Project Mississippi #1

About 18 months ago Kyle and I came up with an idea for our next adventure: a long distance inland trip in a small boat. After months of discussion, research, day dreaming, and idea swapping the plan began to take form.

  • The journey: Approximately 3,000+ miles from St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin to Tampa Bay, Florida. We are starting on the St. Croix River, then taking the Mississippi River south to the Gulf of Mexico and lastly coastal hopping and I.C.W.”ing” to Tampa Bay. Kyle’s parents live in St. Croix Falls and my parents live in Tampa Bay, so why not, just for fun, travel from one place to another?!
  • The boat: We chose a small row and sailboat called a faering, which is Norwegian for 4 oared. We made the decision that we weren’t just going to buy some generic boat, but that instead Kyle would spend 3 months full time building the boat…from scratch. He decided he would construct her of cedar using the strip plank method. She is 19.8 feet long and approximately 4′ 9″ wide at her widest point. We have named her Solvi, which is a Norwegian name meaning Sun Strength.

These photos are not exactly what Solvi will look like. We have made many modifications but they give a general idea of her style.

  • The reasons: Kyle and I have similar outlooks on life and both feel as though there is so much more to the world than working 9-5 jobs and living within societal norms. We have made it our life’s goal to see the world, meet fellow like-minded humans, slow down, take risks, spend time in nature, and most of all to live, what we consider to be, fully free and happy. This journey that we have decided to embark on will allow for all of those things. We will be able to live the pace that we desire. There won’t be a schedule or any reason to rush. If we see something we like or meet someone we enjoy we will have the freedom to really live those moments and be fully present.

Not only are we looking forward to the pace of life our adventure will provide but also we are ecstatic about the boat that we will take on this trip. We both have the ability to row at the same time, which will make us quite fast. And when the wind and conditions are right, we won’t have to row as we can sail with her balanced lug rig. Faerings are traditionally fishing and transport vessels and have their origins in the Viking era. They are still used on the coasts of Norway and have always been held is high regard for their abilities at sea in that rugged environment. She was designed by John Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft. We are in love with the style of these boats and can’t wait to spend our time cruising in Solvi.

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It is now the middle of April and some serious progress has been made. Kyle quit his job at the end of February and has been working full time, 50 hours a week, on Solvi. My parents have been nice enough to let us build a boathouse in their side yard, which is where her construction is taking place. Kyle started the project by taking the boat’s line drawings that were sent to us from John and converting them into PDFs which we then had printed full size. After cutting the full size patterns out and gluing them onto large pieces of plywood, he then used a jig saw to very carefully cut the plywood into what are called forms. These forms were then placed onto the strong back (a large ladder looking stand that is very flat and square) so that the strip planking could begin.

 

Our friend Max was nice enough to come spend the day with Kyle and together they turned 9 boards of cedar into hundreds of quarter inch strips. For the following 3 weeks after that Kyle spent all of his time stapling and gluing the strips onto the forms.

Since I am working full time I am not able to help much on the construction, but I did spend 1 day stripping the boat. I must say that it was difficult and tedious; I give Kyle a lot of credit for how much work he put into the stripping process.

Once all the strips were put into place, it really started to look like a boat! Kyle had to

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Once all the strips were on

spend about 5 days removing staples and then sanding the outside of the hull flat and smooth- also a hard, tedious job. Once the boat was smooth and any gaps filled, it was time to epoxy and fiberglass the hull to make it water tight and strong. That is what we did this past weekend and it went so very well!

On Friday as soon as work was over I headed to my parents to get ready for the long night of epoxy and fiberglass ahead of us. Kyle had gotten most things set up before I arrived, so once I got there we began to cut the fiberglass into 20ft lengths. He then taught me how to mix the epoxy, but this is what he said to me before: “Okay so you do two pumps of the resin and one pump of the hardener. And it has to be that exact ratio every time, otherwise the epoxy won’t harden and the whole boat will be shot.” “Umm… or maybe I won’t touch that stuff!” was my first reaction, but once he showed me how to do it I realized that as long as I concentrated while mixing I should be good. We then spent the next two hours wetting the boat with epoxy. The cedar went from looking good to looking absolutely beautiful. It was so amazing to see the transition in the wood as it soaked up the epoxy.

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The boat heating up

Kyle had heated the boat to 120 degrees using blankets and space heaters before I arrived causing the entrapped air in the cedar to expand. After one coat of epoxy we turned the heaters off, took the blankets off, and opened up the boathouse to get some cool air. As the cedar began to contract it soaked up the epoxy. We waited for Max who was on his way over to help with the fiberglass process. Once he arrived we laid on the sheets of fiberglass that would eventually seal the whole boat. Max and Kyle were in charge of laying on the fiberglass and then painting epoxy all over it, I was in charge of mixing epoxy and squeegeeing the excess epoxy off the boat. We had to work fairly quickly due to the cure time of the epoxy but we worked well together moving around the boat smoothly and enjoying ourselves all the while. Finally at 9pm after 4 hours of constant attention, Solvi was fully covered in fiberglass and epoxy and it was time to let her dry. Kyle put on two more coats in the next 24 hours and she is now currently in the drying and curing process. We are anxious to see how she looks once she is completely dry! Overall it was an extremely successful weekend and we feel fortunate for how well it went. Thanks Max for all your help!

 

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Really trying not to mess up the Epoxy!

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Laying on a sheet of Fiberglass
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Final touches

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Happy Cedar!

