Back in the USA!

September 13 – 16

Last Friday was a full moon here in Louisville. That day had been quite overcast all day in the North Channel for our crew who were still in Canadian waters. Debbie stepped out on deck later that evening and the full moon peeked out from the clouds. Great pic Deb!

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The crew had been holed up on Meldrum Island with all of the other 34 inhabitants for 3 days waiting for the winds to subside. On Sunday, the 15th the winds calmed and the seas laid down so Whisky Business departed with plans to get to Mackinaw City, Michigan, crossing back into the USA. It was not to be as the winds picked up so they did get to US waters but stayed in the quaint village of De Tour. Left this morning at 7:30 planning to run all the way to Charlevoix, Mi. which is a great town on the lake. Fog had other plans. Fog rolled in this afternoon stopping them in Mackinaw City where they refueled. Only $700 in fuel today. Winds are looking good for another travel day tomorrow for a run of 55 miles to Charlevoix.

This image of a Great Lakes freighter Debbie caught with her iPad is eerily similar to the freighter SS Edmond Fitzgerald who was lost with 29 souls on board on November 9, 1975. She was caught in a storm with hurricane force winds and waves up to 35 feet in height! Had she been able to endure one more hour underway she could have made port. She sank in 530 feet of water so quickly the captain had no time for a distress call. Rough seas can show up in a heartbeat on the Great Lakes. Waves of 35 feet? Uh, that’s almost as tall as a 2 story house stacked on another 2 story house! Extreme caution is to be taken on these “inland seas” from October through June.

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Where the hell is the captain? Debbie? Hmmmm…

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See the dotted line that the Whisky Business icon is crossing? Back home in the USA!

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The water is so much prettier when the sun is shining.

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Have to do it. This lighthouse or other Great Lakes lighthouses just like this one seem to appear in every Looper’s blog. Guess ours should be no different.

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Map of the route today. I believe the NEBO app we use is based on cell phone coverage. Out on Lake Huron you can see where they lost their signal.

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Great boat name, notice the port of call.

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Take a look at this boat. Debbie really likes it. I have been talking to Debbie for a year about a boat to keep on the Ohio River. It would fit on a boat lift. I believe this boat is a Marinette. Marinette’s were produced in Louisville at Standiford Field from the 60’s into the 90’s. Kind of cult boats. They sell today for what they sold for when they were new, provided they are in good shape.

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The boat below is in a “Travel Lift”, a machine used to lift boats out of the water in slings. Glad this boat is NOT Whisky Business.

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Up and down the coast of Lake Michigan, the tourist towns are full of fudge shops. I mean it, you simply cannot believe the number of fudge shops. All of the fudge shop photo’s that follow are located ON ONE STREET!!!

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Ferry to Macinac Island.

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Oh yeah, not to be missed, MORE FUDGE SHOPS!!!

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Socked in at Meldrum Bay

September 12

The plan was for our intrepid sailors to depart Meldrum Bay this afternoon as the winds were to lay down for calm seas for a 45 mile run to De Tour. At 2 this afternoon white caps could still be seen on the water so Whisky Business will stay put until Sunday (maybe). This great little (I mean REALLY little) town has, count ’em, only 34 residents.

Debbie found something to celebrate, or she and Sue just got thirsty.

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Forecast for the next 2 days calls for high winds so Dave and Sue got WB all snugged in to the dock using every cleat, line and fender available. Master of the Vessel was busy snapping photo’s and opening bottle/s of Champagne.

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One good thing about high winds, they blew the clouds away. While the weather in southern Canada is about 6 weeks ahead of Louisville, the afternoon turned into a nice, albeit cool day in the 50’s

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God love her, she tries. Deb is not great with a camera. The following 2 photos are of the home of the lighthouse keeper during Prohibition.  The current owner who is the 5th owner since Prohibition tells a great story about the house. Way back when during Prohibition the story goes a group of whisky runners hit a rock and bent a prop shaft on their boat. The lighthouse keeper being a very good boat mechanic told ’em he could fix it. Took a few days. Upon completion of the job the lighthouse keeper invites the whisky runners to a bonfire and dinner including lots of whisky. A “drunk front’ comes through and while everyone is having a great time the lighthouse keepers boys off load the whisky and hide it in a secret hole in their basement. Whisky runners get to Chicago and uh-oh, no whisky. Their boss, Al Capone ain’t too happy. Sez he’s gonna go back to Meldrum Bay and get that lighthouse keeper. Never does. Great story nevertheless.

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The little rock formations on top of the boulders are known as “cairns”. Building one with rocks that are found nearby brings luck. I hope the crew of WB built about a hundred of ’em.

