A Whitehall Shade of Pale

Sunday July 22, 2012

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

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

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

(Above photos courtesy of Jackie)

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

Sooooo many choices!

Making sure everything is just right.

Quick and easy learning on the go!

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

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

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

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

Poor Serendipity

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

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

No chips?  No problem.

(Above photos courtesy of Jackie)

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Spinnaker UP

Sunday August 1, 2010

I know this is not a typical sailor’s dream, but today I got what I have been wishing for all summer.  It may have taken over 2 months, but it is finally here.  A sunny day with winds under 10 knots.  Well my wish was for under 10 knots, what was actually delivered was under 5.  Why has this been my wish you ask?  Because I have gone through the whole summer so far without one good day to lie on deck and soak up some sun without a strong wind hurtling at me and forcing me behind the dodger or to put a fleece on.  2 months into summer and I’m still pasty white.  Not that I’m an advocate for frying your skin in the sun for a good tan, I am very skin conscience, but I just wanted one (or ten) good day/s to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.  And not just a ‘the temperature outside is nice and comfortable’, but an actual feel the heat baking into my skin kind of day.  Complete with SPF 50 of course.

 

 

 

We made our way to Lake Michigan as there seems to be a strange phenomenon where if there is not any wind on Muskegon Lake you can find a little on Lake Michigan or vice versa.  Today it was close to the same on both lakes, and we’ll always take Lake Michigan over Muskegon Lake for it’s vastness.  Less chance of hitting something while you’re not paying attention. (kidding!!)  For a little while we had just the genoa which was not giving us much at all.  If we had a whisker pole things may have been a little different, but with the 3-4 knots of wind blowing over us it would not stay full.  We thought it would be the perfect time to pull out the spinnaker since this was the first time conditions were light enough to allow for it.  I’m glad Matt is such an internet nerd because he knew exactly how to raise that thing while I just stood around to hold this and hold that, and run this line here.  Then I held the spinnaker chute to help feed it through as Matt winched from the cockpit.  Within a few minutes it was fully raised and it looked beautiful.  It quickly filled with wind and we more than doubled the speed we were getting with the genoa alone.

 

 

Spinnaker up!!

 

With a little (and it still was fairly little) bit of speed going we set the autopilot and just sat back to relax.  Since there was still waaay to much alcohol left from our trip to Milwaukee I pulled out a premixed margarita and poured it into a coffee cup.  Moving my sport-a-seat onto the deck I just relaxed for a long time with the sun on my face.  When thing would get to warm I’d move back under the shade of the bimini and crack open The New Complete Sailing Manual and brush up on my very basic skills.  Matt’s a little worried about me learning everything I need to before we leave.  I’m a little worried too.  Which now that I think about it, our departure date is exactly one year from today.  Monday August 1st 2011.  Yeah….let me dig my nose into that book a little deeper.

Winds were still pretty light at about six knots, but with just the spinnaker up we were doing almost three knots.  In the summer heat we wanted to take a little dip in the water to cool off, but neither of us wanted to take the spinnaker down just to stop us for 20 minutes.  Instead we decided that swimming wasn’t really necessary, just getting in the water was.  I’m sure we could have doused each other with buckets of water on deck, but that may have led to cleaning.  So we lowered the ladder off the back and took turns dragging along the back while trying not to let go.  We had a long rope attached just in case, and it was surprising to see what under three knots of speed could create for drag.  It was cool and refreshing and all that we needed at the moment.  This did of course result in more sunning on the deck where Mazzii joined us as well.  Greyhounds are real sunbathers, and although this wasn’t the lush grass she was used to at home I don’t think she minded too much.

 

Do I look white to you guys?  I feel so pale.

The whole day was lazy and it was wonderful.

