Having Boats On Two Coasts: Are We Crazy? We had an idea, really a whim – not a plan, to have a boat that was east of the Mississippi River that we would go to and do parts of the Great Loop again and explore places that we had passed over three years earlier. We liked the way that Rich and Cheryl have used their Ranger Tug 25. Though it is kept in Michigan, they trailer it around North America and do trips of 4 to 12 weeks. Listening to their latest adventure and the one they are planning to do, the notion of keeping a boat on a trailer and moving it as desired crystallized for us. The idea became an unexpected swift reality during a trip to Florida to see friends, take advantage of cheap airfares and to attend a rendezvous of Ranger Tug owners in SW Florida. We have owned 7 cruising boats over nearly 30 years and I had taken the lead on finding and purchasing all of them but this would be different - Laurie did this one.. The criteria was simple: a boat that was movable by either trailer or affordably moved by a professional and the price was under $100K. In four days, we looked at a Camano 31, a Rosborough, a C-Dory 25, a Tomcat, and this Ranger 27. Rather than looking for and finding a boat, this 2012 Ranger tug boat found us by speaking to both Laurie and I, The nameTrilogy would come after the sale was chosen as the name because this was our third Ranger Tug and our third adventure on the east coast. It also symbolizes the continuation of our boating adventures. The tug was found and purchased in February, possession happened in March and it was moved to Save Cove Boat Yard and Storage in Port Charlotte where it was under cover and plugged into power. In May, a four-day sprint of repairs and improvements were done with the huge help of Paul and Stacy and then the boat was towed on its trailer to a storage yard in Ringgold, Georgia that is close to Chattanooga to get it out of the hurricane zone and to position it for a fall trip on the Tennessee River. When the river trip ended in Mobile, Alabama, it was left in storage yard in nearby Saraland, Alabama. The following February, it was moved to St. Petersburg for the South Florida Trip and when that trip ended in Titusville, it was moved to a storage yard near Charlotte, North Carolina that was in easy reach to the Great Lakes, Canada and the Erie Canal..
Why We Like This Boat =Sleeps two in the V-berth, sits 4 for dinner, and accommodates 6 for cocktails in the cockpit. -The Yanmar 180 HP diesel has a quiet slow cruising speed of 7..4 knots and will run all day at 15 knots. -Fuel Mileage: 4 MPG at slow cruising, 2.2 MPG at fast cruising, -The 100 gallon tank gives an easy cruising range of 200 to 300 miles with a reserve. -The inside is comfortable, warm and protected -The galley and the head spaces are huge for the size of the boat -There is always space at a marina for a 27 foot boat and always a place to anchor because of the 25 inch draft -The water capacity (40 gallons) and the hold tank capacity (30 gallons) creates at least 5 days of self-sufficiency -Launching, towing and retrieving is very easy
Repairs and Improvements: A Sampling We are very comfortable at taking a good platform and tweaking it to our desires and tastes. This boat was cared for by the previous owners and we are glad to have her. In 8 months, 50 minor repairs or improvements were accomplished. The highlights are:
The Float-On brand of aluminum trailer was re-built with new tires and new caliper brakes. When the brackets holding the taillights broke or cracked from metal fatigue, new ones of welded brackets were custom made.
The Garmin VHF radio was replaced with an Icom brand that receives AIS signals and when it was connected to the NEMA 2000 network, the vessels transmitting AIS are seen on the chart plotter. Also, the radio was moved to a more convenient location to the top of the dash cabinet. A bonus feature: the microphone has a built-in speaker.
The propane system was nearly completely rebuilt with new tanks, new electric solenoid switch, and the box that held these was re-designed to be more water tight and have better drainage. In addition, the stove and the burners were repaired to be operational.
The anchor system was modified with a new Rocna Anchor, the 200' of line was reduced to 100' and when added to the 50' of chain would handle all of our anchoring situations of 40' of depth or less. Shackles and a swivel were added and the prior anchor was moved to a spare anchor status with its own 13" of chain and 50' of line.
The entertainment system was modified by installing a replacement to the Fusion radio, adding Sirius XM radio docking station for a portable control head that we use in Tribute and our 19' Escape Trailer. When the audio on the Majestic DVD player had performance issues, movies were played on our laptop with the sound moved through the Fusion radio.
The water system was cleaned and flushed and the low pressure issues in the galley and the head were solved by removing construction debris in the hoses and taking the out the screens at the water supply connections.
Opened up the space in the "Cave" by removing the wood lid, repairing the coat rack, and carpeting the space.
Added features for more livability: two folding white resin deck chairs that store well in the cockpit, installed the cockpit table and added a stabilizing leg, knife rack, false floor to galley cabinet for more storage, mug holder at the Navigator's chair, sunshades to all of the hatches, a digital weather station and clock, created a comprehensive first kit, distress kit with electronic visual signal rather than flares, mounted the BBQ, and re-stitched the Bimini canvas,
Lines and fenders: repaired the line to chain connection on the main rode, created a jack-line with a D-ring that simulates a mid-cleat for securing to locks and doubles as a heavy duty anchor snubber line, created a light weight anchor snubber line that doubles as a anchor tie-down line, added two ball fenders, created a "Looper's loop" line with length of hose for securing to locks and lassoing dock cleats.
Created a file system for all the manuals that came with the tug to create an easy to use reference library.
The electrical system was upgraded with a new thruster battery, the addition of a Xantrex battery monitor that improved the ground wire system and a smart plug was added to the shore power cord.
The cockpit canvas enclosure was modified by replacing the plastic windows, the bug screens, and the side canvas panels with a very tight canvas mesh that can be rolled and kept on the Bimini.
Nearly all of the interior wood was refinished and water stains and sun bleaching was removed.
Photos from left to right: use file folders with broad headings to gather and organize the many manuals; the VHF radio and labels of important information that any person on the boat would need to know and a line level that is used to help trim the tug from side to side; white resin chairs secured in the cockpit; the storage under the port step-engine parts in the white box, lines in the black box and emergency signaling kit under the white box; storage under starboard hatch; and throw-able cushion that is hung on snaps to the cockpit wall - out of the way, out of the rain and yet very accessible.
More Improvements- See the following photos A portable air conditioner that runs on shore power is vented out the side window after modifying the provided connection and stores nicely in the corner; replacing canvas, plastic windows and bug screens with a tight weave of mesh material - these two photos show privacy features of what is seen on the outside and the inside (allows air flow while providing shade and stopping bugs; installing a Smart Plug to reduce the potential of an electrical fire; adding a water pressure pump switch to the galley; a weather station that is also the tug's clock; and create a temporary mid-cleat for attaching to lock walls and spring lines by stretching a jack-line that has a D-ring to attach lines to
Strategies And Ideas Of Having A Boat A Very Long way From Home
With truck rentals being round trip only, fly to the desired destination where a truck can be rented. Then, drive to the boat/trailer and tow it back to start the trip. At the finish, either store it or take it to the next destination by renting a truck and bring the boat/trailer to there.
Truck rentals: Enterprise is the only one that was found, so far, that rents 3/4 ton trucks and allows towing. Bring a hitch and ball.
Storage yard: use yellow pages.com for a good set of lists and call them with your criteria. Then tour the top ones to see if they meet the criteria. Physical security is essential with good fences. Live on-site employees is a plus. More importantly is the kind of employees: friendly, helpful and interested are necessary because they will be willing to respond to a phone, receive a package, and give up dates when storms have happened.
Storing: Under cover where there is heavy rain, hail or snow. Power is desired for the battery charger and dehumidifier that are left on. Dehumidifier is set to 60% and has a drainage hose that is routed to the galley sink. Hang a "trouble light" with an LED bulb that can be seen from the outside to verify that power is on. Cover all windows for UV protection.
Tools: a good set is necessary to leave on the boat. Tools are kept in two soft sided tool bags. Harbor Freight is a good source because when the tool is lost over aboard there is no crying about the loss.
Traveling: Travel light and with no luggage because there is no room for a suitcase on board. We use duffel bags with the clothes in cubes made of mesh material. The cubes leave the bag and go on the shelf of the V-berth. Bring clothes for 7 days, layers and a good rain coat.
These are the adventures and trips that Trilogy has taken: These are in chronological order and are all on this page. Just keep scrolling down.
The Inland River System: A Fall Trip On The Tennessee River & Tenn-Tom Waterway From Chattanooga to Mobile
Summary of Trip Data: 19 days, 741 miles, anchored 8 nights, 84 engine hours, averaged cost was $98 a day while traveling, averaged 8.82 miles per hour or 7.6 knots, and diesel fuel – 3.26 miles per gallon and 2.7 gallons per hour. Tuesday, October 17 Stacy and Paul dropped us at the Enterprise Truck Rental in downtown Chattanooga soon after it opened and 30 minutes later the 2017 Ford F250 was headed toward the storage yard in nearby Ringgold, Georgia to hook up the boat trailer.
The Ford F250 easily and comfortably took us to the boat ramp. Away from the ramp, truck and trailer were parked to do the final prep. The tower was put up and one of the guy wire fittings had come apart 5 months earlier but all the pieces were still present. The zippers on the cockpit canvas did not make the project work list and were crusted with Florida salt. 20 minutes of cleaning with vinegar and water and liquid soap and picking with a sharp point cleaned out the issue. Some seams on the canvas were breaking and a repair job would be needed.
Another check was made that the transom plug was in and the seawater cock was open. We were not going to be one of those boaters whose boat starts to sink at the launch ramp. The old brain cells of trailering and backing down the ramp kicked in and 17 years of experience took over and Trilogy was eased down the ramp in one approach and slid off the trailer where Laurie and Paul secured her to the cleats.
The engine had not been started since March, so there was some apprehension if the Yanmar 180 horsepower 4-cylinder block made by BMW would come to life. The key start switch has two positions and the first is activating the electric fuel pump. When the red light on the dash turns off, the fuel pressure is ready for starting. The light went off in about two seconds, the key was turned to the second position and engine turned over and came to life. With water being pumped out of the transom, the alternator creating 14 volts, forward and reverse gears worked and the two thrusters came to life, the initial systems were all good.
We would have lingered at the dock to say slow good-byes to Stacy and Paul and continue to acknowledge the gratitude of helping us but a bass boat was waiting in the river to use the ramp. After another hug and handshake, reverse gear took Trilogy into the river current and pushed us the five miles to the dock at Chattanooga that took 35 minutes but felt like an hour. The feel of the wheel, being on Tennessee River again, enjoying the two-knot current and the sound and vibration of the engine and the water on the hull was exhilarating.
At the center and heart of Chattanooga is a floating dock that is nearly under the foot and bicycle bridge. There were four boats flying the gold AGLCA flag signifying that they had completed the loop. Trilogy was flying the white looper flag saying that the 6,000-mile trip was in-progress. Well, that is not entirely true. We had completed the loop in 2014 on our Ranger 29 Tug, Andiamo. Hearing that gold loopers are often ignored by white flag loopers because they had “done it” and were not “doing it,” we wanted to be more welcomed and because Trilogy had not done the loop.
Trilogy continued past the dock and down the river only because we were not ready to stop. When we did, the tug was pointed back into the current and eased into the dock with the use of thrusters. Loopers pay .75 a foot versus the $1.25 for others and get 10 cents off a gallon of diesel. After tying up and plugging in, a short walk took us to the Tennessee Aquarium where an Uber driver did a pick up to deliver us back to the truck and trailer. Uber is very easy and convenient and is another improvement from 9 years earlier. The trailer was then returned to its place under the steel roof in Ringgold, Georgia. What to do with the ball and hitch? If we take it back to the boat but leave the boat on the hard, then another one would be needed. With no secure way to lock it to the trailer, we hid it in plain sight hoping that it would be there when we see it again.
Another trip to Walmart finished the provisioning and 10 gallons of fuel took the truck’s fuel gauge past the point that we got it. With 15 minutes before Enterprise closed, the truck was returned and the helpful sales associate took as back to Trilogy. Walking down the dock, the crews of the four other boats were already into docktails, a long-standing tradition among loopers to bring your bottle or can and to share munchies. Laurie was tired, feeling the very beginnings of a cold virus that she caught on the flight out, and hesitated until we received a personal invitation from the group.
We did not bring folding chairs for Trilogy because the cockpit seating is perfectly adequate for two but docktails requires that you bring your own seating. Looper hospitality is nearly always really good, where people accept you for what you are, not what you have done, how much money earned or the size of your boat. Quickly, two chairs were provided and we immediately decided these resin chairs from Amazon would make a good addition to Trilogy.
Boater cards were passed around and very quickly we needed to have some. Our Tribute card would be tonight’s substitute. Gary and Colleen are from Little Rock, Arkansas and are in the chapter of how much living aboard versus living in a home will they do. Jim and Kim are from Welaka that is on the St. John’s River and a place that we had been. Tim and Anne are full time cruisers with a homeport in Florida. Scott and Lorrie are full-time live aboards. Stories were told and after much laughter, the sunset sent everyone back to their boats. An attempt to watch a movie on the 12-volt TV/DVD combo found that the audio was very low and then started to cut out. A second movie showed the same result. Laurie’s cold had fully blossomed and she was in bed early.
Wednesday, October 18 Dawn brought a scene of heavy fog on the Tennessee River that would lift quickly as the morning sun climbed above the surrounding hills. Laurie’s cold had taken a heavy toll on her but she rallied after breakfast to clean the inside of the tug while the exterior received its first wash since March. Long time stains were effectively removed with an acid-based cleaning product but it also caused a dozen pin-sized holes in the pants when it splattered on them. With two pairs of pants, the holes will be seen again. The lines were washed before lunch that yielded three buckets of dirty water. Old Florida salt was brushed from the window screen and the remainder was dissolved with vinegar and water.
The harbor host for AGLCA, Hal, came down to the dock and greeted us. An email to him earlier resulted in finding the launch at the Tennessee River Park. Now, there was a hunt on for a DVD player cleaning disc and audio cables to run the sound from the TV through the Fusion sound system. Hal said the closest place and the only place within walking distance was a Walgreen’s that was across the footbridge. Laurie found all that she was looking for and I settled for a second tier replacement audio part. On the way back, a stop at the Tennessee Aquarium found a sweatshirt for Laurie.
The hunt for parts and products showed that much of the retail inventory that was available 8 years ago has been replaced by delivery from Amazon. Now, our Amazon list had grown to chairs, a fender, DVD player cleaner, and an audio cord. It was enough to commit to place to be at a certain day, so the order was made.
Outfitting Trilogy and learning her systems also meant learning the perimeters of the engine performance such as temperature, oil pressure, and voltage. What good is data from gauges if there is no meaning or context? Much of the afternoon was researching the product manuals and creating useful labels that were attached to the dash.
Gary and Colleen came to Trilogy for docktails as the other boats had left earlier. They enjoyed the 15 second tour of a small floor plan and took us to their 46 foot Carver. We had a good time listening to their chapter of their lives: recently retired law school professor and a physician who retired 10 years ago, how they use technology for TV, streaming and internet, and how they make the choices to stay or go and the marinas they wintered at. Laurie posted on Facebook what we were doing and was dubbed by her friend Maureen as being “bi-coastal boaters.” After dinner of mushroom ravioli, Laurie faded to bed while I did billable hours and created a boater card for Trilogy.
Thursday, October 19 The slight morning chill evaporated when the tug’s Webasto diesel furnace came to life. Brown paw prints in the cockpit and in morning dew showed a visit by a local raccoon. This adventure is more than a remembrance trip of something we did in 2008; it is also a shakedown trip for this tug. Showers aboard were a first and we learned about adapting to the low water pressure. A call and an email to a local printer resulted in a boater card for this tug. The mile long walk to pick up the cards through downtown at the beginning of a business day and under clear blue skies was thoroughly enjoyable.
The talk of going east and upriver ended with the reality that Laurie was too sick to take on the Chickamauga Lock in the next 30 minutes and that the most desired destination of traveling the length of the Little Tennessee River would take a week to get there. Add that to the week to get back, we decided to head west and go downstream.
After pulling away from the dock and leaving Chattanooga, a discrepancy was found between two readings of the tug’s fuel level. The fuel level is calculated, not observed or the volume measured, by the Garmin chartplotter by subtracting the volume of added fuel by the rate of fuel used by the engine. It is a good system that had earned my trust on Andiamo. But on two different displays were two very different readings, one showed 67% of the 100 gallon tank remained, the other showed 35 gallons left. For 10 minutes of westbound travel and getting further away from a fuel dock, I trusted the percentage of fuel remained. Then, I heard the message that the angels and ancestors that watch over me – go back and fuel up.
A radio call to the fuel dock was also a first for the VHF radio. When the fuel pump went past 40 gallons, I started to wonder if there was fuel spilling into the bilge but there was none. At 60 gallons, I looked again but it was dry. The pump stopped at 80 gallons and we were amazed. If we had continued on, Trilogy would have run out of fuel between marinas. Now, the baseline was made and the two discrepancies have been corrected.
This is Trilogy’s third engine, which is another story, and this one only has 24 hours on it. Therefore, the engine is in the middle of its 50-hour break-in period. The engine manual is clear that the engine must be run fully loaded meaning about 80% of its speed and the RPM’s varied. Rather than sedately cruising at 6.5 knots at 1,700 RPM, the tug would be run at 2800 to 3400 RPM or 10 to 13 knots. The 30 mile run to the anchorage at Cedar Creek was easily done in 3 hours but the noise is loud and not something that we would like to do all the time.
Boaters recommend Cedar Creek for its anchorage and when we arrived, the memory returned of anchoring here in 2008. Tim and Anne were anchored also and waves were exchanged. The tug’s rode looked very new and may have been never used before. The new Rocna anchor bit quick and secure in 5 feet of water. The moment of uncertainty happened when the 50-foot chain that was before the 200 feet of rope had no markings of length. Then, the anchoring was calculated: depth plus (keel and bow height which is 7 on Trilogy) times 3 to 4. In other words, most of the time, all of the chain will go out. The BBQ was new and still in the box when we bought the tug and grilling pork chops was the first use. After dinner, we did the formal name changing ceremony complete with gratitude to the gods of the sea and wind, offering Tennessee Honey Whiskey as an offering and a toast. Trilogy is now in the records of Neptune and Poseidon.
Friday-Saturday-Sunday, October 20-21-22 Misty and waving fog on the river welcomed the day. The house battery bank was at 12.6 volts or nearly at a full charge. The Webasto heater brought that down to 12.4 during the 30 minutes of heating to take the chill out the air. Of three other Looper boats in this small cove, two were gone within two hours of sunrise. We waited for the fog to completely lift before heading downriver because our first lock and dam, Nickajack, was just around the bend.
Locking is often a source of anxiety for new boaters and those, like us, who come from places where they are never dealt with. Locking downstream is always easier because the water in the lock drops and therefore there is very little turbulence. Locking is easier if the boat has a mid-cleat to tie the floating bollard to and two round fenders, one at the bow and the other at the stern.
Ranger Tugs do not have a mid-cleat, an oversight that causes annoyance, and must be overcome. Experience taught us to rig a taut and stout line along the side of the tug and attach a hefty D-ring where the mid-cleat should be. Then, a line with a loop that is kept open by threading the line through a 39" length of hose,is put over the lock’s floating bollard, run through the D-ring, pulled tight and cleated in the cockpit; a slick system that works well. Over the next three days, Trilogy would go through two locks and each one was uneventful and was the only boat in these massive chambers.
The boating was fun, easy and the tug performed well. Doing the break-in period correctly meant going much faster than we would normally do and constantly varying the engine’s speed. Each morning the engine was checked; oil was fine and the coolant once needed a cup added to the reservoir. During each day, temperature readings were gathered from the driveshaft where it enters the drip seal, and the temperature of the coolant and oil was read.
The river was broad, about a mile across to less than a ¼ mile. There were stretches with no houses or indications of humans. Then, there were clusters of million dollar homes with custom docks and trams that went up the hillside. The autumn colors were not present. Apparently, it has been to warm.
Familiar places and marinas were passed by, as the adventure is to see new places.
At the end of the second day out of Chattanooga, Trilogy anchored in Jones Creek, a large embayment with a depth of 8 feet that is frequented by the bass fisherman and whose entrance is not for the faint of heart – three boat widths wide with depths that dropped to 3 feet under Trilogy’s keel. The anchor was dropped in 5 feet of water near the old Boy Scout Camp. The afternoon was spent organizing and cleaning tools and hardware supplies and coating the tools with Boeshield to keep the corrosion at bay. The clear blue skies had given way to high clouds, a foretelling of a cold front coming up from the south that would arrive in a day or two. A slight breeze rippled the water as the tug headed south and west in Guntersville Lake. Early afternoon and about 10 Loopers headed past us headed to Chattanooga. One of them was a claret red hull, Ranger 25 whose Captain had contacted Laurie via Facebook. Another eastbound Ranger 27 called on the radio and we learned that they knew some of the same Ranger owners that we knew and had taken his tug up the Inside Passage to Alaska.
A stop at the free town dock in Guntersville was a good place to stretch out legs and we elected to stay the night. An antique truck show was happening in the adjacent city park and was dominated by about twenty-five18-wheelers on display. The small town feel of this northern Alabama place was pleasant. The working class families with small kids in tow enjoyed the trucks and some stopped at the tug to ask questions like, “Are you really from Washington State?”
A search for the corner market in the small downtown core found the store was closed on Saturday. A ½ mile walk to the farmer’s market revealed that the market was another 1.5 miles away and may not be operating because the website was not specific. The Episcopal Church was a 36-minute walk away and the decision was made to go the following morning. The afternoon was spent examining the side-curtains of the cockpit canvas, cleaning zippers and marking them. We may never use them, but they are carried aboard.
A good phone call with Rich, Laurie talked to her mom, showers for all, and this day was closed with billable hours.
Sunday brought heavier cloud cover and the decision to go to church was changed because the 10:30 start time for the service could pose a problem getting to Ditto Landing Marina. Though only 25 miles away, the unknown was transiting Guntersville Lock and the weather front was approaching. More eastbound Looper boats flying their white and gold burgees were seen. Another first, Laurie talked to an eastbound tow and barge that was met in a bend in the river. Trilogy receives AIS signals from boats that have this device, so we knew about the barge though he did not know about us. But, being small in the world of boating allows us more options on getting out the way.
Three hours later and at about noon, Trilogy arrived at the half empty marina. The tug had traveled 133 miles from Chattanooga and the engine break-in period had 10 hours to go. Gary and Colleen were getting fuel and pumping out. Anne and Tim were buffing their boat. The marina staff said that a trip was planned to Walmart if we needed to go. Fifteen minutes later, we were off to do a medium sized provisioning chore.
Back at the tug, two of the four boxes from the Amazon order had arrived. The afternoon was spent doing a list of small things: adding a knob to the glove box door, finding a place for the new deck chairs, interpreting the operating manual of the new VHF radio and programming it, researching the engine display and selecting the information needed and making labels with data that was not to be forgotten.
The weather front with moderate wind and heavy rain was watched on Weatherbug. The weather will strike the tug on the beam so additional lines were put out to keep the tug off of the dock. The day was closed with writing and research and waiting for the rain to come, which started at 2115 hours. 24 miles were covered in under 3 hours.
Monday-Tuesday, October 23-24, The heavy rain, like a fire hose spraying the tug, woke up Laurie at 0400 hours. The Weatherbug app showed yellow and red colored rain cells going over our location and continuing north. Just after sunrise, the rain and clouds were gone and the still air was the green light for Anne/Tim and Gary/Colleen to leave and continue west. Waiting for packages and the wind to lie down would keep us in harbor for two more days; a reminder that there are other forces that have control over plans. Adaptation and acceptance is a mindset that can create peace.
Thinking about spending the day in Huntsville was shelved when the 20-minute long Uber ride was $57 one way, the Enterprise car rental was $70 and the marina staff was unable to provide a ride. That theme would repeat itself the following day only Enterprise would not have any cars available – an oddity since it was the low season.
Walks were done through the campground and along the walking trail that followed a very shallow slough and through a forest of maples and sweet gum trees that would break into meadow that was a former diary and now was a housing development. We were nearly alone except for the occasional bicyclist who was exercising their dog or the solo jogger.
Laurie baked muffins and made homemade chicken soup/chili. The marina’s Wi-Fi was used. Low pressure at the water faucets was cured by the removal or cleaning of screens in the supply line and at the faucet. Measurements were taken and labels made to record the air draft of the antenna up, tower up and tower down. The operation of the searchlight was learned and labeled at its control panel. The windows and window screens were cleaned of old Florida salt and the two layers Rainex were applied to the windshield. The water tank was filled and lasted 5 days. The holding tank is ¾ full. Like the Laurie Ann and Andiamo, Trilogy’s holding and water tanks are pumped or re-filled at the same time. Trilogy’s exterior was washed and wax, a chore that only took 3.5 hours; another plus of a small boat.
A Ranger Tug 21 was found in the marina and we saw it leave and then come back. Tom is the owner and he came to Trilogy to meet the cousin of his boat, “Miss Baker.” Friendly and talkative, he retired from Los Angeles and his Ranger 21 is his first boat. Afterwards, Laurie introduced the notion of adding New Orleans to the Trilogy adventure that would start in mid-February. Enterprise Truck Rental would cost about $150 for a two-day rental to get the trailer from Georgia and bring it to Mobile, Alabama. Trilogy would stay in the Mobile area on her trailer at the end of this trip. Power and covered storage would not be mandatory for three months. Megabus has a shuttle from Mobile to New Orleans for $28 a person and Alaska Airlines has a non-stop flight to Seattle.
Wednesday, October 25 Trilogy left Ditto Landing at about 0830 hours under clear skies and still air. The engine performance display was changed to show the 80% of load and the turbo-charger’s PSI pressure and the discovery was made that 3700 to 3900 RPM brought the tug up to the 80% at speed of 14 to 15 knots and at 2.2 miles per gallon. Trilogy was going to fly down the river and finish this break-in period strong.
Soon, the faster speed and feel of the pace of travel seem quite comfortable. At Decatur, the river widened out and the wind picked up to have white caps on the bow with a 1 to 2 foot high chop. The higher speed and raising the trim tabs to bring the bow up made the ride smoother and less spray hitting the windshield. The chartplotter showed a collection of AIS – transmitting tugs clustered on both sides of the railroad bridge because it was lowered for a long train to cross the river. After the train, the bridge rose for the passing tugs and started to lower again because the bridge operator did see Trilogy coming. The bridge’s vertical clearance was 10 feet. Laurie called the bridge on the VHF radio and without a response; the lowering of the bridge stopped and raised a few feet. Trilogy easily passed under.
Continuing westward toward the Wheeler Lock and Dam, the William Hank tug was pushing a set of barges that were three wide and 6 barges long at 5.9 knots. Trilogy called the captain to say what was planned and then went around the barge and barreled down the lake to get to the lock. If we arrived soon enough, the lockmaster would be able to lock us down and turn the lock around in enough time to not hold up the William Hank. In the world of locks, commercial traffic has priority over recreational vessels. Otherwise, Trilogy would have to wait for the William Hank to get into the lock, go down and then the lockmaster would raise the lock again for this recreational vessel. A wait would likely take at least two hours.
At Wheeler Dam, Trilogy glided in was quickly lowered with a good ride in the lock. The lock is an oasis from wind and chop but when the doors opened 20 minutes later, the wind was still moderate at a sustained speed of 13 MPH.
Now in Wilson Lake, we blasted over the 15 miles of chop and whitecaps toward the dam that was under repair. The lockmaster said to wait at a nearby cove and wait to be called. Trilogy arrived at the cove at 1430 hours, dropped anchor in 10 feet of water at the end of the cove with tree leaning toward the tug and the closed up houses on the hillside. We settled in for a long wait because the crews can work to 6PM, however, the radio came to life an hour later and Trilogy was soon in a lock that had nearly a 9-story drop. The descent was quite calm and very entertaining as this massive piece of engineering, construction and huge operating costs performed only for this 27-foot pleasure craft and its two occupants.
