Two Weeks, a New State, and Calm Waters


As the ink stains my waterproof journal pages I see endless fog rolling over the river water. Almost as though it is trapped between the land on both sides. The fog creates a tranquil feeling on this Sunday morning. Kyle and I both are a bit slow moving and contemplative. Yesterday we awoke on an island across from Winona. It was a gloomy morning and we ate leftover pizza for breakfast. Not even getting out of the tent, we sat in our duo sleeping bag while it cocooned our lower body to keep in the warmth. It wasn’t exactly raining, more so a drizzle. I sat still listening to the raindrops land on our rain fly. The drops were so light and few I was able to follow the drops as they landed in different areas on the tent. We got going around 9am and made it to Lock and Dam 7 a couple hours later. The wind coming from the south caused us to have to row into the wind, therefore we hugged the shore line for protection.

This mirror connected to my glasses is indispensable. It allows me to see everything in front of us without having to turn around. It’s a biking mirror and works wonderfully for navigation! 

Rowing along the shore is always enjoyable as I love observing the land as it passes by, catching just a glimpse of the beauty of each individual island. There is a railroad on a thin piece of land separating the river. We rowed along it until we found a small opening to tie Solvi to a tree. We carefully climbed up some trap rock to the tracks. Being on the tracks and surrounded by water on both sides was quite the experience. Neither of us had shoes on, my clothes didn’t match, and we haven’t showered in a few days; I imagined we were living along the railroad, vagabonding along the tracks, like I’ve read in books and seen in movies. It was fun to imagine for a little- I like the idea of the grunginess of it. But in reality I am too much of a rule follower to hop trains and camp in empty train cars 🙂 Daydreaming doesn’t hurt though!

We arrived at Lock and Dam 7 and were fortunate enough to literally row right through. We only paused in the lock for a second to wait for the gates and to hear the horn giving us the okay to leave. We know it won’t always be so quick and simple, so we are grateful and enjoy it fully while we can. Before stopping for the day we pulled off at a sandy camping island to stretch our legs. I must say, we were both saddened and disappointed in what we saw. And unfortunately this isn’t a new encounter. I see this in Florida on camping islands, on the Appalachian Trail at campsites near the road, and now along the Mississippi. As you can see in the photos below, some people seem to think fire pits, bushes, and the ground are garbage cans. They’re not. If someone can bring water bottles, beer cans, soda, food wrappers, etc. into a campsite, the ability to bring it out also exists. It always surprises me to see this, regardless of how often. I think what confuses me the most is that the people who leave this garbage, obviously enjoy the outdoors, because they’re at a campsite. But how do we enjoy the outdoors without also appreciating it? Respecting it, loving it? It’s just something I can’t wrap my head around. Not only is unsightly, but it is harmful to animals who attempt to eat it. Anyway, I could continue on forever, but the point is, pack it out. And if you don’t have the ability to do that, then don’t bring it in. We need to take care of our environment together or else we aren’t going to have any beauty left to explore.

Anyway, due to the need for a small boat repair, we stopped early yesterday to find a nice spot to set the boat up in a way that she could be worked on. The repair wasn’t too serious and something we have been planning on doing for a few days. One area of the floor, the flattest part on the boat, was showing some stress marks. They were nothing significant but a fairly simple fix, so we decided to go ahead and do it for a precautionary measure. Kyle spent the afternoon sanding, and then applying fiberglass tabs in order to add strength to the area. Other than some slight discoloration due to the type of materials we had, the repair was a complete success. The discoloration is completely cosmetic so we are just happy that the repair is done and now we don’t have to worry about the floor. I spent the afternoon helping a bit with Solvi but mostly setting up camp, collecting firewood, and making meals. Kyle and I really liked the campsite, it was a large sandy island and near our tent there was a large tree which provided lots of shade and was really quite beautiful. I am so incredibly thankful for the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. Hundreds of miles of land and islands along the river completely uninhabited and protected for wildlife. Fortunately we get the benefit of being able to camp along all these islands. Many of them even have little campsites set up with fire pits and lots of good tent spots. Because of the refuge camping has been pretty simple for us ever since Red Wing. I am grateful for that. I am sure it won’t be like this farther south, but for now we are enjoying it fully. Another perk is that we have seen lots of wildlife. My favorite are the eagles. There are so many eagles and I find them majestic with their white heads and tails and large wing span.


Yesterday was quite the day. I have coined it the day of being “tested”. My limits were definitely tried a bit and I was very grateful to be laying in my sleeping bag last night, relaxing and reflecting on the day as a whole. There were definitely parts of the day that were marvelous, but it was as though my emotions were following the changing directions of the flowing river. They would change at different moments and created a bit of an overwhelming day. It started with a comment Kyle made about my rowing while he was eating lunch. We take turns eating lunch while the other one rows in order to not lose headway or to make sure we stay safe within a busy channel. But yesterday when he was eating lunch I sort of dilly dallied and didn’t make any headway. His comment was pretty harmless, almost just an observation that I was the one concerned about making miles but yet wasn’t really trying on the oars. For some reason the comment sent me into a sensitive mess and I found myself all upset for what now seems like a silly reason. I laugh now because I kept telling Kyle, “I’m fine!” And he’d respond under his breath, “So you’re Freaked Out Insecure Neurotic and Emotional?” “No! I’m fine!” I’d reply all huffy. Haha, now that I write about it later, it is pretty funny. Anyway, that passed rather quickly and we continued on our way through the town of La Crosse. We laughed with each other as we jokingly cursed power boaters who kept waking us out. I am always amazed at some of the wakes these power boats can create. And yesterday the Mississippi River near La Crosse was the place to be if you were a power boater. We are feeling thankful that today is Monday and there won’t be nearly as many boats out. After completing 24 miles yesterday we decided it was time to stop for the day. Only 2 miles were under sail, so that means we rowed 22. I didn’t feel it at the time, but I think I pushed it a little too hard- the sun and water can really take it out of me, and I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until it was too late. Again, we were trying to find a camping spot and my emotions were all over the place so it made it difficult. Thankfully Kyle is the most patient person and after figuring out I was incapable of making a decision and sticking with it, he made the decision and took us to a beautiful sandy spot with flowers and trees surrounding.

As I write this I am sitting cross legged on my cotton sheet looking out over the foggy river. The sun is rising behind me and I watch as it lifts the fog from the trees. The sand is soft under my sheet and I am about to make a pot of coffee. I am thankful we found such a nice place to stop for the evening and that I had some time to reflect on yesterday. Today we are going to try stopping for lunch. We didn’t get out of the boat at all yesterday during our 24 miles, and even though it doesn’t feel like it during the time, I am wondering if maybe stretching our legs and eating lunch together sprawled out on the sand would provide a nice break in the day. I also am reminding myself not to take things so seriously. Life is fun and there is no need to be so worried about all the “rules” and fine details all the time. Today is a new day and as I watch the fog dissipate from the trees in front of me, I also feel the emotions of yesterday dissipate from within. Today will be a good day and I am looking forward to all it will entail.

