Adios, Sayonara, Bon Voyage

Sunday July 29, 2012

Tonight we had the pleasure of going to a going away party thrown by us by Matt’s side of the family, a kind of kick-off for all the good-byes we’ll be saying this week.  Arriving at his grandma’s house we found all the t.v. trays set up in the living room and the seats laid out in a specific order with everyone assigned to the same certain seat, just as they have been since I started coming here 12 years ago.  And I had learned years ago, don’t ever deviate from that seat you’ve been assigned.  Once all the family had arrived it didn’t take long for us to move to the dinning room and fill up our plates going around the table buffet style.  The theme for decorations was tropical and Matt’s mom had even run around town tracking down matching plates, napkins and balloons displaying that theme and dotted with sailboats on the front.  Hanging from the chandelier were cut outs of tropical flowers and placed on top of the soda cans were paper umbrellas.  Back on the dessert table Matt’s cousin had baked and decorated cookies in the shapes of sailboats, seagulls, and mermaids.  In addition to the labor that had gone into the cookies alone there was a beautifully decorated cake showing the globe and a sailboat cookie sailing across it’s horizon.

Although conversation had originally started about the trip and the route it quickly turned toward family stories which I enjoy the most.  Just like every Christmas when we get together everyone went through recounting humorus stories of their childhood, some of which I’d heard before and love to hear again and some that were brand new to me.  We recounted instances of how Matt and his siblings would use inappropriate language as children and I leared that if his mom laughs too hard while eating there’s a chance something may come out her nose.  This is something I really wish I knew in the 13 months we’d been living there, I would have pounced on her with a joke as soon as she took a bite of food.  There were stories of funny things pets would do and our first clunkers of cars.  It was a great way to say good-bye to everyone, not talking about what’s to come but instead reliving the great times from our pasts together.  Thank you to Matt’s family for the wonderful send off.

You Might Also Like:

A Whitehall Shade of Pale

Sunday July 22, 2012

Having a hectic beginning to our morning we rushed out of the house making sure we had everything necessary to finshing up the project of re-drilling the holes for the wheels on the dinghy and also have it finished before Jackie and Ron met us at the marina at 10:00.  I really wanted to make a trip up to Whitehall that day which was only 10 miles up the coast because somehow in all our time at Muskegon we had never made it there before.  So hurrying up to beat our guests to the marina there were two stops at Home Depot and one stop for gas for the dinghy.  Pulling into the marina with less than 20 minutes to spare Matt was just putting on the last screw as they pulled in.  Us girls unloaded the two cars while the boys brought the dinghy to the water to be loaded.  As they were rolling it into the water of the of wheels popped off taking with it the epoxy filling and leaving a hole behind.  Although Jackie and I were a little worried about fitting four bodies and all our belongings into a dinghy with a hole we were assured that only minimal water would drip in and we’d stay afloat.  That was good enough for me so I threw the coolers and bags of food in and told our guests to get on.  Once on our way there was only minimal water coming through and everything made it to the boat safe and dry.

Unloading everything into the fridge Jackie couldn’t wait any longer and gave us our going away present and pulled out a little bottle of Kraken Rum.  It was such a sweet gift and came in such a nicely designed bottle that I put it right on the counter for display.  Making our way above deck again Matt already had the engine running and was bringing the dinghy around to the stern.  At first he was only planning on cleating it to the back and letting it trail behind but with a hole in the bottom I didn’t want it to somehow fill with water or flip on a big wave and go under.  While either of those probably weren’t likely I wanted to have it onthe davits instead because should something happen to it a replacement would not be cheap and I could just see Matt sticking me back at my cubicle for a few more weeks while the new one gets paid off.  I don’t think so.  While the guys busied themselves with getting the pulley lines attached to the dinghy the girls were scrambling to kill the spiders that kept falling from them (it was their first use of the year).  I asked Matt if he was planning on taking our 9.9 hp engine off the dinghy and attaching it to the motor stand we had on the stern.  His reply esd yhsy iy should be fine attached to the dinghy and that’s how most people travel.  Assuming he was right, like he usually is, I left it alone and finished getting ready for departure.

