Rubbing is Racing

Wednesday August 21, 2013

rubbing is racing

Yes, I know I’ve basically been starting ever post for the past few days this way, but I was so excited to get back to Grand Rapids because that meant that I’d be able to attend a Wednesday JAM (jib and main) race at the Muskegon Yacht Club.  For those of you that have been following along for awhile, you might remember that early last summer I joined a racing league (is that what they call it?) to get myself even more comfortable on boats and gain some knowledge along the way.  One Wednesday night last May I showed up with nothing more than a request to join, and was randomly placed on a boat.  Which happened to be, the best boat ever.  Just because they were short on crew that night and didn’t mind taking on extra (and unexperienced) hands, I was allowed to join Team Island Dream, captained by Tom Spoelman.  We came in third that night.

I kept coming back every Wednesday, and even though we may not have always been the fasted boat out there, in fact there was one time we got the DFL (dead f#@king last) award, but I think we definitely had the most fun out of everyone there.  Some people in the crew were rotating, only there a couple times out of the summer, and others showed up every week, for the fun, the adventure, or maybe just the Lime-a-Ritas afterward (this is where I got hooked!).  We had a great crew last year and it was highlight of my week, rushing out there after working and enjoying time on the water where, for once, I was not the one behind the wheel.  Being rail meat was just fine by me and gave me a chance to watch knowledgeable people in action, picking up on their movements and asking questions without a look of ‘We’ve been sailing for three years, how do you not know this yet?’.

Not having to rush my way out to Muskegon this time since there was no time clock dictating my departure, I strolled into the marina with plenty of time on my hands before our six o’clock push off from the docks.  I saw Tom and his wife Denise getting Island Dream prepped, and ran down to greet them, noticing that Tom was donned in his boat swag, just as I was.  There were big hugs around, and as we sat there chatting for a minute, I was also able to meet one of Muskegon Yacht Club’s past commodore, Dave Ellens, who Tom turned on to the blog and has been following mine and Matt’s misadventures.

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Catching up with Denise and Tom.

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Meeting past MYC Commodore, Dave Ellens.

(Above photos courtesy of Team Island Dream)

 

The rest of the crew wasn’t far behind, and all but one were regular faces.  I had Shannon to sit rail meat with me, Michael to work the spinnaker, Mark and Pete on the main, and John as our tactician.  Before I knew it, we were swinging off the dock, with only one crew member left behind holding dock lines that we needed to swing back and pick up again.  Once on the lake the sails were hoisted, and the light breeze that was blowing through at the dock was now strong and powerful out on the water.  We weren’t in the first division to start that night, but I did have fun watching all of the ones that were, cross paths with each other while they tried to keep a spot close to the starting line, cutting in back and forth and sometimes missing each other by just a few feet.  I don’t know why, call me psychotic, but watching the close calls have always been my favorite part of the race.  I know that no one is going to crash (hopefully), but I always get a kick out of how far these well trained but sometimes cocky captains will go to keep their spot.  (Yes, I would probably be one of them)

Bad Dog Muskegon Yacht Club

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 When it was our turn to start we didn’t even hear the horn go off, and it was a little bit of a mad scramble trying to get ourselves where we wanted to be.  We must have been doing something right though, or at least the downwind part of the course is much shorter than I remember, because as we came up to the first buoy we joined in the funnel of boats trying to round it at the same time.  If I thought I was seeing some close calls before, that was nothing.  There were boats literally bumping off each other, and I think I may have seen a boat hook broken out to push away.  Our rounding wasn’t quite that close, but we were still surrounded by boats on each side.

I can’t remember many more specifics about the remainder of the race, I think I was high on the feeling of being back out there, enjoying sailing in a way that you just don’t get while cruising.  I know that each time we’d tack, I’d slide under the boom to take my place on the new high side.  No small feat while you have an expensive camera in your hand that you’re trying not to damage, mind you.  I also know there were plenty of chances I was able to hike myself out on the side, dangling my legs over the edge as splashes of water would occasionally toss up beside me.  I remember that the trickling sun set the head sail ablaze in bright golds and oranges.  I remember grasping that it already hurt inside to know I wouldn’t be out there again.

You know, all the important aspects of racing that one usually tends to go through.  Luckily, since I can’t remember enough to put a thousand words down recounting our whole sail on the water, I can at least photo bomb you with the many photos I took throughout the race.

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We may not have finished in the top three that night, but we also didn’t come in DFL either.  In no rush to get back to the dock right away we celebrated our finish with cold beers, and yes, a Lime-a-Rita, before docking the boat and bringing the party into the Yacht Club.

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 (Above photo courtesy of Team Island Dream)

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It’s funny to look back at what the past year has done for me, and put certain things into perspective.  I remember all those times we sat at dock after a race last year where I’d count down the weeks until leaving Muskegon for the last time, excited to get out of a small lake and into vast oceans.  Who knew that after wishing for so long to get away, I’d be counting down the weeks until I could return again.

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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?

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Hello, Goodbye

Sunday June 24, 2012

Since we’re getting down to the wire for leaving and extra money always helps I spent one of my few remaining Saturday afternoons in the office putting in some overtime (or my normal hourly rate I should say since I had a vacation day this week) to help our kitty up as much as possible.  It was only a half day but still put me out late enough that I was rushing around the house to pack up for the night as I had done none of it in the morning.  I still managed to get everything ready and by the door so that when Matt came in it was only a few minutes before we were on the road.  Loading the dinghy up with what felt like a million things we exited the channel out into Muskegon Lake, scanning the mooring balls near the edge to make sure Serendipity was still there and hand’t dragged away overnight.  Torresen’s had emailed us a new ball to try but we didn’t want to go through the hassle of moving again until the next day.  Looking past all the other boats in the way we saw Serendip secure where we left her.  After getting everything moved from the dinghy to the boat it didn’t take us long to decide that we wanted a change of scenery  and would much rather anchor out somewhere.  I thought it might be fun to make the 10 mile journey north to White Lake but it was already evening and the travel time probably would have put us there after dark.  Debating between the dunes again or the breakers the dunes won out.  While I was making a quick run to shore for Matt’s sunglasses, the first time taking the dinghy out by myself if you can believe it, he was busy attaching our fifty-five pound anchor to make sure we would not be moving at all that night.

When I returned he already had the engine running so I cleated the dinghy by the stern and grabbed the wheel as he released us from the mooring.  Making the short trip to the dunes there were three other sailboats anchored out and since I didn’t know if they were staying the night I wanted to be as far away from them as possible to prevent any could-be collisions during the night.  This left us with a spot in view of the neighboring campground which I wasn’t happy about as I could just imagine all the noise that would be coming from there all night.  It was quiet and peaceful as we pulled up though and once again we anchored without any issue.  I was already getting hungry and ready to dig in to the ribeyes I had brought out for the night.  Since I was the only hungry one on board dinner had to wait and I pulled out one of the Land Sharks Jackie had left me instead.  Getting it comfy in it’s beer coozy I placed it on the drink holder near the wheel while I spread out my sport-a-seat in the cockpit.  Going back to grab my beer I noticed how the yellow can was a nice contrast to the wheel and the dunes behind it and thought Jackie would like a picture, a little thank you to show her how much I’m enjoying her gift.  Stepping below deck I grabbed my camera and when I opened it up there was nothing.  The battery was dead.  How did I not notice that the night before when I was uploading my awesome double rainbow photos?  I could have used Matt’s phone but it was busy pumping out the Adele station on Pandora through our speakers.  Sorry Jackie, your photo will have to wait.  For a little while we sat in the calm water enjoying the music and the feel of swaying iwth the wind once more.  Not that I wasn’t enjoying the relaxation but it only took me 20 minutes to start looking for something to do.  I think all the constant work on her has made me forget how to stop and be still.  I wasn’t looking to jump into a project so I suggested we play one of the multiple travel games we received at Christmas from Matt’s mom. On board was Bananagrams, Battleship and Cranium among others.  Matt chose Battleship right away which I knew he would.

Setting the game up on the cockpit table we each hid our ships on the miniature pegs and started guessing.  My first question of ‘D7′ led to a hit and it didn’t take long to take down his destroyer.  I had even sunk his patrol boat and submarine before he had a hit on me.  It didn’t even take fifteen minutes for me to win the game.  I was ready for another round but all of a sudden he became hungry and just couldn’t challenge me again until he had something in his stomach.  Quite ready for dinner myself I put up no argument and went to grab the steaks from the fridge while he started the grill.  Assuming he had adjusted to a low heat I tossed his ribeye right on, not to come back and check on it for almost ten minutes when I was ready to let mine start cooking.  Well apparently the heat was on high and his was almost already well done.  Laying mine down next to it I let it sit there for a mere five minutes before I pulled them both off and rang the dinner bell.  It actually couldn’t have worked out better because Matt finally had a well done steak while mine was cooked on the outside it was nice and red on the inside.  Joining my delicious steak was a side of sweet corn and a bottle of Ace Pear Cider that I smuggled back from Arizona because they don’t sell it in Grand Rapids (unless specially ordered through one vendor).  It was a perfect meal to finally start the season with.  It’s the same thing we had when launching the boat last year, with the exception of boxed wine instead of beer, and I was looking for an excuse to get to my favorite butcher before we left.  Even though it was only a second year tradition it made me a little sad we wouldn’t be able to do it next year.  Just as we’re starting the season we’ll have to say goodbye to all the things that used to make up our summers.  Trips up to Pentwater or down to Grand Haven.  Bringing family and friends out at our leisure and visiting all our favorite little spots.  I guess I thought that by leaving at the end of July we’d still have most of the summer to do these things but because of getting in the water three weeks after anticipated and still having so much more to do before we leaving including lots of land based family get-togethers we’ll probably have two Sundays to take friends out and the rest will be prepping to leave.  Kind of sad, but I know we have an amazing adventure ahead.  And maybe this will force friends to come visit us en route.