Afternoon of 8/29/2016:

It is a slow, gloomy, quiet Monday afternoon. I am sitting in the bilge with the main sheet loosely held in my left hand in case of a gust or a task from Kyle. We are slowly beating our way south against the wind. Because Solvi points so well to weather we are able to make decent headway in this mild southerly breeze. Neither of us seem to care that we are going rather slow, as we were both feeling the need for a break from the oars after our 22 miles yesterday and 8 miles this AM. This morning though was rather unique and special. We took a side channel through the marsh and low lands known as the Raft Channel. It runs pretty parallel with the main channel, but it provided a nice break from the channel markers and other boaters. The water was very clear and shallow; we could see the river grass swaying back and forth under the surface of the water as though it had a breeze below the surface. The water was so calm that it looked glassy. I could see the reflection of my oars perfectly in the water. I’d observe them up until the moment they cut through the surface and disturbed the mirrored water below. The wildlife we saw provided endless entertainment. Canadian Geese hollering at us as we slowly floated past. Seagulls resting in a row on a piece of driftwood that had perched itself in the middle of the channel. Turtles basking in the sun would watch us just until we got close and we’d hear “Plop!” as they sought safety under the surface. We arrived at Lock and Dam 8 around lunch time and only had to wait about half an hour before locking through. A pontoon joined us in the lock so we had to hold onto the ropes rather than float in the middle. After the lock we pulled off on an island to eat lunch. We sat in the sand and talked about the power plant and tug boats in front of us. It was nice to get out of the boat and walk around- definitely helped break up the day a bit. My yawning stopped and my motivation to continue on for the day increased. Plus ever since we left our lunch spot we have been sailing! There is no one else on the river. I see no houses, roads, or power lines. In front I see large bluffs with cliff rock faces. On both sides I see trees of different shades of green, almost as though they are indicating the soon to be changing seasons. Below the green leaves are the brown trunks with roots connecting deep into the earth below. It makes me think of the Aspen trees from my home in Utah; hundreds of trees all connected under the surface as one organism- communicating through their roots in ways my human brain doesn’t quite understand.

I hear Kyle mumbling behind me, bummed about the patch of weeds we just sailed through. The weeds are now stuck on our rudder and daggerboard, slowing us down. “When you get a minute would you clear the dagger board? I’ll clear the rudder,” he asks patiently. We take turns lifting the boards out of their place and observe the trail of weeds behind Solvi’s stern that were slowing us down just moments before. I see the water becoming glassy and reflective. As serene and majestic it is to be sailing down this mighty river of calm mirrored water, I know it means the wind is fading and soon the blue oar handles will be in my blistered hands. Oh well, I sigh, the complete calmness and isolation this day has provided is well worth it.

After completing 20 miles it was time to find somewhere to camp. As we rowed along and started looking for spots I saw a neon “Open” sign along the road and railroad to our left. Kyle checked through the binoculars and sure enough it was a restaurant. We b-lined it to the shore in anticipation of a cold beer. We felt like celebrating since it was our 2 week mark, we hit a new state, and yesterday hit our first 100 miles on the Mississippi. Plus it has been a long hot day and beer is rare for us during this journey. We found a cool little spot hidden in some trees to tie up to. It just happened that the spot we tied to along the railroad had a tunnel to walk under. We were happy to not have to walk across the busy freeway and walked hunched over under the roads. Flowers and plants surrounded sections of the tunnel and at the end we saw a stair case. We climbed up and how convenient it was- at the top was the parking lot to the restaurant we had seen from the water! I was pleased with the spot we found because it was off the main channel and I could still check on Solvi from the restaurant. We walked up to the bar and ordered a pitcher of Spotted Cow. After cheersing to many a things, we both took a sip of the well earned cold beer. I sat there holding the glass with the freezing condensation dripping down, smiling so big at how good it tasted. I don’t know if I just really like Spotted Cow or if it was just the situation, but the coolness of the liquid running down my throat was so incredibly refreshing and rewarding. Kyle and I were in the town of De Soto Wisconsin at The Road House. Not only was it a cute little restaurant, but the people were so incredibly kind. Our bartender asked questions about where we were coming from and what we were doing. Others heard us explain and soon we had nice folks asking to see pictures of Solvi and wanting to hear about the adventure. I am dedicating an entire post to this, but again I will say- people, strangers, are simply amazing. The support, smiles, and encouragement we received leaves me wordless. I was feeling so blessed to have encountered such nice people as we finished our last beer. Kyle asked for the tab and she smiled and said it had already been taken care of. If you are reading this, thank you Phil- the man who sat next to us and snuck away before we even knew. Your generosity will never be forgotten and we will continue to pay it forward 🙂

After the beers we headed back under the tunnel leading to Solvi. It was still light out and we needed to row about 100 yards to where we decided to sleep for the night. But this night was different, we decided to tie up within all these trees that were standing in 2-3 feet of water. We had explored the area prior to going to the bar so had already figured out how to maneuver in. Kyle used the oar as a punting stick and guided us in through the flooded forest. I was so thrilled. It felt so special, so rare. Guiding this Viking style boat through a flooded forest at sunset. Nothing and no one around except us, grabbing trees and pulling Solvi through the narrow openings. I was also very excited to sleep aboard the boat for the first time, especially in a flooded forest! Kyle and I had never set the boom tent, bug net, and sleep boards up from within the boat without the ability to get off. It proved to be a bit ridiculous, rather entertaining, and in the end successful. Kyle even managed to cook a really yummy noodle dinner with eggs, peas, cabbage, and onion. I could try to explain the ridiculousness of setting up our sleeping area for the first time, but I’ll keep it short and conclude that Kyle and I are interesting people. I really have to giggle about what we intentionally and fully willingly put ourselves through on a daily basis. We were climbing on top of each other, trying not to drop stuff off the side of the boat, attempting to maneuver big sleep boards out of a small opening, needing stuff in the lockers under our sleeping pads, at one point a barge and tug came by creating a wake and the stove almost fell off the boat in the water. It was difficult, somewhat tedious, and at times frustrating, but through it all we laughed and made fun of ourselves, remembering it just isn’t that serious.


As I write this I am sitting on Solvi’s foredeck while Kyle sleeps within the comfort of our floating home. Around me are endless trees, all of which are under water due to the flooding. I observe the damage the beaver that kept me up all night made on the surrounding trees. Birds are singing their joyous songs all around and I feel a slight breeze. It is days like yesterday that really make me question life’s path. Days like yesterday that really make me step back and consider what is truly important in life. Food, shelter, water, and joy. For the last few weeks the most important part of life for Kyle and I has been finding water, a place to sleep, and making sure we have enough food between resupply points. Oh, and the weather, that has also become rather important. And I must say, we are just feeling so blessed. We laugh and sing for no reason at all. We hug and hold each other over sunshine on a cloudy day or a slight gust of wind that might mean we get to sail. So much of our day is spent quiet. Still. Observing our surroundings, appreciating the sheer magnificence of our earth. If you really think about it, we are quite literally floating in space right now. And we are so small. The universe is huge and we are just a little planet, floating. When I really contemplate that thought process it makes me feel small, unimportant- but in a good way. In a way that this life we are experiencing all around us is playful. It’s supposed to fun, enjoyed, appreciated! So today as we make our 22 miles to our next camp spot before heading into town tomorrow, I will go about the day with a feeling of simplicity. Of remembering that life doesn’t have to be complicated- it is what we make it, and today I choose to make it simple.


Just like yesterday, this morning is rather still and calm. I see the trees across the river reflecting in the water’s surface. Ever so often the glass surface breaks open and a fish comes flying out on the water before landing with a splash. It doesn’t take long before the ripple the fish made on the surface fades away. I have awoken to a dew covered camp and I am sitting with my feet in the wet sand waiting for the sun to rise above the trees and dry everything out. Yesterday was laundry day but I finished the clothes too late so they didn’t dry completely. Now, they are even more wet because of the dew. Oh well, we only have 10 miles today and will just have to wait on the sun. Once the sunshine dries everything out we will head south to the town of Prairie Du Chien. There we have a package from my parents at the post office and will find Internet and grocery store. I have mixed feelings about town days. It is nice to walk around random towns and meet all the nice folks, but I also find them a bit overwhelming compared to the life we’ve created on the river.

Anyway, last night we witnessed the most spectacular sunset. It was though the sky was on fire. The colors grew deeper, brighter as the sun dropped below the trees in front of us. The reflection on the river’s surface was so striking I couldn’t help but think it is all interconnected. The sunset in the sky and the reflection in the water- connected as though they are the same. Words can’t seem to explain it so I will leave you with this:imageimage

Smooth sailing, Sandy beaches, and Town exploring!


