Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gettin' Much Closer to Gettin' Goin'

Oh boy. We are getting much closer to getting on the boat and heading on down the river to much warmer weather south of here.

After much ballyhoo we finally got all of our registration stuff straightened out with the state of Missouri and Why Knot is now officially a Missouri boat. Because of that we wanted to get the transom changed to reflect our correct home port of St. Louis. That involved getting the boat hauled out at Port Charles. So far so good. And since we had the boat out we also seriously looked at the possibility of needing to get a new bottom job. For those that don't know what a bottom job is it entails the part of the boat that is below the waterline get scraped and ground to get any crud off as well as get rid of any bubbles that formed when water would seep into the bottom coatings. Then a thick paint is applied to act as protection against such a harsh environment. We fully expected that it would need to be done but low and behold the assessment was that it did not as the most recent coating was of such a high quality that the bottom was virtually unblemished. According to the worker at the yard the existing coating was done by "someone that really knew what they were doing" and was probably very expensive. He pointed out that directly below the green outer paint there was an obvious layer of an epoxy coating that was in very good shape. Now I don't know enough about bottom coatings to know if this epoxy is normal but it made all the difference on our boat. The transom repainting and letter will get done sometime before Friday and the boat will be splashed (put back in the water) sometime this weekend. Yay!

We have also been following the devastation of the eastern US coast by Hurricane Sandy very closely, and we have both been moved by it. Because we have recently been to these places it became very personal to us. The pictures and videos from New Jersey have been shocking. I just watched a news report from Mannesquan, NJ and the reporter on the scene was on the outskirts about to enter. He was told that it was pretty much destroyed. Having been there we can certainly believe it. He was standing on the destroyed railroad right of way of the commuter train line that went right up through the town crossing a rail draw bridge that cuts across the harbor. There were boats on the railroad right-of-way. And we saw lots of pictures of boats in places where they shouldn't be. Terrible.

So our todo list is getting shorter and shorter. The shorter it gets the closer we are to casting off once again.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day Four – AGLCA Fall Rendezvous. And What Comes Next


Let’s make a very strong point about something. The weather at the rendezvous was spectacular all week long!!! It was sunny every day with a high temperature hovering around eighty degrees, low humidity  and little wind. Unbelievable.  So on from there.

The seminars were a mixed bag. I attended one that was an introduction to a marine electrical system and I learned a lot. It turns out that we have been hooking up and out of shore power the wrong way. The correct sequence is a bit more complicated but I do believe that following it will be beneficial. (I’m not sure what significance the step of sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling “woo woo” has but…)

AGLCA has launched a new looper locator smart phone app. Every time I log in it shows my position somewhere along the western edge of the state of Mississippi. We’ll see.

The highlight was the dinghy race towards the end of the day. Here’s how it worked. There were powered dinghies and one row boat. There was a captain that drove (or rowed) the boat and a navigator to give them directions to cruise to and around a float about seventy-five feet out, then back to the dock. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not so fast, you able bodied seaman you. The captain was blindfolded AND drove the boat in reverse…that’s transom first. It was pretty hysterical. It seems that inflatable dinghies aren’t designed to do that so good. The boats were going every direction. But eventually they all made it back. Then our supposedly good friends Laura and Ross introduced me to a looper named Joy who wanted to join in on the fun but her husband opted out of doing it. (insert chicken clucking sounds here.) So I got recruited. I didn’t want to use a powered boat. That would be too easy for such a sea-worthy crew as Joy and I, so we used the row boat. Man, it was HARD! I had absolutely no perspective on where we were at all. I’m guessing the blindfold had something to do with that. But Joy and I had a good plan. She would just tell me which oar to row: left, right or both. The system worked but there were difficulties. First I kept sliding off of the bench and then the left oar kept coming out of the thingie that holds it to the gunnel of the boat. (Sorry. Don’t know the technical term. “Thingie” will have to do.) We did make it back to the dock though. During the evening's award ceremonies we did get an honorable mention of which I stood up, whooped really loud and pumped my fists into the air. I think I kind of scared the people sitting at my table.

The evening’s event ended and we all said our good-bys. Many of us are planning to meet down in Mobile, Alabama after Thanksgiving to make the Gulf crossing together - 170 miles of open water. That ought to be fun.

