Loop article – WSPS

Here is the link to my Loop article in the Power Squadron newsletter.  The text portion is below.

http://wspsboating.org/images/Waukeelog_20170901_September_October.pdf

I am your coach and I am going to give you a pep talk to convince you to cast off your dock lines and head out on the cruise of a lifetime. My wife Priscilla and I keep our boat in Waukegan, Illinois and have recently completed a one year, 6,500 mile cruise on America’s Great Loop. Our Loop adventure was exciting and rewarding resulting in making many new friends and great memories. America’s Great Loop is a cruise on the inland rivers and intercostal waterway around the eastern United States. We didn’t just wake up one day and start cruising the Great Loop. We worked our way up to it by cruising the North Channel of Lake Huron several times and cruising both sides of Lake Michigan. We eventually cruised all five Great Lakes. This provided experience in navigation, anchoring, booking marinas, cruise planning, provisioning, dealing with Canadian and US Customs and building our courage to take longer trips.

I will give a shout out to Georgian Bay and the North Channel. These are some of the best cruising grounds in the world. No salt, no sharks, no worries. Just pristine fresh water anchorages and cruising grounds. There are great harbors, many with marinas if you prefer not to anchor out. Many of you may have head about the North Channel and might even know someone who has cruised there. A great way to build your own cruising skills and courage is to cruise there yourself. Everyone has heard about the hidden rocks lying in wait for you. I can say with confidence that during my five trips to the North Channel my Navionics Gold GPS navigation was extremely accurate. In addition joining the Great Lakes Cruising Club gives access to their detailed charts of every anchorage and gunk hole.

I am not saying you have to go to the North Channel before you do America’s Great Loop, but it helps. America’s Great Loop can be thought of as a series of 30, 50 or 100 mile day trips from one marina or anchorage to the next. If you can cruise from Waukegan to Chicago or Milwaukee you probably have the skills to do the Loop. We planned out a rough schedule of where we wanted to be and when we wanted to be there, although the most dangerous thing to have on a boat is a schedule. A schedule will cause you to make a move in conditions that are not ideal. That is when the best stories are created. All of our cruise plans had several layover days built in to account for the unexpected such as bad weather, maintenance issues or the desire to spend another day sight-seeing.

Our timeline for planning and departing on our cruise of America’s Great Loop was five years. You can certainly do the planning in much less time. That timeline included retiring, buying our Loop boat, learning how to run her and dealing with all the details of living on a boat for a year.

After reading articles in boating magazines about the Loop we bought and read several books written by Looper’s about their Great Loop experiences. These books provide a real sense of what will be encountered along the way. Two of the better books we read were written by platinum Loopers (completed two or more Loops) George and Pat Hospodar – “Reflection on America’s Great Loop” and “The Great Loop Experience from Concept to Completion.” Reading those books helped us decide what we needed to have in our ideal Loop boat. We cruised the Loop with another couple so we needed a boat with two very equal staterooms. There are two types of Loopers – go fast Loopers and go slow Loopers. The go slow Loopers buy trawlers and sailboats to do the Loop at 6 – 8 kts. The go fast Loopers buy express cruisers and motor yachts. They can cruise at a fuel sipping 6 – 8 kts but have the option to cruise at 20 – 25 kts if they prefer. With the help of Chris Weber of Weber Yachts as our buyers broker, we bought a Cruisers 4450 motor yacht and were fast Loopers. We cruised 6,500 miles and burned 6,200 of diesel. When we bought our boat in the fall of 2013 the cost of marine diesel was $4.25 per gallon. When we departed on the Loop in September 2016 the cost of marine diesel was closer to $2.00. That really helped our budget.

During our twelve month Loop cruise the real highlights were the people we met. You will meet fellow Loopers all along the way. We met Loopers on the Illinois River that we met again the Bahamas. The Looper community is a great resource for new or would be Loopers. Even if you are merely in the Looper dreamer stage you should join the America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association. www.aglca.org

Having completed the Loop we often hear from people that were Loop dreamers or knew Loop dreamers. Most often they waited too long to cast off their dock lines and they became ill or their wife or husband became too ill to start the adventure. The adventure of America’s Great Loop awaits. What are you waiting for?

My second career is working as a broker for Weber Yachts. Upon completing the Loop Weber Yachts sold our Loop boat within two weeks. If I can be of assistance for you to find your ideal Loop boat, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Condo bliss – Squid Lips

My brother Bill came to Florida for a few days to work on his condo in Sebastian which is the next town north of Vero Beach. He had some heavy lifting to do and invited me to visit. We carried a giant tube TV down two flights of stairs and donated it to Goodwill. Goodwill will still take tube TV’s if they have a coaxial plug. On the way back to his condo we had to pass by several tiki bars on the Indian River. This is part of the ICW that I had traveled just a year before on my Looper trip. He suggested we stop at Squid Lips because they have an open microphone night for local musicians. We cocktailed, had dinner and listened to the music. The locals were all professionals that worked gigs on the weekends. The majority of the music was the blues. They were spectacular. It was a great evening. The biggest challenge was to keep our beer from blowing off the table with the strong breeze.

Brother Bill, a beer and a half eaten Jell-O shot

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The open mic night band was spectacular.

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Foredeck Dan and I had the pleasure of taking Iris’s cousin John Talaber on his first sailboat ride. John is 36 years old and has worked as a guide for Outward Bound and has taught English in Cambodia and Vietnam. It was a very breezy day to take someone out for their first sail. The Sailing Center staff (Charlie) warned us that he was putting up the red flag over black. That meant if we damage the boat we have to pay to repair it and if we capsize he is not coming our in the inflatable to rescue us. No worries, off we go for a sprinted ride across the Indian River and back. Foredeck Dan once again did a yeoman’s job of keeping me dry. We were on a screaming reach as we crossed back and forth across the river. The Flying Scot has a planing hull. The breeze continued to build. We were under control but there are lots of shallow spots and today would not be a good day to get hung up. We returned to the dock having baptized John with his first sailboat ride. It was still early in the afternoon so we went to Mulligan’s in Jensen Beach for a beer and to regale in our exploits. For the second time this month we have been out in a big blow in a small boat and returned safely.

CFJ and John Talaber safely back at the dock.

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We are exceeding our goal of visiting one new restaurant each week. Iris’s cousin asked us to check out an Italian restaurant called Eighteen. It is near downtown Stuart behind the Hotel Colorado. It is a converted house with nice seating on the patio and indoors. We chose to sit indoors because it was a hot and steamy evening. The service was fine and the meals were fine. After dinner they served complimentary homemade limoncello. We would go there again. The Hotel Colorado is buying all the houses on the street and turning them into guest cottages. You can stay in the hotel or rent an entire house.

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On Thursday night the Lantern South contingent went to the restaurant Fresh Catch. It is inland with no view of the water. Thursday night is a sacred event that Beachcomber Dan and Captain Father John gather at a Stuart watering hole and carry on the 35 plus year tradition of the crew of Sleeping Bear that meets at the Lantern restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois. The service was eh. The food was eh. No return plans for the Fresh Catch.

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We were visited by Dick and Candy Smith from Mount Dora, Florida which is north of Orlando.   Candy recently had knee replacement surgery. This was her first trip since the surgery in January. She is in good company while visiting Stuart because both Pricilla and Iris have had double knee replacement surgery.  Candy will catch up on May 9 when she will have her second knee replacement surgery.

Dick and Candy Smith at Bathtub Reef Beach

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Dick owns and races a Flying Scot sailboat that he keeps in Mount Dora.  He enjoyed a day on sailing on a Flying Scot with Foredeck Dan and CFJ.

CFJ and Dick at the US Sailing Center at Jensen Beach.

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Priscilla and Candy transformed a brown cabinet to a work of art that will be our TV stand.

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No Thursday is complete without a beer to toast the lads at the Lantern north from the lads at the Lantern south. Thursday’s event with Beachcomber Dan, Dick and CFJ was at Conkey Joe’s.

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Jeff Hess is a former Rust-Oleum salesman from South Florida. He is struggling with cancer and has lost signicant weight.  He has always wanted to go sailing but never had the opportunity.  Foredeck Dan I took Jeff and his wife Isabel out on the Indian River for their first sailboat ride. We will take them out for another sail when we return next year.

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We continue to make improvements to our condo and are rehabing our guest bathroom.  The pedestal sink provides more open space in our guest bathroom.  We are still awaiting the arrival of mystery man Steve from Glass Plus to install the glass door on the shower and remove several plate glass mirrors.  I dropped a condo key off at his office.  Now he has until October to start and complete the remodel.

Brother Bill and his wife Joanne spent the night with us on their way from the West Palm Beach airport to their condo in Sebastian.

Bill and Joanne Fishing on the Pierpoint dock.

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Fort Pierce is halfway between Stuart and Sebastian.  Priscilla and I met Bill and Joanne for dinner at the Original Tiki.

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After a delightful four months of condo bliss it is time to close up the condo and head north.  The view from our lanai.

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Our tenant has moved out of our house in Lake Bluff and we arranged to have the floors refinished.  It was good timing because there is no furniture in the house and we are not there to deal with the dust and solvent odor.

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On our drive from Florida to Illinois we stopped in Gainsville and had lunch with Bill and Nancy Robinson at their house.  We continued on and spent the night in Chatanooga, TN.  On Monday we drove to Louisville to visit Tony and Susan Forns.  They invited us to join them for Dawn at the Downs at Churchill Downs.

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Dawn at the Downs is a popular tradition for both Louisvillians and visitors, giving Kentucky Derby fans the opportunity to see the contenders train for the big race, while listening to expert commentary. Narrated by resident expert handicapper, Joe Kristufek. Listen as Kristufek announces the horses on the track, evaluates their workouts, discusses their past performances, and provides insight to the Kentucky Derby & Oaks races.

Friends Pam and Ellen Sholtes joined us in our box seats to enjoy betting on the ponies in the afternoon. It’s all about the horses and the hats.

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Churchill Downs famous twin spires.  Our Kentucky Derby pick is #5 Always Dreaming.

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It will be a while until we see this Florida temperature in the Midwest.

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We arrived in Lake Bluff at 3:30 pm on May 3.  We were back in our home for the first time in 19 months. The refinished floors look terrific.  Thursday will be a busy day with the movers coming to move our furniture from the attic and basement back into our rooms.  AT&T   And DirectTV will also come on Thursday to set up the Internet and satellite TV.  The only thing missing is a bed so we will stay with JP, Rachel and Eleanor for a few days.

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So ends the condo bliss until next year.