Like most things, the beginning of this adventure is not defined by a specific event or time or place. It is, rather, an awareness that we have started on a path that was initially ill defined, but now is turning into something more and will lead, we hope, to some grand adventure.
This realization came upon me in the brown, oil covered water of our marina, underneath our new (to us) catamaran. While treading water and endeavoring not to drown, I was simultaneously trying to get a cotter pin off a nut on the propeller on our starboard engine so I could determine if we had slipped a hub. I had a needle nosed pliers in hand, praying that as I jerked back on the pin, that it didn’t drop straight into the Chesapeake bay, when I realized that this was going to happen.
We are going on the Great Loop.
The Great Loop is a route around the eastern seaboard of the United States that is over 5000 miles in length, depending on the route you choose to go, and takes something like a year to complete, depending, of course, on your boat and how fast you want to go. I had read about the great loop on the internet in the spring, talked to Jan about it and we went from ’sounds fun’ to ‘we should do this’ to ‘we are DOING THIS!’ over the course of a couple of weeks.
To make the trip, one needs to have a boat—it is a bit too far to swim. Our choice was to use our existing boat, but our sailboat at the time had two issues. First was the draft—it had a four and a half foot draft which was great for the Chesapeake, but a shallower draft would work better on the canals and rivers that are part of the Loop. Second was the space. It was good for our week long adventures on the Chesapeake, but one goal for the Loop is to all come back safe and sound, and on the 33 foot Beneteau, someone would get pitched into water at some point on the trip.
Deciding it would be better for our sanity to get a larger boat, we decided to go with a sailing catamaran and after a couple months of looking, decided on a PQD36 which we purchased at the end of July 2016. She was in need of a little TLC, but fit our needs well. Three cabins, two of which had queen sized beds. Two engines for some redundancy, sails for sailing when we had the opportunity, shallower draft of two and a half feet. And most importantly, some space for the trip!
The boat was in Middle River, north of Baltimore, and we picked an early August weekend forecast for good weather to move to boat down to Herrington Harbor North. The plan was to move the boat and then begin the preparation activities for our trip over the next couple of months. The trip was eight hours by motor if nothing went wrong. Which of course, it did. Weather kicked up and we bailed just north of Annapolis and spent a nice (windy) night in a protected anchorage.
We made it to the marina no issues on Sunday and the next weekend met our good friends for a day on the new boat. On our way to Herrington Harbor South the starboard engine stopped moving the boat. It was on, it would rev up, but no power. We made it to the marina just fine and in retrospect we should not have been stressed, but we were. First week with the boat. So I muscled the boat around on one engine and then headed back to North. Kids played in the pool at North while I searched google for the solution.
Google was helpful in identifying about one thousand things that could be wrong, so I turned instead to the sage. Pat, my boss. Pat has sailed around the world—took five years off his job. And has forgotten more about boats than I ever learned. I described the problem with my outboard and he said ‘spun prop’ and described how to replace the defective propeller. Which has got me in this water. Today. Contemplating the journey on which we are about to embark. And contemplating a really long, hot shower.