A Gay Ol’ Day of Sailing

Sunday July 17, 2011

As much as we would have like to stay on the boat last night we were dog sitting for Matt’s mom, which left us running out the door just after 8 am to get to the marina as soon as possible.  Our holding tank was brimming full and we wanted to have it emptied before any big crowds or a strong wind made it difficult to get to the fuel docks.  There was more of a breeze on the lake than we expected when we got there although forecasts had called for none, but it was luckily going to push us right into the dock.  Sorting through the 20 or 30 fenders we have in our lazarette we pulled out 4 and began to attach them to the stanchions.  I hailed Harbour Towne to make sure there would someone available to evacuate our tank and was informed we were second in line.  Matt navigated through the narrow channel and we waived at another boat passing on their way out.  I overheard the guy in the cockpit call up to the bow ‘I’m going to turn this around and come back’ which to me meant they must have been going to the fuel dock as well, the person ahead of us in line,  and came up on the wrong side.  I tried to relay this to Matt as he probably saw the empty dock and though it was free for the taking.  As well as sound normally travels over water it was not traveling over our boat and he did not have a clue what I was trying to say as I repeated myself over and over again that the space was not free for us.  Since I still wasn’t positive what was going on as we came up on the dock I had the dock lines in my hand just in case, determined not to bonk someone in the face this time.  The woman on the dock ushered us to the smaller end as Matt was in fact trying to play ‘cutsies’ in line.  Fortunately this area had a pump as well and we were able to start getting the poop out and the fresh water in.

When the other boat had made it’s way out of the channel and back we realized it belonged to our friend Tom who we met last year at Eldean’s when him and his wife Connie also had their boat in storage there.  Even though we had been aboard their boat a few time to admire it they had unfortunately never able to see our boat due to it being 60% ripped apart until the week before it was put in the water.  While Tom’s boat was also getting pumped at the fuel docks I gave him the 60 second tour of Serendipity which received lots of compliments, especially on the teak.  Then we wandered over to his Catalina 44 named Andiamo.  Since the last time we’d seen it there had a new dodger & bimini outfitted for the boat as well as personally designed covers and pillows for the berths.  It was a beautiful boat and I could imagine myself spending weeks at a time on it.  It was light and airy and felt 10 times bigger than ours.  When Matt finished the job of filling the water tanks he came over to look around as well.  He was mesmerized by the dodger/bimini and kept giving me sideways glances as if to say ‘When are you going to finish ours? They were supposed to be done months ago’.  We all stood there talking for awhile and enjoying the morning sun and heat until the attendant kept stopping by to ask if there was anything else she could do for us, which is the customer service way of saying ‘move your butts along, I have other people trying to get in here’.

We took that as a cue to move our boat down about 300 feet to the end of Tom & Connie’s dock at Harbour Towne where we tied off and climbed into the shade of Andiamo where we talked for awhile about Holland vs Muskegon and how much they were loving their new slip and the area.  After not too long though we started receiving texts from friends of ours that were on the way to spend the day with us and were now only 10 minutes away, so we had to quickly shove off and get back to Torresen’s to pick them up.  This was the weekend of the Chicago Mac Race which left plenty of large slips open that we’d be able to steal for 10 minutes to load everyone on.  Pulling up to the marina we saw our friends eager and waiting to spend the day ‘yachting’ as they referred to it.  These were two friends, Jared and Jeff that I worked at Outback with, plus Jeff’s boyfriend Darryl and his friend Sara.  Putting our friends to work before they even stepped foot on the boat we were throwing out dock lines and scrambling to get them cleated without causing trauma to the boat (we’re getting much better at this).  There were no mishaps and we were able to get everyone plus the food and liquor on board in record time.  Then proving the Sabre is much better than the Hunter steering through this particular channel we successfully back our way out into open water and while Matt began to steer us toward the channel to the big lake I made sure to secure the very large and very well stocked cooler down below deck.  It would be a sad sad day if that had gone overboard.

Both Matt and I were so happy to have these friends out with us as it’s almost impossible not to have a great time with them.  Before we could even clear the channel Jeff and I were perfecting our mixology skills below deck  where he worked on vodka and juice combinations and pulled out a premixed container of something that looked like the Ecto Cooler Hi-C juice boxes I used to drink as a kid.  As for myself, I was able to triumphantly open a beer for Matt and pour some boxed wine for myself.  Containers of hummus were opened and pretty soon we had a nice little spread going in the cockpit.  Unfurling the sails and then cutting the engine it did start to feel a little like a high class cruise that most landlubbers would expect ‘yachting’ to be.  Too bad the teak deck was on back-order and I had given Geoffrey the day off from pouring my white wine or else they could have seen how high class things really could be.

