299 Days of Smiles

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Three Countries, 299 Days - An Abundance of Smiles

June 14, 2023

The initial goal of building Schooner Huron Jewel was so Captain Hugh Covert could have a tall ship to sail and we could have a sailing charter business close to home.

It also gave us an opportunity to take interns, like this year’s deckhands Rebecca and Katie, who come to us with little to no experience and learn to sail. With Schooner Huron Jewel we can give them a full season of experience and teach them seamanship skills so that they can get jobs on larger tall ships requiring experience.

When COVID hit, we couldn’t do public trips. Instead, we took the crew sailing Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior and did goodwill tours. We had a lot of fun showing people the ship at no charge, and we put a lot of smiles on folks’ faces.

Years ago, when Capt Hugh and I started talking about what we wanted to do with the schooner,

one item was that we wanted to sail her out of the Great Lakes to the East Coast to participate in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race (see GCBSR.org) in Maryland and Virginia, which happens each October. So, we put that on the schooner’s bucket list. Two years ago, we said, “There’s never a perfect time. There’s never enough money, but we just have to go do things.” So we said, “Let’s start planning!”

Once we leave the Great Lakes in late summer we have to stay out in the Atlantic. We can’t come back in late fall or early winter as there is too much foul weather and too many dangerous storms. “What else are we going do?” “Let’s do another goodwill tour, only larger!”

We started planning to sail through the Great Lakes, through Canada, around Nova Scotia, and down the East Coast. Along the way we would stop in towns, at no charge to the town. Usually, it costs...

tens of thousands of dollars to bring a tall ship to a port. For free, we would show people the ship and tell them it was our dream to build Schooner Huron Jewel, and encourage and hopefully inspire them to make their own dreams happen. We’d call it the Dream Inspiration Tour.

Two winters ago, I spent six months looking for sponsors. We thought people would want to be involved and be corporate sponsors, but we couldn’t find anyone. It was quite discouraging. Rather than canceling, we still wanted to go and so did our volunteer crew.

Again we found ourselves digging deep in our pockets to fund the goodwill tour. For the last nine and a half months we’ve been paying for the fuel, groceries, insurance, and dockage out of our savings because we knew it was going to be a really worthwhile experience.

We went 9737 nautical miles (one nautical mile is 1.15 statute miles) in 299 days. We visited 44 different ports of call and numerous anchorages. We visited three countries, the United States, Canada, and the Bahamas, which included 12 states and four provinces of Canada (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.)

Along with Katie and Rebecca, we had five other deckhands and 20 volunteers or interns, including Tim who was on our last leg from Quebec City to Drummond Island. We also had numerous people who adopted us, becoming our shore crew to provide us with showers, transportation to laundry and groceries, and helped us get pizza and ice cream (both of which are not easy to have on a ship.) Thank you to all who were involved!

It was a really amazing trip. It was a whole lot of fun, but it definitely wasn’t a vacation. Especially when we were in Nova Scotia and Maine dodging lobster pots. In Maine, there are 3,000,000 registered lobster pots. Three million registered lobster pots, think about how many that is and it does not include the ones that are not legal.

Weather was definitely not kind to us. We dodged three hurricanes on the way down. We encountered remnants of Hurricane Earl while passing Prince Edward Island, Canada; we had to remain at Lunenburg, NS for four nights, rather than two due to Hurricane Fiona. By then we had used up all of our “weather days” that we had planned in the schedule to get to Baltimore in time for the race.

We arrived in Camden, ME the third week of September. The weather was perfect and schooners were plentiful; it was a fun place for a crew change. We had hoped that we’d have smooth sailing to Massachusetts and on to Maryland for the race. Call us consummate weather-watchers—we have NOAA as a top bookmark on our phones and laptops, and WeatherUnderground and Windy are on the front app screen of our phones. A weather radio sleeps next to our pillows so we can listen to the forecast in the wee hours of the morning. Even though Camden’s weather was beautiful, we didn’t like what was possibly going to happen south of us. The next stop was Gloucester, MA.