Before we could even get to the channel I pulled Ron away from his seat up on deck and brought him below to start a pot of coffee.  No one was ready for beer yet and after he kept selling his skills on his boat about how handy he was with a percolator I handed ours to him along with coffee grounds and told him to get to work.  While waiting for it to perk we went back on deck where it was time to uncover the main and raise it.  Matt also warned there may be spiders in that area so I wimped out and only unzipped the front while forcing the others to undo the grommits underneath.  Sure enough Jackie came across a monstorous spider that she bravely tried to pick up and fling off the boat, but this spider decided it liked it’s home and was going to try and stay on it by all means.  Letting a little bit of silk out it swung from her arm as she flailed around never quite seeing where it went but always feeling it brush against her leg.  I was reduced to a fit of laughter at the bow, watching the whole scene but doing nothing to help.  Finally it released itself although no one saw where the chunky guy disappeared to.  Not paying it much attention anymore I stood at the mast and raised the main while Ron sheeted from the cockpit.  The winds were gusting nicely just outside the channel and while everyone worked on getting the headsail ready I went below to transfer our now percolated coffee into mugs and tumblers for us to enjoy.  Jackie and I thought it was delicious but both guys agreed that even black it was a little too fru-fru for them.  So what if I had mixed my own grounds with flavors of hazlenut and cherry, I was still relatively new to drinking coffee.

(Above photos courtesy of Jackie)

The wind that had been sending light sprays of mist on our deck just moments before had all but died on us as soon as we were in open water and pointing in a northerly direction.  She was being a divious little mistress and as soon as we’d feel a little puff and try to get a point of sail she’d be gone again.  Wanting to make sure we made it to our destination I suggested we throw on the motor but all the real sailors on board (apparently everyone but me) were having none of that.  Round and round we went in circles trying to get any kind of shape in our sails yet they would only hang loose.  Spying another boat further from shore and moving at full speed we agreed to put the engine on to get away from shore and closer to a mirage of a wind line we could see in the distance with slight ripples on the water.  It could have been that it was a mirage or it could have been that the engine was shut off just as the bow crossed over the ripples but we were still not feeling any wind on our faces or backs.  Going for the big guns since extra hands were on board we decided to furl the headsail and raise the spinnaker.  Being thrown for a loop from what I was used to on Island Dream I forgot that ours was in a sock and was a little confused while it was being raised with the sock still on but the big reveal came when Matt pulled a halyard raising the sock to the top and exposing our kite.  Since Ron couldn’t seem to sit still he fiddled with lines to keep the kite filled and Matt and Jackie were just chilling on deck while I went below to change into my swimsuit since I was overheating with the blazing sun and lack of wind.  Having been on the water for over an hour now and only making it a mile from the lighthouse I thought it was high time to turn this into a booze cruise and made margaritas for Jackie and I while handing beers to Matt and Ron.  We also broke out snacks and this great veggie/bean salsa Jackie had made.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to need cooking lessons from these two before we go.  Enjoying ourselves in the cockpit we’d hollar and cheer when the speed hit 2 knots and then finally 3.  There was a chance we might make it to Whitehall before the sun set after all!

Sooooo many choices!

Making sure everything is just right.

Quick and easy learning on the go!

Sailing for another hour or two further into the lake we kept picking up more wind and speed.  After recording 6 knots of speed over ground we also realized the wind was hovering near 15 knots and we should switch back from the spinnaker to the headsail.  The sock was brought down back over the kite and it was stowed below while the sheets were changed from one sail to the other.  Although the speed had gone down for a few minutes while the sail change was being done it didn’t take us long before we were at 6 knots again.  Just as we were all thinking we were on easy street for the rest of the journey I heard an odd noise behind me and I looked to the stern and saw the dinghy hanging very low on the port side.  Before I even knew exactly what I was looking at I started calling “Matt!, Dinghy!, Davits!”, because I knew it wasn’t good.  As he rushed over I turned around to get a closer look and saw the 1″ metal tube had bent about 60 degrees.  By now Ron had come over as well and the two guys rapidly begand undoing the lines to the dinghy to release the weight before any more damage could be done.  It wasn’t quick enough though and the metal pole on the starboard side bent in half as well.  The dinghy was quickly released into the water and tied to the stern.  We thought everything was momentarily under control until the solar panal began to slip from it’s connectors.  While Matt and I held it and worked from the stern, Ron dove off the side of the boat to catch the dinghy behind us and climbed in, pulling himself closer to the boat to work from below.  All of this going on and we were still moving forward at four to five knots of speed.  Jackie was quickly on watch though, making sure we didn’t crash into anything on top of the davit crisis.  In under five minutes we were able to use ratchet straps to secure everything and besides now being out very important and useful davits which is certainly going to cause a delay in our departure and take some money out of our pockets, we were now ok.  We’re still not exactly sure what caused it since the load of both the solar panal and dighy together were under what it was rated for.  We have a feeling though that since the port side could not be raised flush with the bars, there would be slack and then tension on that side eact time we hit a wave and eventually it gave.  The good thing is we will be able to get it repaired now before we go, who knows where it would have happened down the road.

