Seems like yesterday

img_6200Looking back through the tunnel of time, our first official Looping month is in the books.  We haven’t regretted it for a second.  768.8 nautical miles.  Five states and one district.  Two bays and one ocean.  Twenty-three canal locks.  One Statue of Liberty.  Only one major docking embarrassment.  Only four or five overflowing junk drawers.  Zero lost drones.  Zero dogs overboard.  Dozens of new friends.   Those are darn good numbers.

As surreal as we find thinking about what we’ve done so far, we find it surreal-er to see how little we’ve done compared to what’s left.  We have a wall map in the pilothouse on which we place a numbered red dot at every stop.  It puts things into sharp perspective.

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What we have regretted, however, is the WiFi situation.  One of the many things we took for granted in Arizona was fast and consistent internet access.  Marina WiFi as a general rule is not good, bless their hearts, and internet is very important for resolving arguments and watching videos of baby animals.  We bought a Redport WiFi booster well before we started but until now hadn’t found anybody competent to set it up on the boat.  We haven’t configured it yet but at least it’s installed.

img_4016The first night in Brewerton we settled in at dusk to watch an episode of Downton Abby we downloaded before we left Washington.  Almost immediately the volume was drowned by what sounded like an army of digeradoos in the boat.  Fifty thousand digeradoos.  (That’s the last quote from Walk Hard you will read on this blog.  Promise.)  Turns out the Brewerton Speedway—1/3 mile of banked clay—is just across the Oneida River from where we were docked.  Ample sunlight remained to allow a short drone flight over to film some action, but in a democratic vote the idea was rejected soundly by a landslide margin of 1 to 1.

img_4012Loop or no Loop, this is the time of every year when we find ourselves woefully behind on the Continuing Legal Education credits we need to make the State Bar of Arizona happy.  That meant a couple of days watching videos of lawyers rather than exploring central upstate New York.   The clouds and scattered showers at least provided the proper dreary ambience.  We did walk to the local Mexican food restaurant.  Not a Chuy’s but passable, even with the Spanish version of Achy Breaky Heart on the soundtrack.

img_4021Dana’s sister Liz arrived on Sunday from Texas.  Given the shockingly high number of Texans on the Loop, hopefully she feels right at home.  Except her home in Austin is much bigger, of course.  The Stagg sisters took the Hobies for their maiden voyage while the rest of us cheered from the deck.  Actually the boys were sleeping but Doug cheered from the deck.

img_4023On the way back from dinner we stopped by the car show/local band/ice cream stand.  All small towns are pretty much the same, although this one was cold.  In late June.

It’s customary for boats traveling in foreign waters to fly a small courtesy flag to honor the host country.  We aren’t much for customs, but we also figure Customs might be less likely to hassle us if we show proper respect.  Kind of like putting a sticker supporting police on your car in an effort to avoid tickets.  We picked up our maple leaf and will hook it up when we get there.

Tomorrow we head to Oswego to wait for a good window to cross Lake Ontario.  We have no interest in the 14-foot waves that blow up when the storms roll in from the west.

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Goodbye D.C.

Our last weekend in Washington D.C and—shocker—it mostly rained.  This was not just the warm drizzle that one might enjoy on a veranda with a newspaper and coffee.  It was the torrential kind that makes it miserable to poop on the dock if you are a dog and your name is Oscar.  It soaks fresh laundry between the car and the boat.  It also causes massive flooding in the area, which if you live on a boat should not be a big deal.  When those floods deposit flotsam and miles of shoreline detritus, however, it makes things hazardous (and gross.)  At one point we could have stepped off the deck and done a polka on the stuff that collected in our slip, except we don’t know how to polka.

img_3357The huge silver lining—which outweighed the storms—was that Shannon arrived, putting the family together again.  She brought along her boyfriend Ryan, who handled us quite nicely.  The sun even came out one day while he was with us.

Mallory got out of her on-campus apartment and into her off-campus apartment just in time to come home for the first bit of the Loop.  It literally took 1 1/2 hours to drive the six miles from the marina to Georgetown to pick her up the last time.  We could have gone faster by boat.  Did we mention that Washington traffic is absurd?  In large part that’s because the Metropolitan Police Department’s main job involves parking squad cars with full lights in the middle of crowded roads for no reason other than to mess with already-irate drivers.  It’s amazing there aren’t road-rage incidents every minute.

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On our last night at The Yards we enjoyed the view from our front porch one last time.  Overall it probably wasn’t as bad as our posts might suggest, but we’re happy to be on our way.

The Final Countdown (we hope)

Knock on wood, we have reached the point of two steps forward for each step in reverse, rather than the other way around.  DirecTV is up and running.   Art masterpieces created by the girls when they were little are on the wall.   We have installed and figured out the grill.  There is equilibrium between the boat and the DC storage unit, meaning we no longer need to increase the net volume of stuff we are taking with us.  The showers and the beds are glorious.  We said goodbye to fleece sheets, which almost by themselves are reason to live someplace cold.  We installed a new stereo system.  Heck, the marina even scrambled up the gate code a bit.  Life is good.

