Dec 12, 2017

350 Miles from Mobile to Clearwater

After motoring 1,300 miles of rivers and canals we arrived in Mobile, Alabama where we put up our mast. After all that motoring, the LAST thing I wanted to do was motor a few hundred miles more on the Gulf Coast Intercostal Waterway (GICW).

I wanted open water sailing! I wanted to be able to hit the autopilot and walk away from the helm for five minutes without having to worry about running into anything. Most of all, I wanted to make my wife happy by arriving in Clearwater in time for us to make it to Thanksgiving dinner with friends! The only way that was happening was to make a straight shot, 350 miles from Mobile to Clearwater.


We've done enough "offshore" sailing to know that it goes a lot better when we have an extra person aboard. It leaves one person for the kids, and two people for the boat. Plus the night watches go from 3 hours on 3 hours off, to 3 hours on, 6 hours off. A much easier schedule

We started asking around for crew, which is not easy to find even in a place where we know a lot of people. Sailing depends on the weather, so departure and return dates are a moving target that work schedules don't accommodate.

We asked one of the boatyard guys about potential crew and he gave us the number of some friends of his who had offshore experience. We invited them over for dinner, everything fell into place, and we had one experienced crew member, Devlin, sign on to sail to Clearwater

Food we threw away :(
We prepared for the big trip. I changed the engine oil, oil filters, fuel filters. Made sure my engine belts were tight. After 2 months of flat river water, we had gotten a little lazy and some junk had piled up in the cockpit and on deck. Things needed to be put away, or secured. We filled up our propane tanks, stocked up on provisions. Then... our fridge died!!

Our fridge had developed a refrigerant leak back in Muskegon, so I had bought a new fridge knowing it would eventually die. I spent our last day in Mobile installing the new compressor and evaporator plate. Unfortunately, the new fridge didn't work!!

It first had a resistor problem in the thermostat. Once I got it to turn on, it never got cold. I'm assuming it left the factory without receiving a refrigerant charge, due to the inspection paperwork not being filled out.

Unfortunately, we had a narrow weather window with no time for a repairman to come out. After a night of our fridge at 55 degrees, all the meat was bad. With no car to get to a grocery store, we called Devlin for help. He grabbed a cooler and went to the grocery store before arriving at our boat for departure.

The passage to Clearwater was some of the roughest sailing we have ever done. We were beating into 4-6 foot seas and winds gusting over 20 knots. During our first night out I sat at the helm in the small hours of the morning. In the darkness, the most I could see were the shapes of waves sweeping past me. Spray soaked me and the deck. I wanted to record video, but I felt so horrible I couldn't force myself to go get my camera.

As the wind shifted, we ended up heading nearly due south. With the sunrise, we tacked back to the north to return us to our plotted course. We then turned back Southeast towards Clearwater. We maintained that heading for the rest of the trip.

The wind and waves continued to moderate for the rest of the passage, but it wasn't until the last day that things really calmed down. I have very few pictures of the passage:








We made it! Pizza and beer to celebrate!

Dec 8, 2017

Day Date in Alton, Il


Going on a "day date" in Alton Il, thanks to our French Canadian cruising friends who offered to watch our kids for the afternoon!

Nov 24, 2017

Chicago to Mobile, WE DID IT!

Before arriving in Demopolis, we had the depressing realization that we would not make it to Mobile, AL in time for Halloween. A bummer not only because we wouldn't have a neighborhood to trick-or-treat in, but also because Hobie's NinjaGo costume was shipped to Mobile.

We spent a night going over the options and trying to figure out how we could make it work, but it just didn't look possible. After a day of sadness, we decided to look on the bright side, we would be catching up with our French Canadian friends, so at least we could hang out with them and "trick-or-treat" from boat-to-boat. 

But after our 70 mile run from Demopolis to Bashi Creek, I realized we might actually be able to make it to Mobile in time for Halloween. The current was running with us, and we lucked out with the tide which would also be in our favor after Coffeeville Lock.

I secretly asked Hobie: "Do you want to play it safe and stay with the French Canadians for Halloween, or take a chance on making it to Mobile for Trick or Treating?" He opted for Mobile, which is what I was hoping for, so that's what we did.

Each morning we fired up both engines and made our way down the river at top speed. One day we recorded a personal best of 80 miles traveled in a single day on the river. We hauled butt, and made it to Mobile on October 30th. Pretty good considering just a few days earlier we were moping around thinking would wouldn't arrive until November. 

Going through Downtown Mobile was pretty sweet. We passed under a low bridge and were instantly amongst huge ocean going freighters. It was a very busy port. There was also a boatyard building sweet Navy trimarans. It was a super cool area to go through.

As we left the river for Mobile Bay, I thought about the weather and open water conditions for the first time since leaving Lake Michigan. It was pretty windy, and I started wondering what the waves would be like on the bay. Fortunately they turned out to be pretty small, but with the high winds we got quite a bit of spray.

We made our way through the bay, then motored up the Dog River. It was REALLY cool. We had a bit of a gulf coast culture shock. There were suddenly palm trees, shrimp boats, just a whole different vibe from the river. It was awesome. I loved it.

The rivers seemed to last FOREVER. So long that stopped thinking the end would ever come. It took a bit before I realized: We did it! We made it from Chicago to Mobile! 

That had never been a "goal" of mine, so it wasn't really something I thought much about while we were doing it. But after having completed it, I realized it's a hell of a long way, and something to celebrate having accomplished. So we put our dinghy in the water and motored across the river to a waterfront restaurant for dinner. A night of luxury, someone else cooking, and cleaning up!

