Getting Ready

Jim LaVallee

Prologue:

We started dreaming of making America’s Great Loop in the summer of 2019 when we brought home Auntie Gail, our 3650 Cruisers Yacht. We found her, or she found us, in Sturgeon Bay, WI. With a bit of age and low hours, she was what we were looking for as a “cabin on the water” in our home waters in and around the lovely Keweenaw Peninsula on Lake Superior. As we spent more time on “The Gail,” we thought of more places we’d like to take her.

We cruised around Copper Island (look it up) and even made it out to Isle Royale, where I proposed to Lisa on the Auntie Gail. We started talking about doing “The Loop” when we retire in 5 or so years. As 2020 started to become a real turd and I began to work remotely 100% and mainly on The Gail, we thought, hey, maybe we can do this full time on the boat and the dream went into full planning when we decided to “just go for it!”

Prep:

So, the decision was made and we set a target for shoving off on our Great Loop adventure of July fourth, 2021. We had to overcome a few things to get ready. First of all, Auntie Gail needs a bit of a makeover. We plan to live aboard for a year and the late 90’s decor was dated, the canvas needed replacing, and the mechanical systems went through the bow to stern. Also, what were we going to do with the house? Finally, how were we going to do this while still working?

The home front stuff was easy. Our youngest son decided to move back to Houghton to live and work. So, he’s renting and taking care of the house while we are gone. We had a garage sale to sell stuff and sold some of our “toys. We update much of the house, Covid-19 winter projects, and got it into a no-worry state. For the work question, that was pretty easy as well. Lisa left her job to focus on getting ready and taking care of me! As a remote worker working in one of the most secluded areas in the Eastern U.S. already, moving on to the boat should be doable once connectivity issues were worked out. 

We were finally getting Auntie Gail ready. We have done several updates over the last couple of years. New electronics (Chart plotters, radar, radio) and upgraded the 12v electrical system. Replaced worn engine parts and added a windlass. We also started updating the interior by replacing the carpets and doing some minor updates. Once we decided to make the loop, we kicked in high gear getting the “to list” done. So new canvas and Aqua Tread flooring were ordered. We replace all the crazy 90’s fabric with simple navy blue and white. We had the dinette fabric replaced to match the new RV fold-out couch we bought. Then the dirty stuff started with checking or replacing every mechanical item bow to stern, which wasn’t bad because “The Gail” had good bones to start with and low hours (under 400). We then turned our attention to some soft spots in the deck and near the exhaust outlets and, in the process, learned a lot about epoxies and fiberglass repair. Finally, we upgraded our dingy and davit system.

The target was to have all the heavy lifting done for a June first launch which was mainly completed. We had to decide to do a few projects “in route,” but overall, Auntie Gail was 90% good-to-go on July first and away we went!

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