Cleaning up all the dishes after we finished eating I was able to enjoy the seawater pump Matt installed to the galley sink over the winter.  Now instead of trying to conserve the fresh water in our tanks while scrubbing the dishes I could get all the gross gunky stuff off with lake water and only use fresh water to rinse after they were all soaped up.  Makes life so much easier.  After that was taken care of I went back out to the cockpit where we both relaxed in the overcast yet warm weather.  It was a great lazy evening with nothing to do and nowhere to be, something we haven’t had in quiet awhile.  When things started cooling down a little I went below to change into sweats and also came back up with my laptop to get some writing done.  Definitely the best place I’ve been able to do it so far, with the dunes in front of me, Land Shark in hand, and lazy summer melodies playing through the speaker.  I was getting a decent amount done until dusk came upon us and the Mayflies started coming out.  At first it was just one or two flying in front of your face, you’d shoo them away, no big deal.  As it became darker my bright monitor was calling out and a few of them would land on there.  I’d shoo them away again but by the time I caught one near the corner of the screen it had it’s wings all tucked in and looked like it was about to nap so I let it stay.  Just a moment later it looked as if it was giving birth so I called Matt over to look.  As we peered on and watched something continue to slide out we realized it was not giving birth but was in fact molting.  It shouldn’t be a big deal but neither of us had seen this before and watched on with amazement.  When the fly was done shedding it’s skin it flew off leaving it’s shell on my monitor.  Apparently this was the go-ahead for all the other Mayflies in the area and soon one by one they would molt on my laptop and fly off.  I thought it was cool for about five more times after the first one but when they started coming in heavily I was ready to yell at them to stop disposing of their bodies on my screen.  Just as I was getting fed up and ready to head below drops of water began falling down from the sky and we were forced below anyway where we noticed it was definitely late enough to crawl in bed.

The overcast sky the next morning had kept the sun from blinding us through the hatch and allowing us to sleep in.  Following the tradition for first weekend on the water I turned on the stove and started to make pancakes and bacon for breakfast.  I finally remembered non stick spray for the skillet and even though I’m getting better at positioning and rotating the food so it’s evenly cooked we really need a new skillet before we leave.  Doing dishes again after we’d eaten I could see that Matt had disappeared above deck and through the hatch I saw him attaching himself to the mast with ropes.  I knew we’d be working on getting the new radar installed that day but I thought I would be raising him through a harness like we did last year while removing the old one.  Setting the remaining dishes down I joined him on deck to see what he was doing without me and found out that even though I had brought him up and down just fine before he would rather put his life in his own hands and use climbing ascenders to get himself up and down instead.  I felt like I should at least be out there spotting him as he made his ascent, although what would I really be able to do if he fell?, run below him and act as a mattress?  (that was a joke for all you who probably thought I was serious).  He did instead, put me in control of his back-up halyard and to tighten the slack on it as he went up.  Getting to the spreaders and securing himself off he raised the bag containing the new radar and tools.

Since my job was done for the moment I laid back in the cockpit and gazed at him in the sky as he worked and bobbed from side to side from the wakes of the fishing boats passing us by.  The relaxing didn’t last too long as I had to read out instructions on the manual and once he attached the new wires up top I had to try and pull it through to the bottom of the mast.  Running a new wire in an area already cramped with other wires is not an easy task and we had even gone to Home Depot the night before for wire lube but figured the 16 oz bottle was more than we needed for this one task.  Going below deck I started to yank on the wire the new one had been attached to but it wouldn’t move.  Trying to loosen it up a little Matt pulled it back on his end and told me to give it another shot.  Yanking it down only as much as he had pulled it back again I got to a point where it would not move.  Huffing and puffing I yanked and pulled until I was red in the face and completely out of breath.  Trying different angles I crawled into the space between the mast/table and settee but still with no results.  Discouraged,  I had to go break the news to Matt the he’d have to come down and help me.  He didn’t seem surprised at all and I think he knew all along this would happen.  Making a less than graceful descent (maybe somtimes it is easier to go up than down?) he came below deck and mimicked all the moves I had just done with the same results of nuthin’.  Getting innovative he held the wire in one hand and pushed down on the center with his foot with all his might.  This did get the wire moving, but only because it detached from the new one we were trying to bring down.  Back up the mast he goes.

Getting positioned one more time he attached it to a new wire and had it attached much more securely this time.  When I was instructed to pull it  began to move a few inches at a time which was fine by me.  When it was getting closer to coming out the bottom it would get stuck and I’d have to employ the foot trick to get it moving again.  Finally it was out and Matt could come back down.

The rest of the afternoon was mostly work free.  About an hour was spent playing with the bimini.  We’ll be mounting two of our solar panels on top of it and have to do a little refitting as the fabric was having issues lying flat with the new reinforced bars so now we’ll have to do two sets of bars, one for fabric only and one for panals only.  After doing a few measurements and making a few marks we set it all aside to do some people watching of all the other boats now anchoring near us.  Since the sun decided to make a full appearance everyone was flocking to the beach, powerboaters and sailboaters alike.  The powerboaters are good about staying really close to shore but since the sailboats have to anchor in the 30 ft water (it goes from 30ft to 5 ft, nothing in between) we all have to let out a lot of scope and then make sure to stay clear so we don’t swing into each other.  Everyone had been smart about not anchoring too close to another boat, but then we watched this guy come in super close to the boat next to us on their other side.  We were thinking this guy either knew the person he was right on top of or was a complete dick.  After watching for twenty more minutes where both boat owners were in the water cleaning their hulls they swam up to eachother and began talking so it appeared that they actually did know each other.

Since we still had to go back to the mooring field and find the new mooring they had given us and attach ourselves to it I suggested we head back before it got any more crowded and someone anchored on top of us.  Not even 60 seconds after I said this a boat came cruising up on our side and began to drop anchor almost exactly where we were expecting ours was sitting.  We didn’t want to try leaving with him there and cause more issues if our anchors were now tangled so we did the passive aggressive stare-down from our deck until he shortly got the hint and upped his anchor to move to another spot.  Once we knew we could get ours up without issue we went to work before anyone else could come in.  I steered the boat while we went back and forth between forward and neutral until the anchor came out of the water all covered in mud and sand.  I pointed us toward the marina while Matt scrubbed the anchor to keep our boat from becoming even more of a mess than we’ve let her get to right now.

After the mishap of two moorings so far this year already being taken by other boats we had been emailed a new spot that should hold our weight since the pretty little spot we had picked for ourselves was meant to hold a boat 90% lighter than ours.  Our ‘new’ new spot was supposed to be near the one they tried to put us at Friday so we didn’t have any problem locating it.  Once we came up on it though there was the small issue of being right on top of two other moorings with boats on them.  Since we didn’t want our 15,000 lb hull swinging around and smashing into any other nearby boats we wanted a ball with lots and lots of swing room.  It was so tight that we felt better taking our chances on the ball meant to hold a 1,500 lb boat and went back there to hook back onto until they could find a new location for us or move the ball they were trying to assign to us.  As long as there were no storms with strong winds coming we felt comfortable our choice mooring ball wouldn’t drag and even if it did a little bit there was plenty of swing room for us.  Back to the drawing board, but hopefully Serendipity can find a home before it’s time to leave this harbor for good.

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Candy Coated Raindrops

Friday June 22, 2012

When Matt and I woke up this morning on his 30th birthday we walked out of our bedroom and expected to see the whole living room and kitchen decorated with balloons, streamers and signs, just as his mom had done the previous year for his 29th birthday. She must have listened to pleads of ‘I don’t celebrate birthdays, please don’t do anything’ because the area was not adorned with a single balloon. We went through our morning routine getting ready to go to the boat so it was pretty quick with just pulling on a t-shirt and shorts over a swimsuit. Going into the bathroom to brush my teeth I saw there was a note on the counter wishing Matt a happy birthday and that his card was in the bathroom downstairs. I could already tell where this was going, but he was busy sitting on the floor of the living room making sure we had all the necessary componets to bring out the radar and get it installed over the weekend. I mentioned his birthday card was downstairs and he should go get it. Following him down the steps we walked into the basement bathroom to see that there were signs, streamers and about 30 balloons taped all over the small space as well as a card with gift enclosed. He had a good laugh and I personally think he would have been a little disappointed had he not gotten one streamer on his birthday. Walking back upstairs I had my birthday gift waiting for him on the counter and made him open it. Wrapped in Christmas paper (I wrapped it the night before and it was the first thing I came across) were a pair of Sperry Topsider loafers.  Something for him to wear on the trip besides sneakers and sandals since those aren’t his thing anyway.  There was a period of a few years where he wore a pair of Banana Republic loafers to do everything from hiking to mowing the lawn.  I think he was very appreciative of the gift since it’s nothing he would splurge on for himself.

