Sunday, December 6, 2009

Romancing the Turveys

We fell in love with Ken and Jane Turvey during our first happy hour together. As they moved in across the hall that winter so many years ago, I suggested to Gary that we invite the new neighbors for happy hour. "Maybe they don't drink" Gary worried. "Let's find out" I replied, and across the hall I went to extend the invitation. At 5:00, our guests arrived and I inquired "What can I get you to drink?" "I'll have a Martini!" Jane replied without hesitation. "I'll have a Manhattan!" Ken followed enthusiastically. Gary and I exchanged a glance of surprised delight. We were going to get along with our new neighbors just fine! And so the romance began. Our first happy hour extended late into the evening, as we began politely getting acquainted, then warmed up to each other in record time. Jane broke the ice with her sharp wit very early during one of the many stories they shared. What brought them to Clinton Reef Club for the winter? "All our friends in Florida are dead" she replied. OK, that wasn't the reply we were expecting, but it was candid enough to be humorous. Later, they described how they met and were determined to be married before Ken went to WW2. What, we asked, was the rush to get married? "Sex" Jane replied. "He wanted sex." Then she followed "I, on the other hand, wanted the insurance policy, because I was sure he wasn't coming back." Their teasing, loving banter continued that way, as we suspect it has for all the sixty plus years they had been together. Ken, so charming, funny, eloquent. Jane, so straightforward, witty, mischievous. We wanted to be just like Ken and Jane. They claimed we were so much like them in their younger years. We soaked up every detail of their rich, colorful, exciting pasts, while they loved hearing about our hectic schedules and upcoming social events. We loved cooking for each other, sharing our favorite specialties over jokes, stories, and so many laughs. Jane loved my shrimp Oscar, but outdid me with her lamb chops. Ken loved my soups, but they paled in comparison to his famous garlic butter oysters. And NO ONE could make waffles like Ken Turvey. His waffles were not just food, they were an event! During the days, while hard at work in our office at the clubhouse, we would watch Ken trudge through snow and ice, so bundled up that he looked like Freddie Krueger, getting his exercise. At nights, we played games, watched movies, listened to music, and ate triple dipped malted milk balls and chocolate covered cherries. On Sunday nights, Jane and I would be glued to the TV watching Desperate Housewives while Ken and Gary argued about politics and pretended not to like our show. Wasn't macho to enjoy Desperate Housewives. Eventually our foursome expanded to include Nick and Lynne and Bryan Diveto. We celebrated most holidays and special occasions together, even if it was a brief stop-by at the Turveys for a quick drink or malted milk ball. On Superbowl Sundays, our condo common area was transformed into Stadium Seating. The guys decided to project the game on the entire wall, Nick made the fifty yard line out of white duct tape, while Lynne, Jane, and I prepared appetizers, we lined up our seats, and moved Ken's recliner out into the hall so he would be comfortable watching the game. The best Superbowl memories ever. Sharing winters expanded to sharing summers at Put-in-Bay. We partied on Tessa and we partied at their home. We got to know their friends and family, they got to know ours, and soon without realizing it, everyone kind of molded into one big wonderful circle of love. When Jane died we all feared that the circle, and Ken, were broken. But he surprised us all by ever so slowly wading through his grief. As the piles of sympathy cards and letters accumulated unopened on his tv tray, we encouraged him to open them and gather strength from the heartfelt messages. His family and friends surrounded him with so much love and support that he was somehow able to find the strength to move on beyond the loss of Jane. We were so fortunate to make many more happy memories together with Ken. $2.00 Burger Night at Mr. Ed's with Beckie and Chris. Fourth of July Fireworks on board Tessa with Ken, Davey & Jessie, Katie, Ron & Robin, Sue & Denny. Sunset sailing with Marv and Pat, listening to Ken and Marv reminice. Leg of Lamb dinners hosted by Davey & Jessie, Ron & Robin, along with Sue & Denny, Nick & Lynne, and Lee & Frances. Lunch at the Boardwalk and Houligans, followed by long lazy golf cart rides all around the island, enjoying Ken's wonderful stories of life on Put-in-Bay. Just simply stopping by with friends to visit with Ken and Happy. And many more waffles....oh he was so proud of his waffles. Wednesday night we learned that Ken had passed away. After Gary and I hugged and cried and then hugged and cried some more, I began to feel comforted by the realization that while we were feeling the pain of Ken's loss, he was rejoicing in his reunion with Jane. A picture began to form in my mind, of Ken seeing Jane again, kneeling down, wrapping his arms around her waist,and saying something poetic like "Jane, my love, I've missed you so much, I love you so much, and I am so happy that we are back together again forever." Jane then pokes him in the shoulder and replies "What took you so long, Turvey?" And the romance continues........

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


11:15 est November 24th, 2009 Just off the coast of Captiva Island and about 3 1/2 hours away from our winter home at Matanzas Marina. Tessa under power and is having some charging issues as she is not recharging her power cells. Will have more soon. Love to All! P.S. We're almost HOME!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ft. Myers, here we come...

