Cruising the Illinois River

View of the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers

Our plan on leaving the Harborside Marina was to do the next night on anchor, but on a whim we decided to follow the couple we’d been cruising with to the Heritage Harbor marina. It turned out to be a fortuitous decision as one of the marina staff – Jeremy – would be giving a presentation for Loopers about the next section of the cruise – down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. After wrapping up work, we headed over for the presentation where about 20 other loopers were already gathered! The presentation was extremely informational and apparently Jeremy gives one essentially every night during the season at which loopers are passing through this part of the journey, customizing the talk based on current weather/river conditions and local knowledge from his contacts downstream.

The next morning, we set off for one of the anchorages recommended by Jeremy. As I get off a work call, I go upstairs to see David starting to turn the boat around the south side of an island to head in to the anchoring spot. Remembering something Jeremy said, I checked my notes – yes, we were supposed to drive past the second red buoy and then turn around up the river. David was turning before the second buoy! I politely told him perhaps we should go further, but he said that he’d remembered Jeremy saying it would be safe 200ft south of the island and we were 500+ft past the island, and the chart showed it to be clear. In the next 30 seconds, the depth alarm sounded, David tried to quickly throw the boat in reverse, but no, we were completely stuck on a sand bar. Ooops. We tried a few times to put the boat in full reverse, but we just weren’t moving.

We called BoatUS to request a rescue. David had an idea to try doing some weight re-distribution on the boat, so we opened all the taps on the boat and basically emptied the fresh water tank. We pumped all the diesel from the up river tank into the down river tank. We dropped the dingy into the water (so it’s weight was not on the swimstep) and moved all the heavy equipment in the front lazarettes into the dingy. We tried reversing again, but no dice – we were still stuck. Then, David saw on AIS a tug boat coming up river towards us. He asked over the radio if they could come close to us and wake us – hoping that the rocking of the boat would help loosen us enough to back off the sand bar. The tug pulled right up to us, and as he was passing, revved his engines. The water swell was just enough for us to get free! What a fun 2 hour adventure. 10 minutes later, we were set up on anchor in a lovely spot on the river.

At this point, we had almost no fresh water — maybe 4 gallons or so — and it was either go back upriver ~15 miles to grab water from the nearest marina, or continue ~200 miles to the next source of water. We decided that showers are overrated and to just bomb south as fast as possible. So, we woke up Saturday and made 115nm on the river in one day, pulling into an awkward anchorage just on the side of the channel, just upriver from a bridge, right before sundown.

On Sunday we woke up early for the next leg to Grafton. Knowing that we would only have the one weekend day, we decided to arrive early, so that we could enjoy some activities in Grafton.

This flag marks the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and is the largest American flag on the Mississippi River

First up, we stopped in the Marina Office that was also a wine tasting room. Unfortunately the wine here was not good. Next, we rode a ski lift to a winery at the top of a hill. While very fun, the chairlift was extremely slow! However, at the top, we had a fantastic view of the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi River that was surprisingly gorgeous. We had lunch and sampled some of the wine from the winery, which also wasn’t good.

Rather than riding down the chairlift, we chose to walk down the hill, since it would be much faster. David managed to secure us a reservation for a zipline adventure. We had a great time zipping through the hillside, with occasional views of the river!

Ziplining in Grafton

We rounded at the day with a final wine tasting (another really bad set of wines) and then headed back to the boat for dinner. Looking ahead, we only had one more cruise to Alton, where we would leave the boat for 10 days while we flew to Prague for a work trip for David. We decided to spend a few days in Grafton and head to Alton later in the week. One of David’s friends from autocross was solo road tripping around the east coast for vacation and met up with us to hang out and spend the night.

On Thursday, we made the short hop down to Alton. For our first night there, the night before we flew out, we headed to a local brewery, where I found wall decor that accurately summarized our personalities, and had a decent meal with good beer.

David even got to do a “beer pairing” with Halloween candy.