 Packing up the car we headed out to the boat with a quick stop at West Marine to exchange for a smaller pair of shoes (apparently they run large) and food. Before going to the marina we pulled into the offices to see if they had the situation figured out yet of what mooring we would be at. The woman who had been working with Matt on the issue was not in the office at the moment but we were told she would call or email when she got in. When we pulled into the marina the sun was bright in the sky and winds were also gusting at a decent speed. Lugging the big box containing the radar we went over to the slip that had our boat and loaded everything below deck. Neither of us wanted to sit at the slip for very long as we always feel crowded and on display.  After the crew around the docks had gone to lunch and we were sure they wouldn’t see our attempt at a departure the engine was turned on and we began to undo the docklines.  Matt was behind the wheel backing us out and I was at the bow keeping one line around a cleat until we were clear of the docks.  Backing into the area that boats are normally launched into we cleared everything with no problem and were soon making our way into open water.  I did find out though that Matt had actually turned us in the opposite direction that he was originally trying for, it just happened that everything still worked out.  Good thing there will not be a lot of marina’s in our future or if there are hopefully we get a lot more practice moving around in small spaces first.  Once in the lake we didn’t even want to bother checking out the new mooring the marina was trying to put us at but headed straight towards the dunes instead.  Forecasts had been showing for some isolated storms to come through that day but the skies were looking clear.  When we did cross infront of the channel and were able to look out to the big lake there did appear to be some large puffy clouds covered in a pink haze far out on the horizon.  I’m guessing that was the storm that was coming our way but it still looked pretty far off.  Pulling into a spot between two powerboats enjoying the early afternoon we had our new anchor set up and ready to drop.  Matt stood up at the bow with the remote for the windlass  and I followed directions from behind the wheel of neutral and reverse.  The anchor dug into place very easily which was nice because for some reason in my head I remembered anchorings being a stressfull situation.  Maybe racing has just got me much more comfortable of what a boat can do before you’re in real danger.  Plus this time we were not surrounded by the jagged rocks of the breakers and that helps ease one’s mind.

Set in a stationary spot we didn’t feel like doing any real work and I wanted to get a better glace at what looked to be the storm clouds coming in.  Since we had the dinghy towing behind us we jumped in and motored to shore.  Trying to walk up the steep initial dune I didn’t plan on going very fast since lack of treadmill time this summer has left me a little out of shape but as soon as my bare feet hit the burning sand both of us were sprinting up to try and find a spot of shade at the top.  Peering over the dunes to Lake Michigan the clouds were not looming any closer than they had been almost an hour ago when viewing them from the channel.  Practicing my weather forecasting capabilities I predicted they would reach us in four to five hours.  Walking/sprinting up one more dune we found a nice spot in the shade and sat down to relax.  With no cooler and not much shade around us we only relaxed for a few minutes before getting restless and heading back to the dinghy on shore.  Dashing down the sand at top speed we both went right for the water to cool the burning soles of our feet where we spent a little time on a beached log before stepping back in the dinghy and reboarding Serendip.

With the storms still a few hours off and being protected from the wind we pulled the large bag containing the mail sail up on deck so we could attach it to the mast/boom and clear out a little space from the saloon.  Plus sails are good to have for, you know, sailing.  Having watched this multiple times now on Island Dream before every race I felt confident that I knew what I was doing.  Bringing the tack (forward part) of the sail up by the mast I put Matt on winching duties and asked if he was ready for me to start hanking the foot of the sail into the boom.  He replied that no, the head of the sail goes up first and then the foot is attached.  Confused as I was sure I had just watched this multiple times I explained my logic to him but was still denied.  Figuring that Mr. OCD was still more versed in everything sailing than I was I let it go and attach the halyard to the head of the sail and told him to start winching.  It hadn’t even gone ten feet up when he stopped and goes, ‘Wait…no, the foot of the sail does need to go on first’.  Mmmm hmmm.  So the toggles were slid through the boom and it was finally ready to go up the mast.  Other than a small issue of where I had inserted the toggles upsidedown where the battons were (sorry for all the nautical lingo for you non sailors) where the sail had to be lowered and then raised again the process was done pretty quickly and we were putting the sail cover on.  Yes.. one more lump of fabric out of the way.  Celebrating the small victory I sat with some crackers and a pop in the cockpit.  When Matt came back up after changing into his swimsuit I wanted to get my very rare ‘I told you so’ in so I looked at him and asked ‘So how’s that logic of yours working out?’.  Straight faced he looked right back at me and replied ‘How’s that piece of food in your teeth working out?’  Touche.

Because of all the labor that’s been poured into the boat for the past, oh 8 months?, neither of us were in a work oriented state that day and raising the main was enough to call it break time.  I had finally remembered to take the hammock we had purchased years ago for camping out of my car and bring it on the boat.  Wanting to see how it would work out Matt started pulling out yards of line to attach it to the mast and the forestay.  The first attempt left his butt repeatedly bumping into the hatch as he swung back and forth.  The second attempt gave about three inches of clearance but left a little squeak.. squeak.. squeak of the furling as he swayed in the breeze.  Knowing that adding a second person would take away any of the extra space between the hammock and the boat I decided to go for a swim instead.  Teetering over the side of the deck it took a lot of preparation to get ready for my first plunge of the year as it was not incessantly hot and I didn’t have Matt to push me in before I was ready.  After a few false starts I forced myself to take the leap before my mind caught up with my impulse.  The water was refreshingly cool and took a few moments to get use to.  Since we had rushed out of the house in the morning and I didn’t get a chance to clean up I used the opportunity to wash my hair (with eco friendly products), lathering up on deck and jumping back in to rinse.  When I was all clean I let my body just float around with the breezes for a few minutes before getting chilly and climbing back on board to nestle under my towel.  Trading places I took over the hammock while Matt sampled the water.  I don’t know if he was having the same issues I was in the hammock but the wind started forcefully swinging me back and forth at more than the rocking pace I was expecting and that coupled with the vertigo from floating in the water quickly sent me below deck to lie down before I could become even more sick than I was starting to feel.

The black sheep in the cloud family

Matt tackled a few more projects while I napped and only woke me for a few minutes to listen to a song by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s playing on Pandora that I had been longing to hear.  Getting another hour of sleep in I woke up still a little groggy and went to the cockpit with a Pepsi to wake up a little more.  Just beginning to stretching out over the dunes were the clouds I had my eyes on earlier in the day.  At first they came over thin and wispy but soon became thicker and darker.  Right on time at just after four hours from I watched them from the top of the dunes.  Realizing we still needed to attach our equipment to whichever new mooring they assigned to us and it would not be fun to do with a storm rolling through we upped the anchor and crossed the lake to the mooring field in search of our new home, number 103.  Not ever paying attention to mooring numbers before except our old one of 35 we didn’t know what side to start on and ended up on the opposite end at 1A.  Strolling past the 20′s, 30′s and 40′s  we stopped even searching and just headed for the very end.  Swinging around from the outside and entering the field our eyes were peeled for numbers that might point out how close to 103 we were.  This area did not seem to follow any order as 99 and 108 were right next to each other.  Looking at all the vacant balls we could not find 103 anywhere.  Then we got smart and started searching ones with boats attached to them and sure enough 103 was already comfortably housing someone.  Knowing the offices were already closed for the night we left a quick voicemail for them to call us as soon as possible but knew we’d just have to pick a random spot for the night.  One of the issues with this is each  mooring ball is weighted down with different items and we needed to make sure we were on one strong enough to hold our 15,000 or so pounds.  Turning back to go to the area we had always been in the past we’d look at open areas and try to remember what size boats had been there or areas that would give us a lot of swing room in case we did end up at one too small for us.  Deliberating between two or three balls we finally landed on one that was closest to the open water of the lake and afforded the most swing room.  Matt boarded the dinghy will all the equipment and I circled around with Serendip until he finished and called me over.  I may have barreled into the spot a little too quickly but soon we were attached and safe enough for the night.

Checking the forecast though, that incoming storm was really closing in and we didn’t want to leave until we knew Serendipity would be safe for the night.  Since we were going to pick up fried chicken on the way home we opted instead to grab it before the storm came and bring it to the boat to eat.  Driving the 4-5 miles from the marina we pulled in to Lee’s Chicken which has amazing chicken and for so cheap.  I was really craving coleslaw and a biscuit so I ended up ordering a meal that came with three pieces of chicken and two sides plus a drink for under $6.  I don’t know why we don’t come here more often.  Getting our meals back to the boat we sat out and ate as a few boats from the yacht club started to pull out into the lake.  Most of them I recognized from Wednesday races and thought maybe there was a race being held that night.  Only around five in total were headed out so my guess was they were just getting practice in or Friday races were not popular at all.  Just after we finished eating I could see a haze on the other side of the lake near the dunes and it looked like the rain was finally coming.  Hanging out down below we let it pass over us.  The storm was quick and not very strong at all.  Once it was apparent the storm was gone I stuck my head out the companionway to see if the racers had come in but instead was treated to the sun poking out of the clouds and a brilliant full spectrum rainbow shining over the water.  I had never seen anything like it before, it was actually so bright that it made my eyes hurt.  Grabbing the camera and calling to Matt that he had to come see this we both stood in the cockpit taking it in.  We could make out the full rainbow from end to end in electric colors that also included blue, indigo and violet.  The lines between the colors were clear and concise and it looked like something that had painted onto the sky instead of nature made.  Neither of us could take our eyes away and continued to stare for ten more minutes until the colors slowly started to blend together.

