Boating couple has visited 49 countries

Boating couple has visited 49 countries

On July 4, 2007, newly retired Ed and Sue Kelly declared their independence from land-bound living.

By Bernie Delinski Staff Writer - 08/10/2017

"We decided back in 2007 that we wanted to just live aboard a boat," Ed Kelly said. "I had been a lawyer and Sue had been a nurse practitioner, and we decided we were going to embrace our retirements. We decided we wanted to cruise and be explorers."

Since that time, they have traveled to 49 countries and five continents aboard their Tom Lack-manufactured Catalac catamaran.

These days, the Kellys are docked in the Shoals for a while, taking a well-earned breather and participating in America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association's Fall 2017 Rendezvous and Reunion at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville.

The Great Loop is a 7,500-mile journey that encircles the eastern United States. The Tennessee River and the Shoals are among locations within the loop.

For the Kellys, it is the latest adventure aboard their 40-foot-long, 17 foot, 3 inch-wide boat they call home.

Their journeys included crossing the Atlantic Ocean, traveling through 74 European locks, and navigating the tallest canal system in the world -- 1,337 feet above sea level -- near Nuremberg, Germany.

The 16-ton vessel averaged approximately 5 mph while crossing the Atlantic with the sails up, the Kellys said. At one stretch, they spent 26 straight days at sea from the Canary Islands to Antigua.

The Kellys prepared for life on a boat by taking a course to become U.S. Coast Guard-certified licensed captains, but they admit the notion of living at sea can be intimidating.

"We call ourselves chicken sailors," Ed Kelly said. "We tend to be very worrisome."

In fact, Sue Kelly has a shirt that reads, "Feel the fear but do it anyway."

They said the experiences and people they have met along the way have been memorable.

"We just like seeing the new sights and meeting the people," Sue Kelly said. "People everywhere have just been so nice and so friendly. When you live on a boat, you live simpler. We can't live like if you have a big house, but there's something intriguing and beautiful about it, especially if you're out on the ocean at night.

"It can be absolutely beautiful to look up and see the stars and Milky Way, and the dolphins are swimming alongside with you. It can make you feel so small."

They have circled Europe and made it to Asian shores at Turkey.

"We saw both sides of the Mediterranean and went to a couple of ports in North Africa," Ed Kelly said. "We had to take 10 different dictionaries with us when we went through and around Europe."

Just like living in a house for 10 years, living in a boat for a decade has resulted in accumulating a great deal of items.

"We're now floating in 3 1/2 feet of water," Ed Kelly said. "We now have a rule that if something comes on, something has to go off."

One particularly nerve-wracking journey came when they were caught in a storm that carried winds of 40 knots and caused 20-foot wakes. Fortunately, they have a drogue with a 300-foot line. It contains small parachutes that help slow a boat.

"That stopped us in the water so we could deal with the storm," Ed Kelly said. "We bobbed up and down with each wave, going up 20 feet and down 20 feet."

Ed Kelly named their boat the Angel Louise as a tribute to his wife and mother, whose name was Louise.

"My wife's a nurse and I always think nurses are angels of mercy," he said. "And my mother had recently passed away, so I named it for her also."

The Kellys also have been spending time at Florence Harbor Marina. After sailing worldwide, they have deemed the Tennessee River as possibly their favorite location.

"It is so beautiful," Ed Kelly said. "We think it's the nicest river we've ever been on in North America. We rank this and the Connecticut River as just being wonderful. And this is really a remarkably nice little marina.

"We are very excited to be able get down to Florence and Muscle Shoals. I'm a big music fan and there's been so much good music in the Shoals," he said.

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