Tessa, Capt. Gary and Lori are now in the Gulf heading to Ft. Myers. Expected to arrive Tuesday afternoon.
How appropriate that we would pass right by Captain Sid on our way out of Mobile Bay. I waved and waved farewell, and out into the Gulf of Mexico we went. OK, so we did happen to go aground on an unmarked sand bar, but Captain Gary maneuvered us safely back to deep water. We successfully accomplished our first overnight (27 hour) passage with just the two of us on board. I took the 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. shift, Gary took the 8:00 p.m. - 6:00 a.m. shift, then I came back on for the 6:00 a.m. - 7:00 a.m. shift. OK, so I only did two hours and Gary did ten. I'm trying to ease into this night watch thing. Dolphins greeted us as we entered the Gulf. The sunset was awesome. Winds picked up and rolled us around during the night and coming into Panama City Inlet, but as soon as we docked and walked to the beach it was absolutley flat and sparkling innocently at us. Go figure. Now we wait for the next front to move through Saturday/Sunday and hope for a good 48 hour weather window to cross to Fort Myers. Love, Lori and Sleepy Captain

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Shrimp, the other red meat"

Since I met Captain Sid, we have had shrimp cocktail, old bay shrimp, shrimp omelets, shrimp cakes, , BBQ shrimp, ginger garlic shrimp, sesame shrimp, steamed shrimp, and grilled shrimp. And that's all we have to say about that!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

“A picture’s worth a thousand words”

As soon as the word spread that I was an official published author (Living Aboard Magazine Nov/Dec Issue) I began to feel a twinge of writers block. Then, after the “It’ll Work Out” update came a threatening phone call from our video producer . “WE NEED MORE DRAMA!” Nick James demanded. That totally locked me up. I longed for the feeling of writer’s anonymity. The river days turned into weeks, and the pressure built. Sure, we were having a fantastic time, enjoying every minute of the adventure. Each new day I anticipated that something significant would happen to inspire a good story. The rain finally ended, a bright sun came out, temperatures warmed up, and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. But you can only write so many flowery, colorful descriptions before readers get bored. Our daily routine was simple and thankfully drama-free. Awake at dawn, get underway, have warming oatmeal for breakfast, be prepared for the next lock, and look forward to snuggling in our bunk shortly after sunset. We cherished each moment of peaceful solitude. But everyone’s already heard this story before. So Gary and Lori really, really love being together. Blah blah blah blah blah. After days and nights of locking, docking, and anchoring together, fellow cruisers (and even their dogs) evolved into special friends. As each long day on the water came to an end, we shared a sense of accomplishment and intimacy, docked close by or rafted off together in secluded anchorages. We enjoyed interesting stories, lots of laughs, delicious food, and abundant libations. But a writer risks losing the audience with stories that you really “had to be there” to enjoy. While every other cruiser on the Tenn-Tom Waterway anguished over Hurricane Ida’s landfall in Mobile Alabama, I secretly rejoiced. Nothing like a hurricane to create drama with a capital D! Finally, an exciting story would come together. Let ‘er rip, Ida! We sought safety in a hurricane hole for three days, and all we got was some rain with maybe twenty knot gusts. What happened to the 60 knot winds? Is that all you got, Ida? What was the point of putting out two anchors, other than to have them foul around each other into a tangled mess? Getting that darn slimy catfish off my hook was the most dramatic thing that happened. Ida let me down. As the Dog River Marina dock master put it, “That li’l thang wan’t nothin. I don’t even board up my house till it’s a category three!” Debbie from here at Turner Marina told me “We’ve had worse summer thunderstorms than that li’l old thing!” So, I guess ya’ll er gonna hafta let the pictures tell the stories. Ya’ll enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sticks are Up!

Well, after five consecutive nights at anchor, the cupboards are bare, the bar is depleted, the freezer is empty, the holding tank is full, the laundry is overflowing, we're down to our last kleenex, papertowel, and roll of toilet paper, and we survived our first hurricane. But OH WHAT AN ADVENTURE we have had!!! This morning the masts were stepped here in Mobile, and we have begun reorganizing for the leg south to Fort Myers. As soon as the Captain gives me some time off, I will update the blog with stories and pictures. Love to all, Lori

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mobile, Alabama

In Mobile, Alabama and getting the masts stepped at 9a.m. on Friday. Capt. and I are exhausted and going to bed. Will have a big update for you all soon. L, CG & T

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ida who?

Ida made landfall and we did not really notice. Except for a lot of rain she did not deliver any harsher winds than we have experienced at Put-in-Bay. The two anchors held fine in the 20 knot winds here in 3 rivers lake. They are expecting a 10 ft rise in the river which may delay us for heading down to Mobile. The higher water means more "dead heads" (logs) to bump along your hull. There are a flock of boats upriver ready to get to Mobile after Nov. 15th (because of their hurricane insurance policies) to step their masts. So we do not want any more delays. After 3 days without shore power and showering, Lori heated some water and Gary and Her took hot water sponge baths. (separately) It was heaven... Will keep you posted as long as we can keep in contact with "real" civilization. Love Lori, Captain Gary and Tessa

