Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Our Journey is Complete!

     We're home! We pulled into Ft. Pierce, FL on Friday, December 2nd and completed our loop. It took 8 months and we traveled almost 5,000 miles. What a trip! It was fun, exciting, scary at times, and really awesome other times. It was the adventure of a lifetime and now we can cross it off our bucket list and go onto the next on the list. I just don't know what that might be yet. It's good to be home safe and sound once again. Thanks to all of you that followed us along our way it was really great hearing from you, we missed all of you and hope to be able to catch up with many of you now that we are home. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico

     We've made it across the Gulf of Mexico. We are currently in the city marina at Tarpon Springs FL. It took us 25.5 hours to make the crossing and I was up and almost awake for the whole timp. It was a very interesting and disastrous crossing. We met up with a couple guys in Carrabelle that had a 1974 Chinese Junk that they wanted to cross the Gulf in but they didn't want to cross alone just in case. There were seven of us loopers there that were going to make the crossing on Friday as that was the last weather window for another week or more. Everyone they talked to wanted to run faster than they could go until the came over to our boat. I told them we would run between 7 & 8 mph and they said that was about what they would be comfortable running at and asked if they could follow us across. I said sure, and we set up a meeting place to start across. Friday morning we met at 10 o'clock and headed out across. The forecast was for 2 foot seas and gradual calming Friday night. Then Saturday it was supposed to kick up with the passing of a front which would produce some strong winds out of the northwest and seas in the 6+ foot range so we had to go with what they said we would encounter. It was really rough at first, with two foot seas and occasional 4+ foot groups of waves. We were pounding really hard because we were heading right into the seas. We watched the guys behind us and they were pounding pretty hard as well. At around 40 miles into our crossing we got a call from them, (The Lucky Lady) and they said they were taking on water and had stopped to check it out. We turned around and headed back to them and they were quite a ways back by that time. When we arrived they were making preparations to abandon ship. The boat was riding a little low in the water by then and they said it was filling up pretty fast. They were towing a dingy into which they loaded everything they could salvage on short notice and rowed over to us where we unloaded the dingy and took them aboard. They weren't able to determine where the water was coming in but it was faster than their bilge pumps could handle so the decided they had better abandon ship. I called the Coast Guard and informed them of the sinking, and gave them all the information about the boat and it's location. I told them we had evacuated the survivors and would be taking them on to Tarpon Springs FL. I asked them if they wanted to return to Carrabelle or go on to Tarpon Springs. They decided to continue on with us and then fly home from there. We stayed on site until she finally went down which took about an hour but she finally settled slowly under the water, a sickening event to witness. The guy that owned the boat Jim was heart broken since he had purchased the boat and completely restored it over several years of very hard work with the help of Bobby who was traveling with him. I really felt bad for them because I know how I would feel if that happened to the Molly B. Thank God we were there to lend a hand or who knows what might have happened to them. I did take a series of pictures a couple of which are below. For now we are all safe and sound in Tarpon Springs and the guys left last night for home.
This is the little Chinese Junk that was following us across the Gulf.

The Lucky Lady is going down.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Making Some Progress all-be-it Slow, Just Killing Time.

     We're making pretty good progress but we are really taking our time and going slow trying to kill some time. We can't be south of 30.5 degrees Lat. before the 1st of November because of our hull insurance as I mentioned before so we are going slow. We stayed at Green Turtle Bay for three weeks and had a good time there. We went out to dinner with some other loopers to a 5 star restaurant in downtown Grand Rivers. That was really great to spend some time with fellow loopers, even some famous ones. The dinner was really expensive but we had a great time. The Nina and Pinta sailing vessels were there giving tours, very impressive. We headed up the Tennessee River and anchored at Panther Bay South anchorage. On the 7th of September we headed for Pebble Isle Marina. We stayed there for a week and met up with the Nina and Pinta again. We left Pebble Isle Marina on the 14th of September and anchored at Lick Creek anchorage. Quite a large bay off the river, but very little water inside. we anchored in about 8 ft. of water on very soft mud. The anchor held all night but if a strong wind would have come up we most likely would have dragged the anchor because when I backed down on the anchor it moved but held ok without any power on the boat. It was nice and calm all night so no problems. We arrived at Clifton Marina on the 15th and will stay here until I get my computer fixed. I'm having trouble connecting to the internet and with my rear view camera so I hope I can get it fixed. I had a tech lady here all afternoon and she got the internet problem fixed but couldn't get the camera to work yet so some more help is coming to try to figure it out. We ran into the Nina and Pinta again here at Clifton. I asked them if they were following us and they said they got here first so we must be following them. I guess there're right.Below are a few pictures of the Nina and Pinta.

