Man plots course, sets sail and starts job as school's band director

ON THE WATER

On The Water

August 31, 2005|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

If you look at a map of the United States and draw a line from Ohio to Maryland, you'll notice that there isn't much water connecting the two states.

But when Jim Loach, who lives on his 35-foot Hunter sailboat, landed a teaching job at Bates Middle School in Annapolis, he decided to sail from his former port in Huron, Ohio to his new slip in the city.

"A boat is meant to be sailed," Loach, 47, said when asked why he didn't just tie the hull to a trailer and drive the 430 miles.

The boat trip took 15 days, but Loach arrived in Annapolis in time to start his new job as a band director for Bates Middle School. "I motor-sailed a lot of the time," he said.

Loach plotted a course that took him up Lake Erie, into Buffalo Harbor and then through upstate New York via the Erie Canal. "I spent four days and four hours in the canal," he said.

In Buffalo, he had to take the mast down and secure it to the boat in order to go through the locks. "You become a powerboat," he said.

After countless locks - some quite large and others only 10 feet or so - he entered the Hudson River and stepped the mast.

Loach sailed south through the Hudson River Valley and ended in New York Harbor.

"We went around the Statue of Liberty - the only thing missing was those two towers," he said, referring to the World Trade Center.

Next he hugged the New Jersey shore, stopping in Cape May before sailing up the Delaware Bay to the 14-mile Chesapeake and Delaware Canal - and finally into the Chesapeake Bay.

Some days Loach was on the move for 16 hours straight, covering up to 70 miles in a day.

"I didn't have a lot of time to be a tourist," he said.

Loach learned to sail off the coast of Maine as an adult. His current boat, The Wind Mistress, became Loach's home after he and his wife divorced three years ago.

"I sold all my furniture ... and got rid of all past papers that people just seem to hang on to," he said. "I cleaned all that stuff out to make my life simple."

Loach came to Annapolis last year for the annual boat show and sensed that the city would be perfect for him. "I found that I could be in a town that promotes sailing," he said.

Living on the boat, which he docks near the city, poses some difficulties. There isn't much storage space aboard so groceries need to be carefully packed so they fit in a refrigerator.

On winter days, the walk from the boat up to the marina showers can be frigid.

Loach wouldn't have it any other way. He lives on the boat with Michelle Lincoln, his companion, who shares his love for the lifestyle.

"We've house-sat for people who go on vacation during the winter," he said. "After one week on land, we look forward to getting back on the boat."

Have suggestions for On the Water? Send e-mail to annie.linskey@baltsun.com or call 443-482-3401.

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