A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Monday, 23 April 2018

And here we go again

After the last visit to USA and Canada, we were pondering on where we should go on the next one, next (now this) year. We had really enjoyed Canada and getting to see the parts of the Great Loop that we missed on Loopy Kiwi had use hungering for more. The cruise was disappointing in a way as, typical of most cruises, it was all about the Ports of call rather than the journey and we didn't see as much as we would have liked (particularly the St Lawrence Seaway) because most of the travel was at night. I was favouring a road trip through the midwest to see many of the states that we had not yet visited and was beginning to "rough out" an itinerary. However, Carolyn noticed an advertisement in the local paper for a cruise on the inland waterways from New York to Montreal in a small purpose built cruise ship:














The problem was, when I looked it up on the Agencies website, the itinerary was pretty much what we had done just the previous month - even though the cruise followed a different route. However, with a bit of Googling around, I soon found the website of the cruise line and found that they did a bunch of cruises on the inland waterways, including one that goes from New York to Chicago, via the Hudson River, Erie, Oswego and Welland Canals, 37 locks, and Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron and Michigan - in other words a substantial part of the Great Loop and much of it we would have travelled on in Loopy Kiwi.


I won't go on about the cruise line, Blount Small Ship Adventures, because it is all on their website at  https://www.blountsmallshipadventures.com/ so you can look it up. We were looking at the "Great American Waterways" cruise. It so happened that our friends, Dennis and Kathy, had seen the same advert in the paper, so when I told them about the NY - Chicago cruise they decided they would like to join us. Since there was a special discount for bringing a friend (which they got too!), and another for booking before the end of August, we decided to go for it and chose the one leaving NY on June 10th.

It was then a matter of arranging flights to suit and, sure enough a month or so later, Air NZ came out with some specials to the USA. We booked to fly to Houston and spend a couple of days, then on to New York for four days of sightseeing before catching the cruise. I still wanted to do some of the mid-west, so we decided to fly to Denver from Chicago at the end of the cruise, pick up a rental car and drive around Colorado (CO), Wyoming (WY), Montana (MT) and Sth Dakota (SD) looking at the sights, before flying to LA and home.


Here's a close up of the road trip, with the major sights numbered, ie

1. Plains Interpretive Centre, Casper WY (something like the one we visited in Utah a couple of years ago.)
2. Cody WY. Where Buffalo Bill came from. Has a night rodeo that we intend to go to.
3. Yellowstone National Park, WY. That says it all
4. Little Big Horn N.P, MT - where Custer tossed in his chips
5. Devils Tower N.P, WY. Made famous by "Close encounters of he third kind"
6. Deadwood, SD. Old famous cowboy town.
7. Keystone SD. Mt Rushmore with sculpted Presidents
8. Crazy Horse Monument. A bit like Mt Rushmore, but bigger and not finished yet.
9. Bear Tooth Pass, WY. This was added late as a detour to our original route, recommended by a fellow boatie. It is an alternative exit road from Yellowstone N.P and climbs to almost 12000ft. It is supposed to be the most spectacular scenic road in the USA.

We will also visit Molly Brown's Museum in Denver and I will probably go to Wings over the Rockies museum there as well.


Booking that far out has led to a few interesting happenings and our itinerary has been subject to many changes in detail. Air NZ changed their schedules and we had to stay an extra day in Houston; both United and American Airlines have changed their flight numbers, departure times and have even cancelled flights for our US internal travel; and our hotel in New York that we booked in September advised us earlier this month that it had cancelled our reservation because it wouldn't be open in time. We were advised just a couple of days ago that there were changes to our Houston flight again because of the current Boeing 787 Dreamliner/Rolls Royce engine debacle, but that turned out to be a false alarm. Hopefully nothing else will impact on the itinerary in the remaining 40 days before we leave.

Blount also do a cruise up the ICW from Savannah (where we shipped Loopy Kiwi to New Zealand from) to Baltimore (almost New York). If this cruise goes well, we will look at doing that segment next year - which means I will have (almost) completed the entire Loop - although not in sequence!




Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Re routing holding tank discharge on a Silverton 453


Since we bought Loopy Kiwi in 2011, we have been plagued with the odour of sewage in the master stateroom. It was particularly noticeable as the tank filled and worst on the starboard side – to the extent that clothing in the bed and vanity drawers was being affected. It was obvious that this had been ongoing since new, as there were a number of deodorant plug-ins situated around the boat by the previous owner. The use of Noflex reduced the smell significantly and replacing the undersized and blocked vents (which I have already posted earlier on this blog) also helped, but the odour issue has remained as a frustrating annoyance. 