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Chicago and the Chicago Sanitation Waterway

Chicago at Night

As we left Grand Haven, we quickly determined that the keyway issue with the prop was not, in fact, the cause of the vibration we were getting. We had suspected this, but were hoping against hope that this obvious running gear problem would have some effect on our situation. It really didn’t. But at least we had all the leaking through hulls replaced.

We tried to contact all of the Yanmar shops within hundreds of miles, again, with our new information that we really needed someone to plug in the Yanmar computer and verify that our problem was, indeed, the injection pump. At this time, the best quote we had for the injection pump was around 12,100$, and it also still required finding a Yanmar tech with the old computer to “link” it with the engine computer. So, even if we did just blindly pray and buy the part, we still needed to find a tech, which we had so far been completely unable to do. After hours on the phone and lots of messages, phone tag, and callbacks, we exhaustively demonstrated that virtually no one actually had that Yanmar computer, and of the couple shops that did, neither was willing to look at us until November 15th, which would have meant committing to getting the boat hauled for the winter and winterized, living in Chicago for the winter. So, after much frustration, and more calling Yanmar folks around the country, we decided that our best bet is likely to just head south to the gulf, limp along, and hope we make it down to the land of actual Yanmar service centers.

We’d spent a full week in Grand Haven, due to the horrible weather, and no other loopers had moved an inch in that week either. But it meant that we were starting on a Tuesday morning, with ~150 miles to go to Chicago. We did some guesstimates on likely morning hops and decided that we should be able to get to Chicago on Friday morning. We finally remembered that we can use our Seattle Yacht Club membership for reciprocal moorage, and made a reservation at the Chicago Yacht Club for a few days.

We headed south to St. Joseph, which actually had a perfectly adequate free wall to tie up to, just inside the breakwater to the lake, though it had no power. While maneuvering for final approach to the wall, something weird happened where it felt like the starboard motor didn’t shift into forward and we ended up lightly bumping the swim platform into a notch on the wall. It appeared to just be a small scratch, but it didn’t fill me with confidence. It seemed to shift fine after that, so I didn’t know what to think. We ended up getting way too much ice cream at a local shop here, and got a pile of pizza for takeout and a couple meals of leftovers.

The next morning, we headed down to Michigan City. Pulling out, the shifter didn’t work one time of a few attempts, so we verified it had started being flaky. We’d been looking at diesel prices for a while, and saw that this was our cheapest diesel for quite a while, so we planned to fill up. When we arrived, we pulled into the diesel dock and … didn’t fit. It was probably about 17 feet wide between the finger pier and the piling. Also, as I was pulling in to check width, the starboard motor wouldn’t go into forward again, and the dock area was very tight. So we just stayed wedged into the piling, just close enough to get the diesel hose to both of our fill spots. Hannah filled up the tanks while I went down and cleaned up the contacts on the shift solenoids, which then let us actually shift reliably again. Then, going from the diesel dock into our assigned slip, the port motor wouldn’t go into reverse at a crucial moment, and we lightly tagged the pier there too, with no damage. So, then I got to take apart the port shift solenoids and clean them. Kind of freaky that both sides independently started being flaky 24 hours apart from each other, but it’s definitely time to replace those.

Michigan City was otherwise uneventful. The next morning, we took an early leg to get the rest of the way to the Chicago Yacht Club. This was a fabulous location – the night skyline photo at the header of this post is taken from our dock! We arrived in the middle of the week, so had a few hard days of work, but we did manage to make same-day reservations at Porto, a Portuguese and Spanish restaurant. We sat at the chef’s table and got to watch our meal prepared and chat with the chef. Dinner was so delicious, you basically had to roll us out!

Our traditional Michelin star restaurant sign selfie

We met up with Dan and Alana for dinner at the yacht club on Friday night. We also have a friend who is a recent graduate of the Chicago Institute of Art, Amay, so we met up with and we met up with to see the museum. In particular, he wanted to see the Barbara Kruger special exhibit. It was not a very subtle exhibit.

