On The “Road” Again

Ahoy, mateys! We hope all is well with our friends around the world!

Winter has passed and spring is here. Hallelujah. It was a strange winter for us. We were Mom and Dadlost in retirement transition pains without our full and active life on Joy Girl. And it was difficult to watch my mother suffer as she waited for her hip replacement. However, that surgery was accomplished on April 29th and though she is recovering more slowly than we hoped, she is improving daily. Yesterday my parents returned home from an assisted living facility (think land-based cruise ship) where she recovered more fully. I’m grateful we were here to help her transition back home.

Other things we accomplished this winter…uhhhh…we learned a lot about elder care! Whew, that is a sobering and depressing picture.

Needless to say, we are ready to board Joy Girl in Grand Haven, Michigan! Unfortunately, we are delayed. Last July, in the North Channel of Canada, we bumped an unmarked rock in a very narrow channel. Craig worried about damage ever since but we didn’t identify any problems. However, since she has been “on the hard” in storage, our friend Tom Van Hall was able to spot a leak which led us to find a crack in her keel, at the bottom of the boat. That damage must be fixed before we can put her into the water. Thanks to Tom for his sharp eye!

port keel skeg bolts

Therefore, the plan is to be aboard around June 1st. We will then need to fix an electrical issue on Joy Girl. Electrical safety regulations in marinas have become more stringent, in part to curb ESD (Electric Shock Drowning), which occurs when people swim near boats that inadvertently emit small amounts of electricity. The person is immobilized, their vocal cords frozen, and they silently drown. Never swim in a marina! For some reason Joy Girl is not meeting the new standards which means we can’t use the electrical power posts at marinas that have implemented them. The problem will need to be diagnosed and fixed, requiring more “boat units”. (One boat unit equals $1,000, yikes…)

Once Joy Girl is all fixed up, our plan is to head north, up the beautiful Michigan Coast. The quaint, sandy-beached, sea-side towns like Frankfort, Pentwater and Harbor Springs are not to be missed. We hope to see my dear college friend Deb and her husband Dave somewhere on this lovely coastline and our friends Jim and Sherryl in the Mackinac Island area.

From there, our crystal ball gets a mite cloudy. We could jog west over to Door County Wisconsin, northeast to the Canadian North Channel (and avoid all hidden rocks!), northwest to Lake Superior, or east to Lake Erie.

Summer map possibilites

Once summer fades, we’re not sure what the plan is. We could do one of two things:

1. Store Joy Girl on the hard somewhere on the Great Lakes and come home for the winter, or

2. Travel back down the East Coast and snuggle into Shelter Cove Marina on Hilton Head Island. This would extend our boating season into winter. However, this is the more expensive option. We’ll see…

Our plan is to leave for Chicago this Thursday to see Craig’s Mom, then on to Michigan. Next time we check in, we hope to be aboard Joy Girl! Friends are always welcome to join us 🙂

Top Ten Favorite Spots

During our 9 months living aboard and 7 months of travel from May to October we docked or anchored Joy Girl in 86 different locations. We cruised 3,100 nautical miles (3,584 statute miles) in 10 states and 2 countries.

Naturally, people ask us “What were your favorite places?” We asked the same question of other boaters when we started and many said, “Oh, every place is different. We loved them all!” Hmmmm. We can honestly say we didn’t love them all (Atlantic City comes to mind), but there were enough great spots that it was difficult to whittle it down to just a few.

So, in David Letterman tradition, we’ve created Joy Girl’s Top Ten List of Favorite Spots. One caveat: Craig and I don’t agree on all of these, so the nominating spouse will be duly noted if there is a disagreement.

Drum roll, please…

10. Door County, Wisconsin. Captain Craig nominated this area as he loves Wisconsin, and Door County in particular, which is comprised of tiny resort towns nestled in lush forests on the shores of Green Bay. Niki was less thrilled and thinks Craig is still romanticizing the Wisconsin of his youth…

9. Charlevoix, Michigan. Michigan was such a surprise to us, we didn’t expect such beauty. Charlevoix is like a little seaside town with a beautiful beach, a huge lake to cruise in (Lake Charlevoix), and an adorable town with plenty of shops and restaurants. We visited a couple of times.

8. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Who doesn’t love Hilton Head? Thoughtfully developed and designed for tourism, it’s a hotbed of fun, beauty, beaches and great seafood. We were blessed to have 14 guests on Joy Girl during our three month stay, including three cousins (two live on the island) and my aunt and uncle who own a timeshare there. We fell in love with it.

7. Beaufort, South Carolina. This magical little town was our second destination on Joy Girl. Fortunately, it was close enough that we returned several times with different guests. With its antebellum mansions and Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss, it’s like living in a dream.

6. New.York.City. What a vibrant and surprisingly beautiful city with gorgeous architecture (new and old), plenty of parks, and American history on every corner. The city girl in me loves New York! Small town boy Craig would prefer never to return…sigh…

5. Charleston, South Carolina. Niki flipped out over this gorgeous place and fought for higher ratings, but Craig was a bit less thrilled. The historic “Holy City” is filled with breathtaking homes (one more beautiful than the next), lovely parks, charming restaurants in historic buildings…the whole place glitters with southern charm and style.

4. Mackinaw Island, Michigan. Mackinaw was our first glimpse of Michigan and she amazed us with her Caribbean-blue water, white beaches, Victorian architecture and sense of fun. Horses and bikes only, no cars. She’s Michigan’s Crown Jewel, and deservedly so.

3. Roanoke Island/Outer Banks, North Carolina. The Outer Banks will steal your heart. Manteo on Roanoke Island is simply adorable and across the bridge there are white beaches, capes that stretch sand bars out into the ocean for miles, zillions of shells to collect, Kitty Hawk, Hatteras, wow. We loved it all.

2. Benjamin Islands, North Channel, Ontario, Canada. The pristine beauty and get-away-from-it-all feel of these little islands cannot be overstated. Pine trees, rock islands, and clear, emerald green water make it a place to sit back, relax and relish the splendor. It is the mountain beauty of Colorado with gorgeous water added on top.

1. Bald Head Island, North Carolina. We both agree that this island, two miles off the coast of Southport and only accessible by boat, is the number one place we would like to return to and spend a good bit of time. It’s quiet (no cars) with uncrowded beaches, lovely homes overlooking the beach, giant swathes of sand that lead out to Cape Fear, beautiful shells and it even has a nice grocery store. We are brokenhearted over the destruction Hurricane Florence brought to this area and pray for their quick recovery. Unfortunately, I hadn’t caught my photography stride yet so I don’t have many good photos of Bald Head or the Outer Banks…

So, th, th, th, that’s all folks! If you follow this blog, you’ll receive new posts when we put Joy Girl back in the water next May. Cheers from Colorado for a great winter!

Home Sweet Home

Since we talked last the Team Joy Girl trajectory was modified. After weeks of discussion and prayer we decided to return home to Colorado for the winter!

What?! Why?

Primarily, we both have parents in their 80’s (two are holding their own at 88) who we want to spend time with and provide assistance to. My folks are in Colorado and Craig’s Mom is in Chicago, so we can visit her easily.

Secondarily, Hurricanes Florence and Michael put a dent into our plans. After floating down the rivers we would hit the Florida Panhandle which is, of course, in emergency status. It’s unclear when the marinas down there will reopen, so other Loopers are stuck in a holding pattern in Tennessee and Kentucky right now.

Even if we made it past the horrible hurricane destruction, the sugar sand beaches of western Florida would not be waiting for us. The Red Tide temporarily ruined many of them to the point where our friends cancelled their Sarasota beach condo reservation because of the filth and stench.  And, we had hoped to spend a month on Bald Head Island, home of Cape Fear, in North Carolina this winter. That beautiful area still needs time to repair and rejuvenate after Florence.

And last but not least, this year we’ve read horror stories of boats damaged and even sunk (!) on the rivers. Tales of debris from flooding, shallow water, crashes with tow boats, added on top of our general disinterest in traveling the midwest rivers all worked together to help us decide to head home.

Since we decided to store Joy Girl “on the hard” so late in the season, EVERY marina we called was booked solid already. Thanks to a tip from our friends Tom and Julie Van Hall we lucked into a spot at North Shore Marina in Grand Haven, Michigan. North Shore was only able to accommodate us because of a cancellation that morning. Providence was with us.

