Monday, December 2, 2019

The 2019 Cruising Season That Wasn’t!!

There are two ways I could approach writing about this past cruising season.  One, write a detailed account of all the mechanical problems we had, where we were, what was done.  Two, just sum up the season and include some nice pictures!  I’m going with option #two! 

We were one of the last boats to go into the wintering shed in Algonac, Michigan, so of course, we were one of the first boats out.  We got the boat in the water in early April.  Since our plan for the year was to spend most of the time in Canada, we hadn’t planned on leaving home on the boat until late May (waiting for warmer weather!).  We used the time to get some tasks done.  Dan always has a list of things he wants to accomplish, handy guy that he is, and this was no exception.  I enjoyed having some time at home, allowing me time with grandkids, play some golf, work in the yard. 
Dan had had the fuel injectors for both engines cleaned and reconditioned.  Once we actually took the boat on a couple of short trips, we were dismayed to find that fuel was leaking into the oil crankcase…..a lot!  And, that began the odyssey that lasted all summer and into September!  We never got more than a two hour’s car drive from our home.  We spent time in three marinas on the Detroit River, Kean’s, Milliken State Park and Marina, and Grayhaven Mooring Facility.  Through several attempts at fixing the problem, we were able to keep one of our vehicles at the various marinas, go home frequently, bemoan the passing of the cruising season!  Oddly enough, while we were frustrated and tired of paying for the various repairs, we still enjoyed our time on the boat and with each other.
At one point, we hoped the problem had been resolved, so we cruised down to Put In Bay, on Lake Erie.  On the way there, Dan was concerned with the oil pressure on the troublesome port engine.  We cut that engine off, and, while I piloted the boat, with one engine, on into Put In Bay, Dan went below to check out the engine.  Sure enough, the engine room was a mess of oil and fuel.  OK, so we DON’T have the problem fixed!  We spent a pleasant time in Put In Bay (on South Bass Island) for two days.  That place reminds us of Key West in many ways, without the crazy characters!
We were able to find a good diesel mechanic in Port Clinton, Ohio, not far from Put In Bay.  He works out of a boatyard there, and we docked at the boatyard.  There were none of the usual marina facilities, but they did have a dock with electricity!  Most of our time there, about a month, we were the only boat there.  The property is several acres, surrounded by water and fencing.  Tugboat liked it – he could spend lots of time on and off the boat, chasing geese, sniffing and peeing everywhere.  We did have to be careful that he didn’t drink the lake water- Lake Erie had a serious and deadly algae problem.   We used the time there to do a project we had been postponing - we stripped and put several coats of varnish on the teak railing around the cockpit and the bowsprit.
Anyway, after several other attempts at fixing our problem, we found ourselves in mid-September with pretty much the entire boating season gone by!  We cruised to Kelly’s Island for our test run, got stuck there an extra night because of weather, but the engine was finally fixed!  Our next stop was Toledo at the National Museum of the Great Lakes.  From there, we cruised back up the Detroit River to Colony Marina, our home for a few weeks before the Kittiwake got put away for the winter.
Now, for some pictures from this cruising season.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Home with the boat, finally!! October 2018