Nov 19, 2017

Demopolis "loop" Think

We traveled a short distance to Demopolis, I was in full on "travel" mode and didn't really feel like stopping. I was kinda hoping to fuel up, pump out, fill water and head back out... but we have friends here and LeeAnn wanted to hang out for a night. 

It makes sense. This is the last marina for the next 216 miles. It will be 4 or 5 days from here to Mobile. Plus today and tonight was supposed to be stormy. 

Despite all that... I didn't want to stay. I wanted to move on. We were in a groove. On a roll. For days it seemed like we had the river to ourselves. Hardly saw another boat. 

Suddenly we were in boater central. Nearly everyone stops in Demopolis. The place was packed, and there we were in the middle of it.

Suddenly we couldn't leave. Word got around that the demopolis lock master required everyone to go through the lock together. Through the game of phone, this lock was turned into a big event. It required looper organization so that we could all get through without having to wait. 

A meeting was held, it was a very somber event that began with everyone stating their name. These names were logged in the meeting minutes (not really but that formality was in the air and it wouldn't have surprised me if someone was taking notes). 

It pissed me off that for days we were on our own and doing just fine. Then suddenly we were sucked into this group think. 

We left the meeting before it really started. People were nice, but overall we didn't seem welcome with our rowdy kids. This was a serious meeting after all. 

We returned to our boat where I called the lockmaster myself to see if there was anything special about the lock, or anything special we needed to do. He said there was not. I get what people were trying to do. The locks don't want to deal with one pleasure craft after another. It's better to group. I just like my independence. 

The next day we left with the group at about 7:30. It was around 40 degrees, windy, and raining heavily. Oh yeah and it was foggy. Pretty much horrible conditions. But, I didn't want to stay in Demopolis another night, so I put on my foul weather gear and we left. 

Ironically, it took a good hour to get into the lock due to all the boats and bad weather. 

We were the last ones in and rafted up to a power cat we have been playing hopscotch with for a few hundred miles. In order to lighten the mood, I decided to use a Australian accent during all my radio communication. I was in a very good mood upon entering the lock. Shitty weather and crazy situations have a way of really lighting me up. 

We locked down and then fired up both engines. Its unusual for us to run both engines at the same time. The pickup in speed normally doesn't justify the cost in fuel. But on this day we had 70 miles to cover before the next safest anchorage. So we hauled ass, and had a nice current pushing us along as well. We made it to Bashi creek by our usual stopping of 4pm. I was impressed.

The creek was very narrow. 40 feet. Half downed trees lay in the creek. Other trees simply had overgrown into the creek. It was a place no respectable looper would enter, so I ventured in. 

We made our way about a quarter mile up the creek. Weaving our way around fallen trees, we had good depth most of the way. When it shallowed to 7 feet, I spun us around and dropped the anchor. I also dropped a pile of chain over the side of the boat to help hold us in the middle of the channel if the wind changed direction overnight, but I didn't expect that and we were so well protected I don't think it would have mattered. 

The sunset and stars came out. I lowered the dinghy into the water and the boys and I went out with a spotlight searching for alligators. We didn't find any. 

After we returned to the boat, we lite our pumpkins and listened to the owls hooting to each other. Then two owls got into a fight and after a moment LeeAnn and I ushered the boys inside the boat, lest they be witnesses to an owl murder. 

I thought about the contrast between staying at a dock the previous night for $53 verses anchoring in Bashi creek for free. Being anchored out on our own, a few other bold cruisers with us, we got so much more value out of anchoring. 




Nov 13, 2017

The Truth About The Great Loop

The Great Loop has become hugely popular among boaters in recent years. When we first traveled down the US East Coast in 2007 we didn't hear the terms "Great Loop", "Looping", or "Loopers" a single time. These days it seems every boater we meet is flying the AGLCA (America's Great Loop Cruising Association) flag.

I can understand why. The Great Loop sounds like a great idea. Traveling America's waterways, seeing America by boat, most of it via protected waterways.

When I meet Loopers who are nearing the completion of their loop, I like to ask "ready to start again?" to which most of them hastily shake their head and say "oh no, not doing it again."

Why? And if it isn't enjoyable, why don't we hear more about the negatives? One theory is that Loopers don't want to admit to others or themselves that the trip sucked. Or maybe Loopers feel embarrassed that they aren't the intrepid travelers the thought they were.

If it's the latter, then it's really too bad, because in my opinion, "Looping" is going about "cruising" all wrong. Which brings me to another point. Loopers are not cruisers. Many cruisers will make a distinct point of that. When asked "are you looping?" The cruiser will reply "cruising, not looping." When I hear this reply, I become so excited that someone else "gets it!"

So here is the truth about The Great Loop:

1. It's toxic.

This actually might be a good reason to do the loop, because if more people were aware of how widespread our toxic waters are, perhaps there would be change. According to this study, Chesapeake Bay is dirtier than an unflushed toilet bowl. Deleware Bay struggles with pollution. In the Hudson River, our fun game was to count condoms. Erie canal water, gross. Chicago Sanitation canal? The name says enough, Illinois river? nope. The sad truth is that for the vast majority of the loop, going swimming means risking getting sick.

2. It's not very scenic.

This is not to say there aren't gloriously beautiful parts. Kentucky Lake is amazing. Traveling through downtown Chicago is a one of a kind experience. The North Channel in the Great Lakes is exceptional, as are the clear waters and dunes of Lake Michigan. All parts of the Loop have their beauty, but the vast majority of it is just one long boring slog. Sitting at the wheel watching mile after mile of boring, low lying shoreline go by. When you come to a pretty section where you'd like to stay awhile, the weight of distance still to go or cold weather pushes you on.
A typical ICW Shoreline
A typical Chicago-Mobile Shoreline.