So, off we went, back across Lake Mean-chigan. It was a tough two days of pitching and rolling – poor Scully got seasick both days. Thankfully, Grand Haven turned out to be a lovely spot with a fascinating mix of pretty beaches, sand dunes, Fall colors and coniferous trees, too.

During our three weeks in Grand Haven we had dinner with boater friends, celebrated both our birthdays and our 3rd wedding anniversary.

Unfortunately, after a week of great weather, Fall came upon us and it turned cloudy, cold and windy, with winds as high as 30 knots and waves up to 14 feet. No worries, we only watched them from ashore.

Winter is long on the Great Lakes so we won’t see Joy Girl again until next May. She’ll be hibernating in a heated storage unit and having some maintenance work done. We will miss her and our adventures but we’re sure this is the right thing to do during this season of our lives. We are now home in Colorado, enjoying the delightful weather!

We get a lot of questions about our favorite places, so look for our Top 10 Locations post coming up next to wrap up this segment of our adventure.

The Door

Door County, Wisconsin was named after “Death’s Door“, the legendary passage between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. The exact number of deaths and ships lost in this narrow passageway is unknown but the official 1906 Sailing Directions for the area describes the passage this way:

There is a strong current setting in and out according to the direction of the wind, and many vessels have been lost in con­sequence. It is frequently so strong that sailing vessels can not make headway against it. The coast is rock-bound and certain destruction awaits the craft going ashore.

Did we go through it? Noooo, we just peeked over as we rode by!

For the past month, we cruised all over Door County and the waters of Green Bay. Although this area is a bit off the beaten path, Wisconsin is Craig’s boyhood home so he was excited to spend some time here. This area has a quieter, laid back, country feel, tons of homemade ice cream, fried cheese curds, old fashioned Supper Clubs and good, down to earth folks who have never lived outside Wisconsin (a foreign concept for me, haha). It’s not flashy like its Michigan coast neighbor but it’s peaceful and pretty.

In Green Bay, we dressed up (as best we could) for a National Railroad Museum event on their Silver Spirit Dining car. After cocktails and appetizers, the train chugged us around the grounds for a bit and then we settled in for drinks and a delicious 5 course meal. Craig was excited as a kid…on a train!

We had a great visit from our friends Dick and Peg Bousum and Peg’s sister Barb and her husband John. The windy weather didn’t allow us to take Dick out on Joy Girl but we ate a scrumptious lunch at historic Wilson’s and ordered the most decadent ice cream creation I’ve ever seen in celebration of their 47th wedding anniversary. Congrats Dick and Peg!

Last, but not least, we went to the Packers vs Bears home opener, the first game of the Packers 100th season. What a heart stopping game that was only clinched by the Packers with 75 yard run for a touchdown at the 2 minute mark! The crowd was so loud my ears ached and Craig almost lost his voice from screaming the Bears down.

We’ve now traveled 2,700 miles. Wisconsin was a crossroads for us since Craig’s main objective was to bring Joy Girl here. After that, we weren’t sure if we would put her “on the hard” and store her here for the winter, which would allow us to go home and reconnect with friends and family. Or, we could continue with “The Loop” and go down the mid-west rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida, then back to Hilton Head. We’ve been torn, weighing the pros and cons of each option and brainstorming for weeks. At long last, due to multiple circumstances, we’ve decided to finish The Loop!

We haven’t mentioned the Loop a lot because we weren’t sure we would crank all the way round, so here is a map compliments of veteran Looper and resource extraordinaire, Captain John. We will aim for Mobile, Alabama.

We left Green Bay today, heading toward Chicago. After about a week cruising down the eastern coast of Wisconsin, we’ll visit our brothers and Craig’s mom in Chicago, traverse through downtown Chicago in Joy Girl, then head south on the Illinois river. More adventure awaits!


Northern Sky Theater

For the past two weeks we cruised the bay of Green Bay, which extends north from the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin. One of the highlights was the Northern Sky Theater, an enchanting outdoor venue located in Peninsula State Park.

