North Lake Michigan and Engine Trouble

Panorama from the fort on Mackinac Island

On our last night in Sault Ste Marie, after we returned to the boat for dinner, we walked through a group of Canadians having drinks on the dock who invited us to join them. They confirmed that there was a US border crossing checkpoint in the marina just across the river on the American side of Sault Ste Marie. In the morning, we cast off our lines, and immediately submitted our info via the border crossing app. It was about 15 minutes to get across the river and we were allowed to pull up to their fuel dock while we awaited our confirmation. After another 30 minutes of watching the app remain in “pending” status, I decided to give them a call. As it turns out, there had been so few people submitting border crossings via the app that they just hadn’t been monitoring it! In about 30 seconds, our info was processed and we were good to go. David dealt with filling up with diesel, water, and emptying our holding tanks while I hopped on the scooter and headed to a pharmacy where I would be able to fill a prescription for some tennis elbow meds that I had been waiting all through Canada to pick up.

After we were all provisioned up, we started heading south with De Tour being our potential stopping point. Shortly into the journey, David started noticing a large increase in the fuel consumption on our starboard motor. This one has always had slightly higher numbers, but these were significantly higher than normal. We also started feeling a slight vibration on that side at a certain RPM. We backed off on that engine and I started calling around to find local divers in the De Tour area, since our going assumption was that maybe we had something snagged around that prop. Unfortunately, the most local diver that I could get on the phone (on a weekend, of course) was in Mackinaw City. Since we were going a lot slower at this point, we didn’t think we would be able to make it safely to Mackinaw before it got dark, especially given that some winds were expected in northern Lake Michigan. After a bit of debate, we decided to head to Mackinac Island, which is a little bit north of Mackinaw – where we would avoid rough water and arrive just before dark. In theory we would be able to find either a diver or a boat yard in Mackinaw the next day, although this was somewhat in question due to it being Labor Day weekend.

Mackinac Island Airport Shuttle

We pulled into the Mackinac Island in the early evening, taking the last big-boat slip in the marina! Along the way, we had read up on the Grand Hotel dining experience and decided to get fancy (coat and tie required!) and head up for dinner. On Mackinac Island, there are no motorized vehicles allowed of any sort, including ebikes and electric scooters (although we later learned that after the season closes, locals use snowmobiles to get around in the winter!!), so everything is either bicycles or horse and carriage. I wanted to ride in a carriage to dinner, but we did not realize you needed to book this in advance, so we ended up walking. Luckily I had just bought some new fancy shoes that are actually comfortable to walk in!

I really wanted David to call me Alicia and I would call him Juliooooooooooooo, but he didn’t really want to comply. (Please, go and watch “Grand Hotel” [Ed note: don’t]). Dinner at the Grand Hotel is an EVENT. They have three different menus that they rotate each night throughout the season. You are directed into an ENORMOUS dining room and you have several different servers throughout the dinner. Our service was a little bit lack-luster, with our drinks server not seeming to care at all what we ordered. We were told there was a full bar, and when David tried to order a rum negroni, we discovered the only rum they had was Bacardi :). The food was delicious though, and it was quite a fun evening.

Another Looper couple we had met in Canada was also in the marina, and after chatting with them for a while, and looking at the weather forecast, which was going to be extremely windy for the next few days, we decided that we would stay at Mackinac and actually experience the island, rather than leaving early the next morning. We figured we would be more likely to find either a Yanmar service shop and/or a diver after Labor Day. So, the next morning, we headed up the hill to the fort that overlooked the marina. The fort/museum was actually very well done with lots of interesting exhibits.

We spent the rest of the day walking to all the major tourist spots on the island including a second fort on the highest point of the island, and a naturally forming archway. We also stopped in at the one brewery on the island, which actually doesn’t brew anything on the island. They also turned out to be a distillery, none of which was made on the island either.

At this point, the weather forecast started to look really bad with 40+kt winds predicted, and we knew we actually wouldn’t be leaving the island for another couple of days. We settled in for a couple of days of working on Mackinac. The next day, the winds were blowing so hard that one of our dock lines actually snapped (during one of my meetings!!). I felt the tug on the boat and yelled for David. We were able to replace the lines and luckily the marina had basically emptied out that morning so we no longer had a neighbour to swing in to. The next two days were also predicted for bad winds, so we ended up on Mackinac for some time!

We decided to head out with the weather window, and aim south, hoping that we’d eventually find someone who could come out and take a look at the engine. Not too long into this journey, we suddenly had the port engine overheat. Back in Canada, David had noticed that one of the belts on this engine was looking pretty worn. As it turns out there are no after-market replacements, and nobody anywhere in Canada had it in stock. David had ordered 6 Yanmar spares to our package holding service in Virgina, and we just needed to get to a place where we’d be able to send a package. The engine had overheated because this belt had snapped and had also dislodged the second belt. David was able to return the first belt to its place and we figured we could keep going on one belt and we’d overnight the belt package to wherever we ended up. However, only a few minutes later the engine reheated again, and this time the other belt had also snapped. This meant we were down to one engine – the problematic one. Meanwhile, I had found a diver in Charlevoix that would be able to come out and see if he could identify or rule out anything wrong with the propeller as the cause of the vibration. We decided we would limp in to Charlevoix on the one engine. David placed the overnight order to our package service to have everything delivered to us the next day. Luckily our friends from Mackinac were also at Charlevoix, and though we pulled in just after sunset when the marina was closed, they came to catch our lines. Our big fat cat is not very maneuverable at low speeds for docking on only one engine!!

The next morning, the diver arrived and discovered that the starboard prop was actually loose with the key that keeps the prop in place having shifted. This meant that until our package arrived with the new belts for the port engine, we were dead in the water, not wanting to put further stress on the starboard prop until we have a chance to get hauled and have everything inspected and fixed.

