The start of it all

It began on a Sunday in 2015, when Dana read an article in the Arizona Republic.   The story was a travelogue of sorts about something called America’s Great Loop.  Around 100 boats of various shapes and sizes complete a counterclockwise loop cruise of roughly 6,000 miles each year, with points along the way including the east coast, the Hudson River, New York or Canadian canals, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the Tennessee River, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Florida peninsula.


We’d never heard of such a thing, but were smitten by the notion.

With Shannon still in high school, we knew implementing the cruising idea would have to wait a bit, but that gave us time to research and analyze.  Work or don’t work?  Keep the house or sell the house?  What about holidays, and friends, and Benny and Oscar (the dogs), and storing our stuff, and traveling to see Mallory in D.C. and Shannon in St. Petersburg, and about a zillion other things.  Basically we decided what the hell, let’s just do it and figure things out as we go.

The first step for us as newbies was to join the America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association.   Of course there’s an AGLCA, because why not?  As it turns out, the only thing Loopers absolutely must have is some sort of vessel.  In theory that could be a jet ski or a canoe but the nights and bad weather might take a toll.  The only real restrictions are bridge clearance and draft, although we also concluded that if we’re going to live aboard for a year or more, we need a few amenities.  Like room for the girls and friends.  And room for the dogs.  And an engine.  And beds.  And a shower.   And a galley.  And an anchor.  And air conditioning.  And a TV.  And a washer and dryer.  Actually the list is pretty long, because we aren’t really the types to enjoy being miserable.

One might think finding a boat would be pretty easy.  Just look on Boat Trader or its equivalent, right?  One would be wrong.  At least for us, it took quite a while and a lot of looking.  Ultimately it took professional help, which we probably need in more ways than one.   We saw boats in Washington, Maine, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee.  We went to in-water boat shows.  New boats are awesome but way too expensive, so we narrowed the search to well-built trawlers around 10-20 years old.  Full displacement trawlers are fat and slow, but fuel efficient and comfortable.   Doug is fat and slow and we wanted something comfortable, so that seemed like a good fit.

We also attended seminars on a variety of topics ranging from the Intracoastal Waterway to Dinghy Etiquette.  Mostly we learned just how much of this subculture is foreign to us.  This is an animal completely different than the ski boats and houseboats with which we feel comfortable.

Today we signed a contract to become the fourth owners of Misty Pearl.

Misty Pearl is a 2002 Selene 43 trawler.  Apparently people who rename boats almost are guaranteed to experience nothing but catastrophe, so Misty Pearl she will remain.  Plus, friends from the early Phoenix days fondly will recall adventures on Freshwater Pearl (another boat whose name we inherited) so there’s a touch of symmetry.  Dana also had a grandmother Pearl.

We’ll christen the dinghy Mini Pearl, which we think is quite clever although the name seems to generate blank stares from anyone born after about 1970.

The plan currently is to have some upgrades done at Zimmerman Marine’s shipyard on Mobjack Bay in Virginia, while Misty Pearl is stored for the winter.  When the icebergs in the Chesapeake thaw next spring, we hope to move aboard and use the D.C. area as a base for pestering Mallory.  Anyone want to buy a house in Scottsdale next April?  From there we’ll head north after the softball season ends.  We’ll determine our summer course based on what the girls are doing.  We should hit the river system sometime in the fall, with a side trip to Knoxville to watch the once-mighty Volunteers.  Then on to Florida so Shannon can have her turn enduring us during the winter.  Of course, we also may change this up completely.

The next step will be the survey and sea trial in mid-October.   Updates on those will follow.


Survey, Sea Trial, and Bombing

We headed back to Virginia for the Misty Pearl inspection.   Flew into Norfolk and stayed in Williamsburg.  On Thursday morning we drove the hour to Mathews, passing by the tiny hamlet of Gloucester.  Nothing special about Gloucester on the way in.

IMG_2892The night before the survey, Zimmerman hauled out.  That way the hull could be inspected dry.

The Cummins mechanical surveyor spent the day analyzing all of the mechanical systems, and the marine surveyor went through everything else.  For the sea trial we went out into the bay, where the nearly ski-able glassy water provided almost nothing to tell us how she handles in what old salts apparently call “snotty weather.”


IMG_2895Dana’s piloting skills were not at all tested.  However, Doug was able to get a good sense of how he hopes to spend a lot of time.

We won’t know for sure until the test results from the fluid samples come back, but everything looks really good.

On the way back to Williamsburg after a very tiring day, we stopped off at Oasis Used Books, the very cool store–in Gloucester–owned by the very cool guy who is selling us the boat.  On the hour drive back, we were exhausted but starving so Dana searched for a place to eat.  The plan was to pop in, eat, and go to the hotel to sleep.  After all, we woke up at about 3 am Arizona time.

Berret’s Seafood Restaurant and Taphouse “has been voted by locals as ‘Best in Williamsburg’ for over 10 years.”  When we pulled into the parking lot so we could judge Berret’s for ourselves, a fire truck, ambulance, and police car were arriving as well.  We parked a few spots away and went in.  The food indeed was delicious, although we barely could stay awake.

When we went outside to get the car, however, we found the parking lot crawling with police from seemingly every jurisdiction in the state.  Quite rudely, we thought, they had encircled the lot with crime tape and were guarding things rather aggressively.  Dana convinced a policeman to retrieve her iPad, but we couldn’t get to the suitcase that held all of Doug’s clothes.  (Doug’s plan to take everything so that he could change with the temperature proved unwise.)

