Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 14: Holland, MI to Chicago!

We woke up a little later today, which was a good thing after our late dinner out the night before. We went to visit Wade and his art studio which was very cool. He's a great artist and it was nice to be able to quickly catch up with him. Our friends from the night before were all around so we got to say our goodbyes and head out across the lake for our final trip.

Winds were calm, seas were calm and all looked good. Travel time across Lake Michigan was 2.5 hours for about 70 miles. I was pretty happy things got to end on a smooth note after the last couple of days and the rough seas.

We pulled into the harbor where this boat will now live out the summer around noon Central time. We cleaned it up (again) and I said my goodbyes to the boat I had spent that last 14 days on. It was a great trip. Great to spend time with my dad and enjoy the maiden voyage of his new toy. Great to spend time with some old and new friends. Great to show Erica around a part of the country where I spent so much time as a kid and an area you can only see properly by boat. Great to get back to some places that the memories of were beginning to fade. Great to see some new places and take a journey that very few are lucky enough to take in a lifetime.

I'll be back on the boat at some point but I feel special to have played the part I did in its first voyage. That boat and I will always share a sort of bond - if that's possible with an inanimate object.

I now have a couple days in Chicago to see some family and then head back to reality. It's been a fun journey and I've enjoyed documenting here and with all the pictures which I continue to add to. Thanks for letting me take you along on the journey.

Signing off once and for all.

Day 13: Pentwater, MI to Holland, MI

Wind blew and blew all day the day before. Seas were again a little rough but not as bad because the wind changed direction during the night. We had a fairly short (4 hour) ride to Holland, MI - Lake Macatawa. This was a bit of a home coming for me. I spent a tremendous amount of time as a kid on Lake Macatawa. I had a few good friends that lived there, went to sailing camp there for a few summers, raced little sailboats in the bay and basically spent a good portion of my summers there until I was in high school. I have not been back there since probably 1987 or there about.

Alot has changed and alot has stayed the same. It was great to be able to spend the afternoon walking around and looking at things, remembering my childhood and taking lots of pictures. I figured this was a good day to sea trial the dingy - and it was an opportunity to tour the lake and give Erica a tour.

When I was a kid, I had two good friends my age I played with: Wade and Kori Eldean. They lived there in Macatawa and had a house across the street from the marina. To my luck, both were there this weekend. Wade lives there still and is an artist with a studio right on the bay ( and Kori was in town organizing the Waterfront Film Festival ( she runs each year. This gave us a brief but fun chance to catch up. Her parents who I also knew quite well invited us to dinner. Always nice to see old friends from the past. Brought back alot of memories in the short 24 hours we spent tied up there. Weather finally calmed down so it looks like our trip across the lake to the Chicago area will be good tomorrow and then the trip will be done.

Macatawa was a great place for me to end the trip. I had been really looking forward to going back there since I had spent so much time as a kid there. It was also fun to reflect back and remember all the memories I had and some I had forgotten. My brother and I played Macatawa trivia over SMS (since he's in Santa Monica) trying to stump each other with old friends names, boat names, etc.

As the trip winds down finally, it will be good to get back on land but it has been fun making this journey. I got to spend some time and get to know some relatives better as well as see some old friends and lots of new sights. It's probably a little like RV'ing for those that do that and visit the same spots year after year. My childhood always kind of reminded me of the place in Dirty Dancing - somewhere you would spend time each summer year after year where every body knew you and you just sort of picked up where you left off the year before. Dancing was replaced with sailing and there was no gritty romance that I was ever aware of (or at least a part) of but you get the point.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 12: Frankfort, MI to Pentwater, MI

OK, real update this time. Around 2:00am last night, I woke up because the boat was rocking back and forth and there was lots of sounds of water hitting the side of the boat. After really waking up, I heard the wind. Since we were in a protected harbor and it was rocking this bad, I knew the wind must be howling out there - not good news for the lake. The next morning, we discovered what the wind had done.

