Copyright © 2015
We did it!
Bridges: too many to count
Would you do it again: Yes
It's wonderful to be home back in Minnesota! It's hard to believe that we are done with the Loop. After three years of talking and planning, we actually now have completed it.
It's kind of funny looking back, when we were in the planning phases, when asked, we'd nonchalantly tell folks, when asked the route, "Well, you go down the Mississippi River to the Ohio River, then you take the Cumberland to the Tennessee, then the Tenn-Tomm to Mobile Bay where you cross and get on the Intra-Coastal Waterway until you have to cross the Gulf, and then yada, yada, yada. We got really good at verbalizing the route, but when you actually get underway on the route, it's a whole different story. Every section of the Loop is so different. Every day of the Loop is different from the day before and no matter how much you plan and think you have it figured out, Mother Nature rules and the "water", whether it's a canal, river, bay, gulf or ocean, is the boss!
We thought we were fairly knowledgeable boaters, but we learned sooo much. For instance, tides. Now that was a learning curve! Timing your travel around high tide and making sure you leave and enter a marina/port on slack tide was definitely something we became familiar with. Tying your vessel up in tidal water was also something we got pretty good at. And of course, once you figured a particular challenge out, it was replaced by a new one!
I'm not gonna lie. We both will be happy not to worry about having enough drinking water on board or if there is enough water in the holding tank to take a shower or how many flushes we have left before the waste holding tank is full or where the next fuel stop and pump out will be. Truly, first world problems, but when you're living on a boat, they are the issues you think about daily, along with where will we be tying up tonight and do we have anything on board to eat!
Some Looper friends of ours have a saying that they have adopted since starting the Loop:
"Live with less, experience more." I love that statement. It pretty much says encapsulates the Loop. You don't need much as you travel the Loop on a boat, but you experience so much. Not just places and cool destinations, but people, regional culture and incredible natural surroundings that change from place to place.
I also have to mention BELLA. She was amazing. She never skipped a beat. For a 13-year-old, weekend, fast boat she was the bomb! She kept us safe traversing thru wind, weather, waves, low water, high water and crazy currents. We both were amazed at her performance and perseverance! She was a wonderful home while on the Loop and we are so thankful for her.
We are also incredibly thankful to everyone at Jimmy's for taking care of business while we were away. We could have NEVER been gone this last year without all of you and we appreciate EVERYTHING that you did while we were on the Loop.
Thanks too, to Sam and Griff for supporting this Loop dream of ours. For taking care of home and business and for coming to visit us along the way. Love ya boys!
Since we started the Loop, people have asked us to name our favorite destination on the Loop. It's hard to say which port or destination was my favorite. Every place we saw or stopped was part of the journey, so to pick one or even three places is too hard. But I can tell you my favorite part of the Loop was doing this epic adventure with my best friend. He was an incredible captain and companion. It was amazing doing the Loop with him. We grew as individuals and as a couple. We didn't always get along (he told me the other day, he only wanted to kill me three times!), or agree on everything, but we'd figure it out. I know I can speak for Tom when I say, we both feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to travel the Loop and return home safe and sound.
It was an epic adventure that we'll have memories of the rest of our lives and who knows, maybe we'll do it again someday!
From Captain Tom
What an unforgettable journey… can’t believe we did it and it’s now over. Driving a boat around the USA at 8-10 mph the majority of the time gives you a LOT of time to think and reflect. GRATITUDE on so many levels is what I’m walking away with from this last 11 months. So many people to thank to receive this gift… My traveling companion, navigator, best friend, wife, made it all possible by doing everything to help us get it done. My son Sam and the awesome team at Jimmy’s doing an INCREDIBLE job! Great boat, electronics, advice from fellow boaters, the AGLCA forum, were all instrumental in helping us complete the route… I thank them all. I also know we had angels with us keeping us safe… what a blessing.
If you’re taking the time to read this and dreaming about doing something “someday” my advice is, someday is here… start planning and make it happen, whatever it is.
Final thought on the trip is summed up by a toast I heard in a bar… no really, I was in a bar!
There are all kinds of ships…
Big ships, small ships, but the BEST ships, are friendships!
Two Rivers Marina, Rockport, IL 7/30/2019
Quincy Boat Club, Quincy, IL 7/31/2019
Bluff Harbor Marina, Burlington, IL 8/1/2019
Isle of Capri Marina, Bettendorf, IA 8/2/2019
Port of Dubuque Marina, Dubuque, IA 8/3/2019
Marquette Marina, Marquette, IA 8/4/2019
Pettibone Marina, La Crosse, WI 8/5/2019
Fun, relaxing weekend enjoying Grafton and getting ready to head up the Mississippi. We had a celebratory lunch on Saturday amongst all the Illinois boaters. We spoke with marina staff and they said it was really the first weekend that folks were out since the flood. Grafton, as we found out, got hammered by water over and over again. It is at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, so with both rivers flooding, it got a double whammy every time either flooded.
We headed out Tuesday morning up the Mississippi toward home after a day of rain on Monday. We have 542 miles and 22 locks back to Wabasha. We’ve gotten lucky with the locks the past two days. We haven’t had to wait and once inside we have locked alone and floated. Because of the flooding, we have only been raised six inches to one foot in the locks. Barely anything. The lockmaster in Lock 24 (Clarksville - the last train place;) told us he and the rest of the staff at the lock have had to boat 3 miles to even get to the lock the flooding has been so bad.
Our first stop was Two Rivers Marina, Rockport, IL, right across the river from Louisanna, Missouri. We stopped here on our way down. Great little marina, but it too, has suffered from the flood. Chris, the dockhand was great. We put on some fuel and pumped out. He helped me find a chiropractor in town and set us up with the courtesy van. My back has been out now for over a week, so it was time to do something about it. After my appointment, we did dinner in town. Not much has changed since we went thru last fall other than the new bridge is just about ready to be crossed 😉 We left early Wednesday morning for Quincy, Illinois and as we were leaving the Asian carp were a fly'in!!! I thought for sure we would have a few in the dinghy, but not one 😉
We’ve gotten lucky with the locks the past two days (Tues/Wed). We haven’t had to wait.