Journal Entry Written 8/24/16 on Lake Pepin:

10am: Lake Pepin couldn’t be calmer and more serene for us. We left early this AM and only had to row about ten minutes before we set the sail. Since then we have been running with the wind at a consistent 4 knots. It is so incredible being in our little boat, sailing along with such perfect conditions. The contrast from the Lake Pepin we experienced 2 days ago makes me grin. I am sitting on my life jacket and seat cushion in the bilge while Kyle sits leaned against the stern behind me. He is on the tiller and because we are running the main sheet doesn’t need constant tending. All I hear is the rushing of water on Solvi’s blue hull- the sound changing a bit in the gusts- getting a little louder. Every once in a while I hear a train horn in the distance to my right.

12pm: To my left is Erickson Point. A tall tree covered rock face all along the shore. Deep green trees carry half way up the rock face, but then it gets too steep and their roots can’t hang on. That’s where I can actually see the light brown and colored rock that forms a cliff. It’s so close I can see the texture, I can feel it when I close my eyes and imagine. And then right at the top of the cliff I see the deep green trees again- growing tall and proud at the top due to the direct sunlight. They must be so happy.

2pm: Clouds cover the sky in an array of gray hues. Different shades, shapes, and sizes, but it is light enough that the sun lets us know she is near by shall we need her. I am lying on the bench. I hear Kyle playing the harmonica while using the weight of his body to steer the boat. A sea gull flies above the boat while the harmonic sounds fill the air. Glorious.

Laying down gives me a different perspective. I can’t see what’s in front or behind, only above. We pass the clouds, or do they pass us? The boat bobs and flows so smoothly in the water. I observe her tan bark sail with traditional brown lines pulled tight. Bronze blocks hand made by Kyle. They take me back in time. Another sail boat passes in front of us as we make our way down the lake. The harmonica gets more intense and it’s though I can feel it’s vibrations in my chest. Everything around us, all the energy is so strong and positive. These are the days we live for. This day right here is why I am happy to spend 7 days in the mud with so many spiders. It’s the most glorious day. Everything I see has so much meaning. I watch as the waves flow together with one another. Their movement entrances me as I watch them rise and fall. The waves are flowing with us, so every once in a while Solvi’s hull causes some bubbles and I watch as they flow past.

I contemplate every part of the boat and I feel I know it so intimately. The physical labor of every surface being sanded- I feel it in my shoulders and hands for just a moment- a small reminder. I see all the staple holes in the wood and I can feel the cool steel of the staple remover in my hand. I see the rope move through the blocks and I am brought back to the day Kyle built them from bronze. I see small “mistakes” in our panels and I know exactly what caused them. I smile because they are a trophy of our hard work. We are intimate with every inch of this boat and it makes it so special.

6pm: After finishing the crossing of Lake Pepin we were quickly welcomed back into the smaller riverway of the Mississippi by the current. It was awesome. The wind was still behind us, but now we had the current so we were making anywhere from 5-7 knots depending on the conditions. We completed 30 miles in six hours and only rowed a total of 10 minutes. It was amazing. We took turns napping on the benches and Kyle played his harmonica. As soon as we left the open waters of Lake Pepin the river changed. The water is clear- like we can see the sandy bottom- and yes, I said SAND! Not mud. All the islands are sandy. We could have kept going because the conditions were so good, but we saw the perfect sandy island with flowers, grass, trees, a fire pit, and we just had to stop. Within minutes everything was out of the boat and sprawled in every direction drying in the fabulous sunshiny breeze. We swam, played frisbee, made a fire, did yoga on our large beautiful cotton sheet. We looked for pebbles in the sand and walked the island. The change in environment was so extreme that we were giddy with excitement. Sunshine, sandy beaches, clear water, and the most amazing day of sailing. It really makes me appreciate the last 6 days of mud and rain because otherwise today wouldn’t have seemed so special. It won’t last forever and that’s okay- for now- in this moment we will soak in every ounce.


Yesterday we did 20 miles, mostly under oar but did get some sailing in. We had to go through 2 locks, but they couldn’t have gone smoother. Both times we were the only boat in the lock and both times they didn’t have us hold on to the side. We were allowed to just float in the middle. It was pretty comical at first being in this huge lock in our little boat floating in the middle. We enjoyed conversation with the nice gentlemen who ran the locks and then continued on our way. The day seemed to go quickly, but around 3pm after 20 miles we were ready to stop for the day. We found a sandy island and pulled Solvi up on shore. We are currently on day 11 and the days are beginning to blend together. It’s a refreshing feeling never really knowing what day of the week it is and relying on the sun for the time. Kyle and I both have gotten in the circadian rhythm and I am so thankful for that. It is a rare thing these days, going to bed when the sun sets and waking when it rises. But my body is all for it. As soon as the sun sets I start yawning and am ready for sleep. When it rises in the morning, I am up and ready to go. I do not find myself tired or groggy throughout the day. It’s great! I will share another entry from my journal that was written last night:

As we brush our teeth together over the dwindling flames of our fire, Kyle with toothpaste smeared on his lips and beard, birds flutter above back and forth as though they can’t make up their mind of where to go. I can hear their wings and then a couple chirps. The sun is setting bringing pastel colors over the river and bluffs below it. The water has a pink tint, bringing the texture the ruffles create on the water to my attention. Stillness fills the air as I observe the last smoke steam from the burning embers within the rock fire pit. The orchestra of buzzing mosquitos and the singing of crickets fills the still air. Small pink clouds smeared across the pale blue sky is the last thing I see before getting in our mosquitos free tent. But 30 minutes later I make an observation! I look through the tent vestibule and realize that over a short period of time the sky has changed, but in the most interesting of ways. The pink smeared clouds I mentioned before are now blue. And they aren’t on a pale blue sky like they were before, the sky behind them has become pink. A pale pink, very similar to the color the clouds had been just 20 minutes ago. I make a mental note to myself to observe what happens during the 30 minutes I wasn’t watching. Why and how did the pink clouds turn blue and the blue sky turn pink? Or is it really so simple as the universe is playful? It makes me think of Alan Watt’s talk on “purposelessness”. There is no purpose. There doesn’t need to be some scientific reason we can label with fancy words and processes. Maybe there is no purpose for such a beautiful phenomenon as the sun set.

This morning started out wonderful. I sat on my damp camp chair from the morning dew and listened to the water in the pot in front of me as our stove brought it to a gentle boil. I knew within minutes the water would be raging all about and it would be time to pour the water into our French Press. I smiled in anticipation of the familiar coffee aroma that is released as the boiling water douses the finely ground beans. The sun was rising behind me and the birds were singing their morning songs. I thought to myself: Today is a good day. And I was right! Today has been a good day. We got a late start this morning, leaving around 10am. Within the hour we arrived at Lock and Dam 5A. After hailing the lock master on the radio we were informed that we would have to wait 2 hours for a northbound barge and tug to pass through the lock. Fortunately there was a sandy area near by so we pulled up on the beach and relaxed in the boat for a while. Once it was our turn to go through the lock we rowed as fast as we could to keep up with the other power boats going through. Even while rowing really fast and concentrating on making it to the lock in time, I still smiled as I observed the huge barge and tug pass by on our right. We see them daily, and daily I am still fascinated with their size and design. Quickly after leaving the lock we arrived in Winona. We first visited Dick’s Marina where we were greeted by a very nice gentleman on a house boat. He waved and welcomed us to the town. Thank you for that, it was awesome to have such a friendly face. We then headed to the town dock to walk into town. Unfortunately when we arrived at the town dock we found it completely under water. We didn’t feel safe tying Solvi to it as if a wake came we might hit the cement which was under the water. Fortunately we met a very nice man named Aaron who owns a tour boat company in Winona. He offered for us to tie Solvi to his dock and even said he’d keep an eye on her while he was there. Because of Aaron’s kindness we are currently sitting in a restaurant in downtown Winona. (If you’re ever in the area take a tour: We just had a big appetizer and are about to eat cheesy pizza. This meal though, we need to thank our kind friend Katy for. It is amazing sitting down and eating a warm meal that wasn’t cooked on a camp stove. Thank you Katy, your generosity will be remembered!