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Red, White, and Green

Sunday July 25, 2010

In order to be back to Muskegon (and then back to Grand Rapids) at a decent time we had to be pushing off by no later than 9 am.  We were hoping for only a 12 hour sail back this time, but even at that we’d still be losing an hour and getting to Muskegon sometime around 10 pm.  It probably would have taken more than an earthquake for me to wake up on my own since apparently Mindy had gotten up very early and was ‘crashing around the cabin, slamming cupboards and banging plates and glasses’.  I heard none of this.  Matt thought I was joking when I said I didn’t wake up until he went to shake me awake.  Yeah, I’d say the previous night is probably one of the most tired times I’d ever been in my life.  Not even bothering to put on real clothes I threw a fleece over my pajamas and went to the office to check out.  Matt got the boat ready for departure by filling up diesel and filling up the water tanks.  Hey, might as well enjoy as many perks of the marina as we can.  It didn’t take us nearly as long to get ready to leave as I thought it would.  But since we were just going to be spending a whole day on the boat with only each other it was just quick showers and then back to the boat.  Plus any cleaning up/packing could be done en route.  We were right on schedule for our departure and after gracefully pulling out of our slip we watched Milwaukee disappear behind us as we headed out to sunny skies and blue water.

 

Hello person in the mega yacht, can I be your friend?

Going for the ‘just rolled out of bed’ look

Skyline, Art Museum, and all the beautiful trees!!

The water just leaving Milwaukee was a beautiful emerald green color and any debris from the morning before had vanished.  The wind was quite gusty around 20 knots, so we raised the main and unfurled the jib trying to get as much speed as we could in case winds ran out later in the day.  The waves were about 3-4 ft which slowed progress down just a little bit, but we were still managing 4-5 knots.  Much better than the 3 which initially carried us over.  The first few hours we all hung around in the cockpit pretty quiet, still trying to fully wake up.  Since I had been trying to get myself into healthy eating all spring and summer I’d been depriving myself of one of my favorite things, pop.  (Or soda for you southerners) Just for this trip I’d purchased an eight pack of 24 oz Pepsi and one of Mt Dew, my absolute favorites.  It didn’t take me long to break open a Mt Dew and start getting my sugar buzz on.  Then one of the most depressing things ever happened.  I was about 1/4 through it when it just didn’t seem appealing anymore.  I actually started craving…..water.  What was wrong with me?

Since we didn’t get to do as much partying on the boat as we originally thought, there were still almost 2 full cases of beer and about 10 of the Daily’s premixed cocktails sitting around the boat.  Ken decided that now was as good a time as any to start drinking and the beer began to flow.  Pretty soon we all had a cocktail in our hands as we lounged around.  Since one of the big draws for Mindy to join us on the trip was a promise of at least one full day to lay in the sun while in transit she decided it was high time for us to change into our bikinis and get a little tanning done.  Too bad the temps weren’t in the high 80’s that day because with the winds still blowing hard on us it felt like it was barely 70 degrees out.  Drinks were definitely going to be needed to keep my focus off all the goosebumps on my body.  I’m a bit of a pussy when it comes to bearing skin in cool weather.  For some reason I can run from bar to bar in the middle of December with a tank top and no jacket, but ask me to go away from the protection of the dodger when the winds are over 10 knots and I want to bundle up.  Just one of life great mysteries I guess.

As Matt and I had to work at the drinks in our hands, usually completing only about two per hour and then taking a break from it, Ken was determined to get a little tipsy on this trip at one point and continued to drink beer after beer while sitting in the warm sun.  We tried to convince him and Mindy that sunscreen would be a good idea since the sun reflects right off the water and can burn you pretty badly even if you don’t feel it baking into you because of the wind.  I had it just a few weeks ago that I didn’t reapply mine in the afternoon and thought becuase the sun was getting lower in the sky I’d be safe from sunburn.  Sure enough when I got home that night my legs were putting off heat like a furnace and I had bright red legs the next day.  However, Ken and Mindy did not want to heed our warnings.  Since Minday was used to laying out in the sun almost daily and already had a nice tan going the effects were minimal on her.  Ken on the other hand was not so lucky.  It was late afternoon when he lifted his shirt sleeves and there was a distinct line of red skin and white skin.  Checking his legs under his green board shorts was the same exact thing.  It was almost like someone took a ruler to his skin, drew a straight line and colored half of it red.  Although I felt terrible for the poor guy I could not stop laughing.  Maybe next time we’ll force our guests to put sunscreen on weather they want it or not!