At first, we were flummoxed about how to get there since it’s in the middle of the woods, far away from town, and we don’t have a car. After ruling out bikes (too far, too dark) and Uber (too expensive), Captain Craig wisely concluded,

“We don’t have a car, but we do have a boat…” 

That hatched one of our most fun adventures yet. The day of the show we anchored Joy Girl near the theater in Horseshoe Bay, fired up our dinghy (appropriately named Ode to Joy), motored in to shore, parked it on the beach, and walked the half mile wooded pathway to the theater. We chose the 6pm show so we could make it there and back before dark.

We were not disappointed! “Lumberjacks in Love”, an original musical performed here since 1996, was as hilarious as the title promised, with great acting, nice voices, and goofy jokes. And we enjoyed it all surrounded by towering trees in beautiful weather. Very cool!

In fact, we loved it so much that we decided to go back for another show just two days later. “Dairy Heirs” had one performance at 8pm so we got our bold on and decided that this time we could dinghy home in the dark. It definitely added a new twist to an old plot for us.

As to the show, “Dairy Heirs” is a “Mooo-sical” centered around a Wisconsin dairy farm, and was even better with beautiful voices, spot on comic timing and even a bit of drama…and a completely original script and music. Wow!


Craig has never met a stranger, and instantly struck up a conversation with Nola and Dave as we waited for the mad rush to get the best seats in the unreserved section. We ended up having a blast with them and hope to see them again in September when we travel through their hometown, Peoria, IL.


After the show, we used our flashlight like a dinghy headlight to find Joy Girl as she floated in the harbor with about five other boats. The half moon was glowing gold, the air was warm and the night was calm. We had a ball.

Next week we’ll travel to Chicago to do some family stuff and then we’ll be back in the waters of Green Bay. Talk to you then!

Adult Disneyland: Mackinaw

Mackinaw Island is so picture perfect it’s like an amusement park for grown ups. Touted as Michigan’s crown jewel, it’s encircled by Caribbean-like beaches (only with rocks, not sand), sprinkled with elegant Victorian architecture, crammed full of charming shops, delicious eateries, plus it’s steeped in history, including war. No cars allowed here since the late 1800’s, just horses and bikes are allowed!

The Native Americans believed the Great Spirit lived here and buried their chiefs on the island. It was a fur trade epicenter, site of the first battle of the War of 1812, the nation’s second National Park in 1875 (three years after Yellowstone), Michigan’s first state park, then quickly thereafter transformed into a popular tourist location for the wealthy from Chicago and Detroit. The splendid Grand Hotel, built in 1887, was the filming location of the dreamy romance “Somewhere In Time”.

Sigh. We love it.

All photographers love a Butterfly Pavilion, and I was not disappointed by the small but beautiful one here on the island. I even made a friend…

Only bummer is that the winds picked up. That, and the three ferry lines that bring people in and out on an hourly basis, stirred up the water and flung Joy Girl round and round like she was a bucking bronco. To be fair, we were warned of this possibility, still, we suffered through some of the most uncomfortable days and nights of our entire trip in this marina.

Enduring the bumpy water was worth being here, but tomorrow the weather forecast is good and we’re ready to move on. So, we’re off to Petoskey on the east side of Lake Michigan!

North Channel Island Hopping

Everything we were told about Canada’s North Channel is true… it’s magnificent! More like Colorado than ever, it has even bigger boulders and more pine trees on small foothills. But it is all surrounded by gorgeous emerald green water so clear you can easily see 15-20 feet down.

We focused on the islands in the north eastern part of the channel and anchored at a different island each day, every one unique and beautiful. We explored in our dinghy, swam and bathed off our swim platform, grilled and ate dinner on the back deck, then played cards or read after dinner. Not many people out here, it’s a perfect place to get away. So relaxing…ahhhh…

But the Benjamin Islands deserve a special shout out. Wow, this little group of islands was amazingly beautiful! Not sure we captured it well but let’s give it a shot…

Before entering the North Channel, we stayed at Killarney Mountain Lodge Marina for two days. I fell in love with its mountain decor, pristinely beautiful and expansive grounds, and refreshing pool. If you’d like a Canadian vacation not too far from the States but far away from it all, I’d highly recommend this place. Free kayaks and canoes, too!

Only bad thing about the North Channel is the poor internet connection. But then again, maybe that’s the point!