I was sad to have walked by and missed all the historical sections of the museum, but I did get to see American Gothic on the way and then we spend some time in the modern wing where we saw Rothkos and Pollocks, which I know mum and Auntie Helen would have appreciated, but were probably wasted on David and I. We’ll have to come back again so that I can see the impressionists :).

View from the top of the Art Institute

The weather at the beginning of the week was looking pretty bad, and both David and I had extremely busy mornings scheduled, meaning it would be very hard to make it for the next stretch which would be at least 50 miles, since we did not want to stay on the free wall at Joliet, where Loopers for several days in a row had been reporting that locals were coming by and cutting their lines in the middle of the night.

On our last night in Chicago, we walked home from dinner through the park by the marina, which turned out to be the location of the famous Bean! It was actually quite moving (for me) to see the sky scrapers reflected in its surface, with the greenery of the park behind us.

The next morning, we woke up extremely early, along with our neigbours from the Yacht Club with whom we coordinated for this leg of the trip. We had no trouble going through the main lock, and then enjoyed a great morning cruising through downtown Chicago. We apparently made it on the news as the weather live-cam cut right to the moment that we were entering the city!

We passed the Joliet wall and noticed with irony that directly across the river from the free+crime wall is a police station!

While we had originally planned to anchor, we decided in the last minute to pull into a Harborside Marina along with our companions from Chicago, and another Looper boat that we met in the lock. We all met up in the bar for dinner that night. Now that we are safely in the Illinois River, we can breathe easy about not getting stuck on the frozen Lake Michigan for the winter.

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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 North Channel and Sault Ste Marie

Sunset over the Benjamin Islands

For one evening in Killarney, we validated that the cell reception was bad and the marina wifi was worse, so in the morning, we booked it over to Little Current, which is a small town at the confluence between the Georgian Bay and the North Channel. You have to pass through this swing bridge in a small channel that actually has strong and shifting tidal currents because the size of the bodies of water on either side of it. Right on the other side of the bridge was the small town, and we tied up in their marina, quickly verifying that internet was usable for work starting the next day.

The Little Current Swing Bridge

It was a cute little town, and the marina actually had a few Canadian loopers, both past and aspirational (since the US is still rejecting letting Canadian boaters into US waters) that we chatted with. There’s even one guy who does a daily radio show on VHF 71 with the latest news, weather, and has boaters from the whole area check in to keep track of them. We went to a local brewery that was decent, but there was a known squall coming in in the afternoon, so we had to head back to the boat and hole up pretty early, at which point it rained cats, dogs, farm animals, and more, for quite a while.

We holed up in Little Current for two days of poor weather, leaving on Tuesday morning when the weather cleared up. All of the interesting spots on the north channel appear to be on the east end of the channel, so we had to figure out what to pack in during the work week.

Entering the Benjamin Islands south anchorage

The Benjamin Islands were a constant feature in everyone we talked to’s hit lists, so we headed there first. There were pretty strong predicted winds from the east overnight, so I picked the south anchorage, which is protected from all directions other than SSW. Unfortunately, the first thing we found was that Rogers had virtually no coverage here, so we had to fall back to our emergency Google Fi plan to work, and knew that meant our time here was limited.

In the evening, we both called it quits somewhat early so we’d have time to explore before sunset. We put the dinghy down, and tootled over to one of the other boats in the anchorage that had people hanging out on the back deck. We asked them where we should go to check out the sights, and they told us to go outside and around to the main anchorage to see the formations over there. We thanked them, headed out of the bay, opened up the throttle, and … plowed water for a minute. Incredibly perplexed, we checked the motor and propeller, fuel lines, and everything. No damage that we could find. Eventually, I just tried forcing the bilge pump on out of curiosity, and water came out … for about 90 seconds straight. So, apparently, at some point recently, the level switch on the bilge pump stopped working. We were used to, during rainstorms, hearing the dinghy periodically eject water onto the swim platform, so checking the bilge pump wasn’t part of our list. Woops.