Good, but still with some imperfections.  Like the AC system not working.   Remember the earlier post about the seacock valve for the main engine?  Stopped us cold for two weeks.  There also is a seacock and sea strainer for the AC pump, which is water-cooled.  No water, no AC.  And it’s getting hot and humid, seemingly in just the last five minutes.

The good news is that we easily diagnosed the problem.  The seacock was plugged.  Not the strainer.  Not the through-hull.  The actual valve was mushy, meaning something was blocking it.  It’s below the waterline so you don’t just take it apart in the engine room.

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That left two choices.  First, one of us could jump into the cold, dark, and scary Anacostia River to try to fish out whatever had lodged up in there.  Dana refused, so actually that wasn’t really a choice at all.  So we called out a pro.   Dude had a wet suit, a dry suit, a huge light, the correct tools, and most importantly a willingness to get in the cold, dark, and scary Anacostia River.  We would have paid him double.

I guess we are just lucky, because he had never seen a situation like ours.  Neither had the folks at Zimmerman Marine.  Neither had the folks at Peake Marine.

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Somehow or another this ridiculous stick found its way directly into a small hole and jammed up the valve.  (Dana photographed the shoe for scale.  It obviously wouldn’t fit in the valve).  We don’t really feel the love on that one.  However, today it was about 90 with humidity about 110%, so we are just happy to have the AC back on line.

The dogs also are hitting their groove.  Oscar still thinks it’s more efficient to poop on the dock rather than wait until reaching the grass.  He must be feeling at home, since he used to poop on the pool deck rather than the grass at our Scottsdale home.  Benny finds the front porch very comfy as long as there is a handy pillow.

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And yes, we have added netting so they don’t fall off.   I doubt we could get the diver back out fast enough if that happened.

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We enjoyed our second guests, Lewis and Terri of the Tennessee Belknaps.   Hopefully they will join us again down the line.  We also are hoping for many more visitors over the course of our journey.

Mini Pearl has taken us around DC, but we don’t quite have the whole crane launch thing down yet.  Fortunately there generally are only about a hundred people watching us bumble around.  That still adds about 20 degrees to the real feel temperature.

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It’s always good to remember that no matter what happens, someone someplace has it worse.  Like the owner of the boat that appeared on the shore across the river from our slip.  We took Mini Pearl over to have a closer look (and to see if there was anything left we might be able to use. Na.)

We are quite excited that the entire family will be on the boat in just a couple of days.  If all goes as planned, the six of us will leave The Yards on May 23, with a couple of stops before spending the holiday weekend in St. Michaels, Maryland.

Of course, exactly nothing so far has gone as planned.

Finally at the beginning

We start The Great Loop from Washington DC next month and had planned to arrive three weeks ago, so just getting here feels like a big accomplishment.  We slipped the lines at Colonial Beach in a slight breeze last Friday and cruised pretty easily, although the tide and winds kept us at about 6 knots.  For perspective, that’s about half the speed of a school zone.  Pretty dang slow, but we are all about smelling the roses, right?
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The Potomac River shoreline has some cool stuff to see.  Not only is there a naval installation at Dalghren, but Quantico has a Marine base with planes and helicopters at the water’s edge.  Mount Vernon tour boats loomed on the horizon as we zoomed—at six knots—past George Washington’s plantation.  Next up was National Harbor, which is about where the water traffic started increasing.  Nothing like the land traffic, of course, although it will get worse when the warm weather finally arrives in 2020.

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At the confluence of the Potomac and the Anacostia, we took a right, passed under the Frederick Douglass Bridge and found our slip at The Yards.  Of course, a day without a problem is, well, pretty dang unlikely.  When we plugged into shore power,  we tripped the marina GFI.  After some quick elimination we discovered that our battery charger is leaking AC current in an amount greater than the trip threshold of newer marinas.  That’s a concern.  Unfortunately the guys who know our boat the best are not waiting around next door.  They are hours away and busy.  Nobody can recommend any local marine electricians.  At least we can survive with the generator until help arrives.

img_3220We squared things away our first night just before the Nationals baseball game started, and listened to the Anthem from our back porch.  The Washington Navy Yard is about  200 yards away so we also get the Anthem every morning at 8 a.m.  (And yes, we did give up on using military time.)

On Sunday, Jim Blomo arrived after visiting his daughter at William & Mary.  He not only was the last to see us off in Arizona but also our first guest.  Because we are great hosts, Blomo enjoyed a not-yet-set-up boat, no shore power, and a trip to a sketchy Home Depot.   On his img_3233last morning we had a fantastic breakfast next to a liquor store that featured Wyoming Whiskey, which is distilled in Kirby, Wyoming by our old friends Brad and Kate Mead.

We brought with us from Arizona what at the time seemed like an aggressively small amount of stuff.  Now that we are living in a tiny house, however, it’s clear that we still will be leaving the DC storage unit pretty full.  There just isn’t room for everything that we thought would be essential.

Mallory spent the night with us and found her bed comfortable but not quite big enough to accommodate a person and a dog.  We can’t wait for her and Shannon stay for a while.

The electrician is supposed to resolve the charger issue on Saturday, and the electronics guy is supposed to set up the KVH dome so we can access DirectTV next week.  Maybe by then we will have jammed everything into place and will start to feel settled.