Florida Keys - Great Lakes Cruise 2001
a.k.a a "Great Loop" Cruise

Gregory & Lisa Absten aboard the M/V "Creative Touch"
The Adventures of Capn Greg & Admiral Lisa
Lisa & I have 6 y.o. Jessica, 2 Black Lab Dogs, 3 Tree Frogs, Hermit Crab, and a Cuban Turtle aboard. Just call us "Lisa's Ark".
TRIP TO THE GREAT LAKES FROM THE FLORIDA KEYS: Up the East Coast of Florida - offshore to Melbourne, the intracoastal to Daytona. Offshore again to South Carolina. Intracoastal through the Carolinas, Albermarle Sound and Virginia. Offshore to Atlantic City New Jersey. Offshore up through New York City and the Hudson River, New York Canal System and rivers to the eastern part of Lake Ontario at Oswego NY - across Lake Ontario - up the Welland Canal System into Lake Erie.

RETURN TRIP TO THE KEYS:  Through the Great Lakes  - Huron and Lake Michigan from Lake Erie, into the Illinois River at Chicago, join the Mississippi River around Grafton, turn up the Ohio River around Cairo, down the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers around Paducah KY, then down the Tennessee, TomBigbee Waterway, and Black Warrior/TomBigbee Rivers through TN, MS and AL. Enter Gulf of Mexico at Mobile AL, then along the FL West Coast back to the Florida Keys.

Check below for pictures of the trip at different places along the way. Once you go to the first picture page, you can go to the bottom of that page and click on the "NEXT" picture in this series to go directly from photos to photos. - Or you can just come back here to browse the page and not have to look at all the pictures.

CLICK HERE for pictures of the first leg (Leg 1) from the Keys up the East Coast to the Great Lakes in May & June.
    or --
CLICK HERE for pictures of the return leg (Leg 2), starting in the Great Lakes, back to the Florida Keys through the inland rivers and out the Gulf of Mexico.
CLICK HERE for the log of this return trip (Log 2).

BELOW IS THE CHRONOLOGICAL SHIPS LOG WITHOUT THE PICTURES: This is all text. Some of the entries have links to the picture pages.

