Anchorages: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Wednesday April 16, 2014

 

Now that we’ve just spent the night in what is probably the world’s worst anchorage, or at least the worst one we’ve come across to date, I feel a little compelled to write a little segment on some of the anchorages we’ve passed through in this trip. Oh, and because my friend at The Cynical Sailor & His Salty Sidekick asked me to write a piece on it for one of my favorite groups, The Monkey’s Fist. (Hi Ellen!!)

In this list I’ll go over some of the more memorable anchorages we’ve been through. Whether it’s because they’re take your breath away beautiful, ‘I can’t believe this is considered an anchorage because I may as well be on passage’ rocky, or has everything you need in one convenient little place, here’s just a bit of the wide ranges of anchorages we’ve experienced between the US East coast to the Western Caribbean.

 

The Most Beautiful

I still can not think of a place that is more picturesque as far as anchorages go than Double Breasted Cay in the Ragged Islands of the Bahamas. It is beauty and seclusion all wrapped up in one. I could take photos there that would instantly make the cover of destination travel magazines without any kind of editing done to them. The water is clear, the bottom is sandy, and the beaches are pristine. On shore there are walking trails and a fire pit area set up for the few cruisers that do pass through. These beaches are also littered with untouched conch shells, the kind that are impossible to find because normally all you come across are the beat up shells after the meat has been torn out.  It was actually necessary for me to have an intervention for a friend here before she loaded down her boat with about 15 shells to bring back to family and friends.  Yes, this place is about as close as you can get to Bahamian perfection.  Just watch out for the sharks though, the black tip ones we came across did not seem too friendly and kept us out of the water after our first day there.

Double Breasted Cay

 

The Most Convenient

Maybe it’s just because we spent so damn long there, but in our two months while waiting for a good weather window, we became quite fond of Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  Another big tourist hub just four miles from Cancun, you can find all the things one might expect from a cruise ship port, but you don’t have to wander far to find local fare either.  Just over 4 miles in length, this island packs in it’s nice marinas, variety of groceries stores, sooo many options on eating out, and one of the best beaches for lounging and relaxing.  The anchorage itself is notoriously bad for holding, it’s the one and only place we’ve ever dragged so far, but there’s also a lagoon to tuck in to if you know the weather is getting bad. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of anchoring excitement here where we’ve watched many a boats drag besides ourselves, or just the tour catamarans full of drunk tourist pass by while blaring Top 40 hits from their speakers, but it all just adds to the Mexican ambiance.

While waiting weeks for a weather window to come up, we actually got to the point where we didn’t mind if one didn’t come at all, we were starting to fall in love with the place.  It also didn’t hurt though that for the last month we were there, we had the wifi password to one of the marinas and picked up the signal perfectly while sitting at anchor.  Have I mentioned how much I love having wifi?

Isla Mujeres

 

The Worst Swells

Hmmm, a few places come to mind when I think of this one, including Great Inagua, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Which is a shame because all three places were so great to visit. We’ve never met more friendly locals than we had at Great Inagua in the Bahamas, and Grand Cayman came with great snorkeling, modern conveniences, and even a Burger King. It’s possibly our fault for not taking protection in any of the actual marinas or harbors in Grand Cayman or Cozumel, but we’ve found that any time you anchor, even on the leeward side of an island, if there is no harbor protecting you, you’re going to get your butt kicked by swells. Sometimes they’re pretty light and sometimes you can bridle yourself to face into the waves, but after three weeks of constantly rocking back and forth in Grand Cayman, I was ready to burn the boat down.

Grand Cayman

 

Pleasantly Unexpected Surprise

Cay Caulker in Belize wasn’t what we were expecting at all, but possibly because we didn’t know what to expect. Who knows if it was because we arrived there after spending 7 days straight on the boat, but we instantly fell in love with the place. I can see why it’s such a big destination for jet set tourist. The locals are incredibly friendly and the guys that set up their hair braiding stands on the side of the road, or their little shell jewelry shops, do not hassle the tourist if you’re not interested.

Sitting just off the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, this spot has great options for snorkeling, along with a few decent beaches tucked in between cute restaurants, bars and shops.  Yes, it is a little ‘resort-y’ or ‘touristy’, but after being thrown in the middle of authentic Guatemala for five months, we kind of needed that. Plus the fact that they speak English, after hitting back to back to back Spanish speaking countries, honestly was a nice break when trying to get things done.  They weren’t as touristy as to have a McDonald’s though, and as disappointed as we were, I guess we can forgive them of that.

Cay Caulker 1

 

Holds a special place in our hearts

I’m going to count this one in anchorages just because we did spend our last two weeks anchored there, but the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. Forever on in our lives, this place will always be considered one of our homes.  There’s so many things we love about this area.  The lushness, mountain backdrops, friendly locals, and a very cheap cost of living.  Having stayed in a marina for over four months, we did end up anchoring out just in front of it when we were waiting for our last weather window to leave, but it became harder by the day to go.  There’s great sailing just a few miles up the river on Lago Izabal and it’s only a five minute dinghy ride into town where you can buy a Raptor Energy Drink at the local Dispensa for under $1!  Or a Dorado Ice beer for about the same price, which if drunk at 9 am before eating breakfast will send you salsa-ing down the grocery aisle.  Plus those mountains, omg, those mountains!! I’m honestly surprised we did not put roots down in this place.

It would also be a great place for cruisers who are into the whole group activity thing, spread out between the marinas there’s always watercolor lessons, yoga, trivia games, movie nights, ect.  We never made it to those since it’s not really our thing, but, they’re there.  

Rio Dulce

 

Set it and forget it

Normally we’d never leave the boat for more than morning to night while we’re at anchor for fear of dragging while we’re not there due to tides, winds, storms, or anything else that could pop up while we’re gone. It has limited our