Our whole afternoon was pretty lazy.  We had chillie cheese dogs for dinner…a meal much better for smooth seas.  By preparing/eating them at one at a time we were able to keep the mess minimal.  As far as other boats on the lake that day, there was NOTHING!  Once we were 10 miles out from Milwaukee, we only saw one large tanker.  By the time we began to creep up on Muskegon it was after 10:00 and there were a few fishers out making their way in.  While keeping a close eye out for boats infront or on the side of us…it didn’t really occur to look directly behind us.  I don’t know if it was ESP, but as soon as this thought came into my head I turned around to see the Lake Express Ferry charging at us at 30 knots.  It was a bit off to our rear starboard, but within 30 seconds it was whizzing by to where we could see the faces of people having a smoke out on deck.  We weren’t in any kind of danger, it was just a little shocking to see something so large come up on you so quick.

When we finally attached ourselves back to the mooring it was quarter to 11.  Everyone but me had to be to work early the next morning so Ken and Mindy were completely packed and ready to go when we pulled in.  Matt ran them back to shore while I put away the last few items and made the boat tidy again.  Then I brought our luggage onto the deck and began to load up when Matt came back to get me.  I was pulling out my phone to check the battery when it began to ring.  I answered, and the following conversation went something like this. “Is this Jessica on the phone?”    “Yes….”   “This is the Milwaukee Coast Guard, we’ve been trying to reach you on channel 16 for the past hour, have you not had your radio on?”    “We turned it off when we got back, that was probably right around an hour ago”  (We actually turned it off once we were in sight of land again)    “We received a call from a Crystal Kimble, do you know her?”     “Yeah, she’s my mother-in-law”    “She stated that you were supposed to call her by 9:00 to let her know you’d returned safely, and if she didn’t hear anything that we needed to send out a search for you”     Yes, that’s right.  My mother-in-law had sent out a Coast Guard search for us.  Trying to relay what was happening on the call with Matt who was standing right next to me.  Getting frustrated he goes, “What?  No!  That was for the sail over!!  She was supposed to call the Coast Guard if she didn’t hear from us by 9 am yesterday!  I told her I wasn’t going to call her on the sail back tonight.”   I gave this information to the very nice and understanding man that had spent the last hour trying to reach us.  I did feel a little better when I found out no boats or helicopters had been sent out after us.  They had tried to hail us on the VHF and call Matt’s cell phone (which was dead) and then finally called my cell phone.  I apologized profusely that they had to go through any trouble for us but he stated he was just happy to hear we were ok and wished us a good night.  Would have been interesting to wake up the next morning and see myself on the news as ‘missing at sea’ though.

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Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Trolly

Saturday July 24, 2010

I awoke at 2 am to start my watch and let Matt go below to get some sleep.  Stepping into the cockpit I noticed the sky had clouded over and I could no longer see the stars or the moon.  Matt and Ken, who were lounging in the cockpit, mentioned there had been lightning flashing on and off in the distance.  They also sheepishly mentioned that for the past hour their eyes were beginning to drift shut and they were glad to have a freshly rested pair of eyes come up.  Both boys (for some protective or  chauvinistic reason, I don’t know) decided to stay up with me a little longer, but after 15 minutes Ken was below deck crawling under layers of sheets and blankets next to Mindy, leaving Matt and I to watch the storm come in by ourselves.  Although the lightning was still off in the distance the rain started in on us.  It was light at first but soon settled into a downpour.  Luckily the wind was close enough to the bow, and with the dodger and bimini up we stayed mostly dry.  30 minutes later we continued to watch the rain pour, and while I tried to judge wave size during flashes of lightning (only about 2-3 ft), Matt’s eyes were slowly drooping closed and he decided to go below after making sure 5 times  that I was ok by myself in the rain and 25 knot winds.

