Back on the Boat

May 27th, 2010 john

Here we go again!  The Emery El is back on the water.

This has been the longest winter of my life.  I have just lived for the day when I could return to continue this journey.  It seems like I worked on preparing for the return every day while home in Memphis.  But as the days came closer, there was more and more to do.

My worst fears were realized.   Barbara has decided that she will “pass” on this half of the trip.  She dedicated twelve months to the trip and just did not want to be away from the grandkids for another six months.  I sure can understand her position and am very thankful that she wanted me to continue the trip.  The good news is that I have several good friends that have stepped up to the plate and have volunteered to do portions of the trip so I will not be alone.  (It would be very difficult to do it alone.)

Andy Nuckolls, a good friend of mine from Memphis, offered to come back with me to the boat and to help me get it in order, and maybe travel a few days on the Erie Canal, Oswego Canal, and Lake Ontario.  He will then drive my car home to Memphis on June 6th.  The same day Fran Kenny from Houston TX will fly in and stay with me for eight to ten weeks as we travel into Canada, up and back down the Rideau Canal, then up the Trent-Severn Canal.  Last, a boating couple from FL, Maggie and Gary Nosbusch, will join me in Canada for a ride up Georgian Bay and the North Channel (both in Lake Huron), then down Lake Michigan and the inner rivers back to Memphis.  I know it sounds complicated but we have it all worked out.

With all that said, I already miss my first mate. Of course I miss her friendship, and companionship, but the Emery El misses her daily cleaning and care.  It is sure to be a different trip without Barbara.

We arrived at Winter Haven Marina, Brewerton NY, on Saturday and the Emery El was sitting there in the water patiently waiting for us.  And then the work began.  We never did leave the marina and it has now been a week.  There was just a long list of things to be done to the boat.  And then there was the readjustment to “boat-time”.

First of all, the new transmissions have been installed and look wonderful.  Of course after what they cost I would expect them to be decorated for Christmas.  There were two rain water leaks that we spent days trying to resolve, a new WIFI antenna that we had to install. (As Barbara would say, just what we need is another antenna!) 

I won’t continue down the entire list but we did have a funny event yesterday.  We had worked so hard on the fly-bridge gear shifts that every muscle in my body was hurting.  So we decided that we would have a little fun.  We lowered the dingy off the top of the boat with the crane and placed it into the water.  We had totally serviced her before launch, replacing the drain plugs, charging the battery, filling the oil, etc.  When we got in and were ready to go, I started the engine and it kicked off at first try.  Wonderful!  I reached up to move the gear shift into reverse and the entire gear shift handle fell off, luckily into the boat.  Andy and I just looked at each other and laughed.  So for the next hour we were upside-down in the dingy trying to remount the lever.

Job done, we finally had a refreshing ride up and down the Erie Canal with a quick jaunt out onto Oneida Lake.  Then on the way back we stopped at a little waterside restaurant and enjoyed a great dinner viewing the river.

Today they are replacing the gearshift cables on the Emery El that run from the fly-bridge to the pilothouse.  Hopefully that is the last job before departure other then to clean the boat.

So currently the schedule has been modified to depart on Monday depending on weather.  We will head West on the Erie Canal and then North on the Oswego Canal.  We will wait in Oswego for a good weather window to cross Lake Ontario.  I can’t believe that we will go directly across one of the Great Lakes.

It’s great to be back.

By the way, for those of you that don’t know,  I had a knee replacement operation in February and it was a great success.  At the end of this week with all the walking, stair climbing, getting up and getting down, my knee is the only thing on my body that does not hurt.  I’m thinking of going back to ask for a full skeleton replacement next.

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Friday, Barnegat NJ

August 28th, 2009 john

Day: 314  Miles: 00   Total Miles: 2889  Locks: 23

Summer at the Jersey Shore 

At age 17 one of my dreams was to spend the summer at the Jersey Shore.

I was young and frisky, and ready for the world.

Just to be able to roam the beaches and maybe be a lifeguard sparing with the bikini clad girls.  And of course, there would be a party every other night.

That would definitely be the way to roll though a summer.

Suntan and volleyball, and, and  …

In reality, I was able to get to the shore for a day trip several times that summer, but the dream was just not meant to be.

Then, almost 50 years later, what do I do but experience an unplanned summer at the Jersey Shore.  My wife and I had been leisurely traveling up the Atlantic Coast in our boat, as part of a larger trip called the “Great American Loop”.  While on our trip, I unfortunately injured my knee and had to have a small operation with corresponding therapy.

The timing just happened to put us into Barnegat Light New Jersey located at the northern tip of Long Beach Island, a beautiful coastal community in the middle of the Jersey Shore.  This stop was especially great because my wife has a sister and a brother, plus cousins and a sister-in-law living in this specific area.