Monday, November 9, 2009

Waiting out Ida

Have two anchors set in 3 River Lake just outside of McIntosh, AL. Have storm anchor on standby. 5 other boats are sharing the experience. Currently no wind just lots of rain. Lori caught a 1 pound catfish today. (Finally she caught something...) Ida making landfall at about Midnight and moving off to the East. Cell phone coverage still crappy. Love to All.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Currently going through the Coffeeville lock. What are the odds that a Frickin' hurricane is going to hit Mobile, Alabama the same Frickin' day we were going to have our Masts restepped?!? We will be at anchor about 60 miles north of Mobile when Ida makes landfall. Cell phone coverage is basically non existant down here. Love to All!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lori's "Krazy" Dream

We woke up this morning at the marina in Clifton Tennessee feeling groggy and slightly hung over. As per our normal routine, I began to tell Gary, in great detail, about the crazy dream I had. This one was a doozy! It started out with us having happy hour beers with all the locals in the marina store. Everyone was really friendly and we were having a great time, getting pretty buzzed up. Then this one guy invites us to go out for a few more beers. One of the other guys, who reminded me of Jamaica John from the Bay, decides to go along. Next thing we know, we’re in a the back seat of a big pick up truck winding along the dark deserted back roads of Tennessee. First stop, somewhere out in the woods, was to pick us up a “Welcome to Clifton” jar of Tennessee’s Best Moonshine. Then all of a sudden we’re at this juke joint called BILLY BOB’S, where I flirted outrageously with all the bib-overall clad guys at the bar. I remember sitting on the cutest one’s lap. He liked it so much he shared some of his moonshine with us. We heard music coming from the back room, and discovered it was karaoke night. Next thing I know, Gary’s bringin the house down with Chantilly Lace. And the night wouldn’t have been complete without some serious co-ed pipe smoking. Somehow we made it back to the boat, and I think we even had a nip of moonshine for a nightcap. “Baby, that was no dream” Gary interrupts. “ Look at the pictures on the camera.” “And by the way” he adds. “We decided to stay another day and we’re all meeting again this afternoon at 4:00.” WHAT?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just a quick update. We departed Paris Tennessee this morning, heading as far south as we can get today to avoid the predicted rain for tomorrow and Friday. We're really looking forward to Pickwick Lake, the scenery is supposed to resemble the North Channel. Next we enter the Tenn-Tom Waterway, which we've been told by fellow cruisers is a great experience, lots of quaint towns and friendly marinas. Love, Lori & Captain Gary P. S. Does this guy look like he's having fun????

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It'll Work Out

We have the most amazing friends! Second Watch Commander George Hipp endured the most arduous part of our journey south last September, and still volunteered to make the Atlantic to Erie Canal passage north last May, knowing full well that he would be labor crew for the masts unstepping, stepping, and unstepping again. Jim Jordan cooked and co-navigated for us all the way from Annapolis to South Port, North Carolina last fall. Now he is working feverishly to rearrange his busy work schedule to ensure that he is on one of the legs down to Fort Myers. Dick and Molly Widdis drove our Jeep to Florida last fall, delivered it to our doorstep in Key Biscayne, and then drove it all the way back to Brands Marina in the spring. Last November, Don Dunn brought himself, Lauren, and four cases of Two-Buck-Chuck on board in St. Marys Georgia, and helped us put it in the kitchen all the way to destination Key Biscayne. This year it took trains, planes, and automobiles, but he was here for us once again. And thinking way back to 2005, Nick James accompanied Captain Gary 512 non-stop nautical miles from Port Clinton to Manitowoc Wisconsin for Chas‘s wedding. He created our “Adventures of Tessa” blogspot and spent hours and hours compiling pictures and creating video updates. To top it all off, he eagerly braved the Great Lakes with us this trip, providing comic relief all 600 miles from Port Clinton to Waukegan.

During the mast unstepping, he so wanted to stick around and help, that Lynne had to drag him away kicking and screaming. Or maybe not…….. Masts secured on deck, next stop the anchorage in Chicago, directly in front of the John Hancock Center.

It was a gorgeous background for some rest and relaxation before entering the Chicago River on Monday morning. Even if we could have found a reasonably priced dock for the night, it wouldn’t have gained us anything. A martini at the top of the Hancock Center sounded great, like the corporate days when we both worked shows in town. But we’ve since traded leather briefcases and somber business suits for worn out deck shoes and grease stained yellow foulies. We might look just a wee bit out of place in Downtown Chicago. Doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a martini on Tessa, where we fit in just perfectly!

The Chicago river was intimidating. It felt like we’d pulled into the left lane of Monday morning rush hour traffic, ferries and water taxies hustling by, bridge after bridge looking just maybe high enough for us to squeeze under, skyscrapers looming overhead.

It wasn’t until after we cleared the electric fish barrier that we were able to relax for the rest of the trip to Joliet. The municipal free dock in Joliet was a great place to lay over and wait for Don Dunn’s arrival Tuesday evening. We asked a family strolling along the river walk if there was a local pub close by, and they directed us to nearby Harrah’s Casino. Not exactly what we were looking for, but they had fancy restrooms and free coffee and sodas. Whoo-hoo!

What was that bright light coming through the hatch Tuesday morning? Could it be? Yes it was…THE SUN!!! We relished every moment, walking about town, sipping our complimentary sodas. Life was good in Joliet.