Staying for just a little longer there was no dragging of the mooring and we felt confident that when we came back the next night our boat would still be there waiting for us.  Even though Matt does’t ‘celebrate’ birthdays I think he got a good one in.  Boats, fried chicken and rainbows sound like an ideal day to me.  Maybe I was trying to celebrate my birthday a few months early?  After all, mine will likely be spent in the Erie canal in a one stop light town.  Could be really fun or could be dismal.  We shall see. In any case I feel I have taken over enough of Matt’s to last until mine.  Did I mention we get to go home to pineapple upsidedown cake?

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Survival of the Solstice

Wednesday June 20, 2012

This was a really exciting week for me to get out racing again, not only because I had missed last week but because one of our blog followers who lives close to the Grand Rapids area was going to come join me.  Jackie was one of the first people to like our Facebook page when I started it this winter and introduced herself stating that she and her husband were looking to go cruising in a few years as well.  We did a lot of corresponding through Facebook and comments on the website, and when she mentioned that racing might be a good thing for her to get into as well I told her she needed to come join me some night.  So after months of talking online we planned to meet up at a McDonalds on the way to Muskegon where we would carpool to the marina and she could finally experience all the fun that I kept bragging about.  When I walked into the restaurant she wasn’t hard to spot (partially because she was the only one in there) and immediately we started talking like we were long time friends just picking back up where we last dropped off.  After ordering a yummy iced coffee, just got hooked on those after visiting AZ, we loaded my car up with the beer she brought and made our way out to Muskegon without having to fight any traffic this time.  Along the way we discussed my trip, her trip, and all the different blogs we follow which turned out to be the exact same ones.  We also found out we listen to the same morning radio station and have a lot of the same interests.  It’s like we were twins separated at birth and finally got to meet for the first time.

Since we were making such good time on the ride there, when I pulled the car into Torresen’s I brought it back to the slip they had put Serendipity in while trying to find a new mooring for us.  We got out for a second to look around and while we didn’t go on deck or below I promised Jackie that I’d have to have her and her husband out sometime for a ride before Matt and I left the next month.  Looking over at the yacht club and realizing we should probably get over there I parked the car and we grabbed our stuff and walked the quarter mile down the road to MYC.  Walking down the dock to Island Dream I had Tom and Shannon waiving at me from on deck as usual and Mike and John were busy moving around getting all of the lines run.  After stepping aboard and introducing Jackie, the first words out of Tom’s mouth were ‘Would you be ok with not racing tonight?’.  Hmmmm…..the one time I bring out a friend specifically for the racing experience and we might not go.  I didn’t know if he meant that we’d just be sitting at the dock all night, but he explained that the winds were pretty high and we were short crewed and maybe a pleasure cruise on Lake Michigan would be better for us that night.  He also hinted that this would give me the opportunity to take the helm or handle some lines since we’d just be out for fun and not keeping a specific course.  I looked at Jackie and we both shook our heads ok.  Besides, it was the official first day of summer and we had two coolers packed with beer.  It was after we agreed to this that we found out the crew was split with half wanting to pleasure cruise and half wanting to race.  Part of me was still hoping that we would race just because winds were so high that it would be really exciting, and I could also show Jackie what a race was like.  While her and I stood on deck trying to stay out of Mike’s way while he still ran lines the census from Tom came back that we would actually be racing that night.  Until a shackel broke which meant we weren’t, and then it was fixed so we were back on again.

I hontestly had no clue what was happening with the on again off again race and it wasn’t until John and Mike were busy uncleating us from the dock that I had any clue on if we were even going to leave or not. Jackie and I sat up on deck with Shannon for a minute until Tom said that because of the high winds and the small crew that he wanted everyone back in the cockpit. We all made our way back and found seats spreading from one side to the other. Many of the other boats were already on the water with their sails raised and would dash back and forth from one end of the lake to the other. Heading out to where the course started we were downwind so the wind coming from behind us didn’t feel too strong but when we turned on a beam reach once we had reached the area of the start the winds were hitting us right on and it felt like they had picked up 20 miles an hour. Mike had the spinnaker all set to run while we were at the dock but with the whitecaps rolling over the water it didn’t look like we’d be using it that night. Turning ourselves into the wind the mainsail was raised and while most of us on board (myself included) were wanting to get the headsail unfurled Tom thought that conditions were too strong to let any of it out, but after Mike and John worked on him a little he agreed to let it out about 1/3 of the way.

Passing by the Torresen’s boat we found our division would be starting first and Shannon was ready with her stopwatch when the first horn blew with our five minute warning. With John being our tactician that night he would tell Tom when to tack and where we wanted to be  per the countdown and it somehow worked out that when the horn blew for the start of our division we were the first ones out of the gate, so to speak. There were no close calls of anyone hitting us that night but I pointed for Jackie to turn around and we watched all the other boats in our division fight for spots and come very close to knocking into eachother. Because many of them were sailing with a main and a head it didnt take too long for others to start passing us by. Without any work assigned on the lines Jackie and I sat aft with Tom near the helm and I would point out to her the things I actually did know were happening. Like when two minutes after the starting horn about three boats that were on our course tacked off into a completely different direction and that the first marker we were headed toward was probably close to a straight line forward from our starting spot and that while we’d all eventually have to tack that direction anyway these boats were doing it early because they most likely didn’t start on a good course or figured they could get better speed going in a different direction. I wasn’t sure if it was right but it sounded smart and I’m pretty sure I actually did impress her as one by one all the boats on our course ultimately changed to that direction as well. Maybe I could even be tactician next time. Although I’m sure all my directions would be ‘Oh, everyone else is tacking? Ok, we should probably tack too.’.

The gusts of wind were blowing on us hard as we made our way upwind and we were probably heeling near 25% most of the time. I looked back at Jackie to make sure she was doing alright and found that Tom had given her a job as photographer. This worked out very well as Tom loved to get action photos of the races but would always get yelled at by John for taking pictures while racing, and it also worked out for me because I left my phone down in my bag below deck and there were not any good moments to run down and go get it.  Finally decent photos of the race I can share from a real camera.  She was just sitting there with a smile on her face, taking pictures with one hand and hanging on for dear life with the other. When it was time to do tacks Mike, John and Shannon would work the lines while Jackie easily slid from one side of the stern to the other and I would try and find the best opening, doding between people and the wheel and usually slipping on some line along the way. Not my most graceful race ever but I always eventually made my way back over to the high side. As we neared the first marker a few of the division 1 boats that started after us had now passed us and were also rounding the mark and throwing up their spinnakers. I was very surprised to see them using their kites in winds that were gusting over 30 knots but I figured these guys were the pros and knew what they were doing. Shortly after we rounded the mark ourselves and didn’t have to do more than just tack we began to watch the destruction unfold of the boats ahead of us. One of the division 1 boats that had been flying their spinnaker had now broached and were having a hard time getting righted. They couldn’t turn themselves in a direction that would bring them upright again and their spinnaker was getting lost underwater. It was like a trainwreck where you couldn’t take your eyes away and of course Tom and I were shouting ‘Jackie, get the camera, get the camera!!’. Luckily these guys do still know what they’re doing at it was only a few moments before they were able to get their spinnaker back on board and were fully upright again.

 

Also on our downwind run we were treated to one of the smaller (but much faster) race boats, a Melges I think, with one of the crew memebers yelling and screaming about how the spinnaker was not raised properly. I think I learned three new curse words while listening to him. Have I mentioned how happy I am to be on a boat with Tom? As we sailed safely and slowily downwind there were a few more moments of other boats having out more sail then they couldhandle. Every strong gust of wind seemed to take at least one more boat down with it, usually just for a moment before they gained control and were back on their way. There was a point where we rounded the second marker to begin heading back up wind and just moments after we had passed it Mike was looking behind to a few division 1 boats that were about to round. I’m guessing they had gotten too close for comfort and one had to quickly veer way to avoid a collision. The boat that did veer must have also had an accidental jibe because as Mike described it, all the guys who were riding the high side were all of a sudden in the water because it very suddenly became the low side.  Probably a second or two later they popped back up and continued racing which fortunately meant that no one fell overboard.  It also didn’t take very long for these two division 1 boats to accelerate right past us as well as most of the other boats in the race.  By the time we had gone around the course once more and were now on our last upwind stretch toward the finish there was absolutely no one behind us.  I think a number of other boats had dropped out due to the strong winds or possible damage to sails, so it felt good just to know that we would finish at all.

