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RAMA Gets more press in the Warwick Beacon

They’re ‘loopy’ for certain
Couple taking to the water for a 6,000 mile loop of eastern US

Posted Thursday, June 10, 2021 1:00 am
By JOHN HOWELL


Marie Ahlert and her husband, Rick, both love the water and boating. But she had no idea what he was talking about when he said he wanted to do the loop.

Rick gave the simple explanation: “The loop is a circumnavigation of the eastern United States.”

Marie didn’t say yes immediately. She’s not impetuous. She does her research. Ten minutes later she said, “count me in.”

That exchange was more than two years ago. Doing the loop takes a lot of preparation.

Now they are on a voyage that started in March in South Carolina and brought them to Pawtuxet, which actually is a bit of a detour. By the end of the month they’ll retrace their steps to New York City to meet the Hudson River. North of Albany they’ll connect with the Erie Canal and follow that west to the Oswego Canal, which will drop to Lake Ontario and on to Chicago.

On a map, it all looks simple enough – a straight line running up the East Coast, a turn left for the Hudson, and then another left to the canal.

In reality it’s anything but an easy run.

Once in Chicago, after a diversion to visit Mackinaw Island in Lake Michigan and through a series of canals and rivers, they will connect with the Mississippi. At that point, they’ll be halfway through their 6,000-mile loop with a lot to look forward to. The plan is to make it to the Florida Keys in their single-engine, diesel-powered 2014 Cutwater by February. There, they’ll spend the winter.

Avoiding the winter

As Rick puts it, the expectation is “to start the trip in shorts and to end the trip in shorts.”

Starting off in March made that somewhat of a challenge. It wasn’t warm to start with. They found many of the planned stops along the way hadn’t opened. Marinas hadn’t turned on water and they had to pay close attention to their water and fuel supply. The water tank holds 40 gallons. Showers were brief, if at all. They didn’t bring winter clothes, either. Space in the 28-foot “pocket yacht” is at a premium. The clothes they brought fill a couple of plastic bins that look like they would fit in the overhead bin of an airliner. Marie expects to be in a bathing suit most of the time. Everything has its place. The cabin is tight and so is the V-berth. Being tall, they sleep at angles.

Marie grew up in Warwick She worked on Scott Avedisian’s campaign and served as city clerk during his administration. She’s good at scheduling and has a passion for spreadsheets. It serves them well aboard the RAMA (Rick Ahlert and Marie Ahlert).

They pretty much have named every boat they owned RAMA, including the pontoon boat they bought for the excursion boat business they ran from Pawleys Island where “we have a dirt house,” Marie says.

Marie has spreadsheets on fuel and water consumption as well as on boat maintenance. She’s identified the towns and villages along the route, reading up on their history and points of interest.

Rick is especially excited about exploring towns along the Erie canal, where he said they will need to pass through 30 locks before joining the Oswego Canal, which will drop to Lake Ontario and on to Chicago.

One stop for certain on the Erie Canal is Brockport, New York, which is where Rick went to college. Marie has marked charts with colored stickers naming places they want to visit or where they plan to connect with friends.

There’s no pinning them down to a schedule, however.

With one of the Erie locks undergoing repairs, there’s a backup of vessels waiting to make passage. Rick used the delay to help a captain, who needed crew to deliver a 42-foot boat from Palm Beach, Florida, to East Greenwich. Marie is happy to be here with her daughter’s family … for the moment.

Weather will set the pace

The weather has the ultimate say on when they arrive. While the boat is equipped with radar, GPS and AIS – the latter, an Automatic Identification System, enables them to know the locations of commercial vessels and, just as importantly, when navigating river bends lets commercial vessels know where they are – they won’t be doing any night motoring. If the forecast is nasty or the weather bad, they won’t cast off. They’ll wait it out.

They know how quickly conditions can change. Ironically, the most “scary” of episodes occurred in waters off Point Judith as they were headed for Newport. It hadn’t been in the forecast, yet abruptly the wind turned 180 degrees. Now, the wind was fighting the tide. The sea built to short, choppy 4-foot waves. They were rolling, waves breaking onto the boat.

Marie and Rick won’t be alone, although as of yet they have to meet their fellow travelers. Through social media they have been in touch with other “loopers,” and with GPS positioning can locate the other boaters. They fly a common AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association) flag. It’s an elite club, there being 150 boaters doing the loop this year. They look forward to meeting fellow travelers as they navigate locks or stop for the night. They anticipate grilling off the transom as they enjoy drinks, share stories and trade information on the passage ahead.

Not all boats can handle the loop. There’s a 15.5-foot height restriction set by bridge clearance. Sailboats do the loop, but they must lower their mast or take them down in order to complete sections of the trip.

If this all seems too adventuresome, consider that Marie and Rick followed their wanderlust in 2015 by taking a 14-week trip across the United States. They and their 6-by-9 pop-up camper visited just about every national park they could find. And what was their favorite place?

“Hawaii,” Marie says without hesitation. They left the camper for that part of the trip.

Already they have left the RAMA for part of the loop. The Warwick stop is all about visiting Marie’s daughter, Kathleen Bohl, and her husband, Brandon, who welcomed their first child, Linnea, on April 5.

It also provided the occasion to connect with friends in person. Former mayor, governor and U.S. senator Lincoln Chafee stopped down to check out “the pocket yacht,” and wherever they are, Marie and Rick are running into friends.

The plan is to shove off this Saturday after watching the Gaspee Days Parade.

With social media and the internet, they plan on bringing everyone who wants to join the adventure to check out their blog at rickandmarie.com or via the Facebook page “Rick and Marie – the great loop.” Already, 620 people have signed up to follow their blog.

Don’t fret – they’ll have lots of company for the loop.

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Delivery Complete

Well, we flew out last Thursday and landed in West Palm Beach. We provisioned and checked boat systems, fluids etc. We were ready to start the journey north to East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Sitting directly behind the boat was Tiger Woods Yacht named Privacy.

Day 1 early rise on Friday to start the journey, we weren’t underway 10 minutes and had our first problem. The boat would not come up to speed. The captain diagnosed the issue the bottom was fouled(dirty)! This is a problem, it is Friday the start of Memorial Day weekend. The Captain pulls a rabbit out of his hat and as we limp into Stuart Florida, there waiting is a haul out and the slings being lowered into the water. Boat pulled, scrapped, power washed and put back in the water in less then 2 hours, LUCK! Problem solved, out the Jupiter inlet we go and run offshore up to St Augustine.

Day 2 we run offshore from St Augustine to Beaufort, South Carolina. The seas started to kick up so we proceeded into the Inlet/River and ran to Charleston, SC. Accept about 2 hours out of Charleston we get alarms going off. After diagnosing the problem, we are leaking power steering fluid. We limp into Charleston, Uber to the store and get the supplies we need. Upon arrival back we make the repairs needed.

Day 3 weather forces us to run the intracoastal waterway again. We steamed right by the Marina where we keep our boat! Waved hello and goodbye. Tried to talk the captain into stopping and going to our house but that wasn’t happening. We run to Wrightsville Beach, NC. WITH NO PROBLEMS, YEAH!

Day 4 we depart Wrightville and have to run the intracoastal again to Coinjock, NC. PS the primes rib is as good as the say. We check the weather and we have a great weather window to run offshore for the next several days.

Day 5 we depart Coinjock with our sights set on Cape May, NJ. Heading to Norfolk through the last parts of the intracoastal the captain says we have another issue. The rpms are not increasing enough and the two engines are not syncing up. Dirty fuel filters the captain says. After a 3 hour delay and not being able to locate the correct filters, we manually clean the filters and get underway. She responds awesome to the cleaning and off we go. We miss our destination but make it to Ocean City, Maryland.

Day 6 we are on the water at the crack of dawn. We run the coast offshore. New Jersey is loaded with loopers. We passed at least 20 looping boats on our way to New York harbor. Never thought I would be doing this part again but this time I got to be the passenger! It was just as cool the second time around! Captain decides we are laying the boat down in Newport, RI huge run!

Day 7 we deliver her to East Greenwich, RI!

Delay in Departure

Yup you heard correct. We are delaying departure!

A friend(Captain) was looking for a mate to deliver a boat. Offered up my services and as of Wednesday we will be on a flight to North Palm Beach, Forida and moving a vessel up to East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

I am blessed to have this great oppurtunity for many reasons. I will gain a great deal of knowledge spending time with a delivery captain. The chance to pick his brain and observe techniques, in hopes to advance my knowledge is always important. Hopefully this experience opens up other opportunites for similar trips in the future. This run is extremely different then your typical cruiser or looper experience. The intent is to transit the coast and be back in Rhode Island in a week LOL as usual pending weather.

The delay is perfect as Lock 17 on the Erie canal is broken and down for repairs, probably a week or so from what I am reading. There is a big hold up at the lock and boats are now being stopped at Lock 2 so the canal does not get jammed up. So when we shove off we should be in a good postion to have a wonderful cruise and my honey gets to spend more time with our grandchildren. Plus the compensation for the trip isn’t to shabby so Marie and I are looking at this as a win, win situation!

Stay tuned for more adventure, I will be posting along the way!

Concerned? Don’t be all is good.

Hello Everyone,

We are up to 610 followers now and I just wanted to remind everyone that we are still in Rhode Island for at least two more weeks. There have been some folks reaching out asking why we haven’t posted, so I just wanted to touch base and let you know what has been happening.

Well we have completed most of our maintenance checklist, but still have a few items left to complete. We have spent time with family and friends, but especially our grandchildren. We will be taking the boat off the dock next week to refuel and pump out in preparation for our departure at the end of the month. So expect to see more posts starting in June as the loop will be back on!

Thanks again for following along we really appreciate it.

