My Girl

When we first arrived in Grand Haven I often found myself humming this old Temptations tune...

I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May. We’ll, I guess you’d say what can make me feel this way… Joy Girl, talkin’ ’bout Joy Girl.

Yes, she is a wonderful girl and we are so happy to be aboard!

Which led us to wonder, why is a boat called a “she”? We like this explanation the best:

“A ship is called a she because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men about; in the days of sailing she had a waist and stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her good-looking; it is not the initial expense that breaks you, it is the upkeep; she can be all decked out; it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly; and without a man at the helm, she is absolutely uncontrollable. She shows her topsides, hides her bottom and, when coming into port, always heads for the buoys.”

We’ve spent the week provisioning, cleaning, discussing future plans and performing small fixes. Her keel is repaired and all ready to go. We even disassembled the master head (toilet) and replaced a seal by ourselves, woo hoo! But since the marina did not have time (in 7 months?) to fix the electrical issue, we’ve decided to take care of that problem farther north. We received references for electrical experts from the Nordic Tug dealer in Traverse City. Suffice it to say, most marinas seem to work on island time while boat owners anxiously circle around them, waiting breathlessly with wallets in hand for the work to be done. We miss Jesse, our local expert in Hilton Head!

The ships officers (aka the kitties) had a smooth transition back to Maritime life.

They ran around comfortably like they were home and happily scratched their backs on the carpet. When Craig started the engine, Admiral Roswell did not flee to the lower regions in terror, hallelujah. And this time we brought seasickness pills for Supreme Commander Scully-when I take mine, she’ll get a dose, too.

Tomorrow we leave for the little town of Whitehall, MI. It’s just 3 hours north of us so our first jaunt will be short and hopefully sweet as the weather is predicted to be perfect: mostly sunny, high of 73, and winds calm at 5-10mph. We’ll stay there for a couple days, then continue to move north.

No decisions yet, but the possibility of completing the Great Loop had resurfaced

so, who knows, we may go down the rivers this Fall. Since two locks on the Illinois river will be completely closed for repairs next year, it’s pretty much now or never. But it depends on a lot of factors…

P.S. We’re happy to report Mom and Dad are doing great at home!

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 🙂

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!




How Lowwwww Can You Go?

As an inland lake sailor who grew up sailing the waters of Wisconsin and then those in and around Colorado and the Caribbean, the word “tide” to me mostly referred to the laundry detergent my mom preferred (and that kids now allegedly eat).  The idea of water getting noticeably deeper and shallower twice every day simply was not part of my boating background.

Now we’re living on a boat less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean as the seagull flies and about 5 miles by water, so tides are very much a part of our lives.  Our tides here at Shelter Cove Marina average about 7 feet, twice each day.  That means the view from our boat of the ramp to the wharf on land typically varies from something like this:20180201_090645

to something about like this about every 6 hours and 15 minutes:20180201_152725

Occasionally the full moon teams up with Mr. Sun to exaggerate the high and low tides, and yesterday we had a pair of exceptionally low tides.  One took place in the middle of the night as we lay sleeping, the second occurred mid afternoon to share with us all its (in this case, rather ugly) glory.  Here was the view we suffered off our stern at low tide:20180302_145551.jpg

The surface you see exposed is a nasty, gooey muck called “pluff (or plough) mud”, accurately described on one website as “a Carolina Lowcountry entity — the slippery, shiny brown-gray, sucky mud, with a distinctive smell like none other”.  I couldn’t begin to better describe this disgusting stuff myself!

Things tend to sink into this slop as if it were quicksand, but if enough of it is present and the water recedes far enough, even a 35,000 pound boat can be pushed up out of the goo.


This is the stern (back) of Joy Girl, sitting nearly a foot higher than she normally would (the normal waterline is just below the red “boot stripe”).  She is so stranded that the stern thruster (the tube under the swim platform) which is normally totally under water is now almost fully exposed.  The water intake for our heating and cooling units is just forward of that on the other side of the boat, so they were totally unusable for about 3 hours.  Providentially, we were blessed by glorious weather that required neither heat nor AC that day.

Fortunately, dredging operations to deepen the entire harbor are proceeding 7 days a week, and last night the boats on the other side of our dock were moved to make way for the dredging crew.  Our side of “K Dock” is on deck after that, so with any luck we should be in deep water (the best kind!) in about a week!



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!

First Kitty Cruise

Today we woke up early and took our first cruise with the kitties! When Craig fired up the big diesel engine both cats fled down to their favorite hiding place, a dark, cozy corner under the downstairs navigation desk.

After we left the marina, I pulled Scully out first since she is the braver, more curious kitty. At first she hid her eyes under my arms and refused to look around, but when she realized the ride was quite steady and slow, she popped her head out and was soon exploring without complaint.

Then I extricated Roswell, my sweet lover boy who has serious scaredy-cat tendencies. He shook a little when he first saw the water rushing by outside the window but after snuggling in my arms for a while he settled right down. Soon he was confident enough to drive the boat with Daddy.

After we docked the boat, which requires opening doors, throwing lines, bow and stern thruster noise, and Craig and I stomping around the boat, we thought we’d come back in to find the kitties hiding below decks again. But no, they were both sitting comfortably on the pilothouse couch, happy as two little clams. We’re happy to say the first kitty cruise was a success!

Joy Girl Gets (more) Ready To Go

20170920_095153_001 crif

A few weeks ago Joy Girl was hauled out at Palmetto Bay Yacht Center to get a fresh coat of bottom paint and “prop speed” (coatings which keep crud and critters from adhering to her bottom), a process that we hope won’t have to be repeated for several years now that she – and we – will be on the move much more.  To say it’s a bit disquieting to see one’s 35,000 pound boat dangling in the air, supported by but two straps, is quite the understatement!

It’s a lot less intimidating to look at her on stands during the paint job (with thanks for the following two pictures to our friend, Captain Shawn Minahan).

bottom job 12-2017 1

As long as we had Joy Girl up and out of the water, we also replaced the seals on the propeller and the rudder shafts, making sure she is once again water tight and will remain so for the foreseeable future, as the parts and labor are far from inexpensive! We had several anti corrosive “zincs” (see picture below) changed out as well, all in the effort to more fully prepare her for the journey ahead.

bottom job 12-2017 2

With some luck, we’ll be back aboard Joy Girl in about a month…maybe even less.  We can hardly wait!

Christening Joy Girl

In December we christened Joy Girl in Shelter Cove Marina on Hilton Head Island!

All traces of her old name (Rambler) were removed and her new name was unveiled. My cousin Shari and her mother Nancy were very thoughtful and brought us a bottle of champagne, which we used to sprinkle Joy Girl after praying to the Lord (and Neptune!) for safety at sea and fun aboard.

Neptune, the god of the sea, stands in the midst of our marina as working sun dial. We thought it might not be a bad idea to ask for his graces…