Saturday, August 25, 2012

LOOP Trip Summary

                                    Reflections of the Captain and Crew of MissTeRae

Our journey was incredible!  It's a once in a lifetime experience, seeing places and gaining a greater appreciation of the founding fathers of our country - seeing all the sights, navigating 5,705 miles, meeting wonderful people and sharing this time together.  We are so thankful for our safety and good health while on this journey!  We will try to recap our 10 & 1/2 month adventure.  We learned much about the history of our country (most of our early history orginated on the shores of rivers and bodies of water), overcame any apprehensions we had about navigating large bodies of water, passed through about 100 locks and lift bridges, and it became routine to come into a new marina for fuel and a slip.  We anchored out on average about once a week.  We also learned that we could live in a small space together (yes, we are still on speaking terms and share the same bed).  Grocery shopping and meal planning for a very small galley was a challenge, but eating out and sampling the local cuisine, seafood and culinary treats was a great experience.  We explored many small towns USA (north, south, midwest and east) and reaffirmed our belief that most people are nice.

Interesting Cities visited:

  New York City - an interesting culture with all kinds of countries and all kinds of people represented.  We were in awe of the Twin Towers Memorial - so many people gave their lives in this horrible act of agression!   Then there was Ellis Island , the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Wall Street, the parks and the Subway system.  The water traffic was very congested - constantly looking out for ferries, ocean liners, pleasure boats and tour boats!
We were amazed by all the busyness in the city.  Everybody seemed to be rushing somewhere.

Washington DC - The capital of our country!  Again many people, tourists, school children on field trips, many countries represented, lots of tour buses, traffic, vendors, etc.  There was a two  hour wait to enter the Capitol Visitors Center on the day we were there, so we passed on that.  We visited the Washingtom Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, White House Visitors Center, Capitol Grounds, National Mall and the Smithsonian Museum (specifically the Air and Space Museum).  The Capitol Yacht Club, where we stayed, was right near all the action.  The unique location - next to the local Fish Market, made for an interesting cultural and culinary flavor for us while there.

Chicago, IL - This was the first major city we visited and enjoyed it a lot - we were moored at Dusable Marina, right downtown, which was nice for sightseeing.  We could walk or bike to all the major attractions - Navy Pier, Soldier Field, Millenium Park, John Hancock Building, Buckingham Fountain and the museum area.  It was a rather rainy, rough water time for the Lake Michigan area so we stayed there an extra day or two.  But how amazing to cruise the Chicago River down through all the skyscrapers - we were looking every which way at outstanding views.  One negative - we couldn't get tickets to the Chicago - Green Bay game.

Charleston, SC - A beautiful city filled with a lot of interesting architecture, history, food, nautical and travel options.  It was great to experience the mansions, plantation, water excursions, carriage ride and the variety of very good eating establishments with our Brian & Jana VH.  Being one of our favorite spots, we also enjoyed two concerts in very old, historic churches (with amazing architecture)!  This city is also known for it's ornamental fences around the yards and gardens, historic homes and being the location where 50% of the slaves entered America in the early 1800's.

Savannah, GA - Don particularly liked this city.  It has many parks, old cobblestone streets on the waterfront and The Cotton Exchange Building right on the wharf.  We spent our time there moored right on the city waterfront and could see container ships, ferry boats, pleasure boats and tour boats passing by constantly.  Again many old churches, homes, buildings and architecture everywhere.

Mobile, AL - We made it to the Bay!  This was our initial goal.  We wanted to make it at least to Mobile Bay and then decide if we were having fun and continue.  Well, as you all know we just kept on going.   It was amazing to see all the big ocean going vessels and where they load/unload their cargo.  There is much to see and do in this city, but since we had visited here before, we kept mostly to the marina at Fairhope (enjoyed Thanksgiving at the home of our Harbor Host there with several other LOOPers) and the surrounding area. 

Norfolk, VA - This was a very busy port!  Many ships, boats and much nautical activity including the huge Wisconsin Battleship as a museum.  This city is home to 5 major US military training centers and operations.  There were many LOOPers here as there had just been an AGLCA (Americas Great LOOP Cruiser's Association) Rendezvous here earlier. 