3. There is no destination.

The Great Loop takes water highways and turns them into the destination. It's equivalent to saying: 'My wife and I are going to buy an RV and drive I-75 round trip. We are going to spend each night in a parking lot just off the expressway. We will visit roadside attractions and small towns along the way. No one does this because it sounds horrible. And yet, that's exactly what the Great Loop is. A road trip with no destination.

4. It burns people out.

Nearly every looper we meet is on their first "cruise". Many of them have even bought their boat specifically for doing the loop. In other words, Loopers are generally inexperienced cruisers. This is not always the case. Some people go around and around the loop. Some people are just made to move. But the rest of them get burnt out, decide boat life isn't for them, sell their boat and move into an RV. Why?

"Cruising" implies traveling, but I've found the reality to be the exact opposite. My best cruising experiences have been when we hardly travel at all. This is what people mean when they say "cruising grounds" it's an area you hang around in. Traveling on a boat is hard work. The loop is day after day of hard work. It causes wear and tear on the boat which then needs to be repaired. Those repairs are in addition to grocery shopping, laundry, and any other things you want to do while stopped. By the time it's all done, you've been in a marina for a week, have had no time to relax, and it's time to start it all over again.

How it should be done:

I'm not saying to avoid America's waterways, I'm saying to use them for what they are, water highways to awesome destinations. Pick a place you want to go and go there. I personally love the Bahamas. Perhaps you've always wanted to visit New England or the North Channel. Go for it. Use the waterways as needed. Break from the crowd, set your own course, plot your own route.














Oct 26, 2017

Trouble with Engines and Alligators

Today started out like any day. One by one the kids crawled into bed with us. 

We got out of bed. Started a pot of tea. Started making breakfast. 

I checked the engine oil like I do every morning (thanks Eddie) then go to start the engines. Port engine won't start. I try the starboard, nothing. Like there is no electricity to the ignition panel. This has happened before when I forget to turn on the starter battery switch on the starboard engine. 

I check the switches. They are on. Confused, I get out my voltmeter and check for power at the engine starter. It's got power. So I opened up the ignition panel. No obvious problems. 

I went back to the port engine. After several tries, and by giving it extra throttle I was able to get it going. I let it run while I turned my attention back to the starboard engine. 

After several minutes with no progress, I decided to just get us going. It's a little difficult to get a catamaran moving from a dead stop with just one engine. The the boat just wants to spin in a circle like a car with only one rear wheel. 

I've found that turning the wheel in the opposite direction of the propulsion and only giving short bursts of power, I can pick up steerage pretty quick. It only takes about a knot of speed. 

However, on this morning we were anchored in a narrow river anchorage with fallen trees and submerged logs on either shore. 

So I turned the wheel hard over to starboard and gave a lot of power on the port engine to spin us around 180 degrees as sharply as possible. Luckily this was a deep river with steep banks. We turned around without any issue. 

Fortunately the kids were exceptionally well behaved during the whole engine debacle. LeeAnn was a huge help in keeping them entertained. 

The rest of our day proceeded as usual with two notable exceptions: we saw some huge white cliffs, and a huge green alligator!!

LeeAnn has been telling me over and over there has to be alligators around here. I kept saying "no, no, no... there is not!"

Well today she wins!

I glanced at the bank behind us and saw an alligatorish shape. I got out the binoculars and sure enough, it was an alligator of significant size. At least 6 feet. LeeAnn says 8 feet and since she is right about most things... she is probably right about the length. 



We are almost to our anchorage. Once there I will change the fuel filters on the engines. During the trip today I sat at the helm station poking around with a voltmeter. Suddenly the panel came back to life. I think/hope it is just corrosion around the terminals. I'm going to clean them and see if that does the trick! Fingers crossed!

Oct 23, 2017

Great loop: downtown Chicago to Ottawa Illinois


Super excited about this video for a few reasons:

- I added a "previously on" section to the beginning.
- I added an "intro reel" that... could be better... but it's better than nothing. I like it, and I'm proud of it.
- leeann and I had a lot of fun doing a voiceover commentary together.
- I experimented with detaching audio from clips and added extra "b-roll" to smooth out some edits.
- I switched to royalty free music. YouTube has been running ads on my videos to pay the royalties on the copyright protected music I was using. Switching to royalty free means this is my first monetized video ever!!
- I experimented with sound effects in the patreon scene at the end. It's goofy, but I like it and had fun making it. Unfortunately my GoPro was out of commission at the time, so the quality isn't the best during that part.
- I left in a lot more content than I normally do. Stuff I previously would have cut for being "boring". As a result this video is much longer than others I have done. I'm interested in hearing feedback on the longer format.
I hope you like it, and would love to hear your thoughts. What did you like? At what points were you bored?
This video required a lot of extra effort, but I'm proud of the result. I took this video more seriously than others I have done - thank you patrons for the inspiration, encouragement and confidence you give me... just by being patrons!!
I learned a lot on this one, and I'm already excited to be working on and applying that experience to the next video!
Thanks for reading, watching, and following along with us!! Here we go!!



Oct 21, 2017

Goats!

We were going to make progress today...Then we saw this pretty little island and decided to stop for a picnic. The shore was so steep, we were able to beach the boat. Something we had never done before. That was super cool!

We skipped stones for a while, Ate lunch, read Tom Sawyer.

Then it was time to get going. Time to put some miles under the keel! But we spotted a cool island just a mile further on and stopped. Next thing we know some wild goats (?) come walking down the rocky shore.

