It has been a whirlwind of a few weeks and we have been quite busy with work, boat issues and (finally) getting back to our adventure. We apologize for the delay in posts, and for this long blog, but it has been crazy with no downtime to write. Here is what we have been up to….
Week of June 8th – On Monday (6/8) Mark took Denise to the airport early in the morning for her flight to Houston. There she conducted 7 workshops over a period of 3.5 days and was exhausted by the time she got on the plane to fly back to Cape May. In the meantime, Mark worked from the boat and enjoyed the Canyon Club marina.
Wednesday (6/10) – The weather broke today and Mark was able to move the boat from Cape May up to Staten Island, following most of the way with Bob and Ginny (“Quattro”) who were making the run to head home to Newburyport, MA by way of Long Island Sound. Unfortunately, Mark was 8 miles south of Sandy Hook, NJ when the engine started the same initial signs we saw in the Delaware River. The difference today however, was that the seas were flat and he had been making great time. It was obvious something was definitely wrong and we would need to have the boat looked at. He slowed the boat and managed to get into Great Kills harbor and up into Great Kills Yacht Club (GKYC) without requiring a tow. There he was met by John Calascibetta (AGLCA Harbor Host for NY) and was able to dock safely into a slip.
Thursday (6/11) – Mark researched and spent time troubleshooting on the engine issue. Eventually, he contacted Cummins as the engine is still under warranty (at least until July) and they were able to schedule a repair person to come out the next morning. It is not easy to get a repair person out so quickly, so this was greatly appreciated as we were hoping we could leave for NYC on Saturday. One thing we have learned is that it is now “the season” in the northern states, so all marine services people are extremely busy. Boats have been in storage through the winter and people are working vigorously to have their boats serviced so they can use them. After all, they only have about 3 months of the year in their boating season; one of the things we take for granted in Florida.
Friday (6/12) – Mark met with the dispatched Cummins repair person to troubleshoot the issue and it was deduced that a lift pump had failed and would need to be replaced. Unfortunately, Cummins had a new requirement that when this pump is replaced, there is a change required to some of the fuel lines, and the repair man did not have the tubing on his truck (he had the pump). Cummins would Fed-ex the required parts to the repair guy, but he would not get them until Monday morning; and oh by the way, this guy was booked up, so they would send a different service tech out.
In the meantime, we had scheduled Jacob (nephew) to come for a visit. So, he and Denise (on her way back from Houston) met in Atlanta on Friday night, and flew to Philadelphia together. Mark got a rental car and drove the 1hr 40 minutes to get them, and then take them back to Staten Island. The logistics of this was a nightmare into itself but we all got safely back to the boat and Mark got his Chick-Fil-A fix for dinner along the way.
Saturday (6/13), we spent a lot of time planning how best to salvage the schedule that had now been tossed out the window. Denise had to go to Atlanta on Tuesday, and refused to allow Mark to move the boat (into NYC) without her. So, given the weather and the boat issue, we knew that was not going to happen when Jacob was visiting. Therefore, we decided to rent a car (AVIS free weekend rental) to see some sights and to get out of the marina. The morning was spent doing errands (grocery shopping) and switching rental cars (Enterprise to AVIS). That night we went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant that John C. had recommended (there are many to choose from on Staten Island). We met Sal the owner, and felt like we had stepped into an episode of Soprano’s; he had the typical gold necklace and hairdo that you would expect, and the restaurant had its share of opulent décor. The food was good and Jacob had enough pizza left over for another meal.
Sunday (6/14) – We got up early and drove 1.5 hours up to the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. We arrived in time for mass at the Catholic Chapel (one of several type chapels on the grounds) and found it to be a beautiful church. The very family-oriented congregation had lots of children in attendance and almost all of the families were military or retired military. After mass we took a scheduled tour of the West Point Chapel, the parade grounds, and the rest of the campus. It was a beautiful day and while overlooking the Hudson River we saw several cruising boats making their way north; we were jealous and wished we were with them. After the tour we visited the museum which is full of old guns and weapons that date back to the American Revolution. It is really a cool museum and felt it was worth the extra time to see it. We then had to drive back to Staten Island and were tired from all the traffic, travel and the day’s events. Denise whipped up some fajitas for dinner and we all crashed as we were tired.