Annapolis, MD - Home of the US Naval Academy - so many good-looking, polite, well-dressed guys!  (Written by Theresa).  Touring the academy was very interesting and the city had a unique waterfront, state capital and again many boats of all kinds! 

Detroit, MI - Another very large city, which we enjoyed from the waterway, especially because we had our son, Brian, on board to give us an in-depth tour of the metropolis and the area all the way up the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and on to Lake Huron.

Interesting Waterways:

ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) -Along the panhandle of Florida, around parts of Florida and up the East coast of the US - ususually calm waters, like a canal.  Lots of wildlife, birds, etc.

Dismal Swamp - Interesting canal that George Washington originally designed in the early 1800's, located in NC & VA.  Calm waters and lots of trees, only one dock to stop midway, so several boats raft up for a spot to moor for overnight. 

Chesapeake Bay - Huge body of water - felt like we were in the ocean, at times.  Needed to be sure of the weather and water conditions while navigating in this area.  Branched off the bay to the ...

Potomac River - We travelled this river to go to DC.  It was a much less travelled portion and really "backward, primitive" area until we got to Mount Vernon (George Washington's home and museum) and Washington DC. 

Caloosahatchee River and Lake Okeechobee - This shortcut across lower Florida is a swampy area.  Saw several alligators, tropical birds, sugar cane fields, etc.

Mississippi River and other inland rivers - We were familiar with much of this part of the LOOP as we have cruised here before.  We were still amazed by the many huge barges and beautiful vistas along the cliffs and formations lining the banks.

Hudson River and the Erie Canal - Of course, the lower Hudson is New York Harbor - awesome!  This took us up through New York State and to the Erie Canal.  It was a quiet, slow ride through the canal, lots of locks, unique small towns and interesting people.

The Straits of Mackinac and passing under the huge bridge connecting upper and lower Michigan.  We had been to Mackinac Island before so didn't stop this time.

The Great Lakes - Erie, Huron, Michigan - Each lake has it's own personality, depth, attractions and people.  Refer back to previous blogs for the "scoop" on each one.

Interesting Beaches and seashores:

Myrtle Beach, SC - one of the best! Miles and miles of white, fine sand (The Grand Strand)!  We rented beach chairs there and spent a day just sitting by the water, watching kids and parents having fun.

Clearwater, Sannibel Island, Ft. Pierce, Vero Beach and Fernadina Beach (all in Florida) -
each had their own characteristics and special attractions.

Cumberland Island National Seashore and St. Simons Island, GA - It was Spring Break at a lot of these places when we were there, adding to the interest and excitement.  The wild horses were a treat at Cumberland Island.

Cape May, NJ - Nice beach, but they charge a fee for the its use, something we had not encountered anywhere else.  I guess New Jersey has so many people that this is a way of rationing public use.  We were there just briefly, hiked part way to the lighthouse and called it a day.

Michigan Beaches - Basically the beaches on the eastern shore of the state (Lake Huron) are not as pretty as the ones on the western shore.  Around AuSable, Harbor Beach, Rogers City and Cheboygan they are more rocky (have a lot of pebbles), whereas Manistee, Muskeegon, Holland and South Haven have nice fine sandy beaches.  And the sand dunes in this area are a natural wonder.

Final Comments:

Several folks have asked, "Would you do the trip again?"  The answer to that is "no".It was a wonderful experience and we would recommend it to anyone who enjoys boating and a challenge, but once is enough for us.   We may do another trip some day through the Northern Passage and into Canada or explore the west coast of Lake Michigan (Wisconsin).  But for right now we are enjoying our home here in South Haven, MI and the beach and just watching other boats coming in and out of the harbor.

Another common question is "What was your greatest experience?"  That is a tough one to answer as there were so many.  But two things that standout are (1) coming up the Potomac River into Washington DC and seeing the Washington and the Lincoln Memorial and (2) passing through the Narrows into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline.

It's difficult to put in words all the sights, the experiences, the emotions other than to say "WOW" we did it and it was great!! 

Here we are coming into our home port... No, all those people didn't come to see us.  It's just the usual summer tourist crowd in our little town.

"Miss TeRae"  Don & Theresa

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We did it! Journey is complete!