While I had the small knee operation, and a month of therapy, followed by a series of knee injections, it was all just an excuse to enjoy a summer at the Jersey Shore.  We visited and visited and visited.  We explored. We worked on the boat, with Barbara painting part of the outside and me working on the internal systems as best as I could on one leg. (Using some paid assistance).

Then Barbara took on the project of redecorating and interior painting of her sister’s house located out on one of the beautiful wetlands of New Jersey.  She also helped with some decorating suggestions and projects at her cousins’ request. So for two months, she kept real busy. 

Now with her out of the way many days and nights, I was free to enjoy the summer at the shore. I was enjoying it, but it sure was nothing like what I imagined many, many years before.  I read more books in our summer stay here then I have in any three years of my life. 

I tried to partake in the nightlife by attending several “happy hours” at some of the local restaurant/pubs.  It seems that I just can’t last much longer then a good happy hour.  I got to know several bar-keeps by their first name, and was able to entice many an audience into the tale of the Great Loop.  I must admit, I did enjoy those brief moments.  I made many five minute friends.

I told the locals that I met that I was really here to perform a secret study of life on Long Beach Island (LBI), dedicating myself to the gathering of empirical data on one of the island’s resort qualities.  I told them that I would drive my car up and down the 18 mile island several times a day, scientifically recording observations.  LBI, like most resort areas really promotes visitors walking, jogging, and biking on the island.  There are small shops, cafes, ice cream parlors, and miniature golf courses everywhere.    I had developed a point system to help analyze the “resort” quality of the area.

As I drove I would give one point for every girl in a bathing suit.  I would grant 3 points for appropriate bikinis, minus one for inappropriate (over 300 pounds).  Strictly to keep my study balanced, I would grant one point for young men with no shirts and some muscle tone. And then, there were the specials.   Five points for a young girl in a bikini riding a bicycle. Seven points for a young girl in a bikini jogging.  And finally I would allocate eight points for a group of people who contained at least one young girl in a bikini and one mature man, over 60.  (Maybe I was biased in my survey.)

Then I proposed to cross tabulate the information by time of day and location on LBI.  I was sure that the resulting information would be worth a fortune.

You can be assured that the above is strictly fictitious but it did make for a bunch of laughs at the bar.

In truth, the summer has been delightful. In June, I flew home and brought our car back so we have been able to get around.  I even purchased one of the electronic EZ-Pass transmitters to make our jaunts up and down the New Jersey Parkway less painful by being able to avoid the copious toll booths.

Living on the boat gives us special perspective on life at the shore.  Our boat slip is at the entrance to the High Bar Harbor Yacht Club, right at the mouth of the harbor directly across from the Barnegat Lighthouse. We look out over a natural harbor with wetlands containing all kinds of wildlife.  We get to view all of the boats entering or departing the harbor plus all of the big commercial fishing vessels coming from a small harbor just across the water from us.  In addition to the fleet of commercial fishing boats, there are three large charter boats that go and come three times a day.  They are the Doris May, the Carol Ann and the Miss Barnegat Light, all filled with fishermen excited about their days adventure.  They have to pass through the narrow channel just outside of our harbor entrance, literally less then a hundred yards away.  This all adds up to a large variety of entertainment.  We see boats coming and going at all hours of the day and night, sailboats from 12 to 60 feet, sport fishermen from 25 to 75 feet. We watch dinghies going in and coming out. 

Today there was an especially delightful scene.  There was a dinghy with a dog and his master.  The dog would drop a float into the water and then jump from the dingy as it was moving along, swim back and retrieve the float.  The master would stop the dinghy and the dog would then paddle back up to the side of the boat and wait to be hauled on board.  This would go on over and over.  What a laugh.

The cove in which our harbor is located is just inside Barnegat Inlet, before you get to Barnegat Bay.  From aboard we can watch boats arriving and departing the inlet as well as watch all the activity at the Coast Guard station across the cove with their boats and helicopters coming and going.  There are two small marinas as well as Viking Village.  Viking Village is a little harbor where the charter boats and the colorful commercial fishing boats are berthed.  Plus there are little boutiques and seafood stores to broaden the flavor of the village.  It is really beautiful to see all the fishing fleet with their red, green and white hulls, with rows and rows of out-riggers reaching for the sky.  At night they have their running lights on so there are red and green lights radiating through the rigging.

