Thank you to the scores of people who supported us as we prepared for our little family adventure. To our families and friends, thanks for the love and cheers, especially now as we’re out here in the blue yonder. We’re grateful for your comments on our blog too, it’s especially made the kids feel connected. Our families and long-time friends already know what we think, so here we really want to say a special thanks to all the kind folks we met as we started planning for this trip in earnest and then as we finally got underway.
The Foxes. Though the Foxes appear later in the story, we wanted to start by thanking them. So, thank you Dennis and Julie! Sometimes you meet people so generous and kind to you, who sort of take you under their wing, you just count your blessings and think how lucky you are to have met them. Well, Dennis and Julie Fox have been those people for us. The son of a Texas chicken farmer and the daughter of a WWII Marine POW (and Korea and Vietnam veteran too), the Foxes built a successful plumbing business in the Pacific Northwest, sold it, and have been boating ever since. We bought our boat from the Foxes in May.
Not six months later, by happy coincidence, they pulled into the slip next to us in a marina in Jensen Beach, Florida in their Krogen 58’, Sea Fox. There we were busy bees learning the systems on our boat and outfitting it for our journey, and along came the…Fabulous Foxes (as Daria likes to call them). Our learning curve was steep, but our upward march was sort of slow. We knew the pointy end was the front, but really being able to efficiently manage total amperage and amp hours in our house bank of batteries, for example, was new to us. In the next few months, Dennis proceeded to patiently teach me and Keenan the ins and out of our own boat. (Dennis also introduced us to Linda & Lawrence Reeve, who proceeded to give us sage advice too on the Bahamas and on boating in general. See more on the Reeves in our March 7th blog.)
Having sailed in many parts of the world with Julie (including crossing the Atlantic in their Krogen trawler as well as having done the Great Loop) and having owned a number of Krogens, Dennis just knows his stuff. It’s also not hard to see why he was so successful in business – he’s demanding but fair, has an expert’s knowledge, is a great listener, has done the hands-on dirty work himself (and enjoys it!), and is just a natural teacher. And funny to boot! We’ll have lots more to say about the Foxes, but will close by noting that not only have we gained years of knowledge from them in just a few months, but we’ve so enjoyed their company – the kids especially. Thanks Dennis and Juile! We look forward to seeing you on the water up on the east coast.
Christopher Cooke. We also wanted to send a big thank you to Chris Cooke, our superb broker who helped us find Muddy Waters. Chris, who works at United Yacht Sales, has been a friend from the beginning of our search, and we were very lucky to have connected with him while fishing, at the time, for a Krogen Express. Chris has been helping people buy and sell boats for 15 years. Buying or selling a boat? Chris is as good as there is. He keeps everything in calm perspective, and that just might come from being a U.S. Army veteran, having served in combat missions in places like Somalia.
Chris helped us in all phases of buying the boat and getting it from the west coast to the east coast of the United States. He pointed us in the right direction on everything from transportation (with YachtPath), registration, to insurance, marinas, technicians, you name it. He also was kind enough to pay for the Muddy Waters name on the boat! And, through all our trips to the marina in Stuart from Miami, Keenan and I got to spend time hanging-out with Chris, who’s about my age, and his son Spencer, who’s the same age as Keenan. What better bonus?! Muchas gracias Chris.
George Stalker. George is equal part brains and brawn. He commissions most the new Krogen trawlers, meaning he takes the raw product and adds hard-to-understand things like hydraulics, electrical, mechanical, custom gizmos, etc. that makes the boat a…well, he makes it into a yacht. From the strength of George’s forearms, Keenan and I weren’t sure George even used tools. We thought he’d just bend steel with his hands and then cut it with his teeth. Turns out he actually has a machine shop on his farm and a pretty vast collection of tools. He probably cut his teeth building racing sailboats for his daughter years back. We also enjoyed listening to George philosophize (another term we use onboard Muddy Waters) on topics ranging from macroeconomic policy to open-circuit voltage vs. specific gravity. If you need someone to make your boat right, call George. He runs his own business in the Stuart area, Stalker Marine Service. Thank you George.