At 1630 hours, Trilogy arrived at the nearby Florence Harbor Marina, took on 75 gallons of diesel and tied up near Gary and Colleen. Quickly, we met Bud and Sue who had started the loop in July after selling everything they had in Iowa. Over docktails on Gary and Colleen’s boat, Bud announced that today was his 69th birthday and invited everyone to join him for dinner at a nearby restaurant. On a PDQ catamaran, were Nellie and Jacques who were from France and had come to the U.S. to expressly buy a boat to do the Great Loop. They were on their last leg as they had started in Clearwater, Florida. They wanted to know a lot more about boating on a trailerable boat and exploring the Pacific Northwest. We agreed to meet up later.
At the restaurant, the evening was full of stories, laughter and sharing. Sharing a special birthday moment with new friends was a special treat. Sue made the observation that Loopers are like college students who come from different places with one thing in common and friendships are easily made. 75 miles were covered in 7.5 hours.
Thursday-Friday, October 26-27 Jacques and Nellie left after breakfast and we made an intention to meet up later on the Tenn-Tom Waterway. Gary and Colleen left shortly afterwards. After showers, two loads of laundry were done and this was followed by a trip to Walmart using the marina’s courtesy car, an ancient Ford Aerostar van with 142000 miles on. But it was free and adequate for the chore at hand. Bud and Sue had an issue on their boat where a water hose came loose and now the starboard engine would not turn over. I suggested that an examination of the ground wires at the starter would be good place to look and Bud quickly found a loose wire that was probably caused by knocking it as water was being cleaned up. We said our good-byes with hope that we will see them again.
Trilogy pulled away at noon and ran westbound for 43 miles to the Grand Harbor Marina at 15 to 17 miles per hour as the break-in period was finished. At Grand Harbor, packages from Amazon were picked up and we felt obligated to buy some fuel for their trouble. Boats were coming in fast and the marina staff did not blink when we opted to anchor out at Zippy Cove, a 30 minute run from Grand Harbor, Trilogy idled past Gary/Colleen and Tim/Anne in their boats and anchored in 10 feet of water. The packages were like Christmas: a new DVD player for the laptop, an electronic distress that is better than flares and a battery operated weather station.
Trilogy covered 43 miles about 4 hours.
The next day and just past dawn, Gary and Colleen were already gone. When not “buddy boating” there is no expectation of communication or shared destinations. Every sighting of a friend on the water is just a gift. By 0830 hours, the anchor was up and Trilogy headed out under cloudy skies, a moderate breeze that rippled the water and air temperature was in the high 40’s and warming. So far on this trip has been the coolest temperature we had experienced. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, commonly called the Tenn-Tom, is a collection of rivers, creeks, and lakes that are connected by a man-made ditch. About 450 miles long, it stretches north and south and is always a short distance from the Alabama-Mississippi border. Locations are referred to by the their statute mile.
After leaving Zippy Cove on Pickwick Lake, the markers took the tug to a southerly arm of the lake. At the end of this arm started a 24-mile long ditch that was mostly straight, dredged to 18 feet with a uniform width. Some boaters complain about the Tenn-Tom because of the ditches and the isolation – there are very few towns and is wilderness boating in the south with few services and marinas. But the topography, the ecology and the natural wonders are beautiful in their own way.
The ditch gave way to Blue Springs Lake that is caused by Whitten Dam and Lock. Tows and barges were using the lock so the tug was anchored in the same small cove that our Andiamo did in 2014 and where we met Ken and Pauline. Mid-afternoon and after an hour of billable hours, the lockmaster called on the radio that the lock was available. We elected to go knowing that the weather was turning to more wind and rain during the evening.
After Whitten Dam was the short run to Montgomery Dam and the tow that we waited for at Whitten, was waited for at Montgomery to get ahead of us. After Montgomery, Trilogy was powered up to 15 knots and caught up to the tow and passed it about 4 miles before the Rankin Lock and Dam. We listened as the lockmaster at Rankin and the tow captain discussed where Trilogy would be in the order of locking. The lockmaster said that he could get us locked down and the lock turned around in time for the tow to not wait too long; we would go first and that would save us about an hour in the late afternoon. All of the locks to this point, Trilogy was only one using them.
After Rankin Lock, the skies turned very dark. The weather radar on the Weatherbug app showed heavy rain to our immediate west with the system angling to the northeast. It would be upon us soon. The next available anchorage was 90 minutes away and was very exposed to the weather. We opted to change plans and to stay at the Midway Marina that was an hour from the lock. The marina was more protected and tying up was better than anchoring with exposure to the building wind. In the dwindling light, Trilogy was placed on the leeward sidelong dock that whose windward side was full of tall and long yachts. We glided in and tied opposite to Gary and Colleen, just as the wind ratcheted up another notch. We were happy to pay the $41 for moorage and power.
Four men were on a 63-foot Hatteras yacht and wanted to see Trilogy. They all crammed aboard and peppered us with great questions about the boat. Their story: All of them had retired in the past few months having lived in Pittsburg. The boat was going to the U.S. Virgin Islands but would likely stay in Florida until the islands had come back from being battered by this season’s hurricanes. Some knew nothing about boating and everyone was uncomfortable with anchoring, which was one topic of their questions because anchoring is usually a necessity before arriving in Mobile.
They left for dinner at the nearby restaurant and we made dinner and streamed another episode of Madam Secretary on the laptop. The rain came and dumped during the night. 57 miles were boated in just over 7 hours.
Saturday, October 28 The morning was calm and still with a light fog on the river and the air temperature at 48 degrees. Gary said the nearby lockmaster at the Fulton Dam and Lock reported that there were two tows going through and 0800 hours would be a good time to lock through. Being 0730, at first we said that we would take the next time slot. At this part of the Tenn-Tom, the lockmasters dictate the pace of travel by grouping together the recreational vessels and locking the group through.
With three boats leaving the marina, Laurie pronounced that Trilogy would join them. With no time to argue a counter-point, the power cord was coiled up and the lines released after the engine was started. The group had to wait for the lock to be turned around.
The next lock was the Wilkins Dam and Lock and the group had to wait for 90 minutes. Gary/Colleen and Trilogy anchored in the shallow embayment on the east side, the same place that our Laurie Ann had anchored for the night 9 years ago. When the lock was ready, two other fast yachts appeared from the north. Now the group was six boats. There is often a rude boat in every group and the addition of the blue hull express cruiser with a Nassau registration was ours.
The blue go-fast vessel was the last to join but the first to enter the lock to stake out his preference and was the most aggressive on the radio. Like most boaters when this happens, we just ignore him and adapt. When he took the closest bollard to the gate and radioed the lockmaster that he needed to change locations because the lock doors would smash his boat when they opened, we adjusted by taking that position because Trilogy fits that spot quite nicely.
With six boats and all running close together to the next lock, Trilogy powered up, stretched her legs to exercise the turbo and left behind nearly everyone, except the blue hull cruiser. After Amory Lock, we had decided to leave the pack before the next lock on Aberdeen Lake and anchor or stay at the free dock at Blue Bluff Park. Everyone else was making the long day to stay at the Columbus Marina. Trilogy enjoyed the 7.4 knots at 2300 RPM as the trees changed and the water wilderness of Mississippi was revealed with white egrets, white herons and blue herons. The group got bunched up at Aberdeen Lock as a tow was just getting in. The tow captain had a coarse tone with the blue hulled cruiser because the cruiser was not completely out of the way.
Our destination was Blue Bluff Park, an Army Corps of Engineers recreation area of a campground, picnic ground, swimming beach and a free T-dock that connects to a grassy hillside. We had been to this place in the Laurie Ann and often repeated the story where Boots, our cat, had a swimming lesson when she thought lily pads could be walked on.
The approach from the north and to the park from the channel is marked and described as shallow but do-able. The writers of this description were just wrong. The depth went from 5 feet to zero and then the tug slid across a mud hump, raising the boat 6 inches before finding depth again. Trilogy was going dead slow and never stopped but we did our part to dredge that channel. Again, I was thankful for the choice to have a boat where the propeller and the rudder are fully protected behind the keel. Later, did I learn that there are a north AND a south approach channels. Apparently, the south one is better.
The free dock was empty and Trilogy was tied to the end in 4 feet of water. A walk was taken to the boat launch and the picnic area. On our way back, a vehicle stopped on the shoulder and parked. A woman quickly got out of the passenger side and walked quickly away and down the shoulder, her head held high, back straight and arms swinging – she was on a mission or pissed off. A man got of the driver’s side, head down, back slumped in defeat and he shuffled toward the woman. Non-verbally, the meaning seemed clear: she was mad as hell and he was wrong.
Back at the boat, one of Trilogy’s black fenders was floating away and being carried south in the stiff wind. A fender rescue operation was mounted. The idea of using the boat to get the fender was considered for about 5 seconds but discarded when Laurie was not yet out of the shower and the depth was shallow and unknown. A $40 fender is not worth the risk. The fender stopped at the edge of a small peninsula that jutted out from the swimming area. A land operation was attempted with Laurie acting as spotter and I treaded my way through the forest, dodged more litter than expected and found the fender had stopped on a pad of river vegetation about 50 feet from shore. The decision was made to wait until morning when perhaps the night breeze would push it further to shore or perhaps a bass boat would get it for us. If one attempt at wading out did not get it back easily, then another would be ordered on Amazon and it would be waiting for us in Demopolis.
After a dinner of grilled chicken and roasted potatoes and a great sunset, a 70-foot long paddle wheeler came in and took the other side of the dock. The Pickwick Belle had been sold and was being moved to the west coast of Florida by a delivery captain and crew. This boat is propelled by a set of real paddle wheels. We had a nice chat with them. The captain lives at Grand Harbor Marina and has two other stern-wheelers. Their generator ran all night but our fatigue closed out the whole world. We would travel 37 miles in nearly 5 hours.
Sunday, October 29, 2017 Before dawn, the paddle wheeler was pulling away and heading south. At dawn, the parking lot at the boat launch was strangely empty and our hope for the passing fisherman to retrieve the fender faded out. Perhaps it was too cold for the fish to be biting or maybe they were all in church or perhaps the spouse put their foot down about fishing on last day of this weekend. An hour later, the river fog had lifted enough to see that the fender had not moved. A land operation was started with the intention to wade out to if the water was shallow enough. It wasn’t. As steps were made through the floating bottles and the grass gave way to over two feet deep but it was the cold of the water that aborted the mission four steps into it. The depth of the water gave hope that a water rescue from Trilogy was a possibility, which was successfully done with Laurie on the swimstep with the long boat hook and the tug was backed up to the fender.
The exit out of the Blue Bluff Park by the south channel was done at dead slow and watching not the digital numbers but rather using the sonar display because the sonar reads through the grass and picks up the fish that are deeper than the digital display which is a judgment value, not data. Aberdeen Dam and Lock is immediately next to the anchorage and we waited for 30 minutes while the lockmaster turned the lock around for Trilogy. Columbus Marina was an easy run of 24 miles and we arrived about noon. The long-time manager/owner “T” Maxwell greeted us at the fuel dock and we learned that the marina does not open until noon on Sunday and we would be his first customers. We really did not need fuel and could have made it to the next fuel stop a Demopolis 150 miles away, but that would require careful monitoring.
After lunch, changing the oil was carefully done. This was Trilogy’s first oil change on this new engine, it was our first time on this engine, and a record of the procedure would be made so we did not have learn it again next year or when 250 more engine hours happened. The process was done without incident or mistake and we had all the right tools and supplies aboard. Trilogy always carries an empty oil container for waste oil; a lesson learned on our Andiamo in Canada.
We used the marina’s courtesy car for the hour-long errand to replace supplies and provision at the local Kroger’s store. BBQ ribs and slaw were obtained at the store’s deli and these were enjoyed at dinner. Bud and Sue in Odyssey arrived and a 2014 version of our tug arrived as the sun went down. They moored behind Trilogy and it looked like boat twins. The owner and his friend were from Indiana and were delivering the boat to the Gulf Coast for the winter. Their vibe was immediately off, complaining about the boat and throwing the other person under the bus. They were acting like new boaters and we opted to just be polite. The evening was closed with the ribs and a movie.
A short day with 24 miles done in under just over 3 hours.
Monday, October 30 The chill of 45 degrees in the cabin was the wake up alarm at 0600 hours but an hour later the furnace had warmed the cabin to a pleasant 70 degrees. Three boats, including Trilogy’s twin, headed to the Stennis lock for a 0730 locking. We were up and could have joined the group but Laurie was moving slowly. The fuse to the propane’s electric shut-off valve had burned out and finding the blown fuse and replacing it was a 10-minute deal. The fuse was under-sized, 1 amp instead of a 3 amp and the cold was probably an additional factor. How many boaters who do not own a screwdriver would have stayed in the marina and called an electrician?
We killed 90 minutes as the lockmaster said we could lock down in 90 minutes. Trilogy fell into a pattern of slow cruising at 2300 RPM for 80% of the hour and then fast cruising at 15 knots for 20%. The tug averaged 10 miles an hour and burned 3 gallons an hour and achieved 3 miles to the gallon. The river was flat calm and a light breeze came from the south keeping the temperature in the low 70’s.
Nearing Bellville Dam and Lock, a tow with a barge of construction equipment was passed. The lockmaster told us that we would wait the 90 minutes while that tow went through so we tied up at the very short dock that almost too short for Trilogy. When the tow captain said they were not coming for a while, the lockmaster told us to come in.
The afternoon was pleasant boating down the Tombigbee River and through its lakes. Most of the time the river was about 100-200 yards wide, with no current and a fresh breeze from the south. Cypress trees were replaced by groves of pine trees that harbored beautiful campgrounds and well-kept summerhouses and these yielded to farms and fields in the low lands. The destination was Sumpter, a small cove that could protect about dozen boats. Arriving at about 1700 hours, we found the three boats that left Columbus Marina at dawn swinging at anchor. The anchor was dropped hear the head of the cove in 6 feet. One of them was Trilogy’s cousin, only a 2014 version.
Laurie prepared another great dinner of ham heated in the oven, fresh biscuits and salad. 75 miles were done in nearly 8 hours.
Tuesday, October 31 At 0700 hours, the VHF radio cracked to life with the other Ranger Tug saying that the nearby Heflin Lock would be ready in 20 minutes. We opted to leave and have breakfast while underway. The morning was calm and still with a light morning fog hovering on the rivers mirror surface. The lock was not ready for us and another lesson was learned again: Do your own research and verify the data before acting on someone else’s message because they may have it wrong. Soon the lock was ready but we would wait another 30 minutes for other boats to arrive, which is fine but not at the cost of a preventable delay in breakfast.
Four of the boats in the Heflin Lock would head out and rocket down to Demopolis. There would be two groups of boaters: the hare and the tortoise. Letting the hares go and get out of the way and leaving the river flat and calm was an easy choice. Soon, Trilogy was alone and doing this part of the Great Loop at her speed.
Another difference from boating in the northwest, Channel 16 is used by commercial boats and by recreational boaters to chitchat. There is no Coast Guard voice telling boaters that Channel 16 is for hailing and emergencies and to take conversations to another working channel. The bends in the river became more frequent and more pronounced and evolved into total wandering oxbows. Then came the Epis cliffs, with its white mineral rising about 75 feet above the water and trimmed at the tops with autumn colors. These cliffs were created about the same time as the Dover Cliffs in England.
Trilogy caught up with the Pickwick Belle, the paddle wheeler that stayed the night with us in Blue Bluff Park near Aberdeen. The tug was doing a turbo-cleansing run, slowed to pass the paddle wheeler and the whole crew came out to wave at us. Then, the tug awed them by pulling away at 17 MPH. Around a bend, we caught up to a Gemini 105 catamaran sailboat that was mast-less and running at its maximum speed of 6.5 knots on its solo diesel engine with a propeller on an arm mounted on the centerline between the hulls. Trilogy was on another 17 MPH run and though we slowed to pass them, the tug blew by them.
Just before Demopolis, a huge 80-foot yacht running at 25 knots with a 4-foot wake by a delivery crew passed us and took most of the fuel dock. Trilogy was able to slide into the shallow dock and take on 33 gallons that would be more than enough to get to Mobile. The employee was a jokester and made it all fun. This fuel dock pumps over 100,000 gallons of diesel a day to the towboats. The old marina is vacant as the new one provides all the services. We took a 40 foot covered slip for $1.25 a foot. The harbormaster, Ann Marie, was in costume as a witch and easily circulated around the docks on a bicycle and a golf cart. Demopolis Yacht Basin is 90% transient boaters, some longer than others because Demopolis is not a destination – it is a way station with a good-sized boat yard. The marina is the center of economic activity since farming and ranching have fallen on hard times.
A floating building is a meeting room, hosted the Halloween Party, and has laundry, restrooms and showers so we never stepped on dry land for the next two days. We met Mark and Sandee who have a new-to-them Kadey Krogen 42 and we talked boats for over an hour and he was grateful for advice about changing the thruster batteries. Amy and Reg with their two teenagers were looping in the Gemini catamaran, Binary, we spent time with Amy as she told the story of getting repairs, shipping their mast, and how the family is going really, really well together on the trip.
On the other side of the socio-economic spectrum was a brief meeting with an owner of a new Grand Harbor 37. With his expensive haircut, Ralph Lauren shirt, the made-to-order sunglasses and the off-hand remark that his thruster was going to be fixed while he was away on another trip, it was an easy encounter to leave behind. When you ask all the questions and they have no interest in anything but themselves, then leave them in the company they love: themselves.
Small world: met Shane who is rebuilding his Chris craft and discovered that he skippered the Hat Express, the ferry between Everett and Hat Island in 2010 and knew people that we knew. After dinner was the Halloween Party that some of the transient boaters attended. We stayed for an hour and though I tried to make conversation with the owner of Trilogy’s cousin, there was just no common ground and his attitude and disposition was, simply a bore. The really cute costumes were red and green buoys and salt and pepper shakers. 43 miles were traveled in less than 7 hours.
Wednesday-Thursday, November 1-2 After moving everyday since Ditto Landing that is near Huntsville, it felt good to have a down day and simply stay in one place. The weather was breezy, heavy cloud cover and the rain would come in the afternoon. After breakfast, the whole morning was spent taking apart the anchoring system on the dock, removing 100 feet of line from the 200 feet that was crammed into the anchor locker, re-tying the knot that affixed the line to the 50 feet of chain and marking the line in 25-foot segments. It was a good project because the line snagged in the anchor locker. A total of 250 feet of rode was overkill and unnecessary for the cruising that we would do. On the Inside Passage, only once did we deploy nearly 200 feet of rode. The spare line was stowed forward in the rarely used storage area.
Every afternoon there is a meeting of the skippers who are leaving the marina in the morning. Maybe there was suppose to be a leader or a speaker but after waiting around for 10 minutes with the other boaters, I told our story of how this is done: the lock is called in the morning, the message is passed on by VHF radio and we go on to our destinations. I volunteered to be the communicator the next morning and everyone was satisfied.
Dinner was mushroom ravioli, vegies and wine and the evening was closed with a movie on the laptop with the sound through the boat’s speakers.
The next day, a brief rain shower precluded the alarm that went off at 0630 hours. The day was warm, humid and with a thick ceiling of clouds. A phone call to the Demopolis Lock at 0645 revealed that a tow was about to enter the lock and perhaps the lock would be ready at 0800 hours. A call on channel 69 15 minutes before the agreed upon time and everyone was waiting. The dock was a buzz of anxious activity and many were waiting by their radios for the word. However, the lockmaster called us at 0730 hours and said the lock will be ready soon and to come on down. Within minutes, 11 boats were pulling away from the yacht basin and heading to the lock that was 3 miles away . Exiting the lock at the huge spillway and sliding away from a tow and set of barges that were waiting for the recreational vessels to leave, the go-fast boats jockeyed for position as they had over 100 miles to go to Bobby’s Fish Camp – the only place with a dock, fuel and restaurant food before Mobile. Four of the 11 would go there. Typically about 1/4 of the loopers will not anchor or will not pass up an opportunity for a restaurant; that is their way of doing the loop.
Trilogy would take advantage of a 1.5-knot current and run close to 9.5 MPH and pass by the common anchorage at Bashi Creek and go on for a total of 93 miles to Okatuppa Creek. A long day that was do-able and safe because of the conditions and how fast this boat will go when needed. That would leave 6 boats to cram into that small anchorage that was now more limited because a tree had fallen into the small embayment. During this part of the Tenn-Tom Waterway, the designated anchorages are very few.
The day was routine of frequent turns on the river, counting the blue and white herons, wondering where the raptor birds were until a few Turkey Vultures were seen, long stretches of no houses, no bridges and no power lines, enjoying 50 minutes of every hour at 9 MPH and the balance at 17 miles per hour. Still, the tug earned 3+ miles per gallon. The local country FM radio station was enjoyed because there is no NPR radio station in this part of Alabama. There probably were not enough liberals to support one. Laurie talked to nine northbound towboats and barges to arrange passing maneuvers and they had names like DB Quebodeaux, Three Rivers, Gretchen C, Captain Anthony, Gunner, and Ms. Nicole.
The afternoon remained warm at 81 degrees and humid.. At 1715 hours, the anchor was dropped in 5 feet of water in a creek that feeds a wider and larger fishing area. A stern anchor was dropped to keep the tug from blocking the 80-foot wide creek. When the anchor light was found to have burned out, an LED cockpit light was left on. 93 miles was done in nearly 10 hours.
Friday-Saturday, November 3-4 0700 hours and like clockwork, three bass fishing boats cruised by Trilogy that caused enough of a roll that it woke us up. Later, another boat came by only slower and was occupied by two men who were in camouflage gear from head to food. “How y’all doin’?” “Fine, how are you this morning? “Going to kill some squirrels. Nice boat!”
We headed south as the last of the mist evaporated off of the river. Past the deserted docks at Bobby’s Fish Camp and to the last dam and lock on the river system, Coffeeville Dam. There was a tow pushing a barge that the AIS displayed as being about 5 miles away. The Coffeeville Lockmaster said to come on down and he would turn the lock around for us. As the gates were approached, they opened, the light turned green and Trilogy idled on in. The descent on this dam was quiet and smooth. The gates opened to the first mixture of fresh and salt water and where the tidal influence from the Gulf of Mexico had the potential of being felt. This was the last lock and dam for this trip and the moment was savored.
On this day, the southbound current would continue to carry us through the flat land that was forested under clear skies and warming temperatures. Through the morning, more rattles and vibrations were found inside the boat and were dealt with. At the Jackson Railroad Bridge, Trilogy caught up with the Pickwick Belle for the last time.
The river was rarely straight for more than two miles and there were more oxbows. There were lots of mileage but less distance traveled. Mid-afternoon brought temperatures into the mid-80’s. We pushed on to the anchorage at the Tensaw River that was wide, had a mild current flowing to the east and was already occupied by 4 boats that had been in front of us for the past two days. They had no doubt had run faster and used a lot more fuel than Trilogy. We anchored in 25 feet and the evening was quiet with a great sunset. We had covered 86 miles in nearly 9 hours.
The next day, just a few minutes before sunrise, half a dozen bass boats were running fast and close to each other like an invading force, going at least 40 miles per hour. The other trawlers that were anchored with us left about an hour before we did. Trilogy was on the last leg to Mobile and the destination was Turner’s Marina on Dog River. We were in no hurry to cover the last 55 miles. This part of the river was great as the forest yielded to the saltwater marsh and the vegetation was typical for a bayou.
At the I-65 highway bridge, the rules of the water seemed to change as the chitchat on Channel 16 was caught off by the Coast Guard radio dispatcher. The tow barges talked less and the chatter from the pleasure boats was gone. At the 14-mile railroad bridge that was 5 feet above the water, the bridge was closed and we waited 15 minutes for the train to come and cross over.
The protected wetland was entered and the amount of wildlife increased. A heavy concentration of tows and barges announced the end of wilderness boating as the busy Mobile harbor was entered. Trilogy slowed for the huge freighter Clipper Marlene to turn around in the harbor and then followed her out, past the Carnival Cruise ship with the police boat providing security. The horizon to the south was only water of the Gulf of Mexico; we were truly out of the inland river system.
Miles out of downtown Mobile, we caught up to the boats from the Tensaw River anchorage an we all turned to the west to follow the channel markers to Dog River. Laurie had chosen Turner’s Marine that was immediately past the Dauphin Highway Bridge. The other boats continued to the adjacent Dog River Marina. Turner’s was predominately sailboats but there were a few loopers there. The short fixed docks with wooden poles were another first for this trip and required an adaptation to the normal docking process but it was all done. We arrived at about 1400 hours, secured the lines, established shore power and then paid for two nights at the bargain price of $15 a night. The PDQ catamaran, Magic with Jacques and Nellie who were from France was close-by. We had hoped to see them and talk about boating in the Pacific Northwest and would visit for about an hour before they had to finish repairs so they could leave in the morning. The nearby West Marine Express had a few items that needed and more of the to-do list was accomplished.
Sunday-Saturday, November 5-11; Wrap-up and Lessons Learned The loss of Daylight Savings Time happened overnight and sunrise brought us awake at 0600 hours with a heavy fog that would last until 1000 hours. Being All Saints Day and St. Andrews Church an easy Uber ride away, we arrived 45 minutes before the 1030 service and were the first persons there. The 25 attendees were the nicest people. Laurie was able to sing her heart out with familiar hymns and made an impression on the others with her well-developed alto voice. Afterwards, a brunch as served in the Parish Hall and they all sang Happy Birthday to Laurie. We got a ride back to the boat and spent the afternoon assessing the inverter and finally learned that low voltage without a load on it is perfectly normal. Binary, the Gemini catamaran arrived and Laurie was able to talk again with Amy.
Monday was the first day of the full-time prep work. A nearby canvas shop was available to re-stitch the Bimini top and the work would be done by Wednesday. The price was twice what was paid back home because we were just passing through. Most of the morning was spent working a list from Yellowpages.com of RV and boat storage businesses. 30 businesses were called and only one was willing to accommodate our desire to have power to the boat to run the battery charger and the de-humidifier. The further away from the water, the lower the monthly rent. We settled on doing a tour of storage business in Saraland, AL.
The storage business was new and the hungry owner was very accommodating as we wanted the tug secure, but not in the back secluded back corner or in the front row next to the street. The $35 a month was also the best price and less than Florida or Georgia. A stop at Harbor Freight Tools was necessary to prep for the next project: measuring and aligning the prop shaft that was part of the engine break-in period. Then, the hunt was on for a boat ramp that was suitable for a 39 foot trailer and a boat with a 2-½ foot draft. Three ramps were examined; one failed the depth test, one was gone and probably destroyed by one of the hurricanes and the other had potential until Laurie talked to a nearby owner of a sailboat and learned the concrete ramp was way too short for our trailer. Without a viable ramp, the only option was having the tug lifted out by a travel-lift at a marina.
The next day was warm and the afternoon would be hot. The nearby Dog River Marina could do the lift on Thursday for $10 a foot. Turner Marina was really busy stepping masts on sailboats. The husband and wife ownership team huddled and their best offer was maybe they could possibly do the lift on Friday morning for $7 a foot. When asked about a viable boat ramp, they suggested looking at Fowl River Marina that is down the bay by about 10 miles.
Information technology has made it easy to get information but it also has made us lazy about asking questions. Learning about boat ramps was another example of how the apps do not have accurate information and the charts can be misleading. Answers from real people is the most reliable or it provides leads. Dog River Marina provided directions to the business to refill the 5-pound propane tank. After 21 days, it was nearly empty. But their information was flawed because the business does not fill the small tanks. However, asking the right question revealed a nearby business that did.
Fowl River Marina is a small marina for residents, has a popular restaurant and a double lane boat ramp. The presence of double axle boat trailers pulled by ¾ ton trucks was the seal of approval. Without anyone around to answer our questions about depth and length, a second visit was necessary to make our own measurements. However, there was confidence that spending over $200 for a $50 service was not going to be necessary.
