Category Archives: Great Loop

A cruising schedule… sort of


Making my best guess where I'll be, and when I'll be there

The water here is a little too hard for sailing, so I turned my thoughts to scheduling my travels on the Great Loop. I'm not referring to a conventional schedule; trying to arrive in specific locations on specific dates runs counter to the laid back nature of the journey. Trying to rigidly control departure and arrival dates may be dangerous if you press on when Mother Nature and King Neptune say you should hang back.

Magic Moments, snowcoveredMy kind of schedule relates more to creating loose guidelines for traveling. Like most sailboats, Magic Moments has a displacement hull, and her maximum hull speed is limited by her waterline length. Her top end is only about 6 knots (which translates to 6.9 mph, or 11.1 kph). She's no racehorse, but then neither am I in a hurry. I'll use the following guidelines:

– Travel an average of 30 miles a day, and plan on traveling only 5 days a week. That will leave me time to wait for weather, etc. I'm also planning on traveling only three weeks each month, leaving one week a month free for futzing.
– There are some legs of the trip where progress will be slowed by lock schedules or because I have to work my way upstream against the current. In those areas, I'll assume I'm able to travel only 20 miles a day.

With those guidelines in mind, I intend to avoiding hurricane season (June РDecember for the Gulf and Atlantic states) and work within the seasonal schedules for locks along the Erie Canal and the  Trent-Severn Waterway. I'm using Google Earth to grab distances, and making sure to include places of interest, such as Georgian Bay and the North Channel. I may plan a few side trips in the event my guidelines were too conservative and I have some extra time to enjoy other trips.

Great Loop itinerary, Part 1With that in mind, here's what I've come up with:

  • Head east on Lake Erie to Buffalo, New York and pick up the west end of the Erie Canal, then follow the Erie Canal to Oswego, NY and head northwest across Lake Ontario to the Trent-Severn Waterway (about 560 miles, or 901 km).
  • Take the Trent-Severn Waterway further northwest to Georgian Bay, on the east side of Lake Huron (approximately 278 miles, or 447 km).
  • Plan to arrive in Georgian Bay in mid to late June, and the North Channel in early July. The water will still be soaking up the heat of the summer, and the black flies will (hopefully) have retired for the season. I'm not trying to be a weenie here – I've spent much of my adult career working outside, and biting flies, mosquitoes, etc. are a fact of life. Still, if I can schedule around the worst of it…
  • I'll pass under the Mackinac Bridge in mid July after traveling about 320 miles (515 km) through Georgian Bay and the North Channel.
  • Nearly everyone who has done the Great Loop says it's best to be off the Great Lakes by mid September, so I'm planning on traveling 389 miles (626 km) down the west side of Lake Michigan, and exiting the lake through downtown Chicago early in August. I have read of some who begin their journey around Michigan in October, citing off season rates and readily available marina slips, but they're veterans who have made the trip 15 or 20 times. This greenhorn will stick with the commonly held wisdom, and be off the lakes earlier rather than later.
  • I'll follow the Chicago River and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to the Illinois River, taking it to the Mississippi River. My ‘schedule' calls for me to be to the juncture of the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers by the beginning of September after traveling 542 miles (872 km) from Chicago. The weather will be turning a little cooler at that time of year, so I'll need to have sorted out some way to keep the cabin warm. Most heaters burn some kind of fuel, and all create water vapor as a by product of that combustion – so it's important to have a heater that vents outdoors. My idea of a warm and cozy cabin on a chilly night does not include moisture running down the walls, creating a haven for mold. More on heating later.
  • I have family I'd like to visit up the Tennessee River, so I'll slog upstream along the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers nearly to Knoxville (564 miles, or 908 km), docking the boat in late October.

Check back for the next installment of my rough schedule, picking up in late November when I rejoin the boat and head for points south.

Musings about cooking


Using a pressure cooker in a microwave

I started giving some consideration to life on board while cruising, and cooking came to mind. Magic Moments is equipped with a single butane burner – but it's difficult to find fuel, it has no gimbals, and there's no way to hold onto a pan when the boat pitches and rolls. The bottom line is that I need something different to heat food. What to do?

It would be great to avoid the need to have liquid or gas fuels in the cabin, but the only other option is to cook with electricity – and electric power may not be readily available while afloat. I plan to have two sizable solar panels as my bimini though, about 240 watts each, and use them to charge some relatively inexpensive lithium batteries (LiFePO4 batteries). A microwave is probably the most energy efficient use of electricity to cook, but trying to install a microwave in a tiny galley and powering it from batteries is a fools errand. Still… I've been called worse.

OK, if I steal some of the space allotted to the starboard v-berth, shift the location of the new composting head… maybe. Time to break out the crayons and do a little more accurate planning.

Nordic Ware Tender CookerInterior - pressure cookerWhile reading about cooking on board, I ran across several cruisers extolling the virtues of pressure cookers to speed up meal preparations and even bake bread while on board. Hmm… using a pressure cooker – inside a microwave?? Yes! There are several available – but further hunting online shows most designs are fairly cheesy. I found that Nordic Ware makes the Tender Cooker, a 2.5 quart non-metallic pressure cooker that fits in many small microwaves. Not only would I be able to capitalize on the microwave's efficiency, I could compound its efficiency by cooking in the little pressure cooker inside the microwave.

My next consideration was to address the occasional desire for browning or searing meat in a microwave. It turns out that there's a pan for that too! Corning Ware makes a browning dish that has a special tin oxide coating on it, designed especially for the task.

Microwave browning dishThat's enough for today's post. Time to search for a good deal on the two pieces of cookware – I may as well purchase them and use the winter months to see how well they stack up for cooking. I can even use a kill-o-watt meter to see how much power the microwave will use for meal preparation.

I'll be back in a future post to let you know how they work out. Meanwhile, pick out one of your own dreams and chase it!

… and so it begins…


Following the dream

Rhodes 22 in a boat lift I'm beginning to plan a trip around the Great Loop, casting off in May of 2015. I've been kicking the idea around for a while now, and registered this domain a couple of weeks ago so others can follow along – whether for amusement or to avoid repeating my mistakes. It's taken me several weeks to sort out how to set up WordPress and poke around to find out which plugins to use. Keep in mind that this is a work in progress. In just those few weeks I've managed to crash the site a couple of times, so if it's down when you come by one day, know that I've worked my magic (again).

I love the water and really enjoy sailing, having spent time in a Rhodes 22¬†pocket cruiser on Saginaw Bay (the bay that defines Michigan's ‘thumb' in Lake Huron), on Lake St Clair (between Lake Huron and Lake Erie), and on Lake Erie itself. I'm not so much into racing sailboats as just enjoying the journey – and I like the fact I can weigh anchor and move on if the neighbors get unruly.

Generally it's at this point that you'd figure that the Rhodes has been a good little boat, but that now I'm going to get a bigger sailboat or a trawler to travel the 6,000 miles or so that make up the Great Loop. Such is not the case – I'm going to be doing the Loop in the Rhodes. It's a good little boat, I can single hand her fairly easily, and it's relatively inexpensive to use and maintain. I intend to do some modifying to the boat as I prepare for the trip – a fairly radical new mast lowering mechanism, a solar bimini, a composting head, a spring loaded outboard lift… the list goes on. Stay tuned for progress as the modifications come to pass.

The previous owner named the Rhodes ‘Magic Moments‘, a name I find really appropriate. One of the magic moments occurs when you raise the sails and kill the motor, the moment when the wind and the boat find harmony. Other magic moments occur when mother nature smiles on Magic Moments, as shown above. Stay tuned for more!