SO OUR JOURNEY HAS ENDED….

Post # 57:  SO OUR JOURNEY HAS ENDED….Day 409, June 13, 2015:  On Board:  Tom McNichol, Hank Koningisor, Paul Coates, Pat Coates, Jenny Koningisor, Dave Luciano, Jake Mycofsky, Red Southerton, Bill Burke, Jack Kelly, Mary Chevalier, Bob Hall, Louise Bombardieri, Jim K.

So our journey has ended.  What did it all mean?  What did I learn?  Undoubtedly those questions can only be answered when the trip can be viewed through the prism of time. But here are a few random thoughts:

First, my faith in people has been re-nourished. Virtually everyone we met, both on and off the water, was friendly, went out of their way to help us if we needed it, and added positively to our experience. I wondered how we might be received in areas stereotyped as “Deliverance country” – Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi – especially since my hair and beard were out of control by that time. The people could not have been friendlier, even when we stopped in local “redneck” bars for a meal or a beer.

Second, rural America is unique and more than worthy of exploration. In order to have a balanced perspective on this diverse country of ours, one must venture out of the urban areas and into the truly rural outposts that make up the vast geographic majority of our land mass. There is no better way to do it than via the huge system of navigable waterways – doing so takes you to places you would never otherwise go – river towns, farm towns, and some of the forgotten backwaters of our country – all have their own unique story to tell.

Third, our country is astoundingly beautiful. I rode a bicycle across the country with my daughter Jenny about 10 years ago, and we experienced incredible scenery which included mountains, deserts, plains, and forests. However, the scenery along the oceans, bays, estuaries, lakes, rivers, and canals is incomparable. The sunsets and sunrises reflecting of the water and the marshlands are like no other.

Lastly, boating is a unique, fun, exhilarating, and challenging pastime. The water can be unforgiving and must be respected every minute, but the rewards make it more than worthwhile. Except for bluewater sailing, the Great Loop includes every type of boating environment imaginable – open oceans, bays, estuaries, rivers, lakes, canals, locks. It also includes virtually every type of boating challenge imaginable – navigation, wind, river currents, tidal currents, fog, narrow channels, shallow water, shoals, obstructions, debris, docking, undocking, anchoring, tight maneuvering. However, in part, that’s what makes the Great Loop so alluring and exciting. Most of it is in protected waters, and it is quite manageable by taking one day at a time and making smart decisions regarding weather and local conditions.

So – on to some statistics regarding our Great Loop voyage:

We passed through 20 states and two other countries – (three if you count Key West, which at times felt like another world…).

A total of 45 friends and family rode on the Joint Adventure for a portion of the trip – of those, 15 people were on for multiple segments, including Paul who was on for 2/3 of the voyage and was a wonderful shipmate – I couldn’t have done the trip without him. Four other people joined the trip 4 different times. While managing the trip in this way added to the complexity and required us to maintain somewhat of a schedule, the rewards of sharing the experience and of having so many close friends on board with us enriched the experience immeasurably. Surprisingly, we never missed a rendezvous point during the entire trip.

We traveled well over 7,000 miles – 7,427 to be exact. Incredibly, we averaged just shy of 5 miles per gallon of diesel fuel – amazing mileage for a 34′ cruiser with twin diesels. We used a total of 1544 gallons of fuel, which cost a total of $6,520 – not bad for 13 1/2 months of cruising, especially when the cost is divided among those on board at any given time. The highest price we paid was $6.06 per US gallon in Canada, while the lowest was $2.80/gallon in Norfolk, Va.

We navigated through a total of 144 locks of all sizes and shapes – these included two “lift locks” (in which the entire chamber of water – like a giant aquarium with the boat in it – is raised or lowered), one marine railway (in which the boat is lifted out of the water and travels up or down on a platform on rails), commercial locks built for oceangoing vessels (such as on the St. Lawrence Seaway), and tiny, historic locks built in the 1800’s in which the Joint Adventure barely fit. The change in elevation by each lock ranged from 2 feet to 7 stories.

