Splash Day

Today is Wednesday May 13th and it’s splash day! The first day Painkiller will see the waters of Lake Michigan for the 2020 season. Moving a 30,000 pound boat is always an anxiety producing event, however we have trust in the marina staff to do a good job. We are excited to move from project mode to sailing mode. From dusty, dirty building to clean, cold water.

We are waaaaayyyy back in the back of the building with boats surrounding us and it’s splash day and we need to get out. First they move the boat in front of us out of the way. Our boat sits on a cradle that is a steel structure that is shaped like a rectangle that has 4 sets of poles on each side of the boat with pads on the end that go against the hull and support the hull and the boat from tipping over. Most of the weight of our boat sits right on it’s keel on the cradle with the padded poles on the sides to provide stability from the sides. Ordinarily a boat would be lifted by a travel lift with slings that go under the boat and lift it in the air. However, the travel lift cannot fit into the building and so they take boats out of the building with a huge trailer. The next video clip is the trailer coming in under the boat.

It took them quite a bit of time to get the trailer positioned under the boat and all adjusted to support the boat before they could start moving. Once everything was set, Painkiller starts her journey out of the winter building!! Watch out for the pole to the left! Whew, these guys know what they are doing.

Here’s another clip of moving on out with another pole to dodge on the way out. Now we are getting somewhere. I see the light of the door to the exit! It took 2 hours to get the boat out in the sunshine.

Once we are outside the building, they attached the trailer to a larger truck. The location of the storage building is about 2 miles up the Manitowoc river from the marina. And the storage building itself is several blocks from the Manitowoc river. So, we got towed through the streets of Manitowoc through a very industrial area to the Manitowoc river where we will be placed into the water. You can see in the video that we are following the boat in our car.

Next they positioned the boat near the travel lift, that’s that big blue thing that will lift our boat off the trailer and into the water.

And then just like that Painkiller is in the water!!

Now once we got the boat in the water, we had a few things to do, like check for leaks. Thankfully, all the water was on the outside where it belongs. The marina staff came and checked over the engine since we had them do a bunch of work over the winter and now was the time to test that everything is in working order. Once we were assured that everything was as it should be, Mark and I were ready to set out down the Manitowoc river to the marina which is a couple of miles away. Lots of new firsts for us. New waters, do we know where we are going? How do we get out of here? We have to pass under 2 bridges on the way to the marina. We have never done bridges before on our boat. Do we have our handheld VHF to call the bridge? We are unfamiliar with the entrance to the marina. Where are we going?

PK: “8th street bridge, 8th street bridge, 8th street bridge, this is painkiller requesting opening, approaching from up river, over”

Bridge: “Good morning Painkiller, we see you, we will open on approach”

We continued to motor toward the bridge and watching, wondering if they would open by the time we got to the bridge. There was that moment of hesitation, should we slow down? He hasn’t stopped traffic yet. How long does it take for the bridge to open? Then we realize that the bridge tender has likely done this before (hahaha) even through we haven’t. He opened both bridges right as we got there. All was good.

PK: “Thank you 8th street bridge, this is Painkiller, over and out”

After all that bridge stress, we passed by the Manitowoc Maritime Museum. Sitting right out from is a WWII submarine, the USS Cobia. Currently the museum is closed due to COVID, however we hope it will be open at some point for us to visit.

Now many of you might think that is enough for one day, however you might have noticed from the pictures and videos that our sailboat is missing something. That’s right, our mast is not yet on the boat. When we got into the marina we pulled the boat over to their mast raising area so we could do just that. Over the winter, we had the marina install on new standing rigging. That’s those wires that hold the mast up. Now for most of you that might seems as exciting as getting a new hot water heater in your house, but for us this is like Painkiller get all new shiny jewelry. Not to mention the huge safety issue of keeping the mast up. Have I ever told you there are only 3 rules to sailing? No? Well…rule #1 keep the water on the outside (we checked that out when the boat was put in the water); rule #2 keep the people on the inside (so far so good) and rule #3 keep that big stick thing up in the air (that’s what that new rigging is for). See how shiny?