So what is the final tally of my grades for the rendezvous?
Facility     B+:    - Rustic and charming. The rooms were surprisingly big and comfortable. Internet connectivity at least in the lodge rooms was blazing fast. Plenty of bandwidth.
Joe Wheeler Park     A+:    Beautiful. Doesn’t get much better.
Event Content     C:    There certainly was some useful content but I can see a pattern between the two different rendezvous. There needs to be some new juice. I would like to see seminars on building followers for my blog and social media, a tour of helpful websites, camera techniques, and clever smartphone stuff. Lisa suggested more things for the women on board (especially the newbies and skeptics) like how to cope with a tiny ship’s galley, how to keep entertained or even how mail can be handled. The scope needs to be broadened.
Hospitality     A:    The staff of the lodge were top rate and there was nothing left to chance. It all went very well. The docktails and happy hour receptions were great and the looper crawls were very good. The little girl trick-or-treating from boat to boat was precious. (Yes, I used the word “precious”. I am still a manly man!)
Food     D:    Ow. Sorry. But the buffet food was pretty bad. Everyone was still talking about the mystery casserole from Sunday night on Tuesday – bad sign. I thought the burgers were good. Btw, I liked that they had French vanilla creamer at the coffee stations.
Lifestyle     A+:    It was great to be with friends again. I have lived in many arenas of life and loopers are the best people in the world. Period.

So what’s next?

I have to admit that I was jealous of our friends who had their boats at the rendezvous. As I said above the hotel was nice but not as nice as being on Why Knot. For us there are still some things that need to get done here in St. Louis. It looks like our departure date is going to be November 1st. We are anxious to head on down the river towards warmer climates and catch up with everyone. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day Three AGLCA Rendezvous 10/23/2012

Day Three of the rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park was steeped in cruising information about getting around Florida including going to Key West, which is definitely on our agenda. We spent a week there last November and had a blast. So much so it became a mandatory stopping point for our Great Loop Cruise. I guess the way it works is that the information from the rendezvous in Norfolk is about getting from Norfolk to St. Louis-ish. The rendezvous in Alabama is about getting from St. Louis-ish to Norfolk. Some of the most useful information was about making way down the gulf coast of Florida. The presenter made many great references to terrific locales. As we spent a bunch of time there last year we're anxious to see it all from the water. Also helpful was finding out what the best jumping off point from the mainland to Marathon (The Keys) is, and that there is a fully marked route inside the islands back up towards Miami.

Many of the attendees went to a hootennanny (my word, not theirs) in Rogersville, AL. Music and smores for all. But I didn't go. Kind of pricey for my tastes but I am sure everyone had a rip-roaring time. I hung out in my hotel room and watched more tv. (Remember how enthused I was about watching a TV program yesterday morning? Well the shininess of that experience has rubbed off. Man, TV stinks.)

One more day here then back to St. Louis, Lisa and Why Knot. Then just a few more days until we are back out on the water heading south catching up with of all our friends.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

AGLCA Fall Rendezvous Day 2 10/22/2012

The rendezvous kicked into gear on Monday morning. I woke up at my usual time but I felt sluggish and haggard. No amount of coffee would perk me up either. I am sure those of you that are frequent travelers can relate to this next statement...The coffee that comes from those little coffee brewer-thingies in hotel rooms generally sucks. I went down to the lobby of the lodge where they had some freshly brewed stuff. It helped get me up but I couldn't stay there. I went back to my room to get cleaned up and ready and I did something I hadn't done in about eight months. I sat and actually watched television. Amazing. It was an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent which is my favorite television show of all time. Unfortunately it was an episode with Jeff Goldblum as the lead detective, a poor substitution for the Vincent D'Onofrio / Det. Bobby Goren eponymous version. I did also get an opportunity to meet Jim Favors, whom along with his wife Lisa, has written several books about their looping experiences. Very nice fellow. Very interesting conversation.

Close to 7:30am I toddled down to the banquet room for a breakfast of biscuits, runny scrambled eggs, sausage hockey pucks and bacon jerky strips. Unfortunately there has been lots of conversations about the quality of the food here at Joe Wheeler State Park. Some of it has been ok, like the hamburger I had at the restaurant Sunday evening was very good. But then the dinner Sunday night was a complete mystery to most of us. (General Rule of Thumb - If I can identify it, I don't eat it.)

