Enquiring Minds

Thank you for all the kind words about our blog and our trip.  We were truly amazed that people came to Washburn to greet us and meet the couple from a blog they had been following.

Along with those kind words have been a number of questions.  Peg and I did our best to respond honestly:

Would you have sailed another year, gone further, do it again?

Before leaving we agreed there was a small possibility we would just keep going and do the Loop twice. We had a unique window of opportunity: freshly retired, no grandkids yet, reliable house-sitters, good health and no eldercare issues. So off we went with options to extend the trip.

Then our grown children began buying homes and thinking of becoming parents, and we missed everyone back home, and our house sitters could only commit for a year, and, and…

So the thought of changing the original one-year plan drifted away.  Instead, we began building a list of future trips.  Doing two or three 1-2 month trips per year, it will take many years to exhaust the list.

Would we do the Loop again?  Maybe.  What we will do is go back to our favorite areas on the Loop, with a trailerable boat, and explore further.

In the end, Peg and I agree that the route we took and the one-year duration was very satisfying.

Did you ever think of abandoning the adventure part way?

Not for a moment.

What was the easiest part, and the hardest?

We would put the Trent-Severn Waterway as the easiest.  Tying up at lock walls for the night, accessible towns, friendly lock masters, fair immunity from weather, and great scenery combined to make a delightful experience.

As for the “hardest”, we would say portions of the Atlantic Intercoastal and the Chesapeake/Delaware Bay section.  The marshy areas through Georgia and the Carolinas were pretty, but also pretty boring when weather halted us.  Staring out at marsh grass, with no ability to go ashore, tested our ability to stay amused on board.

The Chesapeake and Delaware Bays both tested our affection for large, shallow bodies of water.  Both turned into butt-kicking brutes that forced us to wait for better conditions.

That said, nothing on the Loop struck us as particularly hard.  Maybe we’re just jaded after several seasons on Lake Superior.

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How did you two get along being stuck in a boat together for a year?

Amazingly well.  We found out years ago that we are best together when sailing or land cruising.  I think the constant wonder of seeing new things focuses us outward on the mutual experience rather than inward on petty disagreements.  Whatever, the cause, we were exceptionally close and affectionate during the loop.

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Why didn’t you put on a bigger motor and go faster?

There is a discussion going on in the Loopers forum where some Loopers advocate having a fast boat, say one capable of 35 mph, and zooming each day to a destination, then having more time to explore the destination.  To each his own.  My opinion is that you might as well skip the boat, get an RV, and go 55-65 mph between attractions.

We’ve done both.  Driving gets you there quickly, but the driver, and most likely the passengers, miss most of the interesting sights along the way.  Endeavor putts along at 6.5 mph.  We saw things at that speed, both natural and manmade, that we would have never caught on a fast boat.  Setting up photo shoots at that speed is easier.  Chatting with other passing boaters is possible.  Animals stay close.  Navigational mistakes are more easily detected and corrected.

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Also, things that go bump come at you more slowly.  Now home, I am slowly getting accustomed again to the insane speeds and minimal separation that people consider normal in highway traffic these days.

What would you do differently? 

We would have left even more stuff home.  We could have easily shed another 500-750 lbs of gear without missing it.

I went on a maniacal pre-loop mission to collect audiobooks, movies and TV series on hard drives.  We ended up reading about 75 books each instead.  We started with about 70 physical books on board and gave them away once finished, switching to eBooks.  Other items that sounded like a good idea but ended up little used: acoustic guitar, traction kite, stunt kite, shortwave radio, extra wetsuits, and so on.

We would have bought less paper goods before going to the Bahamas.  Other cruisers had told of the high cost of TP and other paper goods, so we stocked up before crossing.  We finished the trip months later with 24 rolls remaining!

We would have not bothered registering for the DHS Small Vessel Reporting System.  It was supposed to speed check-in back into the U.S. from Canada.  Nope, the personnel up here were not trained on how to access the system so we ended up reciting all the same information everyone else did.

We would have spent more money and used Sunbrella for the dinghy chaps.  As it was, they lasted long enough to protect the dink in the Caribbean sun, but died young.

What pieces of gear were the most benefit on Endeavor?

Airhead Composting Head – A fantastic solution for human waste.  Allowed us to be off the grid  and not dependent on pump-outs.  When we were stuck at lock 16 on the Erie, we were the only boat that didn’t have to backtrack to get pumped out.

Dual XGPS Bluetooth Receiver – This little unit provided GPS data to up to 6 units on board.  We could have Navionics, Garmin Bluechart and other apps running on multiple iPads and iPhones far from humanity.