Ocean Alliance (see whale.org) said we could spend one or two nights at their dock. Hurricane Ian didn’t go where forecasters had expected and we wound up staying in Gloucester so long that we offered to clean Ocean Alliance’s bathrooms and hallways, so as to not wear out our welcome.

We were a week late arriving in Baltimore for the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. We didn’t make it. It was okay, we heard there had been no wind anyway, but they do throw a great party. Next time.

This wasn’t a vacation. Many days we had to be up at four o’clock in the morning to cast off or weigh anchor to dodge the weather. We had a lot of late nights coming into anchorages at dark or after, which it’s not fun. It’s quite nerve-wracking sometimes. We spent more hours motoring than sailing, the weather just was not our friend. I had hoped to be snorkeling on Christmas Day, instead, we were holed up waiting out a gale in the northern Florida Keys with the wood stove going, because it was only 55F. Brrr!

And we had a lot of last-minute arrangements, which made travel challenging. Like on our way out, we were trying to stop in Cleveland for one of our first stops but we couldn’t find any place to dock. So a friend of a volunteer crew member said “Yeah, come into Fairport Harbor, Ohio.” We quickly changed plans and it all worked out okay. We had a great reception and even saw a few people who had connections to Drummond Island. When we left they were already asking us to come back, which we gladly did.

It was a lot of work because we were always in the public eye—opening the ship to the public, and having it cleaned and presentable each and every day. Even when we were at anchor we had folks coming over to see the schooner, which we were quite happy to show them.

But the best part of it was talking to the people we met. It was not the sights we saw, not the twelve fresh lobster in two days that we split amongst six of us, but talking with people and asking them, “What do you want to do in life?” that made this trip what it was.

After they heard our story, they said, “Yeah, I think I can do it now.” For some, it was building a strip plank canoe from plans that they’d had for years. Or learning how to paint with watercolor.

On our return, we were in Newburyport, MA for over a week, again due to the weather. One night while we were there, well after most of the crew were in their berths, a mom and two girls were walking their dog and stopped to look at the ship. I went on deck and talked with them. I told him about the ship and gave them each a tour sticker and a copy of the Schooner Rag, the newspaper we published about the Dream Inspiration Tour. (Yes, copies are available to purchase on the schooner.)

I asked them, “What do you want to do in life?” The older girl said she wanted to be a nurse practitioner. I said, “Good for you.” The other one said she wanted to design and build a car, as in a new type of car. I was talking with a girl who was probably seven or eight. I said, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.”

In Brunswick, Georgia, we found a company that does commercial laundry that we paid to do our ship’s laundry, which was a lot by that time. Sometimes we’d go for a week or two weeks without doing laundry. But hey, we were all in the same boat, so who cares? Anyhow, the young woman who picked up the laundry was probably in her mid-20s. And she definitely struck me as she was probably working two or three jobs. She ever so politely told me when she’d bring the clean laundry back later that afternoon. I met her when she returned and said “You look like you’re really busy.” She said, “I am.” I replied that if she weren’t that she could see the schooner. I told her briefly what we were doing and said, “Go follow your dreams.” She grinned widely and said, “Thank you, Angel.” She had a huge smile on her face. She said again, “I will, thank you, Angel.” I asked, “What do you want to do?” “You’re gonna see my name in stars.” I smiled. “What’s your name?” She answered, “Star.”

We showed the schooner to hundreds and hundreds of people; people who had never sailed and sailors who were old salts. Little tikes thrilled at being able to come aboard, saying “A pirate ship, Mommy!” And people who thought one had to be rich and famous to accomplish a project of this undertaking. We watched a twinkle in their eye turn into a grin on their face when they realized we were folks, just like them. When they heard our story they realized we weren’t anyone special, and yes, they could follow their passion, too. This goodwill tour, the Dream Inspiration Tour, was not about us though, it was about the people we met.

Our very last port of call was at Algonac, Michigan. Again, it was one of our first stops and the people at the maritime museum had been following our journey over the nine months. They called us and asked, will you please come back? Of course! It was our last port of call.