Don hitched a ride with a friend from Port Clinton to Chicago, then took a train down to Joliet, in time to join us for dinner and an early lights out. Wednesday morning we were headin this “recreational vessel” down river, through two locks, hoping to make good time to the highly recommended town of Ottawa. To pass the time en route, I brought up a book that is a list of questions, some funny, some serious, all beginning with “If”. We learned a lot more about Captain Don Dunn. If he could be anyplace in the world, it would be his cabin in Virginia. If he could be any other name, it would be Garth. “GARTH??” I gasped, trying not to laugh. Apparently, he was scarred for life in fourth grade when some kid named Garth stole the love of his life. He and Gary decided to nickname our Garmin GPS Garth in his honor. If he enjoyed another country’s customs, it would be the ones that say “see you later” or “until we meet again.” He doesn’t like good-byes. And we learned his favorite new saying that originated from Robert, one of his employees at the Boardwalk Marina.

“It’ll work out.” Dresden Lock is just below the confluence of the Illinois, Des Plaines, and Kankakee rivers. After a long, frustrating wait, we were given the option of joining the Pamela H barge in the lock, or wait a couple of hours to lock through after her. The guys said we’d have no problem, no sweat, it’ll work out. So in we went, grabbing lines behind another r/v. The turmoil the huge barge created as the water level dropped forty feet caused Tessa to surge fore and aft and sideways, squishing bumpers and forcing the bow and mast toward the lock wall, way to close for comfort. It seemed to go on forever! I stared nervously up to the top of the lock at the skinny lines that Tessa was suspended from. Surely at any moment one would SNAP under the pressure, allowing our stern to be sucked toward the barge, causing the bow and mast to CRASH forward into the wall. I waited fearfully for something to go wrong. Gary and Don thought it was cool.

Later that afternoon, we tied up to Ottawa’s welcoming municipal dock. A friendly local, Dave Marsh, stopped by and introduced himself. Was there anything he could do for us while in Ottawa? Sure! We need propane! The store closed in fifteen minutes, so Dave ran and got his car and he and Gary took off for town. After they returned, Dave came down below to visit. First topic of discussion…where to eat in Ottawa? We followed his recommendation and headed up town to Jardines. It was good and cheap, a perfect combination.

Afterwards, we were down below on Tessa with full stomachs, ready for bed, when we heard “Gary, Lori, Don, it’s David”. He had returned with a gift of squash soup, home made from all local Ottawa produce. While chatting away, he remembered his girlfriend Becky was waiting out in the car. With a little encouragement, she joined us down below for a pleasant visit. They were both great ambassadors of Ottawa.

The next morning, Gary and I walked up town to provision. Ottawa is a hustling bustling little town and we immediately felt it’s positive energy. Our first stop was Herman’s Package Store to replenish our adult beverage supply. Here, Jimmy cheerfully inquired “Are you Loopers”? “We’re half looped” I answered, since we hadn’t done the Trent Severn portion of the Great Loop. The friendly clerk insisted on holding our packages there while we finished shopping at the supermarket. Then Jimmy would deliver us and all of our provisions back to Tessa. The people at the market were equally as friendly, chatting about “Loopers” and our adventures. Jimmy gave us a tour around town, enthusiastically pointing out landmarks and sharing Ottawa history. He helped us unload the multiple bags and boxes of provisions, thanked us for visiting Ottawa, and encouraged us to return again. We were so impressed with this town’s hospitality. Everybody OTTA GO TO OTTAWA!!!”

Thursday we forged southwest toward our evening destination of Henry Harbor. We were in serious need of three things. Water, pumpout, and diesel…in that order. Due to the unseasonably cold weather, the water was shut off and the pumpout was frozen up. We topped off the diesel, and the dock master pointed toward our dock assignment, a stone wall. “Do we have a Plan B?” Don whispered to me, but Gary was impressed. This wasn’t just any stone wall. It was the remains of the first and oldest lock on the Illinois River for gosh sakes! Captivator, an eighty foot yacht was expected to join us on the wall that evening. “This spot is just fine1” I announced, ready for some serious schmoozing with wealthy dock mates. Don finally conceded, muttering “It’ll work out.” We made a b-line to the bar and showers.

While we chatted with a local customer, the bartender, Becca, served up some gianormous Long Island Iced Teas. Don needed a sports fix, and headed up town to the VFW. Gary and I showered and stopped back in the bar to visit with Becca before heading to Tessa for dinner. When we mentioned we would be in Peoria the next night, she recommended Sully’s Pub and told us to call her if we made it, as she and her friend were planning on being there too.

While Don concluded his evening playing a dice game with Becca and the South African Captain Graham from Captivator, we were already sound asleep, schmoozing forgotten. The trip to Peoria was scenic and exciting. We saw our first white pelicans and jumping Asian Carp! Boat wake and noise stirs them into a jumping frenzy, and it’s not unusual for a bloody carp to end flopping around on deck., sometimes injuring boaters. Don’s assignment was to handle any carp issues while Gary and I remained safely in the cockpit. We were both secretly disappointed when none of them jumped on board.

