It’s All About Money: Sail Loot Podcast

Monday July 13, 2015

I’d have to say that about 70% of the emails we get in our inbox have something to do with money.  It may not be the sole subject of the email, but it usually comes up one way or another.  ”How do you afford this; What did you do to save; What does it cost to maintain this lifestyle”.  We don’t mind these questions, in fact we usually openly talk about our money.  Through our Cost of Cruising pages you can find out what we spend each month and year and where all of our money goes.

To take it one step further though and find out everything there is to know about us and money; starting from the beginning and going up until now, we were contacted by Teddy at Sail Loot to participate in a podcast talking about this subject. We talked about absolutely everything from when we bought our first boat, how we outfitted Serendipity to cruise, what gets covered in our monthly expenses, and how we try to save where we can.  If you’ve ever had a money related question for us, chances are it’s been answered in this interview.

Keep reading to see how our interview appeared on the Sail Loot website, including the podcast.  If you’d like to see the full thing on their site as well as check out more links relating to the discussion, make sure to check out the original post here. For even more podcast from other great cruisers talking about their finances, make sure to check out Sail Loot’s home page.

Thank you so much Teddy for taking the time to interview us, it was a pleasure talking with you!

Matt & Jessica The Baths

“Matt and Jessica decided that it was time to get off the couch and start experiencing life. How they would experience life was the first question. When they decided that sailing was the answer, all they had to do was learn how to sail, find a boat, and figure out how to find their sailing money. Easy enough, right?

They ended up taking some sailing lessons, and getting some sailing practice for about 2 years on Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. Their sailing money came with a lot of hard work, some downsizing (of their possessions and their activities), and some budgeting to make sure that they wouldn’t blow through their cruising kitty while sailing across oceans.

Matt and Jessica started with a little bit of money saved up, “normal” jobs, and a dream. They took off with enough sailing money in the bank to cruise for about 4 to 5 years if they stuck to their budget. Enjoy listening to this episode of the Sail Loot Podcast for all of the details!”

A Few Things You’ll Learn About Matt and Jessica, MJ Sailing, and their Sailing Money In This Episode:

  • Their Hunter 240, their first trailerable sailboat.
  • Their jobs on land prior to taking off cruising.
  • How much they paid for all of their sailboats.
  • Their cruising budget.
  • How big their crusing kitty was before they left. You know, this directly relates to how long they planned on cruisng.
  • Where they’ve sailed so far.
  • Crossing the Atlantic…twice within the span of a year.
  • The Re-fit of their new sailboat, Daze Off (the current name).
  • Matt’s hobby.
  • Where they’re living while they re-fit Daze Off
  • How Matt and Jessica keep a low-cost lifestyle.
  • Going the “wrong way” around the Caribbean.
  • Jessica’s sailing money and frugal cruising tips.
  • And Much More!

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Serendipity 3

Daze Off 2

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Pure Michigan

Monday August 13, 2012

When we pulled into the harbor at South Manitou Island I was estatic to see the sun coming through patches in the clouds and thought maybe we’d actually be able to do some real sightseeing instead of bundling up in winter gear for a 20 minute trek to the lighthouse  before going back to the boat and spending the rest of the day inside as I had envisioned. Looking at the chart for a good anchorage we steered clear of the only other sailboat in the harbor and dropped our anchor in 40 feet of clear aqua water. Cleaning up the mess we managed to make in the cockpit I glanced around for our best bathing option since neither of us had showered in two and a half days. We definitely needed to clean up. Since the three containers of deisel were taking up the floor of the cockpit and we don’t have our watermaker set up yet, a cockpit shower was not looking good. Checking the temperature of the water it was reading 66 degrees and I thought there was absolutely no way I was going to jump in and a bucket bath on deck may be the only option. But looking into the tantalizing clear bay I knew I couldn’t give up a chance to swim in these waters. We threw on our suits and although I prepared myself for a dive off the side I couldn’t muster up the courage and ended up slowly going down the ladder and took the plunge half way through. Let’s just say the water was refreshing enough to leave me short of breath. While I was busy paddling around and trying to get used to the cold, Matt made his way down the ladder as well but was out again as soon as he had submerged. Soon we were both clean and felt a million times better. I’m not missing the call of a hot shower just yet, but it probably won’t be too long.

 

After throwing on fresh clothes and eating a quick lunch of PB&J we jumped in the dinghy for a shore excursion. I didn’t know much of what was on this island except for a lighthouse that I really wanted to climp to the top of. Walking up the ferry dock as it was loading to take passengers back to Leeland we found a visitor’s stand next to the ranger’s house with a map of what was on the island. Looking through the options there was the lighthouse, the Giant Cedar Forest, a shipwreck and a path to the top of the dunes, apparently the highest one in Michigan. We assumed the shipwreck was viewable from the dunes and the path showed the cedar forest on the way so off we went on the unmarked roads, trying to remember which direction the map had pointed us since they were all out of the paper maps to take with you.

 

Walking a good 2 ½ miles we came across the path for the shipwreck and turned on it. Winding through the woods we were let out to the top of a bluff overlooking the water and a very large ship sticking out of it. I had thought it would just be a small portion protruding out of the water, maybe a smokestack or something of the sort, but this was basically the whole boat. Matt knew a little bit about it and told me it was from the 60′s and accidentally came aground on the rocks lining the island. Now falling apart it just sat in the shallow water with hundreds of birds perched on it’s deck.

 

Going back out to the trail we followed it for another half mile until we came to the trail for the cedar forest. Neither of us knew if we should just be looking around as they’d be on the path or if there would be a marker once we arrived at them. Sure enough once you got to it there were cedar planks and benches laid down, following a path to bring you around to all the indeed giant trees. Some of them were very wide and some just very tall, but they were all warped and knotted and beautiful. We followed the cedar path until it deaded ended into a dirt trail and followed that hoping it would lead us back out to the main path. The dirt trail took us by a few more cedars in the woods and one very large cedar that had fallen and had a circumfrence almost taller than me.