After that short debacle, we finished emptying several hundred pounds of water from the dinghy and hopped right up on plane to head over to the other anchorage. The predicted winds for the night had started picking up, so after we got out of the bay, until we got into the lee of the island, it was pretty spicy — riding out ~2-3 footers in a 12 foot dinghy while trying to stay on plane isn’t the most fun. But this dinghy actually rode it pretty well. Despite being a cheap thingy, it’s proving to be quite seaworthy.

The sunset was rapidly getting very pretty, so despite the waves, it was looking worth it. We made it around into the central anchorage, and followed some other dinghies over to a rock formation with a view of the sunset, and were rewarded with a great view.

After catching most of the sunset, we chatted a bit with the locals there, who turned out to be one of the Sault Ste Marie council members and her extended family. She convinced us that it was a cute town worth going to, which nudged us over the edge to give it a shot later in the week. With the sun rapidly heading down, and a journey back directly into the waves, we headed back to the boat, and got to catch the last of the sun as we pulled into our bay.

I checked the Google Fi report in the evening and it didn’t look like we’d used too much data, so we went to bed and started working in the morning. Then a few hours into the work day, we get a text saying we’ve used all of our data and are now on reduced speeds. Oops. I checked the report and saw that the reports are delayed by quite a bit, so we actually used most of our monthly bandwidth the day before and had polished it off with the morning meetings. So we both tried audio-only calls all day with marginal success, and managed to get through the day, ish. But this was the end of our emergency backup plan — we had to make Rogers or marina wifi work here on out for the rest of our time in Canada. We were really sad we couldn’t hang around for more days there and the nearby islands, but without more internet plans we were completely hosed, having used our one emergency fallback day. Maybe next year.

Weather had also socked in, and I had late meetings anyway, so we didn’t bother going leaving the boat in the evening. Looking at the forecast for a few days, it was going to stay socked in, and start getting real windy later in the week. So we headed northwest to what looked like a pretty anchorage that was protected from all angles of winds (needed for that overnight), Beardrop Harbour, planning to head to a marina instead if reception was bad there, or the next day to avoid wind if not. It rained on and off for the day, and the anchorage was actually pretty bland, so we didn’t end up taking any pictures there, but at least the internet was decent.

Heading around St. Joseph Island, getting close to Sault Ste Marie

The weather forecast continued to degrade, and we actually had to wait to leave in the morning while the heavy winds from the early morning shifted direction to a more palatable forecast around 11am. We had checked out all of the marinas along the way from here, and all of them looked pretty much like small towns with nothing suggested by boaters or google to do there. With the forecast continuing to look bad, we decided to bomb straight to Sault Ste Marie at the end of the channel, hoping for some stuff to do for the weekend in the rain. Hannah and I traded off driving all afternoon between meetings to make the long trek, and pulled into the marina in some driving rain. But at least it was a Friday.

We spent a very rainy Saturday exploring the city, which was, well, actually kind of a dying town. 2/3s of main street was boarded up or for rent. Tons of closed restaurants and shops in the outskirts. The mall is close to empty. We had a fun time touring the Bush Plane Museum, which gave me some fun flashbacks to my year off after high school, working for Brooks Range Aviation in northern Alaska. We tried a brewery that only had things I wanted to drink. We stopped at a board game store and bought what turned out to be a good recommendation for a new game, Smartphone, and picked up some fancy olive oil from a local shop. We had two decent dinners at local restaurants, at least. And got rained on, a lot. ‘Tis the season. Time to head back south!

While we can skip Sault Ste Marie, at least the Canadian side, the pretty eastern part of the North Channel was definitely worth a revisit. We just need to come armed with all 3 cell providers next time…

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The Georgian Bay

Devil’s Door Rapids near the Bad River Inlet

Going through the Erie Canal and the Trent-Severn, we’d been lucky enough to have wildly unseasonably good weather, basically the whole way. Very warm, clear sunny days, with very little wind. Great for living and traveling on the boat. However, the day after we left the Trent-Severn, the fact that we’re actually getting pretty deep into fall finally caught up with us, much to Hannah’s chagrin. And the weather theme has been pretty consistent ever since, unfortunately. On the bright side, we are no longer having to consider the power usage nuances of running the air conditioning all night every day… We also were extremely bad about taking pictures for a while in here, so this post will be a significantly worse picture:text ratio than usual.