The Peoria Municipal Docks were already occupied by Captivator and another yacht Private Reserve when we arrived. Another shot at schmoozing! Graham helped us with dock lines, then told us his harrowing story of breaking down on the Illinois River. He also mentioned that he and Becca had partied into the wee hours back at Henry Harbor. I was very obviously captivated by his good looks, charm, and really sexy accent. But I was absolutely not flirting when I offered to trade him Becca’s phone number for a Guinness at Sully’s. Let the schmoozing begin!

Don went to the Peoria River Men Hockey game and Hooters. We had great beers and burgers at Sully’s, but didn‘t see Becca or Graham. Hmmm… That night we met Brady, the Captain of Private Reserve and visited with two trawlers heading south. We all agreed to leave at first light Saturday morning so that we could lock down together to expedite the locking process. At 06:15 Saturday morning, Gary called the lockmaster for clearance, and was told it was closed for repairs until 17:00 that night. We quickly spread the disappointing news to our dock mates, and then began planning how we would pass another twenty four hours in Peoria. Let’s see, there’s Sully’s, Hooters, Old Chicago Brewery, The Martini Bar…..and a hardware store!

We really had a great layover there, enjoying our dock mates and the sunny day. Don was a bit frustrated, since he was on a mission to deliver a boat and hated to lose a day heading south. I reminded him that “It’ll work out.”

Next morning before dawn, Brady was the messenger. “They’re ready for us at the lock, let’s go!” They weren’t exactly ready, the 8 minutes to fill became 108, but we made it through, only to be surrounded by thick soupy fog when the lock gates opened. Private Reserve and Captivator dropped anchor outside of the main channel, and Tessa followed suit. I was still recovering from the frigid early morning departure, complete with dock lines covered in ice, so I crawled back into our bunk to wait out the delay. Captain Gary and Don could handle things on their own.

Eventually we were on our way making great time to an anchorage along Bar Island. It was a perfect spot., peaceful, picturesque, calm, with good protection. We slept great on the hook. Next stop was Grafton Harbor. We liked the marina’s amenities, but the town sidewalks were rolled up tight. Nothin to see here folks! Except the nearby hotel, where we stopped for a beer and I immediately proclaimed was haunted. On the way out, we met a ghost hunter crew gearing up to record some paranormal activity that night. While we were talking ghosts, Gary actually felt the hairs raise on the back of his neck. I called that one right. Tuesday morning we were finally on the great Mississippi River, or “The Big Muddy” as Don called it. Destination 61 miles south to the legendary Hoppie’s Marine Service. Last stop for gas, diesel, or a marina for the next 228 miles.

Don negotiated a plane ticket home and a taxi to the St. Louis Airport, while Fern offered Mississippi cruising advise to Gary and I. Amenities were a dock, power, and a commode in the barn. But our spirits were not dampened. We followed Don’s instincts into town as he sniffed out a great Bier Garten, where we met up with Tom and Lynnette from Por Fin and had a wonderful evening sharing stories.

Wednesday morning, it was time for Don to leave us. As he and I shared a long farewell hug, my mind was racing. Now I have to punch back in and be Gary’s co-captain. That means getting through locks with just the two of us. And docking without our resident professional. And I was SO going to miss that Donnie Dunn optimism and 24/7 smile. I didn’t bother to say a word. I knew what he would say. “Don’t worry Darlin. It’ll work out!” Auf Wiedersehen Captain Don.