The prop shaft alignment project was methodically done after lunch. Several phone calls with Rich, who had done the research and did the alignment on his Ranger Tug, made the project easier. The initial measurements of the gap between the transmission coupler and the prop shaft showed it was within specifications. Working in the engine compartment also accomplished cleaning the sea strainer and tightening a dozen hose clamps.
Wednesday was a marathon driving day that started at 0730 at the Enterprise Truck Rental where a 2017 Dodge ¾ ton with a Cummins diesel was rented for the 350 mile trip to get the boat trailer. The drive to the storage yard in Ringgold, Georgia was easy, the trailer was in fine shape and after finishing the wiring repair in the 45-degree chill caused by a cold front from the north, we were back on the freeway. The trip back was longer because of rush hour through Birmingham and the need for more breaks and we arrived back at the tug at 2300 hours.
All of the weather apps would be correct on Thursday with a cold north wind blowing 15 to 20 knots that would last all day. The middle of Mobile Bay where the channel was had more wind and the chop was 1 to 2 feet. All of this plus not moving for nearly a week created some mild anxiety about moving to Fowl River. The truck and trailer were moved to the Fowl River Marina. The marina/ramp harbormaster was in her office as we measured the ramp and used the boat hook to measure the depth. She said the ramp would work fine for the tug and offered that there was plenty of depth outside of the main Mobile Bay channel and where the wind was lighter. Armed with good information, there was confidence in the next step.
The lines were cast off from Turner Marina at 1100 and immediately encountered a comfortable following sea of 2 foot swells once the channel was left. The easiest speed was nearly 15 MPH. The depth was 4-6 feet under keel and Fowl River Marina was made at 1230 hours with less than a 1 foot under the keel at low tide. The tug easily floated on to the trailer with some power used to get it up to the bow support. Then, the next hour was used to put the tug to bed on the trailer. The tug was delivered to the storage yard were final preparations were finished by following the checklist that was developed.
The rental truck was returned by 4PM and we enjoyed a great rate of $62 a day with unlimited mileage. An hour later, we were checked into a hotel in Gulfport, MS Most of Friday was spent driving Highway 90, the scenic road along the water that included a short stay at Gulf Shores National Seashore. After lunch on the coast, the staff at the Louisiana Welcome Center was very helpful about how to explore the French Quarter in New Orleans and where to park. Finding a hotel in New Orleans was by accident. This was our first visit to New Orleans and there were no surprises. The city was a mixture of vibrant energy, great music, and was loud, dirty, and smelly. The homeless were eating food out of trash cans, 9 year olds were hustling the tourists for cash after their drumming, Bourbon Street had broken glass from beer bottle and the smell of trash filled the alleys and the music was amazing. By mid-afternoon, we had toured the Garden District and returned the mini-van to the airport. The flight to Seattle was on-time and full.
St. Petersburg to Titusville: A Winter Cruise In South Florida On Both Coasts
Summary of Trip Data: 26 days, 638 miles, anchored 6 nights plus many lunch stops, 73 engine hours, averaged cost was $92 a day while traveling, averaged 8.73 miles per hour or 7.4 knots, and diesel fuel – 3.1 miles per gallon and 2.8 gallons per hour.
This would be the first trip that was planned around a theater performance. Typically, dates are set around airfares, to meet with friends or to attend a boating rendezvous. But, the Broadway production of Hamilton was coming to Seattle and our season tickets to the Paramount Theater in Seattle gave us one opportunity. The show was spectacular and Rich teased us relentlessly because we missed the Southwest Florida Tug Rendezvous that had grown from a few boats to over 50.
Once the dates were picked, our calendars loaded up with obligations, duties and dates on both ends. In addition to Laurie’s on-going involvement with visiting and monitoring her 90 year old mother, Margaret, we would work nearly full-time for pay almost right up to the departure date and two projects would be waiting for our return. In addition, each of us had taken on leadership responsibilities at St. John’s. Laurie was on the Vestry and had reluctantly taken on the job as Junior Warden. Her phone and email was buzzing with communication on tasks to do and problems to solve. I was the chair of the capital campaign, a one-time effort to raise money to renovate and add on to the church building. There were committees to organize and monitor and communicating to be done. All these would bleed over into this trip.
Monday, February 19 An Artic cold blast came in the day before this departure date and the heavy rains turned to snow and fortunately would melt in the afternoon. The night before leaving from Sea-Tac Airport, we had dinner with Karen and Lisa in Ballard, dropped the Pruis at the Litchfield’s in Kirkland and Ben took us to the LaQuinta Inn that was near the terminal. We had learned that getting a hotel room is far better than getting up at 0400 and experiencing the crap-shoot of Seattle’s freeways.
Our son was on-duty in the city and picked us up at the hotel in his patrol car, as he was about to end his shift. This was another first of riding in the back of a patrol car as a ride to the airport. To the casual observer at the terminal, it looked like the police were giving the nice older couple some assistance – maybe their car had broken down.
We travel light with only a small backpack and a 24” long duffel bag each. When the boat or the trailer is set up right, we only need a week’s worth of clothing and the personal essentials to travel. 5-1/2 hours later another miracle of jet travel happened with 2,500 miles behind us, 50 degrees warmer and there was still time in the day to use. A short Uber ride to the Enterprise Truck Rental and our reservation was waiting. In 30 minutes, we were northbound in a 2017 Dodge ¾ ton pickup with our portable Garmin GPS named “Penelope” that is brought on all trips as a guide.
Florida’s freeways are wide and good shape, somehow they have the funding piece figured out. Penelope took us up the coastal route and included a toll road and half dozen small towns with speed zones, signals and local construction. The drive was easy with a burger stop in Crystal River, the FM stations were either country or religion and the traffic was very light. The route was easy and interesting for the 4 hour run to Tallahassee but the return trip with the boat and trailer would be by Interstate 75. Two hours out, Laurie found a hotel for $135 a night and took the last room available. The AARP discount typically puts us on the first floor or in a disable person’s room but the price break is nice and we try not to feel too old and feeble. Arriving at 9:30, the parking lot was full and the building was quiet, people go to bed early here.
Tuesday and Wednesday, February 20-21 Now on Interstate 10, the route had turned west with more traffic in Tallahassee and later in both Pensacola and Mobile. The truck was very comfortable at 75 MPH, running with the traffic flow and getting 21 miles to the diesel fuel gallon. 4 hours later we were in Mobile and the suburb of Saraland where Trilogy was left on her trailer at the EZN Storage. A lunch stop was done nearby because navigating a restaurant with 60 feet of truck and trailer not only limits the options but also can be disconcerting.
The tug was in good shape with the long extension cord providing power to the battery charger and the dehumidifier. The outside was appropriately dirty from three months of rains and storms. The inside was in great shape with no sign of mildew. The digital thermometer showed the record outside temperature was 104 and the lowest was 14 degrees. There was much concern about damage from freezing because the boat was not winterized because the advice of locals and research did not support the need. This winter was unusual with quick periods of bitter cold and some short-lived snow. A quick visual inspection showed no tell tale signs of freezing like crack water lines, coolant stains, or a empty water tank. However, the thorough testing for damage would come later. This was the time of driving, moving, delivery to Tampa and finding a storage place for the trailer.
45 minutes later the tug and trailer was eased out of the lot and into the traffic heading east. The nearly 11,000 pounds of boat and trailer changed the driving and handling characteristics of the truck. Mileage dropped to 11 MPG but was way better than a gas engine and though the truck was capable of pulling the load faster, anything more than 65 MPH was more susceptible to sway that was often triggered when the 18 wheeler passed by at 70+ MPH and sucked us into their air draft.
Stacy and Paul Brannon, our angels of the southeast, were down from Athens, Georgia to work on their old boat and were headed back home. We agreed to meet for breakfast the following day. After 5 hours of driving east from Mobile, Laurie found a Quality Inn in Lake City, Florida that was quite nice.
The next day, Stacy and Paul were met at about 10 AM at a Pilot Truck Stop for coffee and catch up. When Paul learned that the materials were brought to finish the wiring project he started in October, he said that he had the tools with him and offered to finish the re-routing of the heavy ground cables. An hour was spent under the hot blazing sun, sweating, cutting battery cables, crimping on lugs, and attaching the new re-designed ground wire system.
After lunch and back on the road after noon, the destination to launch the tug was St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. A question asked on the AGLCA forum, and on the Ranger Tug owner’s forum brought four possibilities. St. Petersburg had the closest marina to the boat launch and the immediate available of services should repairs be needed. A look at the satellite photo of the launch confirmed the choice. Being slowed by the heavy traffic through Tampa, the boat launch was arrived at 3 PM.
The afternoon was hot and nearly record breaking and very unusual with highs in upper 80’s and the humidity was a close match. Cloudless and hot, it was quite a change from Seattle’s mid-30’s and snow showers.
Though the approach to the ramp was short and needed more maneuvering, the ramp itself was great. Concerned about freeze damage to the engine, the engine was started while the boat was in the water but remained on the trailer. The BMW engine block quickly jumped to life, cooling water was pumped out and there was no indication of any damage. Trilogy would have easily floated off the trailer if the transom straps that held the boat to the trailer had been removed. Once that was done, the tug was free of the trailer.
Laurie had paid for two nights and the nearby slip was found. Our first docking of Florida’s fixed docks was a bit rough: when and how to get lines to the pilings and adjusting them for the short tidal range would get better with repetition that would come later. At the dock and hooked to shore power, we started the fine assessment and making shopping lists. The fresh water pump had very little pressure and a bit of research revealed that the problem was a damaged diagram that was likely caused by freezing because the fresh water pump is outside the cabin and the engine compartment and located against the hull. The tug has a separate wash-down pump that is nearly identical to the damage pump, so an hour was used to swap the damaged pump for the wash-down pump.
That solution did not last long. Great water pressure and verification that the waterlines were undamaged but the breaker tripped. The operative word here is “nearly identical” because the wash-down pump uses a 15 amp motor and the damaged pump had a 7.5 amp motor which matched the 10 amp breaker nicely. The remedy was to find a replacement pump. An Internet check of brands, models, the correct specifications and availability in the area found the solution: the West Marine store in Bradenton, about 21 miles away and the model was closest to the damaged pump. That solution would happen tomorrow. A huge provisioning trip to the nearby Publix Store was done that included a take-out dinner of chicken and beer. We decided to keep the truck for the entire three-day period to run errands.
Thursday, February 22 The day was busy and packed with a run to West Marine and back, the installation of the new water pump, the wash down of Trilogy’s exterior cabin and half of the hull, the total cleaning of the interior, the water tank and lines were flushed with water and bleach and cleansed, and finishing checking the status of the tug’s systems and another shopping trip to Publix. The faucet in the galley developed an un-repairable leak that meant a trip to Home Depot to replace it. This is not the first boat or RV that we have had that developed this problem and the best fix was a $30 replacement and the luck of finding a similar looking replacement.
The truck was returned by 4PM and the bill was more than was estimated during the initial research. The price of nearly $500 for three days and 1,100 miles was because Enterprise had changed its pricing model in the past year to add a daily fee for towing and less free miles. Another Uber ride for $26 returned us back to the marina. Tacos were the first meal cooked aboard while the laundry was done and the first movie seen aboard followed.
Friday, February 23 The demands of the business of living in Seattle and the new obligations at the church dominated the morning. At 10:30, the decision was made to stay another night and to make the transition from delivering, prepping and repairing to enjoying and keeping the life in Puget Sound more in the background. Canvas was set up, the roof and cockpit were polished and shined, a trip to the fuel dock for 66 gallons of diesel at 1968 total miles and 109 engine hours, and the boat was backed in to clean the other side of the hull.
A leisurely walk through downtown, other trip to Publix, changing the anchor light to LED, and re-organizing the box of supplies closed the afternoon. Laurie wants to anchor out for a couple of nights so dinner was out at Hops and Props, a craft beer bar and good/reasonable food. Downtown St. Petersburg is humming with cars and pedestrians because there is another festival, this time jazz and art.
Saturday, February 24 A clear, blue sky with temperatures in low 70’s and thoughts are about how come every January and February are not spent in here? Laurie is slow to rise because of a sleeping pill that was intended to reduce fatigue and improve her ability to track and focus. The sound of water boiling and the smell of coffee brought her back to the living. After breakfast, the water tank was filled to its 40 gallon capacity, the gate key was returned to the marina office, garbage was taken to the dumpster and on the way out, the holding tank was pumped out. With all of this, the departure time was 0945 hours.
The wind predictions for Tampa Bay were just wrong. Instead of 5 to 10 MPH from the east it was 10 to 15 from the south causing 2-foot swells with white caps that crossed the width of this huge bay. Trilogy ran at its fast cruising speed and sliced through at a quartering angle at 14 miles per hour that caused spray over the roof. The marked channel was closely followed and this was the introductory course to running the ICW and staying between the red and green markers. Continuing under the Skyway Bridge with huge freighters looming in the distance, Trilogy turned south to join the ICW. The speed was reduced to the comfortable cruising speed of 8 miles per hour after 22 miles and the first of many bridges was encountered where Ann Marie Key started.
Saturday afternoon, in high season, under hot clear skies meant lots and lots of boats on the water. Trilogy was passed many, many times by boats twice or three times its speed and about a boat length away. The tug was repeatedly rocked hard from side to side by steep and close wakes. Things never fell over and modifications were made later at anchor. A lunch stop at the north end of Long Boat Key was made by anchoring for the first time on this trip in 5 feet of water.
The Navionics app was running on the iPad has a resource for Laurie. The application is consumer of battery power and Trilogy’s inverter was tested and verified that all is well. Past Sarasota, the expensive marina and the mooring field, Laurie had found an anchorage using Skipper Bob’s Cruising The Gulf Coast. Before, we would have used Active Captain but that crowd sourcing app and website had been sold to Garmin and the service was still dead to us.
A lapse in attention and not paying close enough attention to staying within the narrow ICW, took the tug off-course and the depth dropped to zero and then negative -.05. The stern of the boat rose slightly out of the water as the keel and the protected prop and rudder slid over a mud hump. Another reason we like this tug: the prop and rudder are behind the keel.
A good anchorage was described at Robert’s Bay that is west of the ICW and behind a small wooded island. Trilogy had just gone under the Siesta Key Bridge when it was caught in a congested traffic jam, at 5 knots, involving five boats that were sandwiched between the shallow water on each side of the channel. Just past the green marker 79, a turn was made to the west and the tug slowed to navigate the 3.5 feet of water under the keel and went around the north point of the island to anchor against the far shore at 3 PM and away from the entrance to a small boat channel.
Robert’s Bay was active with boats leaving and returning to the small boat channel that feeds a larger grid of waterways that are ringed with houses and docks. For next 2 ½ hours, we were entertained by high school aged kids driving their parents newer go-fast boats that pulled skiers and tubes of screaming friends. A day of innocence that one-day will likely be colored by unexplainable tragedy like a car crash, sudden illness and death, a boating accident, or diving into a shallow pool. They would likely be dealt cards the horrible and unexplainable realities that chip away at youthfulness; lessons fueled by agony that shape character and values into adulthood.
Trilogy’s engine had heated the water and showers were taken. In the waning rays of daylight, the BBQ heated the chicken burgers and these were served with a fresh salad. Small boat traffic continued intermittently for the next three hours as the wind dropped off and the water turned to glass. Trilogy had traveled 44 miles in 5 hours.
Sunday-Monday, February 25-26 Watching the house battery voltage was part of learning the boat’s systems. At bedtime the house bank was 12.6 volts or about 80%. At breakfast, it was 12.25 volts or about 50%. The refrigerator, the fans, the electric head and water pump were the big users.
Green herons, white and brown pelicans, and dolphins would be the morning treat after leaving the anchorage at 0845 hours in flat water, a light southerly breeze and little boat traffic. By 1000 hours, that would all change as the floodgates of weekend boaters filled the channel. 1030 hours and the channels of Venice were transited. The only damage observed that was caused by the recent hurricanes were several boats still aground; probably no insurance and the owners cannot be found and a conscious decision to leave the problem for the community to deal with.
After the slow speed of Venice, Trilogy did another 10 minute long cleansing run at 14 knots that took us to the narrow key that separated the ICW from the Gulf of Mexico. Past Manasota Key and Lemon Key and into Lemon Sound, under bridges that the 15 foot air draft of the tug could easily clear, Trilogy went past her long time home at Palm Island Marina near Englewood. A Carver yacht name Q’s Cabin, called us on the VHF as they were flying their gold AGLCA burgee and we had our first conversation with another looper on this trip. The anchor was dropped in a small bay in Cape Haze that was ringed with multi-million dollar homes and with a blue water sailboat for a lunch break.
The destination was Cayo Costa State Park and the route took us the length of Gasparilla Sound, past Boca Grande Entrance, and to Pelican Bay that is on the northern tip of Cayo Costa Island. The entrance to the bay is shallow but do-able and on this later Sunday afternoon, there were about 50 go-fast center console boats beached on the shore and another 50 yachts, trawlers and large sailboats swinging at anchor in the deeper portion of the bay.
The state park has 10 slips for boats under 30 feet and five were available. At nearly 4 PM, Trilogy was easily backed into the fixed dock and secured, 6 hours and 49 miles of traveling.
The battery for the thruster and windlass was very weak even though it was fully charged; a sure sign that the battery was toast and this was not a surprise as a load test done a year ago showed only 50% of its reserve capacity. That repair would be the top priority at the next stop. The park rangers said that park use has increased between 20 and 40% per year for the last 4 years. When the last ferry had left at 5PM, the park was quiet and the mile long trail to the beach was walked to enjoy the beach on the gulf side. Dinner was ravioli and salad with movie following.
The still and warm air next to the mangroves brought out the no-see-ums and the tug’s screens that were designed to keep out mosquitos offered little protection. Windows were mostly closed, curtains closed to minimize the attraction, and a paper towel with vinegar was used to smash and collect dozens of the bugs with some carrying our blood cells.
The next morning the house battery was at 13.1 volts at bedtime and this time the DC breakers to the trim tabs, the chartplotter and the NMEA backbone were shut off. The result was much better morning voltage of 12.6 volts even with a fan and the refrigerator running. Surprising how much voltage is used to keep a circuit energized.
During breakfast, a text from Joe and Connie in Fort Myers with an invitation for dinner revealed that Trilogy could easily get to Fort Myers in a few hours. This is how we do boating and camping: one or two days at a time and seizing the serendipity that arises. Pulling away from the state park dock at 8:40 AM under blue skies and partly cloudy skies to the south with temperatures in the high 70’s, the water was flat because the breeze had dropped away. Past Cabbage Key, Pine Island and Captive Island, the water was calm with an occasional other boat.
That all changed at about 10:30 AM and just north of Sanibel Island when about half-dozen 50 to 70 foot long yachts, running at 20+ knots blew by us with only one slowing to cut down their 4 foot high wake in half. Then, turning to the east and beginning up the Caloosahatchee River, came groups and dozens of newer go-fast day boats heading west. For the next 90 minutes and going past Cape Coral and the “miserable mile” of a narrow winding part of the ICW channel with its appropriate slow speed, about 50 oncoming boats were counted. The density of the boats was surprising; on a Monday, and under sunny skies; clearly the economy was healthy.
At 12:45 PM, the Fort Myers Yacht Basin was arrived having traveled 40 miles in about 4 hours. Earlier in the day, Laurie had made a reservation and now the marina was over 95% full. The talk that the Florida marinas were mostly full was true for both St. Petersburg and Fort Myers. Making reservations the morning of has worked for us so far. Connie met us after lunch and said Joe was playing golf. The decision was made to replace the Interstate AGM thruster battery that was less than two years old. The local dealership had one in stock for $300 and Connie offered to take us. The batteries were photographed and the wiring carefully diagrammed. Then, the engine start battery was removed to get to the thruster battery.
At the retail dealer, the manager had an employee do several tests and the battery tested fine. But, the manager accepted my story of its performance and said that a fully charged battery will be difficult to properly assess. He provided a brand new one at no charge. An hour later, the new battery was in and all the wiring had been re-installed with the system checking our correctly.
Charts, weather, and destinations were being studied when Eddy and Linda came down the dock wearing an AGLCA shirt. Eddy had led us and a group of 14 other boats on an overnight crossing of the gulf to Tarpon Springs in 2014 and continues to provide weather forecasting for loopers. His words about going south to the everglades and Marathon: use the Wind Finder app, wind speeds under 12 knots are desirable and no more than 45 degrees off the bow or stern. He described the cruise to the south as “benign” in comparison to the “armpit" of Florida.
The weather forecast would make us leave Fort Myers a day earlier because a cold front was coming that would make boaters settle in for the next three to four days. There was more discussion about whether to get a dinghy for this trip. 5 PM is the time for looper docktails everywhere and beer was taken to the dock near Joe and Connie’s Krogen Manatee Chesapeake to join 8 others for stories, smiles and laughter. Connie had prepared an amazing dinner, which was shared with Russ and Janice whom we had met the year before in Fort Myers. The day was closed with a conference call at 9 PM with the leadership team of the church’s fund raising committee that ended at 10:15 PM.
Tuesday, February 27 The morning was used for showers, laundry, researching, loading apps, bookmarking websites and writing. The predicted cold front would require a stable place to be and the Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City was the likely choice because they are open, have dock space at $1.50 a foot and the tiny town is rich with local history and character. A search for a new dinghy quickly put that issue aside: there were no compatible ones for Trilogy in any of the West Marine stores in the region – simply they had no inventory. Craigslist did not have any of the smaller inflatable ones in Fort Myers.
After lunch, an Uber ride was taken to the large sporting goods store that is outside the downtown core. For Laurie, a long-sleeve shirt of ultra-light material was chosen, a better hat, an effective mosquito repellent system was obtained and an additional cooling collar was found. Another Uber ride was taken to the grocery store nearest the marina for provisioning because the choices may be limited for the next 7 days. Then, a free electric shuttle service that serves the historic downtown core was used to return to the boat.
The tug’s water tank was filled, notice was given to the marina office of our leaving and diesel would be purchased tomorrow on our way out. Another docktails was enjoyed at 5 PM and stories from Henry and Debbie and their Great Harbor 47 that they have lived aboard for 10 years and will be selling it soon. Joe and Connie invited us to share dinner out with their long time friends and fellow Manatee owners Ted and Sarah who have a dock near Goodland. A wonderful 3-hour dinner of pizza, beer and stories were told. Ted and Sarah bought their Krogen Manatee new in 1982, have taken it 140,000 miles and now have their 4th engine. They are major Krogen Manatee rock stars.
Wednesday, February 28 Trilogy was at the fuel dock when it opened at 8 AM and took 40.7 gallons of diesel and then headed west down the river, with the current, a light breeze and few boats. Knowing this could be long travel day, the fast cruising speed was used when it was comfortable. Almost 90 minutes after leaving the marina, the tug left the comfort of the magenta line on the chart that designated the ICW and headed south toward the gulf, under the Sanibel Bridge, past the last marker and we watched Fort Myers Beach slide by to the east.
In the hazy distance was the huge towers that were erected north of Naples and that would be the landmark to focus on. The pattern of mostly slow cruising with 10-minute intervals of fast cruising continued throughout the day. Trilogy was about 2 to 3 miles off shore and the water depth remained about 20 feet. Closer to Naples, a Ranger Tug 29 was seen in the distance, then the distinctive shape of Krogen Manatee was seen with the brilliant orange hull, orange stabilizing sail and massive orange dinghy that was Ted and Sarah’s.
The waves and the wakes had grown and we were glad to get off the gulf by entering Gordon Pass with it’s access to Naples at 1 PM where a quick couple of turns revealed a thick group exclusive multi-million dollar homes with docks and boats. In an elbow, the anchor was dropped in 5 feet and lunch was enjoyed. Afterwards, Trilogy was taken deep into Naples until the route was obstructed by a low clearance bridge. It was odd that that the owners of the million+ dollar homes had not succeeded in lowering the speed limit from 30 MPH and of course, the drivers of those go-fast boats were likely other owners of million+ dollar homes.
With nothing in Naples calling us to stay and the mooring field closed – probably to keep the cheap live aboards out, we continued southward on the inside route. Trilogy had already traveled over 40 miles. The inside route was narrow, shallow but perfectly fine as a preview of what this part of the trip would be: 30 foot tall mangroves and skinny water. The horizon was huge, the water still and the buzz of rental go-fast boats returning to Naples would keep us on our toes.
Marco Island was like Naples; interesting from the point of view of seeing it once and that would be good enough. The playground of the wealthy with exclusive access, new shiny boxes that housed people who worked at taking money from those who had it. Marco Island’s development is new, going higher and yet thin; just as quickly as it rose from the mangroves, it was gone and behind us.
Goodland was about 7 miles from Marco Island and Goodland locals passed Trilogy in the pontoon boats laden with supplies. Goodland is very different from Marco Island and Naples. It is located on an island with marinas, businesses, and residents on the shore and extending to the center. Small, genuine, not flashy and authentic in flavor. Though there was evidence of wealth, there were also normal residents who were making a living in this rural part of southwest Florida. Ted and Sarah’s Manatee was waiting for us at anchor as their slip had been destroyed by Hurricane Irma, as was about a quarter of the docks. The anchor was dropped in 10 feet of water in Blue Hill Creek, just west of the marina at 4:50 PM ending the travel day at 133 engine hours and 76 travel miles. I did a conference call with a client for nearly an hour and then BBQ chicken kabobs were served for dinner. The sunset brought out the swarms of no-see-ums in the 80-degree air with 75% humidity. During a movie, a brief light rain came and went.
Thursday, March 1 The planning notion was a short travel day to Everglades City, but a change in the wind forecast and the resulting chop showed a two-day travel window and then four days of no traveling. There was no rain; the skies were clear, blue, with temperatures in the low 80’s and cooling down from the record heat. The decision was made to adapt to the changes and spend the four or so down-days in Marathon. A phone call to Blackfin Marina was another example of serendipity: they are nearly always booked up but they just had a cancellation and had room for Trilogy. Goodland would not be explored, Everglades City would be passed by and today’s destination would be the Little Shark River in Everglades National Park.
The anchor was raised at 9:45 AM and we said good-bye to Ted and Sarah by telephone. Using Eddy’s recommendation, the Windfinder app was exclusively used and that would prove to be a mistake because their forecast was wrong for the Ten Thousand Islands. The Windy app did get it right: 10 to 15 knot winds from the southwest with waves 1 to 2 feet with an occasional 3 footer; all at 2 second intervals. Dolphins were playing on the edge of the mangroves. The depth past Coon Key did not get above 3 feet for 5 miles.
In 2007, this ride of short and tight waves would be uncomfortable and not tolerated. Our comfort zone is now wider and we are more tolerant and patient because the comfort zone had been exercised by being used, pushed and learning has happened. Comfort zones are like fitness: use it and grow it or lose it. The longer the boat stays at the dock, the harder it is to leave it. Over time and quicker than expected, it is just easier to stay, not go, and have the same life. Leaving meant venturing and gaining.
The faster speed of 15 to 16 miles per hour provided a smoother ride. So rather than going this for 10 minutes per hour, it was increased to 15 to 30 minutes. 12:30 PM and Trilogy entered Everglades National Park and would stay inside the park boundary to avoid the crab and lobster pots. At 2:45 PM, the tug had rounded the marker into Little Shark River, past the huge yacht anchored outside, and made the S-turn following the markers into the wide river.
The anchor was dropped in 10 feet of water and away from two large sailboats and a Carver yacht. The fresh cooling breeze was enjoyed as the dried salt was cleaned from the front windows and Rain-ex was re-applied. Dinner was enjoyed in the cockpit as the breeze faded with the sunset. Then the conditions quickly changed: thousands of no-see-ums forced us into the sealed cabin where the 85- degree temperature and 80% humidity made it difficult to bear. Dozens of bugs were squished with a finger as they hovered at the salon lights and cards were played to divert our attention away from the conditions. Finished with 138 hours, 2233 miles or 56 travel miles
Friday, March 2 Up at sunrise for an early crossing to Marathon. As the sun was rising, the moon set in the northwest. As I went forward to prepare the anchor for raising and to remove the windshield canvas, thousands of no-see-ums attacked the face, arms and hands. The edges of panic were felt coming on. Laurie almost came outside but heeded the warnings to stay inside. At 7 AM, we headed out during a very low tide that brought depths of two to three feet under Trilogy’s keel for nearly 10 miles.