 

Being spit out back on the path we made our way to the last stop on the trails, the dunes. Making our way up some steep dirt steps it opened into a sandy path that still led up and up. Getting quite out of breath as we had now been hiking over three miles up and down all kinds of hills we took a quick break, letting the breeze of the open air flow over us. Not sure which direction to head since there were now small sand trails going everywhere we picked one that looked like it had the most travelers and continuted to walk through the sand. (By the way, we did not see one other person on our hike on an island full of campers, very strange)

 

Going up and down a few more small dunes we came to the shore on top of a bluff about 400 feet above the water. Instead of walking back through all the trails we had just taken to get back to the bay, Matt suggested we go down the dune/bluff to the water and just hug the coast to get back. It may not have been shorter but the surface would be flat. Not wanting to go uphill anymore and knowing I’d have a constant breeze on my face by the water I agreed and down we went. After unloading the piles of sand we accumulated in our shoes we continued down the shore. Walking for at least a mile and rounding a few corners and not seeing the shipwreck we wondered if we made the completely wrong decision and would be walking all night. One more corner though and it was jutting out of the water so we figured we couldn’t be too far since it was only a two mile walk to this point from the inland trails. On and on we walked, now starting to get blisters on our feet and ready to get back to the boat for a nice dinner of grilled chicken and rice.

 

It seemed like every corner we turned was not putting us any closer to home but we just kept trudging on. Finally we could see the lighthouse in the distance which was a relief because it sat at the opening to the bay. Knowing the end was now in sight we picked up pace and soon climed the path up to the lighthouse (which was closed for visitors!!) and back out to the boat house and ferry dock. Happy that our dinghy hadn’t washed away (we had to rescue one earlier that was floating in the middle of the bay) we shoved off and went back to Serendipity fully exhausted. It was too late and we were too hungry for a dinner of grilled chicken so we settled on macaroni and cheese which tasted even better at that moment. It was a long day and I knew I’d be out the moment my head hit the pillow but it was completely rewarding to have spent five hours and close to 10 miles experiencing all the beauty that is Pure Michigan. (Thanks Tim Allen)

I knew he was starting to become a little bit of a hippie, but now a tree huger?

Matt at the bottom of the dune.

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And So It Begins

Sunday August 12, 2012

You’d think that the night before departure my nerves would be running like crazy and I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep, but somehow I managed to sleep soundly through the night and was even disappointed when the alarm went off at 5:30 am.  It may have been that we had friends on board past midnight, forcing them to drink all our beer to empty our fridge and lighten the boat.  Surprisingly there wasn’t the mass excitement you normally get before a big trip, it just felt like we were getting ready for another day sail.  Just while it was still dawn.  Trying to clean up some of the last minute clutter we organized the cabin slightly and then went into the dinghy dock where Matt’s mom and step-dad were waiting to say goodbye to us and bring a few things we couldn’t fit in the car the day before.  With hugs and photos we said goodbye and Matt’s mom joked through her tears that we better like our new lifestyle because our bedroom was going to become a scrapbooking room that day.  Putting the rest of the belongings in the dinghy we loaded up and got ready to push off so Matt’s mom could take photos of us leaving the channel.

Looking around the marina for the last time I was sad to say goodbye to what had been our home for the past few years but also excited to finally get underway.  While motoring out to the channel I went below and fixed us a mimosa with some sparkling wine a friend had got us so we could celebrate the occasion as we passed through the channel one last time.  Navigating through the dozens of fishermen that thought it would be the perfect place to troll we made it near the mouth of Lake Michigan and waved to Chris and Jack at the lighthouse.  And as soon as we were in the waters of Lake Michigan I may or may not have dropped my phone in the water, hurtling at full speed directly toward the lighthouse.  No use for that thing now.

Getting into the lake the water was calm and glassy and there was no wind.  Leaving the motor on we set the autopilot for north and Matt took a nap in the cockpit while I kept a lookout.  After an hour we switched although I of course took my nap in the comfort of the v-berth below.  The engine was kicking warm air through the heater and it was nice and toasty down there.  When I woke up I found Matt busy working on reefing lines on deck, getting them ready so that we’d be able to run all three from the cockpit.  I sat and looked on, handing tools here and there and trying to soak up the sun that was rising over us.

Finally turning off the engine around 2:00 we raised the spinnaker to do some actual sailing.  There must have been some lines twisted in there somewhere and what ensued was a hectic 10 minutes of untying and retying lines, twisting sail cloth, and making my hands raw from pulling on lines (I have gloves but was not wearing them at the time).  Once we finally had it properly set we were exhausted and retreated to the cockpit for a lunch of cold pizza.  Soon after it became overcast and the temperature took a dramatic dip.  I had already changed from a fleece to a heavier jacket but this was cold enough to make me take the blanket from our bed and wrap ourselves in it.  At this point neither of us felt like being productive and spent the rest of the afternoon in the cockpit hiding from the wind.  I did put my bibs on after just a little bit which helped dramatically with the cold but not with the laziness.  When dinner time came near I thought a nice hearty oven cooked meal would make us feel better and started pulling out ingredients for what I have coined ‘The Jackie Meal’, something she had fed us on her boat a few weeks before.  It’s basically a tin foil dinner with slices of cooked sausage, meatballs, zucchini, squash, potatoes (which we substituted for onions), sprinkled with seasoning salt and garlic powder, topped with a spoon of butter and wrapped in tin foil.  So delicious.  I could smell it cooking in the oven long before we pulled it out and it completely hit the spot.

Dousing the spinnaker as the sun was going down I prepared myself for bed since Matt had the first shift on watch.  This was the first time I allowed myself to get a little scared about what we were doing and the vast waters we’d be traveling and I’d be alone on watch that night on a very big lake.  Winds were picking up and I was worried something terrible might go wrong in the middle of the night.  I just had to keep reminding myself that I knew what I was doing (for the most part) and I’d have Matt there to help me if I needed it.  It still took me awhile to fall asleep but when I did get up for my shift the winds had calmed down to about 10 knots at our stern and we were following along calmly at a steady 3.5 knots.  Oh, I could totally handle this!  As we switched the harness over to me I sat in the cockpit, bundled up in the blanket that was still up there and kept a lookout for any lights on the water.  Most of them were from shore but after an hour on watch I saw some directly in front of the bow and even after I’d do a good sweep out the side of the fabric of the bimini they did not look to be getting any closer.  I warned Matt about them when he woke up for his next shift and I went back below to quickly fall asleep this time.