We left Sinbad’s, and continued up the Detroit River into Lake St. Clair to Jefferson Beach Marina, which is about a 20 minute drive to our house.  We planned to leave the boat there for a few days while we off load things and cleaned and put away for the winter.  The winter storage spot we had picked was in Algonac, Michigan, about a 4 hour cruise and about an hour’s drive from our house.
Our lovely neighbor, Nancy, came to pick us up and take us to the house.  We treated her to a lunch at our favorite water front restaurant in this area, Mike’s on the Water.  We took the bare minimum home with us on that first trip, saving the bulk of things until we could return with the truck.  Over the next 3 or 4 days, we cleaned the boat thoroughly, brought all the linens to the house for cleaning, cleaned out the refrigerator….all the things you want to do before putting her away until next April.
On the last night at this marina, we invited my son, Travis, and his wife, Lisa, and three grandchildren to the boat.  They had not seen it yet, and were so excited to see where we had been living for the past few months.  We served them dinner, and let them explore and ask all their questions.  Travis’ main question was, “You mean you have a boat, you travel around in a boat, and you don’t have even ONE fishing pole on board??”  Yep, that’s the truth!  I hope we can host them on board next Spring or Summer for a few days to explore some part of the Georgian Bay in Canada.
For the trip to Algonac, the only family member that was available was Ella, my 11 year old granddaughter.  She got to come along and actually drive the boat for a bit!  We travel pretty slowly, so she did get bored fairly quickly.  Fortunately, she is a real book worm and always has a book with her.
We had timed this last leg of our trip perfectly.  We had beautiful, sunny, clear weather going the entire 4 hours until we were actually pulling into the slip at Sassy’s Marina.  Suddenly, the wind picked up, and the rain started.  As we were securing the boat, there was some fairly significant lightning and thunder.  Wow, talk about perfect timing!
Next, we have several days before the marina actually picks the boat out of the water and puts her indoors for her heated winter storage.  Dan has some maintenance he wants to do.  Also, he wants to make sure all the water is out of the water system and the engines.  Even though the storage will be heated, there’s always a possibility of electrical failure, followed by emergency generator failure.  We have lived with Murphy’s Law!
It feels really good to be home, to have the Kittiwake secured for the winter.  Since we are one of the last boats going into storage, we will be one of the first out of storage.  That suits us fine – we will be in Key West, living in our 5th wheel camper from mid-January to end of March.  If they pull her out in early April,, that will give us plenty of time to get her back in order, provisioned,  and ready to cruise in Canada next season.  We are figuring that it will still be too cold in Canada until sometime in May.  Here’s to being home in our ‘dirt house’ for a while!
It’s been quite a year.  Dan and I never even thought of this boat life until about 3 years ago.  We first heard about America’s Great Loop from a couple we met in Key West.  It sounded pretty cool, but we had no idea if we had the resources to do such a thing.  Turns out, if you have skills to fix most anything, like Dan does, you can buy a pretty nice, but older boat.  The Kittiwake is perfect for us.  It had been well maintained for most of her life.  We have put some ‘boat bucks’ in her, to make her better and more up to date.  There are still things we want to do.  But, we are very comfortable on her.  One thing we have found in this boat life:  you can be docked next to an old house boat, or a million dollar+ boat – folks are all so welcoming and inclusive.  We have made some terrific friends.   We will continue with this life, during the late Spring and Summer seasons, as long as we are able.  Being 69 and 71, there will come a time that we just won’t be able to handle the physical requirements.  Hopefully, we have a few years to go yet.
Of course, losing Max in July was really hard for us.  We miss him so much!  We are simply dog people – life, we feel, is just so much better with a dog, regardless of the extra effort it takes to have one along on the boat.  So, since we have been home, we have been searching for our next fur baby.  And, we have found one.  We have decided to adopt another American Bulldog mix and to call him ‘Tug’ short for Tugboat.  He has been in the shelter and now at a foster home for a while.  He’s a real love bug, and we get him tomorrow, Monday, October 22.  Can’t wait! We wanted to get our new pup when we will be home for a while, so that he can get used to us and visa versa.  Life with a dog goes on!
So, I’m signing off until next season. 

Detroit!!! 10/12/2018

After what seems like FOREVER, we arrived in Detroit.  It was pretty cold, so I didn’t want to exit the pilot house on the boat to take pictures so I did not.  We didn’t expect the channel leading from Lake Erie to the Detroit River and north to look as it did.  There are actually two large deep channels to accommodate those huge barges and commercial ocean-going ships…one is north bound and the other is south bound.  With almost no traffic, we decided we liked the south bound side better, so that is the way we approached the city.  Picture this (because I didn’t take any actual pictures!):  a very wide, maybe 100 yards wide, channel lined with trees on both sides.  Also, about every 100 yards or so, there was a lighthouse-type tower, red on one side, and green on the other.  This stretched for about 20 miles.   Impossible to get lost with markers like that!
We tried reaching a marina in downtown Detroit by phone.   Our first choice, the state park, was not taking any transient boats and was in the process of closing for the season.  Our next choice was the Erma Henderson Marina.  We did reach the office.  Unlike ANY other marina in the entire eastern seaboard, Hudson River, Erie Canal, and Lake Erie, this marina (and Riverside) requires (1) picture ID, (2) proof of insurance, and (3) copy of our vessel registration.  We weren’t getting the best WIFI reception out in Lake Erie, but I managed to get the documents together.  Once they received the documentation, they said, they would email an invoice that we could pay online.  Only then would they tell us what slip we could use.  I tried all afternoon to make this happen – some issues weren’t their fault, i.e. weak WIFI signal, my email’s routing their note to junk folder.  But, finally, I gave up.  We were approaching the marina, we were tired, it was very cold and windy – I was done!  I thought to call Sinbad’s Restaurant, knowing they had a few slips.  Not only did they have slips available, but we could stay overnight for $45! And, we both love the restaurant!  Done deal.  We had a lovely dinner, and retired for the night.

Put In Bay – October 10, 2018

Our last stop before Michigan!  Put In Bay is actually on an island in Lake Erie called South Bass Island.  Once we left Cleveland harbor, we could see a tall tower/monument to Commodore Perry which is on South Bass Island.  It just took us several hours to get there!  As is our habit, we tried to call the marina we selected several times during the day, but never reached anyone.  No problem – we will just get in there, tie up, and settle up with the bill in the morning.  We navigated around the south end of the island and entered the protected harbor.  We saw the marina, found our way to a slip alongside a dock and managed to get secured.  It was really windy, and we were happy to be in a protected harbor on the lee side of the island.  When we arrived, it was pretty warm, still warm enough for sandals and shirtsleeves.  We rambled down the main street and selected a restaurant for dinner.  Not being a weekend, and being at the very end of the season, many of the shops and restaurants were closed for the season.  But, there were still plenty of places to go.  There were only two other boats in the entire marina. 
Next morning, the weather had turned – really chilly, very windy, jacket weather and no more sandals!  Turns out the slip we selected is not one owned by the marina, but by a vineyard located right on the waterfront.  They were closed for the season, so free dockage for the two nights we sheltered there!  Our favorite price!  We walked around town, down to the Perry monument.  It and the Visitors Center was closed, so we just looked around and went back to the boat. 
Looking at the weather, we decided the dash across open water in Lake Erie wouldn’t be too bad on the next day.  Well, “not too bad” is a relative term.  For the two or three hours it took us to get into more sheltered water south of Detroit, it was a rocky roley ride – lots of things that normally stay in place while cruising found the floor.  That’s why we have mostly plastic dishes!

classic lighthouse at entrance to bay

pretty house on South Bass Island before the Bay

another pretty island house

cool statue in central park

name describes the building!


Love when late gardens are still pretty

lovely park in the center of town

looks like a fun place...

