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001 Introduction to the Epic Voyage of the Sea Marie
Great Loop Prologue. May 24, 2016
The plan was simple. I will launch my 22-foot sailboat from Edgewater Park Boat Ramp in Cleveland, Ohio, and head out to Cedar Point Marina in Sandusky, Ohio. It's about 60 miles and I have done this voyage a half dozen times solo and with my son, Greg. I had plenty of gas for the old 8hp outboard motor and I planned to stop at Lorain to replenish what I used. It was for the most part going to be all motoring as the winds were predicted to be very light and the lake was calm. The trip takes between 12 and 15 hours depending on how the lake is feeling. The more she sleeps the faster I can go.
Several years ago I overheard sailors at my marina talking about a Great Loop. A waterway that goes up and around the Great Lake to Chicago and down to the Mississippi River. From the Gulf of Mexico, you can sail up to Florida and through or around and clear up the east coast, up the Hudson River, and across the Erie Canal back to the western basin of Lake Erie where I started. OK, I can see sailing from my home port in Sandusky, Ohio on Lake Erie up through the Detroit River, St Clair River, on Lake Huron to Lake Michigan then down to Chicago. What happens in Chicago? Well, the Chicago River doesn't flow into Lake Michigan, it was made to flow out of the lake. The engineers living in Chicago found a way to divert the water south to empty into the Des Plain River then the Illinois River all the way to the Mississippi which flows to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. The river is called the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. This action saved the drinking water from Lake Michigan for Chicagoans from being contaminated by their sewage.
Nice Job, Chicago! Then where do you go? Well, it gets even better. Most recreational boaters do not travel the length of the Mississippi for there is a lack of marinas and fuel docks except for commercial vessels. The US government back in the 1970s funded a huge project to build and maintain a waterway from the Kentucky Lakes to Mobile, Alabama. To get there one goes up the Ohio River to either the Tennessee River or Cumberland River to get to the Kentucky Lakes. They built large locks for barges and vessels to get to the top of the lakes and then the current is slow enough to get you south. At Pickwick, the water flows south so you go with the current down the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway or just known as the Tenn-Tom to Mobile Bay. From Mobile you hop on the Gulf Inter Coastal Waterway to Florida, either go thru the center or around the state, and up the coast on the Atlantic Inter Coastal Waterway. Thru the Chesapeake Bay, down the Delaware Bay, and up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal. Erie Canal ties up with our old friend Lake Erie and you are back home. Pretty cool, huh?
Let’s step back a bit and allow me to introduce you to the water queen of my journey: the sailing vessel Sea Marie. She is a Spindrift 22 from bow to stern 22 feet long and 8 feet at her widest amidship. She can sleep 4 people, two in the V Berth and one each on either side of the table over the centerboard trunk with folding leaves. The boat was built in Florida in 1984 by her designer Jim Taylor at Rebel Industries. Only about 400 boats were made and ended production in 1987. My hull number is 168.
The beauty of this coastal sailor is her shoal keel. With her centerboard up she sits with 1.5 feet of draft and with the centerboard fully lowered she has 4.6 feet under her. With a transom-mounted rudder, her tiller is very responsive. With 600 pounds of ballast, her total empty weight or displacement is 1990 pounds. And I had her plenty loaded, I estimated her to be close to 2800 lbs at the start. The outboard motor was going to be a brand new 2016 four-stroke Tohatsu 9.8 hp outboard with the extra-long 25-inch shaft and a 4-blade propeller, electric start, and the ability to charge the batteries when running. The nearest dealer was Cabot Marine located in Sandusky, my home port some 50 miles from my home on the west side of Cleveland.
The Sea Marie carried a forward working jib and a larger 150 jib for lighter air. Onboard were 2 spinnakers, a smaller one I obtained from a sailing friend off of a Highlander sailboat, and both symmetrical. I left the spinnaker pole at home as I planned on flying these spinnakers as a jib. The mainsail was in good condition and had 2 reefing points to shorten the sail in heavy air.
How did the Sea Marie get her name, you wonder?
I had the perfect name in mind and named her after my wife, Colleen. Her first initial is C or Sea and her middle name is Marie. So Colleen Marie became Sea Marie. (Hint for the guys buying a boat: name it after your spouse and they will let you buy it!)