We put the dinghy in the water and went over with some carrots. They were friendly enough to be hand fed but timid and jumpy. Very large and a little scary!

So... now we are just stopped for the day. I think we made it maybe 10 miles. But we had fun!!

I just realized... we are in Alabama!!







Oct 17, 2017

Fighting against the current

We are 3.6 miles from the pickwick lock and damn. We have both engines running (rare) and are only making 4 knots against the current. Not fun! I'm glad we are almost there!

Once through the lock we enter the Tennn-Tom waterway and I think from that point on everything will be going with the current. 

I hope we make some killer time on the ten-tom. I'm ready to be off this blasted river. We have around 450 miles to the Gulf. 

LeeAnn was at the helm for most of the day today. I have the kids baths, made lunch, etc. My biggest challenge of today was getting Hobie to wipe his own bum. 

It's very windy and cold today, which is a nice relief from the heat and humidity of the previous few days. 



Oct 16, 2017

Amazon in the rain

Last night we anchored behind Kelly island. 

It was supposed to be around 10' deep. Ended up being 25'! Luckily the bottom was clay and provided great holding. 

We stopped around 4. It gave me plenty of time to make dinner. Then we sent the boys to their room to watch a PBS show while leeann and I sat outside and enjoyed our dinner in peace. It was WONDERFUL. We talked while the sun went down. Watched an eagle land on the island next to us. It was great. Hope to do it again soon!

They boys were very restless last night. I ended up laying down with them to try to get them back asleep around 3 or 4 am. Charlie kept hitting me and trying to lay on me. By 5am I was getting extremely frustrated... then he started to gag like he was going to puke. 

I swept him up and luckily got to the bathroom in time. 

I stayed up with him the rest of the morning, getting small cat naps here and there. 

We got the boat moving around 9 and traveled 4 hours to Clifton marina where I had shipped some packages from Amazon. 

It started pouring so we hung around the marina until there was a break in the rain. 


Now we are traveling up the river to make a little more progress before stopping for the night. 

Oct 14, 2017

Goodbye Kentucky Lake

We left Kentucky Lake today. I will miss the dramatic landscape and plentiful, well protected anchorages. The landscape reminded me of the North Channel in Canada. Rocky, steep hills. It's been a nice break from the rivers. 

We're now on the Tennessee river and I'm not at all looking forward to the crappy riverside anchorages I assume we will have for the rest of the way to the Gulf of Mexico. 

We have 535 miles to the Gulf. Without taking currents into consideration, and assuming we travel an average of 30 miles a day, we have 17 days before we reach the ocean. We are traveling 40 miles today, so I'm hoping we can make it in 12 days. 

We've been traveling with a group of boats. It's fun to hang out with other people, and we've made some super great friends. But in some weird way it adds pressure and expectations. 

Everyone is rafting up, we will look rude if we don't? Do they hear our kids crying? Is everyone eating together? Will we look rude if we leave before everyone else? The group wants to travel another 10 miles, if we stop now, and then they stop, will we feel guilty for slowing them down?

The friends we've made are so nice, we want to hang out with them until it's time to put the kids to bed. By the time the kids are asleep, we are tired from a day of traveling and want to go to sleep. The next day we get up and do it all over. Leaving no time for LeeAnn and I to talk with each other and work through the emotional roller coaster of turning our lives upside down. Or to just be alone with our own thoughts. 

After a few weeks of this, we started to slump into a depression

Traveling on our own has been really nice. We've taken some really easy days and it has made everyone feel better. We can keep to our own schedule rather than the groups, and when we stop for the night we relax and recharge. 

I had also been really stressed about money, and it was making LeeAnn stressed. Then I spoke with a business acquaintance and he asked "if you could do anything for 8 hours a day, what would you do?" 

I thought about it and realized at best all I have is an hour or two for work right now. 

So I don't have time to work for clients or customers, and worrying about money isn't going to solve anything. It's just going to ruin this once in a lifetime experience I'm having.

As my buddy Jon told me: "Don't worry about money (I know easier said then done).  You'll always have the ability to make enough money.  You won't always have the ability to sail with you wife and kids to the ocean."

LeeAnn and I discussed this, and both agreed to just not worry about it. When we get to Florida we will find a nice place to dock for the winter and I'll figure it out then. 

Between traveling on our own terms and letting go of our worries about money, our onboard happiness guage has gone from empty, to half full and rising!


Sep 26, 2017

Great Loop: Downtown Chicago

We raised our anchor around 8am and headed the short distance from the Play Pen to the lock.

I called the locktender several times on the designated channel. He didn't respond. So I called him on the phone. He told me to go in the lock and then he hung up on me. Had the lock been open, I would have done so, but he didn't open it until after I called him. I reviewed everything I had done and concluded he must just be an asshole. 

We went through the two-foot drop with no issues and then proceeded through downtown. 

There is no permit or any kind of registration to use the locks. They just let us in. It's a little weird. The river is very commercial, and it felt like we were in a place we weren't supposed to be. I kept thinking we were going to get caught. It was like we had wandered into the "staff only" area of a theme park.

So while it was cool to go past all the buildings in Downtown Chicago, I never really relaxed and enjoyed the moment. Before I knew it we were leaving the city behind. It all went much faster than I would have liked. 

The Illinois river system is pretty amazing. The beginning stretch of it is mainly a canal, but unlike the Erie Canal, the Illinois is still a very busy commercial shipping network. The infrastructure along the walls to load and unload barges is totally foreign and captivating. As we moved along, I continued feeling like we had stumbled into a place we weren't supposed to be. 