Various people have asked what area we liked best, and what were our scariest times. The first question is very hard – certainly there is no place like the Bahamas, so I would have to rate that first. A close second would be Canada – the Chambly Canal, the Tent Severn Waterway, the Rideau Canal, Georgian Bay, and the North Channel are all recognized as some of the best cruising areas in the world. The eastern shore of Lake Michigan – with its enormous sand dunes, wonderful freshwater beaches, and unique harbors and towns – was especially interesting and fun. The “Big Bend” of Florida (the curved part that transitions from the panhandle to the Peninsula) was also really interesting, with its rural towns, wild rivers, and wildlife – swimming with manatees in the wild in Crystal River was certainly a highlight. The Florida Keys are also fun and unique, and of course Key West is in a class by itself.

Unquestionably our scariest moments were the 250 miles we traveled on the Mississippi, when the water had just risen 20 feet above normal due to heavy rains 150 miles upriver. We literally ran a slalom course dodging debris including entire trees rushing down the river in 5-6 knot currents. The scariest moment was when a red buoy up ahead of us suddenly disappeared, sucked under by the current, only to pop back up violently as we passed by it. A 600′ long commercial tow that we were passing at the time hailed me on the radio to warn me. For a variety of reasons, we chose to start down the Mississippi the day the river peaked. The next day, a tugboat got turned sideways in the river, swamped, and sank. The tree crewmen were rescued, but the river was closed for a day or so while they tried to locate the sunken tug in the opaque, muddy water.

Other moments that grabbed our full attention were shoals and shallow areas, often unmarked, particularly in the ICW in the Low Country of Georgia and South Carolina and in the New Jersey ICW. However, whenever it seemed prudent, we planned our transit through shallow areas or areas prone to shoaling during high tide cycles. We did not run aground the entire trip, in part due to our choice of a shallow-draft boat for this trip (it is still fairly easy to run aground – you just have to work a little harder at it…). The shallow draft allowed us to go places where other boats couldn’t or wouldn’t go.

So here are some pictures from our final run from Hull, Ma. through Boston Harbor and to our permanent dockage on the Charles River in Cambridge:

My Dad cleaning the windows on the Joint Adventure as we get ready for our final run of the Great Loop

My Dad cleaning the windows on the Joint Adventure as we get ready for our final run of the Great Loop

We stayed in Hull, about 15 miles south of Boston, the night before our final run to the our home port on the Charles River. Fifteen people who had joined us for various segments of the Great Loop drove to Hull and joined us for our final run.

We stayed in Hull, about 15 miles south of Boston, the night before our final run to the our home port. Fifteen people who had joined us for various segments of the Great Loop drove to Hull and joined us for our final run. From left to right:  Mary Chevalier, Tom McNichol, Jake Mycofsky, Louise Bombardieri.

My Dad & Louise enjoying the ride

My Dad & Louise enjoying the ride

A welcome sight!  In the background is Boston Light, the second oldest operating lighthouse in North America. Many years ago, when my kids and their cousins were little, we were out exploring the harbor in a motorboat. I stopped to point out the beauty of Boston Light, explaining that many artists come to paint the scene, claiming that it was likely the most painted lighthouse in the world. After a brief moment, one of the kids asked:  "How many coats of paint do you think it's gotten?"

A welcome sight! In the background is Boston Light, the second oldest operating lighthouse in North America. Many years ago, when my kids and their cousins were little, we were out exploring the harbor in a motorboat. I stopped to point out the beauty of Boston Light, explaining that many artists come to paint the scene, claiming that it was likely the most painted lighthouse in the world. After a brief moment, one of the kids asked: “How many coats of paint do you think it has?”

BOSTON!!! - 13 1/2 months later!

APPROACHING BOSTON!!! – 13 1/2 months later!