We are almost into the second week of our journey south and as I have said many times before, we just couldn’t be more thrilled. We will be leaving Winona this evening to continue south and as always, can’t wait to see what the next few days will bring. Onward 🙂

Barges, Tug Boats, Lock and Dam- Check!

Written on: 8/22/16

We are currently on day 7 of our adventure! The last few days have been filled with friends, learning, “open water”, barges, tugs, and our first lock and dam under oar. It has been quite the journey already and there have definitely been ups and downs, but fortunately as a whole we couldn’t be happier and enjoying ourselves more. After waiting out some storms that brought endless amounts of rain and mud, we headed south for our first lock: Lock and Dam #3 just north of Red Wing. It was a stormy morning so we didn’t get going until after noon, but around 4pm with some clouds and wind we headed for the lock doors. Kyle and I have been through many locks in our Ben Bow Cutter, but that is a much bigger boat with an engine and there were not huge barges and tugs boats around so I was bit nervous going through in Solvi. We called the lock master on our marine radio and let him know we were heading for the lock and were requesting a lock down under oar. He told us to head to the other side of the shore and wait near some other recreational boats. At that moment there was a big tug coming down the river so I hailed him on the radio to make sure he saw us and we communicated about how to cross paths. I was feeling very fortunate we had our radio. It was rather windy and the current was strong, but once we had the green light we were able to row slowly into the lock. There were 3 other power boats in the lock with us and once inside it was really calm and easy going.. It only took a few minutes inside the lock as the water only had to go down about 2 feet. We rowed out behind the boat in front of us and headed for the east shore. Once we were clear of the lock by a couple hundred yards over the radio we heard: “Row Row Row Your Boat, Gently Down the Stream!” Kyle and I laughed really hard as it was the lock master on the main radio station singing goodbye to us. I couldn’t help but get on the radio and sing back “Merrily Merrily Merrily Life is but a Dream”. It caused a huge grin on my face- strangers really can be so kind and fun. Overall the lock was a complete success and I feel much more confidant for the next few locks we have on the way to New Orleans.

Around the same time that we experienced the lock we experienced many tug boats and barges, which is what most people warned us about when we told them about this journey. I was hesitant at first because they are huge- one passed us that was literally 1000 feet long and about 60 feet wide! But to our surprise the wake wasn’t bad, they were slow moving, and we really have had no issues with them thus far. In fact, our biggest issue has been recreational power boaters on half plane that really wake us out. Little Solvi just bobs up and down as we turn her into the waves in order not to take them on the beam. I have been fascinated with the tugs and barges, I find the tugs beautiful. Kyle and I have talked about looking into working on a tug boat as a way to make our way back up the Mississippi once this journey is over. Who knows if it will ever happen, but it’s fun to day dream about while I watch the people moving about the serene tug boat.

After the lock we arrived in Red Wing where we were meeting up with our friend Ryan, who trailered his boat there for the weekend. We got permission to share a slip with Ryan as the slip was way too big for his boat. It was comical having Solvi tied up behind Ryan’s nice power boat in a big slip. We spent the night there with Ryan and his mom and her husband who were camping nearby. It was a great evening and wonderful to spend time with friends. The following morning Ryan took us grocery shopping to resupply- I kept saying that we were spoiled having our first resupply be so simple! That afternoon Ryan took all of us out on his boat. It was an awesome day and we really appreciated all the support and time spent together- Thanks Ryan and Sue and Rick!

At this moment I am sitting in the grassy mud on a small island just South of Red Wing. The sun has been out for two days so everything is dry- even the mud! It’s amazing. I can’t even begin to explain how much three days of rain makes me appreciate sunshine. I am so thankful for the rain just for the fact that it caused me to enjoy sunshine so incredibly much. That’s something that I really enjoy about trips like this- they make me appreciate the small things in life more than I ever do when I am busy with the hustle bustle. For example, last night I was laying in our tent and I heard a large boat pass by. I heard the boat coming and listened while it passed by our campsite. It wasn’t until a few moments later, after the boat had passed, that I heard the waves, caused by the wake of the boat, lapping on the shore near our tent. It made me really think about how similar that situation is to our life as human beings. The boat being a person, and the waves lapping on the shore being the impression that person leaves, even once they are gone. Some people come into our lives for a short period, they come, make a huge impact, and then are gone. And often it isn’t until after they have passed that we realize the impact they made. So just like the waves lapping on the shore leaving an impact after the boat passed, it’s important to be kind, be good because even once you leave an impact is left behind. It makes me think of one of my favorite quotes which I read on a Yogi Tea bag: “In order to be remembered, leave nothing behind but goodness”. As humans we are all so unique and each one of us knows something or has something to teach or to learn. We need to remember to be open, really talk to people when you have the chance, even strangers, because you never know once you’re gone, what kind of impact was left.

Anyway, on with the water part of the journey! Today was a pretty intense day. Not going to lie I was rather scared at one point and almost in tears. (Mothers, don’t worry! 🙂 ) We were completely safe the entire time, and the boat was under control, but things did get a little intense for a minute. Although the ENTIRE time, Kyle had the biggest grin on his face- he was having the best time ever- I on the other hand struggled a bit. At least one of us enjoyed the beauty of the day! We have been checking the weather pretty diligently in order to find a weather window to make it across Lake Pepin. Lake Pepin is a large lake that the Mississippi River goes through. It is 5 miles wide at some points and 20 miles long. It is one of the largest parts of the river and not something to be taken lightly, especially in a small craft. We need to cross the entire lake in one day as there is no where to stop along the way because the shore is so rugged and steep. Today was forecasted 10-15 knots with gusts. Well, the wind was stronger than that, and the direction changed on us, making it so that we were beating into the weather. Being a 20 mile lake it had a lot of time to build fetch and the waves got big. Definitely 4-6 feet at some points. We were doing great until we rounded a corner and it was clear that we needed to retreat back to where we came from. That is never an easy decision to make as going backwards is not what we really wanted to do, but it was clear that while we could have made it, we really could have, it would have been wet, long, tiring, and for me scary. We turned back and started running with the wind and waves in the direction we came, we were going sooo fast surfing down the waves! That part was really fun, I enjoyed it. What scared me was that I hadn’t been in Solvi before in such conditions. I didn’t know how she was going to handle, if anything was going to break. I didn’t know if the weather was going to get worse. I was just being what Kyle calls a “worry warrior”. But I must say, even when I was scared, I had a strange sense of calm. It was as though I knew everything was going to be okay, but couldn’t let go of the fear, even though deep down I think I was calm. It is something I am working on, not just acting on my first reaction, but really letting myself think about how I am feeling and paying attention to that gut feeling. Anyway, I am going to have Kyle share his take on the day, because it really is quite positive and as a whole it was a fun and exciting day. Solvi handled AMAZING. I was on the tiller the entirety of the day and I must say she is very well built, a perfect rig, and just an all around awesome boat.