I sat with Ross and Laura in the back corner. The presentation subjects were all about cruising down the Tennessee Tombigbee waterway and the ICW from Mobile to Carabelle, FL. Then crossing the Gulf of Mexico from Carabelle to Tarpon Springs, FL. This part of the trip is what I see as the most risky of it all. The crossing is 170 miles of open water albeit very shallow water. A lot of my questions were answered and so I feel better about it all.

Speaking of Ross and Laura, we are going to meet up with them in Mobile, AL and make the crossing with them.


Anyway, back to the seminars...

After the early afternoon session I was having a hard time staying awake so I went back to the room and took a power nap.

Ok, I guess I am part of the rowdy crowd. At dinner we rafted three tables together (go to - entry: restaurant/banquet rafting) and had a lot of laughs. But then we had Kermit from Good Karma with us, so of course we were borderline out of control.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The AGLCA Rendezvous - Day 1

The fall rendezvous of the AGLCA got underway on Monday, 10/21/2012 in a great fashion. Registration took place at the Lodge at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, AL under clear warm skies. After picking up my swag from the registration desk I mozied around to all of the exhibitors spending a few minutes with each. The weather is spectacular. The high temperatures will be in the 80s with it being bright and sunny. Terrific.

It was then time for the introductions of all of the loopers in progress. We all took our short turn to say who we are, a bit about out boat, where we are in our loop and a short story. Some of them were very funny and a few were a bit chilling  such as the one looper telling the story how his boat was stolen from a public dock. The thieves were apprehended in less then 30 minutes as they didn't know what to do to get past a drawbridge. After dinner the gold loopers (those who have already completed the loop) made their introductions.

Monday will start the full schedule of events and seminars. I will be attending the talks "Tenn Tom to Mobile", "Mobile to Tarpon Springs" and "The Gulf or the Big Bend". There will be Looper crawls prior to dinner the and introductions of newbie Loopers. The weather is calling sunny skies with a high temperature of 81 degress. Perfect.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Top Five So Far

It’s been a great trip so far (3700 sm covered) and we have seen many, many wonderful things. Here is our Top Five so far.

5  -  Sarasota, FL
Technically we haven’t reached there yet but it was the starting point of our journey back in November of 2011. It was here that we first went to look for a boat that would be our own. Of course, we didn’t find one there. We had to go the east coast of Florida to finally get matched up with Why Knot. But we look back on our time in Sarasota with fondness. When you are there you must visit the Bradenton Donut shop. They are awesome. Also if you are in need of a new boat for your Great Loop journey call Capt. Charlie Pendergrass of American Marine. He’s the best.

4  -  Campbellford, ON
A great time was had by all in Campbellford! We were there with a great bunch of fellow loopers and had a blast. The town is nice, the Canadian Tire store there has everything you need and, of course, the donuts in Cambellford are #1 in the known universe. Lots of fun.

3  -  Annapolis, MD
Holy cats! What a cool town. There is so much to do and see that if you don’t set aside a week to be there you will certainly miss something cool. Taking a guided tour of the US Naval Academy is a must. If you can do it, mooring in the mooring field in the main harbor is a unique and wonderful experience. They have water taxis and a mobile pump out boat. The town of Annapolis has it all: great restaurants, shops and lots of historical stuff. (The state capital is kind of cool.) The only downside is that there is not a close by grocery store. Throw in the entire Chesapeake Bay and all that it has to offer and you have a recipe for boating bliss.

2  -  Charlevoix, MI
If you have been following our blog ( you may remember how much I gushed about Charlevoix. What a place! Grab a thesaurus and look up the word “awesome” and all of those synonyms can be used to describe this great destination. We stayed a week and could easily have stayed longer.

1  -  Canada (Ontario, "The Canadian Shield", The Trent Severn Waterway, Georgian Bay, North Channel)
Cambellford got special mention already but the entire excursion into Canada was a moving experience. Cool, clear water everywhere. The Trent Severn Waterway is wonderful. We got a special treat at the Peterborough Lift lock that we have been sworn to secrecy about. Bobcaygeon rocked. Georgian Bay was spectacular. (Lisa and I differ slightly here. She preferred Georgian Bay. I preferred the Trent Severn Waterway.) The lovely people of Canada are, well, lovely. The vistas charged our emotions. The rocks were, um, very rocky. And what can you say about the Big Chute. What an experience. We have it already in our plans to return there and spend more time and explore more of this beautiful country.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chores, Chores, Chores!

