers! The “Big Muddy”. Basic, sparse, pretty much on our own. Only a short break in Saint Louis. It’s all good. Then I realize we’re almost in “The South!” An overnight stop and catfish dinner at Bobby’s Fish Camp confirms my chartplotting. A few nights on the hook then, Mobile! Home of some of the best char-grilled oysters you will ever eat at Wentzel’s Oyster House! A culinary discovery at “7 Spice” and another visit with Janet’s friends (How many are there?).
Dog River, Pensacola (more great oysters), Orange Beach (Hello, Lulu, Susie & Butch), Apalachicola (oysters again), Mexico Beach and Carrabelle. Blackwater rivers, cypress trees. We know we’re nearing “home.”
The waters change again as we cross the Gulf. Steinhatchee, Cedar Key, Tarpon Springs. More seafood country! Onward south, Sarasota (“Thank You” Hal & Sandy), Naples (“Thank You” Jerry & Janet). Then the Keys. Time to kick back even more. Duck Key is special! (Thank you Peter!). The final turn north.
Within hours, we are out of the mangroves and into “civilization”. Miami, Lauderdale, Hollywood and Vero. A visit with the Maces. Always fun!
All of a sudden the realization hits – we’re close to the end! A few days meandering north and we are in St Augustine where we participate in the MTOA rendezvous, see a few old friends and enjoy more good food! (Costa Brava was really good). Then Amelia Island and dinner with my old fraternity brother Reg and wife Melissa. More fun!
As a finale, Janet had given me a couple of nights at Greyfield Inn for my birthday, Greyfield is an old Carnagie property on Cumberland Island, Ga, now a world class B&B. What a fantastic and relaxing ending! (Is it possible get any more relaxed?) A “last” stop at St Simons Island and dinner with one of Janet’s old classmates, another with sister-in-law Jeanne, yet another with Bill & Tina Kirby. Thank you all- great fun!
Before we know it, we are really are home! One night in Savannah and dinner with niece Holly. Then across the Savannah river and into South Carolina! One “last” stop in the New River and an on-board visit from Steve & Connie Bird. Brave adventurers who came out in Freebird to greet us.
Then, we really are here. Home. Hilton Head. 363 days after departure. Bittersweet, but done. I enjoyed every mile.
Those are the “happenings” but this is the real message: Janet has really become a “Captain”. I am so proud of her! Anyone can run a boat on open water. It takes real skill to maneuver in close quarters and dock a 14-ton boat in strong currents. Day after day Janet “nailed it”, every time. Rarely flustered, never “stumped”, zero mishaps. I will cruise with “my anchor” anywhere.
Most importantly, I have not had to spend a single day being towed in the dinghy.
As we were nearing the end of this trip, one part of me was saying “NO” – not ready for this way of life to stop, and another part of me saying “YES” – ready to close this chapter and move on to other things. It has been one week now since we completed the Great Loop and I am continuing to have struggles in expressing my feelings. So hard to find the words to do so. And for those of you who know me really well, THAT is a rarity for me to be without words.
I think we both have a great sense of accomplishment for completing this trip without any major incidents, injury to selves or vessel or some other crisis. For that we are truly blessed. Seeing the United States of America from the water gives one such an appreciation for what our ancestors accomplished as they paddled off in their dug out canoes to explore the West!!!! Very brave souls they were. Our slow cruising speed of about 8 kts, allowed us to really SEE this part of our country. What a gift the adventure has been.
The following land based friends deserve a huge “shout out” of gratitude and thanks for assistance and help this past year. Jean Vahey – for your faithful “condo checks” on a regular basis with detailed reports each time. Also for housing my car, and then delivering it back in time for our arrival. You provided a worry free state for us. Thank you! UPS ladies – Barb and Jen- who, altho’ it was their job, were able to to ship off our mail to some of the most remote and out of the way places all along the route. Thank you both for helping us keep up with life and “bill paying”! The Harter’s – for warehousing several shipments sent “home” from off the boat, helping to free up boat space as well as decrease clutter. Tuesday night Bible study group – for continued prayers for our safe travels. Wig and Vickie Baumann for shelter and re-supplying Hank’s raspberry jam supply when traveling thru Michigan. Chuck and Kay Danby — for a delightful dinner at their home during the time we were “tied” to the docks off Lake Michigan due to nasty weather. Come see us on Hilton Head. Jerry and Janet Belle – for your grand hospitality. Best marina, and B & B going! Love you guys. The Shevers and the Wandell’s — these two couples get the award for connecting with us more than once!! They are special.!!! Thanks for your efforts to make that happen. To Jeff and Pat Francis for a night on the farm and fresh eggs!
OH MY — I would be remiss for not mentioning my adopted family in the Buffalo area – The Holler family. Dana and wife Marci for boat rides, and fun! Dana gets a “TWO visit” high five as we connected again in Florida. Your including me in a family birthday party, and extending such welcome arms made my stay at the end of the Erie Canal a delight! Also, Lisa McCarthy, thanks for the ride to West Marine for a power cable. The patriarch , Jim Holler , for a grocery store run, welcoming me to your boat house and your friendship., Doug Holler in Illinois who showed up at the wall in Joliet to assist us with tying up! There will always be a special place in my heart for you ALL!
THE BIG QUESTION – is always – what was your favorite part???? Each section and waterway has its own character and beauty. From our East Coast waters , into the Hudson River , thru the Erie Canal, the Great Lakes, Rivers, Gulf, etc… All are different and deserve respect in their own right! I liked it ALL – but to answer the question, I would have to say the Erie Canal. The small towns, the history, the beauty, the knowing that you are traveling along a waterway that was HAND DUG so many years ago, the fun music concerts….. loved it all. Secondly, I was struck by the depth and width of the Hudson River and that Valley! Very impressive and a lot prettier than expected. Thirdly, many areas of the Chesapeake Bay were of great interest. Oxford, MD and Tangier Island were just a couple of really unique places. Topping off our adventure with a stop at the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Is., GA was a relaxing place to ease into the end of the trip. OK – so I mentioned more than ONE favorite part. And I failed to mention my favorite lighthouse of all time —- MS. LIBERTY! Tears in my eyes as we cruised passed her the day we entered NY harbor. My heart is full!
A special note to Hank! Your M O ( managing owner) expertise, your boat knowledge, your “repair” skills and know how, your patience with me when I couldn’t see a day marker, your teaching ability to help improve my boat piloting skills…… your humor and joy added so much to this past year’s life we spent on Salt Lick. Thank you!!!!!
What a blessed person I am. I am deeply humbled by the majesty of our Country, our citizens, and our God. Thanks to all of you who have “traveled” along with us via this blog. Glad to have had you aboard. Signing off with the sunset of our final night of the trip while anchored on the New River.