Gypsies Palace Completes the Great Loop!

Boca Hotel
Returning to Boca Raton

Gypsies Palace officially crossed her wake on January 13, 2017 after traveling 6,269 miles. We left Boca Raton, FL on April 1, 2017 and returned to our starting point 9 months later on our Great Loop adventure. Loopers call this “crossing our wake” when we finish where we began. Our average speed was 10.5 mph – our “Looper speed” and maximum speed was 25.1 mph. We went through nearly 100 locks along the way.

Gypsies Palace Loop Track
Gypsies Palace Loop Track

WHAT ARE OUR TAKE AWAYS?

  1. We have seen this country by water which mostly means “small town America”. Our world was about a one mile radius of where ever we stopped.   We saw no chain stores for most of the trip. We experienced the goodness of people in these small towns where they were able to take the time to be polite and provide good service.   It restored our faith that people truly care about others and are willing to lend a hand.
  2. There is something unexpected and delightful around every bend. Each day we would start out with a route that would come alive with beautiful scenery or something unplanned. For example, sitting on the boat in downtown Nashville where we had front row seats for a great fireworks show. We loved going places where we had no idea of what to expect.
  3. We loved traveling through Canada. It was the highlight of our trip. We spent an unexpected 3 weeks in the Niagara region and loved exploring the wineries, farmers markets and golf courses. We fell in love with Butter Tarts and ate more Fish N Chips than we can count!   The beauty of anchoring in the North Channel and exploring with our kayaks was something to cherish.
  4. We are resourceful in solving problems. When we left our water hose on the dock in Jekyll Island we asked the Looper group for help in transporting “Waldhose” back to our boat. The hose was passed along by 5 boats finally reaching us in Annapolis and creating a Looper Legend of Waldhose.
  5. Never travel on a bad weather day.   We never put ourselves in a position to “go” because we had no schedule. We never had a scary day on the water because of that. We became experts in using every weather app available!
  6. The coast of Michigan is a boater’s delight! Approximately every 25 miles there is a Safe Harbor with a protected marina with inexpensive dockage. The little Michigan towns were wonderful to explore and are located within walking distance of all of the marinas. Craft beers and ice creams shops were everywhere!
  7. Big cities are fun, too! We docked at the Rock and Dock in downtown Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Charleston is a gourmet delight with wonderful restaurants. Chicago was over the top in things to do that were accessible.   The Honky Tonks in Nashville were fun since we could crawl back to the boat late in the evening.
  8. Starting every morning on the water is a mood setter for the day.   There is nothing like watching a sunrise or sunset from your boat.
  9. Owning less is setting yourself free!   We were on the rivers when Hurricane Irma came through Florida. It was such a relief to not own our house or a car. Our worries are all confined to our boat now. And, there can only be so much “stuff” that can go on it. What do you really need in life?   Stuff is clutter.   We recently went back to our storage unit and I was amazed that we kept that much “stuff”.
  10. It is the people that you meet that make the Great Loop experience memorable.   Everyone says that when they complete the Great Loop, but it is so true. We have collected 160 boat cards from other Loopers as we have traveled. Most were people that we ran into several times along the way.   We have shared Docktails, stories, laughs and struggles.   Truly all boaters are helpful to other boaters, but the Looper flag is family.   We have more friends than we have ever had in our life.
AGLCA Gold Loopers
Gold Looper Flag

Now we are Gold Loopers!   We replaced our White Looping Flag with a proud Gold Flag. This signifies that we have completed the Great Loop and crossed our wake.

AGLCA White Flag
Loop Departure 4/1/2017

WHAT IS NEXT FOR GYPSIES PALACE?

We will spend February, March and most of April in the Abacos, Bahamas.   Then we will travel up the east coast of Florida and north to the Chesapeake Bay.   Along the way we will stay longer in places that we may have hurried through or find new places to visit. Our plan is to explore the many areas in the Chesapeake and anchor out most of the time.  Additionally, we will travel up the Potomac and visit the monuments and museums in Washington, DC.   Then we will return to Florida somewhere and go to the Bahamas later next year.

Each summer we will select a place out of Florida to take the boat i.e. Maine, the Pickwick/ Kentucky Lake area.   We also have decided that we loved everything about the Loop.  We now have our on calendar that we will loop again in 2020 and earn our Platinum flag!

We were sent this poem by our friend, Terry Moy, of Happy Happy upon completion of the Loop.

Congratulations Steve and Debbie!
This is your “Whoop”!
You’ve been to great places,
And done the Great Loop!

Out there things can happen
and frequently do,
even to cruisers
as handy as you.

And when things did happen
you said, “no worries!”, you didn’t stew,
you rolled with the swells
and comforted the crew.

You never waked us, though you had the speed.
You passed the whole gang and have taken the lead.
Wherever you cruise, you’ll be the best of the best!!!
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest!!!!

We will see everyone out on the water as we continue to cruise.   We have no desire to end this journey on Gypsies Palace!

“To The Loop!”  This was quite a Coastal Journey!

 

 

Salt Air, Oysters and Life in the Boatyard

Gypsies Palace
Crossing Mobile Bay

Inhale, we are done with the rivers.   Inhale, salt air fills our lungs.   Inhale, Floridians can breathe.   Inhale, Gypsies Palace is nearing her cruising waters where catamarans belong. Two things we love:  Salt Air and Oysters.   We were in the Panhandle where we can get our fill of both.   Many years ago Steve and I were bringing a boat to Texas and we stopped in the Panhandle to get oysters and there were none due to the beds being stripped out from the Gulf Oil spill.   Lucky us – oysters are in season and big and juicy!  Panhandle Oysters

Lulu's
Docking at Lulu’s for lunch

After crossing Mobile Bay the first town heading east is Gulf Shores, Alabama and that only means one thing – Lulu’s!   Lulu’s is owned and run by Jimmy Buffett’s sister and is home to a great waterfront restaurant, music and marina. We were Buddy Boating with Firestorm and we decided we needed to grab some gulf fish and fun. During our stay we actually went back another time during a song writer’s weekend. We were treated by a slide guitar player that had been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  That was Jim Vest and he was part of the Nashville Cats back with Dylan and Cash. You just never know what treats are going to be found along the way. Read more

1st Year on Gypsies Palace – Reflections Of Gypsies in the Palace

Gypsies Palace ReflectonsWell, we did it!   We have officially lived aboard Gypsies Palace one year! So, how do we feel about it? Any regrets?   Do we want to go back on land? Time for reflections on our 1st year cruising on our catamaran.

A year ago October we had so much going on in our lives in order to make the transition to full time cruising. We were truly in a frenzy. Our house closed at the first of the month and at that time we did not have a boat.   We were certain that we were buying a catamaran, but that was about it because our first deal fell through. We had been purging, selling stuff on Craigslist and trying to decide what items that we would need on a boat. Our storage unit was packed to the gills and we were homeless at our friend’s house.  My dad’s health was failing and he required more of my time. It was a crazy month to say the least. By the end of the month we had closed on Gypsies Palace.

We were fortunate to find this catamaran. It is a Leopard 47 Owner’s Version, which means that it has an owner’s stateroom. It was never in charter and a one owner boat. The former owner liked it so much he bought a newer version that is now a 51 ft Leopard. After we purchased it we spent 4 months adding things to make it a liveaboard that would work for us. Things like improving the refrigeration, adding an ice maker, increasing the holding tanks, increasing the water heater on the master side, adding solar panels, adding a watermaker, adding SAT TV, adding more exterior canvas, changing the anchor, fixing a fuel leak and the best gadget – the Docking Master, remote docking. If I could pick just one thing that I love best that we have done is to install the remote docking device.

During this time it really was hard to “love” living on the boat. Things were a mess because the boat was always being worked on. That limited the feeling of space. I won’t lie. The first few months it was hard to love the boating life because we never left the dock except to pump out.   I didn’t want to go back to a house, but I was ready to get rid of the chaos and get moving. These feelings are not unlike having your kitchen remodeled – there is nothing fun about that process.

Leaving on the LoopLeaving the dock on April 1st to begin the Great Loop was such a liberating feeling. I remember the day clearly and how beautiful it was. It was an omen that this would be a good life and we were doing the Great Loop!

Looking back the first part of the trip was such a blur as I am sure other Loopers would testify. We definitely planned more at the start. Now we are coming into Florida and we haven’t made any plans!   Our answer is that we will figure it out and we can always anchor. By plans I mean where are we going to be? Do we have a reservation? When we will arrive and how long will we stay? We are still Looping and in a transient state, meaning we do not spend much time in any one place. That will change once we complete the Loop.

We have adjusted to everyday life.   Laundry is sometimes done on board or sometimes done at the marina. Most marinas have had decent WiFi. We record TV shows just like at home. Jazzy has adjusted to life on board, including sometimes using the pee pad on the bow.  Gypsies Palace CockpitWe love our cockpit and outdoor living area.  It is so comfortable to enjoy a nice day or evening.