While we still had almost half of the last leg to complete the only other boat racing now besides us had crossed the finsh and we wondered if the Torresen’s boat would even wait for us to cross as well before upping anchor and head back in.  I guess sometimes if the last boat is still a long way out they don’t always wait for it before packing it in.  As we tacked back and forth the last few hundred yards that little red boat was still waiting for us and when we passed between it and the marker we got our horn to signify we had completed.  There weren’t a whole lot of cheers on Island Dream but I think everyone was just tired and worn out.  Instead of heading back to the docks as usual we hugged the windward shore where winds weren’t blowing as hard and opened the cooler to enjoy a drink on the water before going back.  I tried to get Jackie to have an official end of the race drink, a Lime-A-Rita, but she said she wasn’t much of a tequila drinker and stuck with the Land Shark she brought although she did at least taste mine and said it was a lot better than she thought it would be.  Tom let me take over the helm and we cruised slowly past the mooring field that should have been housing Serendipity by this time and I didn’t get to show her off as I had wanted.  After performing a pretty nice tack we turned the other direction to mosey in the direction of the setting sun, enjoying that this was the longest day of the year.  I do love Michigan and the fact that the longest day of the year comes with a 9:30 sunset, keeping the sky bright until after 10.  I think that will be one of the things I miss most the further south we head.  Steering Island Dream closer to the yacht club Tom took back over the wheel for docking and parked us in a spot that was getting the last bit of sunlight before it fell behind the trees.  Everyone besides John was in no rush to get home and squeezed in the cockpit for more conversation and beer as Pete stood in the companionway to play bartender.  Tom’s wife Denise also joined us from where she had been watching the last of the race at the yacht club and pulled out the cheese and crackers she had packed for an after race snack.  Much more popular than the ultimate chocolate chip cookies I had brought which became slightly melted after sitting in my car for an afternoon in 90 degree heat.  I picked the cheese and crackers too.

So nice to finally meet Jackie in person!

When everyone finished their second (or first) round Tom announced it was time to take the boat back to the mooring and wanted to know who was coming with and who was staying behind.  Being a big tall guy, Mike backed down saying he didn’t want to overcrowd the dinghy and he’d wait for us at the yacht club.  Shannon and Pete stayed back with him which left me, Tom and Jackie to moor the boat.  Since I’m usually pretty handy with a boat hook having to use one myself all summer anyway I asked where it was so I could be ready at the bow to grab the mooring lines.  After I was told it was in the aft berth I searched through the cushions and sails but did not see the hook.  Being notorious for missing things right in front of my face I had Jackie look as well and when she came up empty handed I took over the wheel so Tom could look as well but with no luck.  He did come up with a hammer though and said he would just lay on deck while using the back to grab the lines.  For some reason I actually felt confident that I could bring us up to the mooring and perfectly slide in allowing Tom to grab the lines.  I knew enough to throw it in neutral early so we didn’t come barreling in at top speed but as we were slowly coming up on the dinghy and mooring ball I lost sight of them and ended up running over the lines instead of just pulling up next to them.  He was still able to grab the lines from the side before they went under the bow and since we came in slow enough we began to drift back a little where he could fully grab the lines and attach them to the cleats on deck.  I think from now on I’ll get my practice in with Matt and Serendipity to actually bring the boat up to the mooring instead of just grabbing the lines so I won’t have these kinds of issues again while driving someone else’s boat.

As Tom prepped the boat to close it up Jackie and I went about loading up the dinghy for the ride back to shore.  Finally and area her and I know how to do well!  I think Tom was actually surprised when he stepped back on deck to find everything neatly stowed away as I’m guessing most of the woman he’s gone sailing with always get on and off at docks and have never even stepped into a dinghy before.  Us two girls had no problem in one and also had no issue bringing up to shore and unloading it.  The big cooler was dropped off in Tom’s car and we wandered into the yard of the yacht club to find Shannon, Mike and Pete still waiting for us.  Since everyone was still in the mood to celebrate the solstice and the fact we were still alive we all headed inside where Tom treated us to MYC’s signature drink which includes rum and gin but I can’t remember what it’s called although I do know it was very tasty.  Jackie and I talked more about our identical interests and how eerily similar we were.  It was also fun playing with Tom trying to get him to believe that we really had only met 4 hours earlier.  There was of course talk about how Jackie would have to come out to race again, next time with her husband Ron in tow, while I would also try and get Matt to make it out for one race.

As the sun had long set by now everyone was starting to say their goodbyes it was mentioned that there would be a two week hiatus due to vacations and holidays.  Which means that I’ll only have two more opportunities to race since the last Wednesday before we push out for good will be just before the Chicago to Mac race which most of the racers will be participating in.  That doesn’t seem like nearly enough.  I’m still very sad and disappointed that I came into such a fun sport so late in my sailing career.  At least I know my ‘life’ on sailboats is just about to begin and that’s something to look forward to.  A lot.

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Another Lime-a-Rita for Another Job Well Done

Wednesday June 6, 2012

When I walked out the door at of work tonight around 4:30 it was very warm out but the sky was filled with lots of puffy clouds that the sun would poke in and out of, and off in the distance there were a few stormy clouds  you could see rain falling down from.  I was really hoping Muskegon was still clear (as the weather report said it should be) as this was the week I decided to trade in my water repellent jacket for just a regular fleece.  Making the drive west and getting stuck in so much traffic I kept watching the sky to see if those dark clouds matched up to where I was driving.  When the expressway ended into the main drags of Muskegon the direction of the waterfront looked clear although there was still one dark cloud passing overhead which dropped a little rain on me during my drive to the marina.  It quickly passed though and when I reached the road the marina was on it was all sun.  Knowing that I was already running late and all the parking spots near the marina were probably taken I just pulled into Torresen’s and left my car there while I ran down the street to Muskegon Yacht Club.  It was already ten to six and I knew the boat pulled out of the dock at six.  Hurrying down the platform I saw Island Dream was still there and Tom and Shannon were aboard waiving to me as usual.  When I stepped on I saw the familiar face of Mark who raced two weeks ago and then a few new faces once again.  Tom had brought his wife Denise out, as well has his son Michael.  There was also one more new guy for me to meet, another Michael (B), who raced with Tom a lot and I recognized from ph0tos on Facebook.  Everyone sat around talking for a little bit while we waited for the last crew member, Jules, to arrive.  Once we all saw her hot pink Vans walking down the docks we started to get ourselves ready to leave and were gone just a few minutes after she climbed aboard.

Conditions were what I would consider perfect if I was out sailing my own boat, but not ideal for any high speed racing this time around.  Winds were probably hovering around 10 knots and altough the sun had come back out temps were mid 70′s which had me wishing I had a light jacket instead of the fleece I brought which was leaving me chilled without it and too hot with it on.  Looks like this girl has just a few more items to shop for even though I told myself I’m done because I have way more clothes than I’ll ever be able to pack into the few small bags I’ll have alloted.  This night our division was starting second and we did give ourselves plenty of time to get on the water and our sails raised before even the five minute warning had gone off for the first division to start.  There was a little scrambling to find a stopwatch to time ourselves out perfectly for our start and I was being used as a backup with my phone while Mark was also timing with something he found in the cockpit.  After the first group left and we had five minutes until our own start we tacked and jibed a few times with the last one being 60 seconds before the start.  I still can’t get used to how close these boats get to eachother and as the horn for the start of our division went off we actually had to move out of the way from boat that was supposed to give us the right of way but wouldn’t budge.  Apparently we could have called them on it but Tom decided to let it go.

This is not the boat I was referencing above

Again I had no idea what direction we were heading but Shannon and I just hugged the high side while Michael B moved around a little to make sure we’d have the lines set up correctly for after we rounded the first marker and put up the spinnaker to go downwind.  Then he joined us on the high side but would run back to the cockpit to assist with tacks while Shannon and I would help fling the headsail to the other side of the boat, I’d skirt it before sitting back down until the next tack.  Not only were Shannon and I getting into a rythem near the bow but those working the lines in the cockpit appeared to have everything going smoothly as well.  I was a little surptrised to find out Tom’s son Michael didn’t do much sailing, and since he was handling the main would have to have orders like ‘sheet/ease the main’ or ‘let out the traveler….the traveler is the one right infront of you’.  For a beginner though he was doing great and we continued along at a good pace.

I was put on a job other than rail meat this week and just before we turned the marker to go downwind I ran below deck to help the spinnaker raise up through the forward hatch with ease and without getting stuck on anything while Shannon pulled the halyard to raise it near the mast.  With the spinnaker issues we were having the previous week I could just see something going wrong and it all being my fault, but Michael B was up there to help me and let me know which corner was going to start pulling up first.  I traced it back in the vberth to make sure it wasn’t snagged on anything and when they told Shannon to go I began shoving it through the hatch as fast as I could.  It went up without incident and besides waiting just a moment for the wind to catch it perfectly the mission was a success and we were back on our way.  The spinnaker was stationed on our port side and since the wind was starting to lose it’s strength instead of sitting on the high side we were now sitting on the low side, the same side the spinnaker was on, trying to heel it over in that direction and let the sail catch a little more wind.  There were a few jibes performed while on the way to the second marker and each time it would swing gracefully from one side of the boat to the other.  Since there were no high winds and no sail or boom vang mishaps tonight and everyone was in their groove it was almost like a pleasure cruise.  The three of us upfront would dangle our legs off the side and enjoy the view and the beautiful night.  I really should start paying more attention to what’s going on behind me in the cockpit though and to the sails and how they’re adjusted.  It was after all the whole reason I started coming out, but after spending all my days cooped up inside or doing hard labor on my own boat it feels so nice to get outside and just enjoy life.  I’ll pay attention next week, I promise.