Waking up again at 7 am the sun should have been coming up but alas it was clouds a second day in a row.  Being filled in on the mysterious lights I found out there were not actually boats but also shore.  We had been headed at a point that jutted out in the lake, and although Matt had been aware of this the whole time and planning on changing course before then you just happened to be able to see the lights from miles and miles away.  Taking my spot under the blanket a second time I watched the sky turn from dark to gray as we came upon one of my favorite places in the world, the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  This day though they looked dark and dreary and not as dreamy as I remembered them and definitely not living up to the title of The Most Beautiful Place in America that they had been given the year before.  I was a little disappointed but just had to tell myself that there are going to be so many beautiful things along the way that I can’t be put out by one cloudy day.  And I did still have the climb to the top of the lighthouse at South Manitou Island to look forward to, clouds or not.

Leaving the dinghy docks.

Last day at the mooring.

Breakfast of champions!

‘Bon Voyage!’

‘The Jackie Meal’

Confined to the cockpit

Our first stop!

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6:53 am

At 6:53 this morning, we left our Muskegon mooring for the last time. We are officially cruisers!

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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)

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Finding Jupiter

Saturday October 8, 2011

I’m starting to think that West Michigan is beginning to have a trend in the second weekend of October of gorgeous summer like weather.  Make no mistake though, while I’m thrilled to have it right now I hope to high hell that I’m not around next year for the trilogy.  Relishing the chance to throw on shorts again they were actually a necessity from spending all afternoon in the bedroom completely overheating from the sun blazing through my window.  Also following the warm weather trend this year was not much wind on the water once we got out to the mooring.  Wanting to take advantage of the opportunity of being able to anchor without high winds we brought Serendipity out to the breakers by the pier to spend the night.  After motoring around the shallow waters for 10 minutes and debating between ourselves we finally dropped anchor in a spot we were sure would not drag us into jagged rocks or the pier should the wind pick up and shift.

Matt surprised me by telling later that night we could take the dinghy to shore and hit up Captain Jacks, a bar on the beach, for a few drinks.  Did you hear that?  We are going out for drinks!  We never get to go out for drinks.  That’s an occasion normally reserved for once a month when we’re out with friends, and more and more that’s even being converted to pizza and a 12 pack at a friend’s house to save the money of actually going out.  But tonight I had the option to go wild and possibly even order an imported beer.  Only 1 of course, we’re still on a budget.  Enjoying the balmy evening we grilled cheeseburgers and watched the locals walk the pier.  I asked Matt if he wouldn’t mind taking a detour there after dinner so I could get some good sunset photos.  After cleaning up the plates, changing into long pants just lounging on the boat a little longer we eventually got in the dink to go ashore.  Motoring ourselves in as far as possible and then gunning it before it became too shallow for the engine we glided up to a point where I was able to jump out on dry sand and pull us the rest of the way in.

When we had it towed all the way up on the sand we began to walk the few hundred feet to the beginning of the boardwalk where there were also a lot of other people out that had the same idea we did.  Once on the boardwalk we could also get  good perspective on Serendip and see exactly where she was positioned in the breakers which happened to be smack dab in the middle which was funny because both of us felt that we were way too close to either the rocks of the breakers on one end or the smaller [of the two] lighthouse on the other end.  We had fun taking a leisurely walk and even stopped at some of the giant rocks on the Lake Michigan side so Matt could jump around on them while telling me I couldn’t join because I’d kill myself.  I’m sure that’s not true and I would have only ended up with a broken leg, but I stayed put all the same.  Once we finally reached the lighthouse at the end the sun was dangerously low in the sky and crowds were forming to watch it drown.  Just like everyone else around me I became snap happy with my camera even laying on the cement for some good angles while Matt looked at me like I was crazy.  I have to say though, I think they’re some of the best photos I’ve gotten all year.

Once the sun was down we made our way back down to the dinghy where we’d relax on the boat a little more before going out for drinks.  It wasn’t even 8:00 yet and we didn’t want our night to be over by 9:30.  Being the gentleman that I am I told Matt to hop in the dinghy and get the engine ready while I pushed us off.  Figuring that if I had my jeans rolled up to my knees I could keep them from getting wet but of course the only pair of long pants I had with me for the weekend besides my sweatpants ended up soaked from the knee down.  Getting back on the boat I quickly took them off in hopes that an hour of laying out would get them dry before we left again.  I was not going to make my debeut at Captain Jack’s in sweatpants.  Once I did have my sweats on for lounging on the boat we took our sport-a-seats up to the coachroof (raised part of the deck) to watch the sky turn all shades of orange and yellow and pink before becoming dark.  Just as it was hitting twilight there was a large tanker that began to enter the channel, probably over 400 ft long.  All of the lights on deck were ablaze and we took advantage of our close proximity to it.  Mos of the time we only see them from our mooring and don’t get a close look.  This time we could fully make out the deck and bridge and people onboard.  It was great to see it that close from anchor because I don’t want the next time something that size comes that close to me be in the middle of the night in the open ocean while it’s charging at me at full speed.  When that excitement was done we had new entertainment of a powerboat of what appeared to be drink twenty-somethings  speeding around in the breakers and by the pier.  Their stereo was blasting and they were doing donuts while hooting and hollering at the people on the boardwalk.  Since we were the only other boat out there at that point and they weren’t coming near us and were only in danger of harming themselves I decided not to blow the whistle and call the Coast Guard which was right next to us.

After the drunkies made their way into Lake Michigan and things became quiet again we turned our attention to the stars that were starting to come out.  Even with some of the lights from shore and the boardwalk lighting up the night sky there were a few bright stars standing out.  I picked out a few of the major constellations I knew like Orion and the Big Dipper but there was one very bright star standing alone that neither of us could place.  I remembered Matt’s phone had the app to show constellations of the night sky so I ran below deck to grab it.  Turning it on I brought it up to the sky where it was able to bring up constellations there were hidden to my eye.  The Swan, The Dolphin, and some other creatures that were a real stretch to what they claimed to be.  When I brought the phone up to the bright ball of light in the sky I could see it was not a star at all, but it was a planet.  I had just found Jupiter.  Not that it was being elusive to anyone else in the area but it was interesting to happen upon something that can only be seen every 13 months.

