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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Last Port of Call For This Season

 All good things must come to an end. For now, this will be my last blog from Algonquin. It has been a year to remember in so many ways.  We feel very fortunate to have had the experience of seeing the United States and Canada from the waterways. Towns and cities that we would normally not visit and had never heard of before are now familiar and firmly etched in our minds.  Coinjock, Oriental, Campbellford, Little Current, Brit, Kimmswick, Demopolis, Carrabelle, just to name a few. Our learning curve was steep, but we did it without maiming ourselves or others. What made this trip extra special were the people we met along the way.  Boaters are special, and boaters beat to a different drummer.

How boating is different:
First off boaters live by a different clock.  Getting up at 5:30 am is par for the course. Midnight on a boat comes early, like 9 pm.  Happy hour is any time the boat is not sinking.  On that note 99 percent of the boaters we met drink. Not just as a social activity, but as a celebration of surviving another day on the water.
People lose their identity and become known by their boats name. Fellow boaters bring their own drinks and food when invited over. Rarely do they use your head. Fellow boaters grab lines of any boat docking - others just watch. Boaters are always willing to help in any way they can.  They are easy going and take things in stride. It's a boat ....
Keeping to a schedule is foolhardy as the weather dictates your movement. Waiting becomes a pastime and you make the best of it. We were fortunate enough to have great waiting spots like Cape May, Carrabelle and the Green Turtle Club in the Bahamas. It`s generally not the town or city you wait in but the people you wait with. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention just a few of the special boats we encountered on our journey.

QUEST:   Dan and Judy Querrey. The best mentors newbies could have asked for. Dan ran to our aid late one night when we were broadsided by a sailboat in Fort Dollardale. Dan, learning that we had just bought the boat, offered to take us out for a few boating lessons. Dan & Garth were in heaven and Judy taught me about lines and charts. Dan was at Captains school so Judy and I did a lot of boat shopping. I miss my shopping buddy! Their help, advice,assistance and encouragement gave us the confidence to actually leave the dock.  Most importantly they taught us how to drink, not that we needed much prodding. To this day we are forever grateful to both of them and have a “Judy” every night just to show it!

N II WISHIN:  Jerry and Joan Muhme.  We met Jerry and Joan on Quest one night while a bunch of Loopers were waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas.  Everyone was reliving their boat horror stories and scaring me half to death. At the end of the night Joan came over to me and said, “Listen, if I can do this then anyone can – you’ll be fine.”
MOONSTRUCK:  Doug and Judy Jordan. While walking the dock in Jekyll Island Doug stopped by and chatted with Garth. Later Judy (aka Cupcake) spotted Zeke and needed a dog fix. They were LOOPERS and although we had heard about the loop we were going to do it later. Doug and Judy encouraged us to join the American Great Loop Cruisers Association and attend the Loopers convention in Norfolk Virginia. So, thanks to them we became Loopers!  I also need to thank Judy for the great spaghetti dinner she had for us when we returned to Jekyll after our port engine quit just a mile out.  Now, if that happened, it would just be another day on the water. Back then it was a major catastrophe. The food, wine, and great company were, and still are, appreciated! Eh Doug!

FINALLY: Richard and Jill McGee. It just occurred to me that every time the port engine fails they are around! Jekyll Island last year, and Marathon this year! Humm... coincidence, or karma? Having just finished their loop they came over to our boat one night and imparted their wisdom to us. When we left Jekyll, Jill got up to throw us our lines. I’ll never forget her saying with that southern accent: “I just love the sound of those Detroits, ya’ll stay safe now. Remember to feed those twins.”

ONCE AROUND: Frank and Carrie Vellutini. We heard about Frank and Carrie long before we actually met them. Doug and Judy told us about this couple from California that bought their boat in Florida and were starting the loop. We first met them in Norfolk, and then off and on again all year. We waved goodbye to them for the last time as they left Key West...... with the watering can in their freezer! These two have a wonderful love of life, and are genuinely wonderful people. I think they should both be voted Looper Ambassadors of the Year. If for nothing else than for risking life, limb, and boat, to give us their night vision camera in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico after losing our transmission! That was cool!! Life is good and boating is fun!  