Although this was in no way Ron’s fault, we still like to blame him for breaking our boat.

Knowing my time travel skills are not quite up to par and I couldn’t go back to undo it and there was nothing more I could do at the moment I handed the wheel to Ron and went to grab a Leinenkugel because at least I could still enjoy a nice day with good friends.  By this time we could see while sails on our horizon, all coming in and out of the channel at Whitehall.  Taking almost an hour to reach that same point, Matt steered us in while we let Jackie and Ron be our tour guides since this was usually their lake of choice.  We passed by a historic lighthouse on our way in and spotted the yacht club (circa 1908) once in the lake.  The spot we were headed toward was the municipal marina and town which was four miles down the other end.  While the boys monkied around in the cockpit us girls sat up on the foredeck commenting on the beach front houses and cottages.  Some were gigantic mansions with floor to ceiling windows and others were little cabins probably built in the 1940′s when it was all vacant land.  It was a lake full of sailboats, quiet and peaceful without any motors to disrupt the mood.  Making the slow journey down the indland lake it was time to dock at the marina and Jackie and I got busy throwing the fenders over the side.  I hate to admit this and I know it will quickly improve, but my clove hitch skills have severely gone downhill since last year.  Having Jackie check my work she did a few adjustments and we were ready to jump off.

 Quckily checking out the facilities which were very nice for a small town we wandered up the street into town.  Deciding that food and drinks were definitely necessary to ease broken-davits blues we were led to a charming little restaurant and while in bathing suits and cover ups we wandered through the nicely dress patrons inside the restaurant to the much more relaxed atmosphere of the patio.  Remembering that Jackie and Ron had brought steaks to grill for dinner I didn’t want to fill up on restaurant food and we all opted for a shared plate of  cheesy fries.  Browsing through their beer menu they were true to their Michigan roots featuring a multiple microbrews including the ever popular Oberon and a few I’d never heard of before.  In the mood to try something different I picked one of them soley by name.  The drinks were out quickly and we sat in the ambiance of a quiet town on a sleepy Sunday afternoon.  Conversation was of course on davits and Ron was quick to ask questions on what we would do and how long it would keep us from leaving for our trip.  Don’t be confused, you might think this was out of a concerned nature for us and our grand plans but since we had agreed to sell them our mooring equiptment they couldn’t take it over until we were gone and he was just itching to keep his boat in one secured spot instead of being trailored every weekend.  Playing him for his ‘concern’ we hemmed and hawed and told him it might be six weeks before we could finally get going.  And honestly it could be, we really have no idea since this is a part that has to be specially made and shipped, we can’t just pick up a new set at West Marine.  He was all about getting us to go as soon as possible.  “You’ll  be in Buffalo in six weeks, right?  I’ll meet you there with your new davits”.  In addition to not actually wanting to keep the mooring fromthem any longer than necessary, I was eager to get going as well because I knew that staying to wait for parts would mean more of the daily grind for me at work.  I was so close to being gone, only one week left, and now I could still be there for over a month.  Countdowns are a bitch when they lead down to nothing.

Poor Serendipity

Finishing our cheesy fries almost as soon as they were put down we emptied our beer bottles and made our way back to the marina to shove off since it was already turning into evening.  Shoving off the dock the sun was getting lower in the sky and falling below a cloudy haze.  Instead of starting up the grill on the small lake and then having to worry about raising sails as soon as we were out of the channel we figured we’d wait until we were on the big lake and auto pilot was pointing us home before we did any cooking.  Even the thought of perfectly grilled steaks still couldn’t keep us away from food though and the bean salsa came right back out to relieve us of our hunger.  After navigating the shallow areas near the entrace to the harbor we were back out on Lake Michigan which brought us steady winds and choppy waves.  By this time we were all wiped out and in the mood to sit doing nothing so the motor ended up stayed on and sails stayed down.  This also meant that no one felt up to chopping up vegetables and messing with fire while the boat bobbed from side to side and we continued to eat the salsa for our dinner, even long after the chips had disappeared.  Tired from the day we sat in the cockpit under jackets and sweaters watching the scenery change on shore.  Although the sun was popping in and out of clouds we were still treated to a nice sunset on the water and cruised up to the Muskegon light house just as the sky was turning to dusk.  Trying to put everything back together the way we found it we got our guests all packed up but Jackie made sure to leave us with a few steaks and a roll of aluminum foil so we could make the tin foil meals they were trying to teach us even after they were gone.  Straightening up but still leaving a decent mess in the galley for Matt to clean the next day we all piled in the dinghy and headed for shore.