When our star gazing was done I changed back into my still slightly damp jeans, threw on a jacket and flip flops and we headed back to shore for our night of live entertainment (meaning being around people other than ourselves) and drinks.  After beaching the dinghy again and bringing it far up on shore we walked out to the one way street on our way to Captain Jacks.  It looked a little dark and not too busy from the road but since it was October we figured it wouldn’t be as busy as it usually is in the summer.  Getting closer to the door we realized we hadn’t seen a single other person and the building looked dark inside.  Sure enough it was closed for the season.  I was pretty bummed figuring our one chance to go out was not wrecked.  I turned to Matt to see if he was ready to go back to the boat but he asked if I would mind walking to the bar in Harbour Towne.  Excited at the opportunity to still go out that night I said it wouldn’t be a problem at all.  Neither of us knew the right roads to get there since we had only gotten in by water before so we crossed the street and started heading that general direction.

On the other side of the road was a playground with slides and monkey bars that looked like it would be fun to play on but at the moment I was only interesting in getting to the bar.  After making one wrong turn onto a side street we finally found our way and began to walk past the condos that led to Dockers.  When we turned into the parking lot we could see it was packed with people and were happy to know that this place was also not closed up.  The first few people to walk past us were nicely dressed and that didn’t surprise me too much since I had always thought this to be a nicer restaurant even though we had never actually been inside.  Still passing through the parking lot there was another young couple that passed us even more dressed up than the ones before.  I began to wonder if Homecoming dances were this weekend.  Almost when we reached the door there was a family walking out in their finest attire including their two young children.  It was starting to look like there was a wedding reception being held here.  I was hopeful in thinking that there were multiple rooms and the wedding would only be using one of them and not taking up the whole building.  Walking in dressed in jeans, t-shirts and flip flops the hostess stopped us as it was obvious we were not there with the other wedding guests.  She let us know that the restaurant was in fact closed for the season but will open for nights when it’s fully booked like a wedding.  Cheated again!  I was very tempted to jump someone in the parking lot and switch clothes with but there didn’t appear to be anyone in the immediate vicinity the same size as us.

Very discouraged this time we began walking back to the shore as we couldn’t think of any more bars in walking distance.  On the way back past the park we saw it was now empty from some creepy kids that were hanging out in it earlier and I thought a little play time might lift my spirits.  We spent about 30 minutes taking turns on the slide which was actually big and fun enough even for adults.  We raced around the sand and pulled ourselves over bars just like we were 10 years old again.  It was the perfect weather for this kind of activity, in the high 60′s with just a little bit of wind.  We jumped and played and slid until we tired ourselves out.  Wondering what to do with the rest of the night we knew there was one bar that was still open for the season, Bar Johnson, and thought we’d enjoy a drink there before bedtime.  I tell you though, if I get there and find out it’s closed there are going to be words to be had.

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Just Keep Swimming….Just Keep Swimming

Sunday September 11, 2011

Last night when we got to the marina there was some work that needed to be done on the new dink before we could make it to the boat.  Matt was going to work on getting the wheels attached so it wouldn’t be so much of a pain for us to bring her up and down to the water, even though it was only about 50 feet.  My job was to ink her with her new registration numbers.  We decided against sticky or glued on pieces of fabric in case she was ever stolen from us.  Those would be too easy to rip right off.  So instead she was going to get tatttooed with a sharpie.  I had the stencils in my hand and I was all ready to go.  Unfortunately for Matt, the epoxy he used to fill the initil drill holes the day before (after a previous failed attempt last weekend too) was not fully hard and would have to be redone.  I’m sure I was good entertainment for him while he sat and watched me work for 30 minutes while I colored.

It was still decently early when we climbed aboard Serdendip, but my vigorus workout of keeping my arms at a 45 degree angle had built up quite an appetite and I was ready to eat.  Earlier that day I had gone to my favorite butcher shop by our old house to pick up NY strips again, this time in their famous home seasoning.  Knowing I wanted my steak to come out med-rare while Matt prefers his med-well, I made him throw his on about 10 minutes before mine.  Being the ‘steak-expert’ I now was from spending five months working at Outback, I could judge the temperature by of the steak by poking my finger at it to see how firm it was.  I announced to him that it was pretty close to med-well and he wouldn’t want to leave it on much longer or there would be no pink at all in the center.  Poking a finger at mine I was afraid it would be a little brown on the outer edges and begged Matt to take it off.  Forcing me to leave it on another two minutes he said he coudn’t bear to watch me eat an undercooked steak.  When i was finally able to get it off the grill and onto my plate I cut it open to find it was still purple inside.  Back on the grill it went.  Guess I’ll have to work on my finger poking skills a little.  Matt’s came out medium but agreed it was good enough to eat, and waited the two minutes for me that my steak was cooking and I was convinced it was burning again.

The rest of the night was quiet.  We both remembered to pack our e-readers this time and settled into the settes.  I started out reading something knowledgeable by Dashew and Dashew, but my concentration quickly drained and I was quickly on to the next Harry Potter book in the series.  When 10:30 came around I didn’t care that it was so early.  My eyes were drooping closed and I was ready for bed.  What the hell is going to happen to me when I hit 30?

The next morning we woke up and everything outside the hatch looked a little hazy.  I knew I couldn’t see perfectly without my contacts in, but I didn’t think my eyes were that bad.  Climing out into the cockpit there were blankets of fog covering the water.  It was a very pretty sight, so serene and calm.  But also a little disappointing since my friend Bri was coming out and I wanted it to be a sunny beautiful day she would enjoy.  After hearing about the great times Jared and Jeff had out with us (we’re all mutual friends) I wanted to be able to deliver the same to her.  For an hour or two the sun couldn’t decide what it wanted to do, it would burn up the fog and then new patches would roll in.

So serene

This cycle went on about 5 times and when Bri called in saying she was getting close the sun looked like it was winning the battle.  Waiting at the marina for her car to pull in we started talking to a few fishermen pulling their boat out of the water.  They mentioned they had just come in from the big lake where the fog was incredibly thick  and the temperatures were very low.  Not what I wanted to hear since that’s where we were planning on spending our day, but I figured it was becoming clear on Muskegon Lake it would soon on Lake Michigan too.  Bri pulled into the parking lot a minute later and we were all on our way to the boat.  Deciding to take our chances on Lake Michigan we made our way to the channel where we were still in sunny skies.  About half way though it we went from clear to slightly foggy to ‘I can’t see 50 feet in front of me’ by the time we hit the breakwalls.  Guess the fisherman were right.  We opted to be adventurous and keep going even though we couldn’t see where that was.  Our eyes were peeled as we left the channel figuring if there were any other boats out there, that’s where we’d be most likely to run into them.  After we were clear into open water we were able to let our guard down just a little and somewhat enjoy our day outside.  The temperature did definitley drop and there was tons of moisture (duh) in the air to where you could see the whisps in front of you and inhale the thickness of the air into your lungs.  All of our lifelines and stanchions were beading with condensation.  Even the bottom layer of my hair had become soaking wet.  After spending 30 minutes like this we quickly realized this would not be the most enjoyable way to spend our day and turned around to go back to the small lake where we knew the sun was shining.