The Pinta

The Nina

The Pinta

The Molly B and the Pinta

The Nina

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Making too much mileage, too fast.

     We made it the rest of the way down the Illinois River and into the Mississippi River.We passed Grafton, IL on the 16th of August where we had a chance to meet up with some friends but didn't know about the meet because I couldn't check my internet so we missed them. We did stop at the infamous Hoppies on the 17th of August where we met some real nice folks on the loop as well. From Hoppies we anchored at Rockwood Island at mile 102.5. What a night, there was drift wood coming down the river by the ton. Huge trees and rafats of brush and branches. I thought for sure we would get out anchor rode snagged by some of those trees. From Rockwood Island we anchored at Little River Diversion Canal which would have been a nice anchorage except for the floating debris coming down little river. We weren't so lucky this time, we got a huge log around 13 or 14 inches in diameter snagged on our anchor rode. I tried to dislodge it with my boat hook but only succeeded in breaking my boat hook. I finally had to use the boat to push the log off my anchor rode. Then twice more that night we got fouled by logs. It's funny we didn't lose another anchor that night. We traveled 218 miles down the Mississippi and into the Ohio. Nothing but barges as far as the eye could see. I saw as many as 30 barges rafted together being pushed by a tug, quite a site! We turned up the Ohio on the 19 of August and had to weave our way through all the barges that lined both sides of the river and even a few anchored in the middle of the river. These tow boat drivers on the Ohio and Cumberland didn't want to give us little pleasure craft drivers the time of day. Most wouldn't even reply to a call. I guess they didn't like us very well. The only time I heard from one of them is when I was in the middle of a pretty sharp bend in the river on the Cumberland and the guy couldn't make the turn until I cleared the bend, then he called me and let me know about it. He had to back up to wait for me to clear the bend because he said he needed the whole river, bank to bank. I don't think he was very happy. He could see my AIS around the bend because I could see his, but he didn't bother to call me until it was too late and he had to back down. I didn't bother calling him because none of them would answer me anyway. He was down bound so he had the right of way and I told him to do what he had to do and I would stay out of his way. He said he needed the whole river so he had to back down and let me clear the bend. He was a little more cordial on the radio after that. We cleared the Barkley lock at around noon on the 21st of August and landed at the Green Turtle Bay Resort and Marina. We are going to spend a couple weeks here because we need to kill some time before we hit the Mobile Bay. I can't go south of there until after the first of November because of my boat insurance. 

St. Louis Gate Way Arch

They really churn up the river!

Barges Everywhere!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Still underway!

     We have traveled a long way since my last post so I will attempt to get everyone up to date. We managed to complete our trip down Lake Michigan. We had some really rough seas a few times and the weather forecast never seemed to match what we actually encountered on the lake. We met up with my brother and his other halves kids at Muskegon, MI. We had a great time and took everyone out for a little trip around the lake on the boat. We headed south again and made it to Chicago on the 8th of August and stayed at the Hammond Marina before heading down the Calumet River.We decided to go down the Calumet River instead of the Sanitary Canal and into the Illinois river. We were a little concerned about going down the river through south Chicago. The stories abound about lines being cut, boats set adrift, and all sorts of things happening to boats along that stretch of the river but we made it without any problems at all. Going down the Illinois river has been quite uneventful so far except for the commercial barge traffic. I've never seen so much Tug and Barge traffic. Some of these bigger tow boats can push a raft of barges three wide and five or six long. They fit into the locks with inches to spare all the way around without the tow boat. We had to wait over three hours at the Marseilles Lock because of a double lock through of a tug and barge. The tow boat had so many barges that he had to lock through after the barges were lowered. That took over three hours and there was another double lock through waiting behind us but the lock master took us and another pleasure boat through before the next double. We've had some long waits at a few of the other locks as well. You just don't know how to plan your day because of the locks and commercial traffic. I try to make around fifty miles a day, but can only make thirty some days. The only problem with that is there isn't always a place to tie up or anchor so you really have to wing it. The river is pretty easy to navigate and the current is quite slow. We are making over eight mph though so there is a little current pushing us along. We are currently in a little town called Rome, IL at a marina called Hamm's Holiday Harbor Marina. Nothing fancy, but very accommodating and the price is right. We have about 178 miles to go to the Mississippi, and then up the Ohio to the Tennessee. It's been a challenging, Interesting, exciting, and sometimes a little nerve racking trip so far but it's been fun too.
Until next time,
 Take care.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Underway Once Again