Thursday was Burlington and two locks. We both wanted to stop at Bluff Harbor Marina in Burlington again. Boaters, if you are traveling down the Mississippi make this one of your stops. The marina is full service and protected. The staff is wonderful and will help with whatever need you have. Brenda ordered up the fuel truck for us and it was waiting when we got there. John the general manager helped us in and the dock worker that pumped us out and helped us turn around was awesome. My back was still not feeling the best and he took over tying the boat up. God bless him!
Bluff Harbor, like so many marinas on the Mississippi was under water not too very long ago. The pool of water that Burlington is in, runs higher because of Lock and Dam 19. The staff has worked hard to bring the marina back.
After a few chores we rented electric bikes and tooled around town. Loved the bikes. Went to Valley Monster. One of the coolest bars we been in. The décor was Big Foot meets American Pickers. Great place.
Friday we were up early and headed north. Our destination: Bettendorf. Four locks. Very long day of barges, dredges and industrial area on the river. It’s interesting with the barges. Since they travel thru the night, but it a much slower speed, we have passed the same four northbound barges everyday this week. The barges are running hard now that the river is open. Some locks we’ve been able to get right into or they squeeze us in quick between tows so the wait hasn’t been too bad, but the weeks not over yet! We are still being raised a minimum amount because of the flooding. The most we’ve been raised since Lock 19.
We had decided Saturday to stop in Clinton, just one lock and 33 miles, but after getting to Clinton, we changed our minds and pushed on to Dubuque. We both agree, from Clinton on it feels a lot like Wabasha on the Mississippi. We ran into tons of pleasure craft on the water from Clinton to Dubuque. It was good to finally see people and boats out on the water.
We needed to fuel at Dubuque. We had to get in line. 2 hours later we were finally in our slip. Their gas dock was pumping fuel like it was molasses! Once we got to the gas dock we were bombarded with local boaters. Super friendly folks. All transients that had decorated their boats for the lighted boat parade. It was awesome talking with them on the dock after they helped us in. The marina had a little celebration with a band and food trucks. We met a couple that completed the Loop in 2017 and it was fun comparing notes. The lighted boat parade had 20 entries! It was quite a show!
It’s Sunday and we are headed to Marquette, IA for the night. We’ll travel to LaCrosse Monday and stay a couple nights and then we hope to pull back into our slip in Wabasha by Wednesday if the weather holds and the locks cooperate! We are looking forward to seeing everyone!
Joliet City Wall, Joliet, IL 7/22/2019
Spring Brook Marina, Seneca, IL 7/23/2019
Heritage Harbor Marina & Starved Rock Marina 7/24/2019
IVY Club, Peoria Heights, IL 7/25/2019
Logston Tug Service, Beardston, IL 7/26/2019
Grafton Harbor Marina, Grafton, IL 7/27-29/2019
A little bit about the Illinois Waterway, which includes the Chicago River, Chicago Sanitary and Ship Channel and the Illinois River. It is 327 miles long from Chicago to Grafton, IL. Grafton is where we officially started the Loop. It has 8 locks and more bridges than you can count, especially in the downtown area. Within a ten-mile stretch, there are 41 bridges. The first challenge on the Illinois is the third bridge, the Michigan Ave bridge. It’s the lowest, with a height clearance of 17’1” and it doesn’t open but twice a year for the spring and fall exodus of boats leaving and returning to Lake Michigan, so you must be able to make it under this bridge in order to do the Chicago River thru downtown Chicago. Our height, if we lower our nav light is 16’ 10”, period. I tried talking Tom in to the alternate route, the Calumet River, which has a bridge clearance of 19’7”, but he had his heart set on doing the Chicago River.
The second challenge for the Illinois Water way this year is the limited time slot to lock thru Lock 5, the Marseilles Lock and Lock 6, the Starved Rock Lock. They are working on both locks during the day, so not even commercial traffic is allowed during the day. They are locking commercial traffic towboats and barges from 6pm until 5am. They have allocated 5:30am for one south/north bound rec boat/pleasure craft lock thru. That’s it folks! You can come thru then or not.
The Illinois Locks are notorious for making rec boats/pleasure craft wait. They are in charge and they have made boats wait hours and hours to lock thru. Boaters have said the lock masters are terrible to rec boats. A fellow boater who finished The Loop a few years ago said, “skip the Illinois, it’s awful. Just ship your boat back to MN when you get to Chicago”.
Needless to say, we’ve had apprehension about the Illinois and have not been looking forward to it. We’ve had numerous discussions about these last 327 miles and in the end, we decided we are just going to ‘put our head down and plow through it’. Not exactly a Looper attitude, but the Illinois sounded like it was not going to be much fun.
Below is a day by day of our trip down the Illinois~
Day 1 – 2 Locks
We were ready to be on our way after the boys left. We knew we were going to have some wind when we left the marina for the short 5 mile jaunt up to Lock 1 – Chicago Harbor Lock, but I never imagined that it could be any worse than our crazy ride back Saturday from the Playpen when we had the front roll in with 30 mph winds and all the boats left at the same time creating 4 ft rollers inside Monroe Harbor BUT I was wrong. We got out into the harbor and we had 6 footers! It was a four-contact hold! We knew all we had to do was make it thru the lock and the waters would settle down. It didn’t help that on our way to the lock there was a Pan Pan on the VHF of a man over board. I thought it was a drill, but it was for real. Chicago Fire and Rescue, Coast Guard and the helicopter, plus numerous other rescue boats were in the area. We had to wait for the lock because all the rescue vessels had to lock back thru. Waiting in the waves wasn’t much fun, but we had no choice. (Wished we had a Seakeeper!) We locked thru with the Fire and Rescue boat and reached calmer waters.
Once thru the lock our next challenge was our height at bridge 3, Michigan Ave. Tom had talked to everyone he could think of to find out its actual clearance with all the rain and flooding. No one would commit to an actual height. The coined response from all was 17 ft. OK then, we got a couple inches and lets pray that everyone is right and that the canal authorities are managing the flood water and keeping it at at least 17 ft. Tom felt confident we could clear, but here’s what every 1st mate I know hates……”Hey Mudda, go out on the bow and watch as we get near the bridge and let me know if we are close”. My response, “SERIOUSLY?!?! So, if we’re close to hitting are you going to be able to back off??? Not likely. So, let’s just rip all the electronics off the hard top.” I relented and listened to the captain and all was just fine. We had about 1 ½ ft. clearance at that 17 ft bridge and the other 17 footers we encountered and I actually got use to standing on the bow estimating the clearance. Still didn’t like doing it though ☹
So, we made it through downtown and enjoyed seeing the big city all around us. Tom loved it! Then we cruised into industrial, barge, towboat alley pretty much all the way to Joliet. We got through the Fish Barrier- all electronics OFF, got super lucky with Lock 2 and got to lock with a full barge (no chemicals) and two other tugs. These are HUGE locks, 600 ft x 110 ft. The lock master was a peach (wasn’t expecting that at all) and told us we could lock thru and to take the floater farthest up on starboard. We cleared the lock and then had to call the series of five Joliet bridges since their clearance was only 16’6” and they all opened up for us like butter!