Cumberland Island Journey

Cumberland Island is a barrier island located on the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Georgia. It is one of the original preserves in the United States and is home to over 150 wild horses among many other wild animals. With over 30 miles of hiking trails and various primitive backpacking sites, it has become one of Kyle and I’s favorite places to visit. We had been there two times before this last trip, and as always we had the most wonderful time. I work in the school system so I had a week off for Spring Break and we decided to spend that week backpacking Cumberland Island.

On Monday morning we left the marina around 6am and drove the 5 hours to St. Mary’s, Georgia to catch the 45-minute ferry over to the island. We arrived on the island around 1pm and spent our afternoon hiking 5 miles to our first camp spot at Hickory Hill.

It was a nice little spot, and despite there being others around, we felt rather secluded and separated from other campers. This was Kyle’s first real backpacking trip with his new Osprey pack and lightweight gear. I noticed a huge difference in my pack weight compared to when I was on the Appalachian Trail because we were able to split the weight of the tent, sleeping bag, and first aid kit. We were both pretty exhausted and after making some veggie brats and hash browns we were asleep before the sun even went all the way down.

The following morning we woke up and made some coffee- a very important part of backpacking for me! I have gotten Kyle pretty addicted as well- oops! IMG_0091After packing up we headed towards the beach. We had over 5 miles to get to our next camp spot and decided to hike most of it on the beach. It was such an amazing day. The weather was great- windy and sunny. No one on the beach for miles, and it was low tide so it seemed that the beach went on forever. It is hard to put into words what it feels like to be alone on such a vast beach. We sang, talked, laughed, looked for shells, and took breaks running around on the mini sand bars. I don’t think we saw a single person that day on the beach- we both felt very fortunate for such an awesome day.IMG_0137

We arrived to our campsite at Brickhill Bluff by mid afternoon. This campsite is on the opposite side of the island as the beach, and is on an inland little river. It is definitely my favorite camping spot on the island, and being that it’s over 10 miles hiking to get there, there weren’t many others. That night after cooking dinner using a fire stove Kyle created (due to my lack of planning on fuel consumption), we enjoyed the sunset from inside the tent… hiding from all the damn gnats!

 

 

 

Wednesday morning we woke up to such a lovely surprise! I was drinking my coffee when I heard loud rustling in the bushes. As I was hoping there were some wild horses roaming through the camp site eating and enjoying the shade near the water. For some reason I just think the horses are so cool. It makes me so happy seeing them; they just seem so free. I imagine that their days consist of walking beautiful beaches and trails, eating fresh plants, and sleeping- not a bad way to live if you ask me.

That afternoon we decided to take a day trip down to the beach. About 2 miles each way- but with pretty much nothing in the backpack the 2 miles were relaxing and went rather quickly. On our way to the beachIMG_0202 we came to this clearing in the trail that was surrounded by small ponds on each side. The ground below went from dirt and pine needles to green happy grass. For some reason this one little stretch of the trail was my absolute favorite. We stopped and enjoyed the open sky, found a frog on a lily pad, and I sprawled out on the grass for a few minutes. There was something about this section that seemed to speak to me. I was able to just stand very still observing all that was around and I felt so alive and connected to everything around me. It’s those moments that remind me why we choose to live life at a slower pace.

The rest of Wednesday and Thursday were spent lounging on the sand, playing Frisbee, swimming, and chasing each other around on the empty beach. On Friday morning we woke up fairly early and got packed up in order to head the 5 miles back to the dock where the ferry was supposed to pick us up at 2:45pm. We wanted to get going early so we could take it slow and easy and soak up our last day- which is actually the exact opposite of what happened! We took a break to check the map and eat a snack and realized that we had already covered 4 miles, only had 3 to go and it was only 9:15am. I said something to Kyle about the earlier ferry and how maybe we should have planned to get on that one. From that moment a seed of determination was planted and we decided we were going to hike the 3 miles as fast as we could in order to make the 10:15 ferry. At first I was super motivated and we started hiking real fast; then I realized that we weren’t making good enough time by walking fast so we started to jog- with our packs on! It must have been such a funny scene; two people running down a huge beach with no shoes and big packs bouncing up and down with each stride. I started to give up and say that we weren’t going to make it but Kyle kept his positivity and kept us trucking along. Finally at 10:12 we made it to the ½ mile trail that leads to the ferry. Three minutes! We kept going and I was imagining getting to the dock just as the ferry was leaving when I heard its engine running. “Kyle it left- we didn’t make it,” I said in a rather defeated manner. But Kyle ran ahead of me and a few moments later I heard “It’s still here!! Come on!!” I started to jog again and came to the clearing in the trail where I saw Kyle running down the cement dock towards the ferry. At this point the crew of the boat were clearly waiting for me to run down the dock and get on the boat so they could take off. With the whole ferry full people watching me run down the dock with my 20 pound pack on, and hearing the departure horn of the ferry, I hopped on board just in time and was accompanied by other passengers applauding that we made it. So much for taking our time and soaking up our last day! But that’s okay it was a rather entertaining last couple hours and we felt very accomplished once we sat down on the ferry knowing that we “hiked” 7 miles in less than 2 hours.

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We made it on the ferry just in time!

Overall I would say that it was a week full of joy and relaxation. Kyle and I both felt very fortunate for how well the island treated us. We had perfect weather, solitude, wild horses, beautiful sunsets, and a full week of nothing but the purest elements of life.