Monday (6/15) – We knew it would be difficult to do too much as we were expecting the Cummins service guy and couldn’t stray too far from the boat. So Denise and Jacob returned the rental car, ran a few errands, and went back to the boat for lunch with Mark. As predicted, “Ritchie” didn’t show up until later in the day, but went right to work on the repair. Once the work was done, he wanted to test the boat, so we left the dock and took it out past the entrance of Great Kills Harbor onto Raritan Bay. Ritchie had us take the boat up to 3000 rpm and doing about 28 knots (the fastest we have ever been on the boat) and Jacob was happy that he was actually getting to go out and not just be on the boat at the dock. Almost immediately however, the engine started to reduce power and the warning for high fuel pressure came on. We took the boat back to the dock, Ritchie checked out a few things and we deduced there was something starving the engine of fuel; most likely a clog in the line somewhere. By this time it was late and we knew that more diagnostics were required so Ritchie made plans to come back in the morning. Needless to say, we knew we would not be leaving Staten Island this week and were quite disappointed. But, we knew we had to fix the boat before we could go on.
Tuesday (6/16) – Ritchie showed up at 8:00 am as promised and got right to work. After several tests and through a process of elimination it was determined there was a blockage coming from the fuel tank. Once the fuel tank access plate was located Ritchie was able to remove the fuel lift tube and examine it. There is a screen on the bottom of the tube that is used to prevent stuff from going into the fuel lines, and this is where a putty-like substance was found. What we didn’t know is how much of this stuff is in the tank. After the screen was cleaned and the boat put back together, we took the boat out for another sea trial. Again we ran the boat hard (25 kts) for about 30 minutes and it ran without issue. So, we felt like this issue was at least temporarily resolved, but it could reappear without warning. This did not give us a warm comfortable feeling and we were worried that we might get hung up again somewhere else.
As this was no longer a Cummins engine issue, Ritchie’s work was done. He left us with some gloomy options for getting the fuel and tank cleaned, including the possibility of cutting the fiberglass deck to get to the fuel tank’s access plate. If this was required, we would have to move the boat to have this done as the GKYC is a club and does not have a service facility or resources that could do the work. Forgetting about the potential delay this would have on our trip, this would involve big bucks and was very dispiriting. This was a very low moment; it was difficult to be excited about our adventure and continuing on.
But we decided that before any action would be taken, Mark would solicit input from others and see what options we might glean from the experiences of others in the boating community. Denise had to fly to Atlanta for the rest of the week, so Mark rented a car and took her to the airport. This would also enable him to get Jacob to the airport the next day. He and Jacob had a nice dinner at Coles, one of several restaurants that are right near the GKYC.
Wednesday through Friday (6/17 – 6/19) – While Denise worked at a client site, Mark investigated the options and consulted others about our situation. He posted our situation on the AGLCA blog and most all the responses said the same thing: “remove the screen and let the fuel filters do their job”. So he enlisted one of the local mechanics used by people at the club to remove the screen and put in place a plan to monitor the fuel filter vacuum pressure once under way.
On Friday afternoon he picked up Denise up at the airport and they made plans to leave GKYC the next morning. The weather was going to deteriorate late Saturday and it would be a few more days before there would be a good time to make the run up to NYC. So it was now or never! Several other Loopers pulled into the marina that day, including Clay & Sally (“SaSea Sally”) and Elizabeth and Jim (“Heron”); whom we had met at the AGLCA Rendezvous in Norfolk. It was fun to talk about our different travels and places we had visited. They were planning to stay in Staten Island a few days before heading into NYC but we may meet up with them again along the loop.