     The weather settled down again as we headed out into the North Channel. This is another really beautiful area. Lots of islands and some really challenging navigation in the inland channels. Lots of rocks again but beautiful. We pulled into our first anchorage at McTavish Island and dropped the anchor. It didn't set the first time so we pulled it back up to try again and the bolt between the two swivel shackles broke and the anchor dropped back into the water. We lost our Rockna anchor. I just couldn't believe it, I was really upset but nothing much I could do about it. I had a spare, a Fortress anchor which I attached to my chain and managed to get it to set for the night. Only a couple more days at anchor and we were in US waters at Drummond Island. We cleared customs and the next day headed for Mackinaw City Michigan. It was a good run across the northern part of Lake Huron and into Mackinaw City but bad weather again delayed our journey into Lake Michigan. We finally got a break in the weather three days later and headed out for Little Traverse Bay. We spent one night there and then headed for Grand Traverse Bay and Northport Harbor. We are still here today, and will be heading out early tomorrow morning for Frankfort Municipal Marina which is 72 miles from here. We were going stop a Leland Township Marina which is about half way to Frankfort but they are booked solid until Saturday because of a sailboat race so we have to try to make Frankfort in one day. That 72 mile run is going to take around 11 hours so we have to get an early start. The weather is supposed to be good although the winds are going to kick up a little from the northeast but the seas are forecast to be two feet or less so it should be a good run hopefully.

I was going to attach some pictures to my last post but didn't have a good enough wifi connection to do so, so here are a few pictures of some of the locks and the rocks.
One of the towers on one of the hydraulic locks

This is the cylinder that lifts the container, water, and your boat up or down.

This is a view from one of the hydraulic locks. You can just make out the channel down below the lock. This is a lock that dropped us down instead of up.

This is a picture of one of the houses sitting on a huge rock on one of the islands.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A lot has happened.