 

Aren’t those just the cutest smiles you’ve ever seen?

After an hour or two of Mediterranean snacks and neon green libations we were either too stubborn to let the now early afternoon chill ruin our day, or the sun actually did come back out and start warming things up.  Soon after slathering on sunscreen and working on our summer glows half of the crew was ready to get in the water and we lowered the sails to let ourselves slow to a stop.  Granting it may have appeared to a non sailer that we were almost to a standstill, apparently Darryl didn’t realize how fast one knot of speed could still be because while we were still making a little bit of forward movement he jumped off the side and had to play a little bit of catch up as we slowly but surely began to leave him in our dust.  After that we thought it may be a good idea to trail a rope off the stern for any other possible stragglers.  In wasn’t long before Matt, Jeff and I were also in the water, jumping off the bow and trying to catch the rope before we were passed by.  Once the boat was actually at a standstill we were all flipping and diving off the side and like kids lined up at a water park we’d climb up the ladder just to do it over and over again.  To make things even more fun we also threw some of the fenders into the water trying to prove to each other that they could be ridden.  They can’t.

 

Hey guys!!!……Guys??!!

When we’d had enough swimming and frolicking it was time for sustenance in the form of perfectly grilled cheeseburgers and a family size bag of ruffled potato chips.  It was already getting so late in the afternoon at this point that our lunch was probably coinciding with the early bird dining specials.  No one was close to calling it a day, and even though Jared had to take a nap below to regain some energy we pointed the bow back at the horizon and kept cruising, putting off the inevitable that we’d eventually have to go back.  Slowly the sun kept dropping lower and lower in the sky and while we were halfheartedly hatching plans to call in sick to work the next day and just make this an all night party, responsibility got the better of (most of) us and we began to follow our trail home.  It was a perfect day on the water and we were all so eager to do it again that I forced everyone to promise they’d be back for the weekend of my birthday.  How can you turn down a request like that?

Collecting up belongings and putting everything back in order we readied the dinghy to start getting our friends back to shore.  Completely disregarding the capacity limit we squeezed all four of our guests plus all of their belongings and skipper Matt in to keep from making multiple trips.  I said my goodbyes and watched them float away with bow and stern slowly sinking into the water.

 

 

 

Photos from the day

 

 This is getting to be a pretty familiar pose

I love the reflection in Jared’s sunglasses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheers to the Freakin Weekend (I Drink to That)

Saturday July 9, 2011

I arrived at the boat around 5:00, exhausted from a hard day of being at a lavish bridal shower for my oldest friend where I was forced to drink mimosas and take a leisurely pontoon ride on a neighborhood lake during a perfect and sunny afternoon.  I could hardly take pity on Matt after he spent the whole day cleaning the boat top to bottom and having been on it all week replacing hoses, painting the engine, and getting the windlass working.  What a cushy life he has.

Shortly after he got me on the boat with all of our clothes, food, and beer, we received a text from our friend Mindy that her and Ken pulled in and were ready to be picked up in the dinghy.  We hopped back in and shot over to get our friends.  Just like last year we tried to squeeze about four bags, a case of beer, and four people into the dink.  This time was much better however because joining us were two boxes of pizza and some breadsticks.  It was the only item anyone was worried about accidentally going overboard.  We managed to get everything to the boat safe and dry and it barely took two minutes for us to crack open a beer and throw the pizza boxes open.

West Michigan had been having an extremely warm week of weather and we were all sitting on the boat now with the sun beating down on us at nearly 90 degrees and not a breath of wind.  We didn’t know what the temperature of Lake Michigan was, but we decided we needed to find out.  On the way down the channel Mindy and I forced Ken to test out the new camera they had just purchased.  There was a mini photo shoot going on in the cockpit and the deck where us girls would keep moving around saying “Take our picture here……now take our picture over here”.  I’m sure he was very sick of us after a few minutes and quite relieved when we had cruised far enough into the lake to go swimming.  That was of course until Mindy changed into her brand new swimsuit and more photos had to be taken.  And just when he thought he had gotten rid of us after we jumped in the water, we forced him to take the camera out one more time to get action photos of us jumping off the side of the boat.  Fortunately for him we were bored after two jumps and he was able to enjoy his beer in the shade of the cockpit while we hung out in the water, slowly drifting away and scrambling back.  Girls, I tell you.  They’re insufferable.