**Kyle’s Perspective: The forecast was 7-14 knots with gusts of 26. The wind was also forecasted in a southerly direction, which should have been a mostly beam reach based on the charts and weather predictions. But due to the shape of the hills that make the valley which creates the lake of Pepin, the wind ended up much more south easterly than south. When we made it to Long Point and were opened up to probably 2-3 miles of fetch, the waves became much larger and the wind directly ahead. So we decided that we could try one last idea and we ran to the far shore in order to get in the lee of a large bluff. Crossing this wind tossed valley in Solvi turned out to be quite the experience. It was very exciting to be pushing the boat this hard for the first time, with two reefs in the sail and us holding the sail hard into the wind, the boat really was very fast for her size. I might have gone for the third reef but then we would have been too slow in the lulls so we were sailing a bit over canvassed in the gusts and it got really wild at times. When we made it to the other shore and realized that there just wasn’t enough cover to make the run worth while, that was our final decision to turn back. Once we started running, every once in a while we’d catch a large wave train and the boat would actually rise and surf a little from the wave and it was exhilarating when she was picked up and rushed along. Up until this point I had always been holding the main sheet in order to prevent a gust from knocking the boat over, during the run it was the first time I got the chance to relax a little and enjoy. It’s a beautiful little valley, I envy the people who live there. I found myself feeling very happy and proud of the boat. She really is a testament to her heritage. While many modifications have been made towards modernization, her shape is entirely fearing and what a wonderful sea boat. I want to give my crew my greatest thanks- there were times where the only thing Danielle wanted to do was be out of the boat and on shore, but she never stopped concentrating on her job. She never stopped working and keeping the vessel under control at the helm. Someone who experiences fear is completely human, the person that puts that fear aside in order to remain a part of the greater good, is a sailor.

The only photo I managed to take today: Once back in calm waters!

The trip up until this point has been a lot of rowing, which out of necessity means a lot of shorter days easing into the physical demand of such a sport. While we have had a few days of rain, we’ve generally had good weather and the days on the water have been really enjoyable. It’s a nice feeling of beginning, of freedom. The realization of a lot of hard work. Camping has turned out to be very rugged, I am thankful for our backpacking trips to teach me the ropes as it were. It’s been really rewarding to see ideas that came from my head to the notebook, from the notebook to the shop, actually function as intended and be successful. I also didn’t realize how much I had missed the quiet- there’s not sirens every two minutes going by, the noise of a 100 cars an hour crossing the bridge. Instead we listen to beavers smacking their tail as they dive, cranky herons screeching as they take off. It’s been really nice.**

I thought it might be fun to hear from Kyle once in a while, I’m going to try to do that more often! Anyway as I mentioned above we are currently on an island at the top of Lake Pepin. We will be here for 3 nights until Thursday morning when we have a perfect weather window. The wind will be much much less and most importantly it will be coming from behind us! Yay. So we will keep an eye on the weather and go when we have slower speeds, and fortunately we are not in a rush 🙂

As I sign off I hear Kyle playing his harmonica on the hammock we have hung in a felled tree. We are about to cook dinner as the sun goes down over the river. I look around me and see my home. Even if it’s just for a few nights, I am home on this muddy rugged island covered in spiders, frogs, and mosquitos, and to be completely honest, I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.

Becoming One with the Mud

Written on: 8/19/16

img_1900We are officially on the Mississippi River! Yesterday late afternoon we went under two bridges and just after coming out from the second one the water below us turned from a bluish green to a deep brown. The current picked up and within minutes we saw a large barge. It was clear we were no longer on the St. Croix River! How exciting. We were both so incredibly exhausted as we had just completed our longest day: 17 miles from Hudson to Prescott. Fortunately 8 of the 17 were under sail, but the last 9 miles under oar were a bit trying. The weather forecasted a storm and the clouds kept playing tricks on us. At one point the wind picked up substantially and the sky in the direction we were headed got really dark. We rowed back and forth across the St. Croix trying to find a place to pull off. By the time we found one, the sky lightened up and the wind died. We laughed a little and decided to continue on and push the last 5 miles into Prescott. The sailing that we did during the first half of our day was absolutely marvelous. We were on St. Croix Lake which was an awesome little lake. The wind was coming pretty much from where we were headed, but we learned that Solvi performs wonderfully to weather. We tacked back and forth across the lake, and because it was a pretty wide lake we were able to run the tacks out for a while. Much fun was had by the two of us. We were going about 4.5 knots, and Kyle was able to sit on the side deck which is something he has dreamed of since building that particular part of the boat. The sun was out, the wind was strong, and we really appreciated the break from rowing. But as it always seems to do, especially on the river, the wind died and it was time to get the oars back out. We had a good time rowing and practicing our sea shanty. But during the last 6 miles things got a bit tough for us. Our necks and backs were sore, my hands were worn out and currently have three bandaids on them as I type this. And our shoulders were wondering what the hell was going on with all this sudden hard work. But, we were careful, took our time and took lots of breaks to stretch, chug water, swim, and to make sure we weren’t pushing too hard.

Once we arrived in Prescott we felt a sense of relief and excitement. The Mississippi! It was real. Prescott Island, where we were camping for the night, was just after the bridge so we were heading straight for it when we heard someone yelling at us from a dock across the way. He was asking questions about our boat and if we had a blog. We went over and talked to him and his wife, very nice folks who were so incredibly kind to give the gift of dinner- if you two are reading this, thank you so much. Your kindness is something that will never be forgotten and we are so excited for pizza and pitcher 🙂 After saying our goodbyes to all the nice folks at the dock we rowed straight across the river to the island. We quickly beached the boat and within one minute were introduced to the mud- the reason why the river is so brown. Mud is everywhere! At first I was trying to avoid the mud by stepping on branches and logs, but after the first couple times of slipping off the log and my foot landing nice and deep into the mud, I decided it was time to embrace it. So far, that has been a good idea. Our campsite was muddy, the boat was muddy, our stuff was muddy. And then… the rain started. And I don’t mean just a little rain. I mean full on torrential downpour for probably 5 hours straight. The following morning Kyle bailed gallons and gallons of water out of the boat. So between the gallons of rain water, the mud, and being on the river I made the final decision of becoming one with the mud. No way around it, so might as well enjoy it and all its squishiness between my toes. The night we arrived in Prescott we were so tired and sore from the 17 mile day we boiled water in our vestibule and had freeze dried meals for dinner. Sleep came on quickly and was deep and long.

Today has brought even more learning, adventure, and enjoyment. My morning started about an hour before Kyle’s. I walked around the island a bit, enjoyed the river, and sat in amazement at how quickly the current was moving. I could not wait to get out there in Solvi as I knew we would be flying under oar. I watched as a 400 foot barge quietly moved passed our island in the early morning hours. I was intrigued by it’s size. It was huge! The tug boat pushing it was serene in the dawn of the coming day. I watched carefully as to see what type of wake it created and how it moved about in the river. Again, like many times before, I felt I went back in time a bit. I can’t wait to see them out on the river while we row next to them in awe of their size. Once Kyle was up we tried to quickly get packed up and underway as to make some miles before more storms, but it ended up being a bit of a slow morning. We learned that due to the way we had the boat set up the night before, one of the hatches leaked. It wasn’t a big deal and nothing was ruined, but it caused some discussion of how to prevent it. We then, again, had to deal with the mud. So trying to get the mud off of all our wet muddy gear took some time. We mostly succeeded though and after eating breakfast got underway. We traveled 11 miles today, under oar, in about 2.5 hours and we even stopped and explored a massive sandbar made by the Army Corps that we were able to climb on top of. Due to the current we were rowing at approximately 5 knots.. It was so much fun. We saw all sorts of tug boats and barges and on the side of the river we saw rail cars working on the railroad. Today was a much easier day than yesterday as the miles were shorter, easier, and the new waters added some satisfaction. We arrived at our campsite this afternoon which is on the tip of an island. We found a spot to pull up that wasn’t covered in marsh or driftwood, and my goodness was it mucky. I’m not even using the word muddy for this situation, it was mucky and deep. Fortunately I had already decided to embrace it, so I just went with it, letting it cover my feet up to my ankles. We used our AIRE rollers (will write more about those later) to pull the boat all the way up out of the muck and into the muddy grass. We now sit under our tarp while Kyle plays the harmonica and I write. The sun is peaking through a bit before an evening thunderstorm. Life is good.

