On the Hard


Lisa and I started writing about our Great Loop boating adventures for Boat US online Cruising Logs in the summer of 2008, just prior to our departure from our homeport of Charlevoix, Michigan. Here it is almost two years later and we have not yet completed the 6,000-mile journey, as a matter of fact we’ve gone somewhat backwards on our route. Kismet made it to the Chesapeake Bay last summer and we liked the area so much we ended up spending five months exploring the “Bay.” When fall arrived we backtracked down the east coast following the warm weather south. First on our itinerary was to check off an item on our cruising “bucket list” by completing a trip down Florida’s beautiful St Johns River. (See prior logs: Jan 15, 2010 New Frontiers and Feb 1, 2010 Three Nights in Paradise.) We continued on to the spectacular west coast of Florida and slowed down a bit to spend two relaxing months in Key West. It’s here in Key West where we decided to put Kismet into storage, temporarily suspending our Great Loop adventure for just a little bit. This is a deviation from our original plan so we thought it was important to share with you our future intentions and why we’ve made a change in our, up to now, rather nomadic lifestyle.

This is what one vacuum bag looked like before we sucked the air out to protect the soft goods from humidity. With the air sucked out the size is reduced by 30% and the contents are safe from Florida’s long hot humid summer.

First of all I want to clarify that we do plan on finishing the Loop, however, our priorities have recently changed. When and how we finish will be a moving target that we’ll continue to work on each boating season (winters) going forward until we return to our home waters of Lake Michigan and finally complete our second Loop. Lisa and I have been cruising for four and a half of the last five years and we felt it was time to become part-time dirt dwellers once again in our hometown of Traverse City, Michigan for six months and then back to cruising during the balance of the year. It had gotten to the point where the pull of home became stronger than our desire to cruise fulltime. Without an established home base to occasionally return to, we found we missed family and hometown friends more and more over the years and the short trips home didn’t quell these longings. In addition, along with the recent passing of my father, both of our mothers are at an age that may require our assistance. We felt it was important for us to be closer and more accessible so that we are able to spend more quality time with them as the years unfold.

We’ve recently purchased a home in our old hometown of Traverse City, Michigan (we sold our last home in 2005 just prior to our first Great Loop trip). We’ve recently (twenty-four days, ten hours and 33 seconds ago) – but who’s counting?) tucked our Kismet into a storage facility in Key West, Florida for safe keeping until we return later in the year. In the meantime our logs will focus first on our storage preparations and precautions for our trawler, then we’ll continue writing about our many Loop adventures and cruising in general with our next log featuring the AGLCA Spring Rendezvous (held in North Myrtle Beach this year). When we return to Kismet, after a long six months on land, we’ll be excited about getting back onto the water and bringing more log adventures your way.

As Lisa and I were packing up the last five years worth of our life into boxes, to cart home to Traverse City, we both felt a tinge of bittersweet emotions about leaving our cruising lifestyle behind, even if it’s only for six months. I say bittersweet because this has been our life, our dream and passion, and the actual adventure has been beyond our wildest expectations. We’ve met so many wonderful people along the way. We’ve seen and learned more about our amazing country than we ever imagined. On one hand there is a lot of uncertainty and almost a sadness about taking a break from a life we have both embraced so passionately. On the other hand it is truly sweet because we have many smiles and hugs awaiting us at home. We are looking forward to reconnecting and replenishing our hometown emotions fuel tank, which is currently almost on empty. We both feel this half-year on, half-year off our boat is the right combination for us at this time, the best of both worlds you might say, after almost five years of continuous boating.

This is an inside shot of the storage barn rated for 150 mph winds; notice the steal roof beams and support system.

Before we could depart for home though, we had to make all the necessary storage decisions and arrangements. It was not as simple as pulling the boat, putting it on jack stands and taking off for Michigan. Considerations for us were insurance, type of storage facility, maintenance, summarization, figuring out how to prevent humidity and mold damage, arranging for someone to check on our boat in our absence.