We found a place on the Joliet City Wall for the night and got settled in. Tom was a bit concerned about security. He’d read that the City Wall could get a little nasty at night with crime, but all was good. We had Day 1 knocked out 😊
The Electric Fish Barriers are the US Army Corps of Engineer's effort to keep the Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes system. This non-native species first escaped into the Mississippi River and have made their way up into the Illinois River. The Chicago Sanitary and Shipping canal is the only water connection from the Illinois River to Lake Michigan.
Day 2 – 2 Locks
Best described as uneventful. I like those kind of travel days. We had two more locks, we had an early start so we could get thru another bridge in Joliet that closed down for morning rush hour and the day flew by. The lock masters were awesome and we cleared both locks with less that a 20 minute wait at both. Again, we weren’t expecting that.
We arrived at the Spring Brook Marina to a cheery lad on the gas dock, Zach. What a great guy. He pumped us out and directed us to our slip. He had been working at the marina since he was in his teens and was now a salesman for the dealership located at the marina. They had a courtesy truck they let us use and we headed to town to eat lunch, get groceries and do laundry. Later we toured a Prestige 450S (that was fun!), grilled out for dinner and turned in very early so we could be up by 3am, pull out of the slip by 4am and get to Lock 5, the Marseilles lock, 7 miles away by 5am as per requested by the lockmaster when we called him.
Neither of us are fond of traveling in the dark in unfamiliar territory, but we had no choice if we wanted to get thru the lock at the allotted time.
Day 3 – 1 Lock
After a sleepless night, we rose at 3am. It was dark and foggy. I prepped the boat for a port side bollard, as per the lockmasters request, we had our electronics up and running in night mode, wiped the dew off the windows and isen glass about a dozen times, had our auxiliary high powered light ready to go if necessary and headed out into the dark, foggy, barge filled night.
Keep in mind, the barges have been locking thru all night and are everywhere on the channel.
Once we got out of the marina and into the channel, we were able to access exactly what was going on. Our electronics do a good job of showing all the AIS vessels but when there are so many AIS vessels, it’s just a mass of little black triangles everywhere on your radar and chart plotter.
Needless to say, it was an unnerving experience making our way thru the dark, fog and maze of barges the seven miles to the lock. It was still dark when we got to the lock. We cleared the lock by 6am, headed to Heritage Harbor and I went back to bed! (Sorry, I have no photos of that "unique" experience! I was a little rattled!) After my little morning nap, we decided to head further on down the river, closer to the next lock and the 5:30am lock time. Neither of us wanted to get up at 3am and deal with the dark, barges and possibly fog again. A transient that arrived shortly after us and slipped right behind us confirmed our decision to move closer to the lock. He, his wife and grandson experienced the same middle of the night travel that we did with a few more miles tacked on and agreed that with all the barge traffic moving at night, it would be better to be closer to the lock. So, at 4pm, we headed to the Starved Rock Marina, 2 miles from the Starved Rock Lock. We stayed on the gas dock. Another early night in preparation for an early departure. Fingers crossed that we have more daylight and no fog.
Day 4 – 1 Lock
Our night on the gas dock, on the channel, at Starved Rock Marina was quiet and peaceful. We departed for the Starved Rock Lock at 5:10am and even had a little daylight. When we reached the lock, a big tow was just finishing a northbound lockage and the lock was ready for us in short order. Once inside the lockmaster was eager to chat. He wrapped our bollard for us and stood and talked with us our entire lockage. He noticed we were Loopers and said that one day he too was going to do the Loop. He gave us the update on the last two locks. He said that both would still have their wickets down and we’d be able to sail right by. It was a pleasure talking with him and neither Tom nor I could believe that we were experiencing the Starved Rock Lock. We had heard so many horror stories about this lock in particular. That they’d make you wait for hours and did like pleasure boaters. That couldn’t have been further from our experience. In fact, the entire Illinois River and lock system were like that…. enjoyable!
We traveled 65 miles to the IVY Club Marina in Peoria Heights, IL. We pulled in and immediately met Tim and Ron, the harbormaster and asst harbormaster, both incredibly accommodating and kind. The marina has been flooded out the entire summer. They’ve done clean up numerous times. You could tell, the two of them were just, plain worn out. We tied up to the seawall below the restaurant and pool after fueling up. It was a great stop. We did some routing, maintenance, laundry, took a dip in the pool and had dinner in the restaurant. Nice stop on the Illinois.
Day 5 – 1 Lock
We got a later start. We didn’t leave until 9am. It was a beautiful day on the water. We traveled 80 miles. We could tell the water was getting higher each mile and bridges that we would normally clear had to open for us. As per usual, lots and lots of barges.
We were initially only going to travel 48 miles but then saw that there was a barge in Beardstown, IL that you could tie up at for the night, so we continued on another 32 miles. We were both curious about the Logston Tug Service (barge tie up). We called and they said they had room for us. We prepped for starboard. Two fellas (Jeff & Luke) were on the barge waiting to grab our lines. There were four towboats, two at each end of the barge and one working on a load just down from us. We became fast friends with the guys on the barge and chatted it up with them for quite a while and they then agreed to give us a tour of one of the towboats. It was so cool. It was awesome getting into the pilot house and seeing the vantage point of a tow captain. The engine room was amazing as well.
Jeff, one of the tow captains told us all about the Tug service. Essentially, they get the barges filled with corn or soybeans, all 15 barges and then stage them on the side of the river for the larger towboats to pick up. He was so informative. He told us that one barge holds 350 acres of corn or 1000 acres of soybeans. The barges running the rivers are an amazing, finely tuned system.
They recommended we have dinner at the Mexican restaurant in town and gave us a little history lesson on Abraham Lincoln and the "Almanac Trial". Lincoln, a lawyer at the time, successfully defended a guilty man based on the daylight available at the time of the crime. Years later, it was discovered that the man did commit the crime on Feb 29, (Leap Year) and the witnesses to the crime were able to see the defendant. Interesting story. We had a great meal and hit the hay early. Tom wanted to be on the water by 6am headed for Grafton. Someone is just a little excited about crossing our wake….
Remembert the Asain Carp Electric Barrier??? Well on this side of the barrier the carp are a jumping. Boat motors rile the up and they fly up out of the water. When we got to IVY Club, we found one in the back of the dinghy! Tim at the IVY Club told us the record asian carp on the Illinois is 91 lbs!
Day 6 – 2 Locks
We woke at 4am to towboats working right next to us moving barges and setting up tows for the day. I rolled over but Tom was up for the day. I knew he was anxious to get on the water. I was too, but not that early. I heard the coffee maker dripping and I could hear him wiping down glass and prepping to go. I held him off until 6am before I untied and we exited the barge as the sun was rising.
The river was flat and we had no wind. It was a beautiful day on the Illinois cruising to Grafton and the excitement of crossing our wake continued to build as we got closer and closer.
As we proceeded down river, it became more and more evident that the river was way up. Bridges that we could normally easily clear had to be lifted. One railroad bridge, in normal pool, had clearance of 33 ft. When we called the bridge tender for the height, he said it was just barely 18 ft and he’d lift for us. All but two bridges ended up having to be lifted for us.
Barge traffic was steady and definitely more enjoyable during the day than at night 😉
We pulled in to Grafton Harbor Marina at 1pm, officially crossing our Loop wake. We are now GOLD LOOPERS!!! It’s an INCREDIBLE feeling knowing that we have officially completed the Loop, but we both agreed when we started that it’s not over until we pull back into Slip 125 on the 100 Boom in Wabasha, MN.
We are going to stay in Grafton a couple of days, regroup and evaluate the Mississippi. With all the rain and flooding she is still running pretty high. Under normal conditions we’d be going against a 1-2 kt current. With the flooding, it could run 3-4 kt. plus debris and deadheads may be a factor.
We’ll keep you in the loop as we return up river!
Burnham Habor, Chicago, IL 7/17-21/2019
I’ve got to give Captain Tom kudos. He knows how much I like traveling on FLAT water and we waited in Racine an extra day and had a stellar ride to Chicago. It was a bit foggy, but we expected that. The day before the fog didn’t lift all day and draped the marina entrance and bay like a white wall that made you think you’d be entering a different world if you ventured through it.
Cruising up to the Chicago skyline was really cool. For me probably even cooler than the New York skyline. A few years ago, when I was doing a little painting, Sam asked me to paint the Chicago skyline for him. I know, right?! I did and you could actually recognize what it was 😉. Anyway, it was pretty amazing to be there with BELLA and see it all lit up at night from the boat.
We were slipped at Burnham Harbor, right on the river walk and close to the museum campus. Wednesday and part of Thursday were pretty rainy, so we didn’t venture out until the afternoon. We were ready to check out the city. I booked a Segway tour and we had a fun time tooling around. Our tour guide was great and we saw and learned more about the windy city, even though we thought we know a lot already! We had cocktails at the Gage after our tour and met a chick at the bar who likes oysters as much as we do and highly recommended them, so when in Rome……
Sam and Griff arrived on Friday afternoon from MN, along with our nephew Jeff, who was down in Chicago on business. We caught up on the boat and eventually ended up downtown for dinner. We solidified plans for Saturday and had fun checking out the bridges downtown that we were eventually going to be going under…..hopefully. Side note: to take the downtown route thru Chicago, you have to be able to clear 17 ft. BELLA is 16’ 10”. With all the rain and high water, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get under the Michigan Ave bridge, so anytime we were downtown we would try and estimate the height on the ferries, tour boats and pleasure craft clearing the bridges. Tom even talked to some of the ferry captains, called the Coast Guard, talked to folks in the marina, got on every website imaginable, so we would know for certain the height and we wouldn’t rip off all the electronics off the top of our boat. Spoiler: we made it through 😊😊😊
Saturday the boys decided they wanted to spend the day on the water at an anchorage called The Playpen. That’s right. The Playpen. It’s located on the northside of Navy Pier and runs along Lakeshore Drive. The Playpen, as you can imagine, is a happening place, filled with anchored boats and twenty somethings having a good time. Sam’s friend, Alex Kurth, flew in Saturday morning and joined us along with a few of his gal friends from Chicago. Jeff and Griff hopped in the dinghy and we headed to the playpen for the day. We had a great day on the water, swimming, sunning and watching the parade of boaters, until a front blew in abruptly and put an end to the festivities. Everyone in the Playpen, and I mean everyone was hightailing it back to the marinas. It was crazy!!! We made it back to Burnham Harbor, got tied up just in time for the rain. The Playpen is an interesting place to find yourself when your old enough to make the “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials.
Sunday was pretty low key. A little brunch in the morning, a little shopping in the afternoon and a concert (Slightly Stoopid) in the evening for the boys right across from the boat at Northerly Island. It was an early roll call for all the guys Monday morning heading back to MN and work. Everyone was on their way by 5am. So happy they all came down. It was an epic time in Chi-town!
More later from the Illinois River~
Port Washington Marina, Port Washington, WI 7/12-13/2019
Reef Point Marina, Racine, WI 7/14-16/2019
The best part of the Loop is traveling to new places on your boat and meeting new people.
The worst part of the Loop is missing family and friends.
When you can combine the two, pulling your boat into a new port to see family and friends, it is better than the best and Port Washington was just that! My nephew Peter and his wife Kelly and their new baby girl, Emmy came to visit us in Port Washington (Kelly's hometown) and we were so thrilled to see them and meet Emmy!
Planning dates for folks to visit us on the Loop has been a challenge since we don't really know when we'll arrive somewhere or how long we'll stay, so we felt so fortunate that it worked for Kelly, Peter and Emmy to drive over from their home in Delafield, WI to visit us. Meeting Emmy was so awesome! Tom has always said, in regard to grandchildren, "the people we are going to love the most, aren't even here yet". Well, they are starting to come. All of our nieces and nephews are having babies and it's wonderful!
More later from Chicago~
Quarterdeck Marina, Sturgeon Bay, WI 7/9-11/2019
Our Lake Michigan crossing was smooth and uneventful and we were so happy to be in Sconny! One more step closer to home. We live so close to Wisconsin, spend plenty of time here and have lots of family and friends that live here, so other than the fact that we are NOT Packer fans, it feels like home. Especially when we walked into the Grey Stone Bar and it was filled with taxidermy! Yup, we're in Wisconsin!
We were also back in Jimmy's territory and stocked up at the Sturgeon Bay EconoFoods!
Quarterdeck Marina was a good place to be for a few days. It's smack dab in the middle of Cruiser Yacht country, BELLA's brand, which are manufactured in Oconto, WI, across the bay. Amenities were great - pool, bags, outdoor fireplace, grills, walking distance to town, laundry. We needed an oil change and Quarterdecks service center was able to fit us in so we are set for the rest of the trip. Skipperbuds Sales is also located at Quarterdeck, so since we've had some folks interested in BELLA, we thought we'd get a quote from them incase we decide to sell her. We also enjoyed touring a few of the new Cruiser Yachts on the dock!
Quarterdeck is also the marina where Piltzy's folks have their boat, The Maryacht. She's now for sale across the way at another marina in Sturgeon Bay. We checked her out on our walk. She's a beauty!!!
We also did a side trip up Door County to Egg Harbor. It was a fun afternoon. A little lunch at a new brewery, a little shopping and checking out marinas. Egg Harbor's shops all have a signature egg outside their entrance, each had a unique spin....
We also got to tour the Door County Maritime Museum. Again, it was a 6 degrees situation.....the receptionist at the museum was from Caledonia, MN ;) They had a cool interactive shipwreck display, the John Purves, a ship building history section (Sturgeon Bay was a power house at one time in ship building) and a great model vessel display.
And one last pic. What every marina needs......
More from the Wisconsin side later~
Charlevoix City Marina, Charlevoix, MI 7/7/2019
Frankfort Municipal Marina, Frankfort, MI 7/8/2019
I don't know how many times we've said it, but it has been "one crazy trip!" I remember back to when we were boating and the kids were younger, we had one weekend a summer on the boat where it was just the two of us. We called it the "Kidless Weekend" and it was always on Tom's birthday weekend in June. We'd spend it on the water jet skiing, boating or anchored on Lake Pepin with Mark and Julie Stevens. We loved that time away just the two of us. Little did we know we'd have a whole year of "togetherness" and time away. If someone would have told us then that we'd be doing the Loop and boating together everyday, we wouldn't have believed them!
We decided that we are going to split up Lake Michigan and do upper Michigan then scoot across the lake and do the lower half of Wisconsin. Charlevoix was on our list to visit and they just happen to have a slip open for us. We had heard so many wonderful things about Charlevoix and they were all true. What a great little boating town. On one side of Charlevoix is Lake Michigan and on the other, Lake Charlevoix. There are boats of every kind, every where.
Lake Michigan was good on Sunday as we headed down to Charlevoix. It was a bit overcast out, but by the time we got in the Charlevoix canal, the sun was out. It was also about the time the Emerald Isle car/people ferry was coming in to dock. The Charlevoix harbor was full of weekend boaters trying to get through the bridge, which opens every 1/2 hour. It was crazy for about 15 minutes dodging boats and trying to stay out of the ferry's way!
We got Bella slipped on to a T head, checked in at the office and then headed downtown. We had a great time wandering around. Lots of eateries, shops and bars. We checked out the local brewery and had lunch at the Tap House. I did a little shopping. In the morning before we left I had to do an Earl Young home tour. Earl Young built these very unique looking homes in Charlevoix. The locals call them Mushroom homes. They really do look somewhat like a mushroom.
We both loved Charlevoix and it's summertime on the water vibe!
We had a smooth cruise from Charlevoix to Frankfort. The only wave action we had was from other boats heading north. It’s just like back home, the week after the 4th of July, there are lots of boaters on the water on vacation. We’ve been fortunate so far to have gotten slips at some really nice marinas on Michigans coast.
Frankfort felt like a sleepy little fishing town when we arrived at the municipal marina. It didn't look like much was going on. Cody, a young dock boy was a font of information. We refueled and got a pumpout to get ready for our crossing over to Sturgeon Bay. Our slip backed right up to the park and the Betsie Valley Trail. After a little lunch, I hit the trail, while Tom did some Jimmy’s work with Sam. Later we wandered downtown to find quite the little tourist mecca. It was a lot like Charlevoix. We did some browsing and then watched a glass blowing demonstration. Dinner was at the Stormcloud Brewery. Now this was my kinda place! They had great brews and they had a popcorn menu!!! They had about six different flavors of popcorn on the menu that you could order and have with your beer. I was in heaven!!! After dinner we stopped at The Scoop ice cream shop where they served Moomers ice cream, a Michigan treat. Evidently, it’s been voted the best ice cream in America. We concur 😉 Between the beer, ice cream and all the other indulgences, it's a good thing the loop is winding down because our waistlines need a break!
We plan to head to Sturgeon Bay, WI tomorrow and then head down the Wisconsin coast of Lake Michigan. We are hoping to connect with my nephew Peter and his wife Kelly and their new baby girl, Emmy, in Port Washington over the weekend.
More from “Sconny” later~
It took me a while to figure it out.... I know, I'm probably the last person to realize that even though it's spelled differently, Mackinaw and Mackinac are pronounced the same :) We arrived Friday, July 5th in Mackinaw City, MI. We had wanted to stay on Mackinac Island, but they were booked (go figure, it's the 4th weekend) and besides all the guidebooks and fellow Loopers recommended NOT staying on the island since the ferries run all day long and will rock you like no other with their wakes.
We found a slip at Straits State Harbor in Mackinaw City. We are right on the main tourist drag and within walking distance to ferries that take you the the Island. The marina is behind two break walls, but we and everyone in the marina still get the ferry surges when they pass. They throw some serious wakes. Even the two break walls can't stop them!
We checked out Mackinaw City Friday. It was crazy here on the 5th. Tons of tourists! This morning (Saturday), we ferried over to Mackinac Island and spent the day. We did the horsedrawn carriage tour, checked out the Fort and the Grand Hotel, had lunch at the Pink Pony and tried not to get run over by a bicycle!
Mackinac Island is a wonderful place. No cars or motorized vehicles. Everything is done by horse drawn wagons. It's truly a step back in time. The aroma of fudge shops is replaced by the aroma of horse droppings which is an interesting combination. Again, there is so much history to this little island. Definitely a loop highlight! Below are pics of both our time in Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.
Straits State Harbor, Mackinaw City, MI 7/5-6/2019
The Grand Hotel
Touring the island.....
More from Michigan later~
Big Sound Marina, Parry Sound, ON 6/28-30/2019
Wrights Marina, Britt, ON 6/30-7/1/2019
Sportsman Inn, Killarney, ON 7/2/2019
Meldrum Bay Marina, Manitoulin Island, ON 7/3/2019
Drummond Island Yacht Haven, Drummond Island, Michigan, USA 7/4/2019
We picked a beautiful day to start making our way up Georgian Bay. Wind was minimal and no waves. We exited the Trent Severn and got on the small craft channel. We’d been forewarned and read that it would be narrow and that it would be lined with rocks. Big rocks. It was. Between our chart plotter and keeping an eye on the channel markers we made our way up into gorgeous surroundings. Rock islands with homes to beautiful green hills with cottages. At times you felt as though you were following a trail of crumbs that were going from side to side, in and around islands and huge rocks just barely exposed out of the water.
If Georgian Bay were considered a lake in its own right, it would be the fourth largest lake located entirely within Canada (after Great Bear Lake, Great Slave Lake and Lake Winnipeg). With Georgian Bay, Lake Huron is considered to be the second largest of the Great Lakes - if Georgian Bay were excluded, Lake Huron would be the third largest (after Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, but still ahead of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario). Eastern Georgian Bay is part of the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, granite bedrock exposed by the glaciers at the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago. The granite rock formations and windswept eastern white pine are characteristic of the islands and much of the shoreline of the bay.
There are tens of thousands of islands in Georgian Bay. Most of these islands are along the east side of the bay and are collectively known as the "Thirty Thousand Islands", including the larger Parry Island. Manitoulin Island, lying along the northern side of the bay, is the world's largest island in a freshwater lake. The Trent–Severn Waterway connects Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario, running from Port Severn in the southeastern corner of Georgian Bay through Lake Simcoe into Lake Ontario near Trenton
When we started the Loop we often asked other Loopers what part of the Loop they liked best and Canada was pretty much always the answer. I can see why.
Our plan for the first day of travel was to get to Henry’s Fish Restaurant and Marina. It was only about noon as we got closer to our destination. We deliberated and I called Big Sound Marina in Parry Sound and they added another day to our slip reservation and we continued another 15 miles. We had checked the weather and knew it was going to rain and thought we could skip Henry’s in leu of bad weather. We were glad we did.
When we arrived at Parry Sound, Jeff, whom we met at the Big Chute with Donna, greeted us on the dock. His son, Brian, who also slips a boat in the marina came over and we met him as well. Great guys and we enjoyed seeing Jeff again.
We felt fortunate to get into Big Sound Marina since it is a big holiday weekend and the Canadians are out in numbers on the water ready to celebrate Canada Day, July 1.
High lights on Georgian Bay~
What a great little town. Home of Bobby Orr and the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, Tower Hill and Lookout Garden, watched countless float planes landing and taking off, Trestle Brewery – 30,000 Island IPA (delicious!), tried the local favorite: french fries with gravy (not poutine, neither of us could stomach that), met Blue Heron – gold loopers from 2012, really enjoyed the hiking here on both the Fitness and Rugged trails, hit the Farmers Market, met local boaters Len and Cheri
Wrights Marina, Britt, ON
Tucked back in the Byng Inlet is a little family run marina. It's in a rural, remote and quiet setting. We met Pauline the dockmaster. Great gal with a heavy scottish accent ready to make your stay at Wrights comfortable. She informed us to be aware of our surroundings....bears and rattlesnakes abound. Really.
We are here over Canada Day. Lots of red and white and flags everywhere! The Canadians are very proud folks, as they should be. We are looking forward to the boat parade and fireworks this evening :)
We met another Looper couple, Jim and Allie from Florida. We had initially met them at Big Sound Marina over the weekend. We had docktails with them on their boat and compared Looping notes. We all agreed that Canada is beautiful, but, Canadian boaters are totally oblivious to their wakes!
At the marina there were tons of cars parked everywhere. The marina looked like a used car lot. I asked Pauline the dockmaster and she told me that they were “Cottagers” cars. The marina did have a lot of small empty run about slips. Duh. The Cottagers have a runabout at the marina and they get to their cottages on rocks by boat. Its so isolated that there aren’t roads to all the hundreds of islands that their cottages are on.
Canada Day was pretty low key in Britt. They had a boat parade at 6pm. Eight boats. Lots of “happy sailors” wishing everyone Happy Canada Day, then fireworks at dark. We met a few of the local slip holders and chatted, grilled out and turned in early.
The Canada Boat parade in Britt ;)
Sportsmans Inn, Killarney, ON
We left this morning (July 2) around 8am. Beautiful morning. We are doing the outside route to Killarney. We got to Georgian Bay and were putting along when we came upon fog. We turned on our radar and a watchful eye. It cleared. Great......then it returned about 20 miles from Killarney. It’s these times when we are so thankful for electronics!
Killarney is really a cool place! We loved it. We slipped at the Sportsmans Inn. Great facility. We biked around the island, dropped the dinghy in and headed out to Covered Portage Bay for a few hours. Absolutely beautiful area. The Sportsman Inn has a sister property, The Mountain Lodge, which has restaurants, bars, pool, bikes, water toys, etc. The Canada House on the property is spectacular. We were disappointed that the Sportsmans Inn wasn't playing outdoor movies the night we stayed. The screen was directly across the channel from us. Brought back memories of years ago when the kids were little, we rented a big screen and did an outdoor movie night at the house. Fun time!
After our day of investigating the island, we cleaned up and bellied up to the Oyster Bar at the top of the dock. We hadn’t had oysters since New York. It was a treat. The proprietor, William, aka brother from another mother to Dave Weinhold, was a stitch to talk with. He also served homemade jambalaya, which was probably the best we’ve ever had. Killarney was a memorable experience and highly recommended.