That last night, most of the crew were in their berths. I spotted four twenty-year-olds, who had gone to the Dairy Queen for ice cream, which we were docked near. As they ate their ice cream they looked at the ship and read the information board about the schooner. They looked genuinely interested in the ship, so I went on deck and gave them each copies of the Schooner Rag and talked with them. I asked, “What do you want to do?” Fortunately for them, they were already doing what they wanted to do. Two were making a living working on classic cars. One of them was studying to be a dental hygienist and one to be a psychologist. I said to all of them, “Go do it.” Our Dream Inspiration Tour was not about us having a dream of sailing to the East Coast, the mission was to inspire others to make their dreams happen.

We were also inspired by the many of the people we met along the way. When we were in the initial stages of route planning, Annie from Kinsale, VA contacted me through a women’s sailing group to ask if we’d visit the marina she was revitalizing. The location seemed reasonable so we said “Sure!” When we arrived in October, at the little dot on the map on the West Yeocomico River, a tributary of the Potomac River, people were eagerly waiting to see the schooner. Annie’s story turned out to be just as inspiring as our own—she had moved from New York City back to the rural Virginia town she had been raised in and bought the dilapidated marina that her grandfather had built decades ago. She had the dream to rebuild the marina and in doing so her positive outlook was inherently encouraging others to put efforts into revitalizing other parts of town – the general store, the museum, rental houses, and more. She had contacted the local newspapers and stories were published about Schooner Huron Jewel’s visit and people flocked to this little up-river dock to see us. It would have been easy to stay for a week with the great hospitality we received. We were sad to go, but so pleased when Annie and our other new friends said “Please come back!” And of course, we did.

There was, also, Annie from Oriental, North Carolina, who is now in her 80s. When she was in her thirties and a single mother, she had a dream to sail. Being a woman of lots of spunk, she sailed solo across the Atlantic. After arriving in England, she met Art who would become her husband. The two of them then built and sailed their own catamaran schooner. Annie’s spunk shows in her delightful smile and she bounces around like she’s forty years younger. I wanted to be like Annie when I grew up!

Last summer, we were asked to stop at Oswego, New York. We arrived nine days into our voyage. It was a great place to stop before transiting the eight locks of the Welland Canal to go from Lake Erie, over the Niagara Escarpment, and past the Niagara Falls, to Lake Ontario, and on to Canada. The H. Lee White Maritime Museum was our host with Dr Bob catching dock lines and helping us with transportation to laundry, provisioning, and even helping me find a dentist to do an emergency tooth extraction. At the museum, their volunteers are restoring the schooner, Ontario. We had some nice chats with their volunteers and director about their project and gave them some suggestions about what to do and not to do. Prior to our departure, we presented them with a goodie bag as a thank-you for hosting us. In it, we included a bag of our coffee, Huron Jewel breakfast blend that is brewed by our local coffee roaster, Les Cheneaux Coffee Roaster, with whom we’ve partnered. They roast, bag, and sell the coffee that bears our name and in return, we serve it on our overnight trips and sell it. I explained to Dr. Bob and the director how it has been a great win-win for both companies. In June, two hundred days after our August visit we returned to Oswego on our way home. No one can say that moss grows on Dr. Bob, much progress had been made on the schooner’s restoration, and sitting on the museum’s gift shop shelf was a bag of Schooner Ontario Sailor Blend coffee! We were so pleased for them.

Remember our promise to stop again at Fairport Harbor, OH? Sheila, the owner of the Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse, had heard and seen on social media that we’d be returning at the beginning of June. She asked us what time we were going to be arriving as she wanted to have some photographers take photographs of Schooner Huron Jewel sailing past her lighthouse, as it was the lighthouse’s 80th birthday that day. The morning of our return, I told Sheila that weather conditions weren’t right for sailing, so the motors were running and the sails were down. She understood and still wanted photographs. Capt Hugh and I discussed the weather and the location and decided we could give her a nice birthday present–we’d raise sail just outside of the break wall and come in under full sail. We tacked a couple of times in front of the lighthouse and saw her on the upper deck. On the count of three the crew shouted, “Happy birthday, Sheila!” We were greeted with enthusiastic waves and a huge smile that could be seen “for miles.”

Our schooner friend, John, who was our liaison with the Fairport Harbor Maritime Museum and Lighthouse, was also taking photographs and caught our dock lines. A vibrant woman, dressed in yellow, watched and asked questions as we secured the ship. We had about an hour before we were to be guests at the museum for dinner, so we didn’t have lots of time, but her inquisitiveness was so genuine that I offered her the first tour of the schooner. Cyndi was enthralled and beamed with delight. We encouraged her to thank the museum for hosting us, and in doing so she wound up being invited to join all for the pizza and salad dinner. There she chatted with other members and became inspired to become a volunteer at the museum herself.

After our departure, our friend John from Fairport Harbor sent a personalized sea chanty for us that I put some sailing footage with and posted it to YouTube (see it on our channel H J Adventures - “Rolling Home” https://youtu.be/pHaFmCONfjk). Thank you, John!

Our passage from Algonac, MI to Drummond Island was just over 200 miles. Again we were closely watching the weather. We could do the “easy” and make it three short days, anchoring each night but we might run into a headwind coming from the Mackinac Straits. And it would make us return to Drummond even later than we had hoped. Or we could go overnight and get ahead of the westerlies. Usually, for overnight passages, we would be crewed with seven, three watches of two plus Julie to do all the cooking and business managing. In Canada, due to weather delays, we had to say goodbye to Elizabeth and then Andy when their time off from work expired sooner than we had gotten to their departure location. At the last minute, we picked up Tim in Quebec. Then in Erie, PA, we said goodbye to Jack. He had joined us in Newburyport, MA with intentions of going all the way to Drummond. As much as he wanted to come home with us, the weather had delayed us for two weeks and he was needed elsewhere. It meant we were now five—Capt Hugh, Tim, Rebecca, Katie, and myself. We decided that we could do it for one or two nights. Although they still have a lot to learn, the weather would be reasonable that Katie and Rebecca would be on one watch and Capt Hugh and Tim would be the other, while I took care of everything else– feeding the crew, cleaning, communications about our arrivals, and most importantly social media.

One of the last things I worked to arrange was one last “appearance.” Again, it would be special and one close to our hearts and home–sailing past the DeTour Reef Light. The day of our return to Drummond happened to correspond to a number of the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society volunteers going out to the light for maintenance and cleaning to open the light for tours. We, again, raised all sail and sailed a couple of times around the lighthouse to give them a delightful opportunity for a photo shoot to use images for future publications and media.

When we returned to Drummond Island, many of the same people who saw us off on August 20th, 2022 were waiting there on June 14th, 2023 to welcome us home, 299 days later. We recognized a lot of names connected to “Likes” and comments that have been on our Facebook and Instagram posts. We want to thank you all for your support and your encouragement. We’ve been extremely grateful for it. And thank you for all your wishes of “fair winds and following seas,” because even though we were two weeks late getting home, we’re safely home. We’re happy to be here. We’ve loved being ambassadors for Drummond Island and the Upper Peninsula. And coming into Potagannissing Bay, Captain Hugh and I were commenting, “You know, this is some mighty, wonderfully beautiful country that we live in and we’re really blessed.”

A week after we returned, Jim from 9&10 News came to do a story about the Dream Inspiration Tour. Eric of St Ignace News also interviewed us for a story. They both asked, “What do you hope will result from the trip?” Our immediate answer is that we hope people will be inspired by our story and will realize that they, too, can achieve their dreams. Those ambitions do not have to be nautically related, but we did hear about a number of boat projects. Some people talked about writing or going back to school. Another answer to their question ties in with a question that we ask applicants when we interview them for a deckhand position. We ask “How did you get interested in tall ships?” Many candidates respond with “When I was a little kid/in grade school/on a family vacation my parents took me to see a tall ship and I became utterly fascinated with them.” We hope that at least one of the hundreds of people who got to see Schooner Huron Jewel is so enthralled that they are inspired to pursue sailing on tall ships.

This tris not about us fulfilling a dream to sail to the Atlantic and the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. It was about everybody we encountered along the way.

Thank you so much for your support and your encouragement.