Then in goes the mast…

This was an all day affair and we were exhausted by the time we got the boat to the slip and could relax a bit. See ya next time!

I am certain you have heard or are familiar with a recent viral outbreak affecting the world right now. It seems you would have to be very disconnected to not have heard. Perhaps like the couple who were traveling on their sailboat from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean during the month of March. Due to their 25 day passage at sea they were completely unaware of the ongoing outbreak, until they attempted to arrive in the Caribbean. They discovered borders closed and were turned away from several countries before being allowed entry in St Vincent.

So, why do I share this story with you? We don’t want to be that couple. Oh, the sailing part, the 25 day passage and arriving in the Caribbean are all great, however being turned away from a port due to the virus is the part that we want to avoid.

In this new and unfamiliar environment, our central question is and has become, where can we go? What is open? What will we find? Will it be safe? Right now there are more questions than answers.

Our “plan” has us leaving Manitowoc in mid-June. For our route information, check out “The Plan” on the home page of our blog. The plan has us going through parts of Canada, 4 Great Lakes, 5 states to get to the Atlantic and 2 canals.

Like the closures we have all experienced due to COVID-19, the marine industry has also been affected by closures. In mid-March we were told Manitowoc Marina was closed and we were not able to even access our boat, which is in indoor storage there. At that point, we had no idea when were we even going to be allowed entry to even see the boat or do any work on the boat. Thankfully, on April 15th, we were told that we would now be able to access boats, with some new rules due to COVID-19. The rules include, signing up for a time slot via a website to request our time to be there, a limit of no more than 5 people in the building at any given time, marina employees must escort us in, and the installation and use of hand sanitizers at all entries.

Social distancing at it’s finest! 5 people allowed in the building the size of your average Costco

As they say, a journey begins with the first step, so access to the boat is a good first step. Now, what else do we need to be able to actually leave? First and foremost, marinas along our path need to be open and boating open and unrestricted in the states we are traveling through. Even if marinas are open for business, it is an entirely another question if they will accept out-of-state transient boats.

We are carefully tracking state stay at home orders for the states we will travel through. Other key considerations are the opening of the U.S./Canadian border which is currently closed. One of the highlights of our trip will take us into the North Channel of Lake Huron in Canadian waters. We do not want to miss this portion of the trip. The other important consideration is the opening of the New York Canal System (a.k.a. the Erie Canal). The canal is currently closed and there are several locks along the canal system that require repair or maintenance for the canal to open for the 2020 season. The repair work has been halted due to COVID-19. The New York Power Authority, which governs the Erie Canal, has stated they will need at least 60 days to complete this work prior to the canal being open for the season. The New York Canal System just issued a Notice to Mariners today that stated the canal will not be opening on May 15th as previously indicated. They did not provide any guidance about a new date.

There are only 2 routes a boat can take from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic. One is the Erie Canal and the other is the St Lawrence Seaway. If the Erie Canal remains closed, the only option with be the St Lawrence Seaway. This option adds significant mileage and time to our trip. In addition to that, both the St Lawrence Seaway and the Welland Canal (connection to get from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario) are closed to pleasure traffic. The St Lawrence Seaway locks are predominantly in Canada and the Canadian border is closed.

So where does all this leave us? Well, there are options. Option #1: Leave as planned (seems less likely as time goes on). Option #2: Leave in a delayed time frame. We will continue to monitor all the closures to see what will open and when. Perhaps the openings will accommodate a delayed time frame. But we would likely need to leave sometime in July. Option #3: delay our departure for an entire year. We would enjoy sailing Lake Michigan and exploring places closer to home and start our longer journey in June 2021.

Definitely lots to consider! Mark and I think the universe is teaching us the lessons of what it’s like to be a cruiser already. Rule #1: Be flexible.

A Celebration

I should back up a bit in our timeline because I want to tell you about a wonderful group of people that we have had the privilege to get to know and spend the last 7 years with at Pepin Yacht Club. The weekend prior to us packing up and shipping our boat to Manitowoc they had a bit of a going away celebration for Mark and I which was very heart warming.

Here’s a glimpse of the fun times:

We love our Pepin family! The night ended with a beautiful sunset!