Into the fog

Fortunately Matt had the GPS on ensuring we would not end up beached at the State Park.  On our way in we could hear the motor of a nearby power boat but could not see through the thick fog to tell it’s direction.  Then through the air we heard the loud blast of a fog horn and determined the boat was coming at us.  Another loud blast put it on our starboard side although we still had no visual on it.  Being prepared with our fog horn out I gave a loud blast, scaring the crap out of Bri in the process, and hoping it would give the other boat a good bearing of our location.  A few moments later we finally saw it come into sight for a starboard to starboard pass.  Not proper rules of the road, but I was just happy not to have a collision.  Bri and I made our way up to the bow to be on ‘look-out’ in case other boats we may come up on don’t have radar like the last one did.

Matt did manage to get us on a path directly to the channel but by the time the lighthouse was visible we were right on top of it.  Directing him toward the center we called back fishing boat sightings and were soon in the clear again.  I honestly have to say I’m surprised at how smooth the whole thing went considering you couldn’t see 100 ft in front of you and we were still operating without radar.  All of us agreed that we would like to go swimming at some point and since the water near the mooring was not a pristine bathing location we made a beeline for the dunes where all the other boats were hanging out.  Knowing that we might want to make a swim to shore we anchored much closer than last time, but still a few hundred feet away since there was so much other traffic.  Opening a fresh bottle of rum we hung out in the cockpit chatting and watching other boats in the area.  A few of the powerboats had anchored very close and rafted together creating mini parties.  There were a few groups of ‘boat buddies’ around us and we were beginning to get jealous that we did not have one of our own.  Feeling a little silly we would call out “Boat buddy?” to any other sailboats that passed us by, but no one acknowledged us to take us up on our offer.  There was eventually another boat that dropped anchor not too far from us but we thought we’d be polite and leave them alone for the most part.  Although when the guy on that boat started up his grill for lunch we were automatically quizzing him about what he was going to make.  It was a pork tenderloing and sounded so much better than the french bread pizzas I had brought for us to heat up in the oven.  So twenty minutes later when we had enough liquid courage to jump into the chilly water, our neighboring boat offered us some tenderloin as we passed by.  Matt was already almost to shore but Bri and I stopped by for a bite.  They guy handed us each a slice and Bri ate hers while dangling from the swim ladder and I enjoyed mine while treading water.  The food given to us was some of the best pork tenderloin I have ever tasted, juicy and moist, and marinated with a bacon-pepper flavoring.  Ther was no way I could let Matt miss out on this.  Saving half my piece I began the swim to shore holding the tenderloin above my head with one hand.  We had gone about 20 feet and Bri started struggling with the swim a little.  I told her we were still close enough to the boat to go back if she wanted.  She declined and we pushed forward.  Another 30-40 feet and she was struggling still, making gasping noises as she swam.  By this time we were half way, so I encouraged her to keep going forward.  I was starting to think she might need rescue, but that would mean letting go of my food.  With constant praise I kept encouraging her to keep going, ‘just a little bit further!!’.  Coming up on the powerboats anchored just off shore, they started to notice Bri’s troubles as well.  Or it could also be that her gasps started to sound like noises that belonged in the bedroom and was starting to draw a bit of attention to herself.  One very nice (or curious) man tossed a flotation device to help with the last bit and soon we were both to shore.  Bri didn’t drown and my pork didn’t get a drop of water on it!   (For all you that probably think I’m a terrible person, I offered to assist her in and she declined)

Not even letting Bri catch her breath we dragged her to the top of the first dune were we layed on a towel (brought over in a dry bag by Matt) where we had a beautiful view of Muskegon Lake and all the boats out that day.  It looked like a scene from a postcard and I was happily snapping away with the camera.  When everyone was rested up a bit we did some exploring further back into the dunes.  The sand was still warm on our feet and it was one of those days where you fully take in your surroundings and appriciate them because you know it might be eight months before you get to experience it again.  The sky was a brilliant Michigan blue and just popped off the color of the sand.  Finding another tall dune to rest on we sat for awhile just taking it all in.  When we decided it was time to get back to the boat we raced down the dune and took a shortcut through some trees leading us out to the shore.

With Bri being a little apprehensive about getting back in the water we filled the dry bag full of air so it would act as a mini flotation device and let her hang on to make the swim back.  I’m starting to think I shouldn’t make my friends swim to shore anymore for fear of eventually losing one of them.  Might be a good spot  to take enemies though…..  .  All of us were starving by the time we got back onboard and I threw our pathetic little french bread pizzas in the oven.  While we were waiting for them to bake we broke out the dominoes to play in the cockpit.  It wasn’t the easiest thing trying to spread out all our tiles on the  cockpit table which does not offer a lot of space, but someone would always win the game before we ran out of space.  The first win was surprisingly mine, but I was harshly punished after that by ending the next game with about 9 tiles in my hand.  We continued on like this for ahwhile, just enjoying what  was left of the sun and eachothers company.  Annoying what few boating neighbors we had left, we blasted some LMFAO from the speakers and introduced Bri to ‘The Wiggle Song’ which she had never heard before.  As the sun dropped lower and lower in the sky we realized we were the only boat still  anchored.  Although I could have continued to stay out all night we needed to get Bri back for other engagements she had and Matt and I had work the next morning.  I don’t know how many more nice days we’ll have out on the boat this year before temperatures drop and don’t go back up, or how many  more evenings we’ll be able to enjoyably waste in the cockpit, but if this does happen to be the last one it was a great note to go out on.