Some Highlights of the First Week:

• Sailing to weather on the rail of Solvi
• Eating directly from pots and pans
• Sea shanties
• Being water bound everyday
• Looking at charts for navigating
• Seeing tug boats
• Playing games
• Watching sun set from islands
• Camping on different islands every night
• The ruggedness of the river
• Being sore, exhausted, and satisfied
• Mud

Some Challenges of the First Week:

• Getting used to rowing all day
• Poison Ivy
• Being sore and exhausted
• Everything being wet and muddy
• Learning the tricks of beaching of boat
• Blisters on my hands
• Figuring out where all the gear goes
• Unmentionable Chafing
• Mud


The First Few Days

As I begin this entry it is currently day three of our journey South. We left Monday morning from Interstate Park on the Wisconsin side. My parents, Kyle’s parents, and his sister were all there to see us off. I had a strange sense of calm and normalcy while we got the boat all ready to be launched and even during the goodbyes. In the past when I have taken adventures or journeys of a long time period, I have experienced anxiety and a bit of uneasiness, but this time was different. The morning seemed to have a sense of peace and tranquility as we loaded our last things into the boat. After giving hugs, taking pictures, and saying our final goodbyes Kyle and I hopped in Solvi and began to row down the river. As we rowed away and waved countless times to our family on the shoreline I felt confidant in what we were doing. It was as though the river was welcoming us as it was a beautiful morning of sunshine and calm waters. We went around an island and as we came out the other side I heard my name being yelled. I couldn’t really see them, but my parents had driven down the river a bit and jumped out of the car to say one last goodbye. We laughed and yelled back a forth a few moments before they were gone. Within the first hour of being underway Kyle and I stopped at a small sandbar in the middle of the river. On both sides of us steep rock faces surrounded the river. We pulled Solvi up on the side of the sand bar and jumped out. Clearly we were feeling very thrilled about what was going on because we literally ran laps around the sand bar- splashing and skipping through the water and stopping every once in a while to go swimming. We laughed and hugged and high fived- this was the beginning of what is going to be a tremendous journey and we wanted to soak up every moment.

There was little to no wind that day so we rowed all the while. We stopped in Osceola and had lunch at a park along the river. We took our time while rowing, pausing to observe everything around us and to look at each other in disbelief that it was finally happening. I am going to share an observation I made in my journal that was the highlight of our first day. We heard a waterfall and decided to pull off to explore it:
I sit in the boat while Kyle climbs up to take photos and check out the falls. I can both feel and smell the coolness of the water as it flows down the rocks and moss covered logs to join the flow of the St. Croix River. The slightest hint of cool water fills my pores as I look forward down the river and watch the white puffy clouds, not in the sky, but in the river’s reflection. Almost as though they are moving in the current- and then I look up and remember it’s just a reflection in the water and that really the clouds are above me. I wonder how far south the cloud above will travel, changing size, shape, and form before dissolving into nothingness. Blue dragon flies flutter about landing for just a moment on various surfaces before moving onto the next. What are you looking for dear dragon fly? Or are you just simply fluttering about with no intention and expectation?
I stepped off the boat into the base of the waterfall and my feet were instantly immersed in the cool water from the falls. My feet felt a different sensation than the rest of my body and instantly caused a wave of exhilaration and refreshment over my being. I climbed up the waterfall towards Kyle and observed all the different directions the water was flowing from; I then realized that although the water is flowing in many different directions and is taking different paths down the rocks- at the bottom it all ends up in the same place. The same beautiful place, regardless of the path it chose to take. And I thought to myself, what a metaphor of life.

Anyway, the rest of our day was just absolutely wonderful. We rowed a total of 12 miles before stopping at a nice little campsite on an island on the East side of the river. There we had a fire, cooked dinner, celebrated our first night, and climbed in bed early exhausted from the excitement of the day.

Day two proved to be just as successful as day one. I giggled once we got underway that morning, realizing that almost every morning for the next 6 months is going to be spent breaking down camp and heading south. How wonderfully simple! We covered a total of 14 miles yesterday, and didn’t stop at all along the way. At one point we decided to measure our speed using the GPS. While rowing very relaxed with the current we were making about 3.5-4 knots. When we really pushed hard we made a consistent 5 knots (but that was way too much work!) When sailing we make about half wind speed. Solvi is performing just as we hoped!

We had made lunch ahead of time so we just ate floating along the river. Right before lunch we passed the most spectacular area. There is a high railroad bridge South of Somerset and before the bridge the water opens up and marsh and rock cliffs surrounded the river on both sides. There was no one around except us and Solvi- Kyle and I were singing sea shanties and taking our strokes very leisurely as the current was pushing us along rather quickly. I literally felt like I was in a different era. A time long ago when boats didn’t have motors and goods were transported by railroad. When the rivers and land weren’t so developed and workers sang sea shanties while out on their work boats. I can’t really explain the pure feeling of bliss I experienced but it is something I have been experiencing a lot the last few days. And laughter, so much laughter often for no reason at all- it’s awesome. Anyway, the rest of the day was spent rowing and sailing a couple times, when we got enough wind, to our campsite. At one point we got really hot so we decided to try swimming off the boat while underway. I went first and jumped off the side deck. I was joking and told Kyle I was going to race him, and he rowed away leaving me a couple hundred yards back. I was laughing so hard I could barely swim and he came back letting me know I lost 🙂 He of course jumped off the foredeck making a big splash and getting as high as he could. It was very refreshing and we both felt a bit more motivated to finish rowing.

We found an awesome little island just north of Stillwater. It was a sandy island that was flooded so there were various ponds and trees with their trunks underwater all about. We knew it was going to rain so Kyle set up a really cool shelter using our boom tent (which is a hammock tent) and our mosquito net. The cooler was used as a table and we had all our cooking stuff and games. We spent the night watching the rain and enjoying the breeze it brought. It was romantic and lovely. After the rain calmed down a bit we walked to the other side of the island to see the sunset. We were standing their stretching in the drizzle when Kyle poked me and said “You’re it!” And like little kids we ran around the island hopping over ponds and hiding behind trees playing tag. It was a blast. I fell down into the sand due to laughter and exhaustion and we called it a night.

Day 3 has shown to be a bit tougher than day 1 and 2, which is interesting because we only went 9 miles today. We woke up late and got going around 10am. We rowed about a half hour into Stillwater where we met up with our friend Nick. He did some filming and we took him out on the boat for a short row. It was great to see him, definitely the highlight of the day. But I must say, pulling up to a dock and being in a town overwhelmed me a bit. Even after only 2 days of being on the river I couldn’t wait to get back out there and get away from the busy town. After saying our goodbyes we rowed 6 miles to our campsite where I am currently sitting. For some reason those 6 miles seemed really long. We were both tired, waited too long to eat, and it was hot. We still had a enjoyable time, but I was ready for a break. Day 3 was the hardest for me when I was on the Appalachian Trail as well. I think it’s due to our bodies adjusting to the physical labor of the rowing and getting used to being in the sun all day. Once we arrived at a little island just outside of Hudson we jumped in the water and went swimming right away. I instantly felt much better, refreshed, and ready for tomorrow! It is 17 miles to Prescott, which is where the St. Croix dumps into the Mississippi River. We are considering attempting the 17 miles tomorrow, especially if the wind picks up, but are not in a rush so we’ll see what the day provides and how we are feeling.

Overall words can not express the happiness we are both feeling. We are constantly telling each other how happy we are and thanking the universe for providing such a lovely life. We were asked today how we handle living in such a small space together for 6 months, and our answer was simple: We are a team, in love, and best friends. With all those things on our side we are doing great. I am ecstatic about life and so incredibly thankful. So as the sun sets over our island to welcome another part of the world into morning, I will say my thank you’s and look forward to what tomorrow will bring.