Picture of the Cedar Springs dock on Beausoleil Island, not taken by us

Leaving the Trent-Severn, we were well into the afternoon, and decided to stop at a suggested side trip, Beausoleil Island. As part of our paid ticket through the Trent-Severn, we also got a season-long moorage pass, so we could stay for free at any of the other Ontario parks docks and moorages, which included Beausoleil. There was a suggested dock that we pulled up to, and despite being a Tuesday afternoon, only the slip closest to shore was available, so we slowly jammed our monster cat into a ~30 foot long slip with about a foot of water under us and set up for the night. The shore had what looked like a lovely paved foot path, and had a great trail map showing long trails around the island, so we got the scooters out, anticipating a great tour of the island, but around the first corner from the visiter’s center, in any direction, the trail turned to dirt and rocks. We tried to be a little ambitious, made some questionable choices, got dirty, and made our way back to the boat pretty quickly, after exploring a small native graveyard with storyboards. Hopefully the scooters aren’t too permanently damaged.

An average portion of the small craft channel — keeps you on your toes. Basically the entire week looked like this, which is why we didn’t really take more pictures.

We left Beausoleil the next day, and the suggested path through the Georgian Bay is the “Small Craft Channel”, which really means “not for giant commercial vessels”. It turns out to be a very narrow and windy channel, with the whole coastline of the Georgian Bay being rocky glacial moraines from the last ice age. It was fairly pretty, though the entire bay looked very similar — rocky islands everywhere, only reaching up to a few feet above water level, with scraggly trees. It was neat, but stark, and definitely not terribly inviting. Navigation is a bit treacherous, and if you don’t have really good charts and know how to read them, even the extensive buoying of the channel often times could lead you astray.

Henry’s Fish Restaurant (pic from their website)

We stopped for lunch at a strongly suggested spot, Henry’s Fish Restaurant, on Sans Souci island. Locals from the whole area migrate here every day by boat for a meal, and it turns out that there were only 2 days left in their season before they shut down when we stopped in. When we pulled our boat into the dock, in pretty heavy wind, they were very explicit that we couldn’t use the cleats on the dock with lines to help lever us into the dock, since the cleats would pull out, so it made for an exciting docking exercise. We had a great lunch here and then continued on our way.

Our stop for the night was Parry Sound, which we expected to anchor at, not needing to stop for anything. It’s a pretty protected bay along the small craft channel, and was just going to be a nice restful stop. However, our fridge situation, which had been tenuous all summer (really struggling to hold reasonable temperatures), was rapidly decaying (since the end of the Trent, the fridges really weren’t able to get even below 50 degrees most of the time), so we were regularly consuming food that should probably be killing us, and throwing things out on a short timeline. On a whim, we tried calling the one boatyard in town, and they actually referred us to a local HVAC group that had marine experience. I told them all the debugging I’d done on the fridges, that all signals pointed to it just needing a recharge, and they said they’d have someone meet us at 9am the next morning! So we got a spot on the town dock for the night, while it rained profusely, and tucked in.

The glamorous boat life — you can see the new tap in the top right

In the morning, a very nice gentleman from the company showed up with tools and some R134a. He poked around a bit, confirmed my suspicion, and spent some time adding taps and refilling both fridges. When he left a couple hours later, both fridges were coming down in temps, and the suction/hot lines were both behaving far more properly. He was in and out so fast that we actually took off from the dock before lunch to continue our travels.

We meandered through the sketchy rocks for the afternoon and, with winds predicted for the night, decided to set up on anchor in a very protected anchorage north of Shawanaga Island. It was a nice little spot with great holding, and it even had a short dinghy trip to a narrow “hole in the wall” that the local kids were cliff jumping off, with a little beach that we hung out at for a bit until the winds picked up and it was too cold to swim anymore. We went back to the boat and tucked in for the night.

