NEW!!! “LOUISE” T SHIRTS, by Marushka Hand Prints.  For those of you who have suggested that we have t-shirts… we finally got around to it, and thanks to all of those who encouraged the idea!

A Smith, family owned and operated screen printing company based out of Grand Haven Michigan, got hard to work hand printing each shirt. If you contribute $40.00 to Katie and Jessie on a Boat, you will receive this superb t-shirt!!! Who doesn’t need a shirt, with two chicks on their chest, and a boat on their back? Representing the art of cruising and simplicity, combined with hard work and gratitude. If you donate at least $40.00 to helping us complete America’s Great Loop, not only will you have a shirt to change your oil in, but you will be supporting the mission of two young women, working to prove a pretty simple point. The point being… don’t let fear get in the way of moving forward with your own dreams. Don’t let yourself get stuck. And if you do get stuck, I hope it is on the ground in the new boat you just took off on.

DSC_0764 DSC_0763Contributions or no contributions, we appreciate everyone who keeps up with our story . This week, Katie and I start moving north up the East Coast. We have a 4 month trip ahead of us as we travel back to the Great Lakes. What will happen in these 4 months… I do not know. The only thing predictable in the life of Katie and Jessie is that, no matter what, things are going to go wrong. Disaster amidst the wanderlust. Ye haw. THANK YOU EVERYONE. We are so grateful for the ongoing encouragement, enthusiasm, guidance, and support.

Cool-aid, Oreo’s and peanut butter. That’s all.

I have been keeping a journal, for most things I choose not to share with the public. After reading through it this morning I realized there were some good stories to tell.

journal bw-2 journal bw

DATE: SEPT 22/12       LOCATION: Hoppies Marina- Mississippi River

“Six days since I have written a single word. Time goes by so quickly, it is challenging to back track multiple days for many things have taken place. Or so it seems.

After leaving Quiver Island anchorage, we took a pit stop in a cob-web of a town called Havanna, IL. We could not enter the marina to get diesel because of shallow depths, so we tied up to a random dock on the river bank instead. We borrowed a shopping cart from the dollar store, strolled the streets in search of a gas station. The auto shop had 5 gallon jerry cans, which we filled with diesel, using the shopping cart to get them back to Louise. It was rather obvious to the locals that we were not from the area.

That evening was spent at another lovely anchorage with our river family “The Copes” and our new German friend Hinnerk. Leaving the next morning, we ran aground, got unstuck, ran aground again, etc.  Thank god the Copes’ were there to save the day. Pulling us off the bottom, and using their depth sounder ahead of us as they stated how deep it was over the handheld vhf. This guided us back into the channel. If it weren’t for the Cope family, we would have probably said screw this, and headed back for Lake Michigan.

Grafton, Illinois was the following days destination, where we stayed the night at a spoiling marina. Great people, great town, tons of “loopers”, never to be forgotten. Not to mention how desperate we were for showers, laundry, and a real meal. As we were getting ready to leave in the morning, two female girls, 22 year old twins, with shaved heads and bikinis pull up to the dock next to ours via tandem kayak. WHAT? Cody and Reese introduced themselves. Leaving from the headwaters of the Mississippi River, they had already been kayaking for 2 1/2 months, destination New Orleans. We were of course instant friends, and within moments the girls joined us on Louise for a cold beer and cookies! They were on their way to St. Louis that day as well, so we tied off their kayak and gave them a 15 mile ride down river. So many questions for one another, back and forth laughter on how the hell we all ended up on the Mississippi river.

journal-3 journal-4Cody and Reese, like us – left on a whim. But on a much more extreme adventure, that included 200 dollars in their pocket, a tent to pitch on the river bank at night,  cool-aid, oreos, peanut butter, and an old tandem kayak. It made Louise look luxurious. It made us feel rich with comfort, food, and supplies. A whole new perspective. We thought we were minimalists, and had yet to meet girls crazier than us, braver than us, tougher than us. It was the first time we had the chance to help someone else, someone with less than us. I will never forget that feeling, and look forward to it again.