We made fast progress down the river and made it to Joliet. Our first impression of Joliet was not great. The docks were decent, I mean, they were free and that included the power, so it’s hard to complain (I’m not). But it’s clear that they have not been well maintained by the city. 

There was a broken beer bottle on the concrete pavers and some people who looked like they had made quite a few wrong decisions in life staggered by openly drinking. I questioned our security and looped several of our dock lines back to our boat. We've heard stories of kids untying boats in the night. 

Generally, people won't get on your boat, so looping a line back can be a good deterrent. But on the Erie canal, we met one local couple who actually locked their boat to the dock cleat with a bike lock. Floating in the Erie Canal might result in a scratch boat. Floating down the Illinois could result in being run down by a barge and killed. 

We could see a playground from where we were docked. Across the street was the “Joliet Housing Authority” It looked like a jail and my suspicions were later confirmed. I thought it was funny that they called it the "Housing Authority." At first I wondered if it was a shelter. 

I asked a few of the moms at the park if the area was safe. They gave me an unconvincing “Yeah, it’s ya know, like anywhere.”

You mean it’s like anyplace on the outskirts of Chicago? Like any place in Joliet?” I had no point of reference for her “anywhere” but she wasn’t giving anymore clues. 

We headed back to the boat for dinner, then later a long time friend who works in Chicago drove out to see us and bring me to the grocery store. The next morning his family drove out and we all had breakfast. Then we left the dock and headed down the river.


















Sep 17, 2017

Hangng out on a boat in Chicago



We arrived in Chicago in the small hours of the morning and tied up on an end dock. The next day after the staff arrived, I walked to the dock house to pay for several nights. 

There was one girl in the dock house talking on the phone when I arrived. Two other marina staff members sat outside chatting. Perhaps it was their morning break time. I stood waiting, reading a posting of marina rules. Several more people walked in Two of them walked up to the counter like I wasn’t there. I figured they were “city folk” and didn’t let it bother me, but I stepped up and made it clear the next guy wasn’t going to walk past me. 

The girl finally got off the phone and helped the other two customers. When it came to be my turn, I said: “I arrived early this morning and need to reserve a slip.”

“Do you have a reservation?” She asked.

I said “no.”

She told me “you have to make a reservation using the Dockwa App.”

I didn’t really want to download a freaking app just to pay for a dock, so I asked “there is no way to just do it here?”

“No.”

“Is it okay if I leave me boat where it is while I make the reservation?” I didn’t want to steer the boat on a busy holiday weekend while downloading an app and then using it to make a reservation. 

“I don’t know, where are you?” she asked.

“The end of G dock.”

“What slip?”

“I don’t know, the only one out of the two available.”

“Which one is that?”

I looked around for a map, she stood with an empty look in her eyes, like a robot waiting for some external input to trigger her next algorithmic response. Finally spotted and 8x10 map on the other side of the dock house. Exasperated, I walked over to it, found G dock, ran my finger down along it to the end, found the empty slip and said G-24 (or whatever it was).

She said “That’s someone’s slip. You can’t stay there.”

I’m not a violent person, but at this point I wanted to choke her. 

“okay” I said as I left.

The boys were in the stroller, hitting, kicking, fighting with each other. LeeAnn was anxious about the city, and how impossible it would be with the boys. I suggested we take a walk, find a park away from the water where the boys could run around a bit. 
I wasn’t concerned about making a hasty exit from the slip. The dock girl did nothing to help me, and I wasn’t going to feel bad if I inconvenienced her by being in someones slip when they returned. I was prepared to take my time. 

We found a park and unbuckled the boys. Hobie refused to get out of the stroller. Charlie found a stick and starting whacking it against the stroller which to his delight caused Hobie to scream and throw a fit. 

I searched for “Chicago” at Dockwa.com. Although I was reluctant to use it, I must admit, Dockwa.com was pretty sweet. It made it fairly easy to see the various places to stay and how much each one cost. I saw that staying in the Monroe mooring field was a fraction of the cost of Burnam. $38 per night verses $100 per night. I made a reservation for two nights and we left Burnam Harbor.

Muhaha! I win dock girl! Screw your stupid fancy marina!

Not that she cared. I imagined she sat behind her desk with a line of code repeating in her robot brain:

“waiting for external input….”
“waiting for external input….”
“no external input…entering sleep mode….”

We traveled a mile north, closer to downtown and picked up a mooring ball. Way better in my opinion. Our boat would face into the wind so we would catch the breeze, and rather than paying the $10/night electricity fee at the dock, we could run our generator guilt free. 

My one worry was having to dinghy to shore, but then I learned that Monroe Harbor runs a sweet tender service. They shuttle boaters back and forth using these awesome taxi boats. We loved using the tender service. It was part of the fun of going to shore. 

We spent the next few days exploring the tourist sights right near Monroe harbor. There was PLENTY to do. 

- We went to Shed Aquarium
- The super awesome kids playground across the street from the marina. Hands down the coolest playground we have ever been to. I mean, they had towers and slides that were at least two stories tall. Not to mention the “enchanted forrest”, the interactive fountains, boats, swings, and who knows what else. We definitely didn’t explore the whole playground. 
- The famous “bean” and face fountain.
- Navy Pier, where we rode the ferris wheel, carousel, then got deep dish pizza (which took a regrettable 45 minutes to cook but ended up being worth the wait). 

We didn’t go to the Field Museum which had dinosaur bones that Hobie wanted to see, or the planetarium, which sounded cool. Both of these educational field trips were within visibility and walking distance from the harbor. We also never went to the incredibly cool looking fountain on the edge of the harbor. Who knows what else we missed within easy walking distance. 
After a few days of playing tourist, we made the 10 mile jaunt down to Calument River to drop the mast at Crowly’s. Those guys were awesome. Expensive, but awesome. 

