Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Our odyssey up to the Great Loop

Doug has been a life-long sailor (at least since age 2), and Kathie learned to sail in graduate school- a great way to be transported from the world of academics. Over the course of our lives, we owned multiple sailboats of various sizes individually and together. We want to cruise together, and looked at in-water sailboats for years; we even bid on 3-4, but nothing worked out. Plus, Kathie doesn’t want to pull any more all-nighters and neither of us wanted to go across an ocean. So, the US and Canadian inland waterways are perfect for exploring our own country from the water. The Great Loop (see our April 30 post with Doug’s map, or the link to America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association) will give us an overview of what is possible and will begin our lives without work, or at least: without work for pay! By that we mean to acknowledge that cruising has been defined as “repairing your boat in exotic and inconvenient locations!”

The balance was tripped towards a power boat when we repeatedly heard many cruisers say that they use their engines 70-90% of their time on the water; given the limitations posed by water draft (depth of keel) and air draft (height of mast etc) to access these inland waterways, and the creature comforts offered by a power boat, we decided to look at trawlers. After Doug previewed trawlers on the Internet, we looked at (and videotaped) 40-45 trawlers, up and down the east coast. We settled on Sundowners as sturdy, economical (relatively! please be aware that ‘boat’ is an acronym for ‘break out another thousand’), and an efficient use of space. We did worry that our sailing friends would disapprove and we would miss the social scene with our sailing friends.

There were ~50 Sundowners built between 1983 and 1989; we saw 5 of them. We were fortunate to bid on two, the second of which has turned into the boat of our dreams. We found our Winnie (actually the Winnie W.), a Sundowner 36, in St. Augustine in 2002, and brought her to North Carolina two days after we bought her. It was a smooth but busy delivery trip: we covered over 600 miles at 7 miles per hour in seven days! We have spent available weekends at the coast (~2/3 or more), and now, post-work, have been fortunate to establish a “land base” at the coast while we cruise. We see the Great Loop as the beginning of many journeys and a great opportunity to learn about geography, history, and other topics, and to meet people.

Since 2002, we have completed many projects, all done by Doug with Kathie assisting under Doug’s supervision (sounds handmaiden-like but it is the truth). We have also taken trips with Winnie to Solomons Island MD and Charleston SC, as well as trips locally in North Carolina. We have found that our sailing friends still enjoy socializing with us on and off the water, and we have a whole new group of trawler friends. So it has not been all work and no play.

Our projects include two previous haul-outs to recondition and paint the bottom, and a third haul-out (last week!) to add a swim platform; a bow-thruster (see the link to “webshots” for bow-thruster construction photos); a diesel heater; replaced the engine heat exchangers; replaced the foredeck wash-down system; added a windlass; replaced the combined refrigerator-freezer with a refrigerator of decent size (5 well-designed cubic feet, by a survivalist group), plus Doug built a ~3 cubic feet freezer under a settee in the pilothouse; replaced the head with a “fresh water head (non-boaters: this is a very big deal, a huge step up!); and in the last month, added a fuel polishing system and are in the process of making a fiberglass cover for the aft deck. This last is important because we plan to store the dinghy over the aft deck and do not want to ruin the beautiful aft-deck canvas made by our friends Pamela and Alex at Mariner Canvas. Another recent addition is a wonderful oar stowage bag that attaches to the railing on the port side above the aft cabin, made by our friend Evelyn.

In addition to other odds and ends of repairs and additions at the boat, we are transitioning our household after our relocation, and making administrative arrangements for travel for 10-12 months, such as the customs regulations for the boat, people, and our dog Hank, and setting up this blog (took us non-computer geeks nearly all day!). Our pound puppy (75 pounds of love and energy) has been to the vet for various shots and certifications for travel, and we have a real doggy bag with everything we think he would need under normal and adverse circumstances plus the two 40-lb bags of dog food that will soon be under the V-berth. We also need to pack ourselves and parts of our household, to say nothing of all the charts and boat parts and equipment. Our goal was to be ready by end-April which Kathie defined as April 30, but we will probably start in the first or second week of May.

Most posts will not be this lengthy, but we wanted to give you some background about our journey to this point; we plan short posts with a photo or two. We look forward to hearing from you, including comments that you may wish to add to this blog (under construction: we are still figuring out the ‘posts and responses’ features!). Our e-mail addresses are imbedded in the graphic on the banner with the title of the blog. The photo for today’s post was taken by our friends Ron and Mickey a couple of years ago.

Our best to you, Kathie and Doug


Caryn H said...

Hi, Kathie and Doug,

Very nice to hear from you. Best wishes on your adventure!

Caryn H

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to following your journey -- enjoy!!

Robert Meyer -
32' Sundowner "BRAZO"
Sturgeon Bay, WI