The waves were crashing over the break wall at the harbor entrance. The wind was screaming. Weather radio had it at 30 kts with gusts into the 50's. Waves were 5' growing to 10' as the day went on. Perfect. I was down below trying to quickly pour the last cup of coffee out when we hit the end of the harbor and into the surf. Coffee went every where. Up top, computers and cameras (along with everything else) flew off counters and onto the floor. Everything that was not bolted down came crashing. Even some stuff that really was bolted down eventually came crashing off.

The abuse the pounding continued for the next 6 hours. The original plan was to make it to Holland, MI for a possible layover day. We made it 60 miles (6 hours at todays speed) short of that goal due to the waves. Neither us nor possibly the boat could take it any longer. We poked our head into Pentwater to take a break and have lunch. We ended up staying the night. Getting on land was nice. We went straight to a restaurant that was luckily still serving breakfast at 1:30pm. Since I had about a half cup of coffee in me at 7am and nothing else, I was ready for eggs. No one was really sick on the trip, it was just tiring to get pounded by the waves all day.

Rob and Betsy left us in Pentwater that afternoon. They had to get back to Detroit for a wedding this weekend. The 4 of us that are left relaxed, did some work and went to bed. The wind is still screaming out there and conditions tomorrow do not look much better but we "only" have 60 miles to go. We will make the final 80 mile crossing of the lake into Chicago area on Friday morning. Erica flies out Saturday morning and I fly out Tuesday morning back to reality.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 11: Mackinac Island to Frankfort, MI

After a great afternoon on Mackinac Island with drinks at the Grand Hotel and dinner at a local joint that specialized in whitefish, we woke up to a grey rainy morning. The excitement of the morning (other than Starbucks having no coffee) was the loss of one of our large orange fenders into the harbor. At some time early in the morning, it came loose and started to float away. To our luck, it got stuck to the inner wall of the breakwall around the harbor. We were not able to walk out and get it since the breakwall was not connected to land. Ela took the bull by the horns, smoothed down her shirt and headed over to the workers that were putting in the pilings the day earlier and talked them into taking their boat over and picking up the rogue fender. They seemed more than happy to do this for her and shortly after, our fender returned.

Rain stuck with us for a couple of hours and the wind which had stayed fairly strong all night made for a rough start to our day. Our destination was Pentwater, MI where we were planning on a great lunch of the delicious smoked fish from the local fisherman available right in the harbor. Unfortunately, there is no harbor anymore in Pentwater - at least not now. All the docks where gone and the harbor was roped off. What made this worse news was the waves were building and we were headed directly into them.

2 hours later, we made it to Frankfort - about 40 miles further south. This is a larger, well protected harbor that was open. It is clear that boating season has not yet begun in Michigan. Like all others, this harbor is totally empty. The harbor master and staff looked pretty happy to see us. Gave them something to do at least for a little while... We grilled lunch up top since the rain stopped and the sun finally came out.

I remember as a little kid sitting on a giant swing set along the lakefront watching the ships come into the harbor. I found out the ships are long gone but the old swing set still remains so I had to take a few minutes and swing. It was just as fun as I remember it!

After a walk through town, we headed back to the boat to watch the Wings / Hawks game. Go Hawks! Following that, Nuggets / Lakers are on.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 10: Tawas, MI to Mackinaw Island (attack of the flying Midge!)

After a peaceful night in a deserted marina in Tawas, MI, we departed early for Mackinaw Island, MI. This was to be about an 8 hour trip so getting going before the wind picked up would help. We noticed last night that a bunch of bugs landed on the boat. This was only the beginning. The farther north we got, it got much worse. When we stopped for fuel about half way to Mackinaw, we were totally inundated with "midges". These are in the mosquito family but thank god don't bite: However, there are thousands and thousands of them swarming all over us. When you are outside and stopped, you literally can not open your mouth or you will get a lunch you did not bargain for. I took a couple pictures of the side of the boat covered with them. There may have been 100,000 of them stuck to the boat - you can imagine how many were flying around.