It’s strange how you can meet someone and become such good friends in such a short time, but saying goodbye to two people that we had only met three times felt like we were saying goodby to our oldest friends.  Maybe it’s because Jackie and I are twins and it’s like saying goodbye to myself or maybe most boat people are usually just this cool.  Either way it was hard, but at least we knew it wasn’t permanent.  They’re already planning on visiting us in the Bahamas where we’ll be drinking fruity rum drinks, swimming in crystal clear water, exploring the islands and just having a great time.  As long as Ron doesn’t break anything else on our boat that is.

No chips?  No problem.

(Above photos courtesy of Jackie)

You Might Also Like:

Just Cause I Know You’ll Ask

Monday July 16, 2012

Now that I’ve finally let it slip at work that I’m about to go on this big adventure, and only about 10 of the 120 people in my department knew about it beforehand, I have a feeling there are going to be A LOT of questions asked.  And although we’re always open for questions in person or through our new email address on the website (click on Contact Us) I thought it might be a little easier to dedicate a post to the most frequently asked questions we get, which right now are just from friends and family.

 

Where are you going?

Besides getting to the Caribbean, we don’t have any definite plans.  Since our longest cruise so far has only been the 69 mile journey from Muskegon, MI to Milwaukee, WI we’re hoping that we like this lifestyle but won’t know until we try it.  Our estimated departure date is Tuesday July 31 (weather permitting) and we should be jumping into the Bahamas in early to mid December.  Then we’ll take stock of everything and see what we want to do next which could range anywhere from ‘This just isn’t for us, let’s sell the boat and go back home’ to ‘I’m really LOVING the Caribbean, why don’t we spend all our time here’ to ‘I love the Caribbean but there’s so much world to see so let’s keep heading West’.  Should it be the latter we’re going to try for a circumnavigation (going all the way around the world).

 

What’s your route?

This somewhat depends on the previous question, but we do know the route to the Caribbean for sure.  We’ll leave out of Lake Michigan in Muskegon and hug the Michigan coastline while going North.  After passing under the Mackinac Bridge we’ll head South down Lake Huron into Lake St. Claire and then into Lake Erie.  We’ll jump into the Erie Canal near Buffalo, NY and follow that until it drops us out in New York Harbor and the Atlantic.  We’ll slowly be making our way South visiting places like the Chesapeake and probably staying inside the Inter Coastal Waterway.  When we get near Miami, FL we’ll make the approx 30 mile jump over to Bimini Bahamas where you go through the island chain and it’s not more than a day sail from one island to the next.  Should we decide to stay in the Caribbean we’ll keep heading down the island chains (Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands and the Windward and Leeward Islands. Basically all of the islands leading down to Venezuela).  Should we decide we want to travel the world instead, after Bahamas we’ll go to Jamaica and then the Panama canal.  After crossing through the canal we’ll go through the islands of the South Pacific until we bunker down in New Zeeland for hurricane season.  When we get the ok to go again we’ll start making our way north to Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands.  We’re thinking of skipping Australia and Papua New Guiena and make our way to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.  From there the plan varies on the pirate situation at the time.  We could go toward the Red Sea and hop up into the Mediterranean or maybe we’ll go South to Madagascar and Africa.  Either route would put us back near the Caribbean island chain and we’d get to experience the Windward and Leeward islands that way!

 

What made you decide to do this?

There could be so many answers to this question, but a short answer would be that we’re young and there’s nothing holding us down, so why not?  The long answer would be you only get one life to live and wouldn’t you love to do something extraordinary with it?  We all think that we’re bound to these traditional 9-5 lives, it’s what’s proper and what’s expected.  But there is such a big world out there with so much culture and beauty.  And once we thought about that more and more we realized the only thing keeping us from experiencing these things are ourselves.  So we decided to put tradtion aside and do something unexpected and unforgettable.  Plus, reading the stories of others who have done it before us made it sound really really fun.