Final Preparations and Overcoming Fear

Well the time has come to start the final preparations for our leave date. The boat is complete and ready to go, so now the little things. Checking off the final lists, going over the last bits of gear that need to be packed, filling up water bladders and the cooler, and most importantly, saying our “see you laters” to our family. Last week was spent grocery shopping, checking over gear, and doing a final packing of the boat. We fit everything we need for the next 6 months and 8 days worth of food snugly in their proper hatches. Fortunately we planned this out so that there would be lots of time to take care of such things, and for that I am feeling very grateful. I was able to take my time when thinking and planning for the preparations. There is no rushing around feeling stressed or forgetful. When Kyle and I first planned this journey over a year ago, we made a dream board; in the center of our dream board we had written “No Schedule and No Rush”. While we do have a leave date, it’s flexible and most importantly we aren’t feeling rushed! So I’d say we are on the right track with that goal- which is just wonderful.

All our gear plus 8 days of food fit great in the boat!

I have gone through an array of emotions this week, anticipation and excitement mostly, but every once in a while fear creeps in. There will be some moments where my brain starts on a “what if” tangent. What if something happens to the boat, what if someone gets sick, what if we don’t have the right gear, what if I forgot something, etc. But these fortunately only last for a few moments and I, or Kyle, is easily able to calm me down. What if something happens to the boat? Well, we fix it. We have spares, supplies, and a huge support team. We are smart, capable, and we built the boat so we know it inside and out. So if something happens to the boat, we deal with it. If we get sick, well I went a little crazy on the first aid kit so I’m sure something in there will help. Otherwise, there are towns with doctors along most of the river. And just as quickly as the fear crept up, it dissolves and I go back to being thrilled for the upcoming adventure.

Due to the array of emotions I’ve experienced, I have noticed that fear is an interesting emotion. While it often feels very real, I have found that most of the time I am creating the fear, feeding it. I view fear and danger as completely different things- danger is real, it is something we should pay attention to and make decisions about. Whereas fear seems to be something that we create in our own heads. I have taken a situation and completely over analyzed it until I became fearful of it. It’s strange. I am slowly learning to recognize this habit and beginning to change it; to recognize when I am feeling fearful of something, and to then take that as an obstacle I need to overcome. In doing this I have grown tremendously and I am extremely thankful for that. I really think I would still be in Salt Lake City, where I am from, doing the same things I had always done, if I hadn’t learned to overcome my fears. Now I am definitely not perfect at this, but in learning to face my fears and to get past them, I feel I am experiencing life just as I have always wanted to. I take risks, dream big, sometimes fail, but always continue on. There is quote by Naguib Mahfouz which states: Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life. And while this is a bit dramatic, it really rings deep to me. When I take a few minutes to really contemplate that way of thinking, I can’t help but laugh a little. He’s right! If we live our lives in fear of death, of failure, or of what could go wrong, we might really miss out in life. Whereas if we face it and do it anyway even if it’s scary- while yes we might get hurt along the way, we might try, we might fail– but at least when we look back on our lives, we will have experienced life fully and not look back and wish we would have. So while Kyle and I get ready to depart on this 6 month journey, when fears arise and I start to question my decision, I push past and remember that I want to experience life. I want to see places, meet people, and challenge myself. With everything I do this last week before we leave I try to take my time, to enjoy all the little moments of getting ready, because they are part of the adventure as well.

My parents arrived on Friday evening to spend the weekend with us and to see us off with Kyle’s family. It has been so wonderful having them here and showing them around Wisconsin. Today was spent hanging out with Kyle’s grandparents, sister, and parents. We all had a joyful time together laughing, telling stories, and enjoying the beautiful weather. I am so grateful that my parents made the trip here, as they were a big part of the build, so I am glad they get to see us off.

Kyle and I will be taking off on Monday morning from Interstate Park and we couldn’t be more eager to get going. We wanted to again say thank you to everyone who has helped us get to this point. This has been a long long journey with lots of learning, growth, and anticipation. We honestly could not have done it without the support and encouragement from our friends and families. I started to throw names out there, but it would just go on too long. You all know who you are—in fact, if you are reading this right now, you are supporting us- so THANK YOU!! We love you all so very much. Life is so wonderful and we can’t wait to share our journey. Stay tuned for updates along the river!!

With love, gratitude, and excitement,

Skipper and Flipper

Here. Now.

August 1st, 2016 Journal Entry

We have not officially left on our “journey” yet, but there are a few things that have come to me already I thought I would share. I am sitting on a sandy beach on the shore of the Upper St. Croix River. The Rolling Stones are playing through our small speaker. Behind me Solvi is pulled up on the beach. imageJust over the ledge behind her is our camp- a hammock swaying in the breeze between two trees just on the ledge. And as I am sitting in the sunshine watching the various ripples on the water I had a strong feeling of pure bliss come over me. I giggled and in my head heard my inner voice say, “This is it, you are here. You’ve arrived.” At first I argued and said to myself, well not quite, we haven’t left on the official journey yet! And as though on que a gust of wind came roaring up the river as if to say, “Oh but you have- this is it– Here. Now.” And slowly something I have been trying to learn, practice, and understand for years really began to sink in. We must live in the present moment because it is all we will ever have. This is not to say that we shouldn’t plan for the future or reminisce on the past, but we can’t forget to be here along the way. I feel our society is constantly working towards moving forward. Go to school, move up grades, go to college, get a job, have a family, work hard, retire. And while I am in no way talking down on this system we have in place, I am realizing that we must not spend our lives waiting to “arrive”. We have arrived! This is the real thing. If there is something we really want in life, out of life, we must start making strides for it now, because life doesn’t wait. The sun comes up and goes down everyday regardless of if we are ready or not. So whether we are working, traveling, happy, or sad, we must learn to practice mindfulness. When I use the term mindfulness I relate it to being mindful or present in this exact moment. I make an effort everyday to take what I call conscious breaths. We breath all day long without having to think about it. Just like the setting sun, it happens without us telling it to. But what happens when we do think about it? What happens when we consciously breathe in and out a couple times? Try it! For me, I become completely present, even if just for a moment.


Setting Sun in the Apostle Islands

Now I am smiling because for the last 18 months during the whole planning and building of Solvi I was obsessed with our leave date. How free we’d be. How we will have finally arrived with our finished boat at the St. Croix River launch. But what I didn’t realize until now, is that I was so focused with the August 15th date, that sometimes I forgot to enjoy the ride of everything leading up to our departure. I was exactly where I was supposed to be the whole time! I just didn’t realize it. And I feel this is a thought process that can be applied to many different life styles and experiences.
I am grateful for this moment and am going to make an effort to try and enjoy the moments as they come. To not take life so seriously! The world is truly a magnificent place and we are only here in this form once. So let’s enjoy it- all of it 🙂 And on that note, I am going swimming in the cool river water.
With love and gratitude,

Shake Down Cruise

Shake Down Cruise Part 1: The Apostles

Ever since Kyle bought his first cruising boat 6 years ago he has dreamed of going to the Apostle Islands. Well on Thursday of last week, we made it in our home built boat. Things didn’t go exactly as we planned, but they were amazing all the same. We were hoping to spend a week island hopping and camping out of the boat but when we arrived and spoke to the park ranger we soon found out that would not be the case. Despite my research, guide book, and Internet reading I somehow completely missed that we needed to make reservations to camp on the islands- 30-60 days in advance! She also informed us that it is $15 a night to camp on the islands, plus a $10 reservation fee, plus $2 a day to park, plus $6 launch fee, etc. The fees just kept adding up. Our budget is always on the back of our minds and we decided it was just too much and made different plans. On Thursday night we camped on the mainland at Little Sand Bay Campground. It was a beautiful place, right on the water with a sand pebble beach right below it. To the left we could see Sand Island and to the right, York Island.

We set up camp and spent some time working on the boat and packing for the trip the following day. Even though we were only going to do a day trip we packed every piece of gear and equipment we will be taking on the Mississippi as to see how the boat handles. That night we walked the beach, found cool rocks, and watched the sun set. The following morning we woke up early and got ready for what would be the most wonderful and rewarding day we have had thus far.