We traveled back up to Chicago the same day, but passed Monroe harbor to anchor in the free “playpen”. This anchorage was a little exposed to the north, which wouldn’t have been a problem except for the northerly cross swell entering the harbor. This is also where the yocal boaters come to… be idiots. Although it was a cold, cloudy, rainy day, there were some college kids swimming from a power boat. This was an attractive sight that didn’t bother me at all 😃

But the dudes doing the wake surfing, I could do with out them. 

Soon the sun set and the anchorage was all ours. The city light up, and we had a beautiful, peaceful night. 


We arrived in Chicago in the small hours of the morning and tied up on an end dock. The next day after the staff arrived, I walked to the dock house to pay for several nights. 

There was one girl in the dock house talking on the phone when I arrived. Two other marina staff members sat outside chatting. Perhaps it was their morning break time. I stood waiting, reading a posting of marina rules. Several more people walked in Two of them walked up to the counter like I wasn’t there. I figured they were “city folk” and didn’t let it bother me, but I stepped up and made it clear the next guy wasn’t going to walk past me. 

The girl finally got off the phone and helped the other two customers. When it came to be my turn, I said: “I arrived early this morning and need to reserve a slip.”

“Do you have a reservation?” She asked.

I said “no.”

She told me “you have to make a reservation using the Dockwa App.”

I didn’t really want to download a freaking app just to pay for a dock, so I asked “there is no way to just do it here?”

“No.”

“Is it okay if I leave me boat where it is while I make the reservation?” I didn’t want to steer the boat on a busy holiday weekend while downloading an app and then using it to make a reservation. 

“I don’t know, where are you?” she asked.

“The end of G dock.”

“What slip?”
“I don’t know, the only one out of the two available.”

“Which one is that?”

I looked around for a map, she stood with an empty look in her eyes, like a robot waiting for some external input to trigger her next algorithmic response. Finally spotted and 8x10 map on the other side of the dock house. Exasperated, I walked over to it, found G dock, ran my finger down along it to the end, found the empty slip and said G-24 (or whatever it was).

She said “That’s someone’s slip. You can’t stay there.”

I’m not a violent person, but at this point I wanted to choke her. 

“okay” I said as I left.

The boys were in the stroller, hitting, kicking, fighting with each other. LeeAnn was anxious about the city, and how impossible it would be with the boys. I suggested we take a walk, find a park away from the water where the boys could run around a bit. 

I wasn’t concerned about making a hasty exit from the slip. The dock girl did nothing to help me, and I wasn’t going to feel bad if I inconvenienced her by being in someones slip when they returned. I was prepared to take my time. 

We found a park and unbuckled the boys. Hobie refused to get out of the stroller. Charlie found a stick and starting whacking it against the stroller which to his delight caused Hobie to scream and throw a fit. 

I searched for “Chicago” at Dockwa.com. Although I was reluctant to use it, I must admit, Dockwa.com was pretty sweet. It made it fairly easy to see the various places to stay and how much each one cost. I saw that staying in the Monroe mooring field was a fraction of the cost of Burnam. $38 per night verses $100 per night. I made a reservation for two nights and we left Burnam Harbor.

Muhaha! I win dock girl! Screw your stupid fancy marina!

Not that she cared. I imagined she sat behind her desk with a line of code repeating in her robot brain:

“waiting for external input….”
“waiting for external input….”
“no external input…entering sleep mode….”

We traveled a mile north, closer to downtown and picked up a mooring ball. Way better in my opinion. Our boat would face into the wind so we would catch the breeze, and rather than paying the $10/night electricity fee at the dock, we could run our generator guilt free. 

My one worry was having to dinghy to shore, but then I learned that Monroe Harbor runs a sweet tender service. They shuttle boaters back and forth using these awesome taxi boats. We loved using the tender service. It was part of the fun of going to shore. 
We spent the next few days exploring the tourist sights right near Monroe harbor. There was PLENTY to do. 

- We went to Shed Aquarium
- The super awesome kids playground across the street from the marina. Hands down the coolest playground we have ever been to. I mean, they had towers and slides that were at least two stories tall. Not to mention the “enchanted forrest”, the interactive fountains, boats, swings, and who knows what else. We definitely didn’t explore the whole playground. 
- The famous “bean” and face fountain.
- Navy Pier, where we rode the ferris wheel, carousel, then got deep dish pizza (which took a regrettable 45 minutes to cook but ended up being worth the wait). 

We didn’t go to the Field Museum which had dinosaur bones that Hobie wanted to see, or the planetarium, which sounded cool. Both of these educational field trips were within visibility and walking distance from the harbor. We also never went to the incredibly cool looking fountain on the edge of the harbor. Who knows what else we missed within easy walking distance. 

After a few days of playing tourist, we made the 10 mile jaunt down to Calument River to drop the mast at Crowly’s. Those guys were awesome. Expensive, but awesome. 
We traveled back up to Chicago the same day, but passed Monroe harbor to anchor in the free “playpen”. This anchorage was a little exposed to the north, which wouldn’t have been a problem except for the northerly cross swell entering the harbor. This is also where the yocal boaters come to… be idiots. Although it was a cold, cloudy, rainy day, there were some college kids swimming from a power boat. This was an attractive sight that didn’t bother me at all 😃

But the dudes doing the wake surfing, I could do with out them. 

Soon the sunset and the anchorage was all ours. The city light up, and we had a beautiful, peaceful night. 
