Meldrum Bay – North Channel
We covered eighty some miles and arrived at Meldrum Bay, population 35 around 2pm. John the dockmaster was there to welcome us to his bay on Manitoulin Island. Meldrum Bay consists of a marina/campground, general store with a hot dog stand and ice cream, Meldrum Bay Inn and Restaurant, a church and 35 residents. A quiet, little place by the sea. We had a long finger pier all to ourselves. We enjoyed a fresh fish dinner outside on the porch at the Inn along with a scrumptious double chocolate dessert. Earlier in the day we saw the fishing boats come in and drop off their catch at the Inn and were looking forward to trying it for dinner. It didn’t disappoint.
Drummond Island, Michigan USA
Early on the 4th of July, we headed out Meldrum Bay to Drummond Island. We thought it would be cool to have spent July 1st, Canada Day in Canada and then the 4th of July in the US. We took off at 6am and the North Channel was BEAUTIFUL. During the course of our cruise I completed the rest of the requirements on our US Customs and Border Patrol app, CBP Roam, which called for buying decals for re-entry into the US. Luckily, US customs only wants the invoice number for those decals when you do it online. Our re-entry couldn't have been smoother. Just before docking, we initiated an arrival on my phone with the app, a few minutes later a US Customs agent did what is equivalent to a Facetime interview with us and cleared us within a minute and wished us a Happy 4th! So easy!
We fueled up and then headed into "town" to have a little breakfast and find out what was happening on Drummond Island for the 4th. We haven't been anywhere but Hooterville for the 4th, and have been so spoiled with all the festivites Summer Fest has so we were hoping Drummond would give us a little taste of home with a parade or something. Well, they had a parade. It was mostly ATV's, bikes and gators decorated for the 4th with crazy people behind the wheel! Pretty disappointing. Made us ( I mean, me) a little or a lot homesick ;) They did have fireworks and they were great. Drummond redeemed themselves! All in all a very quiet 4th for us on Drummond Island. Below are a few pics of the 4th of July on Drummond Island Michigan.
Canada has been spectacular!!! We loved the Trent Severn Waterway and the lock system and people. The scenery in Georgian Bay and the North Channel has been spectacular. Definitely a extraordinary place to boat and we will come back to this area again.
More later from Michigan~
Lock 8 Wall, Percy Reach 6/16/2019
Campbellford Wall, Campbellford, ON 6/17/2019
Hastings Village Marina, Hastings, ON 6/18/2019
Lakefield Marina, Lakefield, ON 6/19-20/2019
Lock 34 Wall, Fenelon Falls, ON 6/21-22/2019
Port of Orillia, Orilla, ON 6/23/2019
BIG CHUTE Marine Railway
Starport Marina, Port Severn, ON 6/24-26/2019
After a day of touring, we took advantage of having a car and ran to the grocery store. We had decided on Saturday that if the weather was going to be ok, we’d head out Sunday morning, so after provisioning, I ran up to the Trent Port marina office to let them know that we were going to be leaving in the morning (Sunday). Little did I know that all the flooding had caused one of the private dams on the Trent-Severn to overflow and blow out a main road between Locks 1-7, our planned route for the morning. The Waterway was going to be closed indefinitely. That meant we weren’t going anywhere! Great….I had to go back and tell the captain that good news. Not my idea of fun! He wasn’t a happy camper, but realized it was out of our control and mother nature didn’t care that we wanted to start the Trent-Severn Waterway in the morning. Oh, well, move on to Plan B.
Sunday (Father’s Day) morning came and of course we checked to see the status of the locks and go figure---they were open. What??? Yup, they fixed the dam/lock issue and we were now able to start the Trent-Severn! Yippee!!! Tom started prepping the boat while I returned the rental car and by the time, I got back we were ready to pull out of the slip, but unfortunately two other boats beat us to Lock 1 and the locks here are tiny and only two boats fit into that first lock thru. The lock master (Tom, from Brighton Road Bridge on the Murray Canal) radioed us and said that it would be an hour. 2 ½ hours later we got into the lock. Tom, the lockmaster felt so bad and apologized up and down for the long wait. Such a NICE guy. That would never happen on the Mississippi. While we waited, we had a nice Father’s Day breakfast tied up to the lock wall. It was a beautiful morning to be out on the water and it was great knowing that we were going to be able to lock thru.
Tied up at our first Blue Line waiting for Lock 1 to open. The Blue Line is the staging area for a boats wanting to go thru the lock. The Locks don't use VHF radios, so you can't radio them and say "hey, I want to lock thru". Instead, if the lock isn't open for you to enter, you tie up at the blue line and sometime have to walk up to the lock and let them know your there so they'll open the lock for you. As you can see the water was VERY high!
A little lock info- like I said, they are tiny (most of them) and the folks that run the Trent Severn are unbelievably nice. Pretty much everyone in Canada is nice. Remember the bridge tender that ran Tom to the liquor store? Well, here’s another one. Yesterday when we were out and about with our rental car, we parked in a lot and had to use an automatic payment machine on the lot. We’re totally a couple of corn cobs. First of all, the parking machine wouldn’t take our credit card. OK, we’ll just use some money. Nope that didn’t work either. It wouldn’t take US $. About the time we realized that we didn’t have any Canadian change, some woman rolled up next to us in her car and said, “you must be American, here, I have some change for you.” I’m not kidding. How nice is that? We gave her some dollars and she said her daughter would be thrilled. Another nice Canadian 😉
Back to the locks and bridges on the Trent Severn. They have limited hours until June 23, when they change and are open from 9am-6:30pm. But until then hours are: Mon-Thur 10am-3:30pm. Sat-Sun 9am-5:30pm. Most are opened and closed at each end manually. There is a turnstile at each end on both sides and the staff walk round and round opening and closing the lock. It’s cute. And if I haven't said already written, the Trent-Severn Waterway is a 240 mile long twisting and turning waterway and it has 44 locks. Two of which are Lift Locks, Peterborough and Kirkfield. Peterborough is the largest lift lock in the world and was open in 1904. (Photos below) There is also the Big Chute Lock, which is a large steel railway carriage, thirty feet high and 27 feet wide, that will lift your boat out of the water with slings like a travel lift. On Father’s Day, two of the lock workers had their family there with them helping them open and close the lock doors. And once again they were all NICE! Did I mention that the locks are completely open to the public? I mean, folks walk right up to you and stand on the side of the lock and talk to you while your being raised or lowered. There is not fence or anything. This happens at every lock. Families, little kids, dogs, everybody can just walk right up beside the canal and watch/visit with the boaters. It is so cool. Plus, the lock and bridge tenders are right there to answer all your questions. They are like mini travel agents and love to give you information about the area. We’ve met some swell Canadians in the locks!