After we had been traveling downwind for awhile and I saw the boats in front of us starting to make the sharp turn around maker 2 and lower the spinnakers I made my way below deck again to help bring the spinnaker in and have it stored in a mostly neat fashion until we were ready to use it again that night.  Before we made our turn around the marker the headsail had been unfurled and we were all in position and ready.  Michael stood just above me on deck and as we made the sharp turn ourselves Shannon lowered the sail just enough so that Michael could grab it from under the headsail and set about feeding it to me where I tried to keep it in as neat of a pile as possible.  After we were set on our new course I made my way above deck to sit on the high side to repeat the whole experience again.  Between all the divisions racing there was no one directly next to us, or in front or behind, that we were personally trying to beat.  Although we were racing well Island Dream does best on a beam reach* while a lot of the other boats will try for close hauled upwind or a broad reach or run while downwind so we were on our own little course away from everyone else.  There was one other boat in our division that was taking our wacky course as well  but they always seemed to stay just out of reach.  After two downwind runs and three upwind we crossed the finish line by the sandy dunes while the sun was getting close to disappearing behind their elevation.

This night it did not even take us getting back to the docks before food and drinks were brought out.  I think this is due to having Denise on board and I thank her for it.  The boys pulled out Bud Light Limes from the cooler while us girls enjoyed our dainty little Lime-A-Ritas.  Denise had also brought sliced cheese and Triscuits and while all members of the crew were happily chewing away Tom thought it would be a great time to bring out the camera and get pictures of us trying to smile through cheeks full of food.  Those photos may stay on Island Dream’s Facebook page and not make their way over to the blog.  It was another day of great weather and great friends and Wednesdays are definitely becoming my favorite night of the week.

Ok, here’s just one

Race Results -   Time Elapsed -  1:07:07    Average wind speed -  8 knots   Average Boat Speed -  3.833  knots  Distance -  5.2 miles

*  A beam reach is when the wind is coming directly over the side or middle most (beam) part of your boat.  A close reach is when the wind is coming as close over your bow as possible without going in irons (directly into the wind, a no sail zone).  Broad reach is when the wind is coming over the back quarter of your stern, aroud 4-5 or 7-8 o’clock if you use the bow as 12, and running is when you are directly downwind.

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Rails In the Water

Wednesday May 30, 2012

After checking the weather report to make sure I’d be ready to go straight from work out to the yacht club for races I noticed that things were probably going to be very different from what they were last week.  On the night of my first race temperatures were in the low 80′s with winds under 5 knots.  Then checking weather.com today the hourly report was forecasting temps to be in the low 60′s with winds reaching 15 knots.  Knowing there was a good chance I might freeze my butt off I packed my foulies in a bag and wore a fleece lined top to work.  After speeding out to the lake once again I found that gettng there at 5:45 did not leave a lot of room for parking on the street and almost went all the way back to Torresen’s when I spotted one available spot left on a side street.  Grabbing my bag and a case of beer I promised Tom I’d bring since he supplied drinks last week I ran through the parking lot.  I knew the boat wouldn’t leave the docks until 6:00 but I also didn’t want them waiting on me.  Getting to the very end dock again I saw Tom and Shannon waiting in the cockpit along with two new faces.  After being introduced I ran below deck to get my beer in the cooler and slip my foulies on over my jeans.  Coming back up we waited for the last people to arrive which was only Rob and Jules.  A little bit of a smaller crew then last week but there were still seven of us and that would be plenty.

Getting our assignments Shannon was put on the spinnaker halyard again and I was to assist one of the new guys Pete will all the lines at the bow.  Motoring out into the lake towards the start we didn’t have any of our sails up yet but all the other boats did and they would zoom past us heeling over so far that their rail was underwater.  I was hoping I’d get to experience doing that tonight on Island Dream since it’s always something I’ve wanted to do as a crew member but did not want to be the one in charge of the helm when it happened.  As we came closer to the start which was half way down the lake the five minute warning sounded.  Tonight our division would be starting first and we needed to get ourselves in position stat.  Rounding other boats we were just raising the sails when the one minute warning sounded and had barely gotten ourselves in place when the final horn sounded and it was time to go.  Immediately Shannon and I were directed to sit on the high side of the boat, the side that wind was coming over.  It didn’t take us long to start shooting out toward the first marker and begin to heel a little ourselves.  At first it was just a slight tip and then it went further and further until we also had a rail in the water.  This is exactly what I had been wanting to do forever!!  It felt like I had been initiated into the club of cool kids and was finally a racer.  Not that I was doing anything more than sitting my butt on a deck while keeping out of the way of everyone else, but it was still thrilling nonetheless.

I had no idea where the first marker actually was since the course had changed from what it was last week, and since anyone aboard who knew what we were doing was already busy doing something I didn’t want to bug them and just watched where the boats in front of us were going.  They all appeared to be headed to a spot kiddy-corner across the lake from where we started although with the sun also lowering near the direction we were headed it was impossible for me to pick anything out of the water.  Along the way we did a few tacks because to get the best use of the wind and weren’t able to make a straight line from the start to the first marker.  Every time we turned and the jib would be pulled over to the other side it would extend way past the lifelines before being sheeted back in but would get stuck on the outside of the lines when it needed to be inside which meant someone would need to lift the foot of the sail over.  A pretty easy job in itself except that tonight by the time it was trimmed in to where it needed to be the boat was already at quite  a large heel.  Since I had skirted it the first time after we took off from the start I decided that could be my job for the night.  So after a tack when everyone else was scrambling to the other side of the boat I’d stay on what would now be the low side and wait for the jib to be trimmed in so I could bring the foot of the sail over the lifelines.  When I had completed the task the boat would be healing so far that my toes would almost be in the water.  It’s a good thing Island Dream has a large gunwale (pronounced gunnel and is the upper edge on the side of a vessel) or else my foot would have slid right off the boat probably taking me with it.  So then after managing to keep myself on the boat I needed to find a way to the other edge which was a little tricky and had me imagining what rock-wall climbing might be like.  ’Ok, if I stick my foot there I can get a little leverage to push myself up a bit and my arm might extend enough to grab that hand rail at which point my other foot can be moved to this spot and then I can make it over the coachroof which will act like a wall behind me to keep me in place.’  Each time I was able to do it without much issue but I had to laugh at the fact that if Matt were there watching me he would be freaking out because  he knows my clumsiness better than anyone here I’ve just met and would be positive that these actions done by me would leave me in the water.  I’m starting to think that my hard work sanding over the past few months may have really paid off in upper body strength though because if I were doing this same thing a year ago I probably would have ended up in the water.

As we got to the other side of the lake I could finally see the marker and the other boats rounding it and immediately putting up their spinnakers.  Shannon was in charge of raising and lowering again while Pete was in charge of connecting and running the lines.  As we did one last tack and rounded the marker Shannon began to pull on the hailyard to raise the sail.  As far as getting the head of the sail to the top of the mast it went up fine, but there seemed to be an issue where the sail itself was twisted and would not unfurl to open itself to the wind.  When things like this happen it’s immediate cause for concern because spinnaker sails can rip or tear easily and are not cheap to replace.  Steering off to the side and kind of taking ourselves out of the race for a minute we worked on getting the twists out, not really sure what was causing it.  After a few minutes of pulling and gently working the fragile sail it filled with air and we raced off again.  There were however a few issues again when we tacked and the spinnaker didn’t transition over to to the other side easily and had to be worked again. The boat was slowed down and Rob rushed up front to try and get it to pass on the outside of the furled headsail.  Once it came over the wind just didn’t seem to be catching it right and we lowered it back down and decided to continue for the moment with just the head sail.  Up to the point we hit the first marker we had been doing pretty good for position in our division, even with our last minute start, but now because we had to pull ourselves to the side a few times while the spinnaker situations were handled we were starting to fall behind.  And this moment here is why I’m so glad I get to race on the boat I do.  There was no yelling about what was going on and no blame being placed on anyone for not doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time to keep us in the front of the pack.  All we could hear from Tom is ‘Everyone’s doing a great job, keep it up!’

Apparently the only markers being used for the race that night was the one we started at and the one on the opposite end of the lake.  Headed upwind for the second time Shannon, Pete and I fell back into the positions of riding the high side with me pulling in the foot of the jib after a tack.  Rob would point out strong gusts on the water and could count down to the second that they would hit us and our heel would increase even more.  On our second downwind run the spinnaker went up without hassle and easily moved from side to side when we needed it do.  There was one more slight issue when not too long after we made our second downwind turn when there was a loud noise as if something had broken.  The three of us at the front of the boat turned around to see that the boomvang had just popped clean off the mast!  Still learning about what can go wrong on a boat I thought this may be a huge issue, especially with us sailing in slightly heavy winds, but the now dangling lines were just tied off to the side and Tom goes, ‘That’s ok, I’ve been meaning to replace it’.

Having no more major issues for the night we rounded the initial marker for our last upwind stretch to the finish.  I know we didn’t place that night, or what place we even took in our division, but just like last week once that horn blew to signal us we were done the whole crew cheered and high fived and hugged.  I was given the opportunity to take over the wheel while heading back to the yacht club which should not be an issue at all since that’s where I always am on our boat but this time I was a little nervous since these were sailors that knew how to point the boat into a direction best suited for the wind instead of having their husband mess with sheets while they pointed whichever direction they felt like.  I managed to get us back with pretty full sails and without running into anyone which is always a plus while the guys worked on dropping the main.  I did hand the wheel back over to time when it came time to dock still I still have never done that before and heard Tom can be like Captain Ron while he goes full speed toward the dock and parks it perfectly.

Just like last week the cooler was opened and most of the girls starting pulling out a Lime-a-Rita while I rooted around for a cold Leinenkugel.  Since I had not chilled the beers before bringing them and they had only been in the cooler for a little over an hour most of them had not chilled yet, but dang it I was going to have a Berry Weiss weather it was cold or not.  Sitting around the cockpit and passing around bags of Chex Mix we all relaxed and unwound.  About 2/3 of the crew occupies their winter months with skiing while they can’t be on boats and had some good stories to tell about winters past.  There was also talk from Jules on her past experiences with the Chicago to Mac race and how fun it can be as well as all the parties that go along with it.  It’s something I really wish I could experience but since we’ll be leaving for our trip about 10 days after that race I don’t think I can afford 3-4 days away from home and the boat with all the last minute projects that will need to be done.  Maybe a few years down the road when we come back?  All this talk of parties helped my first beer go down quickly and even though this is only week two it wouldn’t be a race night without a Lime-A-Rita for myself so I pulled a nice chilled one from the bottom of the cooler.  Rob wanted to try one of my fruity Berry Weiss drinks and even though his wasn’t very cold either he was a very good sport about it and even did the uplifted pinky for us girls to laugh at.

Week two of racing was another success in my book and it’s beginning to be something I look forward to all week long.  I’m so happy I started this year at the beginning of the season and I get to experience it hopefully 7-8 more times before I’m racing my own boat through the Great Lakes and down the Atlantic.

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Racing in Slow Motion

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Since you’ve probably gathered from previous posts that I have a lot to learn in the way of sailing still before we leave on our trip I though racing would be a great way to take in some of that knowledge.  It would help me to learn all of the lines, what they’re for and how to use them without having Matt be the one to teach me and without having to worry about what’s happening at the helm where I’m normally cemented.  After working in the boatyard weekend after weekend and talking to some of the other boat owners I mentioned to one that I wanted to get into the races at Muskegon Yacht Club but didn’t know how to go about it.  Do I have to call the yacht club?, get in touch with one of the helmsmen?, put a want ad online?  (I actually did in Sailnet forums but had no response).  This guy’s answer was ‘Just show up, they’ll find a boat to put you on’.  Seemed logical enough and I waited for the next available Wednesday to come up so I could make my way out to the water after work.

After making a mad dash out to the lake from work which was over an hour drive away I was panicking thinking that by the time I pulled in all the boats would already be on the water and I’d be out of luck.  The races start at 6:15 and I had images in my head of them getting on the water an hour before the start as also in my head I thought the races were on Lake Michigan and that can take a little travel time.  After parking my car on the street I walked around back by the docks where dozens of people were standing around.  I didn’t know who to approach as everyone looked very busy getting set up but there was one guy off to the side so I walked up to him with a smile and said it was my first time there but I’d really like to get on a boat and does he know who I could talk to.  He admitted he was a first timer as well but pointed me to a woman he thought could help me out.  After hearing that I was a newbie but wanted to crew she started scrambling around to different helmsmen asking of they could take me on.  After a few responses of ‘we’re all full’ she set off down the docks as I sat at a picnic table feeling like a kid in their first day at a new school.  Having made this joke with a friend at work she suggested I walk up to someone and say, “I’m new, will you be my friend?” which we got a very good laugh out of but I was starting to feel like it may be my only way onto a boat.

Walking back toward me the woman said she found a boat that was looking for crew and pointed me in the direction she had just come from at the very end of the docks and gave me the helmsman’s name.  Getting to the boat I introduced myself to the helmsman, Tom, and another woman with him, Shannon, who was coming out for her first time sailing ever.  Right away I was able to get to work helping Tom fold a sail which felt like a piece of cake having two people work on it instead of it being like when I fight the tarps on my own.  After getting that sail rolled up and taking the cover off the mainsail there wasn’t much for me to do and I stood there as Tom ran the lines for the headsail and him and Shannon hanked it on.  As we continued to get the boat ready more and more people started walking up the dock to the boat.  There was a guy around my age, Mark, and his dad Bill.  There was also another guy Matt that joined us who was new to sailing sailing as well, and then a couple Rob and Julie and their niece Jess.  We were becoming quite a full crew!

Just 15 minutes before the race was to start (what was I worried about?, I had plenty of time!) we threw off the lines and made for the starting area on Muskegon Lake.  There were four different divisions to race that night and we would be in the last group to start along with 7 other boats.  Winds were very light around 5 knots so it didn’t look like it was going to be a thrilling ‘hold on for your life’ kind of race but I was still expecting a good laid back time.  While still making sure to pay attention to how all the lines are handled of course. After the first three divisions started and we were making our way to the start all the other boats in the division were on their way as well, tacking and jibing so they could be in the best position possible when the horn blew.  It’s amazing how close some of these boats will get to each other and it doesn’t even phase anyone.  There were a few times I could have hopped from our boat onto another one.  Once the horn blew though we all began to spread out and make our way for the first marker near shore.  Which is actually kind of funny because I had passed this buoy a million times on our way out to the channel and wondered why it was sitting in the middle of nowhere but was actually used for races.  On the way to the first marker the wind wasn’t strong but we were pushing our way forward enough that the progress over water was easy to see.  Trying to get the most out of that little bit of wind and to put ourselves on the best course for the first marker there were many tacks and jibes.  I still didn’t have a job handling any of the lines so I was positioned to sit on the low side and give us a little heel.  Then when we’d swing the other direction I’d slide under the boom while trying not to let myself get hit by it and then I could go back to hugging the low side.  That’s not an area I’d normally let myself switch from Port to Starboard because the boom could do some real damage if it were swinging fast or hard, but on this night winds were so low that it wasn’t even an issue.

Coming up to the marker we were going to need to change direction as soon as we passed it and raise the spinnaker.  I was still line-less but I made sure to keep a close eye on all the people that were pulling and moving and attaching so I would know exactly what to do when it was me on my boat.  The lines to the foot of the sail had already been attached so when the halyard was clipped on the head and we rounded the marker Shannon pulled on the halyard to raise the giant sail.  The wind caught it for just a moment but then any wind we did have almost completely died.  The spinnaker stayed up for a few minutes but began luffing so much we decided we were better off without it and lowered it.  Although we did have one boat behind us already there were two boats not too far ahead that we were working hard to catch but moves had to be planned well in advance since once you picked an option in such light conditions you were kind of stuck with it.  While coming up on the second marker we easily passed one of the boats and just squeezed past the other and instead of turning sharply back to the original marker we stayed our course for a minute trying to head for a few small ripples in the water ahead of us which meant we might be able to find some wind in that spot.

There was  just enough blowing behind us to carry us to that spot where we would have an advantage over everyone else.  Looking at all the other boats on the water it was amazing how still everything was.  It looked like a real life photo where someone had snapped an action picture where for that moment everything appeared frozen, except it was that way in real life too.  Off to our side there were 4-5 boats that had their sails raised and spinnakers up and were dead still in the water.  When our boat had gotten far enough out to feel a little breeze on our bare skin and we had turned enough to be heading back to the next marker we raised the spinnaker once again.  Elated as it filled right away we thought we had the race in the bag and we’d start flying along the water while everyone else remained still, but again the giant sail began to luff in certain areas and would have to be pulled at the ends to catch the wind yet again.  I tried acting as a spinnaker pole by grabbing one end and holding it out as far from the boat as possible to allow any possible air to flow into it.  This helped only a little bit but in this race every second, every bit of forward motion counted.  Due to that little bit of luck we were now far ahead of the two boats from the second marker and becoming even with two more boats that had been ahead of us although they were far off to our Port side as they had decided to made a sharp turn earlier like everyone else.  From what I heard before this boat tended to finish near the end of the pack but things were looking up tonight and we might actually place if we could keep our position.  It would also help if none of the other boats were able to find the spot of wind we had, just to let us cross the finish waaaay before them.

Imagine this was a 30 second video.  The image would not have changed at all.

I was thinking once we passed the marker where we had started the race would be over but the finish line was actually the first maker we passed after the start.  Many boats were getting bored from the lack of wind and thrill and a few actually dropped out before the finish, motoring back to the yacht club to have a little more time for a few extra cocktails.  I don’t blame them as when Matt and I are cruising around at this pace I would beg and plead to put the motor on because we weren’t actually going anywhere.  Somehow my view changed tonight and this was actually exciting!  I had a mission to complete and I wanted to do it weather it was at 6 knots of speed or 1.  The thrill was in trying to keep ahead of the boats behind you while catching up to the ones in front, wondering if any of those boats you passed will come up on you from behind and watching their every move.