If you enjoy HoboSailor, check out patreon.com/hobosailor

Sep 14, 2017

LeeAnn Says Goodbye :(

In our latest video, LeeAnn talks about leaving, sheds a few tears, gets a little upset, but don't worry, it has a happy ending.

Leaving everything behind is hard. It's scary. I think this video does a good job of showing a little part of that.

Patrons get early access. See it now at patreon.com/hobosailor for $1. The video goes FREE to the public next week!


Sep 13, 2017

Saving To Sail Away


Saving money is very responsible, and being responsible is...very boring. As in, you don’t go to concerts, movies, or even on vacations kind of boring. But, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun. 

“Baby I don't need dollar bills to have fun tonight (I love cheap thrills)!” ~Sia

People think saving is boring. Or… maybe people just think I’m boring, because no one ever leaps to talk to me about money. 

But I don’t think it’s me. My sense is that people talk about how to get likes on Instagram more then they discuss financial strategies.

We have this trickery in the United States. Instead of just talking openly about money, we hide wealth and display it abstractly based on the house we live in, the car we drive, the clothes we wear. It is stupid to engage in this game. The truth is that everyone is broke. I know this because everyone goes to work.

Rich people don’t go to work. 

Or… if they are truly rich and still go to work, then they are just emotionally bankrupt. If someone is so rich that they don’t have to go to work, but go anyway because they can’t think of anything better to do… that person is a lost soul. That person should become my patron, because I can think of all sorts of ways to spend their riches. Just look at Steve Jobs. Super rich, and fucked up. 

We all portray these glamorous lifestyles on social media, but the truth is that 99% of us spend the better part of our day working for the man so we can pay off the loan we got to buy shit we couldn’t afford while trying to show off how rich we were.

It’s socially expected, an actual measure of achievement when a person can sell themselves into 30 years of corporate slavery in the form of a home mortgage.

The saying “you live, you work, you die” is just another way of saying “your childhood, your adulthood, your old age.”

Why is that normal? 

I’m sorry, but I’ll pass on “normal.” I don’t want to spend the best years of my life going to work. I don’t care how much you love your job. I had a great job. I was my own boss, I made good money, I worked with cool people and had cool customers. 

I still quit!

Not because I’m rich. Which, I’ll grant you, by many standards I am rich, but I’m no millionaire. I’m able to quit my job and sail away because of the decisions I made. Many of those decisions were financial. 

Whatever your dream is. Sailing away, touring the country in an RV, backpacking through Thailand, if your dream is not “commuting to my 40 hour per week job, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year.” Then you need to get smart about how you spend your money!

I’m not some bullshit 21-year-old content marketer fresh out of college with 60k in debt creating some bullshit tips compiled from the internet. I’m sitting on a boat right now. Sometime next week I’ll sail 100 miles from Muskegon to Chicago. It will mark the beginning of a vacation, nay, an adventure that will be measured in years rather than weeks. I’m the real deal, the living proof that these tips and tricks actually work. 

They worked when I was 21, exploring Canada’s stunning North Channel, they worked when I was 24, poor but living free in the Exumas, they worked for me when I was 28 and managing an annual corporate budget of nearly a million dollars, and they work for me now, a 33 year old who is debt and job free. 

These tips and tricks have worked for me. 

I hope they work for you.

Purchase the e-book here: 

https://www.patreon.com/hobosailor/



Testimonials and Praise for "Saving to Sail Away":



"I make more money than Chad but he’s more successful than me. I have hopes and dreams for the future. He's already living his.

His ebook gave me insight into the mindset, habits, and, above all, sacrifices, that have allowed him to live his ideal lifestyle – sailing around the world with his beautiful family. Free from the daily grind, making memories, and experiencing the world. It's something so many people wish for, but don't achieve. 

Whether or not your ultimate lifestyle goal is quitting the rat race and sailing the world (mine isn’t), this is a realistic, practical outline of exactly what it takes to make your most ambitious goals a reality – on any size paycheck – if you want it badly enough. 

He doesn’t sugar coat it, he’s brutally honest at times, and what he recommends isn't easy to do. If it were easy, more people would be doing it. If you're considering this lifestyle, the ebook is an excellent introduction to the hard work you should expect to put it in to achieve the same results." ~ Brian Gladu





Sep 3, 2017

Moored in Chicago - Monroe Harbor

We arrived in Chicago this morning around 2:30am.

We were expecting the trip to take about 20 hours, but we had poor wind so we motorsailed. Made great time and finished in around 14 hours.

We first took a dock in Burnham harbor. Then today I went to register at the marina office. The lady told me I needed to make a reservation online before we could get a dock.

When I went to make an online reservation I noticed we could get a mooring ball closer to the city, two nights for $80 vs. $100 a night for a dock. I opted for the mooring so we have more spending money in the city.

There are a lot of weekend boaters out today. Everyone is rushing around in very large high speed boats. They are either crazy, stupid, ignorant, or all of the above. Some boats are  piled with people and I think a lot of them may be going to the "playpen" which sounds like a great party for college kids, but not so good for ... actual kids. We may anchor there in a few days. Can't beat free!

Overall, It's been a stressful few days! All the emotion of leaving home. Then an overnight passage through the middle of the widest part of Lake Michigan, entering Chicago at night, being tired today, but wanting to make the best of our first day on adventure.

Leeann is a pretty anxious personl... so when she gets stressed I get stressed about making whatever is causing her anxiety to go away. I can tell she has been trying hard to stay positive.

The kids are pretty emotional about leaving  but they don't really understand it. They are just acting tired and whiny and demanding a lot of attention. We are trying to give them all the emotional support they need during the transition. Then again, today Hobie asked if we could live in Chicago forever so maybe he is fine about leaving home.

