Canal Concluded

We wrapped up 338 miles on the Erie Canal today! Motoring for the last two weeks on still water, rather than sailing through rougher water in the Great Lakes, has been a wonderful opportunity to take a breath and settle into a routine in our new home for the year. I've been working on our Climate Odyssey map every day and getting some new prints started while Zion steers the boat and keeps up with his PhD responsibilities. 

After six weeks on the water I can look back and see concrete evidence of our growth as sailors! At the start of the trip docking the boat was a chaotic and stressful task thanks to our unreliable engine and my inexperience. Now that Zion has repaired the engine and we've been docking the boat between two and six times a day (we have to dock each time we pass through a lock on the Canal) we are old pros! Another significant milestone passed when Zion solved the mystery of the random wafts of sewage smell that that would grace the cabin from time to time. It turned out that the air vent on our septic tank was blocked, and Zion scored 5,000 husband points for taking it apart and unclogging it. Finally, the Wildcat has a few new scuffs from encounters with docks and logs and things and we learned that she can really take a hit! 

The next chapter of our journey is about to begin. We'll begin interviews next week with residents of the Lower Hudson Valley about climate change impacts in their region. We are so pumped to actually start the project we set out to do, but for now, time for a celebratory mojito! 

Erie Canal II

The Erie Canal has been a lovely ride! The scenery and sailing are not quite as thrilling as on the Great Lakes, but we've been very productive and also had a chance to settle in to boat life. The Wildcat finally feels like our home and living in a such a small space has ceased feeling cramped or inconvenient. It's almost hard to imagine how we filled up a whole house when we lived in Idaho.

In the first picture you can read a little lock history. They feel as well loved as they are old - everything associated with the canal is painted in countless coats of chipped bright royal blue and gold paint. We learned from Becky and Bob Olsen that the canal as it exists today may be in for some big changes due to funding issues. The canal's forty-something locks and many draw bridges each require an individual operator, and we've had a few days of travel where we see more canal employees than other boaters. Yet using the canal is ridiculously cheap - it only cost us $37 for a ten day pass, and we haven't had to pay for dockage at all. Most towns have bathrooms and laundry for boaters to use and the last place we stayed had a tiny herb garden planted next to the dock.

Onboard I've been hard at work on the interactive map while Zion tries to keep his inbox from exploding with too many PhD emails. I'm slowly learning how to code in Javascript in order to make the map interactive while also designing the various menus and map itself. It's frustrating but also rewarding and I am SO excited for the day when I can share it with everyone. Hopefully it will blow all of your minds!

Birding on the Erie Canal

From top left to bottom right: a blue heron, bald eagle, swan, and belted kingfisher. 

Erie Canal I

We are slowly making our way down the Erie Canal, though the extreme heat is testing our patience! Today was the hottest day of the year in Newark, NY where we are docked for the night. It's almost 9pm and it's 80 degrees and 80% humidity! Yesterday we were treated to a merciful break from the heat by Becky and Bob Olsen who took us to their lovely lake house in the Finger Lakes for the evening! We enjoyed a swim in the lake (swimming is not on our daily agenda anymore thanks to stagnant canal water), my first stand up paddle boarding experience, some delicious scallops and local wine, and some bonus sagely advice for newly weds and factoids about beavers (they mate for life!). Thanks Becky and Bob for a wonderful evening! 

As for the canal, I promise to look up some interesting facts about it to share soon, but tonight it's too damn hot. I did have time to make a quick video of what it looks like to go through a lock! This is lock 33 (or possibly 34).

End of the Great Lakes

Today we concluded an 800 mile journey through three of the Great Lakes! Lake Michigan, Huron, and Erie are behind us, along with Georgian Bay, the North Channel, and Lake St. Clair. I've loved seeing how varied these coastlines are. I'd write more eloquently about it all but Zion and I are both pretty brain dead tonight. We had a bizarre night in Buffalo yesterday in which we were awoken at 11:45 by and angry security guard who insisted that we had to leave where we were docked, despite the dark and fog. We'd called the owner of the marina multiple times, but there was never an answer or an employee to be found. Zion talked him down to us being gone before the cleaners arrived a 6 so we grumpily rose early and anchored in the city harbor instead.

We packed away our sails, lowered our mast and strapped it to the deck, and then headed off to our first lock of the trip! this one was only six feet deep, but it was still strange to hold a rope while the water below us slowly drained out. Then we filled up on gas and set out on the Erie Canal! The sloping backyards remind me of the Highline canal in Littleton, though about 5 times wider. We also have to navigate flocks of children and drunk adults of paddle boards and bikes, a jarring shift from long days under sail with not another soul in sight. 