We almost dropped the cake! But made a quick recovery!

We were gifted a very nice wool blanket for the boat, which we will treasure! We love you all! Don’t forget to come visit us!

Hello Manitowoc

After loading up the boat on the truck on the morning of September 24th, 2019, Mark and I hopped in the car and drove the 5 hours from Pepin, WI to Manitowoc, WI. Where is Manitowoc, WI you say?

Manitowoc is on the eastern shore of Wisconsin on Lake Michigan, just southeast of Green Bay. When we were considering a place to ship our boat, we had several criteria. #1 somewhere on the Great Lakes, #2 somewhere that is a reasonable drive from the Minneapolis area, where we still live #3 a marina with great boat repair services, as we have some work we would like done prior to leaving.

So, that being said, we could have gone to Lake Superior however, Lake Superior is too cold in the spring/early and it would likely add a significant number of miles to our trip. I am not a fan of wearing a turtle neck while sailing. Our other consideration was a marina in Waukegan, IL. Mark and I had been to Waukegan previously to attend a diesel mechanic class and we liked the marina and the staff, however Waukegan, IL is a much further drive from the Minneapolis area and much further south in Lake Michigan when we leave.

The boat arrived safe and sound in Manitowoc! We got there just ahead of the boat and we were waiting for her and the driver to arrive. The truck arrived about 4:30 pm and the marina closes at 5:00 pm, so there was no time left in the day to splash the boat in the water on the day we arrived.

Since there wasn’t anything to be done for the rest of the day, we scouted out a great restaurant in Manitowoc and settled on the Courthouse Pub, which is a great local pub with great food. It is so named as it is directly across from the county courthouse. Brad from Cross Country Boat Transport joined us for dinner at the pub. I just want to give a shout out to Cross Country Boat Transport, they are a fantastic company with fantastic people who do a fabulous job! This is the second time we have used their services, as they also moved “Painkiller” from Florida to Pepin when we purchased the boat. Thank you Cross Country Boat Transport!

The next morning we were up bright and early, the boat spent the night on the truck in the parking lot and Brad slept in his sleeper part of the truck and Mark and I hit the nearby hotel for the night. The marina opens at 8 am and we were there waiting to have the marina staff unload the boat and lift her into the water.

We maneuvered “Painkiller” to her slip at the end of A dock. This is where we will spend the next 3 days putting some of “Painkiller’s” accessories back together. Up first, empty the U-Haul. We rented a U-Haul to transport the dinghy and lots of other misc accessories that either were difficult to put down below on the boat or not really convenient to haul on the truck.

So over the next 3 days we completed the following: Sorry I didn’t have more pictures of these items, too much work and not enough picture taking.

Reinstall the hoyt boom – This is a boom that is for our staysail which is a small sail on the front of the boat. It has it’s own boom which is a large aluminum pole that we needed to put back into a hole in the deck and secure it from down below and put some sealant so water does not find it’s way around the pole and into the hole.

Reinstall the bimini and dodger – This is the canvas and frames for the canvas the cover the cockpit area

Reinstall 2 poles on the back of the boat – We have 2 large poles on the back of the boat. One has the wind generator at the top and the other has the radar dome and a couple of antennas at the top. We had to re-attach the poles and then re-run the wiring for wind generator and radar.

Reinstall dinghy davits – This is the framework on the back of the boat that we use to hoist the dinghy out of the water and where the dinghy resides when we are sailing.

Reinstall solar panels – We have 3 solar panels on the boat. 2 are flexible panels that sit on top of the bimini and 1 is a larger rigid panel that sitting on top of the dinghy davits.

Launch the dinghy and store on deck – We had to pull the dinghy out of the U-Haul at the boat ramp area and drag it down the boat ramp to get it in the water. Mark brought it over to the boat from the boat ramp area and between the 2 of us and one of the marina staff we managed to haul it up on the dock and then up on the fore deck of the boat where is will reside for the winter.

Speaking of winter, we only put “Painkiller” in the water for 3 days to put things back together and then she will come back out of the water and be place in indoor heated storage for the winter. Because this is indoor storage, we will not be reinstalling the mast and that will wait until spring to be reinstalled.