 

 

 

We could totally make the cover of Vogue

 

 

Once we had exhausted ourselves we collapsed on deck with frufru drinks in hand.  The sun was still a long way from setting and since I rarely get to enjoy watching them on the big lake with a completely unobscured view of the water I wanted to make sure we stayed out for it.  I suggested we hang out in the cockpit with a deck of cards until the sun slipped below the horizon.  Mindy was eyeing the dunes on shore and thinking a climb sounded like a good idea.  She asked if we could get the boat to shore and make it a possibility.  Matt and I laughed a little and let her know this wasn’t the kind of boat you ‘beach’, and that we could take it into a depth of about 10 feet but the rest would have to be swam.  The discussion went back and forth a few times with her saying she wanted to wait until the boat was anchored and then decide if she wanted to make the swim, and us telling her that if we went through the trouble of anchoring where she wanted that she would be making the swim whether it was her decision to go overboard or not.

Trying to persuade her I recalled the times Matt and I used to anchor inside the breakers near the pier and make the swim to shore, and though it took a few minutes it was never very hard.  Once we made the decision for her and the anchor was down (with much ease due to the newly working windlass I might add) we had a dry bag packed with my far less expensive camera, t-shirts, a towel, and of course a few drinks.  After strapping on our life vests and tying the dry bag on a long rope attached to my vest we leapt off the side and began the swim in.  I’d like to think it was the life vest and the drag of the dry bag I was toting slowing me down because my pace was terrible.  After close to 10 minutes of swimming Mindy hit shallow enough water to stand in and I was still paddling quite far behind her.  By the time I dragged my butt on shore I was panting and quite thankful for the life vest that I had originally planned on not using.

Opening the dry bag we toweled ourselves off and cracked open our beers.  Both of us were too tired to do any climbing so we just passed out on the beach.  When our cans only had a few drops left and we realized the sky was starting to cloud over and there would not be the spectacular sunset we’d hoped for we decided we may as well head back.  Only problem was the swim had been much longer than either of us anticipated and neither of us were in a rush to complete it again.  There were a few small powerboats and jet skis up the shore and Mindy was just sure they would love to give us a ride.  I was not up for asking, begging, or batting my eyes.  I made it clear that she was welcome to ask while I stood 100 feet back.  She then asked, begged, and batted her eyes at me that I at least stand next to her while she called on these so called taxi drivers.  We gathered all our things and started walking up the beach going back and forth if we should bother anyone.  In the end we manned-up and made the swim back ourselves.  This time I made her strap on the vest with the dry bag dragging behind her, and she still kicked my ass on the swim.  Guess I need to take swim lessons or start running 3 miles a day like Mindy just so I can keep up with her.

 

 

 

Just a little bit further from shore than I originally thought

 

After drying off, Mindy and I dove into a bag of Doritos like there was no tomorrow, adding back any calories we may have lost during our swim.   It was still a beautiful night out with the sun going down and barely a hint of wind.  Instead of pulling up anchor and going back to the mooring we decided to stay put.  Plus without the wind whipping around it was a perfect environment for playing cards out in the fresh air.  Switching up the couples I was paired with Ken and Matt and Mindy were together for a game of Euchre.  Not my favorite game, and I was sure I would disappoint Ken with my continued lack of knowledge on it, but I was pretty good at getting Jacks that night and we destroyed Matt and Mindy.  The next game we played required much less skill, the good old classic UNO.  To be honest though none of us had played in over 15 years and we did have to go back and read the instructions.  The sun had basically gone down by this point making things nearly impossible to see so we strung up our Davis Instruments Mega Light from the boom to shine a little light on our game.  A very helpful accessory, but since we had in the dim bulb it made it very difficult to make out the green cards from the blue ones.  We should have been playing Bullshit since a lot of the game was calling each other out on knowingly placing down the wrong color card and trying to get away with it.

 

 

 

In the middle of our reversing, skipping, and drawing 4, we seemed to get an invasion of creepy crawlers on the boat.  The first one was spotted by Mindy with a bit of a shriek and crawling over Ken to get further out of the way.  There was a nice sized spider dangling from the wheel inches from where her leg had just been.  Being the only real man on the boat I grabbed a paper towel, scooped him up and threw him overboard.  Our game resumed until Ken was taking a potty break by the stern and discovered another one under our solar panel.  Apparently he was just as scared as everyone else and it was me to the rescue again.  Pretty soon I was getting a reputation as a bad ass spider killer.  And there did not seem to be a shortage of them that night.  After the fourth random find we decided to go on a hunt instead of having them drop in on us unexpectedly.  Pulling out a flashlight we started searching the cockpit.  The few more we did find were centered near the stern and the solar panel.  All the ones we had seen up until this point were a pretty decent size that would send most people running the opposite direction, and then we came upon the mac daddy of big spiders.  This one was so big it could have it’s own zip code.  It was big enough that I’m sure insurance companies would consider it our third crew member while sailing across oceans.  I was contemplating keeping it so it could take one of the watches on night sails, but the consensus on board was to throw it over.