After two nights at a yacht club outside St. Louis with Cody, Reese, and Hinnerk, it was time to part ways. The twins are taking the Mississippi all the way to the gulf, while we turn east up the Ohio river, towards the Cumberland. I wonder if I will ever see them again in my life. With nothing but an email address, I hope we meet again.  Today we spent most of the day, and over 50 miles surfing the Mississippi. This river is huge, fast, and intimidating. Full of surprises rounding every bend. If it’s not continuous barge traffic, it’s wing dam after wing dam followed by current that pushes and pulls our house in directions we don’t steer. All though impressed by it’s scenery, I don’t like this river. Now we are safely tied to a dock at the infamous “Hoppie’s Marina.” Thank god. The last and only stop available for more than 240 miles, as the next 5 nights will be spent at anchor. Tonight I will sleep well.”

journalHoppie’s Marina. The Ritz of the Mississippi.Katie (l) and Jessie leaving from Harbour Point Yacht Club, MisoIllinois Valley Yacht Club. Thanks to Hinnerk who got us a slip for two nights, and did an interview on us for his German based podcasts and website. http://paulinchen-worldwide.com


Never know what day it is. Never know what time it is. Hygiene and health are questionable. What month is it? How the hell did we get here? What are we doing again? Whose idea was this? Running water would be nice. Or how about milk that stays cold? A vacuum to clean 4 shedding beings would be lovely. A cat who does not mistake our bed for her litter box possibly. Better yet, a house that is stable, where items stay in one place…where things only move when you move them.

The jokes we make about the life we signed up for are endless. The truth is, thus far, we would not have done it any other way. We would not have chosen a different boat, a bigger boat, or a newer boat. There is nothing else that we wish we would have done to out-fit or prepare Louise. Jimmy, Randy, and Tari Knew exactly what was important to have, and exactly what was not. The more you have, the more you have to fix when it breaks. Keep it old school my friends. It’s way cheaper, and way more rewarding. Life is just fine without a water maker. All you need is  20 gallons of water a week.

Living simply is a miracle in itself, and I would say we have gotten darn good at it. Making it to Mobile Bay was our first huge accomplishment. For two girls who never graduated college, this is how I imagine it feels. Why isn’t everyone calling me and sending me cards in the mail?!?! Maybe because I have no address. Reaching the gulf and seeing that first dolphin in Mobile Bay, might have been the most satisfying moment in 61 days and 1300 winding miles.


Miles to Mobile

For some reason, it seems to be getting colder and colder as we get farther south. I thought there was a reason people fled in the direction of the equator for the winter? Apparently not. This particular day we did not know what to do with ourselves on a brisk day while at anchor, so we put every piece of our bedding in the cockpit to stay warm, hooked the laptop up to the speakers and had a movie day. Quite satisfying.

Sunrise at Lock One Cutoff anchorage. Katie taking Reggie for his morning duties.

The previous day, Katie and I took a long walk on some road leading to who knows where. A sherrif stopped us along the way and asked where we were headed. Was it obvious we were not southern Alabama locals? He warned us that the area we were walking was very populated with wild boar and that they are extremely dangerous. Of course! Wild boar. Why didn’t we think of that? Maybe because we were more concerned about the Alligator population. Katie asked the sheriff what action should be taken if we happen to encounter a wild boar, and the sheriff responded “run and climb the nearest tree” Katie was of course more concerned about Reggie than herself. He gave us his number and told him to call him if we had any problems what-so-ever. Hah!  We walked back to the dinghy so fast, knives flipped open in hand, ready for a wild boar stabbing.

Bird seems to have herself buckled in for the day

One fine morning, we waited out fog at anchor until the sky was nice and blue. An hour later, we found ourselves in some IFR conditions. The fog had come back to haunt us. Borderline zero visibility. On a winding river with massive barges that can come around a bend at any moment. Uhhhh…. mommy? Thankfully we were traveling with Traunt and Whish. We hugged their stern and stayed just close enough keep them visible. Communicating via VHF, and creeping along at idle speed, Truant dropped a hook right outside the channel markers, where we tied up and waited until the fog lifted.