Join the crew!” Show your support! Tour t-shirts and hoodies are still available for purchase onboard or by ordering online at: http://bit.ly/DreamTourMerch

Dream Inspiration Mugs, stickers, and the Schooner Rag are available for purchase aboard Schooner Huron Jewel. Come down to the dock or contact Julie (text or call 906-430-5854 or email sail@ditallship.com) to make arrangements.


Thank you to our Dream Inspiration Crew, deckhands, volunteers, and trainees for taking weeks at a time to come crew with us and spread our message:

Shaun Anchak

Tim Boyko

Rebecca Cramer

Thomas Devereux

Andy Dircksen

Eleanor “Eddy” Duva

Mark Engelsman

Matt “Gershwin” Goacher

John Graham

Andy Gratton

Karen Gros

Brooks Hall

Roger Jaarsma

Matt Jensen Young

Palmer Keim

Eric Kuipers

Amanda Loebelenz

Katie Mahorney

Rex Massingo

Larissa McGinnity

Amy Olenzek

Tori Southwick

Don Waller

Elizabeth Werle

Nick Zoa

Jack Zuraw


Also thank you to our Dream Inspiration Tour donors:

Alicia, Esther, Mable & John, Marlene & Larry, Sherri & Joe, and Sue.

Drummond Island Tourism Assoc.

East Jordan Shoe Club

Fisheries Supplies

HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response


Kurt VonVoorhees

Michigan Web Press/Stafford Printing

Ocean Alliance - Whale.org

Parquillian Design - Parquillian.com

Underground Printing

Our Ports of Call

Algonac, MI–Aug. 22-23

Fairport Harbor, OH–Aug. 24-26

Oswego, NY–Aug. 28-30

Kingston, Ontario–Aug 31

St Lawrence River/Thousand Islands

Quebec City, Quebec–Sept. 4-5

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia–Sept. 13-17

Machiasport, ME–Sept. 19

Camden, ME–Sept. 23-25

Gloucester, MA–Sept. 29 - Oct. 6

Baltimore, MD–Oct. 10-11 (Hurricane delays prevented us from being in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.)

Kinsale, VA–Oct. 14-16

Yorktown, VA–Oct. 17-19

Dismal Swamp VC, NC–Oct. 20-23

Albemarle Plantation, NC–Oct. 24

Edenton, NC–Oct. 25-26

Manteo, NC–Oct. 28-30

Oriental, NC–Nov. 3-6

Beaufort, NC–Nov. 7-11, 26-27

Belhaven, NC–Nov. 14 - 24

Charleston, SC–Dec. 2-4

Brunswick, GA–Dec. 8-11

Florida Keys–Dec. 20-27

Key West, FL–Dec. 28-29

Everglades, FL–Dec. 30 - Jan. 3

Florida Keys–Jan. 4-16

Bahamas–Jan. 17-March 6

Eastern Florida–March 7-15

Brunswick, GA–March 16-19

Charleston, SC–March 24

Beaufort, NC–March 30-April 1

Oriental, NC–Apr. 2-3

Alberlmarle Plantation, NC–Apr.5-6

Dismal Swamp Canal, NC–Apr. 7

Kinsale, VA–Apr. 10-11

Annapolis, MD–Apr. 13-15

Baltimore, MD–Apr. 17

Onset, MA–April 20-25

Newburyport, MA–April 26-May 6

Shelburne, Nova Scotia–May 8-9

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia–May 10-11

Caraquet, New Brunswick–May 20-21

Mont Louis, NB–May 23-25

Baie-Comeau, Quebec–May 26-28

Quebec City, Quebec–May 30-31

Oswego, NY–June 4-5

Erie, PA–June 8

Fairport Harbor, OH–June 9-10

Algonac, MI–June 12

Drummond Island, MI–June 14

2 Responses

  1. Jack Zuraw
    | Reply

    Thank you Hugh and Julie for the opportunity to see parts of Canada that few can experience from the deck of a private schooner, to celebrate the life of a dear friend and to arrive in my parent’s home town on Lake Erie. Some dreams only take shape when the right setting appears. Jack

    • admin
      | Reply

      Thanks, Jack. Thanks for joining us! We’re so happy that we were able to help you achieve your dreams!

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