 

How do you pay for something like this?

SAVING!! Lots and lots of saving.  The old adage of ‘Nothing in life is free’ is definitely true and this trip is not coming free or even cheap to us.  On our website is a Cost page which we’re fully disclosing how much it does cost to outfit the boat and pay for for a trip like this and once we get going we’ll also update it with our monthly spending.  But to get to the point of even being able to spend that money we had to do a lot of sacrificing.  Some of the money coming in has been from the sale of our house and cars and the rest just comes down to not spending.  Matt’s mom and step-dad have been kind enough to take us in for the past year where we don’t have a mortgage/utilities anymore.  We don’t go out to eat or go to the movies.  We don’t go to the bars or take weekend trips to Chicago or Traverse City.   Most of the clothes I’ve purchased over the past two years have been second hand.  Everything that comes in that we don’t have to spend, we don’t.  I can’t say it’s been easy but it will be worth it.

 

Is it safe?

Just like anything in life there will be risks, but cruising is a lot safer than most people think.  As far as danger in the way of storms on the water we will be following the weather religiously and if it’s bad or looks like it could become bad we will not be traveling.  If storms come up on us and we can’t get into a harbor it means we’re probably far out to sea which is actually the safest place to be during a storm since there’s not much chance of you bashing into anything.  And in the ocean the swells are more drawn out instead of the choppy ones we see now in the Great Lakes meaning you slowly go up the wave and slowly go down it.  Plus we’ll always have on lifejackets and be teathered in.  Danger from pirates is a possibility but not very likely.  We’re avoiding pirate heavy areas and in the big picture, getting captured is only about a 1 in 200,000 chance.  And since we won’t be living on land anymore, we actually cut out a lot of dangers in our day to day life.  Did you know that you have a 1 in 6,000 chance of dying in an automobile accident each year?  I think we’ll take our chances on the water.

 

Aren’t you going to get sick of each other?

Four years living with another person on a 35 ft boat?  Yeah, I can see how people would assume this will happen a lot.  But we’re lucky in that we usually can’t get enough of spending time with each other.  Just going to work and coming backs feels like we’ve spent an eternity apart.  We follow each other from room to room at home.   In the twelve years we’ve been together we’ve become so much a part of one other that it feels like something is missing when the other isn’t around.  I can guarantee there will be moments that we want a little alone or me time but I think separating ourselves above and below deck or a small excursion on land alone will help cure that problem.

 

Most of these answers are currently directed at non-sailors as just a general what we’re doing.  If you have anything else you’d like to know, sailing/boat related or more general questions feel free to ask us.  I’d love to know what else you’re curious about!

 

You Might Also Like:

Graduation Goggles

Friday July 13, 2012

Lately I’ve been getting a pretty bad case of graduation goggles of my land based life just before we’re leaving.  You know, the relief and nostalgic feeling one has about a time in their life when it is about to end, even if the time was completely miserable.  And my life on land has not been completely miserable but there have been plenty of mundane days of going through the rat race of life that I won’t be sad to leave it behind to escape and enjoy a life less ordinary.  I don’t know if it takes most people a few weeks or months of being gone before they realize how much they’ll miss at home because they’ve spent all their time up until leaving focused on the goal of actually leaving,  but I think I can name a few before I even go.

Here are a list of things I already know that I’ll miss:

  • Spending time with family and friends -  I don’t think I can go into much detail on this one without writing a novel.  I think the title explains enough.
  • The convenience of a car -  Pretty obvious one, and not just for the ease of getting from point A to point B for pleasure reasons,  although different kinds of transportation will be part of the fun of traveling.  What I’m really going to miss is getting from point A to point B with a couple weeks worth of groceries in the trunk.  Now it will mostly be done on foot and that’s not going to be fun.  But it’s lot like we’ll be the first people ever attempting this and it probably won’t take long for it to become routine.
  • Hot showers -  They are so relaxing and a great way to unwind at the end of the day.  This may be one of the things I would not have realized until after I left, but it’s the number one thing you hear from other cruisers and I plan to fully take advatage of them while I can.
  • Netflix -  I know, I know.  We’re taking this journey to remove ourselves from the artificial world everyone has set up for themselves of TV, laptops, and cell phones so we can get back to nature and experience the world through our own eyes.  But sometimes after a long day of work when I’m cuddled up in bed watching an episode of Buffy or 30 Rock, my life instantly feels a million times better.
  • The coffee at my neighborhood gas station -  When we moved into Matt’s mom’s house last year it was the same time I started drinking coffee for my 8 am start time (with a 45 minute drive!) for my new job.  While filling up one morning I happened upon their coffee station with one dispenser labled Sweet Cherry.  Mix it with 1/3 vanilla cap and it’s so good that I have to get it at least once a week.  Sometimes twice.  (It’s the BP station on Post Rd if any of my GR friends are interested)
  • Having a dog around -  Although we lost Mazzii whom we were head over heels in love with back in April of 2011, Matt’s mom has had a dog in their house for most of the time we have lived there.  It really does make your day to walk in the door and have a furry little slobber ball waiting for you and wagging it’s tail, thinking that the best part if it’s day is when you walked in that door.  Dogs really are unconditional lovers and animals to be treasured.
  • Camping -  This one is a toss up and kind of hard to include since a lot of the things I enjoy so much while camping are things we’ll still be able to do while sailing.  Hiking, swimming, bonfires.  So I think what I’m going to miss is the specific campground we always used to visit, D.H. Day at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Every summer we’d travel up there with friends and enjoy breathtaking views from Pyramid Point, swim in the crystal clear waters of Good Harbor Bay, and kayak down the Crystal River.  There would be wine tasting at The Cherry Republic, lunch at Riverfront Pizza and window shopping at the boutiques.  Then the night is ended with dinner and live music at The Boondocks and followed with a bonfire and lots of beer and a sandy beach under starry skies.  Sound like perfection?  Its is.  And I’m going to miss the hell out of it.
  • Meijer -  This little store really is one stop shopping and they’re ALL OVER west Michigan.  Anything you need, just stop in and you’ll be able to find it there.  It’s a full grocery store with name brands plus their own Meijer and Meijer Gold labels.  There’s also departments for Electronics, Appliances, Home/Bedding/Bath.  There’s Auto, Sporting Goods, Clothing, Health & Beauty.  But wait..you might say..That sounds just like a Walmart SuperCenter.  Yes, it is.  But so much cleaner and so many more choices.  My parents who live(d) in both NC and AZ will stock up suitcases with things from Meijer when they’re in town.  When my mom is shopping at her new grocery stores with her reusable Meijer bag and someone who has been to one sees her they’ll stop and say ‘You’ve been to Meijer?  Aren’t the the best?”.  I’m sure there are going to be plenty of Walmarts in my future and I’ll be happy to have them, but in my heart, nothing will compare to Meijer.
  • Downtown Grand Rapids – Leave it until we start planning our exit from this town for it to become a modern and bustling metropolis.  Back when I was in high school people were doing everything and anything to get out of West Michigan as the town had become run down and unappealing.  Important people took notice of this and in the past 10 years the town has been full of renovation.  The downtown area is filled with bars and restaurants, museums, theaters, and there are always events.  From concerts by A list musicaians and sporting games at VanAndel Arena to Festival and Blues On the Mall at Rosa Parks circle.  People come from all over the coutry in the spring for the 5/3rd River Bank Run and in the fall for Art Prize.  It’s turning into a perfect little town and if we were to stay we’d be living in a condo on the river in the heart of downtown to have a front row seat to it all.

Some of these things are general, some of them are personal.  Some are superficial and some are genuine but they all add up to my life that I’m leaving behind.  World, you have some pretty big shoes to fill.

You Might Also Like:

What A Fine Looking Crew!

Wednesday July 11, 2012

 

Cutting it close as alwasy due to the terrible traffic that I swear only gangs up on me Wednesday afternoons,  I made it to Torresen’s with 15 minutes to change and walk over to the yacht club.  Until I saw that both bathrooms were occupied and had to hurridly drive over to the other side to find open ones.  Rushing to get to the docks I started to walk down and didn’t see the tan hull of Island Dream anywhere.  Getting in panic mode that I had actually missed the boat for once I finally saw her at the far end of the last dock having been blocked by all the other boats until I was almost on top of her.  Walking down the dock the opposite direction Tom greeted me, thanked me for the boat hook I deposited on his deck a few weeks ago during a drive by gifting and told me that the new crew shirts were in and I had one waiting for me on the boat.  Yippie skippy!, I had been waiting for these since they were first mentioned at the beginning of the season.  I had wanted a little momento to take with me, show my support for the team after I’d left, and show that I, Jessica Johnson, had been part of a crew.  Stepping on deck I saw Shannon in her turquois polo and went down to grab mine.  Pulling off my t-shirt (I did have a tank underneath, no strip shows here) I slid the polo on and went back above deck to hang with my crew.