We crossed our wake (came into the South Haven harbor) August 12, 2012 at 1:17 PM Eastern Time!  The chart plotter showed 5,705 miles travelled!  It was so good to see the lighthouse, beckoning us home! 
I could say that all those people on the pier were there to welcome us home.  I could say that ----but it wouldn't be true.  It's the height of tourist season and there are people all over the place. 

We pulled into the South Haven Marina and got our picture taken, before we pull the boat out of the water.  Yes, we are very happy!  We will write a summary of sorts in our final blog.
Our AGLCA burgee flag has been "through the mill" waving us on as we travelled...

Back to the beginning of this past week...we left Manistee, MI by boat on on Wednesday AM and yes, it was good to get going again after having the boat repaired.  The outdrive is running really smooth, but then we hear a "miss" in the engine - Oh, no!  The lake is a little rough, but we kept    
 going and arrive at Muskegon about 3 & 1/2 hours later.  We get a slip at the Great Lakes Marina
 and settle in.  It's a nice, friendly marina, which is good because we end up staying here 3 days!  First it was rain and then a day of 6 - 8 ft. waves on the lake kept us in the harbor. 
 So we did some biking....

tThe "miss" in the engine went away.  "Bad fuel"??  "Wet spark plug wire"??  Who knows!!  I'll worry about it next winter.

We had a nice surprise on Saturday - there was a big Christian Music Festival in progress not far from the marina, so we spent a lot of the afternoon and evening there.

                                                           Even Michael W. Smith!

This is a unique Railroad Station in Muskegon - very interesting architecture!

Old boats....The Milwaukee Clipper

And new boats..... The Lake Express crosses the lake in 2 & 1/2 hours

We were greeted by cool temps and fog as we left Muskegon, but it was fine out on the lake and the ride to South Haven was on calm water.  It was a nice ride as we eagerly anticipated arriving back home.

And so the journey comes to an end.  We're so thankful for our safety, good health, fair weather and the pleasure of meeting many new people and exploring many new places! 
 God's been so good to us! 
Look for a brief summary and some observations of the entire trip next week....
Contrary to some predictions, Theresa and I are still talking to each other and sleeping in the same bed after living 10 1/2 months, in close quarters on our boat. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Boat Repair Week - spent in South Haven

We were informed that it would take a week to repair our boat.  The marina hauled out the boat and loaned us an old, red van to drive to South Haven (about 2&1/2 hours), which we really appreciated.
Offered the lift operator a beer if he would drop the boat and damage it enough that we could get a new one.  He couldn't be bought.

So the weekend before, we spent some time getting acquainted with the town of Manistee.  We toured 2 boats.  This one is the Acacia, a Coast Guard cutter used for placing and replacing buoys in the Great Lakes as they move or become dislodged throughout the year.  It was retired in the 90's and is open for tours now.

The 2nd boat was a huge steamer that hauled railroad cars across Lake Michigan in the 1920's - 1950's to Milwaukee.
Car (railroad) ferries were used to avoid the railroad congestion in Chicago.  Now there is a 6 track bypass around Chicago for trains to avoid the Chicago rail yards.  

While they were working on our boat we spent the week enjoying South Haven and getting some things "in order" for our return to living on the land.  We now have WiFi and Dish TV here and have our health insurance in place - time consuming projects.  And we opened a checking account at the local bank.  Here's a peek at the South Haven life...

South Haven is a town of about 6000 people on Lake Michigan. That number more than doubles in the summer and grows to 20,000 or more on some weekends.  It is featured regularly in various magazines as one of the top 10 summer vacation spots in the country. 
 A day at the beach....
Just 4 blocks from the house.  One of the finest beaches in the whole country.

Farmers Market - Yummm....

Here's Don' favorite "hangout"....
Black River Books is owned by some good friends and is just around the corner from our house.  The coffee is always on, plus they have some nice easy chairs and all the books one could ever want.  It's become a gathering place for a couple of us old guys.
So now our boat is fixed, back in the water and we will take off, when the wind and waves permit.
We hope to be in South Haven by Saturday - Yay........

Friday, July 27, 2012

Northern Michigan peninsula

It's a great time to be in Northern Michigan - while the rest of the nation is having extreme heat! 
 We do appreciate the cool nights, as we don't have air-conditioning on our boat.
Leaving Port Huron....