As soon as he went below I took his spot in front of the companionway because unbeknownst to me rain had been sliding down my sport-a-seat and soaking my bum.  I sat in this position for a few hours, craning my neck every 5-10 minutes to look out the plastic shield of the dodger to see if there were any other boats as crazy as us out in the middle of Lake Michigan in this storm.  For a couple of hours there was nothing, and I continued to sit in what was now the only dry spot in the cockpit listening to a mix CD from the 90’s and was now on it’s third cycle through.  It then dawned on me that only looking through the dodger may not be the best way to spot another ship in these stormy and cloudy conditions, and decided I should stick my head around the side for a better view.  Getting pelted by rain and winds that had now jumped up to 35 knots (Matt had reefed the sail before I came on watch) I looked to starboard and saw two white lights.  They were so far away that I could barely see them and every few seconds it would seem as if they’d disappear and come back into view.  For a second I thought I might be hallucinating, but after three more checks they were steady lights although I was still not quite sure of their direction.  They didn’t look to be getting any closer so I wasn’t worried about any kind of collision.  45 minutes after my first boat sighting I noticed another light off the port side.  This one looked closer than the others, but being my first night sail I had no idea how to judge distance by the size of the mast light.  Once I spotted two more lights off port I became nervous  and ran down in the cabin to wake Matt.  Shaking him into a half-awake haze I whispered, ‘There’s other boats out there, what should I do?’.  Matt was a little confused and asked what I meant, and I replied, ‘Should I try not to hit them?’ and he answered ‘Yes, try not to hit them’, and rolled back over to go to sleep.  True story, I actually asked a question that dumb.  Climbing back into the cockpit I kept a careful eye on the first boat, the one closest to me, and made a slight alteration to my course.  Within 20 minutes I watched the light get brighter and turn from green to red.  I had just passed in front of their bow and probably only by a few hundred feet.  Taking in a 360 degree view and looking at the five boat lights within just a few miles of me I had to wonder who these crazy people were and why they were also in the middle of Lake Michigan during a storm.  Was it always this busy out here?

After passing through the worst part of the storm with winds averaging over 30 knots and topping out at 38, with thunder so loud I have no idea how it didn’t wake anyone in the cabin, the rain subsided to a drizzle and the sky turned from black to a very dark gray as dawn came upon us.  Checking the GPS in the cockpit it appeared as if we had only made it 2/3 of the way even though we had been on the water for over 10 hours.  My shift was supposed to end at 6 am with Matt relieving me, but once I did the math and figured that the four hours I’d be on watch would be the only sleep he’d get all night I thought I’d let him sleep in a little more.  Since we weren’t as close to our destination as we expected to be at that point there was no need for him to be up at that time, and I’d still be able to get a good two hours of sleep even if he didn’t come up until 8:00.  I remained in the cockpit watching the sky grow lighter although there was no sign that the sun was going to shine that morning.  Through the light fog I could make out other boats on the water, sailboats, all heading north.  Then it finally hit me.  This was the weekend of the Chicago to Mac race, and the boats I’ve been seeing on the lake all night were racers.  It was pretty cool crossing paths with them and I wish the sky were more clear so I could see just how many there were out there.  And if you happen to be in that race and saw a boat headed west that looked like they had no clue what they were doing, ….. sorry!!

A little after 7:00, when the 90’s mix CD was probably on it’s 8th cycle through now, Matt had woken up and joined me in the cockpit.  He said we were still 3-4 hours out from Milwaukee and I should go below and get some more rest before we arrived.  I stripped out of my soaking wet clothes and took his place on the starboard settee.  Just as I was drifting off Ken and Mindy decided it was time to get up.  Normally I can sleep through anything, but for some reason on this morning I could not sleep through their noises.  I was now wide awake as well and was going to have to make it through the day on only three hours of sleep.  While counting down the last agonizing hours until we made it into port we tried to waste time by making breakfast, popping in a movie (that we paid attention to for only 20 minutes), and hung out on deck with Matt waiting for land to come into sight.  Eventually the skyline came out of the cloudy haze.  I gave a call to the dockmaster at Milwaukee Yacht Club who directed me toward a slip for when we arrived.  Getting into shallow waters we could see all kinds of debris in the water from the past two nights of storms.  The water looked muddy and was full of tree branches and even a few logs bobbing around.  Maybe Becky had reason to worry after all.  Getting ready to pull into our assigned slip it was all hands on deck as Matt was popping his docking cherry and we didn’t know how it would go.  Everything went smoothly and soon we were secured and ready to get on dry land.  It was a 16 hour trip and all of us wanted to get moving right away.  Since we gained an hour on the way over, the office had just opened up when I went to register.  Mindy and I found where the amenities were and quickly packed shower bags to get ready for the day.

 

 

 

An hour later the four of us were ready to go and walked out of the marina as the sun began to break out of the clouds.  From what I could see so far, Milwaukee looked like a beautiful place.  Just outside the marina was a park with lush green grass, walking and biking paths, all lined with trees.  Just across the main road the skyscrapers started and you were downtown.  We walked down the roads with no real plan in mind except to find lunch.  We had wandered into a street fair with vendors everywhere.  Wanting to find an air conditioned spot as temps were already reaching the mid 80’s we found a Mexican cafe where I had a black bean, spinach, and goat cheese tostada that I really need to find out how to make on my own because it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten!  Back on the street we tried to find our way to the trolley that could bring us into the heart of downtown without us having to walk five or six miles round trip.  Coming out one of the backstreets to the main road the trolley follows we saw it pass us by just a block before the next stop.  We tried to run to catch up with it but were no match.  We’d have to wait 20 minutes for it to make it’s next round.  The sun was scorching, there was no wind, and no shade.  What felt like an hour later, just as we were about to give up and hail a cab it came around the corner again and we boarded on.  It was completely packed and there was standing room only.  Our destination was a casino on the far side of town since Mindy has the ability to turn $10 into $80 on the slot machines and we were hoping she’d win drinking money for the night.  We rode out to a stop that was closest to the casino, still about a mile and a half from it, and planned on walking the rest.  It didn’t take us long at all to get lost and we were constantly huddling over Matt’s phone trying to find the best route.  After realizing we’d have to cross a highway to get there we admitted defeat and called a cab to take us the short drive there.

 

 

 

Once inside we all made our way to the slot machines. Mindy plopped right down at the quarter slots while Matt and I went in search of the nickle slots.  I have no luck in gambling and for me it was just going to be a game of how long I could get $2 to last me.  Turns out it’s not very long and soon we were aimlessly wandering the floor trying to waste the next 30 minutes until we were all meeting up again.  By this time I was starting to hit a wall.  The lack of sleep from the night before was really starting to get to me and I was beginning to feel physically ill.  When we met up with Ken and Mindy (without our expected drinking money for the night) I was more than ready to go back to the boat for a nap.  When we stepped outside to hail a cab we saw a shuttle bus for the casino parked out front.  The guys edged Mindy and I toward it to see where it was going and if we could get a ride.  Climbing the steps with sweet smiles on our faces and batting our eyes we asked the driver who the bus was for and where it was heading.  Although it was empty at the time he informed us it was for ‘preferred guests’ and it took them wherever they wanted.  When we found out he wasn’t scheduled to drive anyone around for awhile we asked if he could run us back to the marina.  He happily agreed, but I think he was a little disappointed when we told him we’d be right back with our husbands.  Ten minutes later we had door to door service and wandered back to our slip where I promptly passed out, completely dead to the world.

 

 

 

What felt like a minute and a half later Matt was waking me and telling me that if we ever wanted to go out that night I’d need to get up and start getting ready.  Part of me just wanted to skip our night out and sleep until the next morning but I forced myself to pack a few belongings and head to the ladies room to freshen up.  Turns out I was the only one who had needed a nap and everyone else had spent the past hour and a half lounging around the boat and dock.  After getting ready we all headed out on foot to find an Irish restaurant I discovered online that was only just over a mile from the marina.  I had printed out directions on mapquest before we left and we began following the streets listed, going completely out of our way and walking up a very steep hill … only to be dropped out at the pedestrian bridge we had used that very morning which only took us five minutes to get to.  Apparently mapquest also gives pedestrian routes and I did not know this.  Might take awhile to live that one down.  Back on the same street from that morning, the festival was going strong and the crowds were becoming very thick.  Near the end of the street a drag show performance was going on and it looked as if the whole city of Milwaukee showed up to watch it.  We also stopped for a few minutes, but the hunger in our stomachs was becoming too strong for all of us and we kept moving.

Turning off onto a side street the buildings became more of the abandoned warehouse variety and we began to wonder if we were in the right place.  Continuing on we did end up at the Irish Pub, Brocach, a renovated brick building nestled between a few dilapidated buildings.  The decor was very nice and we were seated upstairs next to an outdoor patio area.  And after seeing the door swing open a few times displaying hanging lights and planed trees hiding the surrounding buildings we began to wish we were out there instead.  We all ordered a round of beers and realized that nobody had been drunk yet this weekend.  Going light on cocktails the night before for pure safety reasons and not having extra lounging time around the boat today for pre-dinner cocktails.  We made a promise to get good and sloshed that night since what good was a trip across Lake Michigan if you couldn’t fully enjoy it?  At the end of dinner Matt was content with his shepherd’s pie (the whole reason we went there), but had only managed one beer with his dinner.  In fact, Matt, Mindy and I were all tied for one and Ken was leading the board at just two.  We vowed to get crazier at the bars that night and hit the streets again without a clue of where to go.

 

 

 

Running into a group of 20 something’s on the street we asked where the best bars within walking distance were.  Immediately we got a response of a street that was about 7 blocks away and filled with bars.  We were given a specific bar name of Taylor’s and were told to just ask for that along the way if we got lost (which of course we did).  All of us were tired from the walk by the time we got there and were having a hard time trying to get into party mode.  Even worse, our friendly tour guides had directed us to the ‘trendy/upscale’ bar area of town while we were only decked out in jeans and flip flops.  Underdressed was a bit of an understatement.  Instead of trying to find another area of town that suited us better we just sat at a table outside and ordered a round of beers.  It was barely 9:00 at night, peak bar hours hadn’t even started yet, and we were ready to pass out in our chairs.  It was a little disappointing that we had sailed all the way across one of the Great Lakes just so we could party at new bars and now we were too tired to do so.  Finishing our one beer apiece we paid our bill and started the journey back to the marina.

Walking along the waters edge I thought how said it was that we didn’t have more time to spend here.  There were so many amazing things we wanted to see, the art museum, spend time shopping downtown, and most importantly take a brewery tour.  We had barely tapped the surface, and even if we had a week to spend there we wouldn’t have run out of things to do.  I’m really hoping we can squeeze in another trip next year before we leave to head south.  Getting closer to the marina, a fireworks display broke out over the water.  We had no idea what it was for since it wasn’t a holiday but enjoyed them all the same as we walked along.  They were still exploding into the night sky by the time we reached the boat.  Leaving Ken and Mindy behind (by their choice) Matt and I sat on the deck and gazed up at the greens, reds, and purples illuminating everything around us.  It may have been a short trip.  We may have cut out about 60% of what we wanted to do.  But it was still completely worth it.

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Milwaukee or Bust

Friday July 23, 2010

This morning at 6 am was supposed to be our departure across the lake to Milwaukee, but when the alarm went off at 4 am to check the forecast all plans were put on hold.  The radar was showing severe storms all day and we had to make the decision if we thought it would still be a safe passage across.  Comparing it to the storm we suffered through the night before consisting of gale force winds, severe lighting, sheets of rain, and tornado warnings, we decided it was safer to put the trip off til our backup date two weeks later and went back to bed.

