This posting finds Carol and me at our home base in Louisville, Ky. We have been here since early December when we left Restless at a Marina in Indian Harbor Beach, just south of Coco Beach, Fl. We left the boat there to come home over the Holidays and allow me to put in some full time work days.
Our plan is to return to Florida late next week and visit some old Chicago sailing friends in the Ft Meyers area. Then back to the boat by the 28th so can leave at the end of the month when our slip rental runs out.
I have been putting off this posting since it is tough to start in the middle. Our friends Mike and Cathy from Sapphire told us about SailBlogs only after we reached Annapolis so we have been putting it off waiting for clean time to start, so this is it.
We left Chicago on August 3rd after some crazy months of selling our house, downsizing, renting a house, moving, deciding to buying a townhouse in Louisville, moving again, launching and prepping the boat, moving our daughter Ashley to college in Nebraska, and going to a school reunion. A few days later we left Winthrop Harbor, IL and started cruising (actually motoring).
Our route was to be up Lake Michigan, down Lake Huron, through Lake St Clair, and across Lake Erie to Tonawanda, NY and the entrance to the Erie Canal. Then through the canal, down the Hudson to New York, outside New Jersey, up the Delaware Bay and down to Annapolis (by Sept 15). Now while every cruiser knows that you can spend years preparing the boat to go, but the boat will never ready. When we left, everything on the boat worked, even if everything was not installed. In the first month of continuous use things were breaking faster than I could fix them. Failed engine fuel pump (towed in), leaking water heater (replacement lost), intermittent refrigeration, broken life line gate, leaking hatch, fowled speedo, failed windless solenoids (twice), on and on. Finally things settled down and I could work on some of the new project list that was growing steadily!
The Erie Canal is jewel that most cruisers never see. The west end is at Tonawanda, NY near Niagara Falls and Lake Ontario. It is a 3rd generation ditch now 125' feet wide and 12' deep (most of the time) that ends at the Hudson River at Waterford, NY. You pass under countless bridges and through 34 locks including the Waterford Flight which is a series of 5 locks with a lift of 169 feet which is twice the lift of the Panama Canal. For days we could motor for hours and not see another boat. In fact we did not see another sailboat from Tonawanda to Brewerton, a distance of 186 miles. Along the way there were towns every few miles with free dockage, sometimes even free electricity and water. The downside of this was of course the mast had to come down and be stored on deck since the max bridge clearance was 14'. It also created a new challenge of boat handling in turbulence of the locks with an extra 10' of mast over hanging the bow and stern. Fortunately there were no "incidents". Facilities to step the mast are limited. This is the crane used to lower the mast. Best to not inspect it to carefully prior to pulling the mast!
Since we left Chicago a month later than planned, we had to move steadily to keep to the goal of arriving in Annapolis by mid September. We planned to spend some time there doing projects and seeing our friends Greg and Susan prior to the boat show.
Moving every day made it difficult to meet other cruisers and start the socializing. You can be moving the same direction for weeks, only a day or two apart and not see other boats with the same agenda. We saw the ketch Sapphire in Put-In-Bay, Ohio but never had a change to talk. Weeks later we caught up to them at the east end of the Erie Canal and starting traveling loosely together. Other than a couple of weeks for side trips we moved all the way to Florida together. They have been diligent about keep their Blog current since before they left so check them out at
We spend a month of fantastic weather anchored in Back Creek at Annapolis through the boat show in October. Shortly after that the cold weather descended and we were constantly trying to stay ahead of it. We moved down the Chesapeake to Norfolk and entered the ICW at mile 1. For every place we stopped, there were dozens others that looked interesting to stop and explore. You could spend a year cruising the Chesapeake alone and only see a portion of it. Down the ICW into Pamlico Sound and a weeks stop at Oriental, the sailing capital of the Carolinas. We left the boat there at the Oriental Marina for a week while we went home on business. It turned out to be perfect time since that is when Hurricane Noel went up the east coast and passed just outside of Cape Hatteras and inland Oriental. All we saw were 20kt winds and high tides, secure in our berth and relaxing at the Tiki Bar.
We left Oriental and rejoined Sapphire at Beaufort, NC (Bofort not to be confused with Bufurt, SC). It is amazing the number of expensive waterfront homes there are through North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. We stopped for short stays at a number of interesting places, Wrightsville Beach, Charleston, SC, Beaufort SC, Cumberland Island, etc. We definitely need more time to explore these and other places on another trip when we seen less rushed. To make better time and avoid shallow spots in the ICW, we made outside overnight sails from Cape Fear to Charleston and Port Royal, SC to the St Mary's river. Even while planning to bypass the shallow spots we ran aground numerous times in the middle of ICW channel.
A very interesting stop was the cruisers potluck for Thanksgiving Day at St Mary's, GA. There were approximately 110 boats and 300 people with food for many more. Ashley, our daughter visiting from college brought more cool and windy weather which lasted until the day she left to fly home. She had hoped to get a tan to take back to Nebraska but not when the highs were in the 60's. At that point we continued south from Fernandina Beach, past historic St Augustine where we said goodbye to Sapphire for a while and on to Indian Harbor Springs.
That brings us to next week and our return to the boat. I have a few projects to complete such as installing a drinking water filter, a Hart Tank monitoring system for all of our water and fuel tanks, and a vibration isolator for the wind generator. I also need to get the SSB Email working with my new General Ham License and the Water Maker running. We plan to get down the coast to Lake Worth, and await a weather window to cross over to the Bahamas ASAP! We look forward to seeing many of the boats we met on the way from Annapolis and many new friends as well.