Moving on up the coast, our next night was in Port Sanilac and here's the lighthouse marking the entrance to the harbor.

We are traveling on Lake Huron and they are still having a depressed economy here, especially in Oscoda, where we were for 3 nights, due to rough seas.  They reportedly had over 75 fishing charter boats here 5 years ago and then the fish disappeared and now they have only 2.  Sad story, as it affects all the businesses in town.  We stayed at a marina that was really closed, but the guy let us stay anyway, and we biked all over town.  We found a bookstore we really liked, played Dutch Bingo with the owners and bought a few things also.  Here we are moored to the wall of the DuSable Marina on the DuSable River.

They also claim to be the home of Paul Bunyan - wonder what Bemidgi, MN would say about that!

Seeing more swans grace the lake here up north....they are beautiful!

This lighthouse marks the entrance to Cheboygan, MI, at the northern tip of lower Michigan, where we stayed 2 nights.  Nice marina, nice town, nice beach (except it has pebbles in the sand). 
 We are so spoiled at South Haven!

This day we were crossing the Straits of Mackinac - we didn't go to Mackinac Island because we have been there twice and for several days 3 years ago. 
 Here we pass under that gigantic Mackinac Bridge...
As we have been here before we technically "crossed our wake" and completed the "Great Loop".  But we'll wait until we're back in South Haven to celebrate. 

Onward to Leland, MI - Historic Fishtown - very touristy!  We've been here before also, when the marina was under construction, 3 years ago.  It is very nice now and busy!  Full marina and rafting up to 3 deep at some spots - partially due to the sailboats coming back from the
Chicago to Mackinac Race last weekend. 

After 2 nights there waiting for good weather, we take off for Manistee.  We get to within 2&1/2 miles of the harbor and our boat dies.  We called Towboat US (our insurer) and they tell us their towboat is "down" so they will call the Coast Guard to tow us in. 
 And so it goes...major headache time.
Actually the boat didn't die - something went "bang" and the propeller stopped turning.  Probably broke a shaft in the outdrive.  We'll learn more when the marina "hauls" the boat and has a closer look.  Anyway, we'll probably be here for several days.  We have the time.  Just glad this didn't happen in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.  We've traveled 5660 miles on the water with no major mechanical problems - just normal maintenance issues and now 130 miles from home....
I'm holding my head because I'm wondering what this "little problem" will cost!!

We are thankful for those willing to help us out!!
I thought that's why we pay taxes.  And I don't know how "willing" they were but we did appreciate the help - even if we were a training exercise for new Coast Guard enlistees.  

So here we are in Manistee, MI for awhile - guess we'll check out the town.....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lake Erie to Port Huron

We are back on the waterways, after a 3 week hiatus for our annual family 4th of July in South Haven and some time in Iowa, etc.  It was wonderful!  Here we are gathered for the annual parade...
It was time to get off the boat for awhile and we had a really great time with the kids and grand kids.  Our grandson, Reese, couldn't get off work for the week but his girl friend, Jess, came.  He has a summer job working in a Coca-Cola  warehouse.  Good money for a college guy.

We start back along the southern shore of Lake Erie, where we spent a couple of nights at Vermilion, OH (went to a fish fry festival - plus arts and crafts and some rain to work around.) 
                     That was the last part of June.

Then, we moved on to Put-in-Bay, OH, which is one of many islands in the southeast part of Lake Erie.  It is a tourist island, only accessible by boat, has lots of golf carts, restaurants and fishing and water sports. 
This is Lake Erie's idea of Key West.  I wasn't impressed, which probably says something about my age.

Interesting sign in Put-In-Bay - We've been to most of these places, by boat...

We crossed over to LaSalle, MI (We're in MI now!!  Seems like we are almost home!)  This is where our boat stayed while we rented a car to drive to So. Haven.  We were not happy when we came back - it was filthy - dirtier than it's ever been!  Covered with bird poop and spiders!  (They had a boat cleaning service clean it up while we went out to eat and shop a bit.)  Plus the batteries were dead - turns out that was our problem - our battery charger had died.  So we stayed there 2 nights to get the cleaning done inside and the batteries charged.  They did have a swimming pool, so I spent some time there and we returned our rental car in the morning.
There was not 1 sq. inch of the boat that didn't have bird droppings.  They also left a side curtain open. The birds got inside the cockpit and did their thing.  Thank goodness the door to the cabin was closed.  There was also greasy foot prints in the cockpit from when they serviced the engine.  Management made an effort to correct the situation but I'll never go back there.  Maybe my standards are to high after a career in customer service management.

