We hope you enjoyed Christmas and brought in the New Year with family and friends. We are happy to be back on track to complete the Great Loop in the fall of 2014!
It seemed a long road to get to this point. After 8 weeks of daily IV antibiotic infusions, followed by 5 months of physical therapy, I have regained much of the mobility in my right shoulder. Although I still consider myself quite a weakling, I feel I am ready to resume my first mate duties, and am anxious to get back to exploring and traveling via the American and Canadian waterways.
In October, Jim helped Kevin Crozier pilot his vessel ‘The River Rat’ from St. Paul down to Clifton, Tennessee. For those of you who read our blog during Phase I, we met Kevin and friend Chris Wallace at Hoppie’s in southern Missouri, the last fuel stop on the upper Mississippi. We traveled in tandem, along with ‘The Road’ from there to Kevin’s destination of Clifton, TN. Jim was eager to help Kevin this year for several reasons: He missed living and traveling on a boat; wanted to learn more about trawlers and diesel engines; and needed another adventure.
Jim suggested that I drive down to pick him up in Tennessee; I agreed provided that we continue on to Florida and go hunting for a more comfortable and economical loop boat. I met up with Jim on Halloween night at the Clifton Marina. We took off the following morning, and it turned into quite a rainy but productive road trip. We visited Savannah, Georgia, then started looking at 34-foot Mainships up and down the Atlantic coast of Florida. After Jim’s extensive research, we decided this particular style and brand was the boat for us.
Our new friends, Nick and Mary, who we met during the summer at the Lake City Marina 1000 dock, opened up house and hearts to us in their new home in Sebastian, FL. We spent nearly 2 weeks with them, coming and going to look at boats from Palm Coast down to Ft. Lauderdale. And of course, we managed to enjoy ourselves, swimming and lounging around the pool, fresh guacamole and oranges from their trees, happy hours and delicious meals were the norm. Without their help I don’t know if our trip would have been so successful!
After looking at 6 different boats (some several times), and paying for a survey, we ended up going back and purchasing the first boat we looked at. It was very much like house shopping, more grueling than I imagined, and quite a learning experience. The boat we purchased was in Palm Coast, and is named ‘Matter of Time’. She’s a 1981 Mark I Mainship, a trawler with a single 165 hp Perkins Diesel engine. She’s old, but very seaworthy, and much roomier than our 27 foot Bayliner. We signed the contract and the sellers agreed to keep the boat at their dock in good working order until we could take possession in early January.
We actually closed via FedEx and wire transfer, which seemed a little anti-climatic. The next step was determining how we were going to get all of our stuff down to the new boat. We decided the best and most economical way was to drive our Avalanche from Minnesota. We packed the truck (actually stuffed it), bringing the dinghy, motor, fenders, lines, coolers, charts, linens, kitchen ware, lawn chairs, clothes, other gear, and on and on.
We left Elk River Saturday morning, January 4th. We did not realize that we would be traveling during the coldest days in 20 years, through a very bad snow storm. On Saturday night we stayed with friends Vickey and Harold Henson in Hamilton, IL. The snow started about an hour from their doorstep,
and the temps started to plummet. After watching the weather the next morning and realizing that it wasn’t going to get any better for days, we set out on the drifted snowy roads through the farmlands of Illinois and northern Missouri.
That night we only made it as far as Collinsville, IL, across the Mississippi from St. Louis. Our original plan was to make it to Paducah, KY. But the roads were totally snow covered, with cars in the ditch everywhere you turned. The ramps were not plowed, and we wouldn’t have made it without our 4-wheel drive. We got a hotel and settled in for the night. If we were going to get back on track, we would have to drive 750 miles the next day to Valdosta, GA.
Monday morning we got an early start. Jim re-tied the dinghy down in the bitter howling wind, as it had deflated somewhat in the cold air. We set out on barely plowed icy roads. Again we saw many cars spun off the road in the deep snow. It was slow going, but we just kept plodding along. Once we made it to Atlanta, we decided to keep going to Valdosta. That night, after driving for 13 hours, we got a hotel and watched the weather. In Atlanta they had the coldest temps since 1996 (9 degrees), with fountains freezing and a light dusting of snow.
Tuesday it was a short 3-hour drive to Palm Coast to our new boat! Our anticipation mounted with the ever increasing number of palm trees, and the climb in temp to 40 degrees. The truck looked really bad, covered in salt and grime, so we looked for a car wash. Both car washes in Palm Coast had broken water pipes due to the below freezing overnight temps, so we went on to the boat in our dirty packed vehicle.
Unloading and stowing all of our gear was exhausting, a little like moving into a new house. Storage is always an issue aboard a boat, and our new one is no exception. It does not even have one drawer! We worked on it late into the evening, made up the V-berth as best as possible (that’s a whole separate issue), and cranked on the electric heaters. It was supposed to be another night below freezing!
After a good night’s sleep, the previous owner gave us some last-minute instructions before we shoved off from his dock. We made our way slowly through the canals to the ICW and headed south, driving from atop on the fly-bridge. The boat was surprisingly easy to handle and stable in the current. We saw very little boat traffic other than a few fishermen and some rowing teams out practicing in their shells.
This boat is a whole different animal than the cruiser. Trawlers are much slower, but more stable in the water. The hull design actually more closely resembles Down East style workboats than most trawlers. The single diesel engine and the hull design make it one of the most economical boats to operate for its size.
Slowly we made our way the 75 miles from Palm Coast back to the Titusville Marina. Our optimal cruising speed is between 10 and 11 mph, or 8.7 and 9.5 knots, while maintaining around 1900 rpm’s. There were long stretches of no wake zones along the way, and many bridges, one of which we had to have opened as we need a height clearance of 15 feet.
It is great to be back in Titusville, our last spot during Phase II. We got settled into a slip and were warmly greeted by many who were here last Spring. Nothing much has changed here, but I am glad to be here under better circumstances. We haven’t seen the manatees yet, but spotted dolphins swimming behind the boat.
Nick and Mary Nicholas drove to Titusville and brought us back to Palm Coast so that we could retrieve the truck. It’s nice to have a vehicle and not be dependent on the marina’s Cruisers’ Van for land transportation.
Our plan is to be here until the end of January, giving us time to outfit and organize the boat and make some necessary repairs and improvements.
In early February we plan to drive the boat down to Vero Beach. We are expecting many visitors throughout the month, including a brother and sister-in-law, son and daughter-in-law, son and girlfriend, and other friends. We are anticipating it to be a fun and busy month! Then in early March we will be pushing north – once again heading out to travel and continue our Great Loop adventure. It’s only a “Matter of Time”!