Maximizing the storage space is every boater’s challenge.   Because we have a catamaran we have more space than the mono hull boats. We are like a sailboat where we also have floor storage. The front of our boat has a tremendous amount of room that is why we call one hatch the “Man Cave”.   I have gotten good at buying the right amount of food and using it. In my house I was always throwing food away, but on the boat I find that I let fewer things spoil. We actually have things on the boat that we put on that we have not used. When we get back to our storage unit those will come off. Mine consist of clothes and shoes that I have never worn. Steve has some tools and misc. things as well.

I thought I would exercise more since I was committed to my Jazzercise workout for years. On the Loop this has been difficult because we are always moving to another port. We have used the kayaks and bikes, but not regularly. Some stops we do a lot of walking, others we don’t.   I confess to not always taking advantage on an exercise room at the marinas. This will be something that I change going forward after completing the Loop and settling into a cruising mode where we stay in places longer.

Stress – there is none! We could stress about the weather, but really what is the point?   The times when we are stressed is when we have to be somewhere on a specific date.   That is the hardest for all of us boaters.   It is usually weather or mechanical issues that doom the plan.

Speaking of mechanical issues, we have not had any except for the time when we caught the line around our props in Canada. Everything else on the boat has worked fine thanks to Captain Steve. We have come across many other boats where they hit their props or had a major engine problem. This boat has treated us well.

Most of the trip the temperatures have been cool.   Daytimes in the 70’s, but 40’s and 50’s at night. That was a surprise to us. Luckily, we had put warm clothes on board and bought some along the way. Coming back into Florida will be a shock.   We have run our heater and rarely the air conditioner. This week we actually bought a space heater!   We have even had nights in the 30’s which I would not have expected.

Before we started the Loop we did sit down to create a budget of expenses and to manage our money. I would say that we are right on target, if not under our projections. Where I fell off was that we eat and drink more than being home!   It is fun to shop at the various farmers markets and local grocery stores. It is also true that we eat out more than being home. Our fuel and marina expenses are under budget now, but we will be seeing increasing dockage charges as we enter Florida.

Looper Gold
April & Larry with Abby and Looper Gold

We haven’t ended the Loop yet, but we have made so many new friends that we will continue to see as we continue cruising. Meeting other boaters / Loopers make this lifestyle so special.   We have more friends than we would have ever had if we had stayed in the house. We have really appreciated the comradery.  Our buddy boat friends on One Eye Dog just crossed their wake in Fairhope, AL and we were there for their celebration.  They now flag the Looper Gold Flag for completing the Loop.

Early next year we will complete our Loop when we enter the Boca Inlet. We will end our “adventure”, but move to the “lifestyle” phase of cruising.   We are excited about this new chapter, too. So, after a year, I would say that this is just the beginning! And, no, we do not miss having a land based home!

“We’re gypsies in the palace, there ain’t no wrong or right
We’re gypsies in the palace, and we’re going wild tonight.” ……Jimmy Buffett

 

 

 

When It All Falls Down………Set Backs for Gypsies Palace

Last you heard we had left the Erie Canal and were on Lake Ontario. Our route is to head west on Lake Ontario, dock and traverse the Welland Canal to Lake Erie.   That was the PLAN, but…………………………Gypsies Palace had other ideas.

The day started picture perfect.   Lake Ontario was like glass. We were going to stop in Rochester, but it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of the flat seas and push on to Port Dalhousie (St. Catherines) Ontario, Canada. Everything went according to plan and we came into the marina in windy conditions. We had no one to grab our lines so Steve needed to make a couple of passes at the dock to check wind and current.

About 10 feet from the dock, disaster struck. We heard to big clunk and the next thing Steve knew, he did not have use of the Starboard propulsion! The Engine was working fine but he couldn’t put the transmission in gear. We later found out that with the water levels so high on Lake Ontario there is stuff floating everywhere, most right under the surface and our prop grabbed a submerged line Submerged Lineand it wrapped around the shaft so tightly that it pulled (broke) our transmission off of the engine! We later heard that someone had hit a refrigerator floating just below the surface not far from the marina. So, a lot of crap is out there under the water.

We weren’t out of the woods yet. Steve only had one engine to control the boat and it was the wrong one with the winds and current. Everything was pushing us into the rocks and breakwater.   Gypsies Palace could not make the dock on one engine with the wind pushing us away from the dock. Steve managed to get us out of the marina and we anchored in the Lake just outside the Breakwater. What we needed was a tow to the docks.   We sat on the boat and tried to contact SeaTow or TowBoat US, but they had no one nearby.   So, what were we going to do? Read more

Canal Days!