closed for the season - looks like a place I could love

another pretty Fall garden

Commodore Perry monument - we could see it almost from Cleveland

nice house in town

fun sign

nice old building

pretty church

Cleveland, 10/09/18

Wow, Cleveland!  Another place we placed on our “Must Visit Another Time” list.  The skyline is most impressive.  We stayed at the marina that is literally at the back door of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  We didn’t take the time to tour the R&R Hall of Fame on this visit, but we will definitely do that on our next visit.
Our first meal in Cleveland started out to just be a drink at the restaurant Nuevo right there on the waterfront.  We had a couple of drinks with their excellent chips and salsa, then ordered one dinner and shared.  There was a very convivial group there at the bar.  Two guys happened to be firefighters from West Texas, there for a training class.  They were enjoying their visit up north.  We started talking to another couple there, who were just starting to figure out what they want to do in their upcoming retirement.  They were fascinated to hear about our travels, both in the boat and RV.  We had lots of stories and advice for them – mainly, get a guide book, stay off the Interstates, and go exploring the US!  They seemed to be fired up and ready to do just that!
Next morning, we decided to go out for breakfast, visit the Chase bank, and find the downtown grocery store we had heard about.  This grocery store, Heinen’s, was like none other we expect to ever see!  It is in space that started out as the main branch of a big bank.  It had totally amazing and beautiful d├ęcor, right down to the brass medallion on the floor.  The pattern on the floor had some large circles, and the grocery store managed to find tables and chairs that exactly fit into that pattern.  One favorite feature was their wine and beer dispensers.  You purchase a ‘smart card’, insert it, and select which wine or beer, and whether you want just a taste or a glass!   Very cool.  I took lots of pictures!

Cleveland skyline as we approach

Cleveland's beautiful nighttime skyline, from our boat

Inside the atrium in Heinen's, a grocery store!

Beautiful atrium at Heinen's

Amazing Tiffany-looking dome over the atrium
stunning space

tables and chairs to match the original floor

 close up of one of the murals

just a back stairwell, but lovely!

you can see all the levels, with grocery store in the lower
self help wine bar

more than I would normally pay for a bottle!

want a taste, 3 oz. or 5 oz!?

Geneva on the Lake, Ohio, 10/8/18

The marina is in a state park.  Ohio does a very nice job with their state parks.  This one, right on Lake Erie, is lovely.  The marina is very nice, their staff friendly and helpful.  From the marina, there is a trail through the woods to a gorgeous lodge and restaurant.  We might like to go there to stay sometime – the colors were just about to peak and there isn’t a prettier sight!  The lodge has a wonderful buffet breakfast, so we took advantage of that!   This would be an excellent place to ride our bikes around - but, we were feeling the pinch of time with the cooler weather.  Time to get the boat and ourselves back to Michigan!

just love the look of a sailboat moving along with the wind

beautiful sunset, sun shielded by storm in the distance

sun peeking through the clouds

Erie, Pennsylvania, 10/7-8/2018

This was our first stop outside of the state of New York since about August 25!  Wow!  And, Erie is the only stop in Pennsylvania.
Erie couldn’t be more different from Dunkirk!  There was a beautiful marina and waterfront.  The marina was top notch, with very nice facilities for the boaters.  There is a huge hospital complex right across from the highway from the waterfront.  Their grounds are beautifully landscaped.  The walk to downtown was almost all uphill, but so worth the trouble!  We found a vital town, with restaurants aplenty, shops, a beautiful park, more than one construction project going on.  We had a very nice dinner in a busy pub downtown.
Right next to the marina was the very interesting  Maritime Museum.  A very old sailing ship, the USS Niagara, was docked outside the Museum.  It is the original ship, with, of course, replacement parts over the years.  It still sails every day during the summer season, at times taking groups of Boy Scouts for a several days' long adventure.  Our tour of the museum was so interesting – Erie was the site of a major battle in the War of 1812.  It was the first time the British fleet had been trounced!  Our guide for the tour was a retired Navy guy – the guide and our entire group appreciated Dan’s comments from his own Navy experience.

front of the Maritime Museum

We got to tour the ship!

pretty building...

gorgeous Greek orthodox church

girder from World Trade Center, post 9/11

9/11 memorial

We'll never forget 9/11

Whimsical statue with a good motto

cool fish 

USS Niagara, built in Erie, used to defeat the English in the Battle of Erie, 1812

Deck of the Niagara

on the deck - those square holes played an important role....ask me or Dan sometime!

proof that we were there!
beautiful sailing ship in full sail

just a beautiful tree!