Slowly coming to again around 8 am we opened the hatches expecting to see dark ominous clouds and winds blowing branches off trees.  What we found instead was a slightly hazy sky and a calm over the water.  Not ideal conditions for sailing since there was no wind, but definitely safe enough for a 69 mile trip across Lake Michigan.  I was quite disappointed  to say the least.  In my head I tried to do quick calculations to see if the trip was still possible if we left within an hour but it would have put us in Mikwaukee after dark, and since we had never docked a boat before we decided that would not be an ideal first attempt.  Plus we had already told our friends Ken and Mindy who were going to take the trip with us that it was cancelled and we didn’t know if they would be able to pick up and leave again at that minute.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon were spent hanging around the boat, Matt just excited to be on the boat, and me moping around because we had literally been planning the trip since December.  While sitting in the cockpit soaking up the sun that had decided to come out and taunt me, Mindy and I texted back and forth how it would have been a perfect ride over and wishing we would have gone.  Around 3:00 she sent me a text that read ‘We should just go now n let the guys sail during the night while we sleep! Lol! Just kidding!’.  But actually it was quite perfect.  If we left around 7 that evening and it took us the 12 hours we were expecting to get over, it would put us there just after sunrise.  And since we’d be sleeping on the way over we’d still be refreshed and ready to explore the next day.  After some phone calls and grumbling on Mindy’s part (she’d just cancelled the babysitter, now she’d have to get them back) we made plans for Ken and Mindy to meet us at the boat at five, grab a quick bite to eat, and set sail at seven.

Following an interesting dinghy ride back to the boat once we picked them up in which the entire floor was covered with luggage, coolers and sleeping bags, and Ken slowly sinking the bow, we loaded Serendipity up with our new guests and their belongings.  Dinner was quickly prepared and eaten and we were ready to be on our way.  With one problem.  Not only would the engine not fire up, it wouldn’t even turn over.  Matt spent the next 20 minutes huddled up next to the engine sweating, and cursing under his breath I’m sure, to find that a tube had come unattached.  With a snap (or a twist) back on the engine was roaring and we were underway.  With the mainsail raised, motor still running, and the autopoilot set at 265 degrees we set out for our first big adventure.

 

 

 

Sitting on the deck with fresh cocktails and beers in our hands, we let our legs dangle over the edge and catch the waves with our toes.  Watching the sky turn from blue to pink we gazed at clouds that looked like greyhounds and space saucers, blissfully unaware of the uncomfortable journey we had ahead of us through the night.

 

Look, it’s a greyhound!!

The calm before the storm

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A Midnight Swim Under the Stars

Saturday June 19, 2010

Another weekend, another group of friends.  I think we’re starting to get pretty popular.  The friends we had out this time were Ken and Mindy, one of Matt’s co-workers and his wife.  These friends are going to be joining us on a trip across Lake Michigan next month to Milwaukee, and even though we love just hanging out with them in general we thought it would be a good idea to have them on the boat for the night so they could get a sense of the space we have on board and if they’d be able to stay cooped up on it for 12 hours straight.  Plus I’ve seen how Mindy packs for weekend trips and I wanted her to see how little storage there is on the boat, especially with 4 people on it.  Not that I would have known any better myself before owning a boat though.  We’ll still have to see if any editing needs to be done once they arrive for the trip.  There might be cocktail dresses and heels going overboard.

 

 

 

After a nice dinner in Muskegon sitting on a patio and listening to live music we made our way back to the boat for some after dinner drinks and a sunset cruise.  I was quite excited about this, because as weird as it sounds being on the lakeshore, we rarely ever see sunsets except from our mooring.  But an unobstructed view of the horizon is a beautiful sight that I will never get sick of.  There wasn’t much wind, but for some reason there were rolling waves on the water.  This is absolutely my least favorite combination.  I can get seasick pretty easily sometimes but can usually get over it if I have a nice breeze on my face.  However, if there’s no breeze there’s no feeling better.  I usually only start to get sick if I’m trying to do something in the cabin, so after trying to be a good hostess and mix a rum and diet for Mindy my stomach started to get queasy and I was off drink duty.  It was time to put Matt to work anyway.