It was so erie, quiet, intimidating, freaky, fun? Don’t mess with mother nature.

Antlers guiding our way

Counting down miles, and only a handful of days until we complete this insane river system. Somehow we got here from Michigan. That is seriously weird. The crazy part is, so many people take this trip, and it is hugely populated with the retired folk. Which we love. Which makes us not actually crazy. Right?

go down a lock a woman, go back up a lock a pirate

The last lock of the entire river system! How bittersweet. Coffeeville Lock, just after Bobby’s Fish Camp…. we loved this one so much that we decided to lock down… stay in the lock…and lock right back up. After traveling for several days by ourselves, we got a call from our fellow sailor friends “Whish” as we were on our way down the lock. Donna, on Whish informed us they would catch up to us if we stayed put for a day (not knowing we had already moved forward.) Considering it was Halloween, and we didn’t feel like celebrating with just each other, boooring – we contacted the lock master and asked if we could stay on the floating bollard and lock back up. He laughed and told us we were the first people he has ever seen to do such a thing. By the time the chamber filled back up we were dressed as pirates, with “Pirates of the Caribbean” blasting from the speakers. Coffeeville Employees looked concerned.

Locking down what we thought would be our last.  Moments before we transformed into pirates, and turned around to backtrack 5 miles upriver to meet with Whish and Truant.

Intimidating. I know.Pirate day. Since Pickwick Lake we have been traveling with Donna and Jeff aboard SV Whish, and Mark and Jo aboard SV Truant. We agreed previous to Halloween that we would have a “pirate day” if we were all together. Pirates we were. The six of us ate and drank and talked absolute non-sense all evening. The party ended at 8:30 because pirates go to sleep early. Or have too much to drink.

The ladies. Love you ladies. Thank you Hinnerk Weiler for bringing us together.

Pirates have butter knives in their belts.

Pirates also have ships tattooed on their backs.

This ended up being one of the best and most memorable days while traveling the rivers. Katie and I both get anxious to move on, always wanting to get to the next place.  Just backtracking 5 miles, and the thought of going back up river was for some reason unbearable. Closer to Michigan?!? No thank you. The moment we decided not to be lame for the holiday and to postpone our next stop just a single day, it ended up being the greatest move yet. I love pirates.

Bobby’s Alligator Camp

Bobby’s is the last place to get diesel on the Tombigbee river before you reach Mobile, Alabama. Everyone talks about it, and everyone goes. Unfortunately we did not stay the night there… but anchoring close by brought us back 3 times. I refer to it at Bobby’s Alligator camp because just south of this we spotted our first alligator!!! He was bathing on a sandy bank until we decided to disturb him by steering his way. I of course wanted a photograph so we turned around and did a drive by to get a closer look. By the time I put the appropriate lens on my camera, he crawled into the muddy water never to be seen again. Not much farther down the river,  we spotted another one on a bank basking in the sun. Both of them got away before I got a picture to prove it. So I could be lying. But I’m not.

Bobby’s was an old fashion facility that felt like you were walking through an antique shop but nothing was for sale. The walls filled with history, nic-nacs, dust, dead fish, photographs, and odd signs.

This is Sheila. She is the cook at the restaurant located on the premisses. Allthough the restaurant is closed half the week, Sheila offers to come in after hours and cook her famous catfish dinner for boaters who stay at Bobby’s. She was lovely, humming and singing while sweeping, and when I reached out my hand to introduce myself, she immediately responded with a hug instead.

The things that were for sale to eat, also looked like antiques. Better to take pictures than to consume I suppose.

Locals catchin’ gators. I actually have no idea what these fisherman caught that morning, I would just like to think it was a gator.

Topped Louise off with diesel. Only 118 more miles till our “river lives” are over. Reggie is most excited.

An anchorage right outside of Bobby’s Fish Camp, we tied our stern off to a tree. Bird curiously tried to figure out a way to get off the boat. It did not work. We spent the night trying to fish again. It also did not work. Lost my lucky lure in the process, got stuck in weeds down under. We played country music too loud, and scared off whatever fish were there in the first place. Woke up to thick fog, and had to wait a while before we could leave that day.