Mindy was getting very freaked out at the amount of spiders by this time and we figured it was getting late enough where we should pull up the anchor and make it back to the mooring.  Moving the games below deck we spent the next hour with full glasses of wine and beer, playing dominoes until one by one we started to drop from exhaustion.  No one had even realized the clock was creeping after two.  My head hit the pillow and I was out.  It didn’t happen to be the right one, and the next thing I heard was Mindy’s voice in a kidding and whining tone saying “Jessica’s on my pill-ow!!”.  I was quickly ushered to my own and comfortably passed out for the night.

Big Anchor….Small Dinghy

Sunday July 3, 2011

Waking up in an area that wasn’t Muskegon was a nice change for once and the sun was nice enough to come back out after getting it’s rest too.  Spending some time lounging around and having a delicious breakfast of apple fritter and coke I was able to experience my first ‘getting ready to go to town’ without any help from land based facilities.  I had made sure to bath myself the night before in the lake using a new eco friendly shampoo I had found, but my now clean and naturally curly hair had turned into some kind of rats nest while I slept.  It was a perfect chance to pull out my wet to dry flatiron and see how it worked on the boat.  I was given a strict timeline from Matt as to not use up too much power, and while I rushed with combs, clips, and a spray bottle in the tiny space of the head he took watch at the nav station staring at the power use and making sure I didn’t bleed us dry.  Everything was successful on both sides and now I’m happy to know I won’t have to wear my hair up everyday for three years straight and will be able to keep a little bit of normalcy about my life.

Preparing ourselves to jet into town we decided we’d walk around for a bit, maybe have lunch, and come back to the boat for an afternoon nap.  Getting the dinghy down and ready for travel we pushed off and started our search for the area where we heard the public dinghy dock was.  Luckily after scouring the shore for what could be a public launch area we saw an spot with about five other dinghies hauled out on land and assumed we had the right place.  Pulling ours up alongside we figured the worst that could happen if we were wrong is we’d get a warning note that we were beaching in a private area.  Although not getting off from parking scot free the dinghy did leave traces of it’s blue rub rail all over my leg while I was dragging it to shore.  Slipping into the nearby public restroom I spent 10 minutes using a basically empty soap dispenser and recycled paper towel while hoisting my thigh up to the sink and trying to scrub it off.  For as easily as it came off the dink it did not want to make it’s way off my leg.  When I got out Matt stepped in to use it for it’s intended purpose and walked out rubbing his wet hands on his jeans since I had just used all the paper towel.

Trying to make our way into where we thought town was it only took one wrong turn before we were headed in the right direction.  We happened upon the main road which was lined with charming and well presented shops.  One of the first places we noticed after rounding the corner was a little marine store called Brass Anchor.  Not only was it filled with essential everyday items such as cleaning supplies and PDFs, but it was also filled with nautical themed trinkets and antiques.   You couldn’t move two feet without coming across antique lanterns, portholes, or even brass lamps.  It was interesting to see how the same brass we had on our boat would look if we left it alone for 20 years.  Now I have an excuse not to want to do any polishing.  As tempting as some of the purchases were we walked out empty handed and continued our way up the sidewalk.  While passing a few restaurants with outdoor seating my mouth began to water but seeing as it wasn’t even noon yet we kept walking but were sure to keep these places in mind.  Not knowing much  about the town at all we were happy to stumble upon an information center with a pamphlet on the events going on through the summer.  Opening the pamphlet we were delighted to see there was a pie eating contest happening that day in the nearby picnic grounds.  While looking over the other events including fireworks that night at the state park there was a gentleman sitting outside on the bench that must have worked at the information center.  I think he could tell we were from out of town and gave us extra inside happenings of the best times to do and see certain things.  He was also a sailor and we got into a lengthy  discussion with him on how we had got up there in our boat and he told us stories of his racing days.  This discussion was leading us closer and closer to lunchtime and before letting us go gave us suggestions on two great restaurants just a block up the road, Antler Bar and The Brown Bear.  Getting increasingly hungrier I told Matt that I was going to need food soon so we walked up to check both the restaurants out.  Both looked great from the outside, but we weren’t able to take a peak in since neither opened until noon and it was only 11:30 at this point.