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Dinner time. Debbie, Sue and Capn. Dave head to the Meldrum Inn for dinner. Ceasar salad looks pretty good.

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As does the local smoked trout appetizer. Bear in mind they started with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne.

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Not to be outdone, I had Nick, Haley and Brett over for dinner. Filet for Haley, Strip steaks for Nick, Brett and me along with absolutely killer, better than Aunt Janet, Twice Baked Potatoes. They drank Veuve. We drank Premiere Napa Valley Canard Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. Only 60 bottles of this magnificent example of the winemakers art were produced. One upmanship right?

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Wrong. See below. Apple Pie trumps EVERYTHING.

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Great sunset.

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The Run to Chicago

September 11

At 7:30 AM Whisky Business left her home of the last 3 weeks at Roque Marina in Killarney, Ontario with a new captain. On board are the Master of the Vessel, Debbie; First Mate, Sue Heilman and WB’s new Captain, Dave Heilman. Dave and Sue volunteered to assist Debbie in bringing WB to Chicago where she will wait until the opening of the locks on the Illinois River on October 5th. At that time, I will be fit to bring her back to Louisville.

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My view this morning as I strolled across the East End bridge to Utica, Indiana. Looking south on the Ohio River. You can see Twelve Mile Island in the distance.

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A cloudy day on the North Channel above Lake Huron. Such a shame. This is such a beautiful area but without the sun shining, pretty gloomy.

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Captain Jerry (LIGHT) HA! Capn. Dave with all manner of navigational aids at his disposal. I bet he even brought along his AAA card. The seas are with the intrepid crew. At our normal engine setting they are moving along quite nicely at 10.6 MPH.

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At 2:09 today another milestone. With the exception of a fuel filter issue and a blown water pump, the Cummins diesel engines on board WB have performed flawlessly for 6,000 miles.

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DAMN! Debbie isn’t here!! Publishers Clearing House is trying to reach her!!!

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In the image below you can see where WB and her crew ended up after 8 hours underway. They ran 68 miles from Killarney, Ontario to Meldrum Bay, still in Ontario Canada. Weather looks pretty iffy for tomorrow morning but the winds die down in the afternoon. At this time their goal is to make De Tour Village which will bring them back to US waters. It is a run of about 45 miles. Should they wait for the winds to die down they will have to run at cruise speed (19 MPH) in order to arrive early enough. Weather really turns nasty Friday and Saturday so it would be great to lie up in De Tour as it is a pretty neat spot to spend a few days.

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There is light at the end of the tunnel

August 24 – 27

Nothing to eat after midnight last Thursday. On Friday I enter the operating theatre around 3 PM. Around 7 or 8 PM the nurse gets me up for a small walk. Surgeons had said my leg issues would be over as soon as the pressure off that nerve. Ten feet into my stroll the pain kicks in. Yep, same pain. This is a family blog so I will refrain what is going through my mind. It bloody hurts a lot.

Around midnight I feel some hunger pangs.

Saturday morning Dr. Shields comes in with his entourage of residents. Asks me how I feel. He knows that I’m gonna tell him everything is better.

Nope.

Doc, I feel like a hundred dollars. It didn’t work. Finds the issue in a second MRI with contrast. Let’s try this again on Monday.

My brother Jim comes by to cheer me up. Gotta admit I do get a laugh out of him sleeping with his mouth open.

Friday 4PM, lets try this one more time.

SUCCESS! Came back to my room about 8pm. Odd, no extra pain from the second surgery. Matter of fact, feeling pretty good. They won’t let me up till 7 this morning to see if it actually worked this time. It did. Whew! These guys are great. They did a splendid job of using small words and hand puppets to explain the odd issue I had. I will try to ‘splain it here. Each vertaibrae has a canal in each side. The spinal cord goes through the center of the vertebrae. The canals that exit each vertibrae on the left and right side are the channels that the nerve roots come out of the vertebrae and radiate out into your body. The “disc”material had put pressure on this nerve root inside the channes and ALSO on the outside of the vertebrae. Kind of off to the side. It is quite a rare occurance. Fortunately Dr. John Johnson’s services were not needed but he was on hand should I need to have a disc/vertebrae (not sure) fused. This will cut my recovery time by half.

If your back is a wreck there is no better Doc out there. My friend Dr. John Johnson.

This guy literally changed a flat tire in the rain for me.

Had a meeting with both docs today. I can drive in a week. Stitches out in 2 weeks. Three weeks back on the boat!