Weds May 16th 2001 - Marathon, Florida Keys - Leave home dock from Boot Key Harbor at 10:33 am for our Great Circle Cruise. At 4pm we're passing Molasses reef in the upper Keys. Water is so clear we can see the bottom in 30-40 feet. Flat Calm Seas. We toast a great sunset from chairs on the bow of the boat as the Autopilot steers in offshore waters. Make great time overnight in the Gulf Stream with about a 4 knot push. Pass Ft Pierce inlet about 7:05 am. Heading up toward Melbourne. Pass the Dragon and tie to the Eau Gallie Yacht Club docks at 2pm on Thursday the 17th. - About a 27.5 hour run. Have dinner that night in the Yacht Club.
Fri May 18th - Depart Melbourne at 10:26am. Go offshore at Ponce DeLeon inlet about 7:34pm and watch another great sunset. Heading offshore up to Beaufort SC all night. Originally heading toward Savannah, but the seas started getting a little rougher through the night - 4-5 feet on a beam sea, so made the sea buoy at Port Royal Sound about 2:38pm.  This is a very long channel (miles) and exposed to the beam sea. A couple fishermen were anchored in the narrow channel several miles out, and kept waving at us to move around them. The channel was narrow though and shoal on each side - plus still getting beat by a 4-5 foot steep beam sea. They acted offended that we didn't move out of the channel for them! Tied to the seawall at the park in Beaufort SC (pronounced "Bewfurt") at 5pm on Saturday the 19th. The seawall tie up is much cheaper than the marina but has no water or electric, which is fine with us. The spot is at the park and the restaurants and stores are MUCH closer and convenient this way. The tide is 7-8 feet though so plan well. Met a power squadron port captain there.
Sun May 20th - Beaufort SC - Lisa walked the dogs in the park early. Depart at 8:50am to head up ICW toward Charleston SC. Invaded by HORSEFLIES just south of the Ashepoo-Coosaw cutoff. WAR! even Cassie dog was eating horseflies. Thousands of carcasses litter the decks & windows - not a pretty sight - but they don't stop! Legion after Legion of invading horseflies - And they bite!! Had to send Jessica below while we fought them off.  Then later in a narrow ditch of the ICW we were waked BIG TIME by the sportfish Never Enough. - about a 50+ foot fancy sport fish - was up on full plane behind us without us seeing him - a five foot wake - backed down all at once about 20feet off our port side and right at our stern. The 5 ft wake almost broached us! It did lift us and turn us sideways so that I almost ran the bow right into the banks of the narrow channel. It backed up an entire line of boat traffic while we tried to recover. Never Enough never responded to us on the radio, though I did put out securite calls for other boaters. We continued to hear boaters on the radio all day yelling at this boat - most of the time with profanity. Passed through Charleston SC, through the harbor and into the Isle of Palms marina at 4:50pm. This was somewhat disappointing since it is no longer a resort facility as listed in the cruising guides - the resort sold out and the marina no longer has access to any of the facilities - plus they put us on the exposed fuel dock all night even though we had reservations. Next time we'll just stop again in Charleston instead.
Mon May 21st - Depart Isle of Palms at Charleston about 10:50am (usually get my work done first thing in the mornings, then depart). Winds 20-25knt today so staying inside the ICW. ALMOST HIT A DEER WITH THE BOAT! A fawn was swimming across the narrow waterway - at first didn't even know what it was, then made out that it was a deer as we got closer - it was swimming right into our path so I slowed way down (only do 8.5 knots anyway at cruise). Surely I thought it would get out of the way, but it didn't turn around at all! - Had to actually maneuver and put engines in reverse - it almost ran right into our hull, but after all that it turned around, swam back to shore and ran away! Almost road-kill on the ICW!  Pass McClellanville around 12:50pm. Lots of birds of different types. BLACK BITING FLIES OUT IN FULL FORCE! We got invaded again - big as the horseflies but the bite is MUCH WORSE! It HURTS!  Go up Bull Creek in the Waccamaw river to anchor about 6:40pm just before sunset. Nice anchorage.
Tues May 22nd - Weigh Anchor from Bull Creek at 7am - tie up to docks (free) at Barefoot Landings at 10:50am - walk around stores and have lunch there. Back to boat by 12:50pm. Had problem in ICW with Sunset bridge being closed for repairs with a long delay. We did turn around to go back and cut outside, but heard on the radio it re-opened so turned around again to stay inside. Treacherous approach to Bald Head Island off Cape Fear with strong winds and heavy seas. Very hard approach in the narrow channel - worked the helm as hard and fast as I could to keep from crashing into the seawall or broaching - I was out of breath by the time we surfed in. Very rolly basin. Got slip for the night. The ads for this marina are misleading - they don't have the services they advertise (restaurant, groceries) and offer no transportation to any. The cable TV doesn't work either and the basin is too rolly for the satellite TV to work.
Weds May 23rd. Bald Head Island, Cape Fear.  Storm passed through last night & much calmer today. Depart channel at 6:46am. It's still rainy & drizzly this morning. Leave ICW at Carolina inlet about 8:30am and head offshore for Beaufort NC (pronounced BOWfurt). Choppy but reasonable at 3-4 feet off port bow. Tie to city docks in Beaufort at 4:40pm the next day on Weds May 23rd.
Thur May 24th - Beaufort NC - Stay in Beaufort today to resupply and work.
Fri  May 25th - Depart Beaufort at 6:55am and head to Town Creek for fuel. After leaving fuel dock at 8:35am we RAN AGROUND at 8:50am on a shoal just outside the creek. Had to call Sea Tow to get us off! Capn Greg runs aground on the ICW! Glad we had Sea Tow coverage - otherwise it would have been $630!!.  Go up Pungo Creek by Bellhaven and anchor by 4:15pm .
Saturday May 26th - Pungo Creek. Lots of medusa-like jellyfish gliding sideways in the water just under the surface - looks ghostly with the dark brown tannic acid water. Had a major mud bath on deck when weighing anchor from Pungo Creek around 7:30am. Made Broad Creek just off the North River - South of Coinjack - by later afternoon. Nice remote anchorage with woods and wetlands around. Have just enough room to swing in about 10ft of water - and severe thunderstorms passing through tonight. Got up in middle of night after the line of storms had gone through. The sound of the tree frogs in the marshes was overwhelmingly loud! They were going nuts. The sky was black and stars bright and reflecting off the calm water like it was glass.
Sun May 27th - Depart Broad Creek about 7:46am. Heavy fog and departed on radar. Saw about 1/2 dozen Osprey nests on daymarks and all had chicks in them - passed very close. Made Tidewater Yacht Agency in Portsmouth VA for a slip by 4pm .
Mon May 28th - Portsmouth VA - depart Tidewater Yacht Agency at 5:45am - wind calm. nice morning. Plan to head offshore for Ocean City Maryland. Pass through Norfolk and the Naval ShipYard there. Heading out of Chesapeake Bay about 7:30-8am . Start Autopilot for preprogrammed course offshore at 7:16am. Docked at White Marlin Marina ($1.25 ft) by 7pm. We took Jessica down to the boardwalk and beach. Jessica left herself there on the beach for the first time and waved to herself as we departed the next day. Started feeling some "landsickness" while we had dinner ashore - have to get back on the boat to stop the rocking feeling.
Tues May 29th - Ocean City Maryland - Nicole had baby girl Alexis last night about 3:30am! Now I'm Capn Grandpa Greg! Depart dock about 10:40am. We caught a tree frog that's been hitching a ride with us since we departed Broad Creek (that night with the storms and all the tree frogs wailing). It's bright green & gold. We were going to let him jump off, but we're getting farther north and it's getting much colder. He'll die if we don't do something so made a cage for him and are feeding him insects. It's overcast and drizzly. We pass the beach area and Jessica waves goodbye to herself that's still standing on the beach. The water temp and air temp are both 64 degrees. COLD!  Anchored in the harbor at Cape May New Jersey at 3:20pm . Tonight we're running the generator for the first time all night just for the heat!
Weds May 30th - Cape May Anchorage - 60 degree air temp! Up at 7:30am but work until 11. Weigh anchor 11:16am. The wind picked up quick - and wasn't forecast. Have major generator problem (pump broke off from engine mounts) but will fix when we get in tonight. Ran offshore but stayed close in to shore and seas not too bad - 2-3 feet off port bow. Go into Kammerman's marina in Atlantic City at 3 or 4pm . Would prefer to go into Trump Castle/Farley State Park - but they're now charging over $4 per foot there! How can they do that when it's supposed to be a state run marina? It used to be $1 to $1.25 a foot. Kammermans is about $2 a foot but I won't go back there. They jam you in any way they can, and the owners don't seem to be particularly concerned about damage to your boat, state of their docks, or upholding their published BoatUS prices.  From now on either pay the piper at Trump or just forget Atlantic City altogether. Rich Davis from Columbus arrived last night to join me.
Thur May 31 - Atlantic City NJ - Crew change today. Lisa and Jessica are leaving. I can't believe she's letting the dogs stay with me. Rich is staying to make the rest of the trip back into Lake Erie. We fuel up then anchor off the channel by the Coast Guard Station to wait to depart about 7pm. I don't want to make New York Harbor in the dark, so we're timing it to make landfall in New York at daybreak. Seas are only 2 ft or so all night - nice. Can see New York City from 20 miles offshore at about 3:30am. Made the Verazonno bridge at 5am the next day June 1st, and it's now twilight. Pass through the city, the statue of Liberty and World Trade Towers around 5:30am. The harbor is really quiet that time of the morning. The ferries are just starting and a couple barges out. Run all the way up the Hudson River, past West Point Military Academy and Bannerman's Castle, all the way to Troy NY just after dark at 9pm. Tie to city docks. Rich treated me to dinner.