Even with our slow start we got through 8 locks today. Stopped and tied up above Lock 8 – Percy’s Reach. It’s lovely here. After tying up we realized that Pete, who we met at the Brighton Road Bridge was working the lock so we chatted it up with him and a couple of the other boats. One of the boaters, Scott, from Midland, Ontario, is a boat captain. He gave us some tips for the rest of the Trent and Georgian Bay. Again, another NICE Canadian. We sat on the bow and took in our surroundings and were thankful to be in such a beautiful place.
Below pics tell the story of our journey crusing the Trent-Severn~
It’s been a fun, lock filled couple of weeks! Locking, cruising, locking, meeting people, locking, enjoying the scenery, locking, loving Canada, locking. You get the picture. We’ve experienced so much in the last week since leaving Percy Reach Lock 8. Here are some of the highlights:
Campbellford - we loved the suspension bridge over Ranney Falls and the hiking path. It was also my first introduction to butter tarts!
Hastings Village Marina was JUST above the dam. If you untied your boat from the dock the current was sooo swift that it would take you right into the dam. Met Jim on the dock perched on the back of his boat having a stogie and drinking a beer. He was a friendly fella looking for a woman. Wondered if I had any sisters. He was 82 years old. 😉
The lift lock consists of two water filled pans or chambers, like a bathtub, each weighing 1300 tons with one in the up position and one in the down position connected by a hydraulic ram so when one goes down the other goes up the corresponding amount. Both pans have large gates at both ends. As you approach the lift lock from the lower level a gate opens in the lower chamber allowing you to enter. Several boats can be accommaodated at a time. After all the boats have entered and tied up to the side walls, the gate is closed. The an additioanla foot of water is added to the upper chamber making it heavier by 130 tons. A valve is then opened to connect the hydraulic rams together and the heavier upper level descends forcing the lower chamber up 65 feet to the upper level. The the gate is opened at the upper level of the waterway and you continue on. Amazing!
Lakefield – Mark the local cop was at the Lakefield Lock when we arrived to lock thru. We weren’t sure if he was waiting for us (a Canadian boarding and inspection?) or just there visiting. As it ended up, he was there to visit. And visit. And visit. We were the last lock of the day but he didn’t care and the gates were open for about 10 minutes before he decided he was done talking. We were going to stay on the Lock wall, but he convinced us to go the marina instead. We did and he came there and continued talking with Tom long after we tied up. Great guy and ambassador for Lakefield 😉
Fenelon Falls – we had an awesome cruise that day. We cleared seven locks and the terrain along the water just got prettier and prettier. We will definitely come back to this part of the Trent again. We weren’t sure we were going to make it to Fenelon Falls in time to get a spot on the lock wall but we did. The Fenelon Falls wall is a super busy, fun place. After arriving, Tom discovered our float switch in the aft bilge was shorting out. After four calls and no luck locating a mechanic and part, a couple of angels showed up: local Harbor Hosts, Gary and Pam stopped by to welcome us. They helped us find a mechanic and he came at 8pm on a Friday night, diagnosed the same problem Tom did, ordered the part and was back on Saturday morning to install the part. We loved Fenelon Falls and stayed another day and took in the Farmers Market, Tom got a haircut, we hiked the trails, met some great folks on the wall, Kim and Jay from Canada. They are planning to do the loop in a few years. They are a fun couple and they’ll do well on the loop. We really enjoyed chatting with them.
Orilla – big day on the water. We did another seven locks including Kirkfield, second lift lock (bathtub lock) except this time we were lowered. This was the start of getting lowered in the locks instead of being raised. I would have pictures of the Kirkfield lock, BUT, the lock master put us in the very front of the lock, I’m incredibly afraid of heights. I sat in the front holding my line with my eyes closed, paralyzed and praying it would be over soon. (I’m not looking forward to Big Chute – Lock 44). We crossed Lake Simcoe on plane and were tired and hungry when we got to Orillia so we called it a day.
Big Chute – Lock 44
Tom called the Big Chute, the Big Easy! We completed locks 42 & 43 and then headed for the Big Chute. The Big Chute Marine Railway is a patent slip at lock 44 of the Trent-Severn Waterway in Ontario, Canada. It works on an inclined plane to carry boats in individual cradles over a change of height of about 60 feet. It is the only marine railway (or canal inclined plane) of its kind in North America still in use, and is overseen by federally operated Parks Canada. We tied up on the visitors dock and checked out this crazy, over land lock, which isn’t really a lock. I was very nervous about this lock since it again was high in the sky! While at the visitor’s center, we met Jeff and Donna. Jeff is from Parry Sound and Donna resides now in the BVI’s. Donna had never done a lock and they asked if she could ride along with us in the Big Chute and Jeff would take pictures. We said sure. It was nice to have her a board. All the pics show Tom and Donna on the front of the boat while I played it safe back near the helm. It ended up being one of the easiest, most unusual locks we have ever gone thru. We’ve talked about this lock for three years. Can check it off our list!
Getting loaded and slinged in for the ride down
Port Severn, Starport Marina
Nice little marina right before the last lock on the Trent Severn. We spent a couple days planning our cruise and stops up Georgian Bay. Staff and marina were great. Beautiful boaters lounge with kitchenette, free laundry and awesome ships store. We tried peameal, which sounds awful, right, but it’s what Canadians call Canadian bacon 😉. Had a turtle drop out of the sky. We met Mike, a great guy and his wife, Diane, local boaters considering doing the Loop (Mike reminded us of our friend, Steve Broman). And we celebrated Tom’s 61st Birthday with a nice dinner at Rawley’s Resort.
We headed out rested and ready for Georgian Bay on Thursday morning. As Tom always says, one challenge is always replaced by another on the Loop. So the locks (which we actually enjoyed) will be replaced by ROCKS! We’ll be staying between the red and green and following our charts!
More from Georgian Bay later~
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.