At 8am I stood on the dock looking out of the break water walls to the open water of Lake Superior. I could hear sea gulls squawking their morning songs. There was not a ripple on the water, but something about the energy of the morning told me the wind would pick up exactly when we needed it to. We got Solvi off the trailer and put her oars in their locks. We had some company of the very kind people we had met the night before to see us off. Kyle pushed off the dock and we slowly drifted towards the harbor opening. Together we began to row, slowly as Solvi moves quickly through the water. Within minutes we were outside of the break water and into the open Superior.

Enjoying the Calm Waters

The sun was shining through a couple of fading clouds, the water was calm, and we steadily got into the rhythm of rowing together in unison. First we counted to 4 as to stay in step with each other, but the counting faded just as the clouds and no words were needed. We rowed together towards Sand Island’s sea caves, almost as though communicating with each other through each stroke of the oar blades. It was a pretty magical morning. We rowed 2.5 miles in less than an hour and that included lots of stopping to quietly observe our surroundings and taking it very easy on our strokes. We arrived at Sand Island and coasted along the shore, ooing and aahhing about how absolutely magnificent it was. Steep cliffs of trees and sandstone that showed decades of erosion. It was almost as though each layer of sandstone told a different story from a time long ago. Soon we arrived at the sea caves- words nor pictures can begin to explain their shear beauty.

After rounding around the caves we came into a small bay with a sandy beach. We beached Solvi and spent a few hours exploring Sand Island on foot. The lighthouse was definitely the highlight of our hike.

When we arrived back to the beach the wind had picked up considerably and was in a perfect direction for us to sail across to York Island on a beam reach. We rowed out of the bay and while Kyle set up the sailing rig I kept our position so we didn’t get pushed back to the beach. And that was it- he set the sail with one reef and we were off. Again, words escape me as I try to describe the experience. It was our first real sail with the changes we had made: lower sail height, dagger board trunk installed, and a couple changes to the running rigging. We were like little kids on Christmas morning; laughing and high-fiving completely overwhelmed with excitement. There was 9 knots of wind and we were going 4.5 knots- with a reef! There we were, our tan bark lug sail full and happy, Solvi heeled just a bit, the warm sun on our back, and the wind in our faces. If someone could have seen us out there I swear our whole rig was glowing with joy. I think I personally repeated the statement, “I’m just so happy. This is just so great” over 10 times. imageWe arrived at York Island and explored a bit before heading back to mainland. I discovered how obsessed I am with beach pebbles and spent our time on York Island collecting the smooth gray stones. I like to hold them between my palms and think of how long they have been on this earth and all the changes they have gone through- constantly reminding me how life is ever changing. Around 4pm we rowed away from York and set the sail to make a run right back into the harbor, this time the wind on our back. Just outside the entrance we dropped the sail and slowly rowed back in. I love how quiet we are as our slim hull glides through the water. When we arrived at the dock I had an older man say to me, “ You guys looked majestic out there- that red sail- like you are from another time.” It was a thoughtful compliment and really summed up how we felt about our day. The day was so quiet and isolated and the islands we visited have been preserved for centuries so it felt like a different time period when life was slower, not so busy. We hugged and high-fived as we got Solvi back on her trailer- thanking the universe for providing such a successful day.

That night we drove back to St. Croix Falls to continue our shake down cruise on the St. Croix River where we could actually camp out of the boat- for free 🙂 On the drive there we discussed how pleased we were with how Solvi handled the conditions. She was easy to use, really fast, comfortable, steady, and most importantly sea worthy. We had done it! Solvi is officially ready for her journey down the Mississippi.

Shake Down Cruise Part 2: The Upper St. Croix River

This part of our shake down cruise started with a guest aboard! Kyle’s parents live just a couple miles from Lion’s Park where we launched on the Upper St. Croix River, so Kyle’s mom, Patti, came along. We have only had one other guest aboard, my dad at the initial launch, so it was exciting to share Solvi with someone else as well.

Thanks for joining us Patti!

Patti was such a great sport about the whole thing. We launched in the river (which is currently extremely low) and began to row before putting up the sail. The wind was a bit spotty and kept changing directions on us which made the sailing a little sporadic and not quite as controlled as we like, but we still had some good runs and enjoyed sharing it with Patti. Due to the river being so low we even ran aground with the dagger board. It was a quick fix as I just promptly removed the board, but it slowed us down a minute. Patti laughed and encouraged us all the while. On the way back Kyle and I sang one of our sea shanties and we all giggled and smiled as we approached the dock. We said our goodbyes to Patti and headed back out on the river to find a home for the evening. I was feeling excited because this was the first night we were actually going to camp out of the boat, on the same river that leads us to the Mississippi! We found a site on the Minnesota side of the river that we could beach Solvi, in what turned out to be lots of mud. But that’s okay, it was an awesome little site with a fire pit and a picnic table. After trudging through the mud to set up camp we enjoyed a fire and a cool beer as the sun set over the river.

The following morning we packed up camp and headed back out on the water. We were headed up river so we could ride the current back when we decided to return to Lion’s Park. It was a funny morning- we were going against the current, but had the wind behind us. We started rowing and then realized that the wind was pushing us along at a rather quick pace. The sail wasn’t even up! So we took full advantage of the odd conditions. I climbed up and laid out on the foredeck while Kyle climbed on the aft imagedeck. He steered us with the tiller arm while his head was leaned back against a seat cushion. For a good 20 minutes or so we moved up river, against the current, at about a knot of speed with no rowing or sailing. It was quite entertaining and really relaxing. As all things do, it ended and we decided to row the rest of the way to our next camp site. The rest of the day was spent reading, writing, and swimming on the sandy beach below our campsite. That night Kyle’s parents and sister, Riley, drove and met us at our site and we played games and enjoyed each other’s company around the fire. It was delightful.

After our coffee the next morning I had something really exciting happen- I sailed the boat, by myself! I have never sailed a boat by myself before, and I must say it was rather invigorating. Also, I did a good job! I am proud of myself about the whole thing. I have been wanting to sail the boat on my own because I feel it is an important part of being comfortable in all conditions, we just hadn’t had the chance yet. But the conditions were just right- no one was around, the wind was mild, and we had the whole day. So Kyle and I went over the whole rig to make sure I knew how to take the sail down without his help and made a plan of action. He came with me for the first 30 minutes for support but didn’t help with anything. It definitely helped my confidence to have him on board at first. When I felt comfortable enough he hopped on the aft deck and jumped into the water in order to swim ashore. And just like that, I was on my own. It was such a freeing feeling! I sailed the boat up river for a few minutes before turning down into the wind. I made lots of short tacks back and forth across the narrow river. Learning how the boat likes to handle, how much sail I can have out, how much tension to have on the main sheet, where she likes to sit in terms of heel degree, and all the maneuvers necessary in order to sail her to weather and to run down wind. I was literally giddy sitting there with the tiller in one hand and the main sheet in the other. I made a couple mistakes but was able to recover from them on my own. In fact, I got so comfortable that at one point I was trying to see how far I could get the boat to heel before letting out the main sheet. Eventually I got tired and decided to head back to our beach. I turned into the wind and took the sail down before rowing back to Kyle. We hugged and he congratulated me on successfully sailing and maneuvering the boat on my own. I must say that I could have never done it without such a kind, patient, and thorough teacher that is Kyle. He has taught me so much about sailing and between him and the sailing courses I took 3 years ago, I am slowly becoming a skilled and confidant sailor. It’s been an amazing ride and I am grateful for all the people who have helped me along the way, particularly my handsome partner in crime 🙂

Later that day we began the row back to Lion’s Park where Kyle’s dad, Rick picked us up with the trailer in tow. When we arrived back at his parent’s house I found myself feeling a sense of relief. I truly feel ready for our journey coming up. I know for a fact there will be challenges, scary moments, difficulties, and hardship. But I also know that together we will have a tremendous experience. Our shake down cruise was a complete success and we can’t wait to see what the future will bring. Onward!

P.S. We made the paper! Check it out here: