Don’t forget to order “boat cards” $50 for 1000 cards at https://www.vistaprint.com/ Ray’s tips: Keep the back blank for notes (port, date, etc). Don’t pay extra for coated paper (it is harder to write on with pen or pencil!) For your main picture, feature a picture of YOU on or near your boat. We’ll want to remember you by your faces not by your boat! We have: Our name, boat name, cell, email, NEBO, MMSI, ham radio callsign on ours. Other things to consider: hailing port, boat make / model etc.
Also, we highly recommend the NEBO app. Very helpful for social connections on your Loop. Their little hardware appliance is highly recommended, as it’ll be much more reliable than your smart phone by itself. Plus you can see your boat’s system voltage from many miles away! You will often hear that, “The best part of the Great Loop are the people you will meet!” That is true. Things like NEBO become an enhancement for you to find your people and for your people to be able to find you! The instant messaging feature is particularly nice and faster than email or TXT.
Provisioning in-port? and just getting around?
INSTACART In-Port we often used https://www.instacart.com/ for delivery of groceries to the marinas we were staying in. It does not work everywhere, but it worked in most places when we needed it!
In addition, some marinas have courtesy vehicles, or you can call the Harbor Host in the port near you or ride. See database on AGLCA website to identify Harbor Hosts. ALSO, local Loopers in the marinas you visit will often offer you their car.
Uber or Lyft or taxi is often an option as a last resort IMO. Why? It is not uncommon to have to pay $10 or $20 each way or more.
SO, use our Harbor Hosts were responsive and extremely helpful. Use them! Some may have been out of town when we tried to call them. But, it is still worth the try! Some ports may have 2 -4 different Harbor Hosts to try. We found they truly love helping fellow Loopers who are passing through their ports.
We made the binary decision to go PAPERLESS as much as possible. Paperless Banking and Bill Pay, even our Doctors got good at Telemedicine thanks to Covid! While Ray grew up with paper charts for navigation, Shelly encouraged him to go “cold turkey” and we made the binary decision to go paperless for Navigation. Shelly became the online Waterway Guide expert for soft core navigation such as marinas, bridge heights underway, and other valuable information. She is in-charge of telling me what we had for bridges coming up. Ray became proficient with Aquamaps and Navionics both on our chart plotter on on our smart devices for all our hard core navigation route planning.
We love our Auto Pilot (A/P). We had it installed before starting our Loop (that was the single most expensive investment / improvement to our boat). We consider it essential. You still need a helmsman actively on watch, but it reduces fatigue by 3 or 4 times. e.g. Instead of a maximum 1-hour shift without A/P, either of us can be the active helmsman for many hours at a time.
Marine A/P is just the opposite of cruise control in an automobile in that the A/P steers the boat for you, while the throttle is more or less constant and untouched. Most A/P have two modes: one mode “tracks” a multi-leg course set up in the chart plotter… industry standard is to always prompt the helmsman at every waypoint or any change in course. The helmsman then controls WHEN to start the turn based on traffic or proximity to ATONs, etc. With the A/P’s second mode, no multi-leg course needs to be programmed into the chart plotter… one simply presses a button to virtually tell the A/P “stay on this heading”. In this mode, it is common to be able to tweak one’s course a bit to port or starboard while underway either turning a knob or pressing a button (one for left, one for right). Ours is Raymarine to interface with our other electronics, and it also has a visible “position indicator” for the rudder which is very helpful when maneuvering.
“Marriage Savers” = Wireless Headsets
These are “Looper Essentials” because of docking and locking! We selected: Eartec brand, Ultra Lite HD
Highly Recommended that you attach a lanyard. As we’ve learned they do not float, and they are expensive to replace.
To the extent possible, Shelly is in-charge of the lines and the locking. SHE has to tell dock hands what to do. I express my wishes to her through the head sets. She then tells them what we want them to do. When docking, once we are secured enough for me to leave the helm, I will then come down and make my adjustments as I like. Generally, she tells me when it is OK for me to come down.