     We made it up the Hudson and across the Erie Canal to Oswego, NY where we had to make the run across Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence river. The crossing couldn't have been better. The seas were almost flat when we reached the St. Lawrence. We only had a short run down the river to Trent, ON and the beginning of the Trent Severn Waterway. If you ever make this trip, you have to go up the Trent Severn Waterway. I have never in my life gone through so many locks. 45 of the in all and many were very unconventional locks. We had double lift locks where we were lifted 30 or 40 feet in the first chamber, and then moved to the second chamber and were lifted another 30 or 40 feet. Very impressive. Then there were the conventional locks that lifted us almost 50 up in one fell swoop. The hydraulic locks were extremely impressive. There are two boxes for lack of a better term and you pulled your boat into one of these huge containers. One was in the up position and the other one was in the down position. Since we were going north, we would pull into the lower chamber and tie off the boat. There was a huge cylinder under the center of each of these two chambers that were connected by some piping under the whole system and they would let a little water out of the lower chamber and let a little water into the upper chamber and the weight of the upper chamber being more than the lower on would cause the lower one to rise and us along with it when they opened the valve in the piping between the two cylinders. The lift I would guess was around 80 or 90 feet. Quite a ride! Finally there was the marine rail where they pulled a cradle under your boat on some railroad type tracks. Then they would lift your boat with slings so you were out of the water. Then they pulled the rail car with you hanging inside it up the hill and back down the other side. Unbelievable but it really worked great even if I was a little worried about that one. We came out of the waterway at Port Severn and into the Georgian bay which is at the northern shore of Lake Huron. This is a beautiful place that they say has over 30,000 islands. These island are just huge rocks sticking out of the water. Some were quite large and were forested with mostly pine trees while others were just plain rocks with little or no vegetation. I would guess 50 percent of the islands we passed had a house our cottage type structure built on them. Some were just sitting on top of one of the huge rocks. I still can't figure out what might be holding those buildings on top of the rocks. I guess maybe they just hope they don't get a really strong wind any time soon, or maybe they have them anchored down somehow, I would hope the latter. We ran into some really rough seas in the Georgian Bay and had to duck into a little anchorage in some islands called the Bustard Islands. We waited there for three days until the weather settled down before we ventured out. On Saturday the 16th of July we headed out for a 35 mile crossing of open water. We made it about three miles form our anchorage and both of our engines just quite. I tried everything I could think of the get them started again to no avail. We were dead in the water and drifting toward some pretty large rocks sticking out of the water. I put out a distress call on the radio and the Canadian Coast Guard answered and rebroadcast our position and request for assistance. They took all of our information and said they would send a boat out to take us off our boat if we were in danger of sinking but couldn't give us a tow to safety. In about a half hour we got a call from some people we had met back in Hastings, ON and they said they were about 12 miles from us and heading our way to help. In the meantime, we were drifting dangerously close to those rocks in around 80 feet of water so I couldn't drop the anchor at that point.The chart showed some shallow water just off the east end of one of these big rocks. We seemed to be drifting generally in that direction so I was really hoping we would hit that little ledge before we hit the rock. Fortunately we did and I was able to drop the anchor to hold us off the rocks until help arrived. In about an hour and a half, the "Bee Haven" the name of the boat of the folks we met earlier arrived and threw us a line and started towing us away from the rocks and into a little town called Killarney, ON which was the start of the North Channel. They dropped us off at the fuel pier of the Sportsman's Inn & Marina where we were hoping to find someone to diagnose our problem and fix it. Since it was Saturday, I couldn't get ahold of anyone and would have to wait until Monday to try again. In the meantime, I started looking for the possible cause of the problem. I knew it was an electrical problem since I didn't have any voltage at my fuel solenoids. I also determined that it was most likely in the ground side of the circuit due to the readings I was getting on my meter. I tore the bridge apart looking for any problems and found nothing so on Sunday I headed for the engine room and started checking all the ground wires on both engines and again found nothing wrong. Just as I was about to leave the engine room and give up I noticed a loose wire on the bus for the grounding plate. This was the wire that was part of my bonding system and connected the engines to the grounding plate which grounded everything metal in the boat to the water under the hull. I cleaned and reconnected the wire and went up into the bridge and tried to start the engines. They both started right up and ran as they should. I shut them down and started them several times in disbelief that a loose wire would cause the problem but that indeed was the case. So, now we are still sitting in Killarney waiting for weather again. I thought we would leave today, Monday, but the winds are blowing 20 to 25 mph with gusts up into the mid to upper 30 mph range. It's supposed to be better on Tuesday so maybe we can get going again then. I was going to add some pictures but with the WiFi connection I have right now I can't seem to do it so I will try again at another time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We might be lost, but we're making good time!!

     I thought it time I updated my blog since we left Yorktown, VA. We ran up the Chesapeake Bay about half way and I noticed my shafts still vibrating quite a bit so we pulled into a boat yard in Grasonville, DE and had them check my thrust bearings. They were not good, especially the one I had replaced in VA. I pulled them out and had the guy at the boat yard order some new ones and press them in for me. I took the boat out and I still had a little vibration although not as bad as before. I had them do a short haul on the boat just to check the props and shafts and all seemed to be in good condition. I also had the yard check my shaft alignment and that was good as well. So, I decided to run them as they are and just keep an eye on them. After running the rest of the way up the Chesapeake Bay and into the Delaware Bay, I noticed my shaft seals were really starting to leak bad. I had installed some spare seals on the shafts when I first installed the shafts in the boat, so about half way down the Delaware Bay we had to hold up for weather and I went ahead and replaced the seals with the spares. The Starboard seal is no longer leaking however the port seal is leaking as bad or worse than before. I've been pumping out the bilges a couple times a day and after playing with the shaft position found that if I raise the shaft just a bit, the leak stops. So, I guess that's my next endeavour. We have kept going on our trip around the loop and are currently in the Hudson River almost half way up to the Erie Canal. The sites have really been amazing going through New York City and up the Hudson. If all goes well, we should make the Erie Canal in a couple days. Then we start with all the locks. That aught to be fun! So far it's been an exciting and enjoyable trip despite the problems with the shafts. I don't often have internet access so I will attempt to keep my blog updated as often as I can.