The midge was not the only excitement of the trip. I got the pleasure of hitting the first dock. We pulled into fuel at a marina that was fairly small. After fueling for 30 minutes and only getting 11 gallons out of the hose, we decided to go north to the next marina to a working fuel dock. I backed away from the fuel dock, got caught by the fairly strong wind and in the process of turning to head out, got blown into the dock behind the fuel dock. Out of some miracle, it appears despite hitting the corner of the dock with some force, no damage was done. Further inspection will certainly happen later but I may have dodged the bullet.

Seas are smooth today with a wind behind us. Things look good for the entire trip into Lake Michigan where we will likely again encounter rough seas for the trip down the west coast of Michigan. It also looks like Friday AM is the best day to cross the lake into Chicago so we have some time to make the journey down the lake.

Boating season has clearly not begun yet in Michigan. Almost all of the marinas we come into a totally empty and some have no one working. This has the small benefit of making it cheaper to stay there for the night when no one is collecting money. Or this is a sign of the times, as Erica likes to say, regarding the overall economic situation of the country (CEC).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day 9: Detroit to Tawas, MI

After restocking on Liquor and then drinking what looked liked half of that, we got a late start. I actually got to sleep until I woke up on my own - which is now sadly 7:30am... Rob and Betsy came aboard at 8:30 and we got to the fuel dock at 9. The excitement of that was seeing what happened when the fuel pump hit $999.99. Sadly, it was programed to automatically stop at $950 so we were robbed of that small but interesting event.

500 gallons of fuel later, we were out on the St. Claire River on our way past Port Huron and into Lake Huron - great lake #3 for us. Wind was heavy again - 10 to 20 knots so Lake Huron had a pretty good chop built up, not as bad as yesterday but not a smooth ride. The plan is to make it as close to Mackinaw Island as possible but I fear that we will only get around half way there making for another long day tomorrow.

The excitement of the day so far (since we were robbed at the fuel dock - pun intended) was we were pulled over by the Cost Guard for a "safety inspection." About 1/2 way through this operation while we were madly searching for the flare gun, they got called away to a disabled sailboat in the shipping lane. Safety inspection cut short and they were off to their next mission. We did find the flare gun eventually. It is now more accessible.

I tested the DirecTV to make sure we get NBC for the Wings / Hawks game at 3:00. We are right on the edge of the Chicago spot beam so it will be hit or miss if we actually get it. Battery running low so more later.

6:00pm Update:
We pulled into Tawas, MI on the west side of Lake Huron around 5:30pm. Winds picked up and the trip across the lake in the middle was a little rough so we decided to head in early for the day. We pulled into a marina that was a ghost town. No fuel but we could tie up and hook up to to power that was luckily on. High winds continue through the night so the first half of tomorrow will not be much better but as we near the top of Michigan on our way to Mackinaw Island, things will improve. Mackinaw is a fun place so that is our stopping point tomorrow. From there on, it's down the east west side of Michigan for 2 days and over to Chicago.

We got to watch the Hawks game while we crossed Lake Huron. Made the trip a little nicer minus the fact the Hawks lost. We are trying for the 2nd time to cook the giant lasagna in the oven. This time we have figured out the oven (some things are too high tech to be honest) and cooking is underway. Mojito's are being made, the beer is cold and we are done for the night. Pictures of today are being uploaded and I am adding new pictures to day 5 - 7 that Jock took. Enjoy and drop your comments here!

Day 8: Erie, PA to Detroit, MI

Hopefully the last of the getting up before sunrise happened today. Here is the brief of the last 24 hours:

The Welland Canal did not take the 12 hours we were told it would take. It took about 6 hours to navigate - much better. The canal was very interesting, especially the flight locks: These are 3 locks all in a row so as you exit the first lock, you go directly into the 2nd and so on. What made it pretty cool was the fact we had a large ship in front of us so while we were in the 1st and 2nd locks, he was 70 feet in the air above us in the lock in front with nothing but a 2 foot thick steel door separating us and him (along with 91 million gallons of water I later learned). It's a little nerve wracking to see water pouring over a huge door that is only a few feet in front of us and knowing there is 91 million gallons waiting to come down on you.

After transiting the canal, we met up with Lady Barbara (this is the yacht we were docked next to in Atlantic City and has been with us on and off all trip). She is out of Erie, PA so we transited Lake Erie with her to Erie and spent the night at the Erie Yacht Club tied up next to Lady Barbara. We got in right at sunset so we grilled a quick dinner and went to bed fairly early. The departure time the next morning was 5:00am again to make up some time for the long 200+ mile run to Detroit. EJ and Jock left us in Erie. They caught a morning flight out of Erie to Chicago. They were going to leave us in Detroit but since we were running a bit behind, they were planning on departing Saturday anyway.

The trip from Erie to Detroit was a long one. It took us about 10 hours of cruising to make this. Weather was not great. A small system was blowing in and wind was pretty high. This meant we had to hug the shoreline on the south side of Lake Erie where the waves were smaller. Once we hit Cleveland, we turned for a direct shot to Detroit. That trip across Lake Erie was wavy but things got worse the closer to Detroit we got. The wind was picking up through out the day and on the Great Lakes, weather changes very fast. Waves grew to around 3 feet and the chop increased. This meant we had to bring down our speed for the last 2 hours of the trip to make the ride better.

Once we hit Detroit, we went up the Detroit river and into Lake St. Claire. This is about the 1/2 point for us in terms of time but we are obviously much closer in distance to Chicago. Lake St. Claire has a repair facility so the plan has been to layover there and get any critical repair work done before moving on. This is also where we pick up 4 new passengers and where Mark will leave us to fly back to the east coast. Our new passengers are Erica, Ela, Rob and Betsy. That will give us a total crew of 6 for the rest of the week.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day 7: Welland Canal

I am sitting in the sun on the upper deck as we very slowly traverse the Welland Canal. This is the major (and only) shipping route from the Great Lakes to the ocean. As a result, it can be clogged with large ships. Today, it is a little busy. We have taken on a 6th person for the trip - Wally - who is a local expert in traversing this canal.

Let's start from dawn. We left Rochester at 5:00am, about 15 minutes before twilight and 45 minutes before sun rise. We had to make up some time. Luckily, Lake Ontario was glass so we cruised almost to the end of it and into the Welland Canal. The entrance is in Canada (by feet) and across the lake from Toronto which we could see in the distance. We pulled over and met Wally. He informed us that our trip through the canal would take 12 hours. Not the news I was waiting to hear. Anyway, this gave us some time to cook breakfast (since it was only 9:00am). Mark made us steaks and eggs and it was delicious. At around 10:30, we entered the canals first lock. This thing is massive - many times larger than anything we have seen. They are designed to carry ships that are 600 or 700 feet long and we go up maybe 100' each time. I'll have some pictures but even the wide angle does not do the justice.

We are following a large ship out of Toronto that is traversing in front of us. This is what slows us down since we can not pass the ship nor is there room for 2 of us in the locks = he takes up the entire thing.

Internet seems to work well though we are roaming onto Canadian cell coverage so I'm keeping the phone off for now. I'll upload some pictures around lunch time.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Day 6: Brewerton, NY to Rochester, NY

We ended day 5 a little early so we had some time to make up on day 6. This day included the last 6 locks on the Erie Canal before entering Lake Ontario. A decent sized storm front moved into the area overnight - the same system that caused some sever weather damage to the midwest. This brought rain and heavy wind to our area this morning. The rain subsided around noon but the heavy wind continued until about 7:00pm. This kicked up some decent sized waves on Lake Ontario and brought out speed down. We hoped to make the entry to the Welland Canal. This is the large canal between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. It is used frequently by the large "laker ships" that carry freight from the ocean to Chicago, etc. Those ships take priority over pleasure craft like us so the trip through the canal can take as little as 3 hours or as much as 30 hours. Since we are behind schedule, let's pray it is much closer to the 3 hour time frame than the 30.

We are spending the night here (map). There is a waterfront bar / restaurant about 5 feet from the back of the boat (we are tied up to the gas dock all night for some reason) so dinner is easy. We broke the grill last night in the middle of grilling chicken. Seemed to be some sort of power related problem since it started working again later on. Perhaps the fact we were grilling (electric), doing laundry, cooking in the convection oven, cooking on the electric stove and running the A/C all at once was a bit of a problem for the 50 AMP service coming in from the dock.

The good news from yesterday (since my blog post was erased) was that my passport was waiting for me at the marina last night. I had pretty much written that thing off forever and we were planning on how to get me across the border. Now I am legal once again.

I have to keep moving for the vacuum cleaner so perhaps it is time to end this. Not too many pictures from today due to the rain, wind and waves (sounds like a country song). Perhaps tomorrow will be better once we hit the canal.

Update 2:
Had an interesting dinner at the joint in the marina. 3 people ordered the special: Cheeseburger / salad. The "/" represents a 2nd line of type on the special board. Would you assume you were getting a cheeseburger and a salad? I would. No, you get a cheeseburger salad. The bartender was also convinced that we had Oscar award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman dining with us. You be the judge:

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman??

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day 5: Mindenville, NY to Brewerton, NY on Erie Canal

I just spent the last hour literally updating today's trip here. Once I hit submit, it logged me off and deleted everything. I am sorry to say I am no longer in the mood to re-type the 5 paragraphs I just completed. Sorry. Pictures have been uploaded though.

Here is where we are tonight:

View Larger Map

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 4: Albany, NY to Mindenville, NY

9:00am Update:
Getting up at 6:00am (4:00am my time) is not fun. Luckily, the real coffee has arrived. This morning we were underway within 20 minutes of waking up. So far, we are a little over 2 hours into today's journey and are 6 locks into the trip. These are pretty impressive locks - most of them taking us 30+ up with each lock. I'll have some great pictures of these when I upload later in the day. We have a few more hours of locks ahead of us today.

Found a very good brew pub last night right next to our marina with a great cherry ale. Good burgers as well. Today's plan is to do some grilling on the boat for lunch since we will be moving slow in the locks and canal system.

7:00pm Update
Anchored for the night at lock #16 along the Erie Canal which is in Mindenville, NY:

View on Map

We went through 15 locks today which was not bad progress. Locks are only open from 7am to 5pm so we get to sleep in, I think, and it means we stop with enough time to enjoy the late afternoon. I believe tomorrow we leave the canal system so this may be a short lived benefit.

I got to drive for a good portion of the afternoon and through a handful of the locks. I set myself up at the upper bridge nav station which was easier to see and got me out in the sun for the day. Weather is in the 70's but while you are moving at speed, the wind knocks the apparent temp into the low 60's so a sweatshirt was needed for the later half of the day.

Traffic on the canal is very light. We are traveling now with 1 to 2 other cruisers but spent most of the day going through the locks alone. Kind of nice to have the canal to ourselves. Jimmy Buffett on the satellite radio, wind in your hair and a day on the water. Perfect.

Our evening berth is tied to the canal wall next to lock 16. It is calm and there is a large grass hill next to us. We made hamburgers on the grill for lunch while we were under way. Tonight the menu is steak, vegetables and mixed drinks. Apparently the large bags of "mixed greens" I bought are not really for human consumption... More mixed drinks, less salad I guess.

Internet is very spotty but the satellite TV works great so we watched the very exciting ending to last nights Haws / Vancouver hockey game. Great 3rd period. Buffett is on the radio again with a live concert and the steaks are cooking. I can't get the pictures from the day (and there are some great ones) to upload so I'll have to try again tomorrow while we are underway.