At 8 AM, and near Sandy Point, the tug headed due south on autopilot to Marathon. The wind and the waves were behind the tug and at 9:15 AM and 17 miles from Marathon, so many crab or lobster pots were encountered that these would be constant companion for the next two hours. At 11:30 AM a fuel stop was made at Faro Blanco Marina and Resort where 62 gallons were taken.
30 minutes and about a mile to the east, Trilogy found the Blackfin Marina and backed in to the last spot. Immediately, long-time tug owners and boating friends, Mike Rizzo and Jim and Lisa Favors came over. The marina has a quiet, low-key feel about it because it is small – maybe 20 boats total, 90% of the boats are 30 feet and under, most of the users are here for at least a month, the marina is associated with a motel and a restaurant and is on the main highway.
We paid for 4 nights, which is the same as the weekly rate, “Buy for 4 nights and stay a week.” Jim and Lisa invited us for dinner on their boat, a 2017 Ranger 29S that we had seen in Des Moines, WA last fall. Ended with 143 hours and 2278 miles or 43 travel miles
Saturday-Monday, March 3-5 The wind blew through the evening causing small swells that gently rocked the tug. Before sunrise, a blanket was needed in the v-berth to stay warm. Laurie had a rough night with mosquito bites that kept her awake for three hours after midnight. The fatigue would play into her mood and quality of living for the first half of the day.
The winds did not blow as predicted and eased off before lunch. The morning was eggs, cleaning up, a phone call with Rich, walking to the nearby Home Depot to research portable air conditioners and buy a mosquito combat and prevention strategy. Wanting to stretch the legs and get some much needed exercise, the intention was to walk the 15 minutes to Publix and perhaps the Walgreen’s drug store but Laurie took a detour into the T-shirt shop and was drawn into the 50% sale. Back at the boat and a snack later, the boat was washed, scrubbed and rinsed. The tug was turned around with the bow facing west to finish scrubbing the hull. The afternoon was talking about air conditioning, cleaning the stainless rails, talking to a couple from New Jersey who had a Nimble trailerable boat, and taking a dip in the pool. After a light dinner, a movie was watched on the laptop.
The winds howled after midnight and twice the guy-wires to the radar tower became loose and had to be tightened. While on the roof, the warm wind picked at the skin and the fix was easy to do with the full moon illuminating the marina. The next boat over had a full patio setup with table, BBQ, workbench and an umbrella, which broke and fell over.
The next day, breakfast was after sunrise. The day would be clear skies and the perfect temperature of the mid-70’s. A trip toward the Publix store found the directional sign to the Episcopal Church – one that was not found in a search of, “Episcopal Churches near me.” The traditional 9AM service was just ending and the contemporary service at 11 AM would be starting in 45 minutes. The Publix store near by was walked to and the short list was taken care of. The store was packed with people – a surprise for a sunny Sunday morning.
The worship service was another example of serendipity that brought the opportunity to meet local people, catch a glimpse into their lives, the struggles and projects. The praise service was different, the contemporary music from the live band was unknown, but the message and the structure were familiar. The people were genuinely friendly and hearing about their response to the needs of those hurting from the hurricane was valuable. The afternoon was conversations with Mike and Jim, finishing the project of installing and calibrating the new battery monitor, and adjusting the guy wire cables on the tower. Sunset was spent at the point with friends and Jim’s drone where we brought out jackets for the first time and enjoyed being chilly. The day was closed with steaks grilled on the BBQ.
Monday was another glorious day with temperatures in the mid to high 70’s. The fresh air in the morning would lie down in the afternoon and stay down through the evening. After a breakfast of oatmeal, the return air flight was booked out of Orlando. This created the stick in the sand that other planning would pivot around and it also created a mental finish line that created some sadness.
With exploring the area to the west, a walk on A1A to the west part of Marathon showed the whole spectrum repair from the hurricane. The eye doctor and surgeon business still had the heavy metal shutters on the windows and doors, the new section of highway with new curbs, gutters and sidewalks in front of the local and state offices of government and the power cooperative and water provider, and just off of the highway was the sea of motorhomes, trailers, cargo containers, and dump trucks moving debris. The first destination was Boot Key, a large protected bay with a huge mooring field that is run by the City of Marathon. We had been here years before by car and noticed the difference from the hurricane. The mooring field was filled with boats, and noted that 75% were large sailboats, the large dinghy dock that had extended out into the bay was broken and gone with concrete pilings snapped just above the water level from the storm surge.
On the side docks were heavy steel boatlifts and one was substantially bent by the storm surge. A conversation with the manager revealed the pain and exhaustion in his voice, 6 months after the storm, about the immense task of rebuilding. The handful of city employees did nearly all of the work of cleanup and rebuilding. The federal aid is on a reimbursement basis and therefore the city of 10,000 with limited financial resources pays first and hopes for aid later.
The walk took us to the West Marine Store and an art gallery before stopping at Banana Bay Marina to see Carl and Vicki who are tug owners from Portland, Oregon. Vicki had made side and stern curtains for their tug and we liked the idea of what she had done. Back at Trilogy by noon for lunch and the flight back to Seattle was booked which created the date to pivot and plan around. We have 13 days to use, enjoy, and explore the east coast of Florida to Orlando.
Most of the afternoon was spent with charts from Jim Favors, Navionics on the iPad, weather apps on the iPhones, and the Waterway Guides on their website with current marina information. The number of travel days in the next 6 days is predicted to be 2.5 days with the obstacle being waves on Biscayne Bay. Calls were made to marinas to stay tomorrow night and possible two more nights but phones were not answered and messages not returned until Laurie found one about 60 miles away from Marathon. Jim Favors came by and identified a number of anchorages that he had used between here and Stuart and this provided a high level of comfortable and optimism for the coming days. Jim’s willingness to offer this information and his friendship is a specific example of why we wanted to come back to the Great Loop. Laurie returned the marina key to the office while the boat’s systems were checked for tomorrow’s travel day. At 5 PM, a gathering of the tug owners happened at the viewpoint for drinks, food, laughter, and to watch the sunset. We said our good-byes, as the intention was to leave at sunrise.
Tuesday, March 6 The sun rose at 6:30 AM and Trilogy was eased out of its slip at 7:15 AM under clear skies and a light breeze. The ICW is a more of a magenta line on the charts with only a few markers in Florida Bay. Much of the day was spent looking for and dodging dark colored floats of either crab or lobster traps. The traps were in the ICW, which is unlike any other place where the floats are outside the channel and can often provide a marking of the channel’s boundary.
We went past Long Key with the autopilot doing the steering on an easy cruise. An attempt to use the radar as a training event revealed that the radar was not on the Garmin network. This may be as simple as a blown fuse or a loose connection or could be something more complex. Later, an attempt to find the simple solution found that Trilogy did not have the right owner’s manual, so a deeper assessment would be put off.
Many miles were spent either in Everglades National Park or just skirting the southern edges of the park as the transition was made from west side of Florida, around the southern point near Key Largo and turning to the northeast. Narrow channels or cuts were navigated through shallow water and between islets with names like Bowlegs, Cowpens, Barnes and Card.
The first option to stop was at John Pennekamp State Park that had anchorage, mooring balls and a transient dock. With the wind forecast of a moderate blow, having Trilogy on a dock was preferred. Laurie checked the state park’s website and found the hurricane damage to the mooring field and the docks were not yet repaired. The next option was Anchorage Resort and as the approach was made at 1:00 PM, the destination simply did not call us because it was exposed to heavy boat traffic, had a very commercial resort feel to it and the day was young.
In about 10 minutes of research, another option was found in Biscayne National Park at Elliott Bay Harbor. What was odd was the harbor did not show up on the 2011 version of the Garmin chartplotter. It was in the Maptech chartbook and a Google search showed it was part of the national park. A better read of the Waterways Guide found more information but it was unclear if it was open and what were the size limitations. A look at the satellite image showed the potential to be a good destination and a phone call to the park visitor center revealed that it did not have power but was open. That would be the preferred destination and Laurie had identified two other options, if needed.
Entering Barnes Sound brought a stiffer wind from the southwest and the predicted waves of 2+ feet. Trilogy quartered the following sea on its starboard corner and then ran at 15 miles per hour for a smoother ride. In Biscayne Bay proper, the tug hugged the 5-foot deep contour on the eastside of the bay and left the ICW magenta line for an easy ride to Elliott Bay Harbor. The approach was not easy to discern from the water and the depth went to about 2 feet under the keel until the harbor was entered and the depth increased to 4 feet. The intentional decision was made to tie on the north end of the harbor in preparation for northwest winds the following day and that decision would later be regretted as the southwest winds increased and made the night and next day more uncomfortable due to swells rocking the boat in its slip. Trilogy arrived at 3:30PM with 152 engine hours and traveled 83 miles.
Elliott Bay has large building that was a visitor center, a campground, cold water showers and a bathroom. A high school group was out kayaking and three other campers were on-site. The harbor hosts, Curt and Marilyn, were on their days off and had their sailboat on the mainland. Karen, the park volunteer who was helping with the high school group, met us and shared her story. A retired teacher from Kentucky, on disability from a catastrophic car accident, she spends about 5 months a year as a park volunteer with her gentle dog, Spirit. The sunset was amazing and the breeze kept most of the bugs at bay. After dinner a Harry Potter movie was watched. During the night, the wind increased and rocked the boat – a foretelling of things to come.
Wednesday, March 7 Though there are several million people who live within view of this harbor, there is no strong Internet coverage and that made finding the update wind forecast problematic. After sunrise, the wind was fresh but not white caps that indicated 12 knots or higher. After breakfast, the muddy paw prints from a raccoon had tracked across the bow and along the cockpit. Curt and Marilyn had come on the Park Service boat and came by a park golf cart for a conversation about boating and volunteering. They are from North Dakota and had done the Great Loop in 2014-2015 in a Hunter 26 sailboat. They and Karen are ideal volunteers - being patient, friendly, chatty, engaging and knowledgeable.
The trail to the Atlantic Ocean side of the key was explored. In the absence of the noise of the wind, the dense grove of small trees and bushes were quiet. Where this east-west trail intersects with a north-south trail, a sign told the story of how a developer in the 1960’s was stopped in a court battle that created this park, had bulldozed a 7 lane wide highway down the middle of this key and was named “Spite Highway.” Today, only a two-person wide trail remains. The Atlantic coast does not have any surf and looks like an infinitely wide bay. Hurricane Irma caused the damage of uprooted trees, logs blown back into the mangroves, and sections of man-made boardwalk that used to be on the water’s edge were forced 200 yards inland along a trail.
This part of the park is starved for funding. Neglected maintenance has allowed well-engineered buildings to lose their value that would require more funds to bring them back. Informational signs needed repair and should have been replaced years ago and sends the message that we are not good stewards of the community’s property.
By 10 AM, the wind had risen to a steady 15 knots with gusts to about 20. Trilogy was taking 1 to 2 foot high chop on the port stern quarter and the tug rocked heavily side-to-side, straining at its lines, and more lines were added and adjusted. The park concession operates a 35-foot catamaran with twin 300 outboards, zigzagged across the wind-whipped bay and struggled to land in the wind to pickup the high school group. Soon, everyone except us and a lone camper had left the island. Several options were agreed upon: if the wind dropped before 5PM, the run to Miami would be done. If the wind dropped before sunset, the tug would be moved to the quieter part of the harbor and when it shifted again tomorrow – that would be dealt with at the time. Lunch was eaten under the cover of the old visitor center because Trilogy was too uncomfortable with the side-to-side rocking. Heavy clouds came from the southwest, missed Elliott Key and dropped heavy rain on Miami. Curt and Marilyn told us where a working power outlet could be found on the outside of the old visitor center so the electronic devices could be charged. The afternoon was spent reading, writing, adjusting lines and watching a flock of pelicans dive head first into the harbor to feed.
At about 3:30 PM, the wind started to change direction from the southwest to the northwest and by 4:00 PM the wind had lost much of its punch. The decision was made to leave for Miami and anchor at Stadium Marina Harbor. The two-hour and 23 mile ride was done at the fast cruising speed of 15 to 16 miles per hour. The second half was nearly calm as the wind was much lighter in the city. At about the exact spot where wilderness/park boating ended and high urban boating began, the streak of a go-fast boat with an orange hull came from the starboard side, came fast at the tug’s stern and then did a quick pivot and dropped speed to come nearly along side the port side. The law enforcement arm of the Coast Guard was about to board Trilogy. Laurie waved a greeting to the crew as they indicated to slow down with a blast from the siren. Two uniformed and armed officers stepped from their moving craft and onto the tug, and after a quick assessment of us and the boat, they asked to do a quick safety inspection. We had been boarded at least 6 other times on different boats and Laurie answered all the questions and showed them the items they asked for. She did all the talking and showed them all of the items requested which impressed the officers. In 10 minutes it was over and they were gone to stop another vessel. At 6:15 PM, the anchor was dropped in Stadium Marina Harbor in 5 feet of water. There were about 20 other boats and most were sailboats. Some were unoccupied, a few turned on an anchor light, and two boats were sunk in the harbor. In the fading light, a group of rowers from a teen rowing club did a work out in the bay. Hamburgers were grilled as the lights of the skyline created their own beauty as the airliners made their approach to the international airport.
Two Sunsets, one day and a world apart
Thursday-Friday, March 8-9 During the night, the wind came up and caused a sound that was a low and deep rumble that necessitated another 15 feet of rode and allowed for an easy sleep. At the close of the evening, the house battery had 88% of amp/hours capacity because it did not get a full charge from the alternator. In the morning and after dinner, dishes, a shower and a night of running the refrigerator, the new battery monitor showed 64%. The alternator would later take 4 hours to replenish the entire amps to make a full charge.
The anchor came up reluctantly at 8:00 AM and the next 90 minutes was entertaining as Trilogy traveled through the waterfront heart of downtown Miami. The bridges were choked with cars, an event was happening under a large tent that was put up in an open space, walkers and joggers filled the sidewalks near the high condos and apartments, and the cruise ships were guarded by security boats.
The skies stayed clear with temperatures in the high 70’s. The wind from the northeast was significant with small craft warnings. However, being on a narrow waterway, there was no fetch and therefore no significant swells or white caps and this made an acceptable travel day and was the reason that we left Marathon and Elliott Bay Harbor. Boaters on the large open water were typically kept in the harbor.
This would be slow travel day with speed restrictions caused by bridges and by signs saying, “minimum wake,” or “No wake” or “Idle Speed” or “15 inch high wake maximum.” Trilogy would travel for 6 hours, go under 19 bridges and average only a bit over 6 miles per hour and travel 38 miles. Loopers had complained about how slow and congested this section of the ICW can be but we found it to be interesting but that required full attention and very little use of the autopilot.
Most of the trip was through the richest communities on this coast. The meg-yachts against mega-priced building, the hundreds of multi-million dollar houses, and 95% of the boats and yachts were less than 5 years old. The economy is booming, disposable income among the richest is illustrated here, and the new status symbol is the 30-foot go-fast boat with four 400-horse power outboards hanging off the stern. Is there a correlation between the number of high horsepower outboards and the lack of penis size?
Trilogy continued through Miami Shores, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Hallendale Beach and Dania Beach. After Port Everglades with its container ships, cruise ships and the bored Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy on his go-fast patrol boat warning the rare boater (like us) to slow down, came Fort Lauderdale which took opulence and extreme wealth to a whole new level. Trilogy anchored in Lake Silvia with a dozen sailboats for a lunch break. Two pontoon boats with a gaggle of college kids on spring break from a snowy campus in the north arrived to dive in the water, scream and drink beer – it was time to leave. By the end of the day, 19 bridges were gone under and only one had a clearance that was less than the height of Trilogy’s tower of 13 feet. Rather than waiting the 20 minutes for the scheduled bridge opening, the tower was laid down. The destination was Lake Santa Barbara in the community of Pompano Beach. The anchor was dropped in a high-end neighborhood, near a live aboard sailboard that was in marginal condition and near a Marine Max facility that was commissioning high-end yachts and we watched two technicians spend two hours maneuvering and testing the propulsion systems on a multi-million dollar 66 foot yacht.
The next day, the coolness woke us an hour or two before sunrise and another blanket was added. The inside cabin temperature was 53 degrees and for a moment the idea of starting the diesel furnace was considered but a cup of coffee and a light coat was sufficient. The skies were overcast and Weatherbug showed the clouds could drop a light rain but they never did. After a bowl of oatmeal while listening to the local NPR station, the anchor came up at 8:15 AM and Trilogy headed north on the ICW continuing the high density, urban boating experience.
This day would be six hours of traveling and the speed would be a bit more than yesterday because of the longer stretches where the tug could stretch its legs and go the fast cruising speed of 16 MPH. 18 bridges were gone under and four of them needed to be opened for the tug because the bridge had less than a 14-foot clearance. All of these bridges opened on a schedule, either at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour or at the top and bottom of the hour. This is an acceptable necessity for the boater because the streets and bridges were typically choked with traffic.
One town and city melted into another with no discernible separation or boundary with names like Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, Highland Beach, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lantana, Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach, Palm Beach Shores and North Palm Beach. What did change was the number of multi-million homes at Lantana to more homes of “normal rich people.” The ICW also changed from being generally narrow in Boca Raton to being wider at Boynton Beach with the structures being further away. In West Palm Beach and at a boat ramp on the west side of the ICW, the anchor was dropped for a lunch stop. College students were stretched out on cots in the sun a few hundred yards away, the ramp was nearly empty except for a fisherman and the duck-boat that was full of wide-eyed tourists. The water was full of wakes from the passing boats.
Where West Palm Beach ends and Palm Beach Shores begin is a channel to the Atlantic Ocean and at that intersection is Peanut Island County Park. This used to be a Coast Guard Station and apparently had a bomb shelter for the Kennedy family. On the north end of the island, a narrow but deep enough channel led to about 200 feet of dock in a semi-circle. Trilogy easily slipped in but would be the largest boat that could fit in. An hour was spent walking the beautifully maintained park. There was a dock for larger boats on the east side but the ranger said it was for campers who used the campground. A set of pools and small jetties were built for snorkeling. The boat traffic both moving and anchored around Peanut Island was staggering on a Friday. The destination was the north end of Lake Worth, which was less than 4 miles away. There, the anchor was dropped in 15 feet with about 20 sailboats. The day was closed with emails, making decisions about the next two days, having a beer in the cockpit and grilling hamburgers before sunset. Trilogy had gone 45 miles, went through 18 bridges in 6 hours of motoring.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday, March 10, 11 and 12 The northeast wind had shifted to the east and southeast and the day was cloudy. Most of the cruising was done through the community of Jupiter and this was different from the high density of urban boating. Jupiter has huge estates with beaches and few sea walls. Jupiter likes its gates and no trespassing signs. The estates have long docks that reach out to the depth to store their boats. The opposing points of view about boats and the role of the ICW are quite evident in South Florida: Is the ICW a waterway for transit or is it a storage lot for property owners? Each community has answered that question in different ways.
Hobie Sound is a wider body of water and the narrowest sliver of land that separates it from the Atlantic Ocean. The first real significant elevation of about 40 feet was found and a mansion was perched on top of it. On through Jupiter Narrows and Hell’s Gate was the first expanse of undeveloped country and a huge national wildlife refuge. This emptied into the St. Lucie Inlet, which is the un-official boundary between south and central Florida. A short ways to the west, Trilogy turned into Manatee Pocket of the greater Stuart area, avoided a slew of fast and slow boats through the choppy water and quickly arrived at Sailfish Marina.
Laurie’s calls to marinas found they were booked full or had hurricane damage. Sailfish Marina is home to 40-foot long sportfishing boats. We hate them and they are called the enemy because of the 5-foot high wakes they make and the drivers are the most thoughtless of all boaters. But they had room because boats were gone fishing. Trilogy was backed into a 45 foot long slip of pilings and a 4 foot long fixed dock with a stiff wind blowing across its beam and sandwiched between two sportfishing boats.
The tug had traveled 29 miles in 4 hours and went under 7 bridges. We were happy to pay only $2.00 a foot, buy diesel, fill with water, bathe the tug and use their Laundromat. The marina store was the best store for its size in any of our travels. 70% of the space was packed with all manner of fishing gear. The rest was the best selection of boat gear, hardware, stainless fasteners and even dive masks. The selection of beer included Pipeline Porter from the Kona Brewery and the best treat was their ice cream. The afternoon brought the first measurable rain on this trip as a front came through the keys, across the state and on out to the Atlantic. The party for the boat captain of the year had live music which lasted to 10 PM but with the windows closed and the sound track of the movie on the laptop put through the tug’s sound system, it was hardly noticeable. A thunderstorm cell with brief winds buffeted the boat for 20 minutes and then the air was still again.
The next day brought Daylight Savings Time and the sun was up at 7:30 AM. The air would be nearly still all day, with high humidity and Weatherbug provided the warning of thunderstorms for the morning. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church had a service at 9 and 11 AM and after breakfast it was too late to catch an Uber ride and make the 9 AM service.
Coupling a grocery store run with the 11 AM church service was a good use of time. This church has a campus of four major buildings over two blocks and is 5 times larger than our home church. The service was great but the people were remote and cool with no conversations and no overt welcoming. The leadership had a goal to increase the number of people who financially support the church by 10%. From an outsider’s point of view: good luck with that.
Within 15 minutes following service, the campus was oddly quiet and deserted. The Publix grocery store was a 28-minute walk away and a stop was made along the way for grilled chicken Panini sandwiches. The coming week’s worth of food was packed into two backpacks and two folding bags and another Uber ride was taken back to the boat. The still air brought high humidity and the tug’s inside temperature was 90 degrees and dropped 10 degrees in 5 hours. An evening of phone calls from friends and family. The evening brought cooler and a moderate breeze that intensified the following day and would last all day and into the evening. Two big boats on Trilogy’s port side left leaving the tug exposed to Manatee Pocket but the wind was from the west and buffeted the starboard side all day requiring several adjustments of the lines. Reservations were made to solidify the last phase of this trip with reservations for the truck rental and dockage at Fort Pierce, Vero Beach and Titusville. The tug would be put back on its trailer in Titusville. The majority of the day was doing billable hours for one of the two last projects for work.. The highlight was drinks and dinner with Kevin and Steve whom we met 4 years ago when their Great Loop trip was started and in Tampa at the end of our Great Loop. They had done the loop two years ago with a Nordic Tug 39 and now have a Selene 48 that they live on nearly full-time. The dinner was at the same restaurant, Shrimpers, that we had dinner with Tom and Pam in 2014.
Tuesday-Wednesday, March 13-14 The morning was cool and required the first use of the diesel furnace to take the chill out of the air. The destination was Fort Pierce City Marina a short run of 24 miles north on the Indian River. The river is wide and the ICW is about in the middle. Going outside the ICW, the river looks inviting to explore but it is shallow with depths of less than 3 feet. The northbound current was evident as the water raced to go out the Fort Pierce Inlet with the tide dropping. Trilogy dropped its RPM’s and took advantage of the force of nature. The fresh breeze of 10-15 knots caused a 1 to 2 foot chop.
At about noon, the tug made the tight 90-degree turn at the AIA highway bridge, went past the man-made rock islands that were made after the 2010 hurricane and into the protected harbor. The dockmaster put the tug on the end of a T-dock that fronted the main channel and in front of a sailboat. The marina was 98% full because of hurricane damage to other marinas and this was the season of northbound boaters.
The afternoon was spent re-acquainting with the area: the visitor center, manatee education center and walking the docks. Bud and Sue, who we first met in Florence last fall, arrived at the fuel dock and we made a point to connect with them later in the afternoon and catch up on the progress of their loop trip.
The next day, a walk was done through the area south of the marina along the water and into the revitalized part of downtown near the impressive courthouse. Several RV’s were by the visitor center and time was enjoyed with a Canadian couple from Quebec who have done a lot of RV traveling in the states. Then, billable hours were done to build the last exercise for Renton’s Sergeant promotional process. In the afternoon, Bud and Sue stopped by to see the boat. An agreement was made to meet at the boater’s lounge at 5PM for docktails. On the way there, a stop was made to enjoy the rare ice cream treat.
Drinks and appetizers were shared with 6 looping couples in the boater’s lounge. One couple was just finishing their loop in Fort Pierce and others were in various stages of being in the middle of their adventure. Enjoyed a long story from an owner of a 1995 43-foot Tollycraft who personally rebuilt an engine in Fort Myers two weeks ago. In-depth conversations with people who are newly met is one of the attractions of doing this adventure and two hours later, everyone left with the vague potential of meeting again somewhere along the route. The evening was closed by streaming two episodes of Blue Bloods with the hotspot, when the marina’s Wi-Fi was not strong enough.
Thursday-Friday, March 15-16 Another clear and cool morning where the diesel furnace saw another hour of use. Under a brilliant blue morning sky, the lines were released after breakfast and Trilogy had to fight the 1.5 knot current for a brief 20 minutes until the inlet to the Atlantic was passed. Then the tug rode with the current but opposed the 10 to 13 knot wind from the northeast. Wind over current creates a short and steep chop that resulted in some spray coming over the bow.
The destination was a short run to Vero Beach that was 15 miles and two hours away. Northward on the Indian River with Orchid Island on our starboard side and the island separates the river from the ocean. The marina is on the island and is adjacent to a modest residential area and separates the upscale business district that is on the beach. This is the wealthy side of Vero Beach because across the bridge to the west and a handful of miles later is the old, worn and somewhat tattered side of Vero Beach. The community ends at Interstate 95, then the country is an endless flat sample of citrus and cattle that does on for over 100 miles.
The dockmaster assigned the tug to a great spot on the south side of the small marina. After tying up to the fixed docks, we saw Rich on Roam a short distance away. With Rich was a long-time friend from his sailing days, Gary, who helped Rich bring the boat from Sanibel Island to Vero Beach because Cheryl was home in Michigan and caring for her father. Though we talk every couple of months and last saw each other a year ago, the friendship renewed itself very quickly.
The afternoon was a walk through the residential district, to businesses and to the beach. Spring break was still evident with groups of college-aged people in groups that were divided by sexes and working on their tans, job security for tomorrow’s dermatology doctors. The return walk was by a different route with new views of houses, yards, empty lots, flowers, and the yacht club. At 5PM, Rich and Gary came over for beer and munchies and afterwards we went out to dinner for Mexican food; lots of laughter and stories. The evening was closed with some billable hours and church work.
The next day, was a continuing repeat of clear blue skies yet cool. After breakfast, the nearly empty propane tank was removed and the propane locker was cleaned. Rich and Gary came by about 10AM and Rich announced that Gary’s transportation plans back to St. Petersburg had changed from private airplane to ground transportation. Rich was going to drive Gary and asked if I wanted to go along and then bring back our boat trailer. This would be another example of serendipity and opportunities to help friends.
Laurie stayed on the boat, handling a minor medical issue with her mother by many phone calls, did cleaning, organizing and some reading. I did 8 ½ hours of riding in a truck and did almost half of the driving and all the driving with the boat trailer. Rich is in that place where Cheryl is dealing with her father’s last chapter that is dominated by dementia. Rich is waiting for Cheryl to re-join their life together. Decisions are day-to-day, plans are soft, and waiting and patience is practiced again and again.
In Titusville, the boat launch is immediately adjacent to the marina and is perfect for Trilogy. The question was where to drop the trailer for a few days when there are no trailers at the ramp without a vehicle. A small parking area was nearby and had two large trailers on the grass that were tucked into the edge of the foliage. Would anyone really notice a third one? With the marina office closed, the chance was taken and the trailer was dropped. 90 minutes later, we were back at the Vero Beach Marina. Rich came by and we all went to dinner at a pizza spot and told stories.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday, March 17, 18, 19 and the end of this trip Rich met us before his daily 5K run and we said our good-byes. There is always faith and optimism that our paths will cross again, even if it takes time and planning.