At this point, the next week of forecast was starting to look pretty nasty. Our two week vacation was drawing to a close, and we had to get back to enough civilization that we could be working full time again in a few days. It looked like, if we made one long trip up to Bad River, that in the morning we’d be able to wake up before a storm moved in and make it the rest of the way to Killarney, the end of the Georgian Bay, which is back in moderate civilization and marina wifi, so that we could work if cell internet continued to be as terrible as it had been. So we made that the plan, and headed north for a long day on the channel.

The trip up to Bad River was uneventful. More of the similar views, more rock-dodging, and an easy anchoring. This spot, however, had a pretty cool “rapids” area called Devil’s Door that we got to explore on the dinghy. There was one section where we had to go “upriver” a bit against a strong current (6+ kts), and then came back down the next channel over, jumping off a ~1 foot “waterfall” in the dinghy. Hannah freaked, but it was fun, and later on she admitted it was worth it. We would have explored more, but it was already late in the day after the long trip, and raining on and off, so we went back to the boat to warm up and settle in.

Our ill-fated morning departure attempt, in absolutely pouring rain

In the morning, we woke up very early to the disappointing reality that the storm had moved in early and the wind was blowing, even in our quite-protected anchorage. Given how badly we really needed to get to civilization, we tried peeking our nose out of the bay, only to be met with ~7 foot short-duration choppy waves, with some peaks way higher than that. Water was coming up over our bow regularly, and the tunnel slap (waves bashing into the “tunnel” area between the two hulls) felt like the world was ending, so we turned around and headed back into the bay. The forecast was that, later in the day, the conditions would possibly be better, but still pretty bad, so we resigned ourselves to trying again before sundown.

At about 5:30pm that evening, about the latest that we could leave and still get to Killarney before sunset, we tried poking our noses out again, and weather was still pretty bad, but the waves were down to a much more manageable ~4-5 foot range, and had started to take a little more directional formation than the random-chop of the morning, so you could figure out an angle to not get beat up quite as bad.

We rode it out, made it all the way to Killarney, and happily tied up at the marina there, one of two boats in the whole place. As the evening wore on, conditions slowly improved as well, so we were on autopilot most of the way, surfing the waves all the way into town.

After getting in, right at sunset, we weren’t in any mood to make food at that point, so we went into the hotel attached to the marina, and sat down to what looked like a pub meal there. The waitress then explained some specials that sounded amazing, and we ended up getting a surprisingly incredible meal. We mentioned to the waitress that our dishes were way more amazing than the menu would indicate, and she lamented that, most seasons, they have a full fine dining experience, but with COVID they just didn’t get the muscle going this year, so instead the chef periodically would flex and offer some great specials on top of the usual pub fare. The chef later came out and chatted to us a bit about the place as well. It was a lovely night after a long hectic day, and a great way to end our short week on the Georgian Bay.

We are a bit torn about the Georgian Bay after our time there, which you can probably guess by how few pictures we took, when usually we’re pretty voracious iPhone-snappers. Weather and internet conditions definitely dictated that we move through it faster than we might have otherwise, but a lot of the scenery was pretty indistinguishably identical, and without any hint of elevation to add some layers to the beauty, it felt a bit like boating through a dangerous wasteland. We also didn’t get any pretty sunsets/sunrises due to the cloudy/windy/rainy conditions, which I’m sure hurt the memories a bit. And with it being so late in the season, and with Canada having opened so late, there were almost no other boaters around either. Marinas everywhere were severely hurting for business, and anchorages were empty. There’s definitely a bunch more spots to explore and other nooks and crannies, and in the middle of the summer, being able to jump in and swim at the end of the day would have been great as well. So, we’re giving it the benefit of the doubt in case we want to do another lap through this way next summer on another Great Loop. But mostly we are looking ahead to the North Channel, which people keep saying is the actual highlight of the great lakes portion of the Great Loop. So, onward and forward!

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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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