After making the last turn and  heading for the finish we had long passed the other boats and now had 5 people behind us.  The spinnaker was dropped and once more we had only the headsail and mainsail while all the boats behind us still had their spinnakers raised hoping one last gust of wind would push through before the end of the race.  The wind did begin to pick up just ever so slightly and these followers began to gain on us just a little.  To give Island Dream everything she had I took my position again as a human spinnaker pole at the clew while Shannon and Mark worked the middle and front.  This was just enough to keep us in place and although I could not see past the sail to tell how close we were to the finish I did hear that sweet little horn blow while all five boats were still behind us.  Which meant that in our division we placed third!  Everyone on board cheered as the motor was turned on to head back to the yacht club and celebrate the victory.

The view from our stern when we crossed the finish

Before the main sail could even be lowered the cooler was opened and I was intoduced to one of the best things in the world as far as canned drinks go.  It’s made by Bud Light and is called Lime-A-Rita, which taste a lot like a margarita packaged inside a cute little 8 oz beer can.  That is awesome.  Realizing before a full blown celebration could break out there was still a little work to be done before we got to the docks I tried to help fold the mainsail as it came down which is a very hard task to do with only one hand so I had to put my adorable blue beer can down to get the job done.  Reaching the dock and cleating ourselves off we all sat around the cockpit with our cold drinks and then the food became to come out.  Crackers, cheese with cranberries, strawberries, red peppers and sausage drenched in a sweet tangy bbq sauce.  See, this is always what I imagined the posh world of sailing is.  Or at least how most other people perceive us.  Sitting on a boat at the yacht club after a regatta while eating fancy cheese and meats.  Why did I wait so long to take up racing?

After finishing all the food on board we though they may be holding ceremonies soon and began to make our way to the picnic tables and awnings of the yacht club.  Racers and watchers were all mingling while talking about the night or the prep they had just finished to get their boats ready for the season.  This was something I could relate to.  Finally I was able to explain my sanding woes to people that could sympathise with my pain instead of all my coworkers that would just look at me and think, ‘Oh poor you….you own a boat.  I feel so sorry for you’.  After meeting many other fellow sailors and discussing all things boating I was ushered inside for a fresh beer and to wait for the ceremonies to begin.  Team Island Dream took a large round table by the door and all got to know each other a little better as there were so many new faces that night.  I discussed our trip which everyone was very interested in hearing about….how long we’ll be gone for….what exactly we’ll be doing.  I had to keep assuring Jules that those plans did not include making a baby.

As darkness grew on the water more and more people were making their way inside the club and it was becoming crowded and noisy but in a good way.  We could hear someone starting to make announcements and strained to make out our boat name when they got to our division.  As soon as we heard Island Dream our table cheered and applauded as Tom got up to collect his prize.  Disappearing through the crowd and coming back he had a frosted glass in his hand, something to display for our victory.  The entire night was a success even if the winds had decided not to tag along. For my first time out in a non-cruising fashion I had a great time.  Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful and there is a bonding that takes place over people even if you’ve just met.  We were all a team now, including me.  I was extended an invitation to come back every week which I am definitley planning on doing.  Maybe next week I’ll introduce everyone to the Lienenkugel summer pack to celebrate what I’m sure will be another victory.  Or to console us for not placing.  Either way I’m sure we’ll have a great time.

Team Island Dream

Our 3rd place prize (my phone does not take good low-light photos)

* Team racing results for 5/23/12:

Average wind speed –   4 knots                   Time Elapsed –  1:49:39                     Average speed – 0.996 knots

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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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It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, and Matt’s Kinda Snoring

Sunday September 25, 2011

The weather predicted this weekend wasn’t supposed to be great.  In fact it was supposed to be pretty crappy with rain threatening both days.  But with both of us being so stubborn that we would spend every weekend at the boat no matter what (with the exception of my longest friend’s wedding reception that was totally worth it) we packed our bags and my macaroni casserole with thunderstorms looming in the distance.  About 10 miles outside of Muskegon the sky just opened up on us and you could barely see 100 ft in front of the car.  Taking a quick look on the radar on Matt’s phone it appeared to be a short storm with the worst already on top of us.  When we pulled in the marina the rain had let up a bit but we pondered if it was worth going out or if we should turn around and go home.  We figured we were already out there and if worse came to worse we could watch movies and read all weekend, the same thing we’d do at home anyway.  Quickly trying to unload the car we rolled the dinghy down the boat launch and get everything in.  At this point the rain was beginning to come down a little harder again so I pushed us off while Matt worked on getting the engine started.  First pull, nothing.  Second pull, nothing.  I actually had to laugh a little the situation, us stuck out in the pouring rain with all of our belongings in a dinghy that we could not get to start.  It became less funny after five or six more attempts with no results.  Finally it started and we were able to zip soaking wet to the boat.  Stepping into the cabin once on board was difficult because Matt had emptied the aft cabin while replacing fuel lines and put all of the contents into the main cabin.  Stepping over boxes and bags I stripped off my wet clothes and went to grab something dry out of the backpack.  I knew it was going to be cooler that weekend and I had packed a lot of warm clothes that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on.  My sweatpants were ready and waiting to be thrown on, but all my other clothes were at least damp because of the rain getting into the bag.  Tank top it is!  Both of us were so tired when we got there that even though our stomachs were growling and we were starving, we had to climb into bed for a little nap.  We were passed out right away and the rain continued to tap on the hatches.  A few hours later we woke up now absolutely ravenous.

While Matt went back to work on the fuel lines I started to clear of one of the settees for sitting room and threw the casserole in the oven to bake.  There wasn’t much for me to do at this point.  I had planned on keeping my nook and working on blog posts, but I didn’t want to ruin my book by starting it too early in the weekend and then being bored with it by the next day and unfortunately my blog notebook got wet on the dingy ride over and needed to be dried out.  Pulling Chapman’s into my lap I thought I’d read about electronics and see if it made sense after the fifth time reading it.  After a few pages of reading and actually retaining the information the casserole was done I was happy to put the book down.  Dinner was delicious and just what I needed on a cold dreary day like this.  Even though it wasn’t too cold in the cabin we lit the oil lamps to keep things nice and toasty into the night.  We settled into the v-berth with mounds of pillows and blankets to watch a movie for the evening.  Everything was going along fine, it was a perfect Saturday night, and then we both saw a bright flash of light from the saloon.  At first it looked like car headlights passing by, and in the half second it took us to realize there are no cars out here we both realized what it was, flames!  I bounced out of the v-berth as fast as a person possibly could, trying not to get tangled in or rip out the DVD cords from the wall.  Racing into the saloon I imagined our beautiful boat going up in flames and all my dreams being slashed.  My heart was beating out of my chest and this three seconds felt like forever until I found out the big flash of light was the lamp extinguishing itself as the wick ran out.  Phew, crisis adverted.

The next morning we woke up to rain and then some more rain.  We had known going into the weekend that this would be a no-sail day and we would spend all our time in the cabin lounging around.  This time I had remembered to bring everything I needed for pancakes and went to work cooking.  I only had one skillet to cook on, so the sausage links went on first so a little bit of the grease left behind would keep the pancakes from sticking as I did forget to bring the butter.  Ooops.  While cooking I quickly realized how heat does not spread well on this skillet as the center links were getting burned while the ones on the outside were raw.  Some rotating worked on the sausage links but the pancakes were a lot harder.  I ended up keeping all the blackened ones that the work could barely get through so Matt could have the ok ones and continue to think that his wife isn’t terrible at cooking.  Looks like we’ll have to add a new skillet to the ongoing list of things that need to be purchased before we leave.  The food turned out surprisingly better than it looked though.  After we finished and the dishwasher (me) was run, there was still the question of what to do.  I took a seat at the nav station an started working on blog posts but that lasted for a little under an hour before writers block and a little bit of boredom set in.

Grabbing my Nook I made my way to the v-berth where I burrowed under the covers to do some reading.  Matt thought this was a good idea too and joined me.  He made it less than 30 minutes before his eyes started drooping and he decided to nap.  Less than two hours after we had woken up from getting twelve hours of sleep.  I tried to fight it as long as I could, but less than twenty minutes later I was ready to close my eyes too.  At least I can blame my thyroid for being tired all the time.  Besides, Matt’s snoring was making it hard to read.

When we woke up again I checked the radars and saw nothing but red coming our way.  Maybe if the boat had not been in such a state of disarray or it was a little bit warmer I wouldn’t have minded wasting away the afternoon reading and watching movies and generally lounging around below deck, it’s been done before, but I wanted to go home where I could crawl into bed and put on Netflix.  Maybe take a hot shower and raid the fridge.  Since there was a small window in the weather before the really bad stuff came our way we decided to make a break for it and hopefully not go through another dinghy ride in a torrential downpour.  Deciphering what parts of the mess in the cabin had to come home with us we started packing our bags and loading everything onto the dink while there was a clearing in the showers.  Heading back we had a dry ride to shore and soon everything was packed in the car and we were on our way home.  And just as planned we took hot showers and then crawled under the covers of our bed to waste away the evening in front of a glowing TV screen.

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