The first thing I did was to call our insurance agent to inquire about what stipulations our policy had about storage in Florida, especially during the hurricane season. Some policies would require a boat to be above a certain parallel in Georgia, the Carolinas, or even Virginia by a certain date. Other policies would require a rider (more money) during this time period if you remained below their parallel limit. Once we cleared the insurance hurdle, by making sure our boat was covered in this area during our absence, we moved on to the many storage options available to us.

It’s not just any old forklift that can do this; this one is rated to lift up to 35,000 lbs.

Because Florida is subject to high winds during the hurricane season, we wanted to make sure we found a facility that was built to code and could withstand high winds. After checking several facilities we settled on Key West Harbour on Stock Island in the lower Keys. The building is about three years old and is rated to withstand 150 mile an hour winds. Our insurance company felt good about this and so did we. We all hope it’s a mild hurricane season but it’s wise to take as many precautions as possible. Winds are only one thing to consider when storing your boat in Florida. The potential for rising water (water surges) can create another set of problems with storage in the hurricane belt. Besides keeping our fingers crossed we prepared the best we could by chaining the jack stands from port to starboard. If water does get inside of the storage facility at least we’ll have the added protection of the chains, which should prevent the jack stands from washing out from under the boat.

Kismet being tucked away until our return.

Once the final storage decision was made, we were ready to perform the summarization and maintenance process. Knowing it’s important to change the engine oil while it’s warm we decided to take one last cruise out into Hawk Channel and around Key West. Blue skies, calm seas and no wind made our last cruise this spring memorable. We headed into Key West’s A&B Marina to take on some diesel fuel. It’s important that while in storage fuel tanks are at least 80% full and that you add a biocide fuel additive to fight off the growth of algae in your fuel tank. The more fuel in the tank the less area there is for condensation to form, therefore reducing algae’s potential to grow. We put in the additive when we were fueling up. Once we were back at dock, I changed out the engine oil and filters (both oil and fuel) and serviced the genset.

It’s amazing how much we ended up taking off the boat to take home with us but Lisa kept reminding me we’d been living exclusively on a boat for five years. We ended up packing all of our clothes, lots we never wore, computers, our office paraphernalia, records and supplies and ended up filling a Suburban almost to the ceiling. We left all of the pots and pans, utensils, dishes and glasses; we also left all the bed covers, sheets, pillows, towels and curtains behind. When we return we’ll bring much less back with us.

We ran chain from six jack stands as added insurance.

Because humidity can be such a problem in a closed up boat down south we wanted to protect all of our soft goods from mold. With this in mind we purchased some large vacuum bags to place all of them into. Once closed up we sucked out all the air with the help of our vacuum cleaner therefore preventing any chance of mold developing. Lisa cleaned all the cupboards, emptied and cleaned the refrigerator and we scheduled our pull out date.

With the big day close at hand I drained the water tanks, had the black water tank emptied and cleaned out the sea strainers before we moved Kismet to the haul out dock. It’s always a little nerve racking for me when a boat we’ve owned is pulled out of the water. In this case it was even more so because it was being lifted by a forklift! You read correctly, a forklift, one of the biggest I’ve ever seen (see photo). It made our boat look more like a toy than a 25,000-pound trawler. Once I was certain Kismet was not going to come crashing down we quickly power washed the bottom and proceeded to put our water home to bed in the storage barn.

Once a month Steve will be checking to make sure the humidifier is working and draining properly into the sink. This will ensure the interior remains dry and mildew free.

Once settled in the storage building I was quite busy during the final stage draining the seawater from the engine, genset, along with emptying the fresh water from the washing machine, changing engine zincs and disconnecting the batteries. This took me the better part of five hours. Our final task was to set up a dehumidifier in the galley. The dehumidifier was placed on the countertop and set up to drain into the sink, which discharges overboard. As long as we don’t loose power this will be extra insurance that our boat’s interior will be free from humidity and its ugly friend, mold. We made arrangements for our boat to be checked on once a month as a final precaution. With us being 2,000 miles away we thought it was important to make sure someone checked that the jack stands continued to be secure, the dehumidifier was operating properly and for someone to be on hand to look in on the boat if weather conditions changed dramatically.

I have to admit it’s a lot more fun getting a boat ready to put into the water than preparing to take one out for storage.