Our 144th lock!  Entering the Charles River! Note Bill Burke expertly managing the lines, a skill which earned him the (self-proclaimed) title of Mariner of the Year.

Our 144th lock! Entering the Charles River! Note Bill Burke expertly managing the lines, a skill which earned him the (self-proclaimed) title of Mariner of the Year last summer.

Our home port and our permanent dockage on the Charles River!

Our home port and our permanent dockage on the Charles River!

Celebrating completion of the Great Loop! From left to right:

Celebrating completion of the Great Loop at our dockage with beer and Champaign!

On the boat, from left to right:

From left to right: On the bridge:  Red Southerton, Hank Koningisor, Tom McNichol;   On the deck:  Jack Kelly, Mary Chevalier, Chrissie Bell, Elissa Mycofsky, Louise Bombardieri, Pat Coates, Jake Mycofsky, Paul Coates, Dave Luciano;  On the dock:  Jim K, Bob Hall, Jim Small, Chrissie Bell (Jenny Koningisor is taking the picture)

Trish welcoming me home...wait, what's that behind her back?

Trish welcoming me home…wait, what’s that behind her back?

 

YIKES!! A SCISSORS!

YIKES!! A SCISSORS!

A year's worth of beard gone in a flash!

A year’s worth of beard gone in a flash!

So our journey has ended, and along with it the Great Loop Adventure blog. My goal was to try to share the experience as best I could with those who might be interested in following the voyage. My challenge now is to transition back to real life – YIKES!!!

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HOMEWARD BOUND!

Post # 56:  HOMEWARD BOUND!  Day 406;  June 11, 2015.  On Board:  Tom McNichol, Hank (my Dad), Kate Koningisor (sis), Jim K.

First and foremost, Trish is recovering well from the surgery on her leg. She’ll be on crutches for another five weeks and can’t drive until late August, but she’s tough and resilient and doing well.  Her wonderful friends have been incredible, showering her with attention, well-wishes, food, visits, flowers, fruit – just amazing.  Thank you to everyone!

So we drove back to Manasquan, NJ last Thursday, a week after Trish’s surgery, to retrieve the Joint Adventure. We stopped in New York City on our way through and picked up my sister Kate who planned to ride with us for the next three days.  The forecast for Friday was not good, but we decided to leave very early hoping that we might be able to make the three hour sprint through the open ocean into the Hudson River before the seas kicked up.  Bad decisions make good stories (fortunately, this story isn’t TOO good…). We emerged from the inlet into 6-8 foot seas.  For the first time on the entire trip, we turned back and returned to the dock. So we spent the day in Manasquan, exploring and going to a movie.  Here are some pictures:

Hoffman's Marina in Manasquan is a short distance from the inlet, so there is a powerful current that makes docking maneuvers quite tricky, particularly when there is also a strong crosswind. My Dad is holding the boat in place while we untie the myriad of lines.

Hoffman’s Marina in Manasquan is a short distance from the inlet, so there is a powerful current that makes docking maneuvers quite tricky, particularly when there is also a strong crosswind. My Dad holding on while we untie.  Don’t let that piling get away!!

Kate cooking dinner for us -  she's used to more space in the kitchen, but still served a gourmet meal!

Kate cooking dinner for us – she’s used to more space in the kitchen, but still served a gourmet meal!

Dinner, followed by a poker game for BIG stakes - 5 cent anty, raises to a quarter

Dinner, followed by a poker game for BIG stakes – 5 cent anty, raises to a quarter

The wind Saturday morning was calm, but predicted to increase to 20 knots in the morning with rain. So we again left very early (6:15), and this time it worked – although we ran through heavy rain and fog, the 5′ swells were wide and gentle and we beat the wind into the Hudson River. The wind started to increase as we passed Sandy Hook, and we had whitecaps in the Hudson by the time we reached Manhattan. But we made it to New York!  Here are some pictures:

Kate can do more than just cook - expertly guiding the Joint Adventure along the Jersey shoreline -

Kate can do more than just cook – here she’s expertly guiding the Joint Adventure along the Jersey shoreline –

The Verrazano Bridge emerged from the fog as we approached the mouth of the Hudson River.