AIS? Automatic Identification System on VHF radio
We also loved having AIS Receive when we got underway for our Loop, and it did not take long for Santa to deliver an early Christmas present for us to add AIS Transmit as well. We chose Em-Trak B940 which has an antenna splitter, and Blue Tooth, WiFi). The BT/WiFi enabled me to “see” the traffic on the riverways and locks early in the morning when trying to time our departure for the day. e.g. “Are there any commercial tows coming our way?” I could do it all down in the salon on my smart phone with my coffee without having to go up to the bridge. Below is a screen shot example of other Loopers who have AIS appearing on Aquamap on our iPad or chart plotter. What you are looking at on AIS is seven Loopers who just cleared the Wilson Lock and are making their way to the Fall Rendezvous 2021. We are already tied up (magenta colored boat to the right).
For weather window planning and open water passages, Predict Wind and Windy were invaluable apps on my smart phone. “Can’t live without.”
We use St Brendan’s Isle for our mail forwarding.
We use Amazon for a lot of “stuff”. (You’ve probably never heard of Amazon.)
We have recently signed up with Aspen Dental so we can get our teeth “serviced” from most anywhere we go. It has some pros (and some cons). Dentists lag behind their physician counterparts in telemedicine for some strange reason.
For Internet, having something better than “just” marina WiFi will likely be important for most everyone.
Because of Ray’s background in IT and wireless networks we invested in a dual-carrier cellular network that works well most everywhere. But, Starlink is now outpacing the need for a system like we use today.
Most cruisers we talk to love Starlink’s new mobile capabilities. I’d recommend that rather than telling you about what I did pre-Starlink at this point!
We have a dinghy and a nice davit system that enables us to still use the swim platform. The dinghy does not get used very often. But when we need it, it was good to have. (e.g. https://shellerina.com/2022/10/29/spooner-creek-2-nights/ ) We don’t have a dog to bring ashore from an anchorage for example. “Do you need a dinghy for your Loop?” It is a nice to have item, but honestly it is not essential. Towing a dinghy is fine on occasion. But, it is not recommended to TOW a dinghy for the whole Loop! It’ll get in-the-way way too often to be worthwhile (e.g. docking and locking.)
Ray is the blogger. He uses WordPress on his iPhone for 95% of all our posts (fast & easy most of the time). 95% of the pictures come from one of our smart phones. Occasionally, Ray uses his long-lens digital SLR to augment the pictures of vessels or wildlife or sites that are far away. You might not believe this, but honestly, he averages 20 minutes per blog post… it doesn’t take as much time as you’d think once you learn how to do it all from your smart phone! Some take longer, some take only a few minutes. He often goes back and improves his pictures or his prose. So, version 1.0 of any blog post is usually done quickly to just get it up, and then he goes back and tweaks it later… hours later… days later… sometimes weeks later! We’ve got all our family and friends trained to “check the blog!” before calling us and asking what we’ve been up to.
Incidentally, we ourselves, are our primary beneficiaries of our blog. We do it mostly for ourselves … so that we can remember the details of our many adventures months and years later. We are constantly going back to find a detail that we know we wrote down in the blog. All of YOU and all of our friends and family are the secondary beneficiaries!
We get a lot of positive feedback, so we’ll keep doing it this way!!!
Shelly’s GALLEY TIPS
Shelly is a big fan of Carolyn’s [modest 1-time fee] website / bog / menus / tips for cruisers: https://theboatgalley.com/
https://shellerina.com/2022/01/29/new-galley-faucet/ Simple upgrades often yield the biggest improvements to life on the boat!
https://shellerina.com/2022/02/18/another-galley-upgrade-rebuilt-stove/ New / Updated stove parts make a difference!
https://shellerina.com/2022/02/25/the-galley-once-again-the-focus-of-improvements/ No loss of counter space: add air fryer-oven!
https://shellerina.com/2022/12/04/meal-2-on-the-new-two-burner-grill/ Bed Bath & Beyond $13 Love it!
Magma’s Nesting Cookware… a “must have”!
2lbs fresh Haddock
1 med white onion diced
4 ribs of celery diced
2 Tbsp salted butter
1Qt of FAT FREE half and half
2 cans white whole tomatoes rinsed and quartered
Chicken bouillon base sprinkle
Salt / pepper to taste
Sauté onions,celery 1 tbsp butter until soft. Add chicken base then fat free half and half til headed. Taste for salt/pepper or more chicken base. Float in haddock cover shut off heat 15 minutes. Lift lid add 1 Tbsp butter dill and parsley. Enjoy taste again
Swedish meatballs with garlic mashed