Monday, October 12, 2009


“Keep the Faith” Last spring on our voyage home from Key Biscayne, Tessa and I had a bit of a falling out.. Miles out in the Atlantic between Miami and North Carolina, I lost faith in her. I was frightened, distressed, uncomfortable, and just plain miserable. After three days and nights of arduous ocean conditions, Captain Gary and Watch Commander George agreed that we needed a well deserved break, and navigated Tessa into the South Port North Carolina Marina. As soon as we tied off the dock lines, I walked up the dock toward the marina office and began to feel normal again. Gone was the fear, the lack of confidence, the distrust of Tessa’s abilities to keep us safe. I stopped and looked back at her comfortably tied at her dock, looking so proud and confident. “Why did you doubt me?” she seemed to be saying. I stood there, tears streaming, and vowed out loud “I’m sorry, Tessa. I promise I will never lose confidence in you again.” OK, maybe some of the nearby dock hands thought I was a loony tunes sailor, but anyone who loves their boat will be able to relate to this emotional reconciliation. This trip south was going to be different! Nick James, our Second Watch Commander for the first leg of the “Great Loop” south, arrived at Put-in-Bay for a scheduled 8:00 a.m. departure on Friday October 2nd. Except it was cold, blowing like crazy, and pouring rain. Thankfully, around noon things began to clear up. We pulled away from the deserted Boardwalk Docks, remembering our well attended celebratory departure last September. This year, it was just the three of us and Tessa, on our own all the way from PIB to Chicago. Tessa scooted across Lake Erie averaging eight knots, and even hit ten knots to tie her all time speed record. Gary and Nick kept tweaking, but couldn’t push us to 10.1. We made great progress, and when a beautiful rainbow arched over the Detroit River, we took it as a sign of good luck for the rest of the journey. After seven days and seven nights, three exhausted sailors pulled into the Waukegan Harbor, north of Chicago, where the masts would be unstepped. While dock lines were adjusted , a full rainbow filled the sky. We certainly enjoyed the awesome sight, but could not believe the cruel irony of it’s appearance at the end of this trip. In between the two rainbow sightings, day and night, we endured miserable, dreary, cold, wet, boisterous, nasty, uncomfortable conditions. Was there supposed to be some good luck hidden in there somewhere? It wasn’t luck that brought us across 636 nautical miles. It was the calm, competent, determined perseverance of Gary and Nick. Along with my hot meals, hot tea, hot chocolate, and moral support of course! We did manage to squeeze in some fun at a rainy stop-over in Rogers City Michigan on Sunday. There weren’t many warm dry bars to hang out in, but we managed to find a bowling alley with great pizza. I was completely humiliated by my score, but pleased that it made Nick James giddy with unsportsmanlike pleasure. The second stop was Tuesday evening in Frankfort, along the northeast coast of Lake Michigan. A gale was predicted from 11:00 p.m. to 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, so we sought the security of a dock. Gary expertly secured Tessa with extra dock lines leaving no room for error. Or so he thought, until we were awakened in the middle of the night to a powerful surge. Gary braved the wind and adjusted the spring lines as taut as possible yet the surge still continued to drive us three feet, fore and aft. We slept fitfully until morning when the winds subsided. Sadly, there was damage to a few of the boats in the marina, thankfully Tessa came out unscathed. Wednesday nearly broke our spirits. Although the gale had passed, it’s after affect left Lake Michigan in an uproar. The waves were on our nose, relentless, and confused, which confused the heck out of Tessa. She couldn’t decide whether to buck like a bronco, hobby horse, or wallow in the swells, and at some points it felt like she was trying to do all of the above at once. This continued all day and through the night. Gary was absolutely amazed when I dished up pan seared porterhouse steaks and steamed asparagus with hollandaise sauce. I can’t vouch for how it tasted, since after lurching around down below while cooking, I had completely lost my appetite, and just crawled into our bunk to suffer through the night. Gary came to bed after his 8:00 to midnight shift, but didn’t last long being tossed around in our bunk and returned to the cockpit. Nick James looked pale and exhausted after his early shift Thursday morning. We needed to find the most convenient terra firma, while still able to make our deadline in Waukegan Friday evening. Gary plotted the course and gave us our options. Stop in Milwaukee Thursday night, or keep on course for Waukegan through the night. “MILWAUKEE!” Nick and I replied in unison. It turned out to be the best choice, since it rained again all day and sapped our strength. I found the most economical dock, no frills, but with free laundry and showers. That’s all we could ask for. It was also conveniently located within walking distance to the Milwaukee Ale House, where we relaxed and drank some great local brews. Nick James entertained us during the walk back, dancing about as though he were a member of the Jets Gang in West Side Story, ready to KUT someone. This was supposed to make me feel safe on the back streets of downtown Milwaukee. I felt safer when the cops came by, but Gary worried that Nick would be arrested for interpretive dancing in public after dark. Friday morning we departed Milwaukee in the wind and rain AGAIN, but we were on the homestretch and ready for closure. Lynne James was meeting us at the marina to drive her man back home to Port Clinton. None too soon, as Nick had a meltdown earlier in the week, missing his wife terribly after he witnessed Gary and I hugging….and saw the provocative cover of the book I was reading. It was just too much stimulus for him. The three of us agreed that: a. We were uncomfortable 98.9% of the time. b. It was an adventure that we found great satisfaction in accomplishing. c. Two out of the three of us would do it again. OK, there you have it. I would not want to make this trip again!! But, honestly, there was not one point during the entire trip that I was frightened or lost my faith in Tessa. Yes, I was uncomfortable. Yes, it is not something I would want to experience again. Ultimately, undeniably, Tessa performed remarkably, kept us safe, and she knows I did not doubt her. Although once I slipped and said I wanted off “this nasty boat“, but Gary quickly shushed me and apologized profusely to her…..hopefully she’ll let that one slide.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

8:58 ET 5/28/09

After 8 months, 23 days and nearly 4000 nautical miles, our beloved Put-in-Bay appeared on the horizon accompanied by calm, glittering Lake Erie. Perry's Monument stood proudly in the distance, and we were feeling just as proud of Tessa and her Crew. It was an inspiring homecoming. We received a warm PIB welcome from our friends at the Boardwalk, then on to a champagne celebration with Dave and Lynnette on Fantasea. Sunday we were through the 12:00 Port Clinton Drawbridge and greeted at our dock by Nick and Lynne, Bob and Mary Jane, Brad and Chris, Kirk and Anita, Bryan Diveto, Dick Widdis, and other Brands' neighbors. Hugs and kisses and questions were flying everywhere. "Yes, we had a great trip" we replied. But it felt OH SO GOOD TO BE HOME!! The overwhelming interest, concern, love and support of our family and friends has been wonderful, yet very humbling. What did we do to deserve it...and how do we pay it all back to everyone? A good start might be to pass along the most important lesson that we experienced over and over again during our travels. To quote our sailing friend Allison "Cruising will restore your faith in humanity." That it did! We found that no matter where you go, if you extend a hand in friendship, someone will be there to take it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