The Verrazano Bridge emerged from the fog as we approached the mouth of the Hudson River.

The Manhattan skyline emerges from the fog as we proceed up the Hudson River

The Manhattan skyline emerges from the fog as we proceed up the Hudson River

Passing The Lady as we head up the Hudson River

Passing the Lady as we head up the Hudson River

The marinas on the New York side of the river have no protection from wakes from the constant ferry traffic that plies New York Harbor, so we stayed on the Jersey side at Liberty Landing Marina, which has direct ferry service every 30 minutes to New York – just a 10 minute ride. We needed to move along to get home, so we were only able to spend one day in the Big Apple. We therefore decided to go to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the site of the World Trade Center (now the Freedom Tower). The Memorial consists of two deep holes in the ground lined with black marble that trace the foundation walls of the two former towers. A continuous flow of water spills over the walls, where it collects and then cascades into a deeper hole in the middle, the bottom of which is not visible from the edge of the Memorial. The name of each person who perished is engraved in the marble along the perimeter of each tower. It is a very powerful memorial. The Museum, entirely underground, is expansive – it includes film clips from 9/11, personal accounts from survivors and first responders, recordings and accounts from officials trying to understand what was happening and how to respond to it, remnants of the towers, and much more than I could describe in a meaningful way in this forum. It is worth spending half a day to remember and assess the significance of what happened there.

Here are a few images:

The new Freedom Tower dominates the NY skyline

The new Freedom Tower dominates the NY skyline

The Freedom Tower -

The Freedom Tower –

 A small portion of the 9/11 Memorial. The white structure in the background is a sculpture still under construction, being built from remnants of the old World Trade Center towers.

A small portion of the 9/11 Memorial. The white structure in the background is a sculpture still under construction, being built from remnants of the old World Trade Center towers.

Returning to the Joint Adventure on the ferry, with the Manhattan skyline and the Freedom Tower in the background. From left to right:  Jim K, Kate, Hank, and Tom.

Returning to the Joint Adventure on the ferry, with the Manhattan skyline and the Freedom Tower in the background. From left to right: Jim K, Kate, Hank, and Tom.

On Sunday, we waited until 9:30 to cast off the lines so we would transit the East River and aptly-named Hell’s Gate at slack tide.  The passage is notorious due to its ferocious tidal current, standing waves, and rapids, particularly when winds oppose the tidal currents. The passage can be treacherous in today’s world, but in earlier days the danger of the strong currents was exacerbated by numerous obstructions. In 1850’s, the Army Corp of Engineers began to clear some of the obstructions, a process that would go on for 70 years. In 1876, the Army Corp used 50,000 pounds of explosives to blast dangerous rocks. However, that effort was dwarfed 12 years later when the Corp set off 300,000 pounds of explosives – the blast was felt as far away as Princeton, NJ, sent a geyser 25 stories into the air, and has been described as “the largest planned explosion before testing began for the atomic bomb.” Despite these efforts, by the late 19th century, literally hundreds of ships had sunk attempting to transit Hell’s Gate.

However, none of those bad things happened to us.  Winds were fairly calm, and we had an uneventful passage. Here are a few pictures from our run around the Battery and into Long Island Sound:

While running down the East River, we came upon this enormous fender that some large yacht had apparently not secured properly, so we circled back and scooped it up for use on the Joint Adventure, I wish I had had it over the past year!

While running down the East River, we came upon this enormous fender that some large yacht had apparently not secured properly, so we circled back and scooped it up for use on the Joint Adventure. I wish I had had it over the past year!

The United Nations, as seen from the bridge of the Joint Adventure on the East River

The United Nations, as seen from the bridge of the Joint Adventure on the East River

OK, I know - not another bridge! But I couldn't resist, even though I included a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge on our passage through New York a year ago. But such a bridgehistory!

