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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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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Back In The Water

The last week, our patience wearing thin, we got down to business riding the shop pretty tightly on a daily basis. They actually got the running gear back together, the cutters came in and got installed, they fixed the fiberglass damage below the waterline from when Hannah wrapped the line around the prop, and we got dropped back in the water late Thursday afternoon! The whole week has been in the 90s and quite humid, so it has been pretty painful working from my little office on the boat. The fridges also haven’t been keeping up, hovering around 50 degrees in the heat, so we’ve had to throw away anything vaguely temperature-sensitive. Turning the A/C on Thursday night was lifechanging, and I slept for ~10 hours that night, trying to make up for almost two weeks of way-too-hot fitful sleep.

While they were working on our boat, we received two freight shipments. First arrival was replacement lithium batteries. We originally ordered a slightly different model of the batteries, but ECPC made a mistake and sent us the wrong ones back in February, so we’ve been waiting for the correct ones for a few months to swap back out. After a bunch of hernia-inducing hauling around of all the batteries, I swapped everything back out, and we’re basically exactly where we started, but I have the ability to tie the BMSes into the WS3000 now, for the future.

Next, we finally got our pallet of stuff sent from WA, with everything from the storage unit that we wanted out east — clothes, tools, knick knacks, records, etc. We’ve spent much of the week with the boat a complete disaster of a mess merging the stuff from Seattle with everything already on the boat, but by the end of the week we’d mostly sorted through everything and put a bunch into storage, merged wardrobes, etc. It was a good excuse to actually throw away a bunch of extra hoarded spares (used wiring, used plumbing bits, stained clothing, etc.) and get some weight off the boat, now that our projects are mostly done.

Donating ~70 lbs of wiring to Alex’s project, after still throwing a bunch more into a box to save

Friday, now that we were in the water, we got down to our big unknown — we’re at around 975 hours on the motors, and so I wanted to get the 1000 hour service done while we were here. They got started on checking the starboard motor and immediately found some bad news: the injectors are all pretty gummed up, and the turbo has significant shaft play. Hannah and I were busy with work so we couldn’t do any checking on things, but they checked their usual shops, and the turbo rebuilders are backed up by a month, and injector rebuilds are backed up several weeks.

Our poor dying turbo, an IHI RHC7W

While the news is bad, it’s also not surprising. Since we got the boat, the starboard motor has always consumed significantly more fuel than the port motor — over a gallon/hr more at basically anything above idle. And recently, it’s started surging a bit at idle even when warm. So I had an inkling that something was up with the fuel injection system. It’s annoying that we have yet more things that our fairly-useless engine surveyor didn’t find on the PPI, but at least we have some answers about why that motor’s been acting wonky. With how quickly the behavior has been worsening, it didn’t feel worth the risk to continue north without fixing it right away, so we decided to stay tight and get some more information, about both motors, before proceeding.

I spent some time this weekend doing some research on the turbo and injectors, and found some other options to call early Monday morning and hopefully get some more options. But we may have some uncomfortable choices coming up between being down for another month to get things rebuilt, or coughing up for new parts to get under way much sooner and send away used parts for rebuilding to come back as spares/sell them off later. We’re intending to be liveaboard on this boat for many years at this point, so it’s not the end of the world if we get some prebuilt spares for critical components like this ready to go in the hold. We’re going to be putting ~800-1000 hrs a year on the motors doing the loop repeatedly, which means we’ll need turbo replacements and injector rebuilds each in a year or two anyway, so it’s not totally wasted money.

A 7 lb can of nacho cheese sauce in the Deltaville grocery store that my unsupportive wife banned

In the meantime, we’ve been continuing to explore the Deltaville area a bit. The guy that I originally met here to sell the inverter to turns out to be a really nice guy with an interesting life story/mission, spending 3 years in the boatyard here completely rebuilding a 50 foot sailboat down to the hull and back up again, after sailing it 9000 miles from Europe. Check out their blog to read about their adventures. So we’ve been hanging out with Alex now and then in the evenings and exchanging stories of our respective projects.

This afternoon, we decided to check out the Deltaville Maritime Museum, since we’ve been riding by signs for it the last couple weeks. It was a neat museum talking about the extensive boatbuilding history of the area — from the 1700s through to the early 1900s, the extensive timber of the area bred an industry of affordable and reliable boats that serviced the Chesapeake for centuries.

The museum also had an outdoor sculpture garden!

After returning from the museum, we spent some time in the sun on the roof of the boat trying to decide on a solar strategy. The boat came with 800 watts of old 2008-era solar panels, but we’re looking to go way beyond that. I was originally going to go with a stack of newer rigid panels, but was getting uncomfortable with how much weight that was going to add way up high on the boat, so I’ve since leaned toward doing flexible panels again. The efficiency of the newer flexible panels is very similar to the solid panels, but they’re a fraction of the weight, and much easier to mount to the roof. After being up top with a tape measure for a while, we decided to go with 15 of the Sunpower 170W flexible panels, giving us 2550 watts of theoretical power. I also may be able to fit a 16th one, but it’s really close, so we’ll order 16 and possibly just have one spare panel for down the line.

So now we just need to come up with a plan, once we talk to a million shops in the morning…

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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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