Staten Island is a very interesting place. It is like one big residential neighborhood, with a million bagel shops (one on every corner- ala Starbucks style), only outnumbered by Italian restaurants. There are several areas of rolling hills around a golf course, big houses and small houses, and a huge ($14) toll to get on the island from New Jersey. There is also a beautiful state park (Great Kills) near the club, all of which was destroyed during hurricane Sandy in 2012, along with all the marina’s in the harbor. But the people are resilient and have rebuilt their community. At GKYC the people were terrific and were a wealth of information in helping us out. We cannot thank them enough for their hospitality and for opening up their club to us. And a special thanks goes to John C. who was a wonderful Harbor Host who made recommendations and took Mark on errands when needed. Thanks John!
Saturday (6/20) – We left GKYC early as the winds were predicted to increase as the day went on. It was drizzling outside and not the best day, but we knew we had to give it a try (we knew we could always go back if we needed to). Of course we were nervous about the engine, so we set a plan in place to check the fuel vacuum pressure every hour and be proactive in replacing the filter if it got too high. The waves were on our nose and although initially small, they were building the further away from the harbor we got. As we approached the channel to NY Harbor, we had to turn left and then they were crashing on our side, causing the boat to roll. It was a flashback to the Delaware Bay crossing and Denise was not a happy camper. There was concern about the stirring up the debris in the fuel tank, as well as negotiating the harbor channel with an inbound large container ship coming up on us. Fortunately, we were able to tuck behind a small island as we approached the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and it blocked the wind enough to settle the boat down. Once through the bridge the waves were smaller and the passage was easier.
Shortly after entering NY harbor and negotiating two anchored container ships, two barges underway, and the Staten Island Ferry, Mark checked the fuel filter vacuum pressure and it was at 10 (high). We needed to replace the fuel filter as soon as possible. So we made a beeline for the Statue of Liberty and anchored behind it for wind protection. After 30 minutes we were able to head back through NY Harbor, around Ellis Island, in front of the Battery in NYC and head up the Hudson River. It was still windy, cloudy and overcast, but it had stopped raining. It was still a thrill to take our boat through NY City and enjoy the skyline.
We made our way up the Hudson River passing such cool sights as the George Washington Bridge, the Tappan Zee Bridge, the towns of Sleepy Hollow and Sing-Sing prison. We arrived at Half Moon Bay Marina in the town “Croton on Hudson” (eastern shore) without any further issue and the fuel vacuum pressure stayed in an acceptable range all day.
At the marina our boat was put into a slip right next to a Back Cove 41. We would later meet Tim & Leslie (“Two Drifters”) who we had met in Charleston in August. At the time we purchased our boat, they were taking delivery of their Back Cove from the same dealer. They had taken the boat from Charleston to Maine, and were now heading up the Hudson to continue their Great Loop adventure. What a small world!
The cove where the marina is located is pretty with condominiums on land and a large walking trail all around the eastern shore. On the southern tip of the cove is a large park and this weekend was a music festival (Clearwater’s Great Music Festival) with lots of different artists; most of whom we didn’t know. We encountered many loopers at this marina, some of whom attended the festival and said it was very crowded, but entertaining. It did begin to rain so Mark and I ate leftovers for dinner and stayed close to the boat for the rest of the evening. It had been a long and adventurous day and we were tired. We were so thankful for safe passage and happy that our boat was performing back to normal. We will continue to monitor the fuel vacuum pressure, but hopefully the problem will not reappear.
Sunday (6/21) – We started the day with a brisk one mile walk up the hill to the town of Croton on Hudson to attend church at Holy Name of Mary. We had dodged a few sprinkles along the way, but had brought our big golf umbrella and were able to stay mostly dry. We were greeted by a very nice man (“Nick”) who noticed we were visitors. He introduced himself and we told him of our loop adventure. Later he offered to give us a ride back to the marina due to the rain. We had wanted to go to breakfast at a restaurant in town, but he suggested another diner that was “better food” and actually closer to the marina. He and his wife “Pat” took us to Croton Colonial Diner and were so helpful about what to do and see in the area.