We did find out that both restaurants were located next to the picnic grounds where the pie eating contest was and wandered down there to pass the time.  It was a perfect slice of Americana (no pun intended) where rows and rows of tables with white linens were lined with homemade pies ready for tasting and judging.  There were refreshment stands serving fresh squeezed lemonade and hot dogs.  A bouncy castle and inflatable slide had been set up for the kids and there was even a dunk tank sponsored by Farmers Insurance raising money for what I’m sure was a good cause although I didn’t know what it was.  All these sights and sounds were not helping my food craving, but the restaurants did have one thing going that the fair did not and that was ice cold beer.  So we took our spot on a bench in front of The Antler realizing they had a back patio overlooking the fair.  Joining us in waiting was a man and his son that were also in town just for the weekend.  Once the doors opened all four of us headed straight upstairs to the patio and ordered the cold beers that I apparently was not the only one craving.  I mean, having a Lieinenkugel Summer Shandy with a lemon wedge while sitting outside in beautiful weather on a holiday weekend.  Does life really get much better than that?  Talking to the two guys they mentioned their wives were busy shopping at the ‘Bitchin Kitchen’ and doing other girly things so they were doing guy things like drinking beer  (which I would much prefer to shopping for kitchen items).  After finding out the patio didn’t serve food the two of us made our way back inside after finishing our beers to check out a menu.  I had taken information guy’s advise and ordered a cup of soup which that day was a creamy chicken and asparagus combination that was absolutely delicious.  They also had a Sunday special of $0.50 wings that we were more than happy to take advantage of.

 

Heading back to the grassy knoll on full stomachs we watched as tables were set up for the pie eating contest.  There were going to be 3 different rounds, one for kids under 10, another for kids 10-17, and lastly one for the adults.  For the under 18 crowd each kid was given a Little Debbie pie, hands were placed behind the back and the whistle was blown.  The first round was very cute to watch as little kids as small as 3 or 4 would take little nibbles off the end while the larger kids were in it to win it.  The second round was also very competitive and was over in less than 90 seconds.  By the time the adults took over the table the crowds to watch were multiplying and we lost any good view of what was going on.  Since we didn’t know anyone in the contest we didn’t want to be pushy to try and make our way toward the front so we went back to roaming the streets and the little shops.       We even found ourselves in the Bitchin Kitchen which I have to say I was extremely  impressed by.  A very upscale place with anything you could imagine and could easily make you go broke by the time you left from the amount of tempting things to buy.  While walking around we found they were selling a certain brand of knives which looked very familiar because we had the same ones on the boat.  Another gift left to us by Serendipity’s previous owner.  Thanks again Dean, we really do appreciate all of the goodies you’ve left behind!

 

Making our way back towards the water and the dinghy to spend a few hours relaxing and planning out the rest of our evening.  We enjoyed a nice Sunday afternoon nap that was only shortly interrupted by a poorly steered sailing dinghy that kept bumping into our bow.  There was also lying in the sun, reading and just enjoying the face we didn’t have to pack up and be home that night.  While heating up leftovers for dinner we talked about going to view the fireworks that night being held just outside the channel on the Lake Michigan shore.  The initial thought was to take the boat out and drop anchor while we watched from the comfort of our cockpit but that led to thoughts of having to re-anchor in our cove in the dark and neither of us wanted that.  We then thought of taking the dinghy out and beaching it on the shore while we sat on a blanket in the sand.  Well that would have been fine except for the no alcohol allowed and I wouldn’t have been able to sip on a fruity cocktailish drink while enjoying the sunset.  I threw out the idea of anchoring the dinghy out just in front of the beach and that way we’d have the best of both worlds.  Matt laughed for a minute but was quickly on board.

Once the sun was starting to make it’s descent in the sky we threw on jeans and jackets and filled our backpack with towels (for blankets) and Dailys pre-made margaritas and strawberry daiquiris.  There wasn’t much other boat traffic on the smaller inland lake or the big lake once we got out there, although there were large crowds starting to form on the beach.  Motoring to about 10 feet of water and just a few hundred feet from where the buoys to mark off the swim area were located Matt cut the engine and grabbed our  anchor meant to hold a 36 ft boat in place and dropped in into the shallow water below us.  We had to laugh a little at the fact that we’d be using a larger anchor than most of the other powerboats and sailboats that would be joining us that night, and all for a 9 ft 100 lb dinghy.  Once we ‘made sure the anchor was set’ and that we wouldn’t drag into nearby boats and cause catastrophic damage we made ourselves comfortable by putting the required life vests under us for cushions and kicked our feet up.  Taking full advantage of the situation we took out our Daily’s cocktails and tried to figure out the best way to drink them directly from the pouch since normally they get poured directly into a glass.  Tying out different combinations of pinching one end to create a spout out of the other and take sips without it pouring into our laps.  I’m sure we were quite a site to see and in no way resembled the people who sit on couches in their front yard drinking 40 oz bottles of malt liquor.