Scott Wiley. Like George, Scotty is another boat genius who commissions boats, fixes ‘em, bails out cruisers with mechanical or electronics problems, and generally knows everything there is to know about a boat’s systems. Two important things to know about Scotty (a partner in Bristol Marine Technologies). First, he speaks some form of Maryland dialect, so it’s important to pick it up quick in case you’re in the middle of a passage and your alternator gives up the ghost, the main engine thermostat starts to rise, and your wide open throttle test shows way too much vacuum. (For example, to Scotty it’s not an oil dip stick, it’s da’ dippity stickity, or some such expression.) And second, he will only work on your boat as long as the supply of M&M’s lasts. Keenan and I were changing filters in our reverse osmosis water-maker today, and sure enough we found some M&M’s scattered in the engine room. Scotty knows his stuff cold and has already helped save our bacon, by text message and telephone, in the Keys and Bahamas. Thanka-anka, Scottee-o.
Chris & Alyse Caldwell. Since we went from a coastal cruising sized sailboat to this large trawler, we realized we had lots and lots to learn. And fast. Running a boat like ours is a little like being mayor of a small town (except for the democracy part of course). We have to manage fuel, electrical, waste, health (physical and mental), maintenance, navigation, etc. So to help us learn as quickly as we could, we enlisted the services of Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell. In addition to a delivery and a few great training sessions onboard with just me and Keenan, we also spent two days cruising in the St. Lucie River with the Caldwells, doing a stem to stern review of the boat, man-overboard drills, line-handling, and all-around good boatsmanship. We immediately learned, naturally, just how much we didn’t know about trawlers! But, Chris and Alyse were terrific – patient, knowledgeable, and fun to be around – and taught us tons, but also gave us some tools to use to figure things out on our own. They’re a great team, hire ‘em if you need to know how to manage a trawler. Out here on our own, we’re sure grateful for what they taught us. Thanks Chris and Alyse!
Michael Moratta. Speaking of learning, I also wanted to send a special thanks to Mike Moratta. I was one of Capt. Mike’s students a year ago in the U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license course. I learned boat-loads from Capt. Mike about navigation and rules of the road and even managed to acquire my OUPV Coast Guard captain’s license. Capt. Mike spent many years honing his outstanding teaching skills as a U.S. Army instructor and practicing his patience as a U.S. Postal Service employee. He’s a super teacher, and we all agreed he probably kept order in our class just like he did for his Army trainees. Listen and learn. Or else. He and his wife Dianne live aboard their beautiful blue Hunter 46’ sailboat Express Mail. We ran into Capt. Mike just a few days before leaving the docks in December, and he kindly loaned us the one and only movie we have aboard Muddy Waters – Captain Ron, starring Kurt Russell and Martin Short. As a tribute to Capt. Mike, we’ve started calling our kids Swabbies. Thanks Capt. Mike!
John Gear and Kadey-Krogen Yachts. John’s the president of Kadey-Krogen Yachts and has been superbly supportive of us from the day we acquired Muddy Waters. He has a great team of professionals at the company, and we’ve received all kinds of tips and advice from John and team. Just before departing, we were invited to attend a seminar on generators at their office, for example, by Krogen vice president of operations Tom Button. Most recently, we let John know Keenan’s taken an interest in naval architecture; well, that same day, John sent us back a thoughtful note from Krogen’s own naval architect on sources (books, schools, websites) Keenan might turn to in order to learn more.
Having to stay in touch with a fleet of owners who are, without fail, highly demanding and detail-oriented would raise anyone’s blood pressure. But, John approaches everything with a zen-like calm and composure that makes us realize he simply knows his company makes a sturdy, ocean-capable, beautifully-built boat. And from all the cruisers we’ve met (and our own experience), we’ve also learned that Krogen’s commitment to service and excellence is unparalleled in the industry.
