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Kobuk
The Voyage
Spike
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The Voyage

The Route

Since the objective is to see the country rather than get there, the route will not be terribly direct.  The first task is to find a river that gives eventual access to the Atlantic, and the two nearest possibilities are the Missouri drainage and the Rio Grande system.  The Missouri offers a far greater variety of route options, so I decided to launch in Wyoming on the Wind River, a tributary of the Yellowstone that eventually feeds into the Missouri.

When the Missouri reaches the Mississippi, the most logical course would be downstream to the Gulf of Mexico, but the lure of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence and the Maritime Provinces of Canada is so great that I will go the long way around--out to sea in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and then down the entire eastern seaboard.  This is when the seaworthiness of Kobuk will be tested.  It will be necessary to cross the open waters on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  Once out of the St. Lawrence River, the coastal route will require navigation in the open ocean until reaching the northern end of the Intracoastal Waterway.  From that point to Florida, however, the cruising will be in protected waters.

Crossing the Caribbean will be a matter of avoiding the hurricane season and choosing the right weather conditions for each interisland passage.  At the end of the string of islands lies the delta of the Orinoco which is a natural conduit into the interior of South America.   A  hydrological quirk makes it possible to transit from the Orinoco into the Amazon drainage system without having to haul a boat out of the water, and this will facilitate passage from north to south across the Amazon basin.  Only when well upstream on the Madeira--a major tributary of the Amazon that originates in Bolivia--will it be necessary to haul and transport the boat.  The destination will be the Pantanal--a seasonal swamp of vast proportions in the upper reaches of the Rio Paraguay.  From there it is a clear downstream run to Buenos Aires.


Leg of the Journey                                  Principle Waterways

Riverton, WY to Sioux City, IA            Wind River, Bighorn River,
1400 miles                                               Yellowstone River, Missouri River

Sioux City, IA to Portage, WI               Missouri River, Mississippi River,
1300 miles                                               Wisconsin River
      

Portage, WI to Quebec, PQ                   Fox River, Great Lakes,
1300 miles                                               Trent-Severn Waterway, St. Lawrence
              

Quebec, PQ to New York, NY               Coastlines of Quebec, Maritime Provinces,
1800 miles                                                New England

New York, NY to Miami, FL                  Intracoastal Waterway
1400 miles
        

Miami, FL to Santo Domingo                Strait of Florida, Atlantic,
1600 miles                                               Windward Passage

Santo Domingo to Port-of-Spain          Caribbean, Mona Passage, Caribbean,
1200 miles                                               Amegada Passage, Caribbean

Port -of-Spain to Manaus                      Caribbean, Rio Orinoco, Rio Casiquiare,
2100 miles                                               Rio Negro, Amazon
          

Manaus to Santa Cruz                           Amazon, Rio Madeira, Rio Guapore
1800 miles
         

Santa Cruz to Buenos Aires                 Rio Paraguay, La Plata
1900 miles

Entire Journey = 15800 miles

Map of Trip


Background

Kobuk on Lake Powell


Back in the 1970's the dream was to build a sailboat and voyage around the world.  I was living in Hawaii then and did manage to build a catamaran to use for interisland cruising, but the grander scale vision was set aside for a while.  Many years later I found myself living in the high country of Utah with no reasonable access to water.  I wondered why I had given up so readily on the dream of my youth, and eventually hatched a scheme that would atone for my earlier failure:  I would build a river boat and take her on a journey in protected waters.  I soon realized that an adequately powered craft of shallow draft would be able to journey along many rivers in the interiors of continents.  Also, if the design were sufficiently versatile there was no reason that the same boat could not be used along coastlines and out at sea--as long as a careful eye is kept on the weather and every night is spent anchored or tied off in protected waters. North and South America have some very large drainage basins with thousands of miles of navigable water.  In North America, the obvious ones are the Mississippi and its tributaries, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence, the Columbia-Snake, and the Yukon.  In South America, the Amazon Basin is flanked on the north by the Orinoco and on the South by the Paraguay-Parana.  I decided I would use some of these obvious highways to traverse the two continents.

I soon realized that an adequately powered craft of shallow draft would be able to journey along many rivers in the interiors of continents.  Also, if the design were sufficiently versatile there was no reason that the same boat could not be used along coastlines and out at sea--as long as a careful eye is kept on the weather and every night is spent anchored or tied off in protected waters. North and South America have some very large drainage basins with thousands of miles of navigable water.  In North America, the obvious ones are the Mississippi and its tributaries, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence, the Columbia-Snake, and the Yukon.  In South America, the Amazon Basin is flanked on the north by the Orinoco and on the South by the Paraguay-Parana.  I decided I would use some of these obvious highways to traverse the two continents.

But how was I to get from North to South America?  One way would be to follow the Mexican and Central American coastline.  After all, that is what Don Starkell and his son did in a canoe!  If they could do it in something that unseaworthy, there was no reason why I couldn't do it in a sturdy little motor cruiser.  But then I started fantasizing about the Caribbean and poured over maps of the many little islands to be found there.  From Florida to Venezuela there is a arc of islands strung out over a couple thousand miles and it just so happens that they are quite close together.  I discovered that island hopping along this route typically would require day voyages of about 30-50 miles, with only three exceptional passages (each of which is about 90 miles).  Kobuk can cruise at over 30 miles per hour, and even its auxiliary outboard is capable of pushing it at seven.  With good weather and a predawn start, those longer crossings might be accomplished before nightfall and so I decided on a Caribbean connector.
Kobuk on Lake Powell
Kobuk's Wake
There is no sense in rushing through this trip; the whole idea is to see the countryside.  Kobuk will carry a collapsible Bike Friday that can be used for day outings, so the plan is to make a number of them.  In other words, there will be many days when Kobuk simply rests at her moorings while I take road trips.  Given this casual approach towards cruising to Argentina, it should be a leisurely passage from here to there.  At a rate if 50 miles per day, five days per week, Kobuk would cover about 1000 miles per month.  Since the journey to Buenos Aires is somewhat more than 15,000 miles, and since I will return to Utah for brief periods every few months, the trip might take years.

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Kobuk
The Voyage
Spike
Design
Construction

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