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"Marathon- the Heart of the Florida Keys"

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Great Lakes - Florida Keys Cruise Log & Pictures, 2008.   
Port Clinton OH to Buffalo NY on Lake Erie
August 28, 2008 to August 30th, 2008
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Departing from Brands Marina in Port Clinton Ohio.

Tues Aug 26, 2008 The Boat is at Brands Marina and we are now in Columbus preparing to head up to the Lake. I highly recommend Brand's Marina to other boaters. It's a very boater-friendly full service boat yard, and you can do as much of your own work as you like. It's not quite as fancy as some of the other "resort" marinas but they have a very loyal following of boaters who have been there for years. It seems to be predominantly sailboats, but there are also many powerboats, including us.

After selling our previous boat "Creative Touch", we bought a used 35' Pequod in a boatyard in Marathon Florida. We use the boat in our training business for a variety of uses and are taking it back to Florida. It's name when we bought it was FUNATIC, but we renamed it the MV Nova after my mom, who died in Dec 2006 just after we bought it. We got a great price because essentially NOTHING worked! It had a sound hull though and the plan was to restore it while on the hard there in Marathon. I knew we had to start by removing and rebuilding the engines, and that was just the start. It turned out to be too much to drive back and forth from Ohio to the Keys hauling a tool trailer to do this, so we got a great price on having it trucked over the road up to Brands Marina in Port Clinton Ohio. Good thing too -- It's taken us a year and a half to refurbish this boat (I optimistically thought I could rebuild it all in 2-3 weeks!). It's fully functional and seaworthy but much work still remains to be done. We've replaced both Cruisair (Chevy Short Block 350ci) engines with two new longblocks and essentially replaced or rebuilt almost all of the accessories and mounts. Both transmissions and V-Drives were rebuilt. Most of the electrical system was redone, and we added a house bank of 6v batteries and small inverter. Plumbing was totally redone, and the hydraulic cylinder and system was replaced and redone for steering, including adding in the Simrad Autopilot from our old boat. We also put the JRC radar from the old boat onto this one, installed new GPS, Depthsounder and tied it into an NMEA buss to interface with the computer.  Installed new fuel flow sensors, mermaid airconditioning, and a ton of other things. I'm still working on getting the generator running as we prepare to depart from Brands. I had it running for 60 seconds on ether. I just bought a new carburetor and will attempt to start it again before we leave.

STATS:  Aug 26, 2008.  Reset all to "0".   GPS total trip log: 0,   Northstar total trip log:  0,  Engine Hours: Port 0   Starboard 0,   Gasoline purchased:  0 Gallons Cumulative.
Position:  Lat/Lon  41 31.057N  82 56.902W                Place: Brands Marina, Port Clinton Ohio.    
Could still not get generator running. Fueled up at brands. ($4.159/gallon)

Brands Marina


Lisa & I had dinner at the Garden Restaurant in Port Clinton the night before departure.
The last time we were here was for dinner in 1994,, when we kept "Creative Touch" at Brands Marina. As  I recall that dinner was a prelude to the creation of our daughter Jessica, who was born on May 11th, 1995.

Sunset over the Portage River the night before departure.

Brands Marina

Thursday Aug 28, 2008.  Depart from Brands Marina at 0645 - make 0700 Bridge opening on Portage River. Chilly out - about 65 degrees. Winds E to SE at 10-12 mph. Seas 2' while west of Catawba Island, but picked up some 2-3 ' with occasional higher when in open water past Kelly's Island. Overcast and dreary but water manageable. I went below while Lisa monitored the autopilot and computer, but couldn't do much work because I actually got seasick. I can't remember the last time I ever got seasick, but the boat was pitching and rolling - nothing extreme - but I guess we haven't done long term cruising legs now for more than 2 years. I pretty much acclimated during the day, but now I can appreciate this more from the standpoint of our landlubber friends that come aboard. Was going to do regular work on the computer but couldn't do it today. Averaged about 7.9 knots and took about 9 hours to get to Chagrin Ohio.

. Stay at Chagrin Lagoons Yacht Club - gassed up first ($4.559/gal - expensive - hear Geneva is best price) and then got a slip A28 for the night. Free slip for us - reciprocity with Florida Council of Yacht Clubs. Friendly people in the office, AND we saw our first banana tree, a coconut and a conch shell on our trip! -- They decorate the CLYC with lots of artificial palms plus have the real banana plant in a container on the docks. Tree line docks and lots of part decks - cozy place. Friendly boaters invited us to their slip for cheeseburgers - good time. Lisa & I didn't do much all day but pilot the boat - but both of us are worn out. Monitoring storms Gustav and Hanna in the Atlantic - we won't get out there for another month and a half, but watching. Position at CLYC 41 40.530N  81 26.247W.  Total miles 71.1nm GPS, 68.1 Sounder. 9.5 hrs engines.