Navionics on iPad – The $4000 Raymarine system provides AIS, Radar, etc. but 90% of our navigation was managed with a $49 iPad app.

Garmin BlueChart – Used mainly for the free ActiveCaptain service (like Yelp! for boaters).  Helped find good anchorages, marinas, bridge heights, lock phone numbers, and a ton of other useful information.

Portable Fuel Tanks –  Actually a bit more hassle than internal tanks, but allowed us to get fuel in some places where we had to take the tanks to the station.

Portable Solar Panels – A pair of moveable Coleman 70 watt panels supplemented the fixed 260 watt panel.  At anchor we could keep them pointed at the sun and extend our energy collection later in the day.

Bosch On-Demand Water Heater – 5 Minutes or less of Honda generator time equals 3 gallons of hot shower water!

ACR AIS Transceiver – I’m a nerd, but this unit made traveling safer and more interesting.  Seeing just how much metal is bearing down on us is fascinating.

Lewmar 1000 Windlass – Indispensable for raising 90 feet of anchor chain and a 35 lb. anchor from the depths.

Sun Shade/rain Collector –  Helped prevent skin cancer and filled our tanks during each rain.

Textilene Sun Shades – Same benefit minus the water collection.

LP/12v/110v Fridge – A stand-up fridge is just way more convenient than an in-counter icebox.  Have had both, prefer the fridge.

LED Deck Lights – For that rainy night when you have to reset the anchor at 2 am.

Stanley LED Spotlight – $40 spotlight was great for shining buoys and locating alligator eyes at night.

Honda Outboard Motor – Reliable, fuel efficient and quiet.  Electric tilt especially handy for cleaning off crab pot lines and weeds.

Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) with 9.9hp Outboard – Having a dinghy that could plane with both of us aboard was indispensable.

Why didn’t you put power winches and other helpful devices on Endeavor?

The short answer is one that Lynn on Adamante 1 told me, “everything is broken on your boat, you just don’t know it yet”.  Boats, except those that never leave the dock, are always in motion and motion eventually breaks everything.  Then you have to fix whatever it is, or stop your journey.  My philosophy is that our boat should be simple enough that we can fix everything on her, and small enough that either one of us can sail her solo back to safety.

The current trend is for couples to sail larger and larger craft, assisted by hydraulics and electronics.  Great, right up to the point something fails.  Then the boat can truly be at risk if the couple cannot manually lower sails, etc.

Besides, my favorite toy as a child was an erector set.  With all the pulleys, ropes and hardware we carry, Peg and I have one huge toy!

Why didn’t you just leave the mast at home and motor the whole way?

Leaving the mast home would have been more convenient, but having it up was by far the better choice.  Every time we had favorable wind we’d roll out the foresail and boost our boat speed.  Between Home and Mobile, Alabama we had a dozen or so days of awesome full-blown sailing down the inland rivers. Whole days of silently slipping along powered by the wind. Racing, and beating, a tow down the Mississippi while under spinnaker is cool.

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The Bahamas is much more affordable by sail: we did 984 miles around the islands and only bought a few gallons of gas.  Coming up the east coast the extra pull from the Genoa overcame adverse tides and sped us on our way.  Lastly, because of how we did the Loop, we skipped the need to drop the mast at Chicago.  We only had to drop (unstep) at the start of the Erie Canal and step again at the end of the Trent-Severn Waterway.

What did you like and dislike?

This was a tough question to answer.  First, the dislikes:

  • Inconsiderate power boaters who rock everyone with large wakes
  • Marinas with crappy WiFi
  • Marinas with crappy bathrooms
  • No-See-Ums
  • Bridge tenders and lock masters who won’t respond to radio calls
  • The effect salt water has on equipment

A lot of the items that probably should go on the dislike list, like rental houseboats, got taken off.  Why?  Because they made for a great memory and a great story.  Things don’t have to always go right for an adventure to be memorable… our gripe list is short.

The Likes?  How long a list am I allowed?

  • Meeting new people along the way, both Loopers and locals
  • Making lasting friends along the way
  • Have family and friends come visit to share the experience
  • Extraordinary sunsets
  • The crystalline waters of the Bahamas
  • Finding wonderment in new, small things everyday
  • Docktails!
  • Dolphins!
  • Docktails!
  • Dolphins!

Sharing all of the above with my mate.

The reality is, as the saying goes, “the worst day on the loop is still better than a good day at work!”

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