Skip Links

Congratulations! You Did It!

Take inspiration from these BoatU.S. members who pushed through their ­nervousness, cast off beyond their comfort zones, and came home with new confidence and stories to tell. What does your summer have in store?

Elderly male with a gray beard, tan bucket hat and dark jacket posing for a photo in front of a sunset off the water.

Photo: James Vancouver

If not now, WHEN?

My dockmates and I set aside two weeks every July to cruise Lake Michigan. We all have powerboats like my Cruisers Cantius 41, Pony King. We intended an extended three-week trip from Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, some 460 miles to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. But in 2022 fuel prices were through the roof, prompting two boats to sit the year out. Two other boats declined due to health issues. That left me and two other boats, but they were only going partway. Was I capable and comfortable enough to finish the cruise on my own?

I was nervous. I’d never been past Mackinac Island, never made a three-week trip, never been to several of the ports, and never made a long trip without my fleet of dockmates. As a 69-year-old solo boater, I take comfort knowing there’s a friend nearby to help. But I wanted this adventure to challenge my boating skills and discover new ports. And I’m not getting any younger or healthier, so the answer to my question was, “If not now, when?”

The decision was made easier when my friend’s 20-year-old grandson, Ben, asked if he could join me. That is, of course, until my new deckhand tested positive for Covid. So I set off solo on July 3. Thankfully, Ben joined me on the third day of what would become a 22-day, 11-port, 1,010-mile adventure.

After covering 114 miles on day 1, we had a great Independence Day at Manitowoc Marina with our two buddy boats. From there, one stayed behind and one joined us in crossing the lake, cruising northeast about 79 miles at 22 mph to Frankfort, then a 92-mile cruise along Michigan’s western shore to Petoskey. That was the last stop for our last buddy boat. In fact, they left a day early because of weather.

Ben and I continued to Cheboygan, Drummond Island, Sault Ste. Marie, through the Soo Locks for lunch on Lake Superior, then backtracked and headed south to De Tour Village at the eastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We cruised west across northern Lake Huron and back into Lake Michigan for stops at Beaver Island, Washington Island, Sheboygan (Wisconsin), before the long run home.

What a great adventure! And what a great test! We had to navigate our way into unfamiliar ports and pay close attention to all the navigational aids. Ben learned that when docking, it’s important to pay attention and communicate with the captain. I learned how to graciously apologize after several of our dockings. I learned a lot about myself and my boating skills. I misread one of the channel markers, but fortunately Ben alerted me before we got into skinny water. We met some interesting folks along the way and walked away from the trip with dozens of entertaining stories, all because I decided that “when” was “now.”

Phil Koehl, Illinois

Middle-aged man with a beard wearing a white shirt and sunglasses posing with blonde female at a dock at sunset.

Big city bound

My wife, Tara, and I keep our 30-foot 1998 Maxum SCR 2700 at the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club on a beautiful section of the Hudson River. The farthest we’d cruised had been on short overnights – north to Saugerties, south to Newburgh – about 35 to 40 nautical miles each way.

We decided to plan a longer cruise, one that would build our skills and make us more confident. I wanted to go as far as possible – the Great Loop, Block Island, and Lake Champlain. But we finally settled on a trip that would take us about 275 nautical miles down the Hudson, around the island of Manhattan, and back home.

It was September. We spent Friday night on the boat and left the following morning after a great send-off breakfast with club members. It was a beautiful early fall day, the tides were with us, and we cruised at a comfortable 10-12 knots. We passed under the majestic old rail bridge (now called the Walkway, over the Hudson), and the Mid-Hudson and Newburgh-Beacon bridges, then past Bannerman Castle on uninhabited Pollepel Island, where the river narrows and winds its way through the Hudson Highlands past West Point and under the Bear Mountain Bridge. That night we stayed at Safe Harbor Haverstraw marina, about 35 miles north of New York Harbor.

The next morning was another beautiful day, and I was excited about the journey down to our reserved slip at ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina, located south of the Brooklyn Bridge and across the East River from Wall Street and South Street Seaport. We left Haverstraw with a first waypoint for the Tappan Zee Bridge (as locals still refer to the 3-mile Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge), then past the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, a railroad swing bridge that spans the Spuyten Duyvil Creek between Manhattan and the Bronx. We passed under the George Washington Bridge (making sure to take a good look at the Little Red Lighthouse beneath it), then along Manhattan’s Lower West Side (where we’ve driven along 9A a million times, saying to each other, “One day …”).

Farther downriver toward New York Harbor, the waters became choppy and busy with cruise ships, tugs, sightseeing boats, high-speed ferries, megayachts, and even sailboat races. Tara was snapping photos and pointing out terrestrial places we’d been along Manhattan’s West Side skyline while I focused on our course and the vessels around us.

We admired the Statue of Liberty, rounded the southern tip of Manhattan, then idled in the harbor as ferries entered and exited the Staten Island Ferry terminal and a southbound tug out of the East River passed the entrance to the marina. My adrenalin was running high, but we were here!

We met up with family and friends for two days of fun in Brooklyn before starting our trip home and up the East River where it narrows into a sometimes-challenging tidal strait named Hell Gate. At this point, the East River is joined by the Harlem River and then flows into the Spuyten Duyvil Creek, which enters the Hudson River. Going home via the East River has always been a hope. I spent endless hours watching the river traffic and dreaming as I sat stuck in rush hour traffic on the FDR Drive. All I could do on the rest of the ride back was replay what we’d just done – the longest and best cruise of our lives.
— Doug Lombardozzi, New York

Man standing at the front of a navy and white sail boat out on the water at dusk.