This guy has never taken a drink of alcohol in his life. Surprised he would cut on the likes of me. He feels that alcohol kills brain cells. Just wants to be a great surgeon. He certainly is.

However I might debate the alcohol with him.

I tend to agree with Cliff Clavin from CHEERS! Click on the link.

30 Days Off

August 22

Almost 2 months to the day, I was in the engine room of Whisky Business changing the oil. While pouring one of the 5 gallon jugs each engine takes I sorta tweaked/torqued my back. Next day while walking my left leg began to hurt. Assumed a catcher’s crouch for a minute or so, felt fine and continued on. Like all men, I just assumed it would go away. Not to be. Last Wednesday it was bothering me a bit more so I laid down to take a nap with an ice pack under my lower back. Woke up in quite a bit of pain. We were in this real little town of Britt, Ontario. The marina loaned us a courtesy car and we went to the Canadian equivalent of an American Emergency Care Unit. It was staffed by a Practical Nurse and a Nurse in training. Never got to see the Practical Nurse. The Nurse in Training looked at pictures on a computer screen as I described my pain. She prescribed a muscle relaxer and a lil’ sumthin for the pain.

No relief.

On Thursday of last week I made arrangements to come home to get proper care. I had this customer in my Party Mart days that was/is a back doc of some repute. Dr. John Johnson is the type of back doc that rebuilds wrecked backs and holds a number of patents on devices used in back surgery. Not the kind of surgeon I need but a really good guy to know. On Friday I texted him, asked him if he remembered me and if he could see me. Immediately, he responded with a 9AM appointment on Tuesday. Wow.

By Saturday I am in serious discomfort. Go to the Norton Hospital Emergency Room. They take a CAT scan and prescribe a steroid, muscle relaxer and a relatively mild pain killer. Began the prescribed meds on Sunday and by Monday felt some relief. Heck I could even stand up straight for a bit. So at this point I am thinking I am on the improve and I could get back to the boat in short order.

Nope.

See Dr. J on Tuesday morning at which time he orders a MRI for that afternoon. By 3:30 Debbie and I are driving home after the MRI when Dr. J calls and sez “Turn around and come back right now, I want you to see a surgeon before he leaves today.”

After reviewing the MRI this is what Dr. J tells me is the problem. There is a 12 millimeter (about 1/2 inch) space in our vertebrae that acts as a conduit for the nerves running down our backs. My “herniated disc” has closed that conduit considerably between my L4 and L5 vertebrae. If the space was down to 8 or 9 MM he would have recommended a series of epidurals and I would probably not see him again. Unfortunately the gap in my vertebrae is down to 5 MM.

Surgery.

He directs me to see Dr. Chris Sheilds in his building. We get to his office and are led to an exam room. Dr. Shields walks in and says “Who the hell ARE you?” John Johnson has called me 8 times in the last 30 minutes to make sure I see you TODAY! He goes on to give me my options.

Option 1. Get an epidural and see if I get any relief. If it does work I can get back to the boat and continue the voyage. He is not optimistic with regard to the success of this option. AND, if anything goes wrong while on the boat I will be at the mercy of the Canadian health care system. Would I even be able to see a doctor up there? We decide to go with this option.

Option 2. Schedule the surgery and get it over with.

On the way home (remember, this is still Tuesday) Dr. J calls me and tells me, no matter what I choose, I’m still going to require the surgery. If you were a family member I would tell you to have the surgery and be back on your feet in 30 days. Hell, you’ll be walking the day after surgery! Gonna take his advice.

On Wednesday while having lunch with my boating buddies Dave Heilman and Bob Shircliff, Dr. Sheilds calls and asks me when do I want to have the procedure. Sooner the better I reply. How ’bout Friday he responds.

In the span of 4 days I have seen 2 back docs, scheduled and undergone surgery.

I can be back on the boat in 3-4 weeks to finish the Loop.

Frankly I love our healthcare system.

The Bustard’s Islands to Killarney to Louisville

August 14 & 15

We left the town of Britt and cruised in a northeast direction to the Bustard Islands. A group of 30,000 islands with lots of breathtaking places to anchor. As we were leaving we saw this old wood Chris Craft that was probably built in the 50’s.

These boats were leaving the marina at the same as our little flotilla

Just before our departure.

Huge wind farm. Not much wind today so they were motionless.

Why should today be different? Lots of narrow channels with granite islands just waiting to bend your props.

These folks chose one of the many islands to go fishing.

Found our perfect anchorage. There were already 2 boats in there when we arrived.

We dropped the hook and once we had deployed enough chain we hooked our bridle on the chain, let out another 25 feet of chain and set the anchor. We use this bridle to take all of the anchoring stress off the windlass. The bridle ends are tied off on our bow cleats.