After a lot of work, we are finding we like our new surroundings and are excited about what spring will bring. Here is a little tour of Manitowoc Marina.

That is the SS Badger, she’s a car ferry that docks in Manitowoc and crosses Lake Michigan to bring people and cars across the Lake to the Michigan side.

Here’s the entrance to the marina. This is where we will go when it comes time to depart!

Goodbye Pepin

It’s September 24, 2019. A special day in more ways than one. Today is our 31st wedding anniversary! It is also a hallmark day in our Caribbean adventure. No turquoise waters yet, however every journey begins with the first step.

The first step involves quite a bit of work and effort on our part to take our boat apart and prepare her for shipping on a large truck over land to her new home in Manitowac WI on Lake Michigan where we will begin our sailing journey in June 2020. Prepping the boat took 3 days leading up to September 24th, however the truck showed up the morning of the 24th and took her off to Manitowac.

Removed the boom

Removing the dinghy davits

Wrapping up the frame for the bimini

We left our slip for the last time, heading for the transient dock where the lift is

Mark at the top of the mast removing stuff

Here’s a nice view from the top of the mast, the new dodger I sewed looks great from here

Time to loosen and undo all the standing rigging, that’s the stuff that holds the mast up

The crane is here to remove the mast

Here’s a short video of the mast coming off the boat

The morning sunrise on September 24th. What a beautiful way to end our time on Pepin! It’s moving day!

Painkiller coming out of the water

All loaded up on the truck and ready to go

Bye Painkiller! See you in Manitowac!

Pepin,WI – A Special Place

We have had our boat in Pepin Marina for the last 8 seasons and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our time here. This special place in our hearts has fostered many great friendships that we know will continue after we leave for bluer horizons. There have been magical times had here from sailing on a beautiful day to listening to live street music, dancing and star gazing. We will miss being in Pepin next year but will always hold a special place in our hearts for the people and events that have shaped our time here. Here’s a little pictorial view of Pepin.

Well, one of the things on the list is – update blog!   As you can perhaps see we have ignored our blog for quite sometime.  We bought the boat, enjoyed sailing Lake Pepin for several years and now we are preparing for our departure to sail the Great Lakes, Erie Canal, Hudson River, East Coast and the Caribbean.  Check out “The Plan” to see our route.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of preparation and planning that goes into such journey and we have been in full blown planning mode for several months now. 

There are things to buy – top on our list was new electronics, a comfortable mattress, solar panels and wind generator, safety equipment, charts, cruising guides, spare parts and boat bits and fun things like a stand up paddle board. 

Our new electronics have arrived!

There are projects to complete – sewing projects (new dodger and bimini), installing new electronics, general boat cleaning and maintenance, configuring storage, going through volumes of stuff that needs storage, address health/vaccination issues prior to departure and all the regulatory issues such as passports, global entry, boat documentation, FCC license, boat and health insurance and the like. 

Here’s the new bimini with the flexible solar panels laid out ready to be sewn on 
Here’s the new helm with all the new electronics installed
Took a lot of digging in here and running wires to get all the new electronics installed
All this work makes for one messy boat – Is someone going to clean this up?

We have to remember in between all the planning and projects to stop and have fun!  Sail a little, socialize a little and generally relax. 

Beautiful sunset!
Enjoying time with family!

More to come as we get closer to our planned departure!


Mark’s nickname is Titch.  There is a story behind this nickname, as with any good nickname.  Often when we are sailing, Mark cannot help himself from adjusting the sails and he is never really satisfied with a given sail position and instead the satisfaction comes from the process of continually adjusting.  Nothing is more fun that messing around in boats, right?

Sometimes, Mark will employ other crew members in this process of continued sail adjustment.  “Hey, can you pull that in a titch?”  “Just let it out a titch”  You get the idea.

As this process evolves, the person employed to do the adjusting is left to wonder, how much is a titch?  Well, as it turns out, a titch is a very scientific and precise measurement.  Urban dictionary defines a titch as “a small amount”  It is often better understood when compared to other very scientific and precise forms of measurement, such as a smidge and a skosh.