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Hot Fudge Sunday

Sunday August 28, 2011

Back in July when we had our friends Jared, Jeff and Darryl out with us I promised that we  had to get them out again sometime.  It didn’t take much twisting of the arm on either side as we all love to spend time together and had such a blast the last time we had gone sailing.  I was a little worried that Darryl and Jeff would be sick of seeing me since I had dragged them out from morning to well past night just a few days before for my birthday, but they were just as excited to see us and our boat again as we were to see them.  Without having the good sense to pull up to a dock to pick them up again we made 2 trips in the dink to get everyone aboard.  The day was already becoming quite hot and we were all ready to get our sun and drink on.  Even in late August the nice days become more rare and I think we all wanted at least one more weekend with the heat of the sun on our skin.  The weather report for the day had me depending on winds not over 10 knots, but once out on the big lake they were blowing at a steady 15.  Since everyone seemed to be enjoying our swift ride of 6 knots of speed versus having the heat of the day on their skin, I sat back with my glass of boxed wine and enjoyed the company.

After awhile the chilly breeze made everyone scramble to the little bit of sun shining on the port side.  Since we were on a tack that put our headsail directly in front of the sun creating 90% shade on the boat we decided to fall off a little and this would cover the whole starboard side in sun.  Darryl and I were sitting on the edge with our legs dangling over the side watching the water pass by.  Spending weekends on the lake I’ve seen tons of different things floating in the water from food wrappers and water bottles to balloons and magazines.  Staring into the distance I saw a while arch in the water, what looked like a swimming noodle just floating along.  Darryl spotted it as well and we pointed it out to Matt to see if he could make out what it was.  Now that all of our curiosities were piqued we changed our course again to get a closer look.

Once we came upon it within a few hundred feet it was unmistakable that the white arch was the side of an overturned boat.  A silence fell across Serendipity as we had all realized what we had just seen.  Everyone started scanning the water around to see if there were any stranded people along with the boat in distress.  It wasn’t very large, about 12-14 feet long, and at this point we were about 8-10 miles from shore.  Not a good spot for an overturned boat to be.  My heart sank into my stomach for a moment when I saw what looked to be an orange life vest floating near the hull.  Luckily when we got a little closer I could tell it was a wooden centerboard to what we could now see was a sailing dinghy.  It was still a little nerve wrecking not knowing if there might be someone still adrift out there, or even worse, trapped underneath.  We realized right away that we needed to call the Coast Guard on vhf and inform them of the situation.  With never having hailed anyone besides the fuel dock we were at a bit of a loss as what to say as ‘Mayday’ seemed too extreme for the case.  We settled on ‘Muskegon Coast Guard’ (3 times followed by our boat name) and waited for a response.  What seemed like forever and was probably only 30 seconds we heard back and gave them a description of what we had found.  They asked a few questions such as an exact description of the dinghy and our location.  We had floated away from it a bit while hailing the CG and also didn’t have our GPS on to give an exact (or any) coordinates.  With a guess we replied that we were 5 miles West of the pier and would have to get back to the dinghy to get a better description of it.  While questioning us the CG asked if the overturned boat had a rainbow sail and a laundry detergent bottle attached to the mast.  Since they seemed to know something close to our description was out there it made me wonder if they had been informed of a missing person and had a description of their boat, or if someone reported their boat missing and we happened to come upon it.  After telling them it would take us about five minutes to get back to it they jotted down our phone number and said they would give us a call.  Bringing our sails down and throwing on the engine we motored back.  Coming up to it again I could see Bennett 1400 written across the hull and the sail was mostly white with a three colored rainbow across it but no laundry detergent bottle at the mast.  We still weren’t sure if this was the one the Coast Guard was looking for or if there were multiple boats lost the day before.

While waiting to get a call on our phone we heard some chatter on the VHF relating to us.  It was another boat in the area, Hot Fudge, asking the Coast Guard if assistance was needed.  They had heard our ‘distress’ call with our very approximate location and wanted to seek us out.  By this time I had been circling the dinghy for about 5 minutes with no word from the CG on what we should do, or if they were planning to do anything.  We hadn’t seen anyone in the water yet and were leaning toward the idea that it was abandoned.  Matt and Jared’s friend Andrew decided the the dinghy needed a closer inspection and were thinking if no one was going to call us on what to do with it, we’d just tow it back ourselves.  Just as they were getting their life jackets zipped up and tow lines ready our phone finally rang.  It was a gentleman from the Coast Guard asking if we had gotten back and could give a very detailed description if what we were seeing.  I have him the name and size of the boat along with any other distinguishing features.  They also asked for our location again, which by this time I could tell we were a bit more south than we had originally thought plus a few more miles out, and even though I had told Matt we should turn on the laptop to get coordinates it had not been done.  The CG told us to stay put while they met us out there, but would still not give us any more info on the missing dinghy.  However, Jared had been below and heard more chatter from Hot Fudge mentioning someone had to be rescued off a dinghy the day before in bad weather and US Tow had never located the abandoned boat.  It looked as if they were still also trying to locate us on the water as well.

Trolling in small circles around the dinghy we kept a lookout to see who would reach us first, Hot Fudge or the Coast Guard.  I was finally able to get Matt to turn on our GPS and we gave a call back to the CG with our exact coordinates.  Another 5 minutes later we saw a big white boat speeding toward us that we assumed was them.  A few of us that were getting a little bored by this point thought it might be fun to add some excitement to the afternoon by jumping overboard and having some beefy guys from the Coast Guard come to our rescue.  Maybe even get a helicopter out.  Matt had a good laugh at this but made us promise that no one would drop over.  Once they were on top of us and the dinghy we got another call on the cell and they told us this had been the boat they were looking for the other day, thanked us for our assistance and dismissed us.  Heading back to shore we were making jokes that a.) The Coast Guard was probably pissed that we found the boat that US Tow couldn’t and now they’d have to go through the trouble of bringing it back to shore and b.) Hot Fudge was probably upset they couldn’t get to the boat first and we were the ones to take all the credit (all kidding aside they sounded like very nice people that just wanted to lend a hand).

Once out of sight of the CG everyone’s drinks came back out and we got back to enjoying our Sunday.  The wind and waves were building a little bit and it was fun to watch one of our unexpecting  guests get sprayed with a rogue wave over the side (I know, I’m so cruel).  As we neared closer to shore we were treated to a nice show of kite surfers getting 15-20 ft of air.  Some even came within a few hundred feet of us so we could get a close-up view.