We had a good time puttering around at a slow pace and dangling our feet off the back ladder into the water.  The water felt surprisingly warm for June, and when we checked our gages it showed 75.  I would have guessed that for Muskegon Lake, but both Matt and I have taken May swims in Lake Michigan with under 60 degree water temperatures so I did not think the big lake would heat up this quickly.  Although we had all brought our suits none of us quite felt like jumping in just yet.  So we hung around the cockpit laughing and having a good time.  There was a little bit of a seating issue since Mazzii had the whole starboard side to herself leaving the four of us to take any open space we could find.  Since we were only a few days from the longest day of the year, the sun didn’t start to dip below the horizon until 9:30.  Even after it was down the sky stayed a blazing orange and red until well after 10:00.  Yep, I could never get sick of this.

 

Keeping an eye on Ken so he won’t push her in

Me?  Space hog?

Bringing the boat back to the mooring there was not a breath of wind in the air.  We took advantage of this by bringing out a deck of cards to play a few games.  I’ma lover of gin rummy and poker (five card draw, NOT Texas hold ’em), but it seems like every other person in the world loves Euchre.  I was quickly out-voted when Matt decided he wouldn’t vote, and I was forced to brush up on my Euchre skills that I haven’t used in forever.  To even things out I was paired with Ken while Matt paired with Mindy so each team had at least one person who knew what they were doing.  Ever fearful I had no idea what card to throw down when, Ken and I easily pulled in a victory since each round I usually had a Jack in my hand.

I was not too keen on playing another round, so when Matt suggested going for a midnight swim I actually took a moment to ponder the idea.  I’m not much of a night swimmer and I’m not much of a swimmer in Muskegon Lake but at the time it sounded like the best idea ever.  After a little prodding Mindy was on board too.  I won’t lie, we did have to take a shot of Mailbu to give ourselves a little extra courage before we put our suits on.  It was still sounding like a good idea until we were standing at the edge of the deck looking down at the black water.  Every girly we were holding onto each other’s hands so one wouldn’t jump into the water without the other.  Taking a deep breath we made the plunge.  The water was very warm and we were splashing around having a good time, climbing back on and jumping off again and again.  Soon Matt was also in on the action and I was pretty sure this was going to have to become a ritual.

On the count of three, jump!!

After fully tiring ourselves out we dried off in the cockpit with one last drink for the night.  Matt shuttled Ken and Mindy off to the parking lot and sent them on their way.  Sloppily making the bed in the v-berth I waited for him to come back and we both crawled in to go to bed.  Yes, I am definitely loving weekends on the boat now.

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Oh the Weather Outside is Weather

Sunday June 13, 2010

Serendipity already seems to be getting more visitors than the Hunter ever did.  Besides having our friends Becky and Tyler out for her maiden voyage, we were having our friends Kim and Korey out with us today.  They actually had been on the Hunter with us last year, so the extra space on the deck and in the cabin amazed them.  All Kim could say after she got on was ‘It’s so big….there’s so much more space than the last boat….it’s just so big’.  Which should tell you a little bit about how small the Hunter felt with four people on it.  Like I’ve said before, it gave us some great times but buying the Sabre was a big upgrade for us.

 

Last year on the Hunter

We were hoping for a beautiful sunny day on the water, this was June of course, but why would Michigan submit to my desires.  The sky was overcast and it was chilly enough to need a fleece or jacket.  There was a nice amount of wind so we pointed the bow north and set the autopilot.  We didn’t let it ruin our day though.  Cracking open a few beers we grilled burgers and hung out in the cockpit.  Then we moved the party up to the deck where we dangled our feet over the edge and let Mazzii steer the boat.  It may not have been an ideal day out on the water, but we always have a good time with our friends and the summer is just beginning.  We’ll have plenty more opportunities for the sun to come out as well…. I hope.

 

That Korey, he’s a looker

Don’t worry guys, I’ve totally got this!

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