Unfortunately, that night disaster struck at our package center and they were not able to get the packages out. Thus ensued a 5 day struggle with the service and their lies and delays, calling every few hours to offer them money, beg, plead, anything we could do, to get the package out the door.

By Friday, with the packages still not sent yet, we knew nothing would be arriving over the weekend, and we were resigned to spending the entire weekend and more in Charlevoix. David got a haircut on Saturday and learned from the hairdresser about a local point of interest – the “mushroom houses”. These turned out to be a small street with houses that looked like they came from a fairytale!

We decided for Sunday to take the ferry to nearby Beaver Island to explore. This necessitated staying one night on the island, due to the off-season limited ferry schedule. In the morning, we hopped on the ferry with an overnight bag and our scooters. Our plan for the day would be to scooter around the island and end up at the brewery in town (they do brew on the island!).

About 15 minutes into our scooter ride out of the main street on the northern point of the island, the paved road quickly turned unpaved and was very uncomfortable! We decided to press on, since there wasn’t that much else to do in the town. We did almost the full loop around the island and saw the main attractions including the southern lighthouse, which is in the process of being restored, “the big birch” and “the big rock”. Yes, a big rock is the main attraction :).

By the time we arrived at the brewery, 37 miles of scootering later, I was ready to sit down, after being shaken up on gravel roads for the entire day. Amazingly we didn’t puncture the tires on either of our scooters! The brewmaster also turned out to be the island’s chief librarian and we had a great chat with him. Apparently it is a local activity to get large groups of people together on the Big Rock for a photo. Sometimes after slowly cruising around the island with a picnic table in the back of a truck!

For dinner, we headed to the Beaver Island Lodge for a nice meal. They weren’t quite ready to seat us when we arrived, so we sat at the bar and chatted with our neighbour who turned out to be the proprietor of the new Bodega in town and recommended that we stop there for breakfast in the morning before getting on the ferry. Dinner was lovely and accompanied by a beautiful sunset. The next morning we woke up early to hop on the ferry back to Charlevoix before the Monday work day started.


Late Monday night, we finally got a notice from USPS that our packages were actually being processed, with an estimated delivery date of Thursday (over a week after we put in our overnight delivery order…) At this point we were resigned to our fate with nothing to do but wait in Charlevoix until the packages arrived. As it turned out, they did arrive on Wednesday (while still showing an estimated delivery of Thursday…), but we had one other package on the way (a warranty-replacement solar charge controller to replace our flaky one) that would not arrive until Thursday morning. Wednesday night, David got the new belts on the port engine, and after some basic testing, we declared the engine ready to go as soon as Fedex arrived in the morning to head south to find repairs for the other engine.

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The Trent-Severn Waterway

The Big Chute – Second to Last Lock on the Trent-Severn

Recently I’ve been trying to post roughly every week, but for some reason, I have been avoiding writing up our time in the Trent-Severn. I don’t have a reasonable excuse for this because we loved the 10 days that we spent working our way up, and then down this canal system going through 42 locks. The entire time we had amazing weather – almost too hot at 85 degrees almost every day, and it’s a unique experience for us to be boating in fresh water, meaning afternoon swims don’t result in salty-stickiness.

One note through all of this is that we took two weeks off work to do the Trent-Severn and some of the following Georgian Bay/North Channel. We knew the locks would be time-consuming, as well as that the Trent is supposedly one of the most fun parts of the great loop, so we wanted to enjoy it. At the same time, with Canada waiting this long to open its borders, it’s already getting late in the season, and most Canadians have already finished their summer cruising. Marinas are empty, and weather can turn foul on a moment’s notice and stay bad for days. We wanted to enjoy what we could, but we knew we didn’t really have time to linger. We had the Trent-Severn, Georgian Bay, North Channel, and all of Lake Michigan to get through before we got back to protected river waters. With fall rapidly coming, we knew we only had time for a cursory overview of the area, so we tried to make the best of it, enjoy it, but still get a move on.

Backing up just a little, since our last post ended with us crossing the Ontario into Canada. Our border crossing went relatively smoothly with the exception that since we declared all our alcohol (a lot!), due to not wanting to lose our NEXUS status, we were boarded and ended up “surrendering to the crown” all the beer on board. Luckily we were able to keep almost all of our wine and liquor. We finally tied up in Trenton after sunset and decided to order take-out Thai from a restaurant down the street from the marina. Hands down the best Thai food we’ve ever eaten.

After provisioning in the morning, we decided to get under way and headed towards the first lock of the Trent-Severn Waterway. If there’s only one thing to say about our experience in the locks it is that the lock attendants are some of the friendliest people we’ve met on this trip so far. In the Trent, once you go through the first lock of the day, all of the locks communicate with each other regarding incoming and outgoing traffic, so largely your day is orchestrated for you.

The first couple days of the locks are called “the ditch” by the locals. It’s mostly boring narrow rivers in semi swampland, with no towns or really anything nearby. It’s not very pretty, it mostly has 10 kph speed limits, and you just need to get through it. The first night we stayed on a lock wall that wasn’t near much.

Our first night in the Trent

One of the locks we went through on the second day was a double lock – where the first lock top gates open into a second lock for a second rise.

For our second night, and almost every night thereafter, we ended up on anchor on a lake in between the locks where we were able to jump in the fresh water after a long sweaty day of docking, un-docking and managing lines.

Second night’s anchorage

The next day, we finally broke out to a fairly large lake, Rice Lake, and had a pretty lovely afternoon crossing it. David took out the drone half way across and got some pictures and video of us under way as well.