Finally making it into the channel the winds died down a little and things started to warm up.  Darryl was dead set on going swimming and since the water by our mooring can be a little murky at times we detoured and dropped anchor next to a set of sand dunes next to the channel to do some grilling and swimming.  Matt fired up the grill while I dug into Jared’s cooler for his sweet-tea vodka and and lemonade (a very good combination).  Matt cooked the brats to perfection this time and we were all so hungry that they were scarfed right down.

I asked Darryl if he was up for a swim to the dunes so we could climb up them and run back down.  I may be close to turning 30, but this is something I don’t think I could ever tire of.  Standing on the side of the deck there were three of us that were going to jump together but Matt decided I needed to be the first one in the water and gave me a early shove.  The water was a bit colder than I expected but I didn’t want to let out that scream of “Holy S*%t, this is freezing!!” for fear of scaring anyone else from getting in.  I told Darryl the water was great and he should join me right away.  He blindingly trusted me and him and Andrew were in the water a moment later.  Knowing from past experience that a swim to shore could take quite awhile I started my trip in while the boys stayed around the boat getting out and jumping back in.  When Matt realized I was serious about going in he started following me, and shortly behind him was Darryl.  We all made it to shore safely, although Jeff who started out when we were about 2/3 of the way there and worked too hard to catch up and was a little more than exhausted when we reached the dunes.  He stayed by the water while the three of us crawled our way to the top.  No one wanted to do any further exploring with me and there was a creepy guy watching us from the next dune over.  Racing to the bottom we all made it without falling all over ourselves and waded back into the water.  Jeff and Darryl decided to stay behind and we would up anchor and swing around to get them.  I was surprised I had enough energy to get back to the boat although I did learn that whenever I started doing the backstroke I’d turn myself around and start swimming back to shore.  I did make it to the boat eventually and we brought it close to shore to grab the boys.  The sun was starting it’s descent and everyone was getting into a comatose stage.  Bringing ourselves back to the mooring we packed it in and began to shuttle our guests back to shore.

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Easy A

 Sunday August 14, 2011

If everything had gone as planned today would have been a family day aboard Serendipity with Matt’s mom and step-dad, along with his younger brother and friend.  One look out the window though and I could tell it probably wasn’t going to happen.  They were expecting a warm sunny day with a light breeze, the perfect kind of lazy Sunday weather we’d been having all summer.  What we were faced with were clouds, 25 knot winds, and choppy waves.  Not the most relaxing of weather.  So we rescheduled for the following weekend while suiting up in our foul weather gear for today.  Neither of us really knew what to expect out there, but previous stormy days have taught us it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Motoring across the small space to the channel winds were a constant 25 with gusts up to 30.  We had no idea what Lake Michigan might have in store, but we were sure it would be the same to worse than the smaller lake.  Cruising down the channel everyone on land was in shorts and t-shirts and didn’t seem to be the least bit chilly.  Fishing boats and other smaller yachts were passing by in the same gear and the wind gauge had dropped down to a mere 9 knots.  Maybe we were wrong, maybe the sun was going to come out and it would have been a gorgeous day after all.  Of course we were wrong (or correct), once we were back out on open water the wind kicked up to over 20 knots.  Unfurling the headsail about 3/4 of the way we placed ourselves close hauled and set the autopilot.  Personally I don’t completely understand going out on days like this if you’re not racing.  We didn’t have a certain destination in mind or a certain time we needed to be anywhere.  We were in other words, going for a pleasure cruise in a small craft advisory.  Onboard Serendipity there was no finding the best point of sail, and no trimming sails to get the best speed.  It was ‘let’s set the sail, set the autopilot and relax while the sky grows darker and the waves build higher’.  Maybe Matt was just interested in finding out how the boat and autopilot handle conditions like this since there will be times when we’ll have to travel through it on our trip.  Or maybe he was going through sailing withdraw since we hadn’t been out in two weeks and figured as long as it was safe enough for the boat to stay afloat he wanted to be on it.  And since I love him I put up no complaints.  Plus it was a little exhilarating when the waves began to build to 5-6 feet (a decent size for Lake Michigan) and we’d rise up the crest and fall down the trough, almost like a roller coaster ride.  After awhile of watching ourselves go into the waves and appreciate how big they really appeared when in the trough, I rotated myself to face back and watch them roll out from under the stern.

Suddenly the wind changed direction by about 60 degrees to where we were now on a beam reach and the full force of the wind was hitting the sail full on and was enough to quickly heel us where we had a rail in the water.  Without any direction from Matt I quickly jumped up to disengage the autopilot and change our course, but in the practice of being safe that day I had attached the short part of the tether from my harness to be clipped on by the companionway and when I jumped up to run aft I was quickly yanked backwards.  Un-clipping myself I was able to get to the helm and put us back on a close hauled course, now heading almost directly East toward the shore.  Matt was busy adjusting the sails and soon we had ourselves back on a calm enough path.  I was actually kind of proud of myself for being able to act without direction, and was able to set my mind at ease a little bit about being on large bodies of open water in the future.  Although I’m still learning and not quite a certified sailor yet, I don’t think I’m stupid enough to kill both of us.

Since we had been on our original course for awhile and lunchtime was getting past us, I forced Matt to go below and heat us up some soup since these waves were more than I could handle if I were to try and cook.  Over our lunch we joked about how hard it’s going to be to do things on long journeys in less than  perfect weather.  I’m not going to want to cook, I’m not going to want to clean, I’m probably not even going to want to shower.  Every three days I might gather enough strength to dip a wash cloth in a bucket of water and wipe myself off while being thankful that Matt can’t leave his now less than desirable wife because he’d have nowhere to run.  All this talk of personal hygiene made me realize that I needed to use the restroom and was going to need to go below into the rocking cave to do so.  Making matters worse, I was still all strapped up in my foulies and access to dropping trou was not going to be easy.  I was lucky enough to have a drop seat in mine but could just see myself getting more and more nauseous while standing in the head trying to figure it out for the first time.  Solving this problem I did as much as I could in the cockpit and then scrambled downstairs to go and get back up as quick as possible.  I strongly suggest for you ladies to practice finding a way to go in foulies before you out in bad weather because it is not a simple task.  At least not the first time around.