Then our son, Brian and his family came to drop him off ( he travelled with us for 2 days).  Don, Brian, Ursula and Donovan went for a short cruise on Lake Erie.
It was really good to have Brian with us for a few days.  I can only hope he enjoyed it as much as we did.  We had issues the first day.  The anchor wouldn't set because the flute pivot had rusted.  Then the line to the dinghy broke and we had to chase it through a busy anchorage in heavy winds.  At that point Brian was probably wondering what he had gotten into.

I felt very confident and safe with these guys at the helm!  We passed the 5,000 mark of mileage on this trip with Brian on board.  Wow!!
5180 miles under the keel - about 600 to go.   

The Detroit River Lighthouse, marking the end of Lake Erie and the entrance to the Detroit River.

A pivoting railroad bridge - we've seen many of these on our trip and always have to make sure we have adequate clearance.  Usually have to put our antenna down to make it under these short bridges.

  We tried to "hug" the US side of the river - didn't want to have to deal with Canadian customs, etc.
Here's a view of some of the industrial side of Detroit....

Downtown Detroit framed by the Ambassador Bridge - from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  Since 9/11, it has become much more of a hassle to get back into the US from Canada, we're told.

View on the Canadian side....

We stay clear of the big Lake boats...

Passing Belle Isle Park, which has a zoo, beaches, walking trails and a maritime museum.  We've been to several of these attractions in the Detroit area when visiting Brian & Chris, by land.

The Port Huron Lighthouse marks the entrance to Lake Huron.

The Bluewater Bridge from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Celebrating Brian & Chris' anniversary, with her sister and Dad, at a rooftop restaurant in Port Huron.

Then we're on to traveling up the east coast of Michigan, around the "thumb" and on up to the Mackinac Straits.  Until next time....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

From the Erie Canal into Lake Erie

Yes, we finally completed the cruise through the Erie Canal - 342 miles at about 5-10 MPH, 9 days, 35 Locks, 15 Lift bridges, several Canal Gates (usually open for us) ... and we entered Lake Erie.  Here are a few typical pictures of our Canal Trip: 

Tied to a dock in a small town, NY (actually ... where we stayed in the hotel for one night - enjoyed the day off and the comforts of land living.)  this is just a regular bridge...

Typical Lift Bridge - It raises straight up, so we can pass under.........
(You see our TV antenna, since this pic was taken from the boat.)

Yes, we've seen lots of families of geese along the way!

And ducks...

The locks at Lockport, NY - old locks on the right, carrying the water outflow.  Two Lock gates on the left - that's where we're headed.  These were our very last Locks this trip!!

Buffalo, NY - after this city, we are on Lake Erie.

Cleveland, Ohio - We cruised inside the breakwater, saw the stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and just decided to stop and check it out.

The Hall of Fame - it was very interesting, especially the history and early years of Rock and Roll, which we can relate to! 

Ah, yes - the good ole 50's.  I was especially interested in Carl Perkins of "Blue Suede Shoes" fame.  He lived a few blocks from us in Jackson, TN.  He had a big influence on the Beatles and they recorded some of his songs.  Later in life he was the opening act for Johnny Cash and played guitar in Cash's band.   He recorded with Sun Studios during the period that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Louis where also there.  He always had great stores to tell about the early years in Rock n Roll.  The ex wife of the first guy I hired in Jackson, married Carl's son.  Real small town stuff.
Also, they were having Marine Week at the Cleveland waterfront (unbeknown to us) and as we were leaving, we were caught in the Marine invasion they were staging at the Burke Airport there.  We had a police escort out of the harbor!!  A display of many flags on the Harbor peninsula...

And so, now we are in Vermilion, Ohio (west of Cleveland) and heading toward Toledo, where we will probably rent a car for our trip to IA/MI.  So we will be gone for 2-3 weeks before we return to finish the LOOP trip.  Until then...Happy 4th of July!!