There are other problems with the design of the sewage discharge system, such as siphoning of seawater back through the macerator and the susceptibility to the outlet becoming blocked with marine growth because the underwater thru hull reduces the 1” pump outlet to a mere ½” hole in the hull. I also knew that there was a kink in the dockside discharge hose that may have been contributing to pumpout problems. A few months ago, I drew up a map of the sewage system and, looking at the layout and knowing the fall (or lack of it) in the 7.2 metres of discharge hose, it seemed obvious to me that areas of the pipework were remaining full of effluent resulting in the smell permeating the hoses. I have recently learned that several other 453 owners are experiencing the same issues and, in fact, I believe that if any 453's share the design of the sewage outlet to me, they must also share the problem.



The final rankle was the actual procedure required to discharge overboard at sea using the macerator: To prevent the siphoning mentioned above, I kept the macerator seacock closed. It is situated on the outboard side of the port propeller shaft, so it is good practice to be stopped when opening it. So we have to stop the boat 2km out to sea (we are required to be that far offshore when we discharge), I have to go from the helm down to the engine room, via the sundeck, salon, hallway and guest bedroom and open the valve, return to the AC/DC panel in the hallway, switch on the macerator and sit and watch the ammeter until it flickers to show that it is pumping air (the only way I know of to know that the tank is completely empty). It takes around 10 minutes to empty a full tank and it is rarely flat calm 2kms offshore. I then have to go back into the engine room and close the seacock before returning to the helm and getting underway again - a total trek of around 50 metres (seriously) and up and down 3 flights or stairs. Remaining underway makes things more comfortable, but that requires even more stair time to co-ordinate stopping and starting with the co-pilot to open the seacock safely.

I have installed and modified holding tank systems in both my previous boats (which could be discharged without leaving the helm), so I decided I would try and line all the ducks up and fix the odour, siphoning, blockages and user un-friendliness in one swoop. A word of caution here to other 453 owners: doing this modification requires access to the rear of the holding tank in the transom space behind the bedhead. I am lucky that in order to make my boat “NZ electric” I removed both cablemasters from that spot which gives easy access, particularly for a little guy like my good friend, Charlie.  On the Silverton Owners Club forum, a member recently posted a video showing that accessing this area is quite doable with a single Cablemaster. However if you have 2 cablemasters it would be difficult, if not impossible, to access the aft bilge and do the modification as I did.

We did this while on the hardstand last week when we came out to re-caulk the rubrail, antifoul and polish, so the boat was propped up in a more stern-down attitude than it would be on the water. We had a pumpout before we were lifted, and another on the hard, to remove as much effluent from the tank as possible.

The first act was to remove the hose between the macerator and the transom pumpout fitting. The transom end is easy to access by removing the mirror in the master bathroom. The pump end is also readily accessible, although it is necessary to demount the pump to get at the hose clips on the Tee piece that connects to it. I was hoping that when the hose disappeared into the bulkhead and behind the bath that we could simply pull the hose through. Unfortunately, when we took a pic of the space, we found the hose was cable tied to each hull frame all the way through.


I figured we could perhaps reach them by removing the gauge panel under the sink. I took all the screws out and the panel could move, but cannot be taken out without removing the front of the cabinet – which we never found out how to do. However, we DID find that the panel beside the toilet was removable – it was siliconed to the shelf and the RH side – but once we cut through that it could be simply pulled off. It is attached with those snap in clips like other removable panels in the master stateroom.




I could reach the first 2 cable ties and Charlie could reach one from the other end. But to get to the 2 remaining ones required us to make a special tool, which we used to saw through the "buckles" on the cable ties, rather than the "straps". The weight of the saw puts load on the blade so you only need to be able to push and pull to cut through the ties.


Once done, we taped up the ends of the hose with duct tape and pulled it up through the mirror hole and out the portlet onto the ground. I had slightly underestimated that piece in my map – it was a little over 6 metres long. We tied each end to one of the Acrow props holding the boat and filled it full of water and  Noflex to percolate for several hours.


We then disconnected the hose from the macerator while holding the pump up – it is a low point and contains effluent. We taped the opening and pulled it through into the bilge at the bottom of the stairs. While it was down low, we cut the tank end of the hose just short of where it passes through the engine bed rail. We then put a bucket under the end and lifted the other end of the hose through the hatch to drain it – about 10 litres of effluent came from it. We flushed it out with fresh water then sealed the aft end and added Noflex, which we left for several hours.

We then pushed the aft end through to the other side of the engine bed to get a straight pull at it, but no amount of pull could get it to even look like moving so we cut the pump end off as short as possible and sealed both ends with plastic bungs. The 2.5 metres that we cut off absolutely reeked both inside and out and was immediately thrown in the bin.




