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 🙂

You do WHAT? HOW?

Living life on a boat can be, in many ways, similar to life on land.  But if you are actively cruising (or planning to be, as we are) and have no car, certain otherwise simple activities can get a bit more, well, interesting.20180305_083538 crif Lying in the sun here is as good as it gets, according to Scully, but simple chores like doing the laundry or going shopping take on a whole new dimension of difficulty and thought from what we were used to back in Colorado.

Take, for example, a simple food run to the grocery store. We’re blessed to have a large Kroger (South Carolina’s version of what we call King Soopers back home) located just down the way from our marina.  But without a car, we have to open the lazarette (a large hatch for storage under the aft deck), pull out a bike or two (our folding Dahon “Mariners”, made for just such a time as this), and assemble and adjust them.  In earlier posts to this blog you’ve seen the ramps up and over to the land; riding along a dock and up a steep ramp on a 20 inch wheeled bike is entertaining.  Then down the paths, through the parking lots, and over to the store, where we limit our acquisitions to those that can be placed in the store’s smallest carts.  “Why?”, you ask.  Because whatever we purchase must go into a backpack or be hung on our bikes for the ride home.MVIMG_20180222_111124 crif.jpg  The result can take on quite a Beverly Hillbillies appearance, often leaving us singing “So they loaded up the bikes, And they moved to Hilton Head. Tug boats, Dolphins…

Going shopping for other essentials (as Captain Jack Sparrow despairs, “Why is the rum always gone?”) or larger items can involve longer rides or, with a bit of good luck and a lot of gratitude, we borrow a friend’s car. We are very blessed to have two of Niki’s cousins living here on the island, and Nancy and Shari have been more than gracious in helping us out when we needed to transport larger things from farther away.

Another adjustment we’ve made is not having laundry equipment on board.  Joy Girl used to have a washer/dryer, but it was removed and never replaced.  The overwhelming majority of boaters we’ve queried have opined that most all-in-one, non-vented laundry units end up being used for storing extra bedding or keeping pet food away from hungry mouths and radar-like noses, at best, or for getting clothes more wet than clean and almost never drying them, at worst. So, we gain a cabinet and dodge a potential headache.

Our marina, Shelter Cove, has wonderful laundry facilities, which are free to use by boaters in the harbor.  And, they’re only about 250 feet from our boat.  That’s a short walk if you’re Jesus, but since I’m not able to walk on water (my wife will gladly confirm this), it’s right at a two mile footslog out and back as we circumnavigate essentially the entire 175 boat harbor.  So, rather than schlep our well loaded laundry sack that distance or attempt to balance it on a bike, we take the nautical route: a kayak!MVIMG_20180308_133915.jpgLaunch the little orange baby bateau, toss in the laundry tote, and a few quick paddle strokes later we’re at the marina and ready to get to work! It looks a bit bizarre, but it beats going treking without a sherpa.

The other big adjustment to which we’re still attempting to acclimate is the rapidity with which the owner of a boat can go through “boat units”.  Several things on Joy Girl were not quite as they should have been (in my opinion) and some maintenance had been a bit deferred.  And things on a boat seem to have a way of going awry at the darnedest of times, much more than I had ever realized.  There’s probably not much another “boat unit” or two, or some time contorting an old body into a small space or spending some time in the engine room won’t correct. MVIMG_20180320_170828 crif.jpg Still, keeping the boat even close to shipshape and Bristol condition is certainly an ongoing process at best and a sleep stealing headache at worst.

What’s a “boat unit”?  You can find that on Google… 😉

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!

Shelter Cove Sunrise

After a enjoyable meal and convivial time with local friends and relatives aboard Joy Girl, it might have been easy to think things couldn’t get a whole lot more idyllic.  Ah, but then we woke this morning, peered out the window, and saw what looked like an amazing sunrise in the making.  Tossing on a Fort Collins Cat Rescue hoodie but skipping my Tevas, I strode up the ramp to the wharf and was rewarded with this magnificent view:

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It was so glorious I almost forgot how frigid my bare feet were becoming on the 35 degree cement.  Well, almost….

The Officers Move Aboard

After several trips for preparation and on board training by their human crew, the feline officers of Nordic Tug 42 “Joy Girl” have made the long journey from Colorado and moved aboard and assumed command of their new boat.

Here we see Roswell, sitting and looking stately as he prepares to take command from the pilothouse.Maker:S,Date:2017-9-17,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

Meanwhile, Scully was spending some time checking out the view to starboard from the pilothouse screen door.  She was fascinated (and, seeing that she’s a cat, perhaps a bit concerned) to look out and see all that water,Maker:S,Date:2017-9-17,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve and was quite intrigued when the boat in the next slip started shooting out water (perhaps from their gray water tank).

Happily and much to the relief of their human crew, Scully and Roswell are adapting to their new home quite well.  With their “Cats On Board” flag proudly  hoisted to the masthead, these two officers of the ship are enjoying exploring their vessel and meeting new friends here at Shelter Cove Marina on Hilton Head Island.

Joy Girl Gets (more) Ready To Go

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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…