Duluth, Minn., is the westernmost point of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in North America. It is some 1,500 miles away from Woods Hole.

Earlier this year, Tim and Trisha Colon of Vineyard Haven bought a sailboat from a man in Duluth. They had been avid sailors when they were younger, going back and forth from New England to the Bahamas. Eventually, in order to buy the land they built their home on, they sold that first boat, always intending to purchase a new one when the time was right.

“It didn’t happen quickly,” Mrs. Colon said. Between selling the first boat and finding the one in Duluth, they had two children, Felix, age 11, and Esme, age 6. They also founded the Island Bee Company. Their apiaries are across the Island, and the local honey is sold at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market.

The Colons continued searching for a boat, and this year they came across a 45-foot Whitby ocean racing boat named Zenith. It happened to be located in Minnesota.

“When we told people we were doing it, they were like ‘Well, you’re putting it on a trailer, right? Because you can’t get it back from there’” Mr. Colon recalled.

The Colons decided to do something different. They decided to sail Zenith home, through Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Along the 363 miles of the Erie Canal with its 32 locks. Down the Hudson River and across Long Island Sound. Past Block Island, all the way back around Gay Head and up the North Shore, into Vineyard Haven Harbor, Zenith’s new home.

“We wanted to make buying the boat part of an adventure,” Mr. Colon said. “That was a big part of it, the decision to do this boat.”

It was also a chance to show Felix and Esme the broad expanse of America beyond the Vineyard. And though it was daunting to think of picking up and leaving town for several weeks — especially with a business to run — summer vacation seemed to the perfect time. Mr. Colon’s parents Katherine and Frazier took over the summer farmers’ markets. They also took care of George, the family dog who “has no interest in boats,” Mrs. Colon said.

The family left the Vineyard on July 18, and rented a car to drive to Duluth.

“Driving west, we could see the locks on the Erie Canal that we would be coming through, and we got to see some of Lake Huron,” Mr. Colon said. They also got a sense for just how long it was going to take to come back. Driving across New York and Ohio at 70 miles per hour seemed to take forever. What would sailing be like?

The Colons had talked with Brad Abbott, a friend from Gannon and Benjamin, before leaving. Mr. Abbott and his family had done a similar west-to-east sail, although their route took them through the St. Lawrence River.

“Our original plan was to do the northern route of Superior,” Mr. Colon said. “It’s more remote, that’s what people said. We said that’s perfect, that’s what we want.” But they ended up staying on the southern path, which turned out to be more remote than expected. Over a span of 400 miles, the Colons saw just one other cruising boat. The ports, which are all manmade, are situated fairly far apart, making planning ahead imperative.

“We had big bags, like this big,” Esme said, stretching her hands out. But the bags were just for “boat stuff,” she added. Since all the gear had to be brought along for the ride, everyone was only allowed a small bag of clothes and personal gear. A bag of DVDs got left behind accidentally, which made for “a lot more reading, and a lot more self-entertainment,” Mrs. Colon said.

Lake Superior is extraordinarily deep and cold, while Lake Erie is more shallow, allowing for waves to build up during storms. Two storms came through while the family was on Erie, including one nighttime squall.

“The weather comes through much quicker than it does here,” Mr. Colon said.

After a week of sailing in Lake Superior, Zenith’s engine began to fail, and the Colons put into port in Marquette, Mich., where there was “a big playground and ice cream,” Esme said. It was, all in all, a good place to be broken down in, Mrs. Colon said.

“We can’t fix [the engine] until we figure it out ourself,” she said. “It was a good way to show the kids resilience and resourcefulness.”

The engine held up until Detroit, and after another fix lasted until the Colons had made it to Pittsford, N.Y., on the Erie Canal. By then, they had taken the mast down to access the canal locks, and had been puttering along hoping the engine would make it.

In both Marquette and Pittsford, Mrs. Colon said, she was struck by the generosity of the residents. Pittsford ended up being the kids’ favorite port.

“People bringing us tools, and a mechanic advising Tim from his yard . . . people bringing us dinner and cleaning out their basement and giving toys and books for the kids,” Mrs. Colon said.

“We caught frogs there,” Esme added.

Mr. Colon texted back and forth with Brad Abbott about the engine, and finally, after a week, it was perfect. The mast went back up when the canal met the Hudson River. The Colons enjoyed smooth sailing all the way into New York Harbor, where they had to time their entrance into the Battery around the tides.

“You can’t just randomly get to the Battery because the currents are so strong,” Mrs. Colon said.

It was a stark contrast to the isolation of Lake Superior, with boats of every sort moving through the harbor. The family sailed past the Statue of Liberty, which they’d seen the year before on a trip to the city.

Two days later, they were greeted by a different landmark: the Gay Head Cliffs. It was 8 p.m., and a pod of porpoises swam around the boat, playing in the bow wake.

On West Chop, Mr. Colon’s parents stood with George the dog, waving the family in.

“It was so nice to come in to Vineyard Haven Harbor, and Jay [Wilbur] the harbor master knows who we are and had our mooring ready,” Mrs. Colon said. Because the family lives close to Owen Park, they just took their small bags and walked up the hill to their house. It was Sept. 4. They had been gone seven weeks, about two weeks longer than anticipated because of the engine troubles. Much to Felix’s dismay, he had missed the first two days of school.

“That’s, I think, the beauty of the trip, there were definitely ups and downs, and basically every day was a new adventure,” Mrs. Colon said. “We had an idea of where we would have liked to go, but it changed.”

“Your basic life simplifies so much,” Mr. Colon said.

Zenith will spend the winter in its new home port, ready for the next adventure, wherever that may be.

“It would be nice to do some local trips,” Mrs. Colon said.