Sat June 2nd - Troy NY - Walked around town with dogs in early am. Rainy - cold. Next time I'd tie to the new city seawall (free) at Waterford rather than the Troy docks. More things nearby and they want your business. Start into the New York State Barge Canal system at Troy.  Start up the "flight of 5" locks at 11:50am and out of them by about 1:05pm - not bad time for five locks - takes you WAY up the side of a mountain - you can look back down into the Hudson river valley. It's only 60 degrees in mid afternoon! I'm freezing! Got a tree log jammed in my trim tabs but got it out.  Tied to end of Lock 11 at the seawall by 6:45pm in Amsterdam. Rich went into town to explore by himself. He walked a LONG WAY. I stayed on the boat and watched a movie. I got brownie points with Lisa by tieing the dogs up in the grass field next to the boat and videoing them so she could see it!
Sun Jun 3rd - Amsterdam NY at lock 11.  Depart at 6:35am with Rich. Work locks all day. Make Sylvan by 7pm just at the start of Lake Oneida on seawall in front of Crazy Clem's restaurant/bar. Very windy and rainy. The seawall tieup is free. Rich and I walked through town and the small amusement park they have there at Sylvan, and had dinner at Abby's restaurant. (also, the NY Pizzeria delivers to boats) COLD! 56 degrees!
Mon Jun 4th - Sylvan, Lake Oneida - VERY windy. No one else is leaving the seawall to cross the Lake today because of the wind and seas. I cast off at 6am. Winds 20+ knots from the west. Seas very steep at 4-5' and rough. We get totally soaked with the spray in this crossing. It's even drenching the flybridge as the bow breaks each wave. Cross the lake to Brewster in about 1 hr 50 minutes, then back into the protection of the canal system. Take the Oswego river at the three rivers junction.  Tied up at the Oswego marina about 1:45pm on the shore of Lake Ontario at the west end of New York. We've finished the New York Canal system. Now it's the lake crossing, then the HUGE Welland Canal system up into Lake Erie. Went out to dinner at the Captain's Lounge with Rich - nice place. Walked dogs around town.
Tues Jun 5th - Oswego NY - Staying over for a resupply/work day, plus I need a haircut. I slept in til about 9:30am but Rich got up early and walked with the dogs. Go to bank and get $80 Canadian for the Welland locks (It's now more than this ($160!!) but they charge you the same amount whether it's Canadian or US, so get the Canadian). Went to Admiral Woolsey's Restaurant at the marina for dinner with Rich.
Weds Jun 6th Oswego NY - Depart at 5:30am and back into Lake Ontario for the first time since Creative Touch left it in 1996! Heading for Port Weller, Canada. 2 foot seas, but temperature only 48 degrees on the Lake! I'm freezing! Arrive St Catherine's marina about 7:30pm and check in with Canadian Customs. Pete Castranova and Rich's sister Judy Baumer join us to make the locks in the Welland tomorrow. Judy has quite a story of her own about her experience with our two black labs and the trip through the locks - CLICK HERE to read her version!
Thur Jun 7th, St Catharine's Canada - Depart at 5:50am and make our way to the seawall at the North end of the Welland Canal system. Check in with the traffic control and sit and wait until we get our clearance to begin the transit. Got clearance by 10:30am - locking through the system with the USCG buoy tender "BuckThorn".  Pay fee of $160 Canadian to lockmaster about lock 4.  Through all 8 locks and tied to seawall (free) in Port Colbourne at 4:45pm. IN LAKE ERIE!  Made really good time for the locks - only about 7.5 hours. Everyone out to dinner that night at Walter's Restaurant down the street.