A near perfect cruising day with clear, blue skies, temperatures in mid-70’s and a following breeze in the single digits that caused a whole day of flat water. The boat traffic was surprisingly light, perhaps they were preparing for the St. Patrick’s Day partying that would happen later.
Over 7 hours Trilogy traveled 74 miles and it was both relaxing and engaging. Traveling past the towns of Sebastian, Melbourne, Cocoa, and Port St. John to the destination of the Titusville Municipal Marina, the tug traveled at either 8.5 MPH or 17 MPH in a mild current that went with us the whole way.
The only exception to the light traffic was at the end of day when four big yachts with Jupiter, Florida on their transoms roared past at 20+ knots in tight formation and only two boat lengths away that caused 4-foot high wakes. Jupiter is a haven for the ultra-snooty yachties who believe that their lack of boating knowledge, skill and courtesy is compensated by the depth of the checkbooks. This group of boat-drivers (they are not boaters) would be the source of complaints from boats at anchor and on mooring balls, they would not follow the directions of the marina staff, and their owners would watch helplessly as the marina staff tied their lines and plug their craft into the shore power.
Arriving at the hottest part of the day at 3:30PM, Trilogy was backed into its short slip and the bow was tied to the two pilings. The live-aboard on the sailboat next door was nice and chatty and gave tips about enjoying Titusville. I confessed to the marina supervisor about what I did with the boat trailer and he appreciated knowing and said not to worry about it and he would deflect the concerns his boss that would probably happen on Monday.
The evening was closed with showers, pork chop on the BBQ and a movie.
Sunday morning was bright and clear. Laurie had found St. Gabriel Episcopal Church and the convenient 15-minute walk from the boat. The parish is 150 years old and the building is almost 100 years old of wood beams, roof and walls and all in a dark stain. Arriving fashionably early at 9:45 AM, the church is larger than it looks from the outside with four sections of pews and like most Episcopalians, 2/3 will sit in the back half. The service was familiar, the sermon was great and the people were friendly – more so than ones in Stuart. The demographic is all Caucasian and 70% over 60 years old. We stayed through coffee hour in the Parish Hall for the opportunity to meet local people. The afternoon was washing Trilogy’s salt off and doing small projects like the wobble in the salon table, a nut missing on a coat rack, ordering a Smart Plug and a Carbon Monoxide detector from Amazon; small projects that are added to the next trip list. Pamela lives aboard her Pacific Seacraft 34 foot Crealock named Meander that was two boats down from Trilogy. Talkative, she was drawn to Laurie – like most people and told her story of being new to sailing and loving it and life aboard with her dog and husband who travels for on business. Later, came the owner/builder of a unique sailing catamaran who told Laurie his story of building the boat and living aboard.
Getting ice cream at the marina store, the marina supervisor who gave me forgiveness for parking the trailer, told the story of the Hurricane Irma that missed the marina but the winds were substantial. The marina was full of boats because of the storm. Those who chose to stay aboard their boats were told to wear a white T-shirt with their name and the name and phone number of their next of kin. It was not a joke because no one would be there to protect or rescue them – during the storm everyone was on their own. The marina escaped nearly unscathed and some boats received minor damage. The owners of older boats were disappointed that their boats were not destroyed so they could collect the insurance money and start over with a different boat.
The research was started on finding a storage yard in the greater Charlotte region. We look for the local business in a small town that does not have a robust website because they are likely to be more affordable and flexible. Chain stores with lots of marketing typically means higher overhead and therefore higher prices.
Laurie put together a fine dinner by mixing leftovers. A movie on the laptop closed the evening.
Monday morning was still and overcast but a look at the radar on Weatherbug showed a fire hose of rain stretching from Mobile to just south of Jacksonville. The updated hourly forecast had the potential of wind and thunderstorms during the day. The wind forecast for tomorrow morning brought consideration of pulling the tug today. A phone call to the Enterprise Truck Rental in Cocoa changed the reservation and the only truck available was a 1-ton with dual rear tires for the same daily rate.
Starting at 9 AM phone calls were made to the nearly 15 RV storage businesses in the Charlotte North Carolina region. In about 45 minutes the list was done to 2 possibilities because either the business was full or they did not have room for a 40-foot long trailer/boat combination.
Pockets of rain followed by episodes of calm and stillness came throughout the day. During the calm, Trilogy was prepped for the road trip by following the checklist. Two loads of laundry were done, the refrigerator was defrosted and canvas was stowed. The tug has two small propane tanks and each will last 3 to 4 weeks of use. The oldest one was empty and I had a mildly frustrating walking trip to find the propane supplier. The supplier was a welding gas supplier and after being directed to the back lot and under an awning by an attractive woman, I found a well dressed man holding a clipboard who said the guy who fills the propane tanks will be back in hour. Then, he took a look at the older tank with its pockets of rust on the bottom edge and said they would not fill the tank. After considering the walk back to the boat with an un-fillable tank, I asked the white-collar supervisor if he would dispose of the tank for me and he agreed.
By mid-afternoon, a Lyft ride to the Cocoa Enterprise Truck Rental secured a 1-ton 2018 Ford truck that would turn out to be a great truck for towing: solid, quiet and would not be impacted by the wind of nature or truckers. Back at the marina, the sky was volatile with storm clouds and the morning forecast was moderate winds. Taking advantage of a lull and still water, the trailer was hooked to the truck and the tug was moved to the ramp after one last emptying of the holding tank and rinsing with fresh water. Trilogy re-joined the trailer easily. Laurie worked the truck and the bow tie-down and after a false start did the job well. 45 minutes later, the tug was nearly road ready. The plan was to stay the night on the tug and be northbound on I-95 at first light. That would all change by one phone call.
In the last half hour of sunlight, we walked to a nearby restaurant and had beer and seafood as the wind and heavy rain pounded the area. Laurie’s phone rang with a call from her mom's assisted living residence in Edmonds, WA. The nurse was sounding the alarm due to her mom falling repeatedly and needing constant observation and assistance. Within an hour, daughter Karen stepped up for the night shift and Laurie booked a flight home in the morning. Not only was the trip over, but also the looming weight of the work back home was bearing down.
In a downpour, we walked back to the tug that was sitting massive on her trailer and the combination of truck and trailer was over 60 feet long. The plan was to find a Home Depot parking lot near the Orlando airport where we could quietly sleep and then Laurie would take a Lyft ride to the terminal. The 45 minute run to the airport in a new truck, pulling a long and heavy load, on a strange road and in the dark and intermittent rain showers made for a focused and quiet drive.
Laurie flew out the next morning. I drove the 11 hours and 550 miles to the storage yard north of Charlotte, North Carolina, returned the truck the next day back to Cocoa, FL and took an Uber to the Orlando airport for the flight to Seattle.
A Summer Trip Of the New York State and Canadian Historic Canal Systems: The Figure 8 Loop Adventure
Summary: Towed the tug from Charlotte, North Carolina and launched near Cleveland, Ohio. From Lake Erie, follow the Erie Canal eastward from Buffalo to Oswego, New York, Begin the Rideau Canal at Kingston, Ontario and go through Ottawa, Montreal and connect to New York's Lake Champlain. Pickup the Erie Canal near Albany, New York, cross Lake Ontario for the second time and travel the Trent Severn Waterway that ends at Lake Huron. Pulled the boat at Midland, Ontario and towed it to Brunswick, Georgia to stage for a springtime trip.
Trip Numbers: 56 cruising days, 187 locks transited, 1,625 miles traveled, average daily miles traveled was 30, 16 days at free walls, docks or anchored, and the average cost per day of cruising was $112. Road trip: 7,300 miles driven, 12 national park sites visited, and stayed at KOAs and a few pet friendly hotels.
ROAD TRIP: The plans for this trip started soon after Florida trip. Ken and Pauline were going to spend the summer on Lake Huron and re-visiting the Trent Severn Waterway was calling us. By the end of April, the major parts of the plan were in place with another adventure with our Canadian friends. Then, Ken and Pauline’s plans changed when opportunities were presented. Looking at this as an opportunity, air flight plans were cancelled and a road trip was planned. The folding bikes, a portable air conditioner, a new propane tank and new cockpit canvas was loaded in the truck.
Millie, our 12 year old rescue cat would be making her first long road road trip and trip on Trilogy. She is a great boat cat and is very adaptable. For the 7 days, national park sities were visited including Little Bighorn National Historical Site, Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore National Monument and Great Smoky National Park, the nights were split between hotels and KOA's camping cabins. The new to us Dodge 3/4 truck was very comfortable for long distance traveling.
Sunday, June 24. After leaving the Great Smoky Mountains, Huntersville, North Carolina was an easy drive to get to Trilogy on her trailer. The tug was hooked up at 4 PM and Laurie announced that the boat trip had started.. We had traveled 3,200 miles to get her, including the stops and touring along the way. Aside from the dirt and leaves, Trilogy was in surprising good shape. There was no mold and the three Dry-Ease buckets were full of water. The solar panel had kept the house battery at 86% and the engine battery full. 45 minutes later, we were headed north on I-77 and Laurie announced that the “boat trip” had started. The night’s stop was at the KOA in Wytheville, Virginia because it was close to the freeway and had a pull through spot that was over 60 feet long.
LAKE ERIE FROM GENEVA, OHIO TO BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Start of the boat trip The KOA manager posted a photo of Trilogy on their Facebook page because it was the first boat to use their park as a recreational vehicle. Breakfast was the first meal aboard. The morning was spent cleaning the hull with a very mild acid to remove all the stains, buffing out the stubborn stains and putting on two coats of polish. The boat had not been cleaned since St. Petersburg in February. Nearly a month of boating, 500 miles of road travel, three months in a storage yard and another 500 miles on the road created the need for a lot of cleaning.
Leaving in the early afternoon, the propane tank was filled, 65 gallons of diesel filled Trilogy’s tank and another 20 gallons filled the truck’s tank. The ramp at Geneva State Park is perfect for Trilogy. An hour was spent rigging her for water travel with lines, fenders, canvas, plugs in and straps off. She glided into the water, the diesel immediately came to life and all the electronics came up easily. The harbormaster directed us to tie up behind a large boat on the transient dock and as we got closer, we knew Calypso Poet from last fall’s trip on the Tennessee River and the owner’s Gary and Colleen.
The afternoon was closed with more boat preparations, organizing, cleaning and a brief chat with Gary and Colleen and a promise to visit tomorrow when the weather would be keeping the boats in port.
The next day pockets of intense rain swept through the harbor making it a good work inside and do errands day. The medium sized plastic bin containing all the parts for various projects identified from our last trip was emptied. The projects completed included replacing the CO detector, adding two electronic cart chips, fixing the outside sensor of the weather station and swapping the dehumidifier with a portable air conditioner that had a dehumidifier function. This last project was intended to a degree of comfort when connected to shore power. This also had the tipping affect of requiring a re-assignment of spaces as the air conditioner would dominate the port side corner storage space.
Another large project was replacing the cockpit’s side canvas, screens and windows that were not usable with a fine mesh material that was excellent at shade and bug protection and would stop 80% of rainwater. Our favorite canvas shop, Leta's Top Shop in Arlington, Washington, used the old side curtains as a template but we would need to install the snaps to match the locations of those on the boat. Before the heavy rains from the south started, one of the panels was installed.
We enjoyed drinks and snacks with Gary and Colleen and they told stories of their second Great Loop adventure. A couple of take-a-way comments from them: “Shut up and be grateful.” Meaning to accept the gifts of the moment and to be socially aware may include not expressing an opinion that creates conflict. “Being plugged into nature” means more watching the weather forecasts, wind and tides as those drive the decision making process more than any other factors.
Thursday, June 28. Gary and Colleen were supposed to leave but the wind kept all the boats in port for most of the day. Laurie did errands in the truck while I fabricated a window mount for the air conditioner’s vent hose. Using hand tools and the dock as a workbench, the project was finished by mid-morning. Laurie returned and the rest of the day was cleaning the cabin and roof, cleaning all the stainless rails, putting the folding bikes on the roof, cleaning the windows, and servicing the wiper arms that were clogged with salt and grime. Went into the Town of Geneva twice for parts for the air conditioner project only because the Ace Hardware was only 15 minutes away. Geneva’s downtown is small but the storefronts are occupied which is more than many towns in Florida can say. By late afternoon, the wind had eased into a pleasant June afternoon with comfortable temperatures. We had dock-tails with Gary and Colleen before grilling pork chops on the BBQ.
Friday, June 29. Gary and Colleen pulled away at 7AM and headed for Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Museum. We were not far behind having to store the truck in the fence yard and leave a key with the marina office staff. The air temperature was 82 degrees, wind from the southwest was light, and the lake was flat and calm. Sport fishing boats were scattered about, trolling for perch and walleye in the 30 to 50 foot deep waters that are about a mile off shore.
There is always some anxiety about the boat’s performance on day one. Has the 1100 miles of road travel vibrated something loose? Will the impeller fail? What about the serpentine belt? But Trilogy was great, came up to operating temperature appropriately, purred along at 8 miles per hour and smoothly ran at a fast cruising speed of 16 miles per hour. We traveled for five hours, staying about 2 miles from shore in 50 feet of water and let the autopilot keep the heading.
Lake Erie is one of the smaller Great Lakes at 240 miles long and 56 miles wide. The lake had a horrible reputation for decades as being polluted from the heavy industries on the shore. For the most part, the industries are gone and the lake is becoming healthy again.
Laurie dug into the cruising guides and learned about radio frequencies to use, how the western Erie Canal locks worked and the options for fuel, marinas and opportunities for free docking. The forecasted heat wave arrived and as the whole Midwest would cook in the mid-90’s, the Great Lakes would be just behind with forecasted temperatures on the high 80’s. The weather forecast for Saturday was watched and the travel conditions are mixed: winds in the mid-teens with 2 foot waves but they would be behind us. The temperature would be better on the water and traveling but the ride for a long travel day to Buffalo, NY could be better.
Trilogy arrived at the Wolverine Park Marina in Erie, PA at 2 PM and the outside temperature was 101 degrees. After setting up and getting the newly acquired air conditioner running, we walked to the nearby maritime museum and paid $16 for two hours of learning about the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie. This war was about honor and reputation with the overtones of perhaps annexing Canada into the US. New information: Irish fighters battled in Canada as a strategy to get England out of Ireland and the U.S. had get involved. Also, during the Civil War, the confederacy had a plan to bring the war to the Great Lakes.
Back at the boat, dinner was hamburgers on the grill and canned fruit. The air conditioner was experimented with the hope to have a 10-degree lower temperature and 10 percentage points of lower humidity. However, the inside of the boat was slow to cool down because the cabin walls and roof and heated during the day and was slow to cool down. When the cockpit was cooler than the inside, the mistake was to turn off the unit and open the doors and windows and immediately the humidity rose and to nearly 70% and we were all crabby. With the AC back on and some adjustments, the temperature at bedtime was still higher than outside by 4 degrees but the humidity was 15 points less.
Saturday-Sunday, June 30-July 1. The review of the morning’s weather forecast for Lake Erie confirmed that Trilogy would stay in port today because of 1-3 foot waves for about 30 miles to Buffalo, NY. After breakfast and a walk to the sky-bridge at the nearby Sheraton Hotel to see the view, the plan was settled to take the folding bikes on the nearby water taxi that would take us to Presque Isle State Park. The state park is one of Erie’s top highlights and taking the water taxi for $10 round trip turned an 8-mile bike raid into a 15 minute water crossing. The state park had a great bike path that was used for about 6 miles. The weekend use was heavy as the parking lots were filling up, the beaches were busy and the nearly all of the rental canoes, rowboats and pontoon boats were rented. We enjoyed the park as being exposed to what the locals do for enjoyment. By 1PM, the water taxi had taken us back to Erie and the very short bike ride to the marina.
After lunch, I worked on installing the new cockpit side curtains and also had to re-do half of the snaps that were done on the first panel. The first panel is always the one to learn on. I remembered well the words of Justin Peterson, a friend and a carpenter who framed both our Hat Island house and an addition at our mainland house, “Always start in the closet, because the mistakes made during the learning there will not be noticed.” The afternoon heat rose to the mid-90’s with humidity in the 70%. The air conditioning kept the boat in the low 80’s and with humidity in the 50%.
Before grilling chicken thighs on the BBQ with small potatoes, showers were taken and the laundry was done at the marina’s facilities. The night was closed with the first movie of this trip that was viewed on a laptop and the sound was played through Trilogy’s audio system.
The next day was bright, clear, still air and 84 degrees as Trilogy headed out at 0730 hours. We would travel 82 miles, past scores of small sport fishing boats, and past the small town of Dunkirk, NY. By noon, the outside temperature was 100 degrees. The water was nearly completely flat. 45 minutes of every hour was run at 2400 RPM or about 8.5 miles per hour and 15 minutes was run at 3800 RPM or about 16 miles per hour. This pattern resulted in an overall speed of about 10 miles per hour and Trilogy arrived at the fuel dock at Erie Basin Marina at 3:30 PM. Colleen and Gary used this marina and they accepted transient boaters without a reservation.
Fuel was purchased at $4.19 gallon because a quick check of the competition showed $4.50 a gallon. The very young staff made their uncertainty, lack of information about nearly everything, comical rather than annoying. It was like they started work at the beginning of the week and the boss took the day off. They knew enough of the top 10 topics to not get trouble but were a long way from being helpful. This marina is in the heart of downtown. The fixed docks were old, the shore power box had enough cobwebs and debris that it probably had not been used since last September. Though the $2 per foot was steep the location was adequate. The night was closed with the air conditioning masking most of the sound from the marginal band that was playing at the nearby outdoor bar.
What is Millie doing? She rises with the sunrise and if there is not enough food in her bowl, she will be buggy in bed. By mid-morning, she looks for a place that is dark and close to hide and sleep. Twice, we could not find her and discovered that she can get into some tight places and loves the "deep cave". Late afternoon, she is active and has laid out in the cockpit and cautiously ventures off the boat but stays within 20 feet of the boat. Mid-evening, she is sound asleep on the table or on a bench seat.
BUFFALO, NEW YORK AND NIAGARA FALLS Monday, July 2 would be packed with local land travel. Due to a failure to communicate and remember details, my passport and an envelope of cash was left in the truck that was now stored in Geneva. We could work around the cash but the passport was a necessity. The day started with an Uber ride to the Enterprise Car Rental and we got a better taste of Buffalo on the downward spiral. The business district was deteriorating and the employees were a good fit for it. Buffalo is a poor city and pendulum of deterioration may not have stopped with high crime, rotten streets, horrible winter weather, and decades of missteps in urban development. The momentum of creating hope of a bright future is not felt.
Six hours was used to get to the truck, retrieve what was needed and return. The drive was good and seeing the country from the highway was a great complement to seeing it from the water. Thunderstorms appeared without warning, strengthened, unleashed lightning and downpours and them moved on or evaporated. The rent-a-car provided the opportunity to drive to Niagara Falls. This was a destination that was not planned for and came after hearing from Gary and Colleen and Rich about the experience. We opted out of the $20 parking lot and headed for the state park.
On the American side, Niagara Falls is a New York State Park and receives 10 million visitors a year with most of them coming June, July and August that happens to coincide with the highest water levels. The park has a history of heavy development and even attempts of manipulation by humans that included tunneling, blasting and even stopping the falls. We wondered why this national treasure that is shared with Canada was not added to the National Park System. The vendors run the park; from the fleet of Maid Of The Mist boats that efficiently takes hundreds of people per hour into the throat of the falls, to the trolley system, the bored elevator operators, and the hardened cashiers. Millions of people coming from throughout the world will do that. But, we enjoyed the majesty and sheer power of the falls, the ever-present rainbows, and just witnessing the amazing and unmatchable power of nature’s forces. The time and the effort spent was well rewarded. A provisioning stop was made on the way back to the boat. Dinner was in the cockpit with roasted chicken from the store, bottled beer and vegies. Millie left the boat four times as a sign of her impatience with being kept aboard all day.
WESTERN PORTION OF THE ERIE CANAL: BUFFALO TO OSWEGO, NEW YORK Tuesday, July 3. The plans for the day were jettison when the head would not flush. The toilet is one of those essential devices that is taken for granted until it becomes the number one priority. Boat ownership requires a willingness to assess and work the problem or to have a very deep checkbook to pay someone else. This problem would take six hours to completely solve and working the problem included information from the owner’s manual, watching a Youtube video, doing a parts run to West Marine, emptying storage areas removing shelves and hoses, and then putting it all back together again. Returning the rental car and getting an Uber ride back was also in this time frame.
The baking of the country continued with clear skies, no wind, and highs in the low 90’s. The job was a sweaty one and very nasty and smelly. After a late lunch, the marina was left at 1:45 PM and we traveled the Black Rock Canal rather than the fast current of the Niagara River because the water levels were up the current was rocking. Trilogy just slipped under the railroad bridge but needed the highway swing bridge to open. The lock master offered to deviate from the posted schedule and took us down the 6 feet and into the Niagara River were the tug enjoyed a 2 knot push around Grand Island.
Trilogy entered the Erie Canal at the town of North Tonawanda and immediately the cruise changed to quiet, narrow waterway with trees leaning over on each side, and it was personal and quiet. Among docks and boats the speed limit is 5 and everywhere else the speed is 10. For the next two hours the cruising and the unfolding scenery of rural New York and the countryside captivated us. Sometimes there were homes, a dock here and there, a closed restaurant where the free dock is still available, and sometimes a small neighborhood hugs the shoreline.
We stopped for the night in Lockport and found a free dock that is immediately adjacent to the lock and in the small town. The cruising guides mentioned a long wall that was half-mile from town but that sight is horrible compared to this one. Two rental boats had taken most of the space and the available dock, but Trilogy fit nicely against the wall. Shore power was welcome to run the air conditioner.
Peggy and Al are from Houston and had rented the 40’ canal boat for a week and spoke about how the top speed was only 5 MPH. It was a long, hot and full day. Heat control measures were essential and then showers were spectacular. The town’s 4thof July parade happened around us though we did not see it. A local pizza place was chosen for dinner and though it did not serve beer, the pizza was incredible. At 9:45PM, we were treated to a nice fireworks show. The locks were surrounded by people as the fireworks would happen very close by. The evening cooled, Laurie wore her new bug shirt and pants, and the evening closed.
Wednesday, July 4. The day started with a leisurely tour of the canal museum with its great exhibits and history of the Erie Canal. Some take-a-ways: the canal was originally built without the use of professional engineers, the locals in Lockport invented machinery and techniques to move material, the governor pardoned state prison inmates who worked on the canal, the canal was a commercial success until World War I when the demand to move goods quickly exceeded the capabilities of the canal, and commercial use of the canal is non-existent and has been for decades.
Trilogywent through the double lock at about 0900 hours and the cruise was soon disrupted when the engine RPM’s began wavering by about 200 RPMS and the engine displayed showed a “Throttle Sensor” alarm. The wavering would stop and then happen again for short episodes. The immediate notion was that the fuel filters were clogged, so we stopped at Middleport Park, the Lions Park and spent the next 90 minutes changing the two filters, bleeding the fuel system, cleaning up and putting all the tools away. Starting again, the alarms had cleared and the engine was smooth.
The day was heating up again to the mid-90’s. A quick lunch stop was made at Canal Port that is known for the quarrying of sandstone. The town was completely empty of cars and people and the hot clear air made exploring a fleeting a notion. Shortly after leaving, the head made a new sound and then water would not flush away from the bowl. This problem would dominate the rest of the day. Laurie chose the Village of Albion as the overnight stop because it had power for the air conditioner and showers and restrooms near the free town wall.
The core problem was a sagging drain line that allowed for a blockage. That was handled by using cable ties to raise up and hold the drain line. Still, water did not drain and the macerator pump did not move. A new mechanical problem had occurred. Taking apart the toilet found an engineering flaw: the discharge motor is connected to the pump with small belt with teeth. The belt had broken under the stress of trying to move water through the blockage in the line. Thinking that the simple fix was finding a replacement belt resulted in hours of frustrating research. Jabsco did not make this model any more and no parts were available, anywhere. Even the service kit was back ordered from the factory for at least two weeks. Being a holiday, consulting with the helpful experts at Seattle’s Marine Sanitation would have to wait. The blasting heat of the mid-90’s contributed to frustration and short tempers. Changing the fuel filters earlier in the day felt like it was a week ago. After a nice dinner, we de-compressed with a music video.
Thursday-Friday, July 5-6. The Village of Albion was still quiet and nearly vacant at 8AM when we took a walk around the commercial district. The True Value Hardware was open as was the NAPA auto parts. I handed the employee at the auto parts the broken belt and asked if he could replaced this. He spent 20 minutes making calls with his wholesaler and checking reference books and announced that this belt could not be located.
We left Albion for the destination of Brockport that advertised power and bathrooms. This part of the trip was dubbed, ”Headless on the Erie Canal.” On the way, the throttle alarm sensor sounded again. A query was sent out to our boating community and several good ideas were received. But that would have to wait while the head issue was resolved.
Several lift bridges were opened for us. All of these highway bridges are just a few feet above the canal and the clearance is rarely more than 15 feet. This clearance prevented the common looper boats from going on the west end of the canal. The amount of boat traffic per year is estimated at 300 to 500 recreational boats. The bridge tenders will answer the marine radio but their phone numbers are also published. Though they make an effort to not delay boaters, some bridge tenders handle more than one bridge and sometimes a wait is necessary.
The countryside was quiet and peaceful as the canal went through farmland of different crops, abandoned farmhouses, and small hamlets of modest homes. Bicyclists were pedaling the trail that used to be used for mules that pulled barges and an occasional kayaker was encountered. The boat traffic was about a total of 6 boats and was the most seen since leaving Towanda. Trilogy found a spot on the long wall in Brockport between two lift bridges and two other boats were there. By the end of the day, 4 more would arrive and there was room for more. With shore power hooked up to run the air conditioner for another day in the mid-90’s, the volunteers at the visitor took the $8 docking fee and provided a key card to the bathrooms. Lunch was in the shade at a nearby picnic table.
I moved into the visitor center to use their Wifi and air conditioning to find a drive belt, a Jabsco service kit or to find a new toilet that could be obtained soon. This 3 hour long quest illustrated the change in the retail services in recent years. No retailers either online or brick and mortar had the drive belt or the service kit for the toilet. The Gates belt company had changed their identifying letters and no one could provide a cross-reference. Jabsco had stopped making this head and the service kit was backordered at the factory.
The dead-ends stopped with a conversation with my favorite marine sanitation company in Seattle, “Marine Sanitation.” Yes, the drive belt was the weak link in the Jabsco model, the service kits are gone and the best fix is to replace the head with a new one and they quickly told me the make and model to get that would fit the variables that Trilogyhas. Plus, they provided the source in the Northeast to get one. The best offer was to have one shipped and it would arrive Monday. Wanting to get one soon, 45 minutes was spent calling a dozen retailers and all of them said; “We can order it for you.”
Sometimes, an attitude of acceptance is all that is needed to brighten the day. Making the order within minutes of a shipping deadline, the new head was on its way to the UPS store in Fairport, NY. With a burden lifted, the town looked nicer and the trip was going to be fun even though the humidity was extremely high. Steaks were grilled, a concert of country guitarist was attended on the canal edge, downtown was walked with a cup of good ice cream in hand. After a shower, the heavy humidity of possible rainstorm was still heavy in the air as we enjoyed another night with the air conditioning on.
The next day, as the weatherman said, fresh air is moving through the region with cooling temperature, lower humidity and no rain in the immediate forecast. The cooler night meant a better and longer sleep and a happier crew and cat. Over breakfast, the decision was made to stay another night because the town is cute, the bathrooms are clean and free, the dockage is only $8, and the volunteers at the visitor will try their hardest to make things easier.
