Introduction to Boat Systems – Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell

Part two of our Florida trip contained our primary destination, the Introduction to Boat Systems class by Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell in Vero Beach.

Knowledgable and hospitable Alyse and Chris Caldwell

For those that are not familiar with their classes, Chris and Alyse have a two-day Cruising 101 FUNdamentals seminar, generally followed the next week by the Introduction to Boat Systems. The idea is that you can take one class, enjoy Florida for a few days, and then take the next.

We have not taken the Cruising 101 FUNdamentals class yet, but one of the couples in our class had taken it the previous week. The wife was quite animated and enthusiastic when speaking about it. She highly recommends it. Maybe next winter. Florida was nice and sunny!

Introduction to Boat Systems

The main aim of the Intro to Boat Systems is to highlight those DIY owner maintenance things that all boat owners need to know.

Captain Chris is a master of visual aids. At each break, the examples on his demonstration workbench changed. The things from the previous session were back in a box somewhere and the new set was out. Using real pieces of boat machinery, slides, videos, and his white board, he went systematically through various systems to explain how things worked. He taught us what owners need to do to keep a system running and included some troubleshooting.

Here is a short video from his YouTube channel showing some of the class props.

Chris is able to take complex mechanical things and put them into every-day terms. It is a gift!

One example was batteries, specifically, batteries wired in a series vs those wired in parallel. I had read these terms every day on the forum but was very fuzzy about what it meant. He was able to demonstrate, with two nine-volt batteries and his multi-meter, the effect of connecting them in a series. And he used jump starting a car as an example of connecting batteries in parallel. Now I know!

Boat systems covered included: Strainers and the pumps that use them, bilge pumps and some best practices for them, sewage (!) system maintenance and best practices, anchoring system, turbo chargers, valves, fuel – gauges and filters, engine cooling – how it works, batteries and power management, boat surveys, and more.

I may need to take the class again once we get the boat. I learned a lot. At least now I can kind of identify engine parts when I’m looking at boat pictures on yachtworld!

We took the class during COVID. Chris and Alyse take safety very seriously. They wore face masks or clear face shields at all times. They have cut down the size of their classes to allow for social distancing, but are conducting more classes. This is not a small undertaking as the classes are in their garage and the breaks and snacks are in their lovely home and back-yard. It takes a lot to invite people into your home week after week and feed them break food and lunch.

Class Composition

Chris spent the first part of the class getting to know us and our boats and was able to weave that information into the instruction. And of course, we could ask questions.

In our class, we had a gentleman who just purchased his loop boat. He had engaged Chris and Alyse to help him learn to handle the boat and its systems. A couple from the upper mid-west had just put an offer on a boat sight unseen and were flying to look at it a week or so later. Two separate men were there from upstate New York and have gas-powered boats they use on the Great Lakes that they will take on the loop. One man, from Florida, was not familiar with the loop or AGLCA, but had heard about the class somehow and was able to get in on a last-minute vacancy.

I get the impression that some of the men had been in the Cruising FUNdamentals class with their wives the previous week, but that the wives had passed on the Boat Systems section. Bad move on their part, from my perspective. I don’t think I’ll be down in the engine room much, but having two minds think through systems when troubleshooting has got to be a benefit.

Okeechobee Waterway

Okeechobee Waterway map from Corp of Engineers visitors’ center

The day before the class, during our transition from Fort Myers on Florida’s west coast to Vero Beach on the east, we drove by way of the Okeechobee Waterway.

City docks, LaBelle

We pulled off the road to see several locks and city docks on the western half of the waterway. The lock viewing areas were closed off for COVID, but it was nice to get a sense of what the waterway and towns looks like.

We saw one gold looper boat in LaBelle, but it didn’t look like anyone was home. We’re still a bit shy about knocking on strangers’ hulls.

Gold looper Ranger Tug in LaBelle, Florida

Forever Friends

To round off a perfect Florida week, we were able to touch base with friends from years past and invite ourselves to dinner! Monika hired me in an accounting firm in 1997 when they were stationed in the Puget Sound during Joe’s Navy career.

I’m sure people from the east coast have lots of people they know in Florida, but in Washington State, people go to California and Arizona for winter, not to Florida. They are the only people in Florida we know and happily they live only an hour from Chris and Alysse. It was wonderful to meet up with them.

As an added bonus, they are about our only friends who are also boaters (except our Power Squadron friends, that is), so they fully understood what brought us to Florida. Besides, Monika knows how to change an impeller. She’s my hero!

Trying on boats for size – Fort Myers

Our looper planning trip to Florida exceeded our expectations. Highly exceeded our expectations.