Fri Jun 8th, Port Colbourne Canada - Judy and Pete left last night. Keith Stechow's Family was supposed to join us for the crossing of Lake Erie, but haven't heard from him. We waiting until early afternoon but it turns out he couldn't make it at all. Rich and I depart into Lake Erie for the all night crossing at about 1:25pm. Interesting that I have to recalibrate the autopilot compass because the magnetic deviation is so different here than in the Florida Keys where it was originally set. Lake Erie water temp is 57 degrees and air temp is 63 degrees. Flat glassy calm water for the crossing to Sandusky Ohio. Great Lake Erie Sunrise. Make Mosley Channel into Sandusky Bay at 8:40 am Saturday June 9th 2001, then go to Rich's home docks at Sandusky Harbor Marina and tie up by 9:30am. Check in with US Customs (but significant hassles - unlike Canadian or even Cuban). Rich took me out for a sailing lesson on his own boat that afternoon. Jerry the marina manager is giving me complimentary dockage for a couple nights while we look for a home marina there for the summer.
June 11, 2001 - Sandusky Harbor Marina - Lisa & Jessica came back yesterday. We spent the day looking for Marinas. For anyone looking in this area I'd highly recommend the Hoyt Marinas which includes Sandusky Harbor, and SonRise Marina where we ended up getting a slip for the summer. I can't say enough good things about the management and people who work for them. Move the boat today at 10:45am to our new slip at SonRise for the summer.

CLICK HERE for the log of the return trip from the Great Lakes through the inland rivers to the Gulf of Mexico and back to the Florida Keys.