Girl needs a pedi.

Since there was no wind and we were in a very wind protected anchorage we all rafted up together. Debbie and I went in first, found a nice spot in 15 feet of water and let out a total of 125 feet of chain. Normally we would have only let out about 100 feet but since we had the other 2 boats on our anchor we felt it prudent to let out some additional chain. We then set our anchor alarm for safety’s sake. The anchor alarm is tied into our GPS and if the boat moves out of a preset circle it alerts us.

Since the 14th was the 20th anniversary of my 45th birthday our friends baked an apple pie for me. Love apple pie!

Dan and Janet took this photo of our raft up from their dinghy.

Departed the anchorage around 9 this morning. Idyll Time and Here’s to Us untied and waited out in open water for Debbie and I to lift anchor and join them. There is a couple of feet of clay on the bottom covering the underlying granite and the anchor sets well. But there is a whole lot of muddy clay clinging to the chain as we bring it up. On the bow of WB we have 2 wash down spigots. One is fresh water from our water tank and the other pumps raw water. Since we are in fresh water we just pump the water from the pool to wash the mud off the chain. It is wise to do so in order to keep the chain locker from getting really muddy and smelly.

Our arrival in Killarney and the Roque marina.

And another breathtaking sunseet.

The title of this installment of our blog mentions Louisville. About a month ago when I had changed the oil in all 3 of the diesel engines aboard Whisky Business I wrenched my back. If you have ever had a bout of sciatica, that is what it felt like. Kept hoping it would go away but it was not to be. It wasn’t terrible and it certainly wasn’t hindering my activities. Until we were in the town of Britt. I laid down on the boat to take a nap with an ice pack underneath my back. When I woke up the pain started. It is incessant. It never leaves. When I walk I am bent over at about 90 degrees. Can’t stand up straight. In these remote areas getting around can be difficult. No Uber, Lyft or taxi of any kind. For $500 I found someone to give us a ride to the airport in Saulte Ste. Marie on Friday morning to get a flight that would eventually end up in Louisville. Took 6 hours to get there. Really don’t care how much it costs. I am in that much pain. In Canada they have clinics that are staffed with a Registered Nurse. I visited one and was treated by a nurse in training. Can’t argue with the cost as there was none, even for a foreigner. She prescribed a muscle relaxer and Tylonol like painkiller. Neither has had an effect. Best to go home and get the scans that are not available here. I have an appointment with a back doc on Tuesday.

What is really killing me is I have been looking forward to this area in particular as it is the most scenic part of the entire Loop. I have made an appointment with one of my former customers who is a renowned back guy. Hopefully we can het this straightened out so we can return to the boat in short order and continue onward.

Having completed 3 New York Marathons, this is embarassing the hell out of me.

Wright’s Marina in Britt, Ontario

August 12

We were anchors aweigh at 9am yesterday. Half of the journey to Wright’s Marina at Byng Inlet was quite scenic as it wound through many little islands. Lots of photo’s.

Boat killer. Top of a rock that barely extends above the surface. If not for the well marked channel through this area, there would be lots of shipwrecks.

Best of all worlds, an airplane with floats and a pontoon boat.

The cottagers (that’s what the Canadians call folks with cottages) love their blow up water toys. Biggest yet.

This is where we entered the Georgian Bay at large. Out in big open water. Nuthin’ to see so we ran at cruise speed, around 18 MPH. We got to our destination around 1:30. I really like this NEBO app for tracking our daily voyages. I think I will start adding them to each post.

Cool old wood boat. These things are a real labor of love. Extremely labor intensive to maintain.

Along the inland rivers if you asked a fisherman what he was fishing for, the answer was always the same, catfish. Don’t think that’s the case up here.

Pretty cool, eh?

As you know, the United States of America is the greatest country on earth. BUT we have something called OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) The Canadians are much smarter than we are. They do not have an OSHA. See the images below. The top image is a Canadian gas can. It is amazing! You take the cap off, remove the nozzole and stick it through the cap and VIOLA! You can pour gas out of it WHILE USING ONLY ONE HAND! Truly amazing.

The gas can in this photo is a United States of America, OSHA approved gas can. I keep this in the engine room and it has a few gallons of diesel fuel in it. Diesel fuel has no vapors to explode so it resides safely in my engine room. Here’s how it works. Once you have the nozzole in place, you twist the green sleeve with one hand while pushing the nozzole in with your other hand at the same time. Then, using your third hand and arm you lift the can and pour.

I think I like the Canadian gas can better.