The Loop – Final Frontier

Wow. Just wow! In our 3 years aboard Shangri-La we never were so busy as the last several months. At this point I could go into detail on so many, many adventures. Instead, the highlights of the last half of our adventure. On April 1 we docked back in our home port of Beaufort, NC. And for the next several weeks between personal business, family business and just decompressing – we’ve been dialing it down.

The Loop was an amazing adventure for sure. Locks, long voyages, cute towns and the best part – so many wonderful people who can’t wait to help out, join in and make the journey the adventure of a lifetime. And that’s the story. Yes, we traveled for 13 months covering over 6,000 miles. Yes, we had an incredible number of one-of-a-kind adventures. So will those who follow and so did those who went before us. But most inspiring, we will cherish the journey forever. Truly forever. So many great moments.

The highlights? Busting up the Chesapeake Bay in what was supposed to be one foot waves. Thank God it was a head sea. A half dozen times we buried the anchor in the face of a rowdy bay. Anchoring in the Hudson River – people asked us, “who anchors in the Hudson?!” We did. Jan found a spot called Saddle Bags off the main channel and we had a wonderful night on the hook. Dragging anchor in Tawas Bay – where we woke to a swimmer knocking on the hull “mister, mister your boat is moving. . .” Indeed we were. Sitting proud in barely 5′ of water right in front of the hotel. We gave serious consideration to renaming Shangri-La the Drag Queen after that night.

Or our trip up to Alpena, MI from Tawas, MI where we broke dishes we didn’t know we had and watched a bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce play spin the bottle sans top across the salon floor on a raging Lake Huron. Jan sat on the floor while I sat at the lower helm and listened to wine glasses smacking each other to pieces in the rack behind my head. We only made it to Harrisville where we hooked up with Eddie and Linda on a 36 Grand Banks. A couple who have become fast and dear friends for life. With them we crossed under the mighty Mackinaw Bridge and spent the night at Beaver Island. The next day, we left for Door County, Wisconsin. Crossing on a truly beautiful day. When we got to Washington Island, we began our leisurely trip down the peninsula where we lollygagged along for over a month enjoying the spotless, charming villages along the Wisconsin’s thumb along with our new found friends.

Leaving Door County Wisconsin
Into the Mist and across Lake Michigan

Then crossing from Sturgeon Bay to Ludington. “You’re not going is this fog??” we were asked as we slipped the lines. Yes, we’re going in the fog. Fog happens when there is no wind. And we needed to cross nearly 100 miles of Lake Michigan that trip. It was so calm I almost fell asleep at the helm. We only saw one boat on the radar. It was an incredible trip – all alone just the rumble of Pam and Sarah in the mist. We’ll never forget that day.

Big Water

So, now what? Leaving land heading into The Big Water. Offshore. Out of sight of land. Usually longer days. What do we do? Do we just stare at the water? I mean seriously – once we get offshore what is there to do? Play Scrabble? We could. . .but being new we don’t – yet. Think about it; a 5-10 hour day rumbling along in the deep blue.

Each boat crew has their own regimen. Ours is pretty straightforward. First, since we love being offshore we are constantly on the lookout for wildlife. Things like dolphins and sea turtles. Flying fish and jelly fish. We’ve even seen otters well offshore. One time coming up from Georgia to Hilton Head Jan jumped back from the railing up on the bridge and exclaimed “SHARK!! HUGE SHARK!!” Indeed, swimming right up against our port side was a massive shark with a red tinted dorsal fin. He didn’t stay long but he sure left an impression.

The Loop IV

Behind in our blogs. Hope to catch up soon.

Finally we break out!!  After spending the night in Tonawanda, NY we leave the cut from Black Rock locks.   11 days humping it through the Erie Canal we’ve finally made it to the Great Lakes.  Just before making the bend around to the lake the air turned cool and crisp.  We could smell the big water.  We both had tears in our eyes as we made that final turn to Lake Erie.

Now we can hustle it up a bit and get offshore and let Shangri-La put on some speed (ok fine, it’s 8-9 knots) and stretch her props.  The Lake Erie run was unlike anything we expected.  First Buffalo.  Where we met other Loopers and Harbor Hosts who went out of their way to assist us.  Including grocery runs and a ride to the bus station where one day we hopped a bus to Niagra Falls.  Once again, the incredible community of boaters was there for us.

The Loop III

Journey around America’s Great Loop

Dawn breaks – geeze did I really write that?  Anyway, an early start today, we’re going outside!  The next leg of the trip is to head out into the Atlantic Ocean and make our way up the New Jersey coast to New York.  It’s a long  trip for us so we have two choices – run into the night, making the turn into the Hudson to our chosen anchorage at Sandy Hook, or stop at Atlantic City.  Duh, we all know how that turned out.  Across from the casinos is a quiet bay where we can anchor.  The channel into the anchorage is so narrow, the fishermen pull their lines so we can pass.  Once again we are treated to a serene evening, the lights of Atlantic City, about a mile away and us, hovering over the hook enjoying another tranquil evening.

Day 2 OUTSIDE.  It didn’t get rough and it didn’t get ugly.  We had a beautiful run up the coast.  It was easy to understand the term ‘down to the shore’ when we’ve heard it from folks in NY City.  Beautiful sand beaches the entire way up the New Jersey coastline.  Making the turn into Sandy Hook, we dropped our hook in a lovely bay – the only boat in sight.

During dinner, I caught something out of the corner of my eye passing in front of our windscreen.  A massive tug and barge used for dredging was literally running over our anchor line.  Leaping up, I got on the radio and asked if the captain was lost.  “Nope, just looking for a place to spend the night.”  He anchored out several hundred yards away – but that first look as he passed so close pretty much finished off the few hairs I had that were lacking grey. Continue reading “The Loop III”