As you may remember from an earlier post, our Florida road trip was to be focused on visiting Great Loop locations and attending the Boat Systems class by Chris and Alyse Caldwell.  We planned to spend a couple days in Fort Myers, cross the state driving along the Okeechobee waterway, and end up in Vero Beach for the class. We hoped to maybe, hopefully walk a dock and catch a glimpse of a looper flag or two. 

Well, that didn’t happen as planned!  

Continue reading “Trying on boats for size – Fort Myers”

The Imperfect Boat – Bradley

You know how frustrating it is to read something that really resonates and then not be able to find it again? That happened to me recently.

I read a very inspiring blog post about the reduction of stress when the author lowered her expectations about finding the perfect Loop boat. At least, that is how I remembered it. But I COULD NOT find it to verify. I literally spent four hours of my Christmas vacation going through Facebook and various Looper blogs looking for it.

It was a timely article. We are just about at the point where if a perfect boat came along, we would consider pursuing it. They say it takes up to two years to find THE boat, so we are almost at the beginning of the serious search. I knew I needed to find that article!

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Planning is fun, right?

Trivia leaderboard

Planning is half the fun, they say. Based on how fun the planning half has been, the actual Loop itself should be a blast!

Photo courtesy of Fort Myers sunset.

I’ve run across a couple great Great Loop planning blog posts lately that have really inspired me. These are people on the loop already, but who have taken the time to describe some of their planning.  I need to reach out and see if the bloggers would like to add to my collection of planning stories here at greatloopfi.

Speaking of planning, we have been going a bit deeper in our planning lately.

Continue reading “Planning is fun, right?”

Headroom Project…Your input wanted

Lance has developed pretty good radar over the past 50 years that he has been 6’4”+. He usually does not get caught unawares with an unexpected head bash.

Of course, most of the places we hang out have 8’ ceilings and the doorways are plenty tall.

It wasn’t always that way. Our first apartment was in a basement. The bathroom was a little closet in the kitchen/living room/bedroom. You had to step into the kitchen area to wash your hands. There was a cast iron sewer line hanging from the ceiling right outside the bathroom door with a connection fitting that was in just the right (wrong?) place for a painful, middle-of-the-night wake-up.

Fortunately, that only lasted for a few months before we moved on, and we haven’t had to deal with the headroom situation. Until now.

Continue reading “Headroom Project…Your input wanted”

Adventures on Stinkpot – One couple’s story

What do the Great Loop, a professional folk musician and America’s Funniest Home Videos have in common? Dave Rowe and Stacey Guth, that’s what!

Stacey and Dave have created time lapse videos of the Great Loop accompanied by soundtracks of Dave’s folk music, which you can find on their Folk on the Water YouTube channel.

I’ve been following Our Adventures on Stinkpot on Facebook for a while. They’ve occasionally posted little snippets of their financial back story. I asked if they would be interested in adding to our collection of stories here…and they made a video! How fun is that! “How poor people can finance a long boat adventure!” I love it!

In fact, they’ve made a whole new YouTube channel about “How to Live on a Boat”.

Watch their video to hear how they were able to make their dream come to life from a financial perspective. It is pretty inspiring!

Oh, and what about the America’s Funniest Home Videos? Check out this video that landed them a spot in the finalists of the March 29, 2020 episode. Then check out their after-party live video.

Looping in Segments – Williamson

Overhead view of Albin 43 trawler

I’ve seen a lot of interest lately in the concept of looping in segments. That is, taking more than one year to do the loop. Why would someone decide to do it that way?  What are the benefits?

Lance and I have discussed an itinerary which would include storing the boat for a winter somewhere in northern New York after exploring Lake Champlain, the Rideau Canal, and the Thousand Islands. This would give us time to enjoy the area while putting us in a good position to enter the Trent Severn as soon as it opens the next year and then take our time in North Channel and Georgian Bay.

Naturally, I keep an eye out for mention of Loopers who winter their boats in New York.

AGLCA member Charles Williamson’s forum comments about where he stored his trawler for the winter(s) caught my attention: New York and Ontario over two consecutive winters.

Two winters in the north? That is intriguing!

I reached out to see what the story is and why.

Continue reading “Looping in Segments – Williamson”

Twenty-five Feet Around the Loop – Daydream – Anderson

One strategy to do America’s Great Loop is to use the boat you already own.  

In 2009 I followed a blog of a couple who cast off their lines from their Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway home to do the loop on their 26 foot Glacier Bay Catamaran. I watched with fascination as it seemed like such a small boat to live on for the better part of the year. At one point, when someone asked them why they chose that boat, they answered, “It is the one we had.” 

Pat and Patty Anderson did one better than that.  

Continue reading “Twenty-five Feet Around the Loop – Daydream – Anderson”