When a crew member inquires, “how much is a titch?”  The answer is simple really.  It a bit more than a smidge and a little less than a skosh.

It was a cool 58 degrees with about 15 knots of wind, but we didn’t care. We were excited to sail again after a long winter hiatus! And of course sailing with friends is even better.

It’s always fun and exciting to spend time on the boat after a long winter and we have had a longer and colder than average winter and spring.

First the work needed to get done. We were able to get the winter cover off the boat. This was the first year that we did this job ourselves. When we had the winter cover made for the boat, as part of the purchase, Tom put the winter cover on the first fall and took it off the first spring. So, this year it was our job. Boy, that cover is bigger than it even looks. We were able to get the job done in a couple of hours with it all neatly folded up, stored in it’s bag and placed in the storage shed for when we need it again in the fall.

We also started the ever present list of projects for the year. Mark had taken all 3 winches off the mast in the fall. Each winch has a circular piece of teak wood that the winch gets mounted to. We took these teak pieces home over the winter and refinished them along with the hatch boards to the companionway and our boarding steps. All back in place and they look fantastic.

My job was cleaning up the stainless steel exhaust outlet on the transom of the boat and prepping and painting the scupper outlets on the transom of the boat as well. The paint on the scupper outlets was flaking off and just needed to fixed up a bit and this job is next to impossible to do with the boat in the water, so this is a good time to do it.

I was also able to clean all the stainless support poles for the dodger and bimini before we put the canvas back on those. The dodger and bimini are looking a little rough around the edges and now one of the zippers is coming apart. We have new canvas on the list as a future purchase, we just need to decide when and where that is going to happen.

Mark also greased the prop and checked out the zincs and got all that ready for the boat to get wet.

Boy, when I type the list of things completed, it doesn’t seem like much but we were busy all day. Of course, we are more than happy to mess around on the boat after not seeing her all winter 🙂

The winter has been long….

Finally spring is starting to slowly, very slowly, creep over the melting snow and ice. All winter, Mark and I have been plotting the work that needs to be done to the boat this year and most importantly before she is splashed into the water, even though it is still in solid form.

The weather today 45 degrees and sunny, good enough for me, let’s head to the boat and see what we can do.

Our mission today was to replace the intake hose on our port air conditioning unit. We have a leak coming from somewhere on this side of the boat and the highest suspect on the list at the moment are the aging hoses for the air conditioning unit. This hose runs from the pump that supplies both air conditioning units to the air conditioning unit itself. Along the way this hose runs through 3 compartments and therefore 3 bulkheads with a hole drilled through each, so the hose has a place to run through. Unfortunately, each hole is about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter with not only this water hose running through it but also about 6 – 7 other cables, wires and such too, making for a tight area in which to pull the hose through.

Based on a tip that we had heard about from another cruisers blog, we cut a small section of wooden dowel material that fits into the internal diameter of the hose and used that to connect the old section of the hose to the new section of hose by drilling a couple of screws through the hose and into the dowel materials where the hoses now connect.

Now came the fun part, pushing, pulling, grunting, crouching upside down in an extremely small space….yeah! the hose moved about 2 cm….yes, we started out fairly slow, however once we were able to get it moving and had more leverage with more hose to grab hold of, it started to move more and more quickly, until finally we were able to pull the new hose section completely through and the old hose is now removed, Yeah!!! Unfortunately, the integrety of the old hose appeared to be good, too good, so that hose doesn’t seem to be the cause of our leak. So, we will have to move on to replace hose #2 and then hose #3 that are connected to that port air conditioning unit.

Well, after all that hard work, we were hungry and had to have a bit of fun and reconnecting with our sailing friends in the area, so a stop at the Shoreline Pub was in order. It was great to see Kathy (the barkeep) again after a long winter away. Saw our friend Don as well. Had a beer or two and a pizza for dinner while looking at the great views of Lake Pepin. I really can’t describe in words how it feels for me when we are near the water and connected to our community of sailors. It feels like coming home and has an incredibly soothing feeling for my soul to just be near the water and our boat.