Krogen also has its own talented blogger, Shannon Band, who announced our family’s plans to go on this little adventure in a nice blog post and newsletter article in January. Thanks again from our family to the Krogen family for welcoming us so warmly. We’re overwhelmed – in a good way – by the kindness and grateful for all we’ve learned and the new friends we’ve made.
Tom Selman. Tom, a friend of Dennis Fox, was the captain who joined us on our cruise through the San Juan Islands. You’ll see his photos in the Maiden Voyage photo album. Keenan and I certainly learned a lot about how to handle a single engine trawler (parking it especially) from Capt. Tom, but the learning was between all the jokes Tom and Pappy (my dad) were exchanging. Few of them were good jokes, but seeing two grown men laugh like that at sea will bring a smile to your face every time.
We all especially enjoyed Roche Harbour where Tom got a beer and Pappy asked for their stiffest drink (Pappy doesn’t really drink much so wouldn’t know what drink to order by name). Here they were, two large sea-faring men, ready to have their equivalent of a ration of rum after an ocean passage and out comes the waitress with the bar’s strongest drink for Pappy – the, um, Fluffy Duck. A nice pink-ish foamy drink, with whip cream, a cherry, and a straw… Tom, thanks for teaching us a lot about maneuvering the boat, it’s helped many times out here. But thanks especially for the good laughs with Pappy.
Four Fish Marina. We also wanted to say thank you to the good people at Four Fish Marina on the ICW in Jensen Beach, Florida. Managed by John Fels, the crew at Four Fish helped us get our boat ready while we stayed at their docks for a good part of last Fall. By Keenan’s estimation, we ate at Jack & Tony’s Pizza – across from the Four Fish Marina – for one week straight. Everyday. Two meals a day. Sadly, they weren’t open for breakfast. Anyway, the Four Fish Marina team was professional and helpful, and we expect to stop there again for a short spell while we re-provision when returning to the states. Thank you Four Fish.
Stephen Delaney. Steve, who’s the sales lead at Martek, did a terrific job of supporting us in planning for some additional electronics on our boat – a flybridge chart-plotter and radar display, a satellite weather program, a second VHF receiver, and an engine-room camera. Greg was the expert technician and installer who made sure all the pieces were in place, that everything talked to everything else, and that we’d be ready to set sail with all this fancy new stuff. Steve was not only an ace at finding the right equipment for us, he came out to Muddy Waters a number of times well after everything was set-up to train me and Keenan on how everything worked. Keenan always got it on the first round, but I needed the second (and third and…) tutorial. You won’t meet a more detail-oriented person than Steve, something vital in the world of marine electronics. He knows his stuff, is up on the very latest industry developments, was available to us at all hours to answer question, and was just an all-around nice guy to work with. And so, Steve, we wanted to say thank you for the super work.
Beard Marine. Joe Rosenberg, general manager of the Palm Beach office of Beard Marine came out to look at our boat himself when we asked for quotes on installing air conditioning. We learned right away that Joe knows the business thoroughly, is a boater himself, and is a person of impeccable integrity. Though Joe manages a large office he came to the boat every day as their lead technician Zavier Vega took the lead on the engineering, mechanical, and electrical tasks. Joe kept his skills sharp too by running wires and positioning equipment. Only a boat owner, and maybe only THIS boat owner, would appreciate the engineering it takes to wire and plumb a 10-year old boat that’s already wired and plumbed with another system. Joe and Zavier did a superb job, worked hand-in-glove with the shipwrights at American Yacht Restoration, and were a lot of fun to be around. As with everyone else who worked on the boat, Keenan and I watched closely so we could learn as much as possible about how all this stuff works. Beard Marine has a first-class team, and we’re grateful for their super, er, cool work on Muddy Waters.