16:38 ET 5/22/09

We spent our last evening in the Erie Canal at a dock just east of Lockport New York. Nothing much there except the important things. Restrooms, showers, and a highly recommended, by local fishermen, Dairy Bar within walking distance. We cleaned up and hiked over to Reid's for the suggested "double cheeseburger smoothered" and concluded the carbo-calorie fest with ice cream sundaes. Except for Gary, who ordered an XXL double chocolate shake. The cup was so large he could barely get his hands around it, kind of like those supersize sodas that won't even fit in a cup holder. As he's making dry, bottom of the cup sucking sounds, he eyeballs my sundae and says "You eatin that?" I ran ahead out of his reach shouting "YES, I'm eatin this!" It's been a long time since we gave in to ice cream and he was totally out of control. As soon as we came down from our sugar buzzes, we called it a night in anticipation of a 6:30 a.m. wake up call to exit the canal and head for Lake Erie.

9:03 ET 5/22/09

Wednesday we explored the little town of Clyde, found a Geocache, and hit the canal. Tom happily took the helm and Gary got a nice break. We were going to stop in Fairport like we did last September, but decided to try a town we hadn't seen, so continued west to Pittsford. It's a bustling, trendy canal town a stone's throw from Rochester, so it's much more commercialized. We explored the town, then went in pursuit of a 99 cent draft. No luck, the beer special at the Pittsford Pub was Blue Moons for $3.50. One beer each, then back to the boat for Memphis smoked ribs, cole slaw, and baked beans. Tom got on line and located the nearest Geocache 30 feet away. "Gary, couldn't you get Tessa a little closer?" Tom complained. I found it under a bench that Tom was sitting on! Once that mission was accomplished, we hit the bunks for an early wake up call Thursday morning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

20:48 ET 5/20/09

Tuesday we departed Baldwinsville and continued west into Lock 24. Here we saw a bunch of fish feeding along the lock wall. "GIMME THE NET! I'm gonna catch us a fish!" Sheri screamed as she laid on the deck and assumed a netting position. Between laughing hysterically and struggling with the lock line and my boat pole, I managed to grab the net and hand it to her. Tom rolled his eyes as I, the fishing expert, informed her that fish were too fast to simply net right out of the water. But I humored her by scooting them her way with my boat pole. "I GOT ONE!!!!!!!!" she screamed as she lifted the net up with her fresh catch of a stinky slimy sucker type fish. Even though she proved me wrong, I must say that watching this was worth every ounce of damage it did to my fishing knowledge ego. After all the excitement, we proceeded through the locks and wound our way along a very scenic part of the Canal. As we approached the spot where we saw the eagle last September, Gary spotted one flying right over our heads with a fish in it's talons. Shortly after that, we saw another one. Fantastic! Tuesday was Tom and Sheri's 30th anniversary, and we began the celebration with Champagne and escargot, followed by filet mignon and parsley buttered potatoes. Then it was time to head into town to find a laundromat and the Red Wings game on in a sports bar. We were successful on both counts. I found the laundry and the gang found "Keggers" bar. The locals were into darts and tattoos, draft beers were cheap, and the Red Wings won. Life was good in Clyde New York, and Tom and Sheri enjoyed another adventure on the Erie Canal with family, good food, and cold beer.

15:36 ET 5/20/09

Monday dawned breezy and cold for our Oneida Lake crossing. Tom and I rigged up every pole on board and expectantly shivered on deck. All the way across prime fishing waters, all we caught was one stinkin bass. Good thing Sheri had Jambalaya on the menu as a back up plan. Baldwinsville was recommended as a good stopping point for the night in our guide book, so we tied up to the park wall and went to check out the town and find a few Geocaches. We poked into a nice looking brewery and inquired about beer specials. No specials, beers are $4.00. Let's keep looking. LOOK! There's a sign for 99 cent drafts! Now we're talking happy hour! The Edgewater Grill had everything going for it. Good people, nice bartender, delicious appetizers, and most importantly GREAT beer for 99 cents. Nowhere in our travels have we encountered a bar that sells specialty pints for 99 cents. We thought Fat Tuesdays in Fort Lauderdale was a good deal with 80 cent six ounce Bud Light drafts, but Edgewater set a whole new standard for an economical happy hour. "We can have a pint of Guinness for 99 cents?" Gary asked incredulously. "Sure" Michelle replied. "WOW!" Gary exclaimed. We hated to leave beer mecca, but Jambalaya was calling back at Tessa. While Tom and Sheri cooked, Gary and I decided to search for one more Geocache. Which happened to be right around the corner from the Edgewater Grill. "Come on, ONE more 99 cent draft!" he pleaded. OK, twist my arm. Tuesday morning, we walked into town to at least see something other than the Edgewater Grill. Baldwinsville is a wonderful town that we we definitely return to visit again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