Once we were getting close enough to shore that we could no longer go straight we turned to go back to the channel.  My non complaints from earlier were about to start rising up and both of us were starting to get exhausted while not enjoying our pleasure cruise as much anymore.  When we got to the point by the lighthouse where we turn on the engine and bring down the sails, there seemed to be a glitch of getting the headsail furled properly.  It would roll up about 2/3 of the way and then get stuck.  We would then have to unfurl it all the way in the heavy winds and try again.  After four attempts we were not making any progress and the decision was made that it would have to come off completely.  This was a two person job, so after setting the autopilot with the engine on and now cruising South along the coast I dashed below to grab some rope and made my way to the foredeck to assist Matt.  He was already lowering and unhanking  it at quite a quick pace and didn’t realize that part of it had slid off the side and was dragging in the water.  I rapidly pulled it back on deck before any damage could be done and sat on it while Matt wrestled to get the remainder down.  Once we had it completely unattached I tried  gathering it into a ball to bring back to the cockpit, but it was too big for me to carry in my arms so I gathered it in sections taking care not to let it catch on anything and rip and also making sure I didn’t trip over it and fall overboard.  Before long we had everything secured and were able to make our way back in.

The weather changed dramatically when we had attached ourselves to the mooring as in all wind practically died.  It was nice to have the calmness but it also meant that we were able to go to work right away attaching the headsail and raising it.  Again Matt thought it would be best if I worked the winch while he hanked.  Didn’t I just do this?  I didn’t argue this time because I was feeling macho and thought I could get it all the way up on my own.  Which I did.  Then Matt noticed we didn’t pull the line to furl it first which meant there was no way to roll it once we had it up.  So back down it went where the problem was fixed and it was raised again.  I was able to get it about 2/3 of the way up this time before I forced a switch in positions.  Sitting on the deck still in my foulies after we had everything squared away I was happy for the day we had.  It may not have been the lounge around soak up the sun kind of day that I normally prefer, but I was tested as a sailor and I passed.  It may not have been with flying colors but at that moment I knew I was on my way.

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Macaroni In the Buff

Sunday July 30, 2011

Late July in West Michigan and one event starts sending people from all over the state flocking to the coast.  This is the beginning of the Coast Guard Festival held in Grand Haven, MI.  If you happened upon last years post of our trip down the coast to this event you’ll remember that it did not go so well.  Either we’re gluttons for punishment or conditions were just much better this year because we decided to try again.  I have to say that this summer is turning out so much better than last year and we were blessed with yet another beautiful weekend with clear skies and 10 knots coming out of the northwest.  There was no need for layers of unnecessary clothing and I was able to enjoy the beginning of my the trip sprawled out in a bikini on the deck while reading from my Nook.  Maybe the universe was just tryingto make up for the fact that we were supposed to be leaving for our big journey the next day but instead are stuck in Michigan for another year.  I guess it figured it could help make that time easier for us by giving us gorgeous weekends,  reminding us that Michigan isn’t that bad of a place to be stuck.    And it’s working …….. for now.

After not even 20 minutes of sitting around, Matt being the ever productive person he is, suggested this would be a perfect opportunity to wash down the deck and get it all clean since it’s had almost two months of neglect now.  Normally I’d hate being pulled away from a perfectly relaxing day of doing nothing for manual labor, but I figured that 1. I did nothing to get the boat ready this year while we were on the hard (& in the water) and I really owe Matt  and 2. I was already warming up to the point where some cool lake water splashing on my feet was sounding really refreshing.  Since there was none of that green seagull poo on deck that doesn’t want to come off no matter how many different cleaners you try this was a really easy task today.  Spray, lightly scrub, rinse, done.  Mental note: washing the boat can be kind of fun while you’re moving along with the sun on your back and a fresh breeze on your face.  (Second note: Let Matt handle pulling buckets of water aboard while you’re moving because the drag is more than your little arms can handle)

Pretty soon we were back to lounging on deck.  I still had some of my boxed wine left from a few weeks ago to keep me refreshed and Harry Potter was yet again calling my name.  We were also now far enough away from Muskegon and not close enough to Grand Haven where there was no boat traffic around us which meant I was free to adjust my attire so I wouldn’t get any tan lines on my back or neck or chest.  While reapplying sunscreen to cover some new exposed skin Matt was below deck making us a gourmet lunch of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Simple and classic.  Enjoying this lunch on deck I’d have a few close calls where a power boat would sneak up behind us and I’d have to drop my bowl and grab my towel to keep from flashing these people, but otherwise it was a mostly uneventful sail.

Eventually we became close enough to Grand Haven where it was safer just to put my top back on and assume I had gotten enough sun to blend in those pesky white lines on my shoulder that I received over 4th of July weekend.  This opening weekend of the festival looked to be even busier than last year as we could see boats anchored along the coast for about a mile before we even reached the pier.  Deciding that if it were this busy out here we weren’t even going to try entering the channel.  We were hoping that with the tack we were currently on that we could glide by the channel by a few hundred meters to get a glimpse of what was going on in there and then turn around 180 degrees to start our jaunt home.  Good old Auto though, kept pointing our bow anywhere from directly at the breakers of the channel to open water and we had no idea if we’d actually clear or not.  Once the water depth starting dropping below 30 feet we choose just to do the extra work of tacking out further into open water to prevent a collision with the channel or other boats.

Even with our change in course we crossed in front of the opening with just enough clearance to keep from being in the way of other boats entering and exiting.  Something you want to take much care to do in this area because I think a lot of the power boaters are unaware of the rule where a boat under sail has right of way over a boat under power, no matter which direction it it heading.  Making sure to give ourselves lots of extra space while making our turn to head back I accidentally pointed us too close into the wind and we came to a standstill.  Well that wasn’t going to work.  Turning the wheel full to starboard I had to wait for the wind to fill our sails enough so we’d start spinning back around again and I could put us on a better course still out of irons the next time around.  Round 2, same results.  Spinning in circles again we must have looked like the young couple who chartered a boat for the weekend but had never taken sailing lessons before.  And directly in front of one of the most crowded beaches you had ever seen.  Judging the wind direction again it looked like we were going to have to point directly West for awhile to get enough distance from shore before heading in a more Northerly direction.  Finally making way again instead of just going in circles we went back to enjoying what Michigan had to offer and thinking that another year might not be so bad.  Ask us again while we’re sitting at our desks tomorrow though.

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