The 7am bridge opening on the Portage River as we depart Port Clinton and Brands Marina for our trip back to the Florida Keys.

Departing the Portage River into western Lake Erie.


The morning started out glasslike and very calm until we rounded the tip of Catawba Island. Things started getting rougher then, since the wind was out of the east.


 The tall ship, U.S. Brig "Niagara" closed in on us today but did not pass us - came about 2 miles from us. We initially saw the masts above the horizon but too far away to see the hull. No sails up but coming fast enough to overtake us - reminded me of the "Black Pearl" pirate - ghost ship on the Pirates of the Caribbean movie - coming up out of the water to overtake us.
Arrrgh Ye Maiteys!!!!

Check their website at for photos and more info. You can crew on this boat as a sailing tranee.


Kids fishing off the breakwall at the entrance to Chagrin.
(To the kid I spoke to, email me & I'll send you a copy of the larger photo)

Entrance to Chagrin Lagoons Yacht Club

Chagrin Lagoons has really nice areas with lots of trees, slipholder built decks, and shelters.
(Not to mention all of the lighted artificial palm trees to make the place look tropical!


MV Nova at Chagrin Lagoons Yacht Club

For more photos of Chagrin & Greg & Lisa's Boat - CLICK HERE


Friday Aug 29, 2008. Depart from Chagrins Lagoon Yacht Club at 0730 - Nice Day! - MUCH better than yesterday - a "gimmee" from Providence. Waves start at less than 1' with winds less than 5-7mph from our starboard quarter. During the day it calmed down even more so that the water was almost glass - with gentle 6 inch swells as a following sea that we rode right along with. Were supposed to have a front pass through with thunderstorms but it never materialized. Actually got work done today on the computer and internet while Lisa piloted. Took a shower aboard enroute in the afternoon. Came up on the flybridge naked and Lisa took my picture with the Conch flag flying in the background. Made Presque Isle Harbor entrance in Erie PA about 4:45pm - went to Lampe marina just outside the harbor for fuel first - gasoline was "only" $3.889/gal - MUCH better than CLYC yesterday at $4.59. While on the gas dock a couple of ODNR officers walked down the dock and wanted to speak with the "skipper" - they had the look in their eye of unabashed authority and appeared to be swelling up for confrontation - even before the first words. They were polite enough though. Wanted to know where we were registered (for non-boaters this can be a complex issue - there is more than just registration - there is also federal documentation - and local law enforcement is not very familiar with this). I explained that we were registered in Ohio but documented in Florida and were heading back there. They finally got around to it - they were looking for the Ohio (or any State) registration numbers that have to be prominently mounted toward the bow of a vessel. We don't have any - documented boats aren't required to have them. We did have our Ohio registration sticker on the windshield up under the sun screens so I showed it to them. In their favor I have to say they were satisfied and didn't ask to board us or look at our federal papers. Headed in to Presque Isle Yacht club who I spoke with earlier in the day to get a slip - but confusion when we got in. No one seemed to really be in charge and did not know where to go. Tied to a sea wall on T-dock but lots of rocking from swells. Went in and dockboy didn't know where to put us - said we needed to wait until the Commodore got back - maybe 8pm. It was only about 6pm and we didn't want to wait, with unknown assignment, and getting up by 4am tomorrow - so called Wolverine moorings marina next door and they had a slip. With our boat US discount it was $1/day, versus the $1.25/day at the YC who had no reciprocity for us. Moorings is nice place. Restaurants within walking distance. Locked gates. Showers, restrooms and laundry. Slip A2. The Canadians are showing up in mass tonight to party hearty for the start of this memorial day weekend. Went to Smugglers Cove Restaurant for Dinner - seared Ahi Tuna and Mako Shark - was good.
Position at Wolverine Moorings
42 08.122N  080 05.378W Miles traveled so far: 138.6 nm,  159.5 sm.  Gallons of Gasoline used to date: 158.53 gallons


Lisa at the helm

She took LOTS of photos along the way.



The GPS here  is tied to the Autopilot and the Depthsounder, and the computer down below.
The boat can then steer itself after we program it.

Lisa's Self Portrait

Most of the day the water was like glass - one of those "gimmee" days
that is a Providential gift.