The old head was removed and some of the parts were kept for future projects. The plan was made on doing the install of the new head in Fairport, which would be next stop, and a couple of tools were needed. The rental canal boats left to return to base and end their trip. A Lowe’s was about 1.8 miles away so the bikes were set up, air added to the tires and Laurie’s bike helmet was fitted with new cushions using a cozy for beer cans.
The town was alive with traffic and the cars like people had returned from the July 4thholiday. The bike ride was fun, fast and easy and was the highlight of the day and we discovered a huge Harbor Freight store that had the tools needed plus more. Stops at the Walmart and a Tractor Supply Store rounded fulfilling the shopping list. After lunch on the boat, the toolboxes and bags and supply box were re-organized and stored. After a dinner of fajitas in the shade of the cockpit, we walked to the re-modeled theater that was built in the 1960’s and saw the animation movie, “The Incredibles 2” and laughed.
Saturday, July 7. We were in no hurry because the new toilet would arrive in Fairport on Monday and that was 39 miles away. This is the third day of be being “Headless On The Erie Canal” and we are adapting well. Trilogy pulled away from the dock at 0915 hours under clear skies and temperatures in the mid-70’s. The canal was busier than any other day before with more kayaks, a few fishing boats, and about half-a-dozen westbound cruising boats. The canal is about 100 feet wide. So, every boat is impacted with the wake of another boat and Trilogy worked to be considerate and dropped to a no wake speed at every encounter. Sadly, nearly all the cruising boats did not and left their 1 to 2 foot wake behind them to contend with.
An hour later, Spencerport was passed and we cruised by the small cute town and the free docks that were in good condition and had power. The outskirts of Rochester were signaled by more houses, more roads and bridges and an old and unused industrial area; a leftover of the 150 years of commercial prosperity that was the foundation for growth, innovation, and social change. Rochester was first known as the flour capital of the country because the Erie Canal brought product to the mills and the water generated cheap electricity. Later Eastman Kodak and Xerox would lead and dominate the imaging industry for decades. The seeds and the energy of the anti-slavery and equality for women would grow and nurture here. Today, Rochester is re-developing and trying to not turn into another Buffalo.
The junction of the Genesee River took us off the canal, through the college campus of the University of Rochester and into the beginning of the downtown core. Trilogy was moored on a free wall alongside a broad walkway with new businesses mixed with residential housing. We had a beer and split a salad and fish tacos under an umbrella on the broad patio. Then, we walked to the dam that was built to divert the Erie Canal from continuing on to Lake Ontario. The water was used to spin turbines and it ended the “Aisle of Death” as this portion of the waterway had become known. The downtown was strangely very quiet with almost no cars. Continuing on, Trilogy retraced the way back to the Erie Canal and headed east, through locks 33 and 32 and through another quaint and viable stop at Pittsford, New York. An hour later, at 4:30PM, arrival was made at Fairport and Trilogy passed the more crowded walls between the two bridges and moored at new wall just east of the one lane steel car bridge. $22 was paid for two nights of moorage that include power and use of the new and very clean restrooms.
We had dinner of brauts and leftover fajita in the cockpit as the afternoon was starting to cool. Afterwards, we walked the boardwalk on each side of the canal as a live band was starting and sampled ice cream. Showers were taken and the evening was closed with a movie on the laptop.
Sunday, July 8. The sun woke up Millie at 0530 hours for breakfast and when not fed, she remained deep in the cave under the dinette until 0730 hours. We try to attend an Episcopal church on Sunday and St. Luke’s was about 2 miles away and well within our biking radius. The bike ride there was challenging because the map program got it wrong and the hills made the sweat pop out. Being inherently critical, we immediately noticed the directional signage was inadequate. But we arrived well in advance of the 0900 hours service and were immediately noticed because we were visitors in a group of long-time members, we were the youngest of the 40 people attending and we rode bicycles. Being on a boat in the canal and being from Seattle only added to the talk.
The ride back to the boat was nearly all down hill and most of if was through heavily shaded streets and lanes moderately large homes on large lots of grass and almost no fences. Thus, giving the feel of openness. The day was clear blue skies, temperatures stopping in the high 80’s but with low humidity.
After lunch, I finished installing the new side curtains by installing snaps in the cockpit that match the locations of the ones screwed into the hull. This canvas mesh would provide essential shade protection and the temperature difference of behind it the shade was at least 10 degrees. Then, the Smart Plug was installed on the shore power cable. After witnessing a near boat fire involving our friend’s boat because of a traditional power cord connection, all of our shore power cord connections were switched to Smart Plugs because of the better design and materials. Laurie caught up on her writing and research for the next part of the trip and planned the meals and developed a shopping list. Though the heat was climbing, the cure for being antsy on the boat was to take the folding bikes to explore the residential areas and the path along the canal. The houses were well maintained and the neighborhoods attractive. The bike and walking path along the canal was heavily used and interesting. If we did not already live in a beautiful area in the summertime, this town would be a real contender. Monday, July 9. The heat is back, in the high 80’s under clear skies and pockets of thunderstorms are occurring in the greater region. After breakfast, the waiting for the delivery of the new head is filled with capital campaign work for St. John’s and small boat projects. The 50-pound box was delivered to the local UPS store and it is in hand by 10:30 and the store was kind enough to loan their hand truck for the three-block trip to Trilogy.
Preparing for the work with tools, doing the placement, finalizing the planning of the plumbing and electrical, an Uber ride to West Marine and back for parts, doing the install and cleaning up would take 10 hours. The plumbing plan was adapted to West Marine’s inventory. There was the battle of snaking wiring under the floor and behind a wall, the battle fastening to the floor when not having all the right tools, and the battle of adjusting the height of the discharge line to prevent blockages. Each of these battles lasted about an hour. However, nothing was broken and there was only one re-do. We are no longer “headless on the Erie Canal.
Why do I these big projects? I am cheap about paying someone for work that I can do. I also like the challenge of doing something that I have not before. Lastly, I like the satisfaction of accomplishing the project and solving the problem. Dinner was take-out pizza and wings and a whole quart of ice tea during a break. The evening was closed with a welcome shower.
Tuesday, July 10. Feeling antsy about staying in one place for three days, the reaction would be a long travel day of 54 miles, over 9 hours and travel through 10 locks while traveling from Fairport to Seneca Falls. This region is very rural with towns 15 or so miles apart or what a mule team could pull in a day during the 1800’s. This would be first day where the width of the canal would be wider than 100 feet as it went through small lakes and used established rivers that were now controlled by locks. Heavily forested areas yield to flat and wide marshes that were dotted with abandoned homes.
Bicyclists would be one of the day’s highlights. 700 cyclists were riding from Buffalo to Albany on the Erie Canal and we would see them throughout the morning and at a rest stop in Newark where “mural madness” was happening. This is an event where artists are painting murals in small New York towns.
Since July 4 and on every travel day, the engine’s throttle alarm sensor would sound after the RPM’s would waver and hesitate. Then it would even out and the alarm would clear when the engine as shut down. This happened twice in the morning and then would be perfectly smooth for the following 6 hours.
Seneca Falls was off the Erie Canal on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal that is on the way to Seneca Lake. A place was found on the free town wall. Laundry was started, ice cream was offered in the park, and we enjoyed a brief walk on Main street. Chicken strips were grilled and added to a salad.
Wednesday, July 11. The downtown wall was still and quiet despite having 4 boats near Trilogy. The walking trail and the adjacent parking would be quiet until noon. After breakfast and before the opening of the Women’s Rights National Historical Site, half of the boat was washed and the inside was swept.
The National Park Site that commemorates the first convention calling for equal rights for women was well done. One take away was that 100 women and men signed the Declaration of Sentiments that stated what the issues were. The backlash from the media resulted in all the signers renouncing their decision to sign two weeks after the convention. This road to equality would be long and slow and is still not completed.
The weekly farmer’s market set up their booths in the nearby city park. Fresh beans, coffee and a peach pie were purchased. The nearby Women’s Hall of Fame and the “It's A Wonderful Life” museum were toured. Urban legend has it that the screen writers for the movie were inspired by Seneca Falls though the movie was filmed on a massive set built in Southern California.
After lunch, Trilogy left Seneca Falls and traced her steps back through 3 locks to the Erie Canal and turned east. For the next 37 miles, the cruise was quiet and peaceful, going through rural countryside, farm fields, modest homes, RV camps, and small marinas. Two westbound boats were encountered. The destination was Baldwinsville and the free dock that is close to Lock 24. Arrival was made at 5:30PM and the floating dock was in a pleasant, shaded setting that was next o a bike trail and a large cemetery. A nice breeze kept the evening comfortable. Hamburgers were grilled on the BBQ and the evening was closed with a movie.
Thursday, July 12 and the end of the western portion of the Erie Canal. After breakfast, the bikes were set up to take advantage of the proximity of stores for pre-Canada supplies. The NAPA store had oil for a coming oil/filter change, the Ace Hardware had the items to restore the interior woodwork, and a small convenience store was stopped at. All of the beer was from the Budweiser family and was passed on. Another stop for beer would be done in Oswego, New York. In Canada, the prices for diesel and beer are way higher. All the errands were done, the bikes back in their bags and on the roof of Trilogy and the first lock of the day, Lock 24 was entered at 0915.
This day would end the western portion of the Erie Canal, connect to the Oswego Canal and would end on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oswego, New York. Though only 37 miles, it would take most of the day due to delays at several of the 8 locks that would be transited. Also, the speed limit was 10 MPH the whole day. At 1045 came the Three Rivers Junction where the Seneca, Oswego and Oneida Rivers join and this starts the eastern portion of the Erie Canal. Trilogy would turn north on the Oswego River (or Canal). The lockmaster at Lock 1 said there was a delay for about 20 minutes, which really means 45 minutes to an hour. We tied up to the dock at Phoenix and watched the city kids play in an organized program that included assisting and serving boaters. We had encountered this program on the last loop trip and were impressed by the leadership and commitment of the adults that make this program work.
We passed the former Miller Brewing Company plant that in the 1990’s was making 10 million cans of beer a year. There were more boats because the Oswego Canal is the only access to Lake Ontario but the numbers were still very few on this clear day with ideal cruising conditions. Locks 6, 7 and 8 transit the Oswego Rapids and do the deeper drops down to the lake level. After Lock 7, we stopped on the wall and walked to the nearby grocery store to stock up on beer.
Arriving at the Oswego Marina at 4:45 PM, 54 gallons of diesel was pumped in and a slip was available. Trilogy joined 5 other looper boats. We chatted with three of them through the afternoon and next morning. Most were crossing the lake tomorrow because of the good forecast. Dinner was tacos and the evening was closed with a movie.
KINGSTON TO OTTAWA, ONTARIO AND THE RIDEAU CANAL Friday, July 13 Crossing Lake Ontario. Three of the looper boats were gone by 0800 hours under clear skies with a fresh breeze from the south at 11 MPH. We waited to see if the forecast would come true that the wind speed would drop to single digits. Millie was different today by not getting out of her hiding spot all morning, not having breakfast and remaining deep under the storage area under the dinette for the five hour trip to Kingston, Ontario. But when the sound of an opening can food was heard at lunchtime, she came out and protested about her circumstances.
Trilogy left Oswego at 1000 hours with a full tank of fuel and water. The crossing of Lake Ontario is 55 miles and the weather window was good for this smaller boat with swells of less than a foot and the wind on her stern. After 45 minutes, Trilogymoved up to her fast cruising speed of 15 MPH and would purr along at 3800 RPM and making the 7-hour trip in 5. Yes, we used 22 gallons of fuel and were fine with it. The autopilot and navigation system did all the work with a point selected near an island and the software told the steering system how to get there. Our role is to keep watch, make adjustments and monitor the engine’s performance for any issues. The tug was flawless with no issues or doubts.
Laurie did more research for the coming Rideau Canal, which is pronounced “Reed-oh.” Kingston is a big city with growing skyscrapers, a vibrant urban core that goes to the shoreline. The marina’s dockhands in red polo shirts greeted us at our slip. Customs was cleared by phone and the laundry was started. On this sunny Friday afternoon, a score of sailboats were racing, the sidewalk bars and cafés were busy, and parking was not available in a four-block radius of the marina. Late afternoon and the combination of heat and humidity took its toll on us and we laid low, having taco salad for dinner and reading. Tomorrow, the Rideau Canal is started with a weather forecast of clouds, light winds and the possibility of isolated thundershowers.
Saturday, July 14 and the start of the Rideau Canal. A brief shower happened about 0530 and the morning would remain cloudy but humid with no wind. Later, the clouds would thin out, become thunderheads and the heat would rise to the high 80’s. Trilogypulled away at about 0830 hours and headed north past the Canadian Royal Military College, under the 18’ high bridge to the Rideau Canal channel markers that start on the Cataraqui River.
Typical for the whole day, the lakes would be wide and broad but the red and green channel markers would only be 50 feet apart and these would look like gates on a downhill ski course because the depths would stay under 10 feet. Though Trilogy would only cover 27 miles, there were probably hundreds of pairs of channel markers and it would take nearly all day to travel the distance because of the 6 mile per hour speed limit through the narrowest parts and transiting 11 locks.
The Rideau Canal was built in the 1830’s and is North America’s longest continuing operating canal system. It is a working museum of then state-of-art design and engineering and the most complex construction situations. The canal connects a maze of rivers and lakes with cut canals and 49 locks. The locks are 80 feet long and 29 feet wide with no pumps and few, if any, electrically powered gates. This is a national park and Parks Canada employees are the human power behind opening and closing valves, gates and many swing bridges.
Rangers at the first set of locks checked our pass and provided teaching on how to transit. We moved from a single point of attachment to the lock wall, to two points because the vinyl covered cables were only 10 feet a part and the water was more turbulent during filling. The lock walls are over 170 years old, made of blocks of sandstone and tilt out from the bottom of the lock. Many times, the level of water in a full lock is only inches from the top of the lock wall. As we handled lines from inside Trilogy, we were grateful for the lower freeboard the tug has.
Trilogy hummed along at 1900 RPM with an occasional brief run at 3800 RPM on the open lakes for a total of 5 hours of motoring. The steering is very active and fun. The marshland near Kingston transitioned to forest and then the long Styx River with meadows of cattails. Some of the lakes were populated with pairs of white swans and their teenagers. Some lakes had cottages when a highway was close-by. Otherwise, it was quiet and serene.
Lunch was at the top of a double set of locks where eight boats were docked. Four were there for moorage and two were waiting on the blue line to lock down. As soon as we docked, Laurie and a woman engaged in an intense conversation as she had started the loop just three days before. The destination was the top of Jones Falls that has its own unique story of engineering. There are three locks in succession, called a flight, followed by a small basin where the canal turns to the north and then a fourth lock. Each of the locks on this trip takes 30 minutes to transit. We arrived at the bottom of Jones Falls and waited 90 minutes for the southbound boats to lock through. Then, the four locks took nearly two hours to lock through. Boating on a canal system with locks is a lesson in acceptance of what cannot be controlled and to go with the pace provided. Finishing the locks, there was a spot on the short dock for Trilogy. A parks employee came by to chat and we learned that the canal opens in mid-May and closes in mid-October. The busiest day was 26 boats on Canada Day. We walked to the office and paid the .90 a foot (Canadian) for staying the night. A couple in the mid-70’s were canoeing the Rideau, had portaged around the locks and set up their small tent in the grass. A ski boat brought 3 couples of post high school aged teens and they camped on the shore. Steaks were grilled and served with fresh green beans and the evening was closed with a movie.
Sunday, July 15. The canoeists were paddling away at 0730 hours. Trilogywas underway at 0900 hours and encountered, “The Quarters” which is a short, narrow and winding route to Sand Lake. The name comes from the location of the officer’s quarters during the canal construction and was chosen because it was free of mosquitos whereas the workers and their families were suffering heavily.
9:30 AM came one of the most scenic locks on the canal at Davis Lock. Above the lock, we stopped for a mid-morning snack and found the canoeists were just leaving; they had travelled in two hours what Trilogydid in 30 minutes. We met Brian and Carol who are cruising in a McGregor sailboat and have the ranger tug fever really bad. We spent nearly an hour showing the boat and answering their questions.
The next lock, Newboro, was the busiest on the canal with 9 boats leaving and 6 boats entering. Why was this lock so busy? The proximity to cottages because highways create access, people built cottages, and lots of cottages means lots of boats moving between the lakes. This lock is the highest point on the canal and now Trilogywould be dropping down to Ottawa. The red and green markers switched sides.
Trilogy would spend most of the day on the Upper Rideau Lake and the Big Rideau Lake and the 39 miles covered this day would be easily done because of the fast cruising speed allowed on these big lakes. Rideau Ferry is a small community but the number of ski boats and jet skis on this sunny afternoon would rival any urban lake. The destination was Smith Falls and the dockage above the first lock was too hot and sunny. An exploratory walk past the Victoria Park showed more opportunities in a larger bay. The day was very hot and humid and Laurie nearly had heat exhaustion. Finally, through the lock, past the RV park and the large bay revealed one spot on the wall. When we saw the live band setting up near this spot, we continued on and found an idyllic spot in the shade that was near the next lock and opposite of the blue line. Trilogyhad traveled 39 miles in 5 hours of motoring and eight total hours.
Monday, July 16. After breakfast, the bikes were setup for a 10-minute ride to Canadian Tire for wiring parts to add a water pressure switch at the sink. Laurie did a mild provisioning trip at the nearby grocery store because the backup supplies were gone. Afterwards, we spent an hour at the Rideau Canal Museum. The take-a-ways were: The canal was built for military defense after the War of 1812 because “of the rebel republic to the south.” The canal was a commercial hit to move goods and services and created the foundation for towns and population growth. The principle vehicle to move goods was the Durham Boat that was designed in New England. The boat was 8 feet wide, had an 18 inch draft, a folding mast and was 40 to 60 feet long. Expect for the length, our Ranger Tug has many of these traits.
The canal was funded by the British Treasury, designed by the crown’s engineers and built by private contractors. Strips of the vast old-growth forest were clear-cut to build the canal and settlements clear-cut huge swaths to create fields for farming. 1,000 people died while building the canal and most of those were caused by malaria. Colonel John By solved two problems by opting to flood areas with dams: the granite was very difficult to cut and excavate to dig a traditional canal and the mosquito-infested swamps were turned into lakes.
Trilogy traveled 20 miles between 10 AM and 3:00 PM and transited 11 locks. Many of the locks had swing bridges for the highway traffic and several of these were human powered by simply grabbing the bridge and pushing on it. Several of the locks were electrically powered but the transition to motor powered was stopped when it was found that it was not faster. At a very quiet lock that only had a drop of three feet, the ranger told us that the maintenance crew was doing work on one of the lock doors and could we wait. We had lunch while watching the crew drill holes through the 12” by 20” beams and tighten long bolts to control the long cracks in the beams.
Merrickville was an interesting small town that was busy for a Monday afternoon. That would warrant a visit on the next trip. The historic district looked interesting from the locks and a separate narrow canal accessed the small cove with docks.
The destination was Burritt’s Rapids because there was power on the wall and we were looking to use the air conditioning in the humid, 90-degree heat. This was the third straight day of these uncomfortable temperatures. Just before the lock, there was a barrier blocking the canal at a bridge. Seeing no one, a long blast of the boat's horn brought the sole construction worker who opened the barrier for us. As Trilogy approached the wall, two 40 to 50 foot boats dominated the wall and another Ranger 27 was at the end. There was one spot left, where the wall turned 90 degrees and connected to the lock; perfect for a Ranger 27. Within minutes, we had a nice conversation with Dennis who is from New Jersey and has owned his Ranger 27, Three Cheers, since 2010. He described the few mechanical issues that he had with his Yanmar engine, his expertise at replacing the shear pin in the bow thruster, and the repeated cleanings of the sea strainer while on the canal because of the weeds. Later, we would have a good conversation over ice cream at a nearby bistro with the owners and crew of a Nordic Tug 37 who keep their boat on Oneida Lake on the Erie Canal.
Tuesday, July 17. Using Dennis’ advice, the sea strainer was cleaned for the second time on this trip and very little material was found. By breakfast the temperature and humidity were the same at 78. The Nordic Tug headed south and Dennis would join us in the lock at 0930 hours for the trip north. He would stop at Hurst Marina to have his boat put on its trailer. The canal would be a river the whole day; broad in many areas, narrow in a few and the number of houses on the shore would rise with every mile closer to Ottawa.
We had lunch at the triple lock at Long island Lock and enjoyed the fresh breeze that was coming from the west. We arrived at the double lock and swing bridge at Hogs Back Lock where the lockmaster said that the lift bridge in Ottawa would not open during the afternoon rush hour from 3:30 to 5:30 PM and suggested that a stay at the bottom of this lock would be better than anchoring at Dows Bay.
Parks Canada does an excellent job in selecting, training and leading the employees who work the locks. Without exception, the attitude, demeanor, and helpfulness of all the employees was outstanding. If they could say yes and adhere to the spirit (and not necessarily the letter) of the policy or rule, they would. There is a cultural difference around the topic of expectations between Canadian and U.S. lock operators. In the U.S., boaters must communicate with the lockmasters to receive instructions. In Canada, there is an understanding that the blue line dock before every lock means you want to lock through and when the gates open, you motor in and tie up; there is no conversation just an agreed set of understandings. However, like the U.S. lockmasters, the Canadian employees would call the lock or bridge ahead to prepare them for the boat approaching and many times the lock or bridge was ready for Trilogy.
We would wait 90 minutes here and another 30 minutes at the Pretoria Avenue lift bridge because the bridge operator decided to the delay opening to 6 PM. Trilogy found a spot with power on the long lock wall in downtown Ottawa at 6:30PM with about 20 other boats and would tie up behind a Ranger Tug 29S, Jubilee. The lock wall moorage is in the heart of Ottawa and there was a host of places to see in easy walking distance. This day would end in downtown Ottawa and we did not plan to travel the Rideau Canal in four days. Trilogycovered 40 miles, 6 locks and motored for 6 hours.
Wednesday-Thursday, July 18-19: Ottawa. Yesterday’s breeze brought welcome cooler temperatures and sleep was longer and deeper. After breakfast, the changing of the guard was watched for nearly an hour in a huge field by the parliament building. Then, the set of eight locks that are in one flight at the end of the Rideau Canal was explored. After a break to refresh and re-energize, a 90-minute bus tour of the highlights of Ottawa, and a touch of Quebec was done.
With a taste of Ottawa behind us, a walk to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Byward Market was done on this clear and warming afternoon. Ottawa is consumed with demolition and construction as the older buildings are being rehabilitated and new infrastructure is being added. A city with deep European roots and influence and yet a feel of fierce independence, Ottawa and Quebec seem to co-exist with their differences.
A bagpipe band and a drum corps were listened to before enjoying a dinner at an Irish Pub near the canal. The early evening was spent on Frank’s and Caliee’s Ranger Tug 29S listening and sharing adventures and lessons about cruising. Then, we went to the Northern Lights show that is shown against the massive parliament building and tells the history of Canada.
The next day, having arrived in Ottawa at dinnertime on Tuesday, by the end of Wednesday we had done a lot in 24 hours except rest, slow down and wander. This was a good day for it because it was a bright sunny day, highs in the low 90’s and after the morning exodus of boats, the morning was quiet. The mystery of what lies ahead evaporated after conversations with Frank, Calilee, and Rich and also finding the right chart book in our stash from Ken and Pauline.
Bikes were set up for a ride of the canal, through tree-lined residential streets of old brownstone homes that could have been Boston or New York, and the bike path took us through the working class of old homes and then into the downtown core. The bike paths were great and enjoyed. Back for lunch, Laurie headed out for browsing at stores with her list and I enjoyed the time to write and add a water pressure switch at the galley sink thus saving the effort to constantly use the breaker panel switch. After dinner, we walked to the parliamentary grounds for an advertised concert of military bands. In the shade of a massive building, we listened to bagpipes band warm-up and tune. The concert lasted 90 minutes and included three bands, musket fire and artillery rounds. The crowd of about 8,000 loved it. Ice cream and frozen yogurt was easily found in the huge Rideau Center, a multi-level mall that was easy walking distance from Trilogy.
Friday, July 20 and the end of the Rideau Canal. Trilogywas moved to the blue line at 0700 hours and was the third boat in line. Optimism was high that these boats would go through the final flight of 8 locks when the operation started at 0900 hours. All 8 locks were completely empty of water and the filling operation would put the closest lock, number 8, in the ready mode. All of those reasons and our optimism evaporated when the walk down to the other end of the flight showed 19 boats triple parked on the blue line and others just drifting around. The lockmaster took pity on those boats and told us that the soonest we would go through would be 1230 hours. The lock crew would put boats in every other lock and essentially move the group of 19 through in small groups. Ottawa was not going to let Trilogy go.
The time was used in different ways. Laurie made friends with the people on the other two boats and when the kayaker whom we met days before on the canal joined our little flotilla, she chatted with him. Both of us cleaned the boat inside and out and did some fiberglass polishing. I went to the changing of the guard and enjoyed another military marching band, caught up on writing, and started to diagnose why the searchlight does not work. We watched canoeists and kayakers portage around the lock and sat on a bench in shade watching the crowds who were watching the park staff work the locks.
Trilogy started the flight of locks at 1PM and to the park staff’s credit, we did 8 locks in 90 minutes and started cruising the Ottawa River. This river is broad and long and is comparable to every major river that we have been on. Unlike the Rideau Canal, the number of navigation markers was few and far between. The magenta line on the chart was used to keep clear of the shallow areas. Also, the autopilot was extensively used. With the current gently pushing Trilogy, it was easy to travel at nearly 9 MPH at the slow cruising speed and over 16 MPH at the fast speed.
After leaving the urban core and seeing the residence of the Prime Minister on the high cliff, the countryside took over with only a smattering of homes, an occasional marina and a glimpse of high traffic. Without a bridge, cable ferries are used to cross the river and these are the craft that pull on a submerged cable. We saw the largest operation of cable ferries that we have seen with four ferries, on separate cables making continuous runs across the ¼ mile wide river. The goal is to not cross in front of a ferry. For a few minutes Trilogyplayed dodge ball with the four ferries as they traveled at different rates. 28 miles after Ottawa, Trilogy found a quiet anchorage behind Clarence Island and dropped the anchor in 10 feet of water. The light breeze was refreshing as the air temperature climbed into the low 90’s. After beer in the cockpit, Laurie took a dip in the water and the cockpit mesh was easily deployed to create much needed shade across the stern. Chicken strips were grilled on the BBQ and fresh green beans were heated on the stove. The anchorage was quiet, serene and peaceful. Tomorrow would be completely different.
MONTREAL, QUEBEC TO BURLINGTON, VERMONT
Saturday, July 21 and the Ottawa River.Trilogy was underway by 0715 hours because the day would be long with 72 miles to travel and there would be two locks and a fuel stop. The morning was clear and still and a few persistent mosquitos were waiting for Laurie. For the first two hours, the Ottawa River was flat, broad and only a handful of fishing boats that were working the shoals. Trilogydid a slow fly-by of Montebello, the resort and the town. The resort’s marina and the small marina in the nearby town were both packed with boats. This was our preview of what would happen later in the day.
Not only was this Saturday and brought out all the weekend boaters, but this was the first weekend of the Quebec Construction Holiday, a two-week period where all the construction trades and unions all have a vacation. Though we had hoped to avoid this holiday, weather days and projects had brought us to this period and accepting it was not a matter of choice. There is a distinct profile of boaters on this holiday: newer boats that cruise at 35 knots, often with music blaring that will pass very close and throw a three foot wake; a woman, regardless of age and body type is wearing a string bikini and will be deeply sunburned by the third day; and a mid-age white guy whose belly overhangs his belt.
The fuel stop was at LeFaivre, a small town whose fuel dock was shorter than Trilogybut whose price was 30 cents less per liter than the nearby resort. The guidebooks did not list it. Laurie found it on the AGLCA forum and on Active Captain. This was a local’s place and the dockhand was wonderful and helpful.