By this time I had figured that the other length of hose we had removed was in good enough condition to reuse instead of replacing it with solid pipe as I originally intended and, as it would now be installed with continuous fall back to the tank, there was little danger of permeation due to it holding effluent. We also reused the Tee and the original macerator and added a valve to the inlet of the pump (it is there to stop smell coming up the pipe if the pump is ever removed as both it and the pump are above the level of the full tank). We installed a 1” thru hull about 4” above the waterline and the macerator discharges through it. There is also a valve in that line, adjacent to the pump, which can be closed during dockside pumpout to prevent air being sucked in to the discharge pipes. The first section of hose from the pump is clear plastic so I can see when the discharge stops. The feed from the AC/DC panel is continuous (I used the old cablemaster supply) and there is an on/off switch beside the pump, which is conveniently located in a cabinet beside the master bed. 







So the discharge procedure will now be: Go 2km out to sea. Leave a co-pilot in charge of the boat. Go to the master stateroom (still 3 flights of stairs, but less distance), open the valve and turn on the switch. Watch the gauge drop (you can see it from the pump position) and watch till the sight glass empties. Switch the pump off, close the valve and go back to the helm. Ideally, I would like to have a stop/start station for the pump at the helm, as I had on my previous boats. I have already purchased the components to do this, but I would need to be sure that I had a method of knowing that the tank was completely empty before installing it.

The old macerator position provided a thru hull and power supply for another project I had been meaning to do for some time, and that was to fit a salt water washdown pump. We mounted the new pump where the macerator had been (even used some of the mounting holes) and used the outlet hose as the washdown inlet. We ran the outlet to a tap on the transom via the route that the old sewage discharge hose had taken and mounted it behind our outboard bracket, where it is easy to get to but protected. I am considering taking a supply from this to a valve that can rinse out the macerator discharge hose, or the holding tank, or both – but will wait and see how it works out first.



























I guess time alone will tell how successful the modification is, but I am supremely confident it won't make things any worse!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Vancouver and home

Friday 7th July 2017..

On Monday, we arrived in Vancouver on time and got to our hotel at 8am, but couldn’t check I until 2.30pm. So we went down to the casino for a scrummy buffet breakfast and then got one day passes for the public transport to ride around on trains, buses and ferries all day, until we could get into our rooms

When we went to the Casino, the security guy at the entrance told us to sign up for their Encore Rewards card, as it would give us 10% off the buffet when we ate there. So we did that, but then found out that it also put $10 on each card to use (for gambling) in the Casino. So after the breakfast and day tripping around Vancouver, we went back to the Casino for a buffet dinner (BTW we also got Senior Citizens rate for that as well). After a sumptuous meal, we all went and used up our $10 on the pokies. I made $12.65, Richard made $40, Lyn made $76 and Carolyn lost her $10, plus another $20.

The following day, Richard and Robin (sister Lyn’s son and granddaughter – who we had met up with in Reston) had to fly back to NZ so that Robin could go on a 10 day school trip starting the following weekend (bizarrely, the trip is to New York!), but we managed to check out what the Casino lunch buffet was like, as well. Which was appropriate since it was 4th of July and was Lyn's actual birthday (as well as America's).

Wednesday, it was off to Vancouver Island. We took a commuter bus to Tsawassen Ferry terminal ($1.80) then the ferry to Vancouver Island ($17.20) then an all day pass on the bus from the ferry to Victoria ($5.00). We spent most of the time in the Royal BC Museum, then returned the same way we came, except by a slightly longer but more scenic route suggested by our bus driver. Total cost of the trip was $43 per person, compared with the $205 that the tour people wanted for the same trip. The weather was glorious – no clouds, no wind and flat calm. We were told that Orca (killer whales) had been seen in the area and as we entered a part of the trip known as the “narrows” I spotted a whale sounding, but it was not an Orca (no big dorsal fin). I found out later that Humpbacks were also seen in the area, and I am sure it was one of them (one of the pix is the entrance to the narrows, but it doesn’t show the whale). I also saw a bald eagle flying and lading in a tree and managed to get a pic of that! On the way back, we had a buffet dinner on the ferry. Cheaper than the Casino and, I reckon, a little better, and what a stunning view!!!! Coming through the narrows, again I saw a whale and pointed it out to other diners. But, by the time they reacted, it was gone – so of course they didn’t believe me. I don’t care – I have seen plenty of whales, Orca and dolphins before, so why would I make it up!