It was a pretty crowded boat that night, all regulars except for one new face.  Her name is Margie and she crewed with Tom last summer but had been in Africa until last week and resumed her sailing duties as soon as she got home.  I think Tom must have mentioned me before I got there because she already knew who I was, that I was leaving in a few weeks, and joked that she would be my replacement.  After stating that I should give her my crew shirt when I left (she hadn’t gotten one that night) I was releived to hear Tom say there were more at home because I was ready to go into a death grip to keep this thing.  When Rob and Jules hopped on a few minutes later they changed into their new shirts and we had a fine looking crew.  The women had solid color polos with Island Dream on the chest and the guys were a little more festive with button down Hawaiian-esqe shirts (all in the same color tone so it looked very good) with Island Dream on their chests as well.  Besides the people on Chicken Poop (oops, sorry, Chicken Soup) we were the only boat out there in matching gear.  Getting on the water with plenty of time before our division was to start we moved around the crew to keep four people on the foredeck while the remaining 7 were seated in the cockpit.  Full crew tonight indeed!

We were in the last division to start that night and after we had all sails raised we tried to get ourselves in the best position for the start.  Being in the last division to start gives all the boats in that division plenty of time to get on top of eachother and nearly hit.  Assuming that all the helmsmen know what they’re doing and see all the boats around them I’ve actually started to enjoy this part the most.  When I’m sitting up on the high side of the deck and out of nowhere a boat crosses in front of our bow with less than five feet to spare.  Your heart starts racing as you did not see it coming and it’s kind of like a rollercoaster ride after you take that first plunge and your heart jumps into your throat but at the same time you still know you’re ok.  When our horn sounded we were near the front of the pack with a few others very close on our tail.  The upwind journey to the first marker near the dunes left us on a straight course for a very long time before eventually tacking as we had been getting great speed and there was no reason to change.  When we did begin our tacks it took a littled bit of getting used to the cluster F of having so many people at the front of the boat changing sides.  The first one we attempted I was ready to run in front of the mast as I always do but Rob advised a tuck & roll under the boom.  I was a little afraid to go for it and while waiting for an opening I became tangled in the jib line and dragged back close to the cockpit.  All was fine though, I sprang right back and dove over to the new side with a new war wound (huge bruise) on my back thigh that I was proud to show off.

While getting close to the first marker I was ready to hop down below deck and get ready to assist shoving out the kite when I found that position had alredy been taken.  Sitting back on deck I just enjoyed the view while everyone else went to work on their tasks.  We rounded the marker and raised the kite without problem but the downwind run caused us (and everyone else) to suddenly lose a lot of their speed.  Shannon was placed against the boom to hold it out as far as possible but the rest of us just sat back and enjoyed the view.  Since we were able to stay on a single course for the whole run I just absorbed the sights of the other racers, admiring the colorful spinnakers of the other boats around us and their skill of rounding the next marker and beginning their upwind journey.  While sitting on the rail after we had started upwind once more Margie came to sit next to me and ask questions about my upcoming journey and tell me of her travels in Africa.  It was reassuring to hear that leaving your regular life behind to experience something new is completely worth it and you can (mostly) pick up your life right where you left off.

Since winds were not extremely high and there were no issues of the spinnaker going in the water or someone getting hit in the head with the boom, the rest of the race was mostly a pleasure cruise.  Since our upwind course off the wind was different from almost ever other boat based on the point of sail we could all get our best speed that night we spend most of our time by oursleves without the close call anticipation of ‘are we going to pass them?’.   There was a bit of excitement in the last 10 minutes of the last leg where there was a mad rush of boats to the last marker located at the Northwest end of the lake.  While off on our own we were closer North to the marker while the other remaining boats were all piled up on the West side.  Then the race was to see if we could get West before they could get North, but sadly they were closer.  As Island Dream rolled up to the finish us rail meat were now riding the low side trying to help gain as much speed as possible.  We hung out the lifelines with our toes touching the water and the jib pinned against our back.  Our finish horn sounded and we cheered, another race completed for Island Dream.