Dana talked to a woman who had pulled in a few spots away from where we parked, who said that as she and her daughter parked, the ground just in front of them exploded.  Speculation amongst those of us without vehicle access was all over the board, but since nobody would tell us anything we concluded we should just head to the Fat Canary and wait it out.  (While there we met some delightful people, including folks from New Jersey who know a girl who will be Mallory’s teammate next year.)

Periodically someone would confirm that the lot still was locked down, so we waited.  And waited.  About four hours in, we went out for ourselves.  By now FBI and ATF agents were swarming and no end was in sight.  So we called an Uber and went to bed.

Friday morning the news confirmed that in fact a bomb had exploded in the parking lot.   Our rental car remained impounded.


Fortunately, Dana’s smooth talking convinced the nice FBI agent in the hat to process our car.  Also fortunately, we had nothing to do with the bomb, so after collecting Dana’s information he drove it under the tape for us.

When we landed in Phoenix, we learned that a 30-year-old white guy had been charged with an act of terrorism, among other things.  They arrested him at his home in Gloucester.


After all of the fluid samples came back and we cleaned up a few details, we finalized the deal and closed on November 7.   Misty Pearl is ours!  Very exciting and scary times for a family of land-lubbing desert dwellers.

Buying a boat is a tad more complicated than buying a car.  For example, obtaining the required Coast Guard documentation–at least in our case–required hiring yet another expert.  We now have that wrangled.  Getting insurance also was tricky but that’s done as well.

If Google Earth was up-to-the-minute current, Misty Pearl would be in this photo of Zimmerman Marine’s Mathews Shipyard:


This is where she’ll sit until she is delivered up the Potomac to DC in March.  Our plan right now is to moor at The Yards Marina, which is less than 5 nautical miles from Georgetown.

And we’re off

  • Take care of clients.  Check.
  • Sell office.  Check.  (Thanks to Tom Jacobs at CBRE.)
  • Sell house.  Check.  (Thanks to Ben Walter at My Home Group.)
  • Obtain enough dog medicine to start a medium-sized veterinary pharmacy “just in case.”  Check.
  • Sell truck.  Check.
  • Load two large storage units like Fibber McGee’s closet.  Check.

Plus a zillion other things.  Somehow we jammed forward and are on our way.  Over the past month or so we managed to have a final meal or visit with many old and dear friends, culminating with The Last Supper with George and Erin Cravens at their home.  With literally a couple of hours left to get out of the house this morning, Jim Blomo provided invaluable help finishing up.  We choose to believe he did it because he’s a great guy rather than because he wants us gone.


In the way of Tom and Ma Joad, we packed up our lives and headed across the country in search of a different life.  (The dogs are in the car but refused to pose, probably to retaliate for us steadily removing all of the soft or fuzzy surfaces from the house until nothing was left but wood floors.)

Because we’ve been working from before dawn until late at night the past few days, we both were exhausted as we headed east today.  Only one of us, however, mistakenly took Super-Duty NyQuil at 3 in the afternoon, so the trip to El Paso was painfully long only for the other three.

The newsworthy thing about today is that we actually jumped off the proverbial cliff. This isn’t just a weird dream that will end with us waking up 2,000 miles from Shannon and Mallory and heading off to our offices as usual.  There really is a hotel in El Paso that will be surprised tomorrow to find a few black dog hairs on the white comforter.

We anticipate nothing exciting as we travel to Charleston S.C. and then up to D.C., where we’ll meet Misty Pearl in slip E18 at The Yards Marina on Monday.

Reunited (and it feels so good), or Whose idea was this anyway?

After more than four months apart, tonight we got to see Misty Pearl again.   She now hails from Scottsdale, which we acknowledge is a bit odd but we think it looks cool.


The cross-country trip was uneventful as hoped.  Classic country songs provided a great soundtrack, referencing—among other places we passed—Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Abilene, Fort Worth, Dallas, Shreveport, Bossier City, Jackson (where Dana was hotter than a pepper sprout), Atlanta, Charleston, and Richmond.  2600 miles with only one low-fuel warning.  Amazing.

A moment to address weather.  It was about 75 degrees with blue skies when we left Arizona.  We enjoyed temperatures between 65 and 75 and those same blue skies the entire way to South Carolina, which of course we took as unequivocal proof that we would have great weather forever.  The plan to meet Misty Pearl and delivery captains Jerry and Wendy Taylor in D.C. tonight was as good as done.

As the Taylors got underway yesterday out of the yard in Mathews, VA, however, they discovered a leaking hatch and a bum heater in the master cabin.  The heater is no big deal because the weather is perfect, right?  Wrong.  Turns out government and traffic are not the only crappy things about Washington.  The weather sucks too.  Tomorrow and Wednesday we face below-freezing temperatures and snow.  SNOW.  Unbelievable.

Given the forecast, the heater became pretty dang critical.  Zimmerman agreed to work on it today—and to rebed the forward hatch and fix a few other things that cropped up—at the yard in Deltaville.  Since nobody wanted to battle the Potomac River upstream in snow and freezing rain, no way we were moving on board in D.C. today.  But we still had a trailer full of stuff that we needed to store.  The soundtrack for this segment was a wailing baby.   Grrrrr.

Oh well, no time like the present to realize the liveaboard need for flexibility and patience.  Up to Washington, rent a car, put the trailer stuff in storage, park Dana’s car at our marina, and drive the rental car three hours to Deltaville.  We’ll do the interior systems during the foul weather and leave the rental car.  If the storms break on Thursday, we’ll take the Taylors about 30 miles up the Potomac to Colonial Beach and drop them off.  Maybe we can reach National Harbor on Friday before the next snow/rain storm hits this weekend.  We have no idea when we might get to The Yards, which still is our final destination until we start looping in earnest towards the end of May.

Tne dogs have been fantastic travelers.