Onward, the river would widen to over a mile wide in some places. Much of the larger lakes were very shallow and people were seen standing on the lake bottom next to their boat as they enjoyed the sun and water. The Ontario side of the river was more developed with more houses. The Quebec side of the river was mostly forested to the river’s edge and the development was few and far between. The reason? The access to transportation across the river was very little with only one bridge and a several cable ferries. That would change as we got closer to Montreal with more bridges.
Nearly mid-day and Trilogypassed by the town of Hawksbury that is halfway between Ottawa and Montreal and we felt the first impact of the boaters crowding through the locks as groups of 5 to 7 boats running at 30+ MPH roared at us. In 30 minutes, about 60 fast cruisers, ski boats, runabouts and jet skis met Trilogy.
The Carillon Lock is Park Canada’s highest lift with lock 65 feet and is only about 30 years old. Built large enough to be a lock for commercial traffic that no longer exists, the large lock has a floating dock secured to the floating bollards. The park staff works the dock and ties up the recreational vessels. The lock can handle three boats across and 5 boats long. Sometimes, law enforcement officers work the lock and do safety inspections but not on this day.
The lock angels smiled on Trilogy because the wait was only 5 minutes and only 5 boats were going toward Montreal. When the massive lock doors lifted straight up using the mammoth counter-balance weights, the universe had changed. About 25 boats were waiting for us to leave, the still wind and changed to a fresh breeze on Trilogy’sbow, and the rippled lake surface had changed to white caps.
For the next two hours, we experienced the most populated and chaotic boating experience since New York City harbor. About 250 boats were encountered. Waves of go-fast cruisers came at us as everyone was trying to stay between the red and green markers. Ski boats pulling wake boarders or tubes with yelping kids zigged about. Jet skiers, some in groups of 3 or 4, would swarm toward wakes, cutting hard turns. Then came the sailboat races. Four separate groups of racers protected by race committee boats were strung out on a huge lake and some were away from the group where the go-fast cruisers were plowing ahead. Finally and next to a large marina dominated by sailboats, about 50 large sailboats were randomly tacking back and forth as their full sails heeled the boats at a deep angle.
The day was hot in spite of the wind. Trilogy’s spray from the rough water required that most of the windows remained closed. The heat and the hyper-active steering took its toll on everyone on the tug.
At the final lock of the day, St. Anne’s de Bellevue, the lock angels were again smiling as Trilogy was the last boat in the lock for the three-foot drop. Another go-fast Quebec-er passed us 200 yards from the lock and waked us badly and the irony was we all arrived at the same time. In a few minutes, the gates were closed and the mild drop was done quickly.
The destination was the massive lock wall downstream of the lock. There was concern that the wall would be full given what we had seen. However, a spot for a 27 boat was found. The mesh covering in the cockpit did a good job on shade control and provided some privacy. This was like mooring in the middle of Main Street. The sidewalk was choked with pedestrians, the nearby outdoor restaurants were doing a brisk business and every boat going up or down stream had to pass us. Add to the mix the occasional train and the car traffic from the bridge, and this place was very active.
Dinner was at a seafood restaurant where the fish and chips were wonderful and the garlic shrimp was fantastic. The only set back was the hostess who intentionally seated us in the sun where we silently broiled; guessing that she was having a bad day, did not like English speaking Americans, did not like President Trump or perhaps all of the above. The weather forecast was for wind and rain and the decision was made to look at a 0600 hours departure the next morning. The concern was the waves caused by the fetch in the large bay that lies downstream of Montreal. As the evening cooled, showers were taken. Laurie and Millie provided entertainment on the dock as the walkers stopped to gawk at the boat cat with the accompanying storytelling.
Sunday, July 22 and the beginning of the St. Lawrence Seaway. At the St. Anne’s de Bellevue lock, the Ottawa River ends and the St. Lawrence Seaway begins but the navigational aids would switch at the main shipping channel. During the night the breeze rose and the open hatch above the V-berth sucked in the cold air. At 0530 hours, the sun was up and the current conditions were an 11 MPH breeze from the east and this would continue through noon. The decision was made to go and to proceed at Trilogy’s “slogging” speed where the bow would be pushed up to go over the wind waves, the speed would be 10 MPH and fuel efficiency would be sacrificed for a better ride.
Trilogypulled away from the dock at 0615 hours and when it was clear of the protection of land, the 2-foot wind waves were on the bow and about 2 seconds a part. The slogging speed of 3100 RPM’s worked very well and for the next 90 minutes the engine burned 4.5 gallons an hour at 10 MPH and the ride was very comfortable with some spray hitting the cabin.
This route would require that both of us had to pay attention. While driving the boat, I kept the chartplotter on the close-up view to avoid shoals and simply drove from marker to marker as the tug plowed through the wind waves. Laurie used the Navonics chart on the IPad to watch the bigger view and to make sure all the right turns were made because the route would go south, then east, then south and finally north and there were junctions at each turn.
Trilogyturned into the Canal De La Riva Sud that is the main shipping channel to Montreal and bypasses the original rapids by using two huge commercial locks. Soon, we were following a freighter and at 0830 hours stopped at the small boat dock at Lock 1 – St. Catherine - and waited for the freighter to lock through. Three other pleasure boats joined Trilogyand we all locked through at 1000 hours. The fee for the lock was $30 and the vending machine was out of order. We paid cash and learned that paying on-line through PayPal provides a $5 discount. Now, short of Canadian cash, the next lock payment at St. Lambert was made on-line. The occasional drizzle turned to a steady rain and would last the rest of the morning and into the afternoon.
All of us motored together the 10 miles between these two huge commercial locks and arrived at 1115 hours. We had caught up with the freighter and would wait for it to lock through. Laurie called the lockmaster on the phone provided at the small boat dock and learned that the next locking for us would be at 2 PM. The time went by with reading, writing and watching. Trilogy locked through at about 2:30 PM with the same three boats as before. Where the canal meets the St. Lawrence, the current was raging at about 7 knots and Trilogyhad to power up to fast cruising to power through it at 8 MPH. The distance to the Montreal Yacht Club was only about two miles but the trip was entertaining. The location is in the heart of the historic port district. The tug was backed into a short slip and within an hour, docktails were served and two loads of laundry were being done. The evening was closed with reading and posting reviews on Active Captain.
Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, July 23-24-25. The folding bikes would play a big part in enjoying and exploring the old port district of Montreal. With only a few days, we accepted the fact that our attention would focus on the old city, a large district with narrow streets, over 100-year old buildings with no spaces between them and were contained behind a wall for protection. Though the wall is gone, the foundation can be seen in many places. Montreal has a distinct European flavor both in architecture and food, French is the dominant language, and the feeling of the deep roots of European culture. 25% of the population is first generation immigrants from many places. Over the course of the next three days, only one formal tour was done though we toyed with the notion of doing more but the cost was either too rich for our blood or the places they were going we had either biked or walked to.
The stay in Montreal was extended by two days due to weather: gusty winds from the south reaching 25+ MPH with scattered rain cells was fine for the St. Lawrence Seaway because the wind would be behind Trilogy and covering the 44 miles to Sorel would be fast. But, the marinas in Sorel received mixed reviews and going into the wind on Richelieu Canal in these high winds was problematic. The decision was where to spend two days waiting for better weather and Montreal was the choice.
The city has good bike paths both along the waterfront and in the urban core. On the densely packed city streets, rather than setting aside bike lanes on each side of the street, a two-way bike lane is carved out of the right-of-way only on one side. Also, rather than bike lanes on every street, only a couple of streets have bike lanes. Unlike Seattle and Portland, Oregon where bikes have a higher status than cars, there are streets and bridges where cyclists must walk their bikes and some downtown streets have banned all vehicles and turned them into walking only.
The morning was spent exploring the bike paths and taking in the sights. A provisioning run was made to the nearby IGA store that was well stocked with a lot of variety. After the tug was re-provisioned, Montreal’s Notre Dame was located and then the large area that was chock full of small cafés was explored and lunch was sharing a crepe. In the afternoon, Laurie explored a museum while I napped and then we found a Ben and Jerry’s shop. Dinner was a grilled steak on the BBQ and the evening was closed with a movie. Rain woke me up in the darkness and the hatch and windows to the south were closed. Like the day before, the day would be cloudy, highs in the high 70’s with humidity to match the temperature, and an occasional rain cell would douse the area.
After breakfast, the bikes took us nearly 4 miles along the original canal, the Lachine Canal, that is used only for recreational vessels with an air-draft of 8 feet or less. The wind was gusting in the high teens from the south and this would continue into the next day. In the 1800’s the canal was the blood artery for the Montreal economy because factories, grain silos and industry lined both sides of the canal as boats brought items to market and took product to customers. Today, the canal is Parks Canada property, the five locks are only occasionally used, a few of the old factories have been converted into residential properties, and the shoreline is bike trails, walking trails, and picnic areas. At least a dozen residential medium high-rise buildings are under construction.
We discovered the large farmers market and enjoyed the variety of products, food available and had lunch. Cycling back to the historical core one museum was closed and another was passed on due to reviews. Back at the boat, Laurie took a nap while I learned the searchlight was not repairable and finished cleaning the engine room. We had wine and crackers with Debbie and Walter on their Grand Banks 42. They started the loop and are headed upstream on the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Thousand Islands and the Great Lakes. Laurie had found a food tour of historic Montreal that is a combination of food and history. She booked it because it was unusual. The next morning, the wind was still up and day would live up to the forecast: blustery, cloudy, humid and periods of rain. We met the tour at a café that was in one of the oldest bank buildings in the city. There were 11 people from Norway, Australia, New Jersey and Texas. Our guide, Christian, is a Montreal native and for the next 3 hours weaved in the history of the city as we walked past historic building and visited 5 cafés where a pre-selected item was waiting for us. A great experience and a highlight. Afterwards, we walked to a museum that captured the chronology of Montreal and then walked through the busy urban core to a grocery store. Back at Trilogy, another load of laundry was done before the skies opened up with a very heavy, soaking rain. Grilled cheese sandwiches and gin rummy closed the evening. We were still full from the food tour scrumptious delights!
Thursday, July 26 the start of the Richelieu River and heading south. The weather forecast was spot-on with light winds from the south and heavy cloud cover. The humidity would continue to challenge us being between 70 and 80%. We knew that this could be a long travel day if the conditions remained good. By the end of the day, Trilogy would travel 90 miles in 10 hours. The route was laughable, 44 miles north on the St. Lawrence Seaway and then turn south for 46 miles. When we stopped for the day in Chambly, Trilogy was about 35 miles southeast of Montreal.
We left the Montreal Yacht Club at 0715 hours and immediately surfed the 7-knot current that was coming off the rapids in this narrow part of the St. Lawrence River and Trilogywas doing 13 MPH. The heavy industrial area of freighters at anchor and at the heavy wharf and the acres of shipping containers would last for several miles. The clouds stayed low for several hours with an occasional drizzle, hiding the tops of the electrical transmission cables. Trilogy’s running lights and radar were operating.
Laurie shared the history of the area, the deportation of people whom the majority was afraid of, the conquest of New France by Britain and the brief conquest by the Americans during the revolutionary war and their huge mistake of bringing small pox and closing the Catholic churches. The French culture stayed alive in the small farming communities.
Two hours into the trip, a moderate rain shower was motored through and the French community of Vercheres was passed. 1115 hours, Trilogy came to Sorel where the Richelieu River empties into the St. Lawrence. The St. Lawrence River had carried the tug along at a steady 2 knot current.
Sorel is an industrial town and some of the rusting hulks of the past on the Richelieu River. Cornfields and other farming took over, except for the occasional housing development with private docks. Communities came and went with houses on the shoreline, small marinas with no wake zones, and the occasional boat pulling a wake boarder or a tube with kids. Wonderful small French towns like Saint Roch de Richelieu, Saint Ours, Saint Denis sur Richelieu, Saint Antoine sur Richelieu, Saint Charles sur Richelieu, Saint Marc sur Richelieu, Beloeil, Saint Mathias sur Richelieu. Each community had a huge Catholic Church visible from the river.
After Saint Mathias sur Richelieu, the river widens into the Chambly Basin with the town of Chambly on the southern shore and the start of the Canal de Chambly. Laurie called the lockmaster by phone because there is a wall with power above the three locks that are built as a flight. If there was not room, there were two other options: anchor at the foot of the huge Catholic Church or stay on the lock wall. The lockmaster said there was room for Trilogy on the wall above the locks. The tug was alone in the locks as it raised us above the lake level in three steps. After docktails, hamburgers were grilled and the small town was walked through. A public Zumba class was being held in the city park, the outdoor restaurants were doing a brisk business and we found the best gelato on the trip. The evening was closed with a music video as a handful of the town’s teenagers fished for perch off the lock wall.
Friday, July 27 and the Canal de Chambly. The morning started with a walk to the nearby Fort Chambly that was built to defend Canada “from the pesky Americans” following the War of 1812. We also got a glimpse of the rapids that is the natural river. Back at Trilogy, a Parks Canada employee told us that Trilogy would be number 3 of 6 boats going in the same lock and our start time was in 10 minutes at 0900.
Traveling 36 miles would take nearly the whole day but the distance does not describe the journey. The Canal de Chambly was carved out of the dirt and rock in the 1840’s to move wood products around the wide and shallow Richelieu River as it spilled downstream over rocks. The canal is 10 miles long, has 9 locks and 9 bridges is about 20 feet across and with a depth of 5 to 6 feet that will cause the deep draft vessel captains anxiety and heartburn. These 10 miles will take 4.5 hours to travel mainly because of the time it takes for the group of boats to find their places in the lock.
The first three locks are close together. The next lock is about ¼ mile away and these four locks took two hours to transit. French speaking residents of Quebec ran the other 5 boats. The Parks Canada staff easily moved from French to English and they seemed to know that we are English speakers – must be the American flag on the transom. The canal has bike trails on both sides and cyclists were easily going faster than the boats.
The Parks Canada staff run a tight operation by assigning boats to a spot in the lock, enforcing the 6 MPH speed limit by timing the boats as they travel for 90 minutes between two groups of locks because boats coming in the other direction must be timed and coordinated so on-coming boats can pass in the few wide spaces and bridge openings do no create too much chaos in the town. Also, the bridge tenders will drive from one bridge to another to open and close them.
The scenery was just great. At the start, Trilogy was in the heart of the town of Chambly and within two miles this faded away to cornfields. Then came the town of Saint Jean Sur Richelieu and the canal was next to busy city streets with shops, traffic and stop lights.
With the canal behind us, Trilogy was on the Richelieu River, which at some arbitrary point became Lake Champlain. The lake is over 500 feet across with variety of depths including very shallow ones. The dark clouds created a spontaneous rainsquall that soaked the tug for about 15 minutes and then continued past. 20 miles later, Trilogy crossed into the U.S. and stopped at the temporary customs dock and trailer that is under U.S. highway 2 – the same highway that we travel nearly everyday on in Snohomish County, Washington. Our check-in as quick, easy and done by very helpful and pleasant Customs Border Protection Officers. With the afternoon coming to a close and the south wind kicking up the lake, we were looking for a marina and the reviews on the Active Captain website directed us to the Gaines Marina. We found a down-to-earth and sincerely friendly staff whose dockage rates were great and the price of diesel was $2 less per gallon than in Canada. Laurie made a phone call to the marina in Burlington for the next day and was able to book a spot in the full marina because of a last minute cancellation.
BURLINGTON, VERMONT AND THROUGH THE ERIE CANAL
Saturday, July 28 and the start of Lake Champlain.The morning wind forecasts were 5 to 15 MPH from the south for nearly the whole day. Trilogy pulled away from the dock at 0715 hours and about a mile later went around a long break water that illustrated the need to block the wind waves caused by a consistent wind flow from the south that over the 70 mile length of the main lake, will create serious waves.
For the next four hours, Trilogy will take the 1-2 foot waves and later more 3 footers on the bow. The boat handling strategy is to forget about fuel efficiency and work to find the best and safest ride possible or what we called, “Slogging Speed.” At 3100 RPM, the bow is highest, the waves hit the hull at about ¼ of the length back and very little spray hits the windshield. The speed is 10 MPH and the engine is using 4 GPH.
The land is heavily forested on both shores and continues into the hills. Like Chesapeake Bay, the marinas are loaded with large sailboats. Laurie told the story of the battles during the Revolutionary War that occurred here. We arrived in Burlington, Vermont’s largest city of 47,000 and found the waterfront was busy with a festival that had live bands, exhibits and the marina that we will stay at is hosting an antique boat show. Trilogy slid into tight spot that is perfect for a 27-foot boat with an 8’ 6” beam and only draws 2.5 feet. The stern of the massive sightseeing ship, the Ethan Allen III was only 6 feet away and though the ship left 4 times a day for a tour, it had almost no impact on us. We were in the same row as the antique boats and within minutes of landing, Laurie was answering questions about the not-so-antique tug.
After lunch, the bikes were set up and we cycled the bike paths through the festival and the crowds from throughout the region who were enjoying the weather. The weather changed quickly with two cells of thunderstorms passing through, changing the direction and speed of the wind and dropping a lot of rain very quickly. We found cover and waited both of them to pass. Then, the bikes were parked and we walked up to Church Street where Burlington had closed the street to cars for at least 6 blocks and every store and outdoor restaurant was doing a brisk business.
Burlington is an incubator for liberals. Being both a college town and in the center of New England, the demographic is primarily white and middle to upper middle class people. T-shirts and Birkenstocks are the summer uniform. We took it all in and enjoyed ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s that started in Burlington in 1978. There were no recognizable chain grocery stores but the local one was good, a blend of Trader Joes and Whole Foods without the steep prices and the backpacks were filled. After docktails, hot dogs were grilled on the BBQ and served with green beans. A new band was performing and we could plainly hear it 300 yards from the venue and watched the sunset on the shoreline. It was an amazing one!
Sunday, July 29. The volatile weather had passed and day would be cooler with partly cloudy skies, little wind and flat water. We walked the 8 minutes to St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral for the 0930 service. The people were outwardly pleasant but not demonstrably nice or friendly as almost no one engaged with us on any level. The service was good, the organ music was outstanding and the message was worthwhile.
We asked each other the question, should we stay the rest of the day and night here? When the answer was, “I am not feeling the need to,” the tug was prepared for departure and within 45 minutes, Trilogy left the dock at 1130 and headed south. The water was flat, the winds were calm and there was no threat of the storms of yesterday.
The boating season on Lake Champlain is May to October and with that window of opportunity, today was an example of lots of boat use. Trilogy did its normal pattern of 45 minutes at 2200 RPM’s, 8.2 MPH and using 2.0 gallons an hour and filling the hour at a cleansing speed that exercised the turbo charger at 3800 RPM, 15 MPH and used 7.2 gallons per hour. Wakes would be an issue and the strategy to deal with them was different if they were oncoming or being caused by vessels passing the tug. On-coming wakes are easy, just stay the course because the angle they hit the tug is like quartering waves. However, wakes caused by vessels passing the tug are another matter. Most of these, the tug is turned to take them bow on. Much depends on the passing vessel, if it is a piece-of-shit Sea Ray or a piece-of-shit Carver 52 footer, these wakes are often 3 feet high and very close together. The tug will take these on the bow and at a very low speed or damage occurs inside the cabin by things falling over.
The destination options were anchorages that provided protection from southerly winds. Laurie had identified three options and the third was chosen. Giards Bay is really a wide place in the river where there was significant land protection. The anchor was dropped in 4 feet of water at 3:30 PM after traveling 37 miles. The shoreline has summer homes that are widely spaced apart. The forest provided shade for the homes. Most homes had a boat swinging on a mooring ball. Above the short rise from the water, farmland extended outward. The afternoon was pleasantly quiet and there was little boat traffic that caused wakes. Shade protection and fans was the defense for the temperatures in the high 80’s.
Monday, July 30 and the Champlain Canal, New York State Canal System. The night was calm and peaceful. The anchor was raised at 0800 hours and Trilogy headed south on Lake Champlain that had narrowed down to resemble a large river. The Coast Guard was really skimpy on the buoys that marked the shallow areas leaving the boater to pay closer attention to the chartplotter.
The replica of Fort Ticonderoga was passed by and this would be another example of not having a dock for boaters to access the park. The story of the fort is about its strategic location and involved conquests by the French, British and the Americans in the 1700’s. The abundance of birdlife increased dramatically when the lake was within the boundaries of Adirondack State Park. Dozens of herons, egrets, eagles and osprey had a food supply that was likely directed related to the quality of water in the park.
Whitehall, New York was the birthplace of the U.S. Navy when a fleet of ships was built to combat the British invasion from the north. Today, the Lock and Dam #12 marks the end of the end of Lake Champlain and the beginning of the Champlain Canal system of 11 locks that will end near Waterford, New York. The canal system is a combination of rivers and man-made canals and Trilogy started a 6 mile long canal, arrow straight and is 100 feet wide.
About every hour, we would go through a lock and be the only boat in the lock. Only about 10 recreational boats were seen all day. Nearly all the locks were waiting and ready for us and the lift or descent time was very short. At 4:15 PM, we passed through Lock 7 at Fort Edward, New York and took the short canal to the free wall that is maintained by the canal system. This would be the highest wall that we had docked on but the number of ladders recessed into the wall made the issue only a minor one. 59 miles were covered in 8 hours. There was one other sailboat on the wall.
We walked about town for about 30 minutes and the old part of the town near the canal was really sad with closed stores, buildings in dis-repair, and no sign of energy or hope that the future was going to be better. Dinner was lasagna and was closed with a movie.
Tuesday, July 31 and started the eastern portion of the Erie Canal in Waterford. This would beanother day with heavy dew on the cabin of the tug. The morning was cloudy, warm, and the air was still the caused the canal to be mirror flat. We pulled away from the wall at 0815 hours, went passed Lock 7 and the canal joined the Hudson River into one wide passage way. Throughout the first part of the day, Trilogy would run the river and then the navigational buoys would take her to a diversion canal that was 100 feet wide to where a lock would be.
Trilogy would travel 37 miles and go through 6 locks in 6 hours. This is region is doted with small towns such as Fort Miller, Schuylerville, Victory, Stillwater, Mechanicville, and Waterford. Between them is farmland that was carved out of the forest. The shoreline is forested with a sprinkling of full-time homes and second homes. A key battle of the Revolutionary War occurred at Saratoga that is near Stillwater and involved the Hudson River. The Americans defeat of the British created the much needed momentum and convinced the French to become an ally.
Trilogy turned onto the Mohawk River that is the start of the Erie Canal and found dock space on the free canal wall in Waterford that is immediately before the first set of locks. The harbor host greeted us and would help find a grocery store, an auto parts store, a Laundromat and a hair salon. Laurie got an immediate appointment for a haircut and I started the job of changing Trilogy’s oil and filter. That project was delayed with the oil extractor pump failed. When Laurie returned, the bikes took us the nearby Hannaford’s grocery store and I continued on to the auto parts store. Waterford is stagnant town where the infrastructure is decaying, road maintenance is badly needed and urban blight has taken hold. A hand pump was bought and then I met Laurie at the grocery store to help bring back the large provisioning supplies. With the heat and humidity high in the later afternoon, dinner was served after docktails and later the oil change project was done while Laurie did the laundry.
Wednesday, August 1 – day with friends.We had known Dan and Sherry since 1978 when we all worked for the National Park Service in Astoria, Oregon. Just great people with a lot in common, Dan had a rich and fulfilling career in the park service while our lives went in another direction. They live near Albany, New York and we last saw them when we passed through in 2014 while doing the Great Loop. They met us at Trilogy and after a tour of the small spaces, we visited the nearby state park and then drove to Saratoga Springs home of the famous horse racing track and a vibrant town with an interesting downtown where we had a picnic lunch in a park. After walking downtown and having coffee, they took us to their hardware store for propane and a couple of tools. Then, we went to their house on a small lake and enjoyed the afternoon and dinner together. A great visit and time well spent.
Thursday, August 2. The day started sooner than expected with the sound of diesel engines at 0730 hours. Our two neighbors from Canada, a Meridian yacht and a 50-foot classic antique wood boat had talked to the nearby lockmaster and would be going through in 10 minutes. Without breakfast or coffee, Trilogywas ready to go in 5 minutes and we got an early start on the first 5 locks that would talk a total of 90 minutes to transit.
If you do something long enough, you will experience all that can go wrong with that activity. Laurie and I have probably done over 250 locks in our boating career and probably nearly half of those while on this trip. The loop that was put around the fixed cable in the lock wall got hung up on the hardware at the cable’s bottom end. Most cable ends are contained in a steel bracket. This one was not and the clamps and bolts to secure the cable were exposed. As Trilogy rose in the lock, the loop did not slide up and soon the rope was taut and pulling the side of the boat downward. No, the boat would not capsize because the rope or a piece of hardware would fail first.
But, fast action was needed. I made a feeble attempt with the boat hook to snag the loop but the boat was leaning into the lock wall and I aborted my effort just in time to stop from being caught between the boat and wall. I got the line un-cleated before Laurie needed to cut it with the knife she had. Let go, the tug drifted in the lock chamber and the thrusters were just barely able to control her. To Laurie’s credit, she did not let go of the end of the line and soon the angle was right for the loop to get past the snag and was free. Both the jack-line and the loop line got seriously stretched but nothing broke and no one was injured.
Another observation, things go wrong at either the very start of the day or at the very end.
We had planned to do a long day and accomplished that with traveling 60 miles and transiting 13 locks in10 hours. We traveled half of the day with the same two boats until the wooden antique one stopped in Schenectady and the Meridian stopped at Lock 11. There were almost no other boats on the water in either direction. How is that possible in the highest season of the year?
Except for the first 5 locks, the rest of the locks were nearly evenly spaced out every 5 to 10 miles. These locks were in worse shape than the locks on the western portion with walls crumbling. Also, not all of these had been upgraded to have either pipes or cables. Several times, we had to grab the wet and slimy lines with gloved hands and use considerable strength to keepTrilogy under control. Finally, in several locks, the lines were nearly too short for the boats like Trilogywho do not stand tall in the water.
The majority of this day was through very rural New York and the canal was the broad and curvy Mohawk River. Either forest or farmland extended as far as the eye could see. Trilogy had been in constant motion for 8 hours until a break was taken at Lock 12. We considered staying the night until the weather service broadcasted a flash flood watch for the area beginning tomorrow afternoon. Very heavy rain was forecasted. Flash flooding could impact the operation of the locks. We opted for the strategy of trying to get out of the watch area and getting to Rome, New York tomorrow. To do that meant doing more miles today.
Trilogy did 17 more miles and another lock in 90 minutes, arriving at Canajoharie at 5:45 PM. The sky was cloudy, the air still and humid and temperatures in the high 80’s. The free town dock was appreciated though the power did not work. This is not a quiet place. I-90 is 200 yards away, the major rail line with trains running every 30 minutes is 300 yards away and the major highway bridge is overhead. Everyone was toast. After docktails, hamburgers were grilled on the BBQ and served with cole slaw.
Friday, August 3. The light rain started to come though the front hatch and woke us up. The rain would come and go throughout the day and the sky would remain cloudy but the temperature and the humidity would remain high. We would go through 7 locks and travel 55 miles as we traveled westbound on the Erie Canal and headed toward the Oswego Canal. A fuel stop was made at St. Johnsville, NY.
The locks are individually different based on when the lock was re-built. The latest re-builds have welded steel walls and these were not designed for the end-user; the boater who must use hanging ropes to secure their boat in the lock. The earlier re-built locks were cast concrete and these had rigid pipes or steel cables recessed into the walls. The boater could secure their craft to the pipe or cable and the lift was safer.
Lock 17 at Little Falls, New York is an unusual one because rather than doors that swing, the east gate is lifted with the help of a huge counter-balance. Entering the lock is like entering a huge cave. Little Falls was thoroughly enjoyed during the previous trip and the intention was to go to new places.
Trilogy stopped at Rome, New York and their free town dock that is part of an expansive city park. A carnival was setting up for the weekend celebration of Canalfest. This was a full community event with police officers, volunteers, and Rotarians. A marginal rock band played throughout the evening and soft serve ice cream with chocolate syrup was enjoyed after dinner. The fireworks show was spectacular and the tug’s cockpit provided a front row seat.