As we had been consumed with boat issues (Mark) and business travel (Denise), we really needed some time to do paperwork and other miscellaneous business tasks. So we spent most of the day working in our “Island Office” to put our affairs in order. Since it was very windy and rainy, it seemed like the perfect time to play catch up. Eventually the rain stopped and the skies cleared, but the wind continued to blow quite a bit, creating a lot of rocking on the boat. Denise was having flashbacks of the shakeup in the Yorktown marina and eventually had enough; she mandated a walk to get off the boat and put our feet on solid ground. We walked up to the building that houses the marina office and went to the community room upstairs where we were able to sit in big overstuffed comfortable chairs for a while. It was just what was needed as within an hour the current shifted and the waves died down enough for us to go back on the boat.
During our walk we met several other Loopers including Bill and Donna (“Renegade”) whose boat is so named as they are FSU fans and their children attend! It truly is a small world! We also met Bear & Gerry (“Bear Holiday”) and Kevin & Chris (“Sweet Sensation”) who are on a sailboat and are from England. Onboard they had friends who were visiting, but were headed home shortly. They were leaving HMB marina as they had to go have their mast taken down so they could continue on the loop. I am sure we will see them again soon.
Since we had a big breakfast at the diner, we opted to skip lunch and just eat an early dinner. Mark decided to take a nap (and yes, he did bring it back) – and Denise decided to work on the blog. Around 5:00 Denise did a quick check of the weather and the alert went out that there was a severe thunderstorm approaching and would arrive in 30 minutes. You would never know it because over the marina the sky was clear, but looking west there were dark clouds building on the western shore of the Hudson. We had already mapped at a Bar-B-Q place (Mae’s) to go for dinner that night that was a 5 -10 minute walk from the marina. Denise woke Mark up and they left almost immediately. Along the way we ran into Rick the assistant dock master who offered us ride, and we accepted. By the time we got seated in the restaurant, the sky had opened up and it was pouring outside. How lucky we were to have checked the weather when we did. Since it was Father’s day the restaurant was very crowded so it took longer than it should have to get waited on and get our food, but we didn’t care. It was worth the wait as it was delicious. Eventually, we finished our meal about the time the sky cleared and we walked back to the boat with leftovers in hand.
Monday (6/22) – Up at the crack of dawn, Denise decided to take advantage of a wonderful trail that ran along the Hudson River, so she took off on a 3-mile run. It was the first opportunity to run in nearly 2 weeks, but the scenery made it all bearable. There is a beautiful 911 memorial at the end of the trail that is a sundial made from one of the beams from the WTC. It was really something special to see.
We decided to leave Croton on Hudson and move north up the river to Kingston. One of the “must see” things on our list was to visit the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the Vanderbilt estate home. These are on the eastern side of the Hudson and certainly easier to get to (via train) from Croton on Hudson. However, the CIA dining rooms were not open on Sunday or Monday and we didn’t want to stay at Half Moon Bay for 4 days. So we made the decision to leave with plans to rent a car in Kingston and drive there on Tuesday. Denise made reservations at the CIA for the tour in the late afternoon and then for dinner, and then we untied the dock lines and headed out.
Just North of Croton on Hudson, on the western shore is a fuel stop that is well known for cheap prices, so we decided to use this opportunity to get a fill-up. While filling the tanks we met John Panebianco, part owner of this family-run business. His wife Lorraine also happened to be there so we had a chance to meet her and learn a little about their business. He is very informative about the Hudson River valley and very friendly.
From there we headed up the Hudson River to explore more of this spectacularly beautiful area. Along the way we passed some great sights like the US Military Academy (West Point) – what a thrill to now be seeing this from the river. We also passed the Bear Mountain Bridge, the Vanderbilt House, the CIA, several lighthouses, and lots of huge homes on the river (what DO these people do for a living?). We also passed under the “Walkway over the Hudson” – an old railway bridge in Poughkeepsie that has been converted to a pedestrian and bike path that is 212’ above the water. It is up there!
Along the way we zoomed past all of the looper boats who had left the marina in advance of us, but who go a lot slower. Eventually, four of us arrived into the Rondout Yacht Basin in Kingston, where we gathered that evening for some “docktails” and getting to know each other. Here we spent time with Seminoles Bill & Donna (“Renegade”), Bruce & Ginny (“Snug Tug”) and Mike & Carolyn (“Patriyachtik”) sharing our travel plans and adventures we have been on.
Tuesday (6/23) – We started the day sharing a pickup by Enterprise car rental with Mike & Carolyn so we could pick up cars and go our own separate ways. From there we went to Wal-Mart and loaded up on things we know will be difficult or more expensive to get in Canada. We took our items back to the boat, dodging raindrops and wind the whole way. It was a good day to be land-based on not trying to make a passage somewhere.
We then drove the 20 miles across the river and through a few very cute small towns to the Vanderbilt estate home that is now part of the National Parks. Once again we got to use our annual pass and got in free. This house is much smaller than the “summer” home (the Breakers) in Newport Rhode Island, but it is just as amazing. We really enjoyed the tour there and found the grounds to be breathtaking. It was especially cool to look down on the Hudson River where we had just motored our boat.
We then moved on down the road to the FDR Home; also a national park with the very first Presidential Library. We got there just in time to see the short movie and then a tour of the home. Unfortunately, we did not have time to see the library, but it was really interesting to see this home where FDR was born and lived. Far from grandeur like the Vanderbilt estate, knowing the Queen of England had slept in one of the bedrooms was pretty amazing, especially considering how small they were.
From there we continued down the highway to the CIA where we had reservations for the 4:00 tour. This is a student-led event and it gave us an opportunity to interact with the students and hear about their curriculum. The tour included seeing the kitchens which were active with students in their afternoon classes. We also got to see their auditorium and one of the cooking theatres used for demonstrations. It is a unique curriculum with students obtaining either a 2 year or 4 year degree in the Culinary Arts. If they choose the BS degree, they actually have a few areas of specialty (applied food studies, culinary science, etc.). Students have to choose from the start a bakery or a culinary emphasis and cannot double major. All this for $44,000 per year – but the meal plan is included in this! HA
There are 3 restaurants and a café on the campus, and we had dinner at American Bounty – the restaurant that highlights locally grown or acquired food (farm to table concept). The students run the kitchen and the dining room under the direction of a head chef/Instructor. We were fortunate to get a tour of the kitchen when they were in the heat of the evening rush – it was HOT and hectic! The food was really good and it was a fun experience. We also ran into fellow loopers Elizabeth and Jim (“Heron”) who told us of their running aground near West Point and now their boat is out of the water getting some fiberglass work done. It will take them about 2 weeks for this to be completed and will set them back on their schedule. This made us very grateful for our safe passage and thankful our fuel issues seem to be behind us.
We took a different route back to the marina that took us through the town of Poughkeepsie and back over the river on the Mid-Hudson Bridge that is right next to the “Walkway over the Hudson” Bridge we passed the day before. It was a fun-filled day packed with lots of walking and sightseeing and we were exhausted.
Wednesday (6/24) – In the morning Mark returned the rental car while Denise prepared the boat for the trip up to New Baltimore. It was a short 3 hour run with spectacular views of green forests and the Catskill Mountains in the background. We spotted two deer along the eastern banks of the river, and the water became less brackish and prettier. The sky was clear with few clouds, and the wind was breezy but not bad. It was a great day to be on the water.
We pulled into Shady Harbor Marina and did a pump-out of the holding tank first. While we were doing this, Brian (the owner whom we met in Coinjock and saw again in Norfolk) came down the dock excited to see us. He shook Mark’s hand and claimed “I want my hug” to Denise. He is a warm, friendly & happy soul who is fun to be with.
After we got put into a slip and settled the boat, we went to work on our domestic chores; Mark washed the boat and Denise did the laundry. During that time, AJ (see Coinjock post in early May) came by to say hello. We met his significant other (Tim), but they could not stay and we won’t be able to see them again before we leave. It was fun to catch up with him, even if for a brief visit.
Later we met up with the other loopers in the marina, had “docktails”, and then ate dinner together at The Boathouse; the restaurant on premises at the marina. In total there were 8 of us including Mike L. & Carolyn (“Patriyachtik”), Mike F. & Lois (“Inch-n-Along”), and Bill & Donna (“Renegade”). Mike L. kept us in stitches with his Texas-sized humor and observations of life. Truly the guy should be in stand-up comedy. Owner Brian brought by a tray of the house favorite “mini beers” to top off a very fun evening.
Today was a beautiful day filled with fellowship and fun; a perfect looping day!
Thursday (6/25) – Unfortunately, it was a work day for us. Mark had an all-afternoon training session (part 1) with a client, and Denise had a conference call. She also spent a good part of the day reading and planning for the Erie Canal part of the trip, as well as cataloging pictures and working on this blog.
In the evening we got together with loopers Mike & Lois (“Inch-n-Along”) for a cookout and picnic dining. Afterwards we got a tour of their boat (a North Pacific Pilothouse) and met their cat, Addie. Our other looping friends all headed north today, and we bid them farewell. We hope to see them somewhere else along the loop as we had great fun with them.
Later when we were back on the boat, we saw a couple walking on the dock and they stopped to chat. Almost instantly we recognized it was Mike (see Coinjock post) and his wife Erin who keep their boat in this marina. We chatted for a while and they offered us the use of their car. They were spending the night on the boat as their child had a sitter (Grandpa) and they had 2 cars at the marina. We learned that Erin is from a nearby small town (Delmar) that her family settled in the 1700’s and she is a direct descendant of them. This is so indicative of the friendly people who live in these parts and whom we have been lucky to meet.
Friday (6/26) – Again today we had work to do; Mark had another all-afternoon training session (part 2) and Denise had a late afternoon conference call. So, in the morning we borrowed Erin’s car and drove to get a prescription refill and some more sandwich meat for the trip along the canal where stores are limited. This afforded us the opportunity to see this part of New York, which we both agree we would never have explored if not for this trip.
During the day our friends Bruce & Ginny (“Snug Tug”) whom we met in Kingston came in on their boat. So in the evening we got together with them as well as Mike & Lois (“Inch-n-Along”) for dinner at The Boathouse again. Of course Brian was walking around making sure everyone was having fun, only tonight we had a chance to meet his wife Cathy (aka ‘Corporate’) and his son James. As we had seen their daughter Laura (whom we had met in Norfolk) earlier in the day, we now felt like we were friends with the whole family.
While we were at dinner, we watched a plane come up the Hudson River and land, then turn around and take off. It had everyone’s attention in the restaurant.
The marina here is in a place surrounded by lush trees and lots of nature. There is a pool, fire pit, Bar-B-Q grills, covered picnic tables, a nice bathhouse, and laundry facilities. This is in addition to the restaurant, ships store, haul-out facilities and boat storage. It is a first class operation and Brian and his family make it a happy place to visit. This is one of our favorite spots we have visited on the loop.
Tomorrow (Saturday) we will leave and head to Waterford, along with the loopers here in the marina. From there we will head through the Erie and Oswego canals and on into Canada. Sometime along the way we will update you with more of our trip. Until then, please stay healthy and safe!