“Can’t we just put it in park?”

I do not know the best way to summarize the last week. So here it goes.

Sometimes we pretend you can just put a boat in Park. Just like a vehicle. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. Hm.

Bird gets worms. Bird gets poisoned by almond milk and de-worming medicine. Bird spends day after day throwing up. Bird falls into the river at night while we are not paying attention. Bird somehow hangs onto a line attached to our dinghy meowing until we discover her. Bird has a hell of a day.

Reggie gets a tick in his face. Surgery is performed to remove tick while under way. Tick is removed. A few days later, Reggie has 4 more ticks. More surgery is performed. Reggie does not complain. Reggie is a good dog. We are now on a mission to get tick medication. We are also on a mission to not catch the worms, and ticks ourselves. Ew.

Anchor gets stuck. We snap an entire tree in half and pull the rest of it up. Better luck the rest of the week though. Muddy rivers = good anchoring.

The river becomes brown, swampy, un-appetizing. The temperature rises. No way to shade ourselves while moving. Hot. Humid. Sticky. We anchor out for a week while there are no marinas. All we want to do is swim. Be clean. We have been warned of alligators. Swim? I do not think so. No more ice, no more fresh food, getting down to the canned food. Slowly losing sanity. Every hour becomes happy hour.

Walks along creepy Alabama murder scene properties. Fisherman. Dead wild boar, floating down the middle of the river. Haha, what? Armadillo! Seriously! We saw 2 armadillo, weirdest creatures ever created. Every log looks like an Alligator. But it isn’t, not yet at least. No more fish have been caught. If I don’t catch a fish, I owe Ben Lynch 50 dollars. I will catch a fish.

Demopolis Marina. Showers. Laundry. Land. No ticks. Civilization in a redneck way. Internet. Electricity. Trash receptacle. Courtesy car. Walmart! All is well.

Conclusion: 200 miles till Mobile, Alabama. We will become a sailboat again. Turn Left. Ocean. Tides. Weather. Sharks. Dolphins. Salt. Pirates. Louise is the coolest boat ever.

Roll Tide

Merica. We love you.

An 84 ft lock that felt like prison. Rather creepy. In front of us is sailing vessel “Truant” Aboard are Mark and Jo from Georgian Bay, Canada. We have been cruising with Truant and another sailboat “Whish” since we left Pickwick Lake. They keep us very entertained with a daily “captain’s meeting” AKA happy hour. We are so lucky to be traveling with these 4, they are a wealth of good knowledge and keep us laughing.

One lovely morning, we could not get our anchor up. This was an issue we had not yet encountered. Using both of our strengths, time and time again we could not get it to budge. Eventually, once the line was tight and vertical from the bow down to the anchor, we cleated off the line and floored it in forward. We hear a loud snap. Louise moves. We both pull on the anchor line once again. We had caught an entire tree.

Louise, Whish, & Truant anchored right outside of an old snag-boat museum on the Tombigbee river. Of course the museum was closed, so we took a 4 mile walk to the closest town of Pickensville, AL where 1 diner was open and served a delicious, cheap lunch. On the way home we found a ton of pecan trees! Pecans are expensive! So we gathered as many as we could and later made pecan candy and cookies.

Not going to lie… Alabama has not been our favorite portion of river life. But the other day we rounded a corner and were surrounded by towering white rock. It came out of nowhere in the middle of the swampy river, and was an impressive change of scenery.

I went for a walk with Reggie the other day. Along the way I discovered an 8 point rack laying on the ground of some abandoned property, that looked like the murder scene from a horror movie. I snagged the rack, and got the hell out of there. We now have a classy edition to our bow pulpit.

Muddy anchor line. Unused bikes. Antlers.

The barge traffic on the Tombigbee River has been significantly less than the rest of the rivers. It keeps you on your toes when you see them come around the river bend. This one told us over the VHF “See you on the two whistle” Which means you pass him on  your starboard side. Katie and I both looked at each other laughing because we both blanked on what the “two whistle” meant because it had been so long that we had to communicate with barges.