Tsawassen Terminal - "Spirit of Vancouver Island" in background

The narrows - where I saw the whale on the way back

There IS a bald eagle in the tree on the right

Swartz Bay Terminal

The local bus

The Empress hotel

"Spirit of  British Columbia" at Swartz Bay

The bus driver who recommended our return route
Thursday I went and visited the factory where they make Noflex Digestor (the sewage stuff for boats that I import into NZ). I was intending to rent a car for today so we could do some last minute shopping, but when I got to the airport to pick it up, I found I had made the online booking for pickup at Toronto, not Vancouver (Duh!). The rental company wanted nearly double the price that I had been quoted, so I decided to flag the car away and we sent to Walmart on the bus instead. Richard had gifted Lyn a Premium economy class upgrade for the trip home, so we went to the airport early but, although I had an Air New Zealand lounge pass for Lyn, they wouldn't accept it as it was a Canadian Airlines lounge. However, for a payment of CDN25 they would let her join us, so we had a relaxing time preflight.

The flight home was long (13hrs 45min) but uneventful and we managed to get some sleep. It was raining when we arrived and 8 degrees,

And that was Canada!

And the Trent Severne Waterway!!

 Sunday 2nd July 2017…

Business class on Via Rail
Lake Ontario
The train trip to Toronto was relaxing and interesting as we travelled some of the parts of Canada that we would have seen had we continued on the Great Loop. We had got business class fares as it allowed us more baggage, plus access to the lounge, free meals and drinks and still less than half the price of the cheapest airfare. We timed our journey to coincide with sis Lyn arriving at Toronto airport from Winnipeg, where she had been visiting her granddaughter (actually at a wee place called Reston 3 ½ hrs drive west of Winnipeg). We were due to arrive at Toronto station at 2.07pm and Lyn was coming in at 3.40pm, so there was plenty of time for us to get to the airport and meet – shuttles run every 20 minutes from the station to the airport and take 25 minutes to get there.  Yeah right….. our train was 40 minutes late and it took another 30 minutes to get our luggage, so by the time we got to the airport it was well past her landing time – and then I found out that the meeting place I had arranged to meet and insisted she remain at (ie the luggage carousel) was airside and I wasn’t allowed in there! Luckily as I arrived, the doors to the arrival hall opened and there we were staring at each other! By the time we got the rental car and headed off for Peterborough, it was rush hour in Toronto and we had to travel right across the city making 1 ½ hr trip become 2 ½ hrs.

This part of the trip was about doing some of the things that we missed by not finishing the Loop. First, we took a 2 ½ hr cruise on the Trent-Severne waterway  at Peterborough that took us through a conventional lock first, and then the famous 113 year old lift lock that Loopy Kiwi would have gone through. While not as thrilling as it would have been in our own boat, it was pretty choice all the same, and Lyn got to see what “locking through” was all about. 

Liftlock Cruises dock

Our cruise ship

Lock 20 - Conventional lock

Lock 21 - Peterborough Lift Lock




The guy that built the lock lived here
We then drove another 3hrs north to Big Chute, where boats are put on a railway carriage to get them from one part of the waterway to another, as we would have done with Loopy Kiwi. We didn’t expect to see this in action, but just after we arrived, a small runabout was loaded and transferred, so we got to see the whole operation. Another 2 ½ hrs back to Toronto and our airport hotel made for a long day.



The next day was a trip to Niagara falls and, regrettably, coincided with the first day of the Canadian school holidays – so Niagara was packed! Lyn and I did the cruise to the falls and got suitably soaked, despite the classy plastic ponchos they provide. Unfortunately, my cameras also got drenched and the handicam hasn’t been quite the same since. There were too many people to try and do anything else there, so we hightailed it back to Toronto to ready for our flight to Winnipeg the next day.


Which, of course (being the 30th of June),  was the day before Canada Day, and Canada’s 150th birthday, and when we arrived at the airport, we were told that we were on standby as the flight had been overbooked. After some tense waiting, we did finally get on the plane which was chocker. After our arrival in Winnipeg, we faced a 3 ½ hour drive through some of the flattest country I have ever seen with mile after mile after mile of corn, soya bean and canola fields till we got to the bustling burg of Reston, Manitoba. And here, the next day, we celebrated the combined birthdays of Lyn, her 2 grand daughters, and Canada with a party at the local bar. 
The bustling burgh

Our accommodation in Reston (surprisingly luxurious)

The sign reads: "We now serve red and white wine - $5"

Yummy home-made pizzas for supper.
Today, we drove the weary way back from Reston to Winnipeg , visited an Aviation Museum and stayed at a hotel right at the airport (which, by the way, had the best ribs so far this trip – and lots of them!!). The reason for the airport hotel is the 4.00am start in the morning to catch a 6.20am flight that gets into Vancouver at  7.20am. 