ARRGGHHH YE MAITEYS !!!!!       WARNING! - Not for the faint of heart!
The water was so flat and calm that we could easily take showers underway.
Click on the pirate face above to see a censored photo of Greg naked on the flybridge after his shower - striking a Captain Morgan pose and the Key West Conch Republic flag waving!
(Caution - do not click if you think seeing an old man naked on a boat might be too much to handle!)


Heading for Presque Isle, Erie PA



Fuel Dock at Presque Isle. Here we were approached by two water law enforcement officers who looked overly serious and like they were on a mission.    They asked to speak to the skipper.

It seems they couldn't see any registration numbers on the bow of the boat as most State's require, and I think they thought they had me.

Federally documented boats are not required to display those numbers and after I explained this, plus showed them a small registration sticker up under the windshield sunscreens, they politely excused themselves and left.

This is our second encounter in the Great Lakes. The first was the USCG who "intercepted" us coming into the Portage river in Port Clinton - they weren't even on a boat - waived us over to the dock to board us. I had to ask first to see who they were to see if I was going to comply. Since it was USCG of course I did.

The observation tower at Presque Isle,
Erie, PA

The new convention hotel in the Harbor. Note the high glass walking bridge to the right. It goes over a canal and the marina and Yacht Club was right behind this hotel.

Dockmasters office at the Moorings at Wolverine Park -
the marina where we stayed the night.

MV Nova at Wolverine Moorings

CLICK HERE for more photos of today, including Lisa's bird shots


Lisa & I had dinner at the Smugglers Cove restaurant (& Wharf Bar).
 Seared Ahi Tuna, Blackened Mako Shark, and wine.

Saturday Aug 30, 2008. Depart from Presque Isle, Erie PA, Moorings at Wolverine Park Marina. Left slip at 7:05am and out of Harbor at 7:25am. Really foggy - but not heavy fog - just all over. It finally burned off into the clouds. Winds have picked up a bit - 10-12 knots and seas are not high - about 2-3 feet, but very choppy and uncomfortable. At least they're off our bow. Went full throttle today at 3500 rpm and about 14.5 knots through the chop and into the wind. This pounds a lot but doesn't wallow around like cruising at 7 knots in the same thing. Just sucks fuel. Partway into the morning we had our first "incident" on this trip - I was sitting in the helmseat at the Flybridge, eating a sandwich. Something snapped and I went over backwards. I had been sitting there resting back in the seat with the seas pounding like a riding a mild mechanical Bull ride. I landed on my back (still in the seat) with my feet sticking straight up and still holding my braunschweiger sandwich in one hand. Lucky I didn't hurt myself or crack my head. I was OK. Lisa thinks it's hilarious. The bolts mounting the seat to the pedestal had worked loose during all the pounding and finally snapped out. We fixed it, but need bigger bolts. Later in the morning the seas started to flatten out and it was much more comfortable - speed went up to around 16 knots at same RPM's. Made it to the mouth of the Niagara River at about 12 noon. We bypassed the lock and canal and went directly up the river under the Peace Bridge. WOW! All of the water from all of the Great Lakes flows into this river to go over Niagar Falls, and this is the narrow portion of the river. Talk about current! Since it was flowing with us we went at full throttle under the bridge and down quite a ways on the river. Eddies - whirlpools - chaotic chop - it was very animated water. It looked like we wouldn't clear the next railroad bridge but the chart height said we would, and with this current there was no being timid - just commit and tear off the radar tower and bimini if it didn't work - but cleared OK - looked pretty daggone close to us. Made it into the side canal to continue up toward the New York Canal System (Erie Canal), and Smith boys Marina where we are keeping the boat for a few weeks. Hope to see Dan and Nancy Little tonight since they live here in Buffalo not terribly far from where the marina is on Tonawanda Island. Port Engine started to overheat somewhat (about 200 degrees) toward the end of our run into the mouth of the Niagara river, but had run fine for the 5 hours previous at full throttle - will check coolant. Tied to dock at Smith Boys about 1pm. Glad we ran fast today. Position on G Wall 43 01.994N, 078 53.161W.  225.3nm total trip distance - GPS, and 209.3nm on Northstar sonar.  25.5 Total Engine Hours this trip. Run today was 6.0 engine hours, 70.7nm. Smith Boys will do some work on our generator, and we should be back here by the 3rd week of September to continue into the New York Canal System.

Departing from Preque Isle Harbor about 7:30am, it was very foggy out. Not so dense that we couldn't see boats through it, but very pervasive. It burned off into low clouds by mid morning.