 

 

From the water we could still do a decent amount of people watching as more people kept coming to the beach and out in boats.  There was the group of young sport fishers right next to us who were blasting country music out of their speakers while their girlfriends drank and complained, the group of parents whose teenage daughters were going for a late evening swim among the now crowding anchorage, and best of all a two story party pontoon boat who came out of the channel blasting a John Philip Sousa march followed by advertisements for some store or another.  After the county sheriff looked like he was about to chase them down they thankfully turned it to the Black Eyed Peas and began a dance party on their roof top deck.  As the sun sank lower and lower into the sky you could see people on the pier getting all the fireworks ready to launch and we kept repositioning ourselved in the dinghy because it would do 180 degree rotations and keep changing our view.

 

 

 

 

 

Once the last bit of light was leaving the sky the first firework was shot off and we snuggled against eachother to enjoy the show.  It was quite an impressive display and we watched the colors explode in the air with no other objects around to block out or distract from the view.  At that moment I was happy we weren’t out in the large boat as the smaller space forced you to get closer and it felt like there was nothing else in the world but us, the water, and a shower of colors raining down from the sky.  The array lasted for about 10-15 minutes and finished with the kind of big finale that leaves you almost deaf and blind but just as excited to see the popping and explosions as when you were a kid.

Thinking we could outrun most of the boat traffic by getting out of there as soon as possible we upped the anchor and started the motor as soon as the last firework fizzled from the sky.  We were a little worried since we didn’t have running lights and were afraid others wouldn’t see us in the dark.  Matt handed me a LED flashlight and told me to hold it above my head with my other hand covering it about a foot above to give us a little reflection and make ourselves seen.  Normally I don’t care about making a fool of myself but on this night I felt like such a dope posing like the Statue of Liberty and was sure all eyes were on me.  We were able to cut through to the channel pretty quickly, but once there everyone besides us felt the need to disregard the no wake rule and started zipping by at much quicker speeds.  And when they thought that maybe they saw something in the water ahead of them they took out thier giant spotlights to glare down on us. Every. 60. Seconds.  This dinghy ride could not end quick enough.  Once everyone funnled out of the channel and spread out the spotlight on us became much less frequent although the sheriff that had been making it’s way toward the party boat early now looked like they had their sights set on us.  Matt kept telling me to hold the light higher or aim it in the direction of the sheriff so they could tell that we were trying to be seen.  And legally we did have everything we needed, it’s just that neither of us felt like dealing with the hassle that night.  Matt thought he remembered our spotlight flashlight being in the backpack so I quick pulled that out and lit up the night sky.  That was enough to make them change direction to a drunken boat of people that could have used the attention of law enforcement.

We were happy to find that Serendipity was exactly where we had left her, and even though it wasn’t even 11:00 yet I was ready to crash in bed.  I have no idea how one can be so tired after not doing much all day and still getting a nap in the afternoon.  I’m slightly worried for my future.

The next morning we awoke to another beautiful sunny day.  After spending a little time getting ourselves and the boat clean we raised the dinghy and anchor and set out for home.  The water on Lake Michigan started out a turquoise green that graduated to a royal blue as we gained distance and depth.  The wind was still in hiding ever since the fog rolled off Saturday and we were forced to use the motor.  It was a relaxing journey home of just reading, sunbathing and listening to music.  I read a few chapters of boat book to appease Matt and even learned a few things along the way.  By the time we pulled up to our mooring early that evening I was a bit bronzer, slightly smarter, and not at all looking forward to going back to work the next day.  I was however going to be heading home alone since Matt had still decided to keep one of the two weeks off work to get all the boat projects done that he hadn’t finished over the spring.  As I was getting ready for bed that night I had a message from him on my phone telling me Muskegon was having an even better fireworks display that night and he had just seen one of a heart with an arrow going through it so he needed to call me and tell me about it.  Awwww.  I should have stayed out there with him.  Who needs work anyway?