I dropped Lisa off at the airport on Tuesday afternoon and headed out to the boat for a few days. While she’s gone I am going to dive head-first into the list of things to do on the boat. Things such as, taking the 200 foot anchor rode, clean it and repaint the 10 foot markers, and while the chain is out drying take the windlass apart again to touch up the lube job I did on it over Labor Day weekend in St. Joseph, Michigan. I did it right the first time but I was concerned that I didn’t put enough grease on. Then there are some cleaning chores to be done such as taking our three electric fans apart and cleaning up all the gunk that had accumulated on the fan blades and mesh cages. Yuk. I also had to trim the caulking I applied to some of the windows that were letting too much water into our cabin when it rained particularly hard. Then there is the routine engine maintenance to be done. Then there is the bent rail to be straightened, and of course the 32 inches of toe rail to be replaced, and many other smaller tasks. All in all jolly good fun.

Things here at Port Charles Harbor are aok. The only concern about our location is that the level of the Alton Pool of the Mississippi River is dropping. According to a gauge at the marina the water level is a touch below fifteen feet which for the pool is fine but not so for the slough that has to be passed through to get to the channel. My biggest concern is that the lower water in the pool means that the already shallow entrance channel into the marina is getting more so. What if when it’s time to leave around the first of November we can’t even get out of the marina? Wouldn’t that be just terrific? We’ll have to wait and see.

But the weather is terrific with sunny skies and moderate temperatures. Things are fine. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I’m Jealous. OK?

I admit it. I am very jealous of all of our fellow loopers. I keep up on reading all of the AGLCA forum posts from all of them as they tell their stories about heading down the Mississippi River to the inland waters of Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and all of the great places we wish we could share with them. I also trade emails with boating buddies of ours, especially Ross and Laura of The Zone. And here we sit in our home in St. Louis. Oh, we’ll get there come November but it’s not the same as being there when everyone else is there.


One little side note, just for fun I checked the weather in Holland, MI and the forecast for the next several days is for gale force winds with nine to ten foot waves on shore! Yikes!

So what have we been doing? Actually we’ve been very busy. There’s been a lot of important things to do mostly in the areas of our personal business. Our daily schedule is kind of the same as when we are on board Why Knot. We wake up about 4:30 am or 5:00 ish and sit down at our computers and plod through our long check lists of important tasks. Lisa is mostly taking care of the biz side of things, I the boat-ey things. Lisa is heading off to Denver next Tuesday (Oct. 9) for a week to attend to some things for her family.

While she is gone I will get to the things that I need to on board. There is routine maintenance to do but also some bigger things such as replacing about three feet of deck toe rail that got yanked off in a lock. I’m not the greatest carpenter in the world (read: I suck at it) so this will be a challenge. I think the problem is that I sometimes lack patience and I want things to move more quickly which is when I start messing things up. I have gotten use to reciting a mantra to myself of “Slow down, Darrell. Slow down.” There is also routine engine maintenance to do. A week ago I was able to pull an oil sample to be analyzed by Caterpillar. I received the report back with the joyously received notation of “No action required”.  Good news.

As I said things on land are somewhat similar to life on board such as we do not have access to cable or broadcast TV. So we fill our evenings watching movies and TV shows on DVD. Some of the titles we have watched are “Crocodile Dundee II” (Which is my favorite ‘guilty pleasure’ movie. It’s so bad its good.), and lots of Shakespeare such as “Much Ado About Nothing”, Richard III, Henry V, Wally IX and Fred XII (Ok, I made that last one up.) We have also watched all 127 installments of the “Harry Potter” franchise. I surprised myself by liking them as much as I did. (And if I can make a movie recommendation to you all find a copy of “They Were Expendable” starring Robert Montgomery and John Wayne, directed by John Ford. It is my number one favorite movie of all time. It is about PT Boats in the early stages of World War II in the Philippines. Great movie. I have watched it a dozen times or more.)

Things here is St. Louis have been all a-buzz with the Cardinals getting into the one game wild card playoff against the Atlanta Braves. (And to all of our friends in Atlanta…tough noogies.)