Down the St Lawrence

Mon 26th June 2017...

I did the Beatles music trivia on my own and only got one wrong. Unfortunately, I also marked the score card of a young lady who got them all correct, and without any crossings out or corrections. I was really impressed – she was also on her own and obviously really knew her Beatles, even though she appeared to be only in her early 20’s. The next day, a couple who had been sitting nearby told me that “I should have won”. When I queried them on this they said that they had watched her during the contest and she appeared to not even be listening to the songs, let alone writing answers down. When it was over and while they replayed the clues, she disappeared outside with her cellphone, and returned with a completed score card and handed it in (to me). Their suspicion was that she was using the phone to identify the songs (apparently there is an app called Shazam that will do this) then went outside to write the answers down. She disappeared with her winnings (a Holland America pin and “bragging rights”) and I never saw her again. Although I did every other trivia, I never got close again (lots of American songs and artists again) so I felt quite aggrieved for the rest of the cruise at having been robbed of victory by a cheat!

Well the weather got a little better by the time we reached  Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island (PEI). Carolyn went on  a tour to visit the house that inspired “Anne of Green Gables” – there were lots of look-alikes running around with plaits and period costume and Carolyn finally got a pic taken with a Mountie (albeit a fake one) while I stood next to an Ann clone as we got off the ship.


I had a walk around the town and picked up a chart of the trip so far and a map of Quebec with the St Lawrence on it to keep track of the voyage. It was only on the way back to the ship that I realized we had the iPad with the Navionics chart of USA and Canada that we had got for the Great Loop trip and I could have been tracking the voyage all the way from Boston. They had free wifi in the terminal, so I downloaded the necessary charts to the iPad and could tell where we were going (and at what speed etc) for the rest of the journey.


We were an hour and a half late leaving PEI and we were never told why, but I watched 3 crew members get off, still in overalls but with their luggage, a few minutes before the gangway was pulled and the ship left. I never did find out what they did wrong to get thrown off and hold the departure up for an hour and a half!

The next day was spent cruising the Gulf of St Lawrence in gale force winds, yet again. Carolyn had been up all night with a dose of Delhi Belly which we were obliged to notify the ship’s management – so she finished up confined to the stateroom for 24 hours. We then continued down the river to Quebec City – where it was raining. We had decided to go on a 2 hour “on and off” bus tour in an open top double decker bus so we got saturated and, since I was already developing a cold, it was not fun - which was a shame because Quebec is a pretty city and apparently some of the views can be spectacular on a fine day. However, the number of times the commentary referred to the weather obscuring the views made it apparent that weather like that wasn’t an unusual occurrence in Quebec.









We left Quebec City and cruised to Montreal overnight – which was another shame because the view outside was more like what we expected the trip to be as we got to the narrower parts of the river and it would have been good to see it in daylight. Some of the channels were very narrow and the gaps between us and downbound ships got quite small at times as we passed them. The pilots here earn their keep.




We arrived in Montreal to a warm sunny day and clear skies (at last). First glance out the window told me we were not in the cruise terminal right downtown where we were supposed to be, as there was a large marquee that we disembarked to, on what was obviously a commercial wharf.



We caught a cab to town – it cost $15 just to get off the wharf and back level with the ship, and $40 to get to the hotel. However, it’s a nice hotel in the middle of town, with lots of restaurants, and a short walk to the Central Station where we catch the train on Tuesday. We discovered that the TV in our room got NBC sport and were just in time to catch the last few minutes of Team NZ losing the race to Oracle – and didn’t the US and Aussie commentators crow about the “Comeback” – you’d have thought they had won the regatta!

The following day we booked another “on and off” tour around the city, timed to coincide our return to see the Americas Cup racing.
Much more pleasant








The TV commentators were a bit more subdued when we did Oracle 2 – 0 and were only one win away from taking the cup home. We also managed to find out that the All Blacks beat the Lions, but only by searching the net. Today the plan was to look around the city a bit  more – Carolyn visited a Barbie doll exhibition and went shopping – and then back to the hotel at 1.00pm to watch the (hopefully) last Amcup race. The extra day’s racing must have thrown NBC’s scheduling to bits and at 1.00pm there was a crappy soap opera on and no Amcup. We finally got the great (WINNING) result from Radio NZ on the net, but still haven’t seen any footage yet.


Off  tomorrow on the train to Toronto to pick up Aunty Lyn and go visit the Peterborough locks on the Trent-Severn waterway.