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.