LADY SIMCOE:  Sue Ferguson and Gord Zimmerman.  Sailors from Bobcaygeon that we met in Oriental and then again in Norfolk. They had left their boat in the south and returned home to deal with health issues. They had returned to resume their journey to Canada. I thought, why not just sell it. But no. Here they were planning to go to Washington, and then the Statue of Liberty for July 4th . After that they were continuing to Lake Simcoe. Seeing them carry on was an inspiration and made me stop and think that yes, there is something special about people on the water.

SALT’N SAND: Rich and Carol Nick. Loopers have what are called Harbor Hosts. When we arrived into Cape May, New Jersey Rich came over to the boat. He had sheets of paper with local knowledge for going up the New Jersey coast.  They invited us to their condo for appetizers and then we all went out to dinner. That was so nice.  Boaters helping boaters!  The next time we saw them was in Key West, eight months later. We just picked up where we left off and spent some wonderful time together.

THE LADY JANE:  Bob and Jayne Koehnke. These two found the charts and books for the loop at a garage sale and, in their mid seventies thought it sounded like a lot of fun so they bought a boat and took off on the loop. Jayne feel had a fall during the first few weeks and ended up breaking her shoulder. Something like this can discourage anyone except that Jayne just dusted herself off and kept on going. They are truly an inspiration to all. We stopped and saw them while passing by their place in Florida and they pulled up in their  convertible. Some people will never grow up, thank God!

CODA: Millie and Herk. Sail boaters who came over to the dark side last year. They are about to venture off in their newly commissioned old boat. I am so looking forward to following you two, and your beautiful Portie Bella on your new adventures. With your combined sense of humor I know you`ll have a blast and enjoy yourself. Don`t forget the popcorn Millie! 

SOMETHING SPECIAL: Sid and Evelyn Tilstra. These two had just taken possession of their boat the day before we met them in Cape May New Jersey. Sid asked, "Can I follow ya."  We ended up traveling together all the way to Trenton. We saw Sid and Evelyn as they continued on their loop from Midland in July. Our wakes crossed again in Key Biscayne and we ended up traveling with them over to the Bahamas. You know how they say that people resemble their dogs. Well Sid and Evelyn resemble their boats name.  They are both lovely, genuine, and down to earth super people. I am going to miss the way Evelyn says "Sid!", and then rolls her eyes. I am going to miss Sid for just being Sid, honest, kind, and one of the friendliest characters you will ever meet. Sid talks to everyone and anyone. I wish there were more Sids in the world! We will have to have a re-match on that euchre game at some point! The boys need to regain some respect!

BUSHRANGER RIDES AGAIN: Boyd and LynnAnne Robinson. They left us with good memories of Iuka, Mississippi and it was our pleasure to have met them. These folks are in the process of totally refitting their boat. BIG JOB!! They have gutted her and are now in the process of adding everything, and I mean everything, back into place. LynnAnne will be the most welcome addition to all Happy Hours with her amazing assortment of home made from scratch breads, biscotti and cakes! I really think you missed your calling LynneAnne for choosing the cockpit over the kitchen all those years ago!  

BROWN EYED GIRL: Ginny and Craig RylandSWEET PEA: Dale & Jim McGovern:  Couldn't have asked for better buddy boats, B.E.G. crossing over to Bahamas and S.P. the Gulf.  Our waiting time in Green Turtle and the lobster-steak-tipsy turtle, lobster.-steak -tipsy turtle ,lobster-steak-tipsy turtle dinners are memories etched in out minds!

"16 foot canoe, 53 foot Hatteras - they both float and it's all just water"

Blue skies and calm seas!

Kathy, Garth & Zeke