OK, I know – not another bridge! But I couldn’t resist, even though I included a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge on our passage through New York a year ago. But such a bridge, and such a history!

I recounted this story in the blog a year ago when we passed through New York, but I just have to summarize it here. The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by a pioneer in the art of suspension bridges by the name of John Roebling, one of the few engineers in the world who had successfully designed cable suspension bridges. This one was far longer than any he had ever attempted. However, while conducting a survey for the bridge, Roebling’s foot was crushed between a ferry and a piling while he was conducting a survey for the bridge. His toes were amputated, but he died of tetanus a couple of weeks later. With no one else to turn to, the Trustees reluctantly named Roebling’s 32 year old son, Washington Roebling, as Chief Engineer, since Washington had been working with his father on the design of the bridge. Construction of the foundation caissons for the two supporting piers began in 1869. Two giant wooden boxes, open at the bottom, were floated over the location of the two piers and sunk. Compressed air was pumped into the boxes to force the water out, and men were sent inside the boxes with picks and shovels to dig beneath the boxes. Excavated material as well as access by the workmen passed through air locks, similar to those used on a submarine. As the box sank further into the ground beneath the floor of the river, the pressure of the compressed air had to continually increase to keep out the increasing pressure of the water. Soon workmen started to suffer from a mysterious disease that confounded medical experts at the time. We now know that they were suffering from the bends, as they emerged from the chamber filled with compressed air without any decompression. As a result, in January of 1870, shortly after taking over as Chief Engineer and after construction on the bridge had just begun, Washington Roebling suffered a paralyzing case of the bends. From that point on, he was unable to visit the construction site and supervised the entire construction from his apartment with a view of the site. His wife, Emily Roebling, became his eyes and ears and his conduit of communication for the next 11 years of construction, transmitting information back and forth from the site to Washington. In the process, she studied higher mathematics, the calculations of catenary curves, material science, and the intricacies of cable construction. Many historians have concluded that she became the de facto engineer for the bridge, making many key design decisions on her own. The entire story is described in an outstanding book which reads like a novel entitled The Great Bridge by David McCullough – a truly remarkable story which I highly recommend!

Please note that, when transiting the East River from NY Harbor to Long Island, one passes under about a dozen remarkable, iconic bridges. Using all my willpower, I have restrained myself from posting any more of these beautiful structures.

The East River led us into Long Island Sound, with our destination being Norwalk, Connecticut.  Norwalk is an upscale city with manageable train access to New York, and has a multitude of restaurants, pubs, and shops in magnificent old, historic buildings.  Here is an image from the main street:

A sample of the beautiful, historic buildings that now house upscale restaurants, shops, and pubs along an active Main Street

A sample of the beautiful, historic buildings that now house upscale restaurants, shops, and pubs along an active main street

Our main focus for stopping in Norwalk was to rendezvous with our good friends Tom and Tim from the vessel IF. You may remember them as the grandfather/grandson team doing the Great Loop together, whom we first met in Trenton, Ontario last June ( a year ago!).  We have hop-scotched with them throughout the trip, meeting up along the way for some wonderful outings, including a visit to our favorite anchorage, known as “The Pool”, in the North Channel of Lake Huron. Our most recent encounters were in Boca Grande, Florida, where Tim served us an incredible home-cooked meal aboard IF, and a visit to Fort Myers, Florida, where Tim & I went out together and checked out a few clubs.  We’ve stayed in touch since then, following each others’ trip, and finally were able to link up again in Norwalk. Tom, his lovely bride Alice, and Tim are currently in Mamaroneck, NY visiting family, so they were kind enough to drive to Norwalk to meet us for a wonderful dinner together. Here are a few pictures:

Evidence that the best part of an epic trip like this is the people you meet - from left to right:  Tom McNichol, Tim, Tom, Alice, and Hank