Hovancsek Hospitality

Sunday and Monday we were treated to an excellent retreat from life at sea (or lake). Marcy and Lou Hovencsek generously let us spend two nights in their lovely cottage on Lake Erie near Ashtabula, OH. They even packed the fridge with food that they insisted we take with us back to the boat. We happily complied and are now recovering from the absurd amount of klondike bars and hot dogs we ate. 

Lou snapped some pictures of the Wildcat as we sailed in and as far as we know these are the first pictures of this boat under sail! It's surprisingly hard to get pictures of the sails up because we're both always aboard and we usually meet people at marinas where we need to have the sails down to safely enter. I also did some beach combing and found a really cool rock (the black one with the white stripe)! It's always satisfying when a rock I find is impressive to our in-house geologist, who declared it basalt with calcite crystals. 

"Cleveland: Best Location in the Nation"

We spent two nights and one day in Cleveland which, according to, is know as "The best location in the nation!" That seems like a tall order for a city so far from the best state in the nation (Colorado) but we weren't there long enough to disprove the moniker. Our arrival was eventful as we cruised into Cleveland Harbor with an uncooperative rudder that left us unable to turn to the right. As Zoolander would say, we were not ambi-turners, forcing us to do some embarrassing donuts in front of a yacht packed with camera-happy tourists. With Zion's expertise we were still able to pull the sails down, drop our anchor, and spend the night. 

The next day Duncan's family brought us a tasty breakfast and then headed out for a little day sail with Zion while I took a personal day in the city. I was thrilled to learn that the Museum of Contemporary Art was hosting a zine and book art fair called Mimeo Revolution that weekend! I packed up two of my artists' books and set off for the museum. I met a book artist/zine maker named TR Ericsson who I feel like I should have already heard of. His zines were poignant and gorgeously compiled and I couldn't keep my hands off them. I also met Catie Moore of Nomadic Bookshelf, a neat little pop-up shop of photo books she hand picks from small publishers. The fair was an unexpected treat and perfect way to spend a day off! 

August Newsletter

Greetings from Lake Erie!
We had quite a month out on the water and are excited to share some updates! From our cockpit we experienced 90mph hour winds and brilliant cloudless days, rode five foot waves on Lake Michigan and glassy water for miles on Lake Erie, and heard the echoes of a One Direction concert in Cleveland and the hush of miles of uninhabited coastline in the North Channel. We settled in to life on the boat and eagerly welcomed two guests, my sister Rose and our friend Duncan, to sail with us for a few weeks. Check out our monthly photo essay below, now with captions and panoramas!
I’m also excited to share that we got a grant from the College Book Arts Association! The funding covers the cost of the software for building the interactive map. I’ve spent nearly every day of the past month working on it and hope to share a draft soon.
In September we’re excited to ramp up the Climate Odyssey project and our focus on climate change. Though we haven’t formally documented climate change impacts the way we will upon reaching the East Coast it’s never far from our minds - we’ve seen bits of this year’s record toxic algae bloom on Lake Erie and followed the reports of devastating wildfires in our old home of Idaho. We’re looking forward to navigating the Erie canal en route to our first impacted community: the Lower Hudson Valley in New York (including NYC at the end of the month - give a shout if you're there!) 

You can scroll through the images here on this page, or click the button below to see it full screen. If you want to receive this update each month, subscribe at the bottom of this page! 

Flying the Spinnaker to Kelley’s Island, OH

With a soft wind at our backs yesterday Zion and Duncan rigged up a colorful sail called a spinnaker on the Wildcat. The spinnaker is essentially a huge parachute which fills with air and pulls the boat directly behind it. After a long and leisurely day we docked at Kelly’s Island in Lake Erie. The wind was blowing just the wrong way and the marina seemed to have misunderstood just how wide and unwieldy a 33’ catamaran can be, so we were told to dock in a slip that was hidden around several tight corners. After a very tense few minutes trying to squeeze into the spot we tried our new favorite remedy for this situation: back out, dock somewhere of our choosing that’s easier to access, and then hope it’s not worth their trouble to ask us to move. It worked perfectly and we promptly walked ashore and grabbed a six pack and a movie rental to decompress.

We chose to rent Captain Phillips which felt appropriate after being passed by several large shipping freighters while sailing out of Detroit. The movie was gripping and also a great reminder of how small our problems on a cruising catamaran are compared to what that crew went through!