13:23 ET 5/19/09

Sunday morning, we departed Rome at dawn in order to make the seven hour Oneida Lake crossing during good light and good fishing. The band of merry sailors sang and danced our way through the locks, now with an extra added attraction. Sheri pole dances with her boat pole, as though she were entertaining the Lockmasters on stage instead of on deck. They all grin from ear to ear as we enter and depart the lock with The Erie Canal Song blaring and Sheri performing. In the canal we were protected from what was in store for us as we entered Oneida Lake. We were assaulted by cold brutal 20-30 knot winds and breaking waves, right on our nose. "HEY!" I yelled from down below as things began crashing around the cabin. "THIS IS GOING TO BE A LONG SEVEN HOURS!" Captain Gary turned Tessa around and headed back to the Sylvan Beach wall to tie up and wait out the winds. We were greeted by a nice couple who watched us venture out and turn around. Even they were glad we did! This was a perfect opportunity to get secure, relax, and enjoy what turned out to be a great stop. We stopped in at the local breakfast cafe for something warm to drink, then we wandered through town scoping out a Geocache location and a potential pub crawl. At the first welcoming pub, Splash, we made friends with Chuck, who filled us in on some interesting local knowledge. He also invited us to attend an American Legion benefit for his friend and fellow veteran who is very ill with cancer. We took a walk over to Verona Beach where the second Geocache of the day was hidden by a lighthouse, which I found right away under a bench. I'm starting to get the hang of Geocaching. Next we stopped at Brothers Bar for some wings and Red Wings. While Tom and Sheri finished watching the game, Gary and I braved the winds back to Sylvan Beach town and the American Legion benefit. Chuck and his wife Donna welcomed us like old friends, and we had a great time watching Chuck play in his classic rock band "Pegasaurus". While all this activity was going on, Sheri's roast pork loin with cherry wine glaze was simmering away on Tessa, creating wonderful comfort food smells to greet us down below. We went to sleep with full tummies and dreamed of fair skies and light winds for our second attempt to cross Oneida Lake on Monday.

Monday, May 18, 2009

15:04 ET 5/18/09

Leave it to Nick James to dramatically enhance our locking experiences. Friday night he emailed us Bruce Springstein's version of the Erie Canal Song. As we approached Lock 17 Saturday morning, Gary cranked up the music full blast and we danced our way through the lock. Even the Captain danced at the helm! The Lockmaster said we were his liveliest group yet. Tom and Sheri will celebrate their 30th anniversary on Tuesday of our trip. Sheri has been thrilled with the cities she has visited so far on her anniversary trip, beginning in Amsterdam and Saturday night here in Rome. We ran into some big thunderstorms on the way and it was quite damp and dreary when we arrived, but not enough to dampen our spirits. Sheri prepared Chicken Marsala with Pasta Primavera, then we went off to find the Gouache that was supposed to be located within walking distance of the park we were docked near. Back at Lock 11 in Amsterdam, Gary and I had participated in finding our first ever Geocache with Tom. Now we are hooked on these GPS treasure hunts. The four of us trooped through overgrown weeds and wet grass to the wooded area that the GPS coordinates indicated was the location of the cache, but after about an hour of searching we gave up. Plus it had gotten awfully thirsty out there, and we wanted to head over to the Roadhouse Bar. Ryan, who was fishing from the dock by Tessa, recommended we stop by there and see his bartender girlfriend Georgeann. Except this crew doesn't just stop by somewhere. We make it an experience! First we met Georgeann, then all the locals, and then it was time for KARAOKE!!! More locals filled the bar and Gary once again brought the house down with Chantilly Lace. Sheri wanted the four of us to perform The Erie Canal Song, but to my utter relief, the DJ didn't have it. Our favorite new Kareoke friend was a cross between Lou Rawls and Luther Vandross, and he really got the crowd going with "Strokin!" What an unplanned yet absolutely enjoyable evening.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

11:52 ET 5/16/09

Friday morning we departed Lock 11 and I immediately got both rods rigged up and began trolling. Tom brought a huge tackle box full of ammunition, so I was locked and loaded and ready to catch dinner. All of my fishing efforts have been failures up to this point, but with the proper equipment we were destined to catch something. Finally, ZZZZZZZZZZING went the drag and I reeled with enthusiasm until up popped my prize catch. A big gnarly stick! Thankfully, Sheri baked a beautiful piece of salmon covered in steamed veggies in lieu of my fresh catch. It was awesome, and we enjoyed it with salad and wine. Three bottles of wine. Hey, we were celebrating our first night on the canal. And after all, they brought two cases for the ten day trip. Now we are a bit concerned as to whether the supply will last until Tuesday when we hit the Niagra wine trail. Wonder if we should also be concerned that our provisioning list has four things on it, three of which are adult beverages. We're havin fun now!!!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

13:12 ET 5/15/09

This morning at 6:00 a.m. George handed over his lock gloves and bid farewell to Tessa and Crew. True to George's nature, he thanked US for the trip. It most certainly is the other way around. How many friends would sit alone in a dark cockpit from 1:00 a.m. to 6:00 a..m., out in the middle of the ocean, struggling with big waves and huge swells, dodging freighters and who-knows-what else is out there, for eight nights???? And the first three nights I didn't even make him coffee, as I was down below wrapped up in my fears. What a trouper he was, putting up with "the weakest link", dealing with the elements and conditions, sleeping on the settee under the bar which was the only bunk he couldn't roll out of, and doing all of this with a smile on his face until this very last morning. All that in exchange for three squares and a sip of twelve year old scotch every so often. We definitely made out on this deal!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009