How did the Sea Marie become a part of our life?
It was a warm Easter Sunday in 1988 when I drove past the National City Bank repo lot on West 150 and Brookpark. You’ll find a large number of repossessed cars lined up against the fence and in neat rows in the parking lot behind the building and there at the end of the fence she sat on her trailer. Mast tied down on the bow rail and the stern rail. A voice that only I heard was unmistakable coming from the boat like a small kitten in a cage with the cutest and saddest eyes looking at you and saying, “Please take me home!”. A call to the bank the next day and I had placed a bid on her. A few days later the bank called me and said I was the only bidder and it was mine if I want it. You bet I want it!
Now the reality was we had no money in the bank and a bad credit rating. How do I swing this deal? Colleen was working at the time and through her job, a credit union was available and they accepted our application. We now own a sailboat!
Fast forward to 2016, once the Sea Marie is tucked in her berth at Cedar Point Marina, I will spend the summer outfitting her and reading up on all the do's and don't's. And of course, preparing myself mentally and physically for the challenges that lie ahead. So with that in mind, let's begin...
The Epic Saga of the S/V Sea Marie.
May 24, 2016. Today is the day, Sea Marie gets her hull splashed in the waters of Lake Erie. It took months of prepping her on the hard in my backyard and then at the boatyard of Riverfront Yacht Sales and Service on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River. Yes, today is the day. Greg showed up in his Toyota Tacoma to tow us to the Edgewater Park Boat Ramp. Once we pulled in ready to back her in the water we raised the mast, shackled the forward stay, tightened the shroud cables, and prepped the deck lines and fenders. Attached the newly painted rudder to the transom and backed her in the water. The old Johnson 8hp outboard roared alive and was ready to push us to whatever course I laid. Was I ready to go to Cedar Point Marina my home port? Well...
After a successful launch from Edgewater boat ramp, I motored 5 miles to Rocky River entrance where I placed a frantic call out on my cellphone to my son Greg to pick up a few items I might need sailing to Cedar Point, like my life jackets that were still in my garage and my GPS which laid silently in my linen closet. Hey, at least I remembered where they were in the house.
The sail up Rocky River brought back vivid memories of earlier times coming here with my wife, Colleen, and docking at Lakewood’s Ed Feighan Municipal Dock. Walking up to Sweetwater Cafe for an ice cream cone or a taco salad enjoying the antics of fellow boaters putting in their boats at the launch ramp.
And there was the time my friend Bob and I sailing to Sandusky had to bail out due to rough weather trying to fight a raging Rocky River flood flow getting to the launch ramp only to have my outboard motor prop blow a shear pin and without control being flushed downriver to an even angrier Lake Erie. How we survived that is a story for another time.
Just as I was docking at the Metropark launch ramp Greg arrived with my forgotten items.
“So glad to see you, Greg!”, I exclaimed.
“It was right where you said they were”, he remarked.
With a sigh of relief, I bid him farewell. He did say he’ll keep his phone nearby.
It was getting late and I made the decision to get permission to stay the night on this launch ramp dock. I put a call out to the Metropark Rangers for permission to stay. The dispatcher asked her supervisor who asked her to ask me if the municipal docks on the other side of Emerald Necklace Marina were available. I informed her they were taken over by that marina and made private last year. No more allocated free docking on the river. Life is getting harder for a vagabond sailor.
The dispatcher on the phone was very nice and pleasant to talk to. Called me back with approval to stay the night. No need to worry about rangers knocking on my boat in the middle of the night.
There was still enough light out to complete additional rigging like attaching the boom and tightening the shrouds and stays. I didn't put out the sails as the forecast for the morning was for calm winds and flat seas but had them at the ready in case of changes. Made sure the dock line was secured so as not to repeat an episode I had in the past where being docked at the Edgewater launch ramp for the night on a very calm night both my stern and bow lines came off the dock cleats and l was awakened by the sounds of the keel bumping against the breakwater rocks. It still is a mystery to me how both lines became undone as there was no noise or footstep I would have easily heard on that steel dock.
