One thing we learned about sailing on America’s Great Loop is that a plan is good, but a schedule is not. Our plan for Winter 2019 and Spring 2020 was to put our boat into heated storage for the winter in North Tonawanda, NY at East Pier Marina, then return in late April/early May of 2020 to re-commission her and continue through the Great Lakes and Canada.The plan part was just fine. The schedule was not.
We moved over to East Pier Marina on September 9, 2019, and began the process of de-commissioning the boat in preparation for storage. We did not want to leave anything on the boat if it wasn’t installed. That meant that all our clothes, bedding, kitchen equipment, life jackets, fenders, cleaning supplies – everything that was not nailed down, had to come out and go to storage.
We gave all of our unopened food to a local food bank. We had been managing our opened food pretty well, and didn’t have to toss that much of it. Many items, like crackers, cheese and fruit, came with us to the hotel, and then made at least a partial journey cross country with us. I carefully logged everything that went into storage, and also what food, especially spices, that I had to abandon. After 16 months living and cooking on the boat, I knew what spices we used frequently and what ones seemed like a good idea at the time, but only worked in one or two recipes. Everything, I mean just about everything, on the boat needed to do double duty. We didn’t have the luxury of extra space, like some of the larger boats we had seen.
Then Again came out of the water on September 17, 2019 and headed into heated storage. We had a work list for the yard to complete over the winter, which included some fiberglass repairs, bottom paint, hull buffing and waxing, and some carpentry work. We spent about another week in the area, spending time with Larry and Terry, sightseeing, and purchasing a Nissan Pathfinder from CarMax to take us to our dirt home in Vancouver, WA. Our plan was to turn it back into CarMax when we made the return trip in April/May 2020. Another item that didn’t happen.
And we headed cross country September 25, 2019, with Chip and Dayle and a load of clothes, bedding, guidebooks, navigation charts and other items we thought we would need during the winter break.
I’d like to say that we spent our time sightseeing cross country, but, that was not the case. We stopped off in our home town of Wellsville, NY, to see relatives, then headed West. We planned about a week to get home, which stretched to almost two weeks due to weather delays (too windy to drive safely) and Chip becoming ill. Our travel schedule on land was just about the same as on the water: leave around 7:30 or 8 am, drive until about 4 pm, with lunch and pit stops for us and the dogs. As we traveled further West, we also had to look at where we could stay, since the towns and cities became further apart, and we were also constrained by places that would take pets.
We arrived at our dirt home on October 7, 2019. We’d like to say that we spent an uneventful winter and early spring, returning to our boat as planned in May of 2020. We’d like to say that, but, that wouldn’t be true, either.
Instead, Louise had a total right knee replacement in early February 2020, and was just about healed up enough to get out of the house and go out to eat in mid-March 2020. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit full force, and we all went into quarantine. It became increasingly clear that we were not going to be able to even get back to the boat any time in spring or summer of 2020. We were fortunate to be able to extend our indoor storage agreement with East Pier. In September 2020, we reluctantly made the decision to suspend our Loop journey. The Canadian border had been closed for several months and the prospects of it reopening any time soon were nil. Louise was still recovering from the surgery, and, although making good progress, returning full function to her knee was much slower than expected.
Lenny flew to Buffalo on September 30, 2020 to check on the boat after a year. While he was there, we made the decision to have Then Again trucked back to the West Coast, to be launched in Puget Sound. Lenny and Larry, Louise’s brother, did some work on the boat prior to transport, including removing both the wine cooler and the microwave. The wine cooler didn’t accommodate the white wines that Louise drinks and functioned marginally as a produce cooler. It was never designed to cool more than 20 degrees below the ambient temperature of the cabin, and, more days than not, during the summer months, the cabin had been in the 80’s. (No generator, no air conditioning, no extra expense, no extra weight. All boats are a series of trade offs and this was one of ours.)
We also decided to remove the microwave. We realized in 16 months that we had probably used it once to make popcorn, and that was when we were on shore power. Instead, we decided that what we did need was more storage. Lenny and Larry also had to re-stow everything onto the boat that had been put in storage in North Tonawanda. We knew we were not returning to the area and needed to bring all of those items back with us.
We contracted with Interstate Haulers to pick up Then Again on October 12, 2020 for delivery to Swantown Marina and Boatworks, in Olympia, WA. The driver arrived promptly, with a trailer that was a perfect fit for the boat. We had been concerned that she may have had to be transported on a flatbed truck. Lenny saw her off and flew home the next day.
We anxiously awaited her arrival on October 15,2020, and were very excited when we drove up and saw her waiting for us on the truck. We had been going back and forth with Swantown Boatworks on a time slot to use the Travellift to take the boat off the trailer and put her onto blocks. The Swantown staff came through for us, and we had no delays in getting her up onto the blocks. No damage from the long trip West on the I-90 canal meant that we could promptly send our driver onto his next load – another Ranger Tug heading East from the factory to new owners in Maine.
We had several tasks to be completed while the boat was on the blocks, including off-loading everything to another storage locker. Why off load, you may ask? Because we still had the remainder of the conversion to storage project to complete, and the boat was dirty inside and out from being in storage. Yes, we had left the inside clean when we put her away, but we had not done a deep clean, knowing that work was supposed to take place over the winter. We originally thought that the deep clean would take place at East Pier Marina, but COVID restrictions made that impossible.
We also needed to notify GEICO that our boat was no longer on the hard, but would be going back into the water, with different cruising grounds. That back and forth took longer than expected, with delays being blamed on reduced staffing. We couldn’t launch the boat until we were covered by insurance, since any marina that we were going to required proof of insurance.
We also needed a wet berth. Marina space in the Puget Sound area is at a premium because many people decided to spend their vacation money on boats, and thus, needed dock space. Swantown Marina had told us that we could do temporary space at their transient piers, so at least we had a place to go when our time in the yard was up. The down side to those piers is that there is no locked gate. When you are a transient, you’re probably on your boat all the time, especially at night, so no locked gate is not a problem. And even though we knew that marina security was there during the evening hours, we were still concerned about leaving our boat available to just about anyone.
We spent time looking at several marinas in the South Puget Sound area because we wanted to be somewhat close to our home in Vancouver, WA. Many places had a multi-year waiting list for a 36 to 40’ slip. However, a slip opened up at B dock in Swantown, so we were able to go directly there when we launched Then Again on October 27, 2020. Splash down into salt water!
We have continued to work on re-commissioning the boat since then. This has included updating all the Garmin navigation software and charts, cleaning and sanitizing the fresh water tank, re-populating the black water tank with those “friendly” bacteria that will digest the waste, and a super deep clean by a local housecleaning company. Over last winter, we had new curtains made for the cabin which still need to be hung.
Our storage conversion project has been very successful, including lining the compartments with monkey fur and installing soft patches for the back of the spaces so we can still have easy access to the “cave” storage area that runs underneath the dining area.
Still to be completed is servicing the Volvo engine. It hasn’t been run very much in over a year and there are filters and other parts that need to be replaced before we will be doing any long trips.
Even though the winter weather is upon us, we know that there will be many cold crisp days with blue skies that await us. We’ll be chronicling the Further Adventures of Then Again as we explore the Puget Sound area and northward in 2021.