Erie Canal CelebrationHow lucky are we that we are traveling during the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal! It took 8 years to build and it took us 8 days to traverse. There are 2 routes and due to our height we had to take the eastern route which would put us in Lake Ontario. The other route comes out around Buffalo on Lake Erie. What this means to all boaters on the Erie Canal this year is that all costs are free so we saved close to $200 in fees. Additionally, many towns are planning Canal Days celebrations.

Travel on the Erie Canal is slow due to speed limits and the amount of locks. We did 30 locks and a typical day was comprised of about 6 locks. This is “small town America”, for sure. There are no big marinas and the appeal is really having “no plan” and just stopping when you feel like it. Each town around the locks have walls with the ability to tie up your boat.   Some of the walls have electric and water and others have none. Loopers love this part of the trip because not only are we not burning much fuel, we are not incurring marina charges. Some towns will have a payment system that could be something like $30 to cover the electric. Not only is it an enjoyable trip it is less costly!

What we enjoyed about the Erie Canal is that wherever we stopped we had instant friends because other Loopers were either already on the wall or they arrived after we got there.   One day we were around Lock 14 and the town of Canajoharie (where?) and we tied up at the last place along the wall. Before we knew it other boats also were stopping there so we double rafted everyone up. A funny thing that happened is that the Lock Master for Lock 14 actually walked down to all of us to ask why no one was coming through his lock. Our answer was “We’re done for the day!”. Additionally, the local people commented that they had never seen so many boats there at one time and wanted to know what was going on. It was just “Docktails, of course”! Read more

Slowing Down the Pace on the Hudson

It is not as if we are traveling at a fast pace, but we do move along nearly every day to a new location. It is mostly about the timing to hit Canada and northern Michigan in the summer when the weather is the nicest. We realized that we had not been able to anchor out since Georgia and we really thought that we would have done this more. We are somewhat restricted on anchoring because we have not been able to train Jazzy to go on the bow of the boat and we would need to dinghy to shore. That means two things that we would be concerned with: Is the weather nice to get us in the dinghy and, is there an actual place to get the dinghy into?  We were dying to slow down the pace with some nights “on hook” and the Hudson would be the perfect place.

From my previous blogs you might gather that a lot of the month of May was chilly, windy and rainy.   Who wants to get in a dingy in those conditions? It is much easier to dock somewhere. But, once we left New York City we finally found Summer! We also did some sightseeing and other fun things.

Gypsies Palace on the HudsonGypsies Palace Hudson AncshoringWe anchored out along the Hudson River and explored with our dinghy. This was great fun and so peaceful. We used Active Captain to locate some good areas along with the Waterway Guide. One time we anchored off of a state park which gave us some good dog walking with Jazzy. The second time we saw fireworks and a beautiful moonrise, but when we went ashore there was mostly brush and not good dog walking.   We really enjoyed this time with the warm weather.  Golfing on Gypsies Palace Steve had been dying to hit golf balls from the bow of the boat so he got out the “doggie artificial turf” and had a blast!

Leaving that area we met up with 18 other Loopers at a place called Shady Harbor for 3 days.   They hosted a pig roast with entertainment to show their appreciation. The weather was beautiful and everyone took advantage of it to clean their boats! Read more

Our Biggest Surprise

Recently, we were asked “What is your biggest surprise?”   Both Steve and I took some time to think about this before we answered, “Just how much we like this lifestyle”.   It is true. We do love living on Gypsies Palace and do not regret a thing.   We don’t miss our house, yardwork, Home Depot or any of the other routine tasks that were part of our life.  Not too long ago, we needed to rent a car and drive back to Florida. We felt the tension from the traffic pace and just the amount of cars on the highway.  Now this is somewhat ironic for me since I was driving 30,000 miles a year in my job and faced this routinely.  Right now what we love most of all is being a Looper and taking the journey with others and the slower pace at 10 mph.

I have to apologize as there is a big gap in my timeline of where we have been and what we have been doing. May was basically a miserable weather month for us Floridians.   We were in Maryland and it was highs in the 50’s, rainy, windy and just plain bone chilling cold to us.   Thankfully, the boat has heat!   Maybe that is another big surprise:  how cold it has been.  Notwithstanding, we did some really fun things though. Read more