Until next time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Almost Ready to Go.

     We are still here in Yorktown, VA. I got the props checked and they were off quite a bit so I had them re-worked. I also turned my Aqua-drive shafts since they are supposed to be turned end for end at around 1,000 hours anyway and I also replaced my cutlass bearings and one thrust bearing on the port shaft. The thrust bearings didn't seem to be that bad, but the port was the worst one so I used my only spare to replace that one. We got the boat back in the water and took her out to check the shafts and they are really a lot better than before but the starboard shaft still has a little vibration at the midrange of the rpms. I think we will be good to go with them the way they are now. I took the kids out for a little fishing trip last weekend and I stripped the threads on my anchor windless again (the fourth time) so I decided I am done rebuilding that thing and ordered a new windless. It should be here today so I can get that fixed I hope for the last time. I'm also waiting for my auto pilot to come back from Canada. The tech at the factory said there wasn't anything wrong with it so I guess I will re-install it and see if I can get it working. I don't know why it worked ok for awhile and then just stopped working altogether. Once all that is done, we can hit the road up the Chesapeake Bay heading for New York City and the Hudson River, then on to the Erie canal and on to Canada. I really need to be in the Trent Severn Waterway in Canada by late June or early July in order to clear Chicago by September heading south again.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

We've made it to Virginia

     We are now at Wormley Creek Marina in Yorktown, VA. We got here this afternoon and will be here for a couple weeks while we attend the AGLCA Rendezvous starting on the 2nd of May. I plan to haul the boat while we're here to see if I can figure out what is causing my shaft vibrations. I really need to get that fixed before we go to much farther on our loop. I have my anchor winch fixed and now I'm waiting for parts again to fix my auto pilot. I sure hope they get here before we plan on leaving. I don't think I will leave until I get that thing fixed, it really helps when you are steering a long course. Without it you are constantly steering the boat and fighting the bow swing in quartering seas. Hopefully everything will come together and we can be underway again soon. We'll get a chance to visit with the kids and grand kids while we are here so that really makes the stop an important one.

Friday, April 8, 2016

We've started the Loop

     We left Ft. Pierce, FL on the 1st of April and headed north on the first leg of our Loop. We've made it as far as Hilton Head, SC where we are sitting in a marina waiting for parts for my anchor winch again. This is the fifth time I have had to rebuild that thing. I would replace it if I could afford a new one but for now I'm just going to have to rebuild it again. It doesn't take long to do, ( I'm getting pretty good at it ) it's just a pain to have to do it so often. My auto pilot is acting up as well so I have a tech coming to take a look at that while we are here. I hope he can figure out what the problem is, then we will be heading for the AGLCA rendezvous in Norfolk, VA on the 2nd of May. We can't waste too much time here and still be able to make Norfolk by then.  I hope nothing else gives us a problem but this is after all boat and the problems never seem to end.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Getting Close to Departure

     Here it is the third week of March and we only have about 1 1/2 weeks to go before we have to head north again. We will be in Norfolk for the AGLCA Spring Rendezvous on the 2nd of May so we hope to see you there. You can look us up at the discussion panel on the best boat for the loop. I will be sitting on that panel to explain why I built my boat the way I did so I could use it to do the loop. Never having done the loop, I can't really provide any input with respect to what is the best boat to use. I think it's a matter of personal preference and the suitability of the boat as far as draft and the air draft while still being comfortable to live aboard for a slightly extended period of time. It will be interesting to hear what the other panel members have to say about their preferences.