This morning we were lucky enough to meet up with Duncan’s family friend, Cindy Herndon. Cindy gave us a tour of her husband, sculptor Charles Herndon’s, gallery and studio. She was also kind enough to let us rig up a temporary photo booth to take pictures of an artist book edition I just completed. Thanks Cindy! 

Big Chicken Island

Big Chicken Island in Lake Erie turned out to be quite appropriately named. We saw a strange black dot on the horizon and tacked closer to find a solid mass of thousands of cormorants. Our curiosity was met first with suspicion, and then a fluttering, panicked exodus sending hundreds of cormorants and a few stray seagulls flying, swimming, and squawking in every direction. 

Eastern Michigan

The Detroit skyline framed by the Ambassador Bridge

We have been cruising along after our reentry stateside, packing in several 60+ mile days. Having Duncan along is a wonderful treat both figuratively and culinarily - he brought along some delicious cured meats and bacon from his new enterprise North Country Charcuterie.

We spent one short night in Detroit and grabbed dinner with Zion’s high school friend Kirke and his fiancé Mindy, another art and science couple of sorts (Mindy just completed an MFA in creative writing and Kirke a year of teaching middle school science.) It’s always fun to get to know other interdisciplinary couples!

Back in the USA!

After a little longer stay in Ontario than we'd originally planned, we finally made it back to the USA on Saturday. We've spent the last week trying to get south to Detroit where the plan was to drop off Rose and pick up Duncan but some strong south winds made us stay put. We rented a car to swap out our guests, and then finally got moving again early Saturday morning. We then initiated Duncan to life on the boat with an 82 mile day! 

We also got our first grant last week! We received a grant from the College Book Arts Association to pay for a year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud and a few books on Adobe Flash in order to build the interactive map. I've been working away on the map each day and hope to have a draft posted in the next two weeks! 

Finally, I revamped the website the other day to make it a little easier to navigate. I got rid of the cover page and made a home page instead, and I also updated the cover photos of various pages. Check it out and let me know what you think! 

From Manitoulin Island to Port Elgin, ON

We're finally wrapping up our Canadian adventure after a few beautiful weeks! Unfortunately we had our first major weather setback, strong winds from the south over the next few days have foiled our plan to sail to Detroit to drop off Rose in time for her flight Friday night. Instead we'll be renting a car to complete the four hour drive. 

North Channel II

Our first week in the North Channel has been absolutely stunning. The weather and equipment have cooperated nicely and having Rose along is a treat! The Climate Odyssey project is cooking we promise... we're working on a sample curriculum to pass along to teachers and I've spent several hours each day learning Adobe Flash so that I can build our interactive map. more updates to come! 

I'm still mastering the best way to post pictures using Square Space's layout options. To read captions for these photos, click on one photo to enlarge the gallery into a light box. Then, hover over and image and if it has a caption, it will appear at the bottom. 

The North Channel

We made it to Canada! The land of poutine, gorgeous rock islands, and very expensive data plans. We'll post more when we're back in the US! 

Bridges and Harbors

Sunrise within the natural harbor of Harbor Island, Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Sailing beneath the Mackinac Bridge!

Sailing beneath the Mackinac Bridge!

It's been quite the week for us! We weathered our first major storm, had a 90 mile day, and finally spent a few days resting up in Harbor Island. Then we skipped over to Detour Village to pick up my sister Rose who will be spending the next few weeks with us sailing the North Channel! 

We spend our days continuing with boat repairs and upgrades, learning Adobe Flash in order to build our interactive map, making contacts for our next stops, all while trying to juggle our other work. Our biggest challenges so far are maintaining an aging engine and marine toilet. Overall, life is good! 

Settling In

We've been sailing for over a week now and things have gone much more smoothly than expected! Everything works, (ok not everything, but the important things!) nobody is seasick, life is good. After weathering Sunday's shocking series of storms, and 14 hour 90 mile day on Tuesday, we are cruising! 

First Big Storm!

On Sunday we faced our first major storm! Three in fact, and all hit within a few hour of each other. This series of storms caused the Lollapalooza music festival to be evacuated, as well as major power outages and at least one fatality in the area around Lake Michigan. Out boat faired surprisingly well, and we're grateful to our new friends Sandee and Mark Holtsclaw for taking the awesome panorama above. 

July Newsletter

I'm proud to present our first monthly newsletter! Each month I'll collect some of our best photos and share that chapter of our journey with those on our Mail Chimp subscription. To join in, scroll to the bottom of any page of our website and add your name to the list. 

 July was all about the final push to restore the boat. Hover over the image below and scroll down to see more. Enjoy!

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