I was exhausted from the day’s events and having painted the port side, attached number decals, and loaded the boat the other day. A simple warm meal was all I craved. Boiled up some hot water on the alcohol stove for some ramen noodles and coffee then poured the rest of the hot water into a thermos for breakfast in the morning. A very quiet evening except for where the river would lap against the hull sounding like footsteps on the dock. Through the years I have become very sensitive to slight sounds while sleeping onboard now you know why. Watching the slow flow of the Rocky River as it heads out to meet Lake Erie was occasionally punctuated by a paddleboarder returning from catching the evening sunset on the lake as they made their way to the ramp. I tried out the small DC to AC inverter that made watching TV possible. Was able to get good reception on channels 3 and 5. Just in time to catch the last 5 min of Dancing with the Stars finals. I couldn't tell you who won as I'm not a fan. The news and especially the weather were my concerns. No big surprise I was set for the night.
My Timex Triathlon watch was showing 2:00 am when the knocking on the cabin of my sailboat started. Roused from a good sleep I opened the hatch boards to see in the dim light a couple of Metropark Rangers on the dock.
With a stern Ranger voice, he said, “You know you can’t stay here!”
Wiping the sleep from my eye, I replied, “ I did call the Metropark dispatcher and she got permission from the Chief Ranger for me to stay here just for the night. Please check with your dispatcher.”
He turned around to his partner who walked back to his patrol car. A few moments later I got the word it was ok for me to stay, the dispatcher neglected to tell the night shift I was staying the night.
Morning brought an urgent need for the restroom and luck be had the doors to the restroom not far with flush toilets were open. Running water at the sink and a full soap dispenser made me realize that life's little pleasures often go unnoticed.
It’s no secret I have Diabetes, Adult Onset Type 2, diagnoses back in 2012, and started on Metformin. I check my blood sugar once a day on a glucometer using a simple finger stick, I place a small drop of blood on the special strip and insert it into the meter, My blood glucose reading is in the normal range this morning. The medication pills are in a med box labeled with the days of the week. I put this morning’s dose on the table. Two for high blood pressure and two for my diabetes. Opening the cooler I remove an insulin pen provided by the clinical research staff at MetroHealth for a diabetes study I have been on for the past year. This is a once-a-day injection of long-acting insulin. Set the pen for 5 units, clean up with an alcohol swab and a quick jab in the belly and I'm good. An easy breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee using the hot water in the thermos from the night before completes the morning breakfast ritual.
Did I mention among the items I forgot and sadly forgot to tell Greg to get were a spoon and a fork? Think about this for a moment. We can live our lives without all the electronics that permeate our everyday existence but try to live without a spoon or fork! I scoured the bowels of the boat looking for anything that could place food from a cup or bowl into my mouth. I found nothing. What would Macgyver do? Ah, I had a plastic bubble pack the sides of which I fashioned a reasonable facsimile of a simple common spoon with a pair of scissors. Dilemma resolved.
I took out my personal journal and jotted down this thought: This wasn't going to be a historical moment but it was still history in the making. Not one that will move a nation or a state into action but that it will move a soul into believing in one's own abilities to overcome any problem or obstacle encountered.
The Sea Marie is ready, but seriously, am I?
To all fair winds and calm seas.
Comments from 2016:
Joyce Bailey Thanks for sharing! Love reading about your adventures. A nice relaxing break from the everyday grind.….even makes me smile. Looking forward to reading the story when the motor prop blew the shear pin. Be safe Henry and God Bless.
Camille Sandrock As former sailors, we are interested in your journey! Safe journey and calm winds!!
Dziak Terrence Be safe on your journey.
Bernie Sokolowski Enjoyed it. Keep me posted. Be safe. Peace.
John Sopczyk Have a safe trip
Jacquelyn Janik Templeton Good story and stories from the past too. Enjoy your adventures!
Sherry Thaler Really enjoyed the story of your first journey so far. Must admit that it made me laugh you brought up watching Dancing with the Stars. Carry on safely:-)
Ed Kowalski Sounds like an adventure!
Nancy Horvath As a former novice sailor, I enjoy reading about your adventures! Be safe Henry
Dan Sheridan Great story. Be safe, and may the winds be kind.
Jack Wendling The biggest boat I sailed was a 16-foot comet. Loved it too much but only sailed for 2 weeks a year then. Really enjoy what you remembered to bring vs what you forgot. Cannot wait to see and hear more.
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