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

Maiden Voyage

Saturday May 29, 2010

With the sun rising and slightly warming up the cabin we were able to get a couple hours of sleep where we weren’t shaking and shivering.  Temperatures quickly warmed up and we realized as nice as it would be, we couldn’t stay in bed forever.  Our friends Becky and Tyler were supposed to arrive around noon and we wanted to be underway by 1:00.  After unmaking the bed (a much easier process), running to the bathrooms to wash my face and brush my teeth again, and then taking the dog the bathroom where she actually went right away this time after holding it in all night, I was ready for, yes, more chores.  We busted out our spiffy new hoses and filled all 3 of our water tanks.  With fresh water now available I went to work washing the new dishes and silverware I just purchased along with any other dishes and silverware that came with the boat.  Mazzii just sat on the settee watching me wash everything piece by piece trying to conserve as much water as possible.  We wouldn’t have access to fresh water for awhile since we’d be at a mooring from that night on and wanted it to last as long as possible.

 

 

 

About 30 minutes before noon I got a call from Becky letting me know they were running late and would be to the boat by 12:30 or 1:00.  Matt and I were behind on a few things anyway and didn’t mind the delay.  Although once 1:00 came and they were nowhere to be seen we started to get a little antsy.  Matt is a stickler for time, one of those “If you’re on time you’re late” kind of people.  A quick call to Becky confirmed she just dropped her kids off at her mom’s, left a vehicle at Torresen’s so we’d all have something to ride in when we arrived, and were only 20 miles from Eldean’s.  We decided to stop at the BBQ being thrown by the marina on this picturesque Michigan day.  We also figured the entrance to the marina would be the perfect spot to spot our friends when the arrived, before they could get lost amongst the mass of boats.  After our meals had been finished and we were still waiting I made another call to see if maybe they had gotten lost along the way.  Nope, turns out they were catching every single red light between Muskegon and Holland.  They had only made it about half way so far.  With another 20-30 minutes to waste we decided to walk the docks and check out the other boats.  Matt heard a rumor there was a 38ft Sabre in one of these slips and he was determined to find it.  We walked up and down docks A-D without luck, skirted around a wedding that was being set up at the restaurant next door, and checked out the Z dock Serendipity used to call home.  It was a quiet dock all the way at the end facing the beautiful houses set on the hillside of the lake.  This is where we would be if we decided to stay at Eldean’s.

When Becky and Tyler finally pulled in the parking lot we were a mix of excited to show them the boat and excited to get on our way.  We brought them to the end of E dock and helped a nervous Becky make the 2ft jump from the dock to the boat.  I didn’t know if she got seasick on the water so I offered her one of my patches to use on the ride.  All she heard me say was the word ‘patch’ and goes, “Oh my god, the boat needs a patch?! Are you sure it’s safe to sail?  We’re not going to sink, are we?”.  I laughed and assured her that, no, the patch would be for her to keep her from getting seasick over the side of the boat, or even worse in the cockpit.  We gave our friends the same grand tour of the boat and they were as equally impressed as Chris and Jack.  Then while giving a run through of what we were doing that afternoon Tyler asked if the marina had beer for sale. He mentioned they were going to stop along the way but since they were running late they skipped it hoping the marina had a general store.  The marina unfortunately did not sell beer, the closest place I knew of was Meijer and that was at least a 10-15 minute drive each way.  Since it would be impossible to make the 26 mile trip to Muskegon without alcohol (we only had about 8 Bud Lights left), Becky and I decided to make the run to the store while the boys got everything ready to go.  We picked up a 24 pk of Bud Light for the guys which she guaranteed me would be gone by the end of the night.  For ourselves we settled on two 6 packs of flavored Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  I know, how girly of us.  On the ride back I asked her if she’d seen Dick DeVos’ (of Amway) new summer cottage on her way in the first time.  She looked at me a little strangely and I told her it was the new 30,000 sq ft house on the lake with a 10,000 sq ft guest house.  Her eyes bulged and she replied, “That was a house?!  I thought it was a hotel!!”.  Ahhh, you gotta love how much money is in this area.

When we arrived back at the marina we bundled all of our goods in our arms and got some strange looks from passer-bys who probably thought we were stocking up for a weekend rager instead of an eight hour sail.  By the time we got to the boat the guys were more than ready to leave.  We handed the drinks and snacks over and practically had to jump aboard before they left us behind.  Within five minutes all the dock lines had been pulled off and we threw the boat in reverse to get on our way.  With never having been in a slip before I’m sure we looked like student drivers with multiple times of backing up and pulling forward until we were sure we wouldn’t come in contact with any solid objects.  There were a few “Oh my god, look out, look out!!” moments, but soon we were clear off the docks and on the way to the channel.  I laughed a little at Matt who was used to steering with a tiller, and now that the directions were backwards (or correct I should say) he kept turning left when he meant to turn right or right when he meant to turn left.  That was until I took a hold of the wheel and did exactly the same thing.  Once out in Lake Michigan we raised the mainsail and set the autopilot.  Which by the way, is one of the best inventions ever for a boat.  I had spent two summers being the helmsman at the tiller because Matt can’t hold a course to save his life.  Five minutes of him at the helm and the sails start luffing because he had fallen so far off the wind.  I soon discovered it was easier for me to stay at the helm than to constantly adjust the sails.  Plus that was something I had never been too great at, so we both just stayed where our strengths were.  Not that this is a good idea, everyone should be competent on working everything on a boat.  But still, the first time I clicked on the autopilot and stepped back to let the boat steer itself was utterly amazing.  I was free to move around the boat.  I could turn my gaze from straight ahead (I always stared straight at my course, one of the reasons I was so good at keeping it) and enjoy the scenery of the shore and the dunes.  I seized my new independence and ran below to get everyone drinks.

 

 

 

We sat around the cockpit and enjoyed the silence that wind-powered movement brings.  That movement however, was little on the slow side.  I warned Matt that if we kept this pace we would arrive in Muskegon well after the sun went down.  It wasn’t an issue of sailing in the dark, we had radar, it was the fact that none of our ropes had been attached to our mooring ball and trying to slide our boathook into the lone ring on the ball was not going to be an easy task, light or dark.  He assured me that our pace was fine and we carried on drinking and talking.  We also spent multiple times bringing Mazzii above and below deck since she couldn’t decide where she wanted to be.  Three hours into the trip we should have been about halfway, just passing Grand Haven.  I stared into the distance and did not see Grand Haven although I could still see a speck the Holland lighthouse be.  I pointed this fact and we grudgingly turned on the engine.  Soon enough Grand Haven came and passed as the sun started to slip below the horizon.  Even though I was a little disappointed we wouldn’t make it to the mooring in the light, I sat back and enjoyed the sunset.  Becky was also disappointed we wouldn’t make it back in the light, but mostly because she was afraid of sailing in the dark.  She kept having visions of us hitting a log sticking out of the water and throwing us out of the boat.  I don’t know where the vision of logs came from, and  it might have just been the Mike’s Hard Lemonade in her talking, but we made sure to give her a good mocking for it anyway (sorry Becky, I love you).

As we got closer to our destination the wind we had been missing all day decided to pick up.  Matt was sitting comfortably in his Columbia jacket with jeans and boat shoes, the rest of us were sitting in the cockpit with jeans, light jackets and no socks or shoes.  We were all freezing and I was trying to pull out anything I had from the cabin to keep us warm.  Lesson learned.  Even though the day highs might be in the 80’s, prepare for it to drop into the 50’s at night.  We even had to put a towel on the dog because her life jacket wasn’t enough to keep her warm.

 

 

 

Finally around 10:30 we came up on the Muskegon lighthouse and started our way through the channel.  Vision wasn’t great through the panels of the dodger since it was original to the boat and a little ‘aged’ we’ll call it, so I stood on the side deck shouting directions to Matt.  We made it safely through and then came the task of catching the 3″ ring on the mooring ball.  Luckily there were two boat hooks on board so Tyler and I each took spots at the front the deck with hooks and flashlights in hand.  The plan was to have me go for it first and if I missed he was right behind me to make an attempt.  I was not very confident in myself, I lack a bit (a lot) of hand-eye coordination.  I was poised and ready as we made our slow pass up to the ball.  I placed my hook down and angled my flashlight.  I expected us to have to make 3-4 passes before one of us finally hooked on and was caught by surprise when I got it on the first attempt.  I probably would have done a happy dance if I didn’t have to keep a firm grip on the hook.  Matt took over and I went on flashlight duty as he dangled over the side attaching the pendant.  Becky who stayed in the cockpit, thankful we didn’t hit any random floating logs began to clean up our mess from the day.  After putting the boat back in some kind of order we all piled in the dinghy to begin our trip home.  Another hour long trip down 31 to retrieve our cars at Eldean’s (what is with all those red lights?!) and another 45 minute drive home we collapsed into bed shortly after midnight.  It had been a long day, but after spending some real time on Serendipity on the water I could not wait to get out and spend the rest of my summer enjoying what I had been waiting all winter and spring for.