Day 4 - OUT!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Day 3: Atlantic City to Albany, NY

Update 1:
It's currently 7:50am (EDT) and I'm not sure what I'm more impressed about: the fact I've been up for an hour and half with no coffee or that I am a mile off shore cruising at 35 MPH surfing the Internet and uploading pictures.

We left Atlantic City at 7am and immediately hit open ocean for the trip up to Newark, NJ. After a short pick up there, we head back out and up to New York City and into the Hudson. I'm looking forward to that part of the trip - moving past NYC from the water.

Due to the number of pictures I've taken and will continue to, I've created a gallery page for this trip at: I'll post a few in the blog here but the full roll is broken out by day there.

Update 2:
By 5:00pm, we pulled into Troy Marina, just up river from Albany, NY. This will be our home for the night. We picked up Jock and EJ in Jersey City which is directly across the Hudson River from where the World Trade Center towers used to be. Fueling up took a couple hundred gallons for over $700. Yikes. We then spent about 6 hours heading up the Hudson River. Very pretty trip. Went past West Point which was about an hour outside of NYC on the river. Lots of little towns along the trip and tons of green trees everywhere. Weather was in the mid 60's but lots of sun.

Off to explore the little town of Troy and enjoy the brew pub which happens to be situated about 100' from our dock. I think this will be just fine. We are planing on heading back out around 6am. You know how I like to get up early. At least the coffee filters arrived so I can make real coffee in the morning!

Leave comments or questions here. Over and out for day 3.

Day 2: Atlantic City

A fairly non-eventful day.  Woke up way too early after not sleeping well and drove our rental car to the Atlantic City airport while my dad and the captain took the boat to Atlantic City. We docked at the Trump Marina and spent the day walking the boardwalk and playing with Google Earth connected to my Garmin GPS. Every time I play with some Google project, I am impressed with how cool their stuff is. The boat has a full Furuno navigation system in it with GPS tracking but it lacks some of the cool layers Google lets you turn on.

The real business starts tomorrow.  We are scheduled to leave at 7am and head to Newark, NJ first to pick up 2 of my dad's friends (Jock and EJ) and then the plan is to head up the Hudson River and make it to Albany, NY. This will likely be a full day of travel for us. My job that night is to get the over-the-air TV system working so my dad can watch "24" from the local Fox station in Albany. DirecTV only gets us local channels when we are near Chicago - damn spot beams. At least I'll get the Blackhawks game tonight.
Trump Marina

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 1: Denver to Egg Harbor

Day 1 started with an early morning plane trip from Denver to Philadelphia airport. I met my dad at the airport and we drove to Egg Harbor, NJ - just outside of Atlantic City. This is where the boat yard is located. Day 1 was spent getting familiarized with some of the electronics of the boat. My dad spent time with the inflatable boat launch while I learned the satellite TV, XM radio and iPod entertainment system as well as the Internet routers. You can't make live television or go boating without the Internet anymore. What did we do before the Internet?

After this it was off to the grocery store to provision the boat for 2 weeks and 5 guys (we pick up the captain tomorrow and 2 friends on Monday). Nearly $700 later, we left the grocery store. No good boating trip does not happen without a trip to the liquor store. Luckily, the bill there was considerably less than the grocery store. I have a feeling more liquor store stops will be in our future - starting as early as tomorrow.

We finished off the night flying the colors of the boat. It is harbored in the British Virgin Islands so it flies the BVI flag off the stern with a smaller American flag on the bridge. We'll add the Canadian flag once we hit the border in a few days.

Speaking of, I did not bring my passport. Didn't even occur to me to be honest. Erica is now FedEx'ing that to a marina in New York that we will pass just before crossing the border. I'm sure it will all work out...
Launching the RIB

Tied up in the marina

Main salon


Provisioning for 2 weeks