Saturday, August 4 and a chance meeting with Joe and Connie. We were awakened by the sound of kids fishing from the dock as the fishing derby had started. After breakfast, the bikes were set up and they easily took us to Fort Stanwix National Monument and arriving before the park opened at 0900 allowed us to bike the grounds. When the visitor center opened, we thoroughly enjoyed the excellent museum that was well-planned and executed with great media and displays. Then, we explored the huge fort.
This is a park that was created to tell an historical story but also was a centerpiece of urban renewal. The original fort was long gone. A replica built in 1927 was also gone. The city convinced Congress to buy an entire city block that was crowded with buildings, raze them, find the original foundations of the fort, and build a new replica. Today, Fort Stanwix is the centerpiece of Rome, New York. The story told was also compelling because it provided the whole picture from different voices that created an appreciation of the events that occurred over two hundred years.
Trilogy pulled away from the dock at 1045 hours and traveled 15 miles and through two locks to Sylvan Beach at Lake Oneida where the congestion caused by weekend boaters was higher than anything we had seen for several weeks. Trilogy did the 20 mile crossing at her fast cruising speed and topped-off the fuel tank in Brewerton where diesel was $2.99 a gallon. Going through Lock 23 was near the junction with the Oswego Canal. Turning right, Trilogy re-traced her wake and stopped at Phoenix at 4:45 PM and traveled a total 48 miles. We last saw Joe and Connie last winter in Fort Myers, Florida. We have known them since doing a large portion of the Great Loop together in 2014. Now, they are using their fiberglass RV trailer to explore New England and they were in the area and came to Phoenix. We had a great time, with good friends, having docktails in the shade of a tree and then had dinner at a local pub. Connie took Laurie to the store for some last minute provisioning while Joe and I chatted aboard Trilogy.
THE THOUSAND ISLANDS AND THE TRENT SEVEREN WATERWAY, ONTARIO
Sunday, August 5 and the start of the Thousand Islands. The morning air was calm, the water was still and the dew was heavy. The weather forecast was for hot weather and the forecasters would be right. Lock 1 is near the Phoenix town wall and Trilogywas in the lock at 0825 hours, a repeat of three weeks before. Over the next four hours, Trilogy would travel 24 miles and transit 7 locks. We met a grumpy lockmaster who did not communicate on any level; radio or face to face. Maybe he was called in to work on his day off and was thoroughly grumpy about it. Though we had traveled this route two other times, it was new in the sense of different lighting, time of day and with new sounds and textures.
The idea was to get to Oswego and then make a destination decision that was based on the weather, lake conditions, our level of endurance and desires. We also had to meet up with Joe and Connie to retrieve a Yeti beverage cooler that is used frequently and was accidently left with them. After enjoying Joe and Connie, the decision was made to explore the U.S. side of the Thousand Islands at the possible expense of missing some or all of the Tug Rendezvous in Orillia. We had been to Orillia and to several rendezvouses and had not seen these islands.
We headed to Henderson Bay to anchor out. Lake Ontario had 1-foot waves from the southwest and these would grow as the east end of the lake came closer. Trilogy traveled most of the 30 miles at her fast cruising speed of 15 MPH. At Stony Island, Laurie found the weather forecast had changed for the next two days with strong winds from the south. Henderson Bay was too far from the core of the islands and fearing that Trilogy could be stuck for two days, the destination was changed to Cape Vincent, a small town of 2,000 in New York that was on the mainland and close to the popular places.
We knew that this would turn into an unplanned long day of 75 tough miles with 7 locks, an active lake crossing and then zigzagging to quarter through the waves that hit Trilogy’s beam. Cape Vincent has a free town dock and we arrived at 5:30 PM. 8 boats from Quebec had nearly taken the dock over but they would be good neighbors. At the head of the dock was a space big enough for Trilogyand had a depth of 2 feet that kept the big cruisers rafted to each other. We were hot, tired and not feeling sociable. After docktails, steaks and zucchini were grilled on the BBQ. Then, we found the only business open on this quaint main street, an ice cream store that had a dozen people in line. We had never waited 30 minutes for ice cream before but the ice cream was worth it. The evening was closed with showers and reading.
Monday, August 6 and Clayton, New York. A short walk of the neighborhood was enjoyed after breakfast. The fresh breeze from the southwest had already created white caps on the St. Lawrence River when Trilogy left the dock at 0930 hours. The breeze and the current pushed us eastward along the international border. The tug stayed slow and found the sweet spot of a comfortable ride in the following sea while using the depth contours on the chart to stay at a safe depth while enjoying the houses on the shore. 15 miles and two hours later, we rounded Bartlett Point, crossed the bay and tied up at the Clayton Town Dock. Clayton is the economic and community center of the Thousand Islands on the American side.
Within an hour, the dock was full with boats from Quebec that were traveling together. The dock offers little protection from swells from the bay but the ride was better at sundown. After lunch, the afternoon was spent at the Antique Boat Museum and walking the compact downtown. The boat museum is the centerpiece of Clayton and does an excellent job of memorializing the history of the islands in the context of wooden boats. We walked the small downtown and toured the shops. The afternoon was hot and sultry. The tug’s air conditioner worked all day and all night. Dinner was Lasagna and served with can fruit. Long conversations were held on the phone with Karen and the inspection of the house she is buying.
Tuesday, August 7, Boldt Castle and anchoring.I did not hear the weather alert on my phone at 0500 hours that a severe thunderstorm was approaching but the lightning and thunder was a good alert. The rain pounded the tug and the wind squall kicked up the bay so much that swells rocked Trilogy for several minutes. In about 45 minutes, it was gone. The clouds would remain low until mid-morning and the southwest breeze would be constant, yet the humidity would remain high and the temperature would be in the low 80’s.
Trilogy left Clayton at 0830 hours and with the wind at her back and riding the one-knot current, passed hundreds of small islands that had many, many structures on them. The Thousand Islands had been developed and populated during the summer time for over 100 years. Then, the St. Lawrence Seaway routinely froze, now the winters are bitter cold but the river does not freeze. Continuing through the American Narrows and under the massive highway bridge that resembled the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, we traveled 12 miles and stopped for fuel at Alexandria Bay because there are items that boaters try not to buy in Canada: fuel and alcohol. There were three operations selling diesel. The high priced one was passed, the one selling Valvtect fuel was rejected (remember Buffalo?), and we settled on paying $3.48 a gallon.
After fuel, the channel was crossed to Heart Island, docked at the small boat dock to tour the Boldt Castle that was open for business. This massive castle is a huge tourist draw and is a significant contributor to the area’s economy. The story is more about a government agency, The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, getting a horribly rundown property and building and doing an incredible job of restoration. The story of hotel baron George Boldt acquiring the island and paying hundreds of workers to build the castle as a tribute to his love for his wife who died before it was finished and then walked away from the project is dwarfed by the accomplishment of today’s craftsman and the vision of the agency’s leadership. We had lunch on the dock as the island quickly filled with tourists coming on a wave of sightseeing boats and many private boats. For the remainder of the afternoon, the number of boats in this part of the Thousand Islands was very high. Trilogy went around the eastern tip of Wellesley Island and headed southwest on the Canadian Middle Canal. Rockport was supposed to have a customs dock to check in but could not be found. Snaking through the Navy Islands at 8 MPH, at least a hundred homes were enjoyed. Trilogy made landfall in Canada at Gananoque Municipal Marina and a call was made to Canadian Customs. A cellular phone works just as good as a pay phone. The nearby Admiralty Islands were explored and three options were assessed for docking or anchoring. All of the Parks Canada docks were full. A wonderful anchorage was found between Lindsay and Beaurivage Islands in 4 feet of water. We dipped and swam in the warm water, cleaned the grime off of the hull and enjoyed the coolness on the early evening. Trilogy had traveled 33 miles.
Wednesday, August 8 and the end of the Thousand Islands. The anchor was pulled at 0800 hours and Trilogy headed west bound on Bateau Channel after snaking among the small islands. Heading down the main channel with the Canadian mainland on the starboard side, Kingston was passed at 0945 hours and this is where we started the Rideau Canal weeks before.
The North Channel is between Amherst Island and the mainland. The 12-mile long island provides protection from the battering waves from Lake Ontario. Laurie presented the history of the island and the controversy about the growing number of wind turbines.
Then, the tug followed the Z-shaped channel past Picton and Deseronto and headed right into a cell of heavy rain. Visibility dropped to less than an 1/8 of a mile. The weather radar showed the cell was a dark orange and was barely moving in the still air. The radar and the chartplotter provided the guidance and the autopilot kept the course. Two sailboats were seen; one was lost and kept circling a navigation buoy and the radio traffic between them was they were going to wait for the rain to let up.
At Belleville, the rain had stopped. A short distance is the community of Trenton and the Trent Port Marina was only partly cloudy. Trilogy arrived at 4:45 PM having travelled 87 miles. The marina that we stayed at four years ago was gone and the newer one was very nice with free laundry, outstanding bathrooms and the grocery store was very close. Throughout the evening, we met a number of boaters and shared our story.
Thursday, August 9, the start of the Trent-Severn Waterway and Campbellford. The morning skies were partly cloudy and the temperature was cool being in the mid-70’s. After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, the water tank was topped off and we pulled away from the slip at 0830 hours to get to Lock 1 when operations started at 0900 hours. The Parks Canada staff did not answer the radio or be visible until 0900 hours and Trilogywas the only boat in the lock; a pattern that would last all day and through 12 locks.
By the end of the day in Campbellford, the trip would be more than the numbers; 8 hours and only 31 miles. The Trent-Severn Waterway is set of connections between lakes and rivers that uses a few cut canals with 44 locks and dams to solve the problem of elevation changes between Lake Huron, the topography and Lake Ontario. On the first day, Trilogyhad done nearly a third of the locks because they were built in clusters. Also, the speed of travel between the locks is set by a speed limit of 6.2 miles per hour. Once again, the Parks Canada staff is impressive with their genuine friendliness. They said that locking through 10 boats a day is common for August. These locks are not near “cottage country” and the boaters are often like us, just passing through. For the first three hours, we saw only three other boats on the water. Two Ranger Tugs were seen, Sine Waveis a near clone of Trilogy in model an color. Riverdancewas seen in Campbellford and is a red 25SC that is also enroute to the tug rendezvous in Orillia.
When you do as many locks as Trilogy has, there is a system that begins with double fenders at the bow and stern. One fender is a ball fender and the other is a cylinder. The ball fender is the primary defense against the lock wall. The cylinder fender hangs lower and is a back-up support to the ball fender. In the lock, wind and the surged caused by the filling water can be a powerful force. Leaving the marina and the short industrial area, the land was rolling hills with modest cottages or RV’s that were scattered on the shoreline. In the distance were dairy farms and fields of corn. Sometimes, the river was very broad, marshy, and shallow. The depth was typically 5 to 8 feet and sometimes reached the mid-teens. In Campbellford, Trilogy tied to the town wall on the east side because the west wall was nearly full and within the hour, the east wall was nearly full of boats. After docktails on the tug, a great dinner was enjoyed at Capers Tap House. On the way back to the river, a thunderstorm came through the region with gusting wind, lightning and 10 minutes of heavy rain. The skies were nearly clear as the sunset developed.
Friday, August 10 and Peterborough, ON. Laurie was up and at Doohers Bakery at 0730 hours for fresh butter tarts, blueberry pie and bear claws. Reading from the Andiamo journal, we knew that the being at the lock early would likely lead to being locked with the first group. Trilogyleft the town wall at 0800 hours and would three other boats would follow the lead and join us at the lock wall awaiting the start of lock operations at 0900 hours. One of the boats was Riverdance and we met Neal and Caty and their grandson Zander.
A 41-foot trawler and 36 foot “another piece-of-shift-Sea Ray” (because of the huge wakes these create) joined us on the lock wall. We would spend the better part of the day going through 6 locks together and judgments come easy from their behavior. The shirtless captain of the trawler was impatient with the lockmaster and would speed through the no wake zones. The POS Sea Ray captain and crew was buddy boating with the trawler and had little confidence in their abilities.
The locks lifted Trilogy into cottage country and small neighborhoods of modest second homes with docks. Most were not occupied on this Friday. This part of the waterway is a river that can be narrow but also widens into small lakes. The navigation buoys of red and green can be far a part, like on Rice Lake, and can be tightly grouped to keep boaters away from rocks. The neighborhoods of cottages were often marked with speed limit signs of 10 km/hr or 6.2 MPH. Trilogy would often slow for canoes, swimmers, or when the density of docks was high. At the Hastings Lock, Riverdance stopped for the night. Laurie had identified three possible anchorages if we decided not to proceed to Peterborough. The cruising conditions were great with flat water, little wind, and few boats. 15 miles of Rice Lake was done at 15 MPH because it was easy. The Otonabee River is the 20-mile link between Rice Lake and Peterborough. Trilogy did the river in 90 minutes and arrived at the Peterborough Marina at 5:30 PM having traveled 58 miles and transiting 6 locks.
Saturday, August 11 in Peterborough, ON. This was a day to lay low, chat, and work on boat projects under the sunny skies with temperatures in the low 80’s. The finish on the teak interior needed maintenance and the oil finish done at the factory was enhanced with a wipe-on satin polyurethane. Two coats were applied to the largest area of teak and the results were rewarding. Laurie defrosted the freezer and it was amazing how much ice came out.
The bikes took us to the grocery story, the beer store for local craft brew and the hardware store for clear silicone. The afternoon project was cleaning and prepping the edge of the wood panel that is inlaid into the fiberglass floor and then caulking the gap between the wood and the fiberglass. The gap is preventable and collects dirt, hair and kitty litter.
Trilogy was docked against a sidewalk the fronted a concert venue and the pedestrian traffic was constant. Laurie answered the compliments and questions from many people. An afternoon break was good hard ice cream at the marina office and quick chat with Neal and Caty who had arrived in Riverdance this morning. Brian and Carol are the boaters we met at Jones Falls and their McGregor sailboat was at Peterborough. We met for appetizers and enjoyed Brian’s stories.
Tonight would be a concert by a tribute band to rocker Bob Seger. They did a sound check in the early afternoon and we had a perfect location to hear them. The park was nearly full at 8PM with probably 3,000 people and the band played to nearly 10PM. The crowd was great and music was a gift. After the concert, the underside of humanity showed itself when large group of older teens were yelling about a fight that was happening in the group. When that group moved on, several homeless adults were around Trilogy and one of them climbed onto the toe rail. I was up and responded to this and they moved on.
Sunday, August 12.. The morning was cloudless and pleasant at Trilogy left the marina at 0830 to wait at the blue line at Lock 20 that was only a few minutes away. Lock operations did not start on time because water levels had to be adjusted. Eventually, 4 boats including Neal and Caty’s Riverdance were locked through and this group would spend all morning going through 5 locks together.
Five locks means there is time to visit. A local boater from Stony Lake described the many months of winter as simply, “white and cold.” The highlight was riding the Peterborough Lift Lock. Visualize a 65-foot vertical wall with two huge steel pans, like huge bathtubs, that can take at least 6 boats. The steel pans are next to each other and a huge piston is under each one. One pan is up and the other is down. Without the use of complicated pumps, the pans move up or down when water is added to the pan at the top. The 65-foot ride happens very smoothly, happens in about 90 seconds and without a sound. There are 7 lift locks in the world and two of them are on the Trent Severn Waterway.
After the lift lock, the canal goes through Trent University, a plumber’s butt-ugly set of concrete building built in the 1970’s and is horribly un-inspiring. About every 30 to 60 minutes, another lock was entered and transited. There were almost no cottages on the shoreline. Most of the boats were personal watercraft or jet skis, which we called gnats. Kayaks and canoes are called mosquitos. In one lake, three very small radio controlled boats were screaming around and these were dubbed no-see-ums.
Entering a the Kawartha Lakes, the water was incredibly clear and revealed the rocky bottom of pieces of slabs of granite that would easily eat a propeller and make it tricky to secure an anchor. After Lock 27 at Young’s Point suddenly came more boats and our first rental houseboat. Then came the Devil’s Elbow and a very narrow channel with rocks on each side with quick turns that is well marked with green and red markers.
The destination was Lock 30 on Lovesick Island because a local boater at a lock told us how beautiful, peaceful and quiet it was. Trilogy arrived at 4PM after traveling 27 miles and handling 10 locks. We stayed above the lock and except from some pesky flies that the rangers said were new, the place was perfect. The evening was closed with a movie on the laptop.
Monday, August 13 and going to Bobcaygeon, Ontario. The start of the morning was quiet and peaceful with no one on the island and a clear sky with comfortable temperatures. Oatmeal was served after taking down the window canvas and using the mild dew to wipe most of the cabin down. Knowing that this would be a short travel day, a walk was enjoyed across the low dam, past the canoe portage and to the old dam where locals had built a small wading pond.
Trilogy pulled away from the lock wall at 0915 hours as the park staff arrived by boat to start their day. Lower Buckhorn Lake was mirror smooth and the red and green buoys marked the rocks to avoid. The Kawartha Lakes are dotted with small islets in all of the lakes. The next lock was Buckhorn Lock that separates the Lower Buckhorn Lake from Buckhorn Lake. As we did the tight left turn, the lock doors were revealed and the doors had just started to open. At 1010 hours, the Buckhorn Lock was entered and the short lift was done quickly. Buckhorn Lock is in the center of the small community of Buckhorn and is a busy place with cars and rented houseboats. After the moderately sized marina, the lake was void of cottages. After two sets of narrow channels, Trilogy entered Pigeon Lake and the water conditions were simply ideal. By noon, Trilogy had found a space on the lock wall in the small town Bobcaygeon, Ontario. The name comes from a first nations word for water between two rocks. The tug had traveled 23 miles in 2.5 hours. During the afternoon, the bikes took us to a marine store to get snaps for the door mesh cover project and the best ice cream at the Kawartha Dairy. The sales person at the marine store took pity on me for the 1 1/2-mile ride that include a long hill and did not charge me for the four snaps. Laurie bought shoes at the biggest shoe store in Ontario, and minor boat projects were done. Dinner was hot dogs on the grill and served with a salad.
Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, August 14-15-16 and going to Orillia for the Ranger Tug Rendezvous. The lock at Bobcaygeon is lock 32 and includes a one-lane swing bridge that must be opened for boats over 10 feet high. We went through at 0900 hours with two other boats. The lock wall above the lock would be a good location to stop and is quieter than the wall Trilogystayed on but does not have power. Trilogy entered Sturgeon Lake that is V-shaped and stayed close to the southern shore for the smooth trip over water that was only slightly rippled.
At the top of the V-shape lake, the narrow channel took us past modest cottages until the channel stopped at the Fenelon Falls lock. We stopped above the lock to enjoy another dish of Kawartha Diary ice cream and the sugar hit would postpone lunch for another hour. Laurie bought a T-shirt at the new clothing business that had the smart idea to be harbor host with AGLCA. This is cottage country and houseboat rental cruising grounds. The wall above the lock had power and water and many boats were taking advantage of the service.
After a short walk in the small downtown, Trilogy continued on to Rosedale Lock where Riverdancewas found above the lock. We had traveled 22 miles in two hours of motoring. I spent the afternoon refinishing the interior teak at the captain’s and navigator’s station. We had docktails with Neal and Caty. This was our 10th night on the Canadian canal system and the night’s moorage was converted into an annual pass so any other nights are free.
The next day, Wednesday, August 15, was another nice morning with partly cloudy skies and a fresh breeze coming from the west. The wind on Lake Simcoe was being watched because the fourth largest lake in Ontario is immediately before Orillia and the wind can turn the water into a real challenge for boaters. The forecast was for 13 MPH winds and this would create white caps and likely substantial waves on the eastern shore.
Riverdance pulled away at 0730 hours as they intended to cross Lake Simcoe and go Lefroy where the Ranger Tug dealer was. Trilogy pulled away at 0845 hours and after the short channel, entered Balsam Lake where a fast cruise was done to maintain the turbo on the diesel engine. At the end of the lake starts a 6- mile long canal with a slow speed of 6 MPH. The canal is arrow straight in sections, narrow with trees leaning into the canal and shallow with rocks easily seen on the sides.
At 1025 hours, Trilogy entered the second lift lock on the Trent Severn Water at Kirkfield. This is the first lock where the tug will drop because this is the highest elevation on the waterway at 840 feet above sea level. As the lock is approached, there is nothing beyond it but space and horizon. Trilogy was the only boat in the huge pan and the decent into the forest was quiet and smooth. After the lock, the canal continued being narrow and shallow.
Because much of the water shallow portions of the waterway are choked with weeds, the depth sounder can give an artificially low reading. When the depth was less than 2 feet, switching to sonar mode on the chartplotter created a bigger picture and the depth was 5 to 6 feet. The narrow canal ends, the waterway opens up into Canal Lake and this is divided into two parts that is spanned by the Hole In The Wall Bridge that was built in 1905. After Canal Lake, the river is lined on both sides by cottages and several small marinas. Two low spring bridges were opened for us.
At 1050 hours, Lock 37 dropped us closer to the level of Lake Simcoe. At 1220 hours, Lock 38 did the same. The waterway became a straight ditch that was cut through rural farmland with no roads or buildings in sight. The destination was the lock wall below the Portage Lock or lock 39. Trilogy arrived at 1300 hours having traveled 22 miles.
With the stern facing west, the fresh breeze that was kicking up Lake Simcoe was cooling us off while I did more wood refinishing. A read of the 2014 journal showed we were at the same place on nearly the exact same day.
The following day, Thursday, August 16, the air temperature was 72 with 76% humidity and the air still and hazy. Sailflow showed the wind at the Lake Simcoe buoy was 7 MPH. Coffee was enjoyed in the cockpit and Millie was exploring the shoreline on the lock wall. The Parks Canada employees arrived about 0845 and the lockmaster came to us and said the next lock, Lock 41, would be ready for us. The lines were dropped, the tug turned around and we idled the ¼ mile, through the farm field to the waiting lock. 25 minutes later, Trilogy was entering Lake Simcoe whose reputation of being fierce in moderate winds is respected.
The memory of a very challenging crossing four years ago came flooding back with 3 to 5 foot waves and a rogue wave that hit us hard on the beam. Not today. The fourth largest lake in Ontario, 16 miles long and 19 miles long, was lake smooth merely rippled. For the second time on this trip, the auto-navigation feature was used and the Garmin chartplotter and autopilot took Trilogy to the entrance buoy in 45 minutes while the tug slid along at 16 miles per hour.
Past the marinas, fuel docks and under the highway bridge where the channel is quite narrow, Lake Couchching was entered. The mass of red and green markers kept us out of the shallows and we had the turn and went across the broad lake to the new Port of Orillia Marina where we backed in and docked next to Jim and Lisa’s Kismet. Over the last 10 years, we have accidently met Jim and Lisa in Alabama, Florida, Everett, Des Moines, WA and the Broughton Islands. The highlight was meeting Ken and Pauline who had sold their boat and came with their new motorhome. We had lunch with them and their friends Mark and Jody. We visited throughout the afternoon and had dinner with Ken and Pauline.
Friday-Saturday-Sunday, August 17-18-19 and the Ranger Tug Rendezvous in Orillia, ON. After breakfast, I took a large crescent wrench to the motor mounts in search of the source of vibration that is felt at idle. The vibration was present when the boat was purchased 18 months ago and only yesterday did it occur to me what the cause might be. Yes, sometimes I am a slow learner. The engine is mounted on four large studs with big nuts under and over the bracket coming from the engine. The culprit was found on the portside, forward mount where the nut under the bracket could be turned a ¾ turn. A test showed the vibration was gone.
Being able to visit with Ken and Pauline was a real treat and we spent part of the morning in their motorhome. By mid-day, about 30 boats had arrived in the marina and there was the full range of models from the 21 that is not made anymore to the 31 with the high command bridge. Tug owners are just friendly and down-to-earth who are willing to share their mistakes and their lessons. I was honored to meet several owners who have read all of my websites and have gained confidence and information. The evening was closed with large dock party and potluck as the weather threatened rain but none fell.
The next day we said goodbye Ken and Pauline. The day was filled with many conversations, looking at boats, answering questions and listening to two presentations. The weather was sunny, cool and drew crowds to the huge car show. Laurie enjoyed the Farmer’s Market. I finished the refinishing of the teak and the improvement was incredible. The day was closed with a catered dinner and then watching a movie on the laptop. Sunday started slow with breakfast and visiting on the dock. We gave a nearly 90 minute long presentation on the Great Loop that was followed by a catered lunch. The afternoon was full of conversations, questions, demonstrations, and answers. When Frank lost a pair of sunglasses overboard, I tried in vain to find them by diving by the weeds were too thick and the visibility was poor. The blind-man dinghy race was a hoot and the evening was closed with pizza on the dock and great conversations.
Monday, August 20 and end of the boat trip. By 0730 hours, four tugs had left the marina. We would follow Jubilee after saying our good-byes to new and old friends at the rendezvous and caught up to Frank and Callee at the end of Lake Couchiching. We had several options on how far to travel but the weather window was closing and the decision was made to proceed to Midland and the Bay Port Yachting Center that was three locks and 55 miles away.
It would be a fitting end to a great trip with a complete sampling of all that the Trent Severn Waterway has to offer: beautiful lakes, narrow rivers with miles of cottages on each side, cut canals that were narrow, shallow and required boats to talk to each other, two conventional locks and the most entertaining lock ever: the Marine Chute Railway.
Trilogy and Jubilee came into view of the rail tracks that the is the Marine Chute Railway coming into the lake and the rail-like car with a multiple sling machine was launching a boat. The lockmaster called us on the public address horn with “the two blue Ranger Tugs, please come forward.” We were given clear instructions by the multiple employees on the machine and within minutes, Trilogy was lifted out of the water with us aboard. A total of four boats were on the rail car and soon the 7-minute trip across the narrow peninsula was started. The rail car climbed the short hill, crossed the highway, and descended down the other side, keeping us level the whole time and launched us.
After the last lock at Port Severn, Trilogy was in the Georgian Bay and navigated the multiple gates of buoys to stay clear of the shoals and arrived in Midland at 3:40 PM. The marina offers a free shuttle and they took us to the Enterprise Car Rental for a rental car to get to Ohio to retrieve truck and trailer. Afterwards, we had a splendid dinner with Frank and Callee at the Boathouse Restaurant to celebrate the end of this trip.
MOVING AND STORING TRILOGY AND STARTING THE ROAD TRIP HOME This boat was chosen because it is fairly easy to move quickly to a new location for a new adventure. The decision was made that the next adventure would be a spring time cruise on the Carolina and Georgia coast by exploring the ICW from Brunswick, Georgia to the Dismal Swamp in Virginia.
The first task was to join the tug to the truck and trailer that was in Geneva State Park in Ohio. Tuesday, August 21 would be a 14-hour day where we would make a 630 mile long round trip drive to Geneva, Ohio and back. We went through traffic jams, super heavy rain, had two meals, took an hour long break while a thunderstorm roared through with heavy rain and came back to Millie at 9:30 PM.
The next day, Wednesday, August 22, the rental car was returned and the boat was prepped for removal. After lunch, the nearby ramp was perfectly acceptable for the trailer and Trilogy was powered onto its trailer. The green scum was scrubbed off and the final preparations for the road trip were made. The marina wanted $500 to sling out the tug and pressure wash the hull. We were happy to save the money for something else. We pulled away from Midland at about 2:30 and arrived at the KOA in Westfield, NY five hours and 250 miles later.
Over the next two days, Trilogy was pulled another 915 miles and stayed at KOA's at night. Laurie had worked the phones while traveling and found a boat and RV storage yard on the western side of Brunswick, Georgia to keep Trilogy for the next six months. The storage yard is in a good location that is reasonably protected and has power to run the battery charger and the dehumidifier. 4 hours of preparation, winterizing and packing was done before leaving the tug in the storage yard. Then, the road trip back home to Everett, Washington was begun.
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