We headed toward home in FOG. It’s utterly nerve wracking floating through water blindly when visibility is only a half mile – good for the prayer life! But it doesn’t faze Captain Craig who is used to flying airplanes in clouds by instruments only. Ugh.

Yesterday we re-entered the good ol’ USA at Drummond Island, Michigan! We were in Canada for exactly one month and it was very lovely but it’s great to see the stars and stripes flying again, besides on the back of our boat. Today we are headed to the Les Cheneaux Islands in Northern Michigan to anchor out a few days before our stay at Mackinaw Island on July 18th.

And we are delighted to have very special guests visiting us in Petoskey, Michigan on July 23rd!  More on that later…

Where Is Joy Girl?

For our friends and family who wonder “Where are those crazy Kozaks now?” we’ve created a Travel Map that displays our past route and current location. You can always find it by clicking the link “Where is Joy Girl?” at the top of our blog and you can view it here now:


We also get a lot of questions about the kitties and are happy to report that they are adjusting well and now sleep soundly through calm waters and no longer freak out in rougher seas. They are doing great!

Today we plan to harbor at Manteo, Roanoke Island then rent a car and drive over to the Outer Banks to see Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers Memorial, Nags Head and Cape Hatterus. We’re very excited to see those historic locations!


The Cure for Dock Itch

We’ve now been docked here at Shelter Cove Marina on Hilton Head for three full months, and it’s about time for a change of scenery.  Don’t get me wrong. We love it here.  The marina, the people of Hilton Head, the fellow boaters, are all admirable.  And there’s nothing quite like the sight of a trio of dolphins playing joyfully in your bow wave:Dolphin trio crif.jpg

But it’s definitely time to get underway on our big adventure, the primary reason for which we purchased this boat.

To be sure, we’ve had our share of events and circumstances that have slowed us down.  But at long last, we now have a tender and outboard engine that are fully functional:Tender ready to go

We have some very groovy new hats with the boat’s name and hailing port embroidered on them:Joy Girl hats red stone

Everything that we can think of to work on (for now…) has been done.  We’re presently the proud owners of six brand new house batteries (to run most all things electrical on the boat when we’re not in a marina), a functional and legal anchor light for peaceful nights on the hook, and a growing and eclectic collection of spare parts and supplies, none of which will I waste your time with pictures of.

Yes, the itch to get going is getting stronger by the day.  Last night, just for the halibut, we slipped our dock lines and headed out for an impromptu sunset cruise.  It was mostly just an excuse to get out of the marina, but I guess God approved of our decision, as our efforts were rewarded with this glorious view which Niki captured from the pilothouse of Joy Girl:Sunset flare 04-24-2018.jpg

Ashore, the urge to get out and go somewhere or do something is often referred to as “cabin fever”.   But on a boat, many terms are a bit different, and I felt this one needed a nautical translation as well.  Like this Anhinga sitting on our dock, spreading his wings and running his final preflight checklist before takeoff, I believe we are finally ready to go!Diving bird ready to fly off pier after drying wings

So I came up with a new term to describe the irresistible urge to leave the docks and friends of Shelter Cove Marina and be on our way.  I call it…Dock Itch!

And now, it’s about time to go scratch that itch!




The Bitter End

We’ve reached the bitter end. It was a struggle, and we worked very hard, but we’ve reached the end of our rope.

If you speak nautical, then you know I’m referring to the end of our anchor line, which is called “the bitter end”.  In the old days, anchor lines were tied to “bitts” on the deck, hence the name. Our bitter end is housed in a cabinet at the head of our bed.







Yesterday, we untangled our anchor line and spray painted it every 30 feet so we know how far it’s plunging into the water when we “anchor out”. Since Joy Girl is fully self sufficient we can drop our anchor instead of docking at a marina every night.






Since the anchor weighs 45 pounds and might damage the boat as it swings aboard, we slathered bright red paint on the last five feet of chain so I know when it’s about to be hauled onto Joy Girl.  Poor little Niki is responsible for dropping and weighing (pulling back in) the anchor…yes, I’m really that strong!

Actually, it’s all electronic and I simply step on a black pad that controls the “windlass”, which is from the Old Norse vindáss, literally meaning ‘winding pole.’


So, mateys, indeed we are at the bitter end, but our journey has just begun!