The Great Harbour Family. Though they might not remember us, it was Jonathan and Judie Jenkins of Double J who introduced us to the Great Loop. We were sailing in the Abacos a few years ago, thinking about buying a larger sailboat (here’s one we looked at closely) and moving aboard some day to sail down the Caribbean islands. Then while cruising one afternoon off Great Guana Cay in the Bahamas, we saw a boat the kids insisted looked just like Popeye’s. It was a GH37 trawler. Fortuitously, we ended up at the same marina as Double J later that day, and after sitting at the docks and staring at Double J like little kids looking at a giant toy in a store window, the Jenkins invited us aboard and told us all about the Great Loop, which they’d completed a few years earlier.
The Jenkins also gave us their copy of the book, Honey, Let’s Get a Boat. Jennifer and I each took only a day to finish the humorous and informative book by Rob and Eva Stob (founders of America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association). Jennifer and I have been married to one another since 1994, and by now we know almost intuitively when we’re thinking the same thought. And we were by the final page of that book (actually, mid-way through it). Jennifer and I agreed that for home schooling (for us as teachers and our kids as students), there could be no better sailing/steaming route than the Loop. It was that quick. Teach American history by visiting historical sites themselves! St. Augustine, Savannah, Charleston, Yorktown, the Chesapeake, New York City, the Hudson, the Erie Canal, the Great Lakes, Chicago, the Mississippi River, St. Louis, Mobile, the Gulf of Mexico, Key West… And so many more cities and sites. And we could cruise in the beautiful waters of the Bahamas, located right in our backyard, to boot.
We’d also like to thank Ken Fickett (founder and owner of Mirage Custom Boats, which makes Great Harbour trawlers) and Eric Kraft (chief of sales) for inviting us to a two-day seminar of Great Harbour owners in Gainesville, Florida a few years ago. Keenan and I drove up from Miami, learned a lot about trawlers, and got to meet lots of nice folks. The following spring we even chartered an N37 trawler for a week in the Bahamas to see if the trawler lifestyle was for us.
We’ve owned two sail boats and always planned to live aboard a sail boat. But, the tide began to turn on our next boat choice after we focused more on the homeschooling aspect of living aboard. And to do the Great Loop and pass under hundreds of bridges and through nearly as many locks, a trawler just seemed to make more sense than a sail boat. In a sail boat we’d have to step the mast for large portions of the trip and also wait for the vast majority of bascule and swing bridges to open. Our minds were made up – a trawler it would be. That said, the Great Loop has been done in sailboats! And we did keep our day sailor (co-owned with Uncle Doug!) in Miami for when we return because not much can match the feeling of cruising by wind power alone… (More about why we choose a trawler, and this trawler in particular, in a later post.)
Last, but certainly not least, among the Great Harbour family members, we owe the biggest thanks to Brooke and Dee Williams who live aboard East Passage, a GH47. Keenan and I met Brooke at the seminar in Gainesville. We met-up with Brooke (a retired English teacher) and Dee (a retired doctor) the following summer while on a Samway family vacation in Maine (in Bayside, our very favorite place on Earth!), and the Williams took us, and my parents, for a lovely ride on the Penobscot Bay aboard their trawler and gave us good guidance on all things boaty.
Turns out Brooke and Dee are also accomplished photographers, though they’d be the last to admit it. Recognizing Keenan’s interest in boats and cameras, Brooke offered to mentor Keenan on the art of photography. You can see some of Keenan’s work on display in our photo albums. Brooke helped school Keenan on mechanics, settings, lighting, composition, timing, vision and so on. We managed only a few sessions over the phone with Brooke last semester before we moved aboard full-time. Once we’re back from the Bahamas (and the $4/minute calls, assuming you can connect), we promise to re-connect if Brooke and Dee aren’t then out of reach themselves deep in the southern Bahamas and shooting pictures of the Out Island Regatta in Georgetown… In the meantime, thank you Brooke and Dee for your mentorship and good guidance. We’re very grateful!
Our families and long-time friends know we thank them immensely for all they’ve done for us, but here we want to say thank you again to the individuals, teams, and new friends who’ve helped us make this idea of cruising with our family into something tangible. We’re here. It worked. Thank you.