From the other side of our boat we look out over a section of wetlands.  Every morning there are egrets and seagulls to greet us.  The egrets stand in the sea grass and take flight if you even move in their direction. They are gracefully beautiful.  The gulls, however, are standing around “laughing” at us all the time.  They continuously eat all day.  They will dive into the water, catch something to eat and then land on the dock and have their snack making one heck of a mess.  We have gone through mussel season, when the docks were littered with cracked open shells.  Then there were starfish where the gulls would bring them to the deck and then pick them apart.  And now it seems to be crab season.  I saw a gull right in front of me bring up a large 7” blue claw crab and then proceed to remove the shell and thoroughly enjoy a large snack.   But somehow, nobody ever told the gulls that the claws were the best part.  I guess they are too hard for them to crack.

We have had beautiful sunsets over the harbor, silhouetting all the boats with their masts, towers, and antennas showing through evening glow.  And it has been exciting to watch the rotating light of the Barnegat Light House welcoming the rising moon while being serenaded each evening by the moan of the horn buoy out at the end of the inlet jetty.

I have also made a lot of new friends from the different boats that are home-based here at this harbor.  We are the only transient boat in the harbor so we kind of stick out. I walk the docks nightly with a cigar and beer in hand just doing my nightly duty as Ambassador of the South.

The beach, like most beaches, is very pretty.  That is if you get there at dawn.  Soon thereafter begins the daily migration of all of the visitors from their properties over to the beach.  They have backpacks full of folding chairs and umbrellas. They pull wagons full of coolers and beach toys. It is quite a sight.  It takes about twice the time to traverse the island end to end on the boulevard due to the daily migration.  By mid morning, you can not see the beach.  It has become a parking lot for people, all apparently having the time of their life. 

In my youth I dreamt of strolling down the beach and viewing the sites. (Probably not looking for dauphins).  And now, it might be a short walk in the early morning hours.  Yes there are bikinis, but when you get close, they all look so young.  Am I glad that I did not have a daughter!

Visits and Visitors!  We have had many visitors while sunning at the shore.  Monica and Jim, (B’s nephew and wife), Pat and Lauron (B’s brother and wife), Rita (B’s sister-in-law) , Tommy (B’s cousin) and two friends, Sean (B’s great nephew).Then Margo (B;s cousin) and husband Tommy showed up with 15 kids and grandkids of all shapes and sizes.  What a visit.  Peggy (B’s sister) has stayed several weekends on the boat.  We are going to turn her into a boater yet. 

Then to my surprise, George and Wayne (my cousins) and Brian (my cousin-in-law) showed up just to see how crazy cousin John really was.  I enjoyed their visit but you could tell they were Pennsylvania landlubbers.  They couldn’t wait to get back on dry land, and we hadn’t even left the dock.

We haven’t exactly been holed up on our boat.  We have visited Barbara’s brother Pat and his family, met some of the new members of their family and even got to enjoy a detailed discussion about pirates with Pat’s grandson Shawn.  We had diner over at Rita’s, another one of Barbara’s sister-in-laws ( one of my fellow outlaws, as we say.) 

We took a long weekend and drove out to middle Pennsylvania to attend two family reunions.  As families we get together every summer and it really is special to see all of our cousins and relatives.  Many a story was swapped and a good time was had by all.  The only problem is squeezing back into your car at the end of the weekend after eating four days of reunion food. 

On our return trip Barbara and I did something that we had always wanted to do.  Intercourse!  Yes we followed the signs off the turnpike and went to visit Intercourse PA.  It is a very quaint little town right in the midst of Amish country.  There were beautiful farms, and buggies going and coming.  Of course we had to stop and help the economy again.  It was worth the stop.  (Sorry, no pictures of Intercourse.)

We have gone out to dinner maybe twice a week.  This has given us an opportunity to sample several different menus.  Overall the food has been fine but just at par with any other summer community.  We did find one Italian restaurant that was very special.  I think we will go back there once more before we leave. 

The best meal so far has been a home cooked dinner at Barbara’s cousins.   They went to the boats and bought freshly caught sea scallops.  These were called “dry scallops” because the family tradition of the fishing company disallowed the adding of water to the scallops. Adding water is the norm, this adds weight for commercial sales.  These were dry.  Barbara’s cousin then broiled them and served them with fresh Jersey white corn on the cob.  Talk about delicious!

Anther treat that we have enjoyed is Taylor Pork Rolls.  Barbara grew up in North Jersey with Taylor Rolls as a staple in their diet.  You slice it real thin and then fry it in a pan and serve with eggs for breakfast.  What a treat.  Needless to say we have had an increase in our cholesterol since we have arrived here.

All in all, it has been a very peaceful summer at the shore.  Even though our plans did not exactly match this schedule, it will be a memory that we won’t soon forget.

A special thanks to all who have made our stay here enjoyable.  And a very special thanks go to Margo and Tommy Hofbauer, who have made our stay possible.  Besides being so gracious as to offering the use of their slip, they have had us over for dinner and drinks so many times

It has been a great Summer at the Jersey Shore!

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