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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Deltaville is nice, but enough is enough

Right outside Deltaville, Virginia, is a historical-site sign that reminds us–every time we pass it–that so far our plans seem foolish:


Although the weather has cleared for us, Poseidon has decided to jack with our little boat just a bit more. We might as well have changed her name.

As a last minute item, we asked ZMI to check the engine aftercooler just to be sure it was okay. Thinking it would be easy and quick, we headed up to DC to watch some softball and enjoy Easter with the girls and the dogs. Back Sunday night for an early start Monday morning. To quote Lee Corso, however, “Not so fast my friend.”

The aftercooler uses seawater for cooling. The seawater enters the engine room via a thru-hull. A sea-cock valve is supposed to close off that opening so that the aftercooler can be serviced. The sea-cock is pretty important because if a hose or fitting fails, one would hope to stop water from being places it shouldn’t be. We are green but we still know that water outside the hull is good and water inside the hull is bad.

Unfortunately, the aftercooler sea-cock won’t close. So (1) nobody can service the aftercooler and (2) if we need to close off the hole in the hull to stop water from rushing in, we can’t. And since we also can’t decide what to grab in the minutes before sinking, we have to fix the sea-cock. Now ZMI has to haul the boat again. That means more delays of God knows how long. Grrrrr.


So we are not really bloggers, but then we are not really ready to become homeless either.  In any event this website hopefully will help anybody interested to stay somewhat current on our travels and travails.  If you want to know more about us, you can read the “About Us” page.  Duh.  The “Follow” button apparently will get our updates delivered to your email in-box.  These updates may range from a sentence or two to Doug’s awesome drone videos or Dana’s even more awesome photos of sunsets and sunrises and landscapes and seascapes and wildlife.  And if we don’t make it back from the high seas–and by high seas we mean shallow waters near sheltered marinas–at least our electronic diary will allow future generations to marvel at our stupidity.




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 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 is 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 will 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.

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.

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

Misty Pearl

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.”


Dana’s piloting skills were not at all tested.  However, I was able to get a good sense of how I hope 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 my clothes.  (My plan to take everything so that I could change with the temperatures 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 FBI agent in this news photograph 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.

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 6000 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.

Loop map
America’s Great Loop

We had never heard of such a thing, but were smitten.

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 DC 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 is an America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association, 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 are 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.   I’m 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 2
Misty Pearl

Misty Pearl is a 2002 Selene 43 trawler.  Apparently people who rename boats are almost 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 is a touch of symmetry.  Dana also had a grandmother Pearl.

We will 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.

Mini Pearl
Mini Pearl

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 DC area as a base for pestering Mallory.  Anyone want to buy a house in Scottsdale next April?  From there we will head north after the softball season ends.  We will 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.