Evidence that the best part of an epic trip like this is the people you meet – from left to right: Tom McNichol, Tim, Tom, Alice, and Hank

Dinner in Norwalk with such good friends - left to right: Tom, Jim K, Hank, Alice, Tim, Tom McNichol

Dinner in Norwalk with such good friends – left to right: Tom, Jim K, Hank, Alice, Tim, Tom McNichol

We planned to leave early the next morning before the winds increased, but an engine alarm sounded when we started the port (left) engine. It took until early afternoon to determine that it was caused by a faulty connection in the alarm rather than a problem with the engine. We cast off about 2:00 PM, but by then the wind had increased to 20 knots – after a couple of miles in the open water, we decided to turn back and try again Wednesday morning. We cast off in calm seas early in the morning and ran 98 miles to Watch Hill, Rhode Island when the wind had again kicked up and the fog rolled in, which convinced us to stop. Watch Hill is an affluent beach town which came to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an exclusive summer resort characterized by enormous Victorian homes built by wealthy families. According to an article in the New York Times from that time period, it is a community “with a strong sense of privacy and discreetly used wealth” as opposed to “the overpowering castles of the very rich” in Newport, RI.  Taylor Swift recently purchased a large Victorian mansion from this era, and has made Watch Hill her home.

The Hurricane of 1938 devastated Watch Hill – on Fort Road, which ran along a sand spit in Watch Hill,  39 homes completely disappeared within hours. Today the sand spit is a vacant beach.  Here are some images from Watch Hill:

The beach at Watch Hill.  Noice the flag in the background - the wind was whipping when we entered the harbor and continued unabated through the afternoon. The sand spit where 39 houses disappeared in the Hurricane of 1938 starts in the background

The beach at Watch Hill. Noice the flag in the background – the wind was whipping when we entered the harbor and the fog forced us to navigate the winding, narrow channel using our radar. The wind continued unabated through the afternoon. The sand spit where 39 houses disappeared in the Hurricane of 1938 starts in the background

Shops along the waterfront in Watch Hill

Shops along the waterfront in Watch Hill

The Ocean House in Watch Hill is an enormous historic building and is the only Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotel in Rhode Island.

The Ocean House in Watch Hill is an enormous historic building and is the only Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotel in Rhode Island.

The front of the Ocean House

The front of the Ocean House

First opened in 1883, the Flying Horse Carousel is the oldest operating suspended-horse carousel in the United States, and is o the National Historic Landmark

First opened in 1883, the Flying Horse Carousel is the oldest operating suspended-horse carousel in the United States, and is on the National Historic Landmark

The old stone building housing the historic carousel on the Watch Hill waterfront

The old stone building housing the historic carousel on the Watch Hill waterfront

This is Taylor Swift's home overlooking the ocean near the waterfront in Watch Hill

This is Taylor Swift’s home overlooking the ocean near the waterfront in Watch Hill

We again planned a long day, steaming 90 miles across the open waters of Block Island Sound and Rhode Island Sound, then through the Cape Cod Canal. This time the weather cooperated, however, with sunny skies and lighter winds than we’ve had in several weeks. We’re currently docked in Sandwich, Ma. at the eastern end of the Cape Cod Canal, which was our first stop 13 1/2 months ago. Hard to believe we’re nearly back at the beginning, near the end of the voyage.

Early readers of the blog may recall this picture from the first blog post from Sandwich last May – the caption is self-explanatory:

A testament to Yankee ingenuity - how to fix the ice machine when it won't drain properly

A testament to Yankee ingenuity – how to fix the ice machine when it won’t drain properly

Here is the same machine now:

You'll be happy to know that, 13 1/2 months later, they have apparently fixed the drain problem on the ice machine...

You’ll be happy to know that, 13 1/2 months later, they have apparently fixed the drain problem on the ice machine…

One more blog post to go, upon completion of the Great Loop Adventure….

 

 

 

 

 

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