It was rough and choppy so we got up on plane and ran at full throttle for the approximate 80 miles to Buffalo. Took us almost 5 hours to get across. (View off the back of the boat through the saloon doors)

It was too rough to do much of anything on the way across - let alone take pictures - so the ones that follow are after we made it most of the way across the lake and the seas started to flatten out for us. the radar image at left shows the NY coast on the right, Canadian coast on the left, and the mouth of the Niagara River at the top - about 25-30 miles away.

During the rough portion is when my helm seat snapped off the pedestal sending me over backwards in the bucking flybridge - braunschweiger sandwich still in hand.

Finally the seas start to lay down.










Approaching Buffalo NY and the Niagara River from offshore Lake Erie

Click the thumbnail for a nice panoramic shot of Buffalo's skyline.

Check out these Giant Wind Turbines just south of Buffalo! I didn't even know they were there.
Click Here for more info on these wind turbines.

We're now entering the Niagara River with the Peace River Bridge ahead.
This bridge connects Buffalo NY to Canada.

Traffic was jammed to a standstill on both the US and Canadian sides. I suppose that the normal customs hassles, combined with the holiday weekend made it a nightmare.

The current entering the Niagara River is TREMENDOUS here!
Imagine this narrow section of river where all of the water from all of the Great Lakes passes through to drop over Niagara Falls and run out to sea on the St Lawrence Seaway.

This thumbnailed view of the current rushing against the bridge pilings is a closer look at the swift river. Click to enlarge.

The Niagara river from south to north. We're docked on the east branch. Lake Ontario above, Lake Erie below.
Click on the photo for more info on the Niagara River and its Niagara Falls.


The water just boils in here. This section, between the Peace River bridge and the railroad bridge downriver you see here in the distance, is the most rapid segment of the navigable portion of the Niagara River.

The charted bridge clearance says we have enough room to pass underneath without ripping off the radar mast and bimini, but it looks pretty daggone close! Lisa's worried. With this river's current, and the fact that we have to go about full speed on the throttle to maintain steering control, we don't have too much time to worry about it now.
(We cleared, but not by much).

Now that we're past the narrow portion the river quiets down some, and we approach another bridge



I guess Lisa is now our official "Cruise Photographer

We finally settle in to "Smith Boys" Marina in Tonawanda (Buffalo) NYon the G Wall This is right at the entrance to Erie canal which will be our next segment. After all the hard running I've got a small issue with heating and raw water pump on the port engine I'll address when we get back there. For now we're returning to Columbus by car for a while for me to work and travel. They're also going to look at our generator for us before we get back.

Nice classic wooden motoryacht tied just astern of us.

There is an Antique Boat Show coming up this next week at the Buffalo Launch Club

Friends Dan and Nancy Little, who live in Buffalo, came to meet us on the boat and took us out for dinner and dancing - went down to "Dockside" which sits right on the Erie Canal.
(Sorry for the bad photo - it was my camera phone at night, outside on the deck.

and Yes Dan - we left your car back in your driveway on Sunday (didn't make it to the falls). Didn't know your son was home - he came out and addressed Lisa who was getting things out of your car - and didn't see me yet - thought we were stealing the car or something. :-)      thanks for the car.

Monday-Tuesday Sept 15-16, 2008. Maintenance work in Buffalo NY: Drove back to Smith Boys Marina to check out the overheating problem, and Generator work. Seems the Port sea water pump burned out its bearings, so replaced it with a rebuilt pump - and adjusted belts on Port and Stbd Engines. Smith Boys could not get generator running because could not order specific ignition parts without specific engine model, but thought it was inadequate spark. Pulled those parts and brought back with me for potential replacement. Had help from Dan Little to take boat over to Wardell's boat yard to get fuel, then back to Smith Boys. Getting it ready to just take off when we get back next week.

Port Engine overheated toward end of last run - after 5+ hours at full throttle.

Pulled original seawater pump (right) and replaced with rebuilt unit (left).
Also tightened both belts left & right engines.

The "ugly", but fascinating towers at Smith Boys beside where we're docked.

The classic MY off our stern.

Old abandoned swing bridge in middle of Erie Canal at it's entrance at Tonawanda.

Other view of the classic Motoryacht.

Dan Little helped move the boat to get fuel.

Wardell's Boat Yard at entrance to Erie Canal for fuel.
(Nice place - friendly people).

Houseboat Row at entrance to Erie Canal

Dan on the Flybridge

Back to the Smith Boys dock until we leave next week.



Forward to Next Trip Segment - Buffalo NY to New York City, through the Erie Canal and down the Hudson River


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