I'm surprised how intuitive Charlie was about leaving. Yesterday he was asking to "go back" which broke my heart.

LeeAnn slept with the boys last night, and once we docked I climbed into bed with them. I always start to second guess myself late at night. I turned my life upside down for this. Sold my company. Left a high paying job. Sold our stuff. Rented out our house. Left our friends and family. I hope it all doesn't turn out to be a big mistake.

Overall, things are good and we are making the best of it, but I'm excited to get a good nights sleep tonight, and into a routine during the next few days.

At least the weather is good! It would be way worse if it were cold and rainy!

Sep 2, 2017

Sailing to Chicago from Muskegon

The boys watching Wall-E while crossing the lake to Chicago.
Passage sounds so dramatic. Like something that should be done on the ocean. But in my book, anything that requires traveling at night is a passage. It means traveling far enough that the weather could change and you will be stuck out in it.  LeeAnn and I also refer to passages as going "offshore" or "making a jump" due to the distance covered.

We take passages pretty seriously. It's not a boat ride, or what most sailors would refer to as a "day sail." We conserve energy (you never know when you're going to need it), nights on passage can be very long, and lacking in sleep. We don't drink. We don't let the kids use the rope swings or do anything that would increase the risk of them getting injured. They are already oblivious to danger, and when you are on a passage just getting to shore can take hours, not to mention getting from a marina to an emergency room. The worst case scenario is a helicopter ride from the coast guard. Something I hope to never experience.

All that being said, I think I've taken passages a little too seriously over the last few years. Granted, LeeAnn and I have had enough terrifying experiences to keep us from ever wanting to leave solid ground again. We have reason to be cautious. But I used to revel in the thrill of taking a boat to sea. I'd pretend I was in a movie, playing the part of a brave adventurer. After seven years of being submissive to customers and employees at work, this adventurous version of myself is what I want to rediscover.

This was the mindset I had as we began our 100-mile passage from Muskegon to Chicago. It would take us 14-20 hours depending on the weather. It was the most ambitious passage we've made in years. Although we've sailed over 1,000 miles on oceans, bays and the Great Lakes since 2014, all of it has been following the coast. This trip to Chicago was still "coastal." At most, we would be 35 miles from shore, but that's far enough to lose sight of land and be 7 hours from help. The route would take us diagonally through the bottom half of Lake Michigan. The widest part.

We were clear of Muskegon's breakwater by 11am. We watched the horizon slowly break apart behind us. It appeared to melt into the water. The boys had fun pretending to not be able to see land. Soon there came a time when they didn't need to pretend.
In the middle of Lake Michigan

By 6pm we were dead center in the middle of Lake with fairly calm winds. The lake was incredibly smooth, which was nice, but it also meant that the motor was on the entire time. Considering we would be dropping the mast in Chicago and motoring all the way to the gulf, I hoped we could sail to Chicago. For a while, we picked up some good wind out of the west and started making about 7knts. It looked like we would arrive in Chicago around 1am. Then the wind died and our speed dropped back to 5 knots. 

Our forecast for the night changed to winds out of the Southwest, 10-15 knots. right on our nose. It's pretty incredible. We had a prediction for winds out of the North. How can the weatherman be so completely wrong?

"North winds tonight. Wait. I mean Southwest. Definitely Southwest."

Being in the middle of the lake, it was kinda too late to turn back. At least there were no thunderstorms in the forecast.

The boys were a little cranky most of the day. Charlie kept saying "go back, go back" which was pretty heartbreaking. 

We grilled steak and some brats for dinner. Then since we were motoring and had plenty of hot water, LeeAnn and I both took showers. I love taking a hot shower while on a passage. It feels mysteriously good.

Then we figured out a watch schedule for the night. With the Southwest winds slowing our progress, I figured we would be on the water most of the night. Mike would take the first watch, then LeeAnn, and finally I would come up to bring us into Chicago.  

Around 7pm Mike spotted something ahead. We thought it was a ship on the horizon, dead ahead. It was far off so I didn’t worry about it at the time. After a little while, it hadn't moved, so I got out the binoculars. At first, I thought it was big racing sailboat with a spinnaker up. Then I noticed the two spears on top, and realized it was the Sears Tower! We were all very excited and surprised to be able to see it so far away. 

A blurry picture of the boys passed out and cuddling together.
By midnight we were 16nm Northeast of Chicago. The winds had clocked around to the Southwest at about 10 knots. Adding our 5 knots of headway made it feel like a stiff 15-knot breeze.

Small choppy waves built up. LeeAnn saw fireworks and a few passing ships on her watch.

I was eager for our cell service to pick back up. I wanted to let my mom know we were okay. She was worried about us taking a b-line across the widest part of Lake Michigan in the middle of the night. 

By 1am the moon was breaking through a patchwork of clouds. The skyline of Chicago brightly lite our way. The wind full in my face. Not warm, but not cold. The waves were building at about the same rate that we were approaching Chicago, so the weather felt balanced. Looking to pass the time quickly on my watch, I started watching episodes of "Silicon Valley". I set a timer to 10 minutes, and each time it went off I went outside to scan the horizon for freighters. 

The approach to Chicago at night was a lot easier than I expected. There weren't any navigation lights for a channel. This reduced confusion, but it was a little unnerving. I was really bummed when I couldn't find my spotlight. When coming into an unfamiliar marina a night, it's extremely handy to have a powerful spotlight. Fortunately, the moon and the city provided plenty of light to see by. 

We found a vacant end dock, tied up, and went to bed!


Chicago on the Horizon

The Moon over the skyline of Chicago