Instead of heading back to the docks to open the cooler it was immediately ajar and out came these monsterous 24oz cans of Lime-A-Rita.  Three times larger than the normal 8oz size they come in (did you like my math there?).  Everyone wanted on the Lime-A-Rita bandwagon but there were not enough to go around.  That problem was quickly solved by emptying some water bottles on board and filling them with tequila flavored beer to pass around.  The sails were still up but we were slowly ambling back toward the dock with no rush to get there as there was still light in the sky and it was a beautiful night.  Just a few minutes into this pleasurable booze cruise I got a text from Matt that said he was locked out of the house and could I come home right away because no one else was going to be there for the rest of the night.  Looking at the happy faces of everyone on board who probably used Wednesdays as their big socializing night with friends, there was no way I was going to ask to have the motor turned on to get me back to the dock as soon as possible.  Matt had a vehicle and and iPhone, he’d be fine for a few hours.  Once the motor finally was tunred on because we were nearing the mooring field there was a consensus going around that everyone needed to check out Serendipity.  I pointed Tom towards our new spot out in BFE and everyone gathered on deck as we came closer.  There were Ooooos and Aaaaaahs all around and she was given approval for me to be able to travel aboard.  She was also given a Bud Light bath from everyone on ID as it is apparently good luck to spray beer on a departing boat (come on guys, no champagne?).  When we finally tied off at the docks I couldn’t ignore Matt’s pleads any longer and had to say quick good-byes to be on my way.  The good news is that there is still one more race next week with a going away celebration at the end.  And since Matt will be right by my side we’ll be able to party until after the stars have come up.

You Might Also Like:

4th Of July Parade Of Boats

Wednesday July 4, 2012

Midweek holidays are a tricky thing because you con yourself into thinking the whole day will be spent completing projects that need to get done although once the day off is upon you it’s hard to do anything but take the time off from the daily grind to relax.  After spending the night and doing nothing productive except get the dinghy washed we woke up early the next morning to try and give the deck a good scrub down as well before my parents came out to see the boat and us for the last time before we all meet up again in Panama.  I should have started at the cockpit and worked my way forward because by the time the phone rang with ‘We’re here!!!‘ I had barely gotten half way and the cockpit was still a mess of smudges and other things I’d rather not find out what they other.  Nothing a sport-a-seat thrown over the top couldn’t fix though.

On their last Michigan trip my parents were able to enjoy 90 degree heat at 10:30 am on the deck without any shade from the bimini which still wasn’t up yet.  It was nice that we had been able to spend so much time with them while they were in town catching up on everything in life and this last visit was all about us and the trip.  Then came the farewells and a few tears from my mom.  We assured her that Panama was not that far away and after that would be New Zealand.  After tucking them into their rental car and waiving goodbye we went back to Serendip for a long three hour nap since low’s in the 80′s and a down blanked piled on top of you at night do not make for good sleeping weather and we were lagging.

Waking up in the mid afternoon with no finished projects to show for the day we pulled out the bars for the bimini again to make final measurements and cut.  Unfortunately the last part could’t be completed because the rivet gun was left at home.  By this time though the afternoon heat was becoming unbearable and a swim in the lake was necessary.  While wading in the water I started to see familiar race boats making their way out on the water.  Crawling back on deck and cracking open a beer I sat tucked under my towel and enjoyed the race from the spectators side.

Having spent most of the day napping or relaxing in the cockpit while watching a regatta we did not get a second wind of energy to do anything productive.  Eating potato chips and crackers for dinner we watched the sky begin to grow dark and the fireworks start to emerge.  Many people around the shore including the Muskegon Yacht Club had some small ones of their own but I was waiting for the big display.  Last year Matt had been out here himself and said there were multiple shows going on every direction you could look.  As the last bits of light were leaving the sky the larger fireworks began to come out.  Turning your head in every direction you’d see some from the country club up the hill from our mooring, others blazing over the dunes of the state park, and the municipal show being put on in town all the way at the other end of the lake.  Swiveling in multiple directions to try and get them all in I finally settled on the ones closest to me at the country club.  It was way after my bedtime by the time we left but completely worth staying since next Fourth of July we might be in the South Pacific.  Sparklers anyone?

You Might Also Like: