June 1, 2009, Seattle: Words of wisdom from the man who inspired our trip - John Mirassou, the author of "Only In America."
"Katie, from the moment you leave the dock," he said, "people will be telling you that you are out of your mind. You're going to hear horror stories about large yachts that were turned 180-degrees, capsized and sank in minutes; horrible storms that no boat could make it through, especially a 16-footer; bays and sounds that a 16-foot boat has no business being on. Let me make this very clear: Ignore 95 percent of it. Know your boat, know yourselves and trust your instincts, and go have a ball."
May 30, 2009, Snohomish: It's nearly midnight and we're still at Duroboat. Joel and my dad are mounting the motor and I have been continuing to map our route and contact businesses listed on the AGLCA (America's Great Loop Crusiers Association) web site. Their marketing and services director, Teresa, is sending us our very own AGLCA burgee – the "welcome mat of loopers" and assures us that loopers are very hospitable. As newbies to the AGLCA our burgee is white. The AGLCA burgee colors correspond to the boater's loop experience. After we complete the loop we can upgrade, but for now I'm okay letting other folks know we're new at this – we'll welcome all the help we can get.
May 26, 2009, Galesburg IL: (From Elizabeth at Knox College) Call me positively unsure about all this. As graduation approaches, various thoughts have been running through my mind. Here's my top 10:
1. My skin is going to age prematurely. We are going to need a lot of sunscreen.
2. I'm hopeful Katie and I will have a place to stay every night, or at least be prepared if we don't. (Read Katie's note about accommodations on May 25.)
3. We're going to have a lot of fun when my friend Amy is on the boat. (Re-read Katie's note on May 25.)
4. Something will go wrong with the boat and Joel's not going to know what we're talking about when we call him.
5. A job opportunity will present itself while I'm on the trip.
6. I'm going to be scared if I see an alligator, and can't wait to see a dolphin.
7. This trip will be documented with some really cool pictures.
8. The people we meet will provide us with some good stories to tell.
9. I'm going to miss regularly scheduled showers.
10. I'm sure I will reference this list after and during the trip. Can't wait to see how it all plays out.
May 25, 2009, Snohomish: (From Katie at the DuroBoat factory) We're getting down to the wire and there's still so much left to do. Most importantly get the boat in the water to break in the motor. Joel has been working late into the night to get the boat rigged and ready. I didn't go camping this Memorial Day weekend, but I did lose a frustrating wrestle with my tent. It just wouldn't fit on the front deck of the boat. It's about two feet too wide and my attempts to modify it didn't work out. I broke down and bought a cute little two-person tent that fits perfectly. When we have three people on board I think I'll implement a rock-paper-scissor rule . . . loser takes middle.
May 22, 2009, Snohomish: While at the Duroboat factory I had a great conversation with Derek at Find Me Spot. Spot is a satellite messenger system that transmits our GPS location. All we'll have to do is press an "OK" button and 10 people on our contact list will receive a text message letting them know that all is well and that we're still afloat. We can share our exact location and let friends and family track our progress. There's also a help button that will call 911 every five minutes until we're rescued. Let's hope we don't have to use it!
May 21, 2009, Seattle: My most urgent task right now is fine-tuning our schedule. I heard the news about possible GPS failure due to aging satellite systems. I think we're safe until at least 2010 – so that gets us through the summer. I read that the U.S. Department of Defense is taking action to prevent the failure all together. I'm not too worried, but if it could hold up until August that would be great. After work at Villa, I'm headed up to Duroboat again this afternoon. Joel was up there all yesterday working on it, and I'm excited to see the progress and check out the new Suzuki.
May 20, 2009, Seattle: Our Suzuki motor arrived today, but the instruments and cables aren't here yet. This might push back our Seattle departure date. The Villa Academy (the school where I work) staff meetings always begin with a prayer and then the floor is opened for celebrations and announcements. I announced my leave of absence over the summer this afternoon. In the fall, I hope I can put this once in a lifetime opportunity under the celebrations category. Pat, our middle school director joked that if Elizabeth and I are still on speaking terms after three months in a 16-foot boat, that will be reason enough to celebrate.
May 19, 2009, Seattle: Friends have asked if I'm excited for the trip. I am, but I've been too busy to think about the trip itself. Right now my mind is preoccupied with the preparation process. I had an impromptu interview with the Issaquah Press. They asked me why I loved boating – sounds like an easy question, but no one has ever asked me that before. I just love it! I grew up with it! I hope I didn't ramble too badly in my answer. I'm also trying to wrap up my work at Villa Academy. I talked with Cynthia, Villa's business manager, today about my health coverage while I'm gone. I expected covering my own insurance over the summer would be expensive, but it's very very expensive! If there was ever a time to make sure I'm covered, I think a 6,000 mile boat trip is it!
May 18, 2009, Seattle: At the gym this morning, I started to wonder if I would continue to run while on the trip. I've kept a running log every day for the past two and half years. Elizabeth and I have both finished several half marathons and one full (26.2 miles). I'd hate to lose the habit, but I imagine it will be hard to keep a routine when we are someplace new every night and there are so many other things to experience. Not to mention the climate change. I sweat even when I run Seattle's Green Lake on a 65-degree day – I don't imagine I'll fair well running in the hot humid South.
Joel is waiting as patiently as he can, which isn't all that patiently, for parts I know he's feeling the same time crunch I am because I've noticed that most of our conversations lately are recitations of our to-do lists. Hopefully having the bilge pumps will help him make some progress . . . at least until tomorrow. We are still waiting for the motor, but we got great news today - Suzuki has done their paperwork and the motor is on the way!
May 15, 2009, Seattle: My friend Stacie is throwing a send-off party for me next Friday at St. Andrews Bar and Grill. She sent out the e-vite today. I wish Elizabeth was going to be here, but I'm sure there will be lots of celebrating and "sending-off" after the Knox College graduation next month.
April 2009, Seattle: Our boat (and its builder). I met Joel shortly after moving home. Anything he lacks in refinement he has made up for, a hundred times over, in enthusiasm and he quickly learned boat building skills. Joel is an aerospace engineer by profession, but an auto-mechanic at heart.
We are currently spending all our evenings and weekends working at Duroboat to get the boat" loop-ready" and done on time. Joel is compensated with gratitude, pizza, and Gatorade. Our boat is a yellow 16-foot bench model. Besides the usual final assembly of the interior parts, there are lots of custom configurations to do to prepare our boat for a 6,000-mile trip. Sea Dog Line, a marine hardware provider for Duroboat, has sponsored us with everything we could ask for. Their help has made life a lot easier as we experiment with the best storage arrangements, light set-up, and electronic configurations.
Elizabeth and I have both agreed to pack lightly, but there is a lot of stuff to bring on a three-month cruise. Joel's challenge has been to create the most stowage space possible, while preserving our ability to move comfortably around the boat and access gear quickly. Oh, and by the way, Joel, "we want a sundeck to lie on while we cruise, don't forget room for the cooler, and you have less than six weeks!"
Not surprisingly, the best place for extra storage is under our sundeck. Using beefy Sea Dog hinges, Joel has built two hatch doors a foot above the usual front floorboard. This give us a 52"x 42"x 12" of general packing space. We've also built a "glove-box" under the standard bow shelf. It latches at the top and folds open with hinges attached forward of the front seat. It will act as a seat back for a passenger at the bow and give us more room to store the anchor and other gear we'll want to access quickly. The console is custom sized at 36" wide. We wanted something wide enough that we could both sit behind to block the wind and foul weather. We don't plan on traveling on bad days and I'd be perfectly happy if we never hit bad weather, but at least we're prepared.