Last Leg

4/9 We start our last leg home, however we are greeted to a nice heavy New England fog when we awake. We enjoy our breakfast and wait for the fog to lift. I know Marie(Nana) is itching to get home to see the little one. I see the excitement in her and reassure her that the fog will lift quickly as it typically does this time of year.
As we depart we see Fort Adams and the bridge clearly now. We start a nice cruise down into Narragansett Bay. We are really enjoying the flat water as a opposed to yesterday’s water. We pass Jamestown Island, then Prudence Island and finally Patience Island. We cruises around Conimicut Light and are finally headed to Pawtuxet Cove. When we arrive my son and granddaughter are there to greet us and wave us in. It is good to be back in the village. Now it is time to visit with family and friends, and I am quite sure the first stop will be to see our new grandaughter.

Wow is all we can say!

The last two days days 4/7 and 4/8 have been nothing short of a whirlwind. We transmitted 207 miles, crazy water time. A lot more then our expected 40 mile days. However with the birth of our granddaughter a few days ago, COVID vaccine appointments set for 4/11, a great weather window we pushed hard and we are about 25 miles from our beloved Pawtuxet Village, RI

These past two days have been quite special for me in particular. Growing up on Long Island, NY I really never thought that I would be sitting so close to Lady Liberty on our own boat. Cruising the harbor and going up the East River past all the sights the city has to offer. A total surreal experience! Then transmitting the entire Long Island Sound headed to what I considered home Rhode Island until of course me moved to Pawleys Island, SC. I think I live on island time! Sure I grew up on the south shore of Long Island, but I spent my adult life in Rhode Island so it truly is home to me. I even have the accent. We will get some Lobstah when we are here. We have travelled 1002 miles so far and the last 20 miles was terrible. The seas kicked up and the waves were nasty. NOT what the weather apps said. But after looking at the tided and the wind which completely flipped direction we were hit with some real snotty water. We had spray going completely over our bow and roof! Welcome home!

So we will motor the last 25 miles tomorrow and start our 5 to 6 week layover. Then we will be on the loop again in late May early June. The boat is screaming at me, I need a bath inside and out. Some maintenance will be preformed on her as well. Our grandkids will be getting a ride, not the newborn of course. We will have a wonderful time visiting family and friends.

We are moving

So we spent a day 3/5/21 in Atlantic City, NJ. Took Marie down to the famous boardwalk, boy did we walk! We also saw the Absecon Lighthouse and toured the grounds. Interesting fact the light is located on South Rhode Island Ave, great karma. The Coast Guard was named Life Saving Stations prior to it becoming a military entity.
3/6/21 We moved from Atlantic City to Brielle, NJ and tomorrow we will cruise through NY harbor and pass Lady Liberty. The passage from Atlantic City was very uneventful and the seas in the Atlantic were quite friendly! We passed the famous Barnegat Lighthouse along the way. A tidbit of info for our South Carolina clan, we were about 3/4 mile offshore and we were in 65 feet of water. In SC you are still in about 12 feet, had we went out to the 3 mile nautical line we would have been in hundreds of feet.

We may catch a green light and make it into Rhode Island by Friday or Saturday.

Blessed

Today we had a double adventure on a beautiful Easter Sunday. Unfortunately we missed service because we left at the crack of dawn, sorry Jon! We travelled the 71 miles down from Chesapeake City to Cape May. The Delaware Bay is a notorious body of water but through some planning, help and prayers our run was very nice. We rode the tide down almost the entire way. We hit Cape May early and pulled into Utsch’s Marina. We were told no one would be there, being Easter Sunday. However when we were filling up with water, another blessing as we were down to probably 10 gallons Mr. Utsch’s showed up. He was kind enough to refuel us, so we decided to take on the Ocean. Mr. Utsch’s had no problem with us cancelling the reservation we had because up here the Marina’s are pretty much closed, the season still has not begun. We left the inlet and proceeded to Atlantic City about 43 miles north. The waters were comfortable for the most part and we were treated to a rather large pod of dolphin at one point. To say I was a little stressed would be an understatement! However we tackled it and we can now check off another confidence builder. We think we may make another 50 mile run up the coast tomorrow. We will leave later in the morning as the seas will be calming in the afternoon. If not we will wait until Wednesday.

Chesapeake City the town

Chesapeake city was developed in the mid 1800’s. The architecture although quiet similar to Annapolis is clearly different. Most houses are wrapped in clap board. It is located directly on the C&D Canal which to this day is the considered one of the busiest canals in the world. It is a great passage for ships traveling south bound out of Western NJ-Philly area. They can come through the canal, access the Chesapeake Bay without entering the open water. Safe passage for even larger ships is just as important. It is also a great way to move goods to points further south. As stated it is a very sleepy little town which makes the destination desireable. However, to be here for multiple days can be a struggle for the folks that are looking for a lot to do.

On a different note our number of followers is up to almost 600 now. I have noticed people coming to the site from many different countries. I also see that there are probably many repeat visitors from various places. Please drop us a comment let us know who you are, where your from, etc. We would love to hear from you and know who we are on this journey with.

Quaint Chesapeake City, Maryland