Crossing Rice Lake

On the third night, we stayed in Peterborough, one of the larger towns along the way. We found an escape room in town and did two of their rooms and had a lovely meal, as well as bought some repair supplies from Home Depot and found the best butcher we’ve seen in months. This was the first town where we noticed that the homeless situation in at least this area of Canada is just as bad as in many parts of the states these days. The pandemic has not been kind to folks.

The next morning, we headed back into the lock system and encountered the most famous lock in the system – the Peterborough Lift Lock. This lock is a 65ft hydraulic boat elevator. You drive forward into the lock, a gate rises behind you and you are lifted 65ft (quite quickly!) in a sort of bathtub. We had previously been traveling on week days, so we had yet to encounter any other boats in the locks with us. However, we left Peterborough on a Friday with a several other boats trailing us. Since the locks in this area are quite close together, we ended up spending the morning in several locks with the same group of boats (4 of us!). Once you are tied up in a lock, there is not much to do, so we ended up making friends as we worked our way through the system. I took a video of our ride up the lift, but discovered at the top that I hadn’t hit record!!

After Peterborough, we headed up into the prettiest section of the Trent-Severn, starting with Clear Lake/Stoney Lake. The navigation was a bit treacherous, with rocks everywhere, above and below the water, but it was very well marked, and we followed our charts carefully and made it through unscathed.

Picking our way through the rocks on Stoney Lake

We anchored in a nice little corner of the lake and swam around in the warm evening after a long day on the rivers/lakes.

The next day, we went quite a ways through the rivers, without too many locks in the way. We’d been traveling the system on weekdays up until now, which didn’t come with very much traffic anywhere we went. However, this was a Saturday, and we were back in civilization, and it was a different story. We went through the town of Bobcaygeon, which had a lock in the center of it, and the walls were completely jam-packed with day boaters. We got a few to move just far enough apart for us to scoot over to the waiting-area wall and get out of the way of the people locking through, and then got in the next very-full lock with a pile of boats and jetskis.

Later that day, we settled into the west end of Balsam Lake. We had a nice late afternoon in the waning sun when a huge cloud front quickly swept in and deposited a huge amount of rain and heavy wind gusts for an hour or so, then moved out as quickly as it came to a crystal clear night.

Evening over Balsam Lake

We’d heard from a few folks along the way that the upcoming “canal section” was narrow, shallow, and sketchy, so we’d hatched this plan of anchoring basically right outside the entrance to the section, and then getting up early enough in the morning to traverse the whole section before the lock opened up to let traffic through, to give us the best shot of not running into another boat coming at us. The section is literally too narrow and shallow for our fat catamaran to let anyone by, so it could be a super dangerous debacle if we did run into anyone.

The entrance to the canal section

The plan ended up working great, and after a nervewracking passage through the narrow hell, we ended up at the Kirkfield Lift Lock about 20 minutes before they opened, so we had a chance to tie up and walk down to check out the lock and the info boards around it, and only ran into a few tiny local fishing boats along the way.

Before going down the lock, this was the highest point on the Trent-Severn — 840 feet above sea level, 600 feet up since Lake Ontario. It doesn’t feel like a boat should be here. This spot is the highest above sea level continuously-from-sea-level-navigable waterway in North America. Pretty neat.

From here, it was all downhill. The canal section continue to have astonishingly shallow sections through man-made lakes, dragging boats where they shouldn’t be to get to Lake Simcoe.

Traveling through a particularly shallow part of Canal Lake

After a harrowing day, we ended up crossing Lake Simcoe and spending the night in a marina in Orillia, a fairly large town on the north end of the lake. We had a day of heavy wind coming up next, so we stayed put. Hannah worked, David did projects all day. We finally tore out the last of the old electronics, the Raymarine autopilot system, and replaced it with a new Garmin one. Later, after two long scooter trips to a Home Depot, David managed to hack the brackets enough to fit a new larger alternator to the port engine.

Now we look like a floating Garmin ad

We had a couple lovely meals in town, picked up a great pie and some groceries, and the next day continued on our way to finish out the Trent-Severn.

The last locks were pretty fun. We first hit the Swift Rapids lock, #43, with a 47 ft drop. It just kept going, and going.

Lock 44 is possibly the best of all — The Big Chute Marine Railway. This is essentially a train car that took us over land (including over a road). Since we had spent the morning encountering no other boats, we thought it would be safe to assume that we’d be riding alone, but 6 jet skis showed up as the train car was descending into the water to receive us. The jet skis boarded first, and then we were called forward. We assumed that we’d be held suspended in slings, much like a travel lift (used when we get hauled out), which is how they handle most mono-hull boats riding the Chute. However, since we are technically flat on the bottom (our propellers are inside our hull channels), they just lifted the car up until we were basically beached on the floor. This entire experience was AWESOME.

Finally, we approached the last lock on the Trent, to go out not with a bang, but with a whimper. It’s only a few foot final drop into the Georgian Bay, and the lock is the smallest one in the system, only 22 ft wide (4 ft wider than we are) — we basically occupied the whole thing!

Lock 45 – Port Severn

We were extremely glad that we had (for the most part) taken this time off work to make our way through the Trent-Severn. We had a lot of long days of back-to-back locking, and we appreciated being able to swim and chill in the evenings. Though we weren’t that entranced after our first two days of the ditch, once we made our way into the lakes that are interspersed between the locks, we started to think that this would be a place to re-visit. Since we were trying to make good time (wanting to spend some of our vacation time in the Georgian Bay after the Trent), we did end up skipping a few of the towns along the way that we heard from many people are worth a visit. Overall, though, we are so glad that we waited for the Canadian border to open so that we could have this experience.

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Erie and Oswego Canals

Upon returning to the East Coast, we spent the day visiting Kingston, which we hadn’t had the chance to do before we left for Seattle. We visited the maritime museum, which discussed the ecological impact of humans and boating on the waters of the Hudson, and some of the history of the Erie canal.

We had a drink at a local brewery and on the way got to see some amazing murals, which were all over Kingston.

The next day took us all the way to the wall just outside of Lock 1 on the Erie Canal at Waterford. The trip up the Hudson continued to not disappoint – everything is beautiful! Along the way we stopped to fill up with diesel at the slowest fuel pump we’ve ever encountered (for our biggest fill we’ve ever had) and ended up on their dock for 1.5 hours filling up.

Slowest diesel fill ever

We had a happy hour in the cockpit, and then wandered into town for a lovely dinner.

The next morning we woke up early for the opening of the first lock and started our journey up the Erie Canal. Our ultimate goal would be to reach Oswego by the end of the week which is near Syracuse, where my parents would be flying home from. Since both David and I were working during the week, our mornings consisted of getting through as many locks as we could before David’s meetings started for the day. During the work day, my parents explored whatever town we were in.

The Erie Canal locks are different than what we’d experienced before – there is generally no place to actually tie your boat to, just lines hanging down from the top of the lock that you grab on to. Each lock fills slightly differently, so sometimes you might be pushed heavily against the wall, others you might be pushed off the wall into the middle of the lock and others the water swirls around moving you at random. Going up was pretty hard work, having to hang on to the line. We did one down-lock, which turned out to be much easier!

Along the way, we visited Scotia Landing, Ilion, Rome, Sylvan Beach and Brewerton. David and I didn’t get to explore the towns much due to spending our days working, but Mum and Dad really enjoyed Rome, where we walked to a local brewery.

On the next leg of the trip, we crossed the Oneida Lake – our first fresh water lake of the trip. Since I had a break in meetings right as we were in the center of the lake, I suggested we slow down for a quick swim. David killed the engines and my parents and I jumped off the back of the boat. It was lovely!

The next morning, we entered the Owsego Canal, which would take us all the way to Oswego, where we would cross Lake Ontario into Canada (assuming the border opened on schedule). We got held up waiting for some opposite direction traffic at Lock 2, at which time we pulled off our new scooters from the boat and I set out back to Syracuse to purchase a new SIM card from T-Mobile that would, theoretically, give us internet while in Canada. This ride would test the range of the newer, beefier scooters. I made it to the store, which turned out to be in the Great Northern Mall, a huuuuuuuuge and nearly empty complex. (Of course, there was a Spirit Halloween). Unfortunately, the SIM card/plan that David had spoken to someone on the phone didn’t actually work in Canada, so I headed off back to the boat, to see if I could catch up with Highwind somewhere along the Oswego Canal. About 4 miles from my destination, the scooter battery died, and luckily I was able to get an Uber to take me the rest of the way there! But the new scooter was able to do almost 40 miles at almost 30mph before dying, which is a huge improvement over the Segways.

The next day, we explored the town of Oswego by scooter, starting off with Fort Ontario. This turned out to be an awesome museum/complex filled with historical re-enactors who where happy to answer any questions you had!

We had a great time on the scooters!

We also stopped for the biggest ice-cream cones ever!

David and I took our PCR Covid tests in order to do our border crossing. There was a small snafu with the labs resulting in David’s initial test being labeled with a duplicate of my information, so we had to re-take the tests and thought we might be delayed by a day. While we were having a leisurely morning getting ready to say goodbye to Mum and Dad, we ended up getting our test results texted to us. Since the weather was looking much better that day than the next, we sprang into action, and practically kicked Mum and Dad off the boat. They organized a taxi to Syracuse, and then we said our goodbyes, untied, and shoved off for our crossing of Lake Ontario into Canada.

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A Week In Seattle

Seattle skyline from Gasworks Park

Due to some things on the boat being hard to plan, like how far we will be from NYC by the time we need to fly out to Seattle, we ended up getting tickets out of JFK, but our boat was in Kingston, 90 miles north of the city. A train would get us all the way, but we needed to find a way to get to the train station. The Lyft app allowed us to book a ride in advance, so we arranged for a ticket for the latest possible train, and an early Lyft, hoping to be able to get to the train station to take an earlier train. Unfortunately 1 minute before the expected arrival time of the Lyft driver, and the app still had not assigned us a ride, so we made a frantic phone call to a local cab company and they had someone out to us within 20 minutes. When he arrived we discovered that it wouldn’t be much more to just have the cab drive us all the way to the airport than to do the shorter cab ride + train combo. We decided to just do this to ensure that we’d be at the airport on time and save a bunch of hassle.

Once we arrived in Seattle, the theme of this week was largely work get togethers for David and it was wonderful to not be spending days on end clearing out the storage unit this time :). We attended a wedding of one of David’s colleagues, which took us through Pike Place Market – somewhere we normally avoid as non-tourists!

Typical tourist shot!

Throughout the week, we had various plans both together and separate with friends, colleagues, and family.

On Tuesday, it was our 8 Year Anniversary, so we decided to celebrate with dinner at Ascend in Bellevue, which has an amazing view over the lake.

David’s back got progressively better over the week, so we are both back firing on all cylinders. We met up with my parents at the airport who would be flying back to the boat with us for the next leg of our journey!

Over the past few weeks, we’d been fighting a few battles with our scooters. The two original Segway scooters had both broken in different ways. We had purchased two new Segway scooters of an improved model, of which one battery had already broken. We had decided to sell our ebikes and replace them with some long-range scooters over a month ago, but shipping took a while on the new ones. Our plan is to warranty replace the original Segway scooters and then sell those. We will keep the newer Segways (with a warranty replaced battery) for shorter trips, and then have the larger scooters for our longer distance trips. In addition, this means we would now have 4 scooters on the boat – 2 extra for when we have guests (we have guest helmets too!!).

For some reason, Segway did not want us to return the original broken ones in the boxes that we had kept from the newer models – they insisted on sending us new empty boxes. Also, the delivery of our new long-range scooters had kept getting delayed. In the end, John and Joan ended up receiving the two empty boxes and the two new scooters while we were in Seattle. Instead of trying to get back to the boat in Kingston via train and taxi with my parents and then having John and Joan re-ship all the boxes to the Kingston marina, David decided that we should rent a pickup truck at the airport and drive to Kingston via Connecticut to pick everything up. It all worked out perfectly and we were able to see David’s cousin Kevin and his 8 month old daughter to boot!

This week we head north and start the Erie Canal, and pray that Canada does end up opening and letting American boaters in so we can do the Trent-Severn.

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New York City and the Hudson

Sunset at City Island

After a couple of days at Port Jefferson, we needed to head towards Brooklyn where we had a reservation for the latter half of the week. Since David was still bedridden, we decided to reserve a mooring buoy with the City Island Yacht Club, which had a free pickup service that ran until midnight, allowing me to get off the boat and run to the pharmacy to pick up a few things. We had a short early morning cruise and while I had a quick break between meetings for lunch, I went ashore. While I was waiting to pick up some lunch for us, the sky opened up and started dumping rain. Luckily I didn’t have to walk far to get back to the dock, and managed to convince the shuttle driver to take me back to Highwind.

Amazing sunset at City Island

The next morning we again woke up early in order to give me time to make my way to Manhattan to spend the day at the office with my colleagues. It was a beautiful morning cruise down the East River.

I hopped on the subway and made my way into the office, which is just down the street from One World Trade Center and has an amazing view of the building from the window! At the end of the day we gathered for a Happy Hour. I’ve been working with these folks for over a year now and this was my first time meeting most of them face-to-face!

We were staying at the same marina where we had briefly stayed on our way south last year, and the views did not disappoint.

Since David was still unable to move, we ended up cancelling all our dinner reservations in the city. And due to his injury, we had made no other plans. On Friday after work (on this day, I commuted by ferry), I headed over to Body and Pole to catch a class, and ended up registering for a Saturday afternoon class as well to fill the time. On Saturday morning, I decided to explore the city on my own while David was recuperating. On a whim, I started walking north and ended up walking over the Brooklyn Bridge (something I do not recommend on Saturday in the midst of tourist-season!) and ended up walking all the way to Washington Square park (about 5 miles).

On Saturday evening, after my pole class, David was feeling barely mobile enough that we decided to try a walk to a nearby restaurant (our previous reservations would have taken us all the way into the city), and we ended up at a Yemeni restaurant and had an enjoyable evening.

The next morning, we set off for what would be the first new leg of our trip in a while – heading north up the Hudson, towards Canada (assuming the border opening happens on schedule). The weather was a bit overcast.

Our destination was Half-Moon Bay Marina at Croton-on-Hudson, which boasted several things to do in town, including a nearby scenic dam/waterfall. Once we’d secured the boat, we pulled out the scooters and headed the short distance to the Croton Dam, after a short detour up to a 9/11 memorial along the Hudson. There was a huge state park around the dam. Since David’s back still wasn’t good for long distances walking and I had worn myself out the previous day with a 5 mile walk and a pole class in the evening, we didn’t make it up the hill to the viewpoint over the dam, but we did enjoy from the park.

That evening, we installed the first of our new solar panels. They arrived over a month ago, but between David’s parents’ visit and then destroying his back, we hadn’t had a chance to put them on the roof yet. After some careful measuring, we decided to not try to push it to fit every last square inch of the roof with solar, and instead to go with a 15-panel setup, set up in 5 parallel groups of 3 panels. We are using the 170 watt SunPower flexible panels, which are a huge weight savings over rigid panels (6 lbs each instead of 40), and actually have higher efficiency (25% instead of 23%). When all is done, we’ll have 2550 watts of solar on the roof, but this time around we only put 1020 watts up before the rain came (two sets of 3).

The next morning, early, we headed further north up the Hudson – a beautiful stretch of water that reminded us a lot of PacNW boating. A little bit of fog and haze caused very flat lighting, so it was hard to get any good pictures, but it was a gorgeous morning. Among many other pretty sights, we passed by Bannerman Castle, which was created by an old arms dealer that apparently sold around 50% of the cannons still in US museums to this day.

Our destination was just south of Kingston, NY, where we would be leaving the boat for a couple weeks while we headed back to Seattle for another visit. Upon our arrival, we discovered that the one bridge that connects where our marina is to Kingston proper has been closed for maintenance for a while, basically shutting down our access to the town. So we ended up effectively holing up on the boat while David’s back slowly got better for the few days until our flight.

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Friends and Family in Long Island Sound

We woke up to gloomy skies over New York City, which seems to be our normal weather condition any time we are going north or south on the East River. However, it still doesn’t get old driving our home past the familiar skyline.

We arrived at the Norwalk Yacht Club and hopped on their free launch with our scooters, headed towards John and Joans where they had graciously agreed to lend us their car for various errands around town including refilling the propane tanks and picking up groceries. We spend a lovely couple of days hanging out with at Norwalk, enjoying the fireflies from their porch while we hung out. I tried to capture a video (firefiles are cool!) and failed terribly.

From Norwalk, we headed Northeast towards the Thimble Islands. We were a bit nervous as Southwestern winds were predicted and our last visit to the Thimbles was extremely rocky and rolly. However, after we dropped anchor and set up for work, the rest of the day and into the evening there was no wind, and it was picture perfect. Later in the afternoon, a catamaran dropped anchor just behind us, and captured some amazing shots of Highwind in the sunset while we were working on the roof preparing for the solar replacement project.

After a brief shouted conversation to exchange contact info, David started a texting conversation and we discovered they were heading to Sag Harbor – near where we later planned to meet up with Steve, a colleague of mine.

The Thimbles were beautiful in the morning as we pulled anchor, but we ran into some fog once we got out of the Mystic River back into the Sound. Our next destination was a return to Mystic, where we stayed again at the Mystic Seaport Museum. Entry to the museum comes included with our moorage and though we both had busy work schedules, we were both able to (separately) visit the museum – there being more exhibits and buildings open this time around without Covid closures. In the evening, we scootered to an Escape Room which was great fun. They were very impressed that we escaped with only two people!

For Friday, we decided to head towards Sag Harbor, and set anchor surrounded by several mega-yachts, with about 15 more moored in the harbor marina. We remained in contact with the folks on the Catamaran and they invited us aboard for drinks. We dropped the dingy and headed their way for a fun conversation before heading into town for dinner. They have been living aboard for about 8 months and have a fun YouTube channel if you want to check out their adventures. In town we had a little bit of culture shock…as Steve told me – “Welcome to the Hamptons!”. However, we ate some delicious Mexican food before heading back to the boat.

On Saturday morning, we headed towards an anchorage off Robin’s Island, where Steve, his wife Lauren, and some friends would join us to raft up. Yay, our first raft in new-Highwind! The weather was amazing, and we had a blast swimming with floaties, grilling lunch, swimming to the sandbar, and hanging out.

The weather was predicting a lightning storm, and most people in Robin’s Island were day-trippers. Not wanting to be the tallest thing around, we managed to find a spot for the night in Greenport. Unfortunately sometime during the day, David injured his back, so he stayed on the boat to rest while I headed into town to meet up with the group one last time for some delicious oysters.

Yesterday, in the morning (after there was absolutely no lightning, rain or storm of any kind), David’s back was still not feeling better, so we headed towards Port Jefferson, and made plans to get off the boat quickly (staying on a mooring at Port Jefferson Yacht Club, instead of anchoring) so we could head to the ER. After several hours, an encounter with a lady trying to detox, some painkillers and muscle relaxers, there was only mild improvement, so we hobbled back to the boat to hope that a couple of days rest will do the trick. Unfortunately today hasn’t been much better, but we’ve seen a couple of very pretty sunsets from this spot. Depending upon how things go for David, we have a few different options for seeking healthcare, but the current plan is for him to stay in bed for another day and hope for some improvement. The town here is very cute, so we will have to return next year, when David is (hopefully) more mobile!

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Fun 4th On the Chesapeake

In Solomans, we met up with Mark, Robin, Jan and Jim for a lovely dinner, which of course we forgot to photograph. We did however see a beautiful sunset on the way to the restaurant.

Sunset at Solomans – a similar view to last year!

Looking at all of our options for fireworks on the Chesapeake during the 4th of July weekend, we decided our best option would be to head to St Michael’s for their Saturday evening display. Though we had planned to anchor just outside the town, on our cruise, we were able to grab a spot at one of the marinas in town due to a last minute cancellation. While in town, we headed towards the Maritime Museum where we walked around a recovered lighthouse building. It was extremely hot out, so a quick ice-cream break was required.

We stopped at a couple of wine tasting rooms on the way home, but unfortunately were extremely disappointed and ended up returning to the boat empty-handed. Back on the boat, a very brief rainstorm rolled in, and then quickly rolled out, leaving behind an amazing double rainbow.

Rainbow at St Michaels

We had a spectacular view of the fireworks from our Juliet Balcony in the evening.

On Sunday we largely spend the day relaxing and trying to stay cool and ended up eating out in town for a lovely pizza dinner.

For the Monday holiday, we decided to head to Annapolis for a couple of days. We would be able to visit the town together, and then on Tuesday while David and I went back to work, Mark and Robin would be able to do some further exploring. We went to the Naval Academy and the Capitol Building where we got to stand in the room where George Washington resigned. It turned out that the marina we were staying in was right by the Annapolis Yacht Club, which we had reciprocal with and we ate a lovely meal in their dining room.

After Annapolis, we headed for one night to Rock Hall. There wasn’t much there, but as we were walking back from dinner, we did see fireflies up close – I’d never actually seen them before!

We’d been keeping an eye on the progress of the storm Elsa and knew that it would be blowing past us on Thursday evening. We decided to find shelter in a protected anchorage on the Sassafrass River. Unfortunately we knew from last year that this spot had no internet, so we spent the day anchored just up river where we did have connection, and then moved after work and battened down ready for the storm to hit us. As it turned out, we only had a little rain and not unusual amounts of wind. Mark and Robin survived the night!

On Friday morning we headed to Chesapeake City where we met up again with Jan and Jim for one last meal and said our goodbyes.

Sunset at Chesapeake City after a big family dinner

At O-Dark-Thirty (aka 5:30am), David and I awoke and set out on our long run down the Delaware.

On our previous two times on this stretch, we had done this in two legs – the Delaware River as one and the New Jersey Coast as the other. With an excellent forecast predicted, and the much larger fuel capacity of the new Highwind, we thought that we might be able to make it all the way to Sandy Hook in one shot. The weather was perfect and the conditions were about as good as you could hope. We got a great current push through the C+D canal, and through 2/3s of the Delaware River, setting us up to leave the eastern exit to Cape May around 10:20am and make the long run up the Jersey coast.

As we were nearing Sandy Hook, we started looking at diesel prices, and Atlantic Highlands, our usual reliably-cheap diesel, turned out to be more expensive than most other marinas. We found that it was only a little bit further to make it all the way to the New York Harbor and get cheaper diesel right there, where we could anchor just off the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island. We decided to change our destination, and after 13 hours of cruising we dropped anchor in a spot with an amazing view of the south of Manhattan, with plenty of sunlight remaining.

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Waiting in Deltaville

Deltaville may be boring as hell, but the sunsets on the coast sure are nice.

Monday rolled around and the boat yard managed to find a local turbo shop that would turn around the turbo in ~7 business days, and an injector company that would to the injectors in ~10. The rebuild of the injectors was less than 1/4 of the price of new, so it made sense to just do it all. As expected, we found the port engine’s injectors to be almost as dead, but fortunately the turbo was just fine. So everything was sent off, and we sat on our hands.

With the dates for the rebuilds pretty solid, David’s parents had been itching to come out and visit for a while, so we told them the whole situation, and they decided to book a flight for July 1st, to stay in the area for two weeks, and they could spend a bunch of it with us, and a bunch with other relatives, however it worked out. But we took those plane flights to the boat yard and used that as leverage — “you gave those dates, David’s parents are coming, we need to be out of here by the 1st.”

The weather at this time of year in Virginia is quite hot and muggy. Luckily, we were now in the water, so able to turn on the AC to find relief. However, we started rationing fresh water again, because the water at the ship yard was NOT terribly potable, so we were back to taking showers in the brackish water in the ship yard’s facilities. I also made arrangements with a mobile pump out service to empty our black-water tanks since there were no pump out facilities at the ship yard. Despite repeated appointments, they never actually showed up, so by the second week, we were also using the facilities on land for that too as our holding tanks both bumped over 80% full!

I decided to pull out the pole, but unfortunately it was so humid out that I spent the entire time slipping down the pole. As facebook is reminding us, around this time last year we were already north of Long Island Sound, heading towards Maine, where we spent at least a month in the fog before summer truly began. We’re experiencing the weather a little differently as we’re stuck in Virginia and the weeks tick by.

At least the sunsets here are exceptional. We decided to take some of this time in the evening to do the work to finally break in the dingy engine, so we did a couple of sunset runs for 30 mins to put some variable speeds on the boat. One night we were joined by Alex, our friend who is working on his sailboat a stones throw from where we are moored. He took the shot above of Highwind from the bow of his boat!

Since we had two more weekends of waiting for repairs, we decided to make some plans, so we organized to spend a weekend with Jan and Jim, David’s Aunt and Uncle. We’d seen them on our way north and south, but since it was still Covid-times, we only met with them briefly. This time, Jan drove out to pick us up and we hung out with them for the weekend – it was great fun to spend some quality time together. On Saturday evening we went to an outdoor dueling piano show with a picnic. We had a good time hanging out, but unfortunately the show ran into technical difficulties and had to be cancelled before it began! We ended up getting tickets to the show at its normal location for the following evening, which was very fun.

For the second weekend, we decided to rent a car and head to Washington DC. It had been many years since either of us had been there and we hoped that by now things would be more open for visiting. As it turned out, many museums and attractions were either still closed or required advanced time-specific tickets that we did not plan far enough in advance. On Saturday morning, we managed to get tickets for a hop on-hop off tour that visited the major sites, which was actually quite good.

In the afternoon, I convinced David to visit some of DC’s amazing street art, since we couldn’t get into any of the Smithsonian or other museums. We rented scooters and made our way to the DC Alley Museum on Blagden Alley, where there was a collection all together!

Since we like to collect stars, we had made a reservation at the Rooster and Owl for dinner and enjoyed a lovely meal! We dressed up for the first time in forever!! (And I regretted my shoe choice for the 1 mile walk back to the hotel).

Amazingly, all of the parts arrived at the shipyard on schedule and the rebuild of the engines could begin. We were all set up to leave by Thursday afternoon. As we set off, an unpredicted thunderstorm seemed to roll in over the north Chesapeake with 180 degree visible lightening in front of us. The wind picked up and soon we were being tossed around in random 6 ft chop.

Random un-forecasted black cloud thunderstorm coming out of nowhere — it looked way more ominous than this picture does justice

We hadn’t done a great job of tying everything down, due to the frantic nature of leaving, and the predicted very calm conditions. Everything that wasn’t tied down got tossed everywhere. One of the Kayaks broke loose a mount from the deck and we almost lost it, managing to tie it down on top of the dinghy for now. The TV was apparently poorly secured to the wall panel by the previous owners and hit the floor, breaking it.

Starboard engine temperature dropping rapidly, causing it to dump more fuel and run at higher load

With the conditions having completely deteriorated, David noticed the starboard engine temperature starting to drop. It looked like potentially a sensor issue, but we slowed down off plane, and he went down to the engine bay to check for coolant or some other obvious failure. While he found no coolant or oil, he did find a large unexpected supply of seawater in there, and it appeared to be coming from the shaft seal area.

All of these things together led us to make the decision to turn around and head back to Deltaville so the boat yard could fix it. It was just after 5pm, but we managed to get hold of someone at Regatta Point and reserved a spot we could pull into (which turned out to be in a complete downpour for the 5 mins while I was tying the lines).

In the morning, the technicians were back on the boat bright and early. The theory was that the new shaft seals were still breaking in for the first hour of our trip, but we wanted to try to find any other issues that might be causing water, as well as duplicate the temperature issue to diagnose it with an IR camera. We went to fire up and sea trial and found that the starboard engine wouldn’t even try to start. Some diagnosing found that the boatyard had neglected to tighten down the bolts to either engine start battery after installing secondary bilge pumps (a small side project David had them do), and in the 6 ft seas the previous day, they’d shaken loose and could no longer start the motors.

They fixed that issue, and we went out for a quick sea trial, at which point we found that there was some water leaking in from a few rotten hoses in the aft lazarette area, but nothing else was coming from the shaft seals anymore. Also the engine still didn’t get up to temp, verified with a camera. So they called a bunch of stores in the area and managed to find one with an actual factory thermostat in stock, and swapped it out to find the expected defective one — stuck wide open! We swapped out the rotten lines and went out for one last sea trial. This time, everything seemed fine — no unexpected water in the bilges, no leaking, and the engine got up to temp. David had the day off work, so we managed to still head up to Solomons and make it there by evening, finally escaping Deltaville, and meeting up with David’s parents as they flew in.

We had a completely uneventful trip up to Solomons in perfect conditions

Total time in Deltaville: 7 weeks.

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Deltaville & Seattle

After spending a great weekend in Norfolk, we started thinking about our plans for heading north and the Chesapeake. Our shaft seal on the port side had started leaking again, so we knew that we needed to get hauled out sometime soon. We started calling around and managed to find a boat yard in Deltaville, VA that had an opening to be able to haul the boat with a couple of days notice and fix the seals and do some other work.

We stayed for a few extra days in an anchorage just north of Norfolk that we had been in before, so we knew it had good holding and was sheltered. We then headed straight towards Deltaville to get hauled. We decided to take advantage of our vaccinated status, and the time the boat would spend on the hard, to visit Seattle for a week. We would be able to organize our storage unit, which had been packed for us while we were here on the East Coast, and also see family and friends in person!

In a random coincidence, someone who had been chatting with David about purchasing one of the electronics that we have replaced turned out to also have his boat on the hard at the same marina! We made arrangements to meet him after we were pulled out of the water. He invited us to a drink that evening with some other boat-yard liveaboards and we enjoyed good company and a beautiful sunset on the dock.

Sunset over Deltaville

After a bit of a panic where our pre-arranged driver didn’t show up on time (and there are no ubers out here!), we did make it safely to the airport and were greeted in Seattle with beautiful blue skies and mountains.

Over the course of three weekends, we spent many hours going through all of our possessions (that are not on the boat), sorting out what to send to the boat, what to give away, what to donate and what to throw away. We gave away tons of our stuff to friends and family, so at least lots went to a good home. We went from a completely packed-to-the-gills 10×20 unit, to a not-even-filled 5×5 closet. It was emotionally draining letting go of so many things, but we believe that we will be on the boat for hopefully the next several years, or more, and it just didn’t make sense to hold on to all that stuff and have it hidden away. We pared everything down to the stuff we may need when we visit Seattle and family heirlooms/childhood memories.

In the gallery below, the first image is what greeted us when we opened the door of the unit – floor to ceiling all the way to the back of the unit! The second shows the actual size of that unit after we had kept only what was going to the boat and what was to be saved. All our remaining possessions after we shipped the boxes to the boat fit into a small van!

We ended up staying an extra week due to the boatyard delaying work on Highwind, and it was so lovely to be able to catch up with family and friends. My brother even flew up from California for a quick visit! I was also able to get to two magical classes at Divine.

Last weekend, we returned back to Virginia, and are now living on the boat while it is in the yard. They got virtually nothing done on the boat while we were gone, despite me calling every other day to check on status, so basically they straight-up lied to us about having availability for us. So now we just get to yell at them every single day until we can get out of here. It’s looking like we’ll be here for one more full week, but ideally start heading north again for next weekend, the 12th.

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Coinjock & Norfolk

You know you are in Norfolk when you see two aircraft carriers docked next to each other.

In favor of pressing northwards, and avoiding the bug situation in the Pungo and Alligator Rivers, we decided to do a long push all the way from RE Mayo to Coinjock, totally bypassing Belhaven. (Yes, we continue to avoid the Dismal Swamp). Coinjock Marina is famous for their prime rib, which you have to reserve in advance. They have a large outdoor dining area, where we enjoyed a lovely dinner when we passed through heading south. Unfortunately, the outdoor dining area was closed, so we ended up ordering our food to go and ate a lovely meal on the boat. We were a hair over a week past our second vaccine, and didn’t realize that the safety period was actually 1 week, not 2.

We stayed only one night here, as everyone does, and headed up to Norfolk the next morning. After you go through a wide expanse of nothingness north of Coinjock, you go through a tiny 1-foot-height-change lock to drop into the Chesapeake water system, and then enter the massive Norfolk naval complex.

This area is all relatively slow due to no wake zones through most of the Norfolk area. Some heavy winds were expected, so we decided to book a night in a marina, rather than anchor. We stayed just across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk, since the marinas were 40% cheaper. In the evening, we visited a nice local brewery and had our first indoor meal since pre-COVID in a little tapas speakeasy place in Portsmouth. We celebrated a little hard and the next morning was kinda rough.

The weather was turning more sour for a few days, so we decided to extend our stay in the marina so that we could explore Norfolk proper for the weekend. A great ferry service allowed us to easily cross the river to get to town, which we used several times. Our first time being on a boat not owned/piloted by us in a while!

At this point we were fully vaccinated, so we were able to enjoy several meals inside and also went to a museum for the first time in over a year and a half. We visited the Nauticus Museum and the USS Wisconsin. Quite a lot of the battleship was open to the public, so we were able to walk around both the exterior and the interior.

We really enjoyed exploring the city and were very glad that we decided to extend our stay. We look forward to doing more exploration and finally going into museums again!

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