Grace under pressure

My wife and I were sailing our Ericson 38 across Lake Michigan. We’d left Grand Traverse Bay in the early morning hours headed to Rowleys Bay on the northern tip of Wisconsin’s Door County. The wind, out of the south, had been increasing all afternoon and was now a steady 20 knots plus. It was dusk and we were entering a shallow, unfamiliar harbor.

We rounded the entrance buoys to the bay, started the engine, dropped the mainsail, and furled the jib. We were about a mile from an old ferry dock where we were to tie up. To my shock, the engine was overheating. I cut the engine and unfurled a small portion of the headsail. Even with this reduced sail, we were moving downwind at more than 6 knots – a tense situation. We sailed past the ferry dock, rounded up, and coasted to the pier. A resort employee caught our bow line, and we secured our boat, dog‐tired but feeling great after a wonderful Lake Michigan crossing and a smooth docking.
— John Springer, Michigan


Visit the BoatUS Travel & Destinations page to learn more about popular cruising grounds and fun things to do.

Who’s on the line?

I left my dock on City Island for sunrise fluke fishing by Manhasset Neck in western Long Island Sound. It was a beautiful morning, and I called into the Dennis and Tony morning talk radio show. As I’m chatting on the air, I get a run on my fishing line. On speaker, broadcasting live, I pull up a sea robin double-header!

I explained to the host what I caught while grunting into my cellphone on live radio. I had a lot of explaining to do about sea robins in Long Island Sound. That day brought lots of unexpected fun. Life is better with a boat.
— Dan D’Allara, New York

Two large searobin that have been caught and placed on the edge of a white boat.

Middle-aged man wearing a navy t-shirt and sunglasses giving a 'thumbs up' while steering a boat.

Home on her hull

My cruising experience was limited to around the nearby islands of Lake Erie. I dock my powerboat in Huron, Ohio, and the 26-mile trip from there to Put-in-Bay Island was about as far as I’d ever cruised. I’d decided to downsize to a Sea Ray 340 Sundancer before my planned retirement as a corporate pilot in 2024. I found her in Harrison Township on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair – more than 100 miles away – and wanted to bring her home on her hull.

I bought the charts for Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, and Lake Erie. Using my pilot training, I began planning my route. After several days plotting on a chart – yes, I’m old school, but do love my Garmin electronics – I was ready to drive to Michigan, close the purchase, and bring her home.

The boat was kept behind the owners’ home, so I just needed to top off the fuel tanks and go. I was so excited to be aboard my new-to-me boat and proudly pulled into the first fuel dock on the Clinton River. Leaving there at noon on Saturday, I headed onto Lake St. Clair, following my course into the shipping channel heading toward the Detroit River. As anticipated, the first channel buoys appeared. Buoy after buoy passed until I could see the buildings in downtown Detroit. I chose to take the Livingston Channel, which allowed me to keep my speed about 21 mph and make good time. Before long, the International Peace Bridge was in view. I’d flown over it many times before landing at Detroit Metro Airport. But seeing it from ground level was amazing!

As I left the Detroit River, Lake Erie was calm, with seas 1 to 2 feet and light winds. There were thunderstorms brewing in Findlay, Ohio, and headed northeast, so I knew I needed to get as far east as possible. My plan, in case I needed to divert, was to hug the Canadian side of Lake Erie and continue eastward as the storm was moving northerly. Using a weather radar app, I continually watched the storm’s movement and determined it would stay over the western shore of Lake Erie. No diversion necessary, so I cruised into the harbor at my familiar cruising ground, Put-In-Bay, where a fleet of tall ships were visiting.

Finally, the Huron Lighthouse came into view. I’d made it. Down the Huron River I went and tied up at my dock four hours and 48 minutes, and 107 miles after I left the fuel dock on the Clinton River. What an awesome trip! Now I want to do longer cruises but take more time to enjoy them. Erie Canal, Trent-Severn Waterway, here I come. Maybe even the Great Loop!
— Jeffrey Tate, Ohio

Two adult males and two adult females posing for a photo in front of the woods.

Adults aboard a blue and white speed boat with a large American flag and 'Wake For Warriors' decal on the side.

Commitment to others

I had the honor of volunteering for Wake for Warriors on South Carolina’s Lake Keowee and was proud of our community for being so receptive and willing to help, proud to meet Wake for Warriors founder David Deep, and proud to help so many American servicemen and -women who’ve done so much for our county.

The mission of Wake for Warriors is to use wakesurfing and wakeboarding to help combat-wounded veterans heal from physical and mental injuries. More than 30 events are held annually across the United States, each one granting combat wounded veterans the opportunity to participate in a four-day event at no cost.

Wakeboarding and wakesurfing is both thrilling and challenging. Our program is successful in teaching and training our riders to overcome physical or mental challenges and ride the waves. Learning new skills and mastering challenging experiences builds confidence and promotes a positive mental attitude in life.
— Marty Slone, South Carolina

Related Articles


Click to explore related articles

lifestyle travel and destinations


Rich Armstrong

Senior Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A journalist by training, BoatUS Magazine Senior Editor Rich Armstrong has worked in TV news, and at several newspapers, then spent 18 years as a top editor at other boating publications. He’s built a stellar reputation in the marine industry as one of the most thorough reporters in our business. At BoatUS Magazine, Rich handles everything from boat and product innovation and late-breaking news, to compelling feature stories, boat reviews, and features on people and places. The New Jersey shore and lakes of lower New York defined Rich's childhood. But when he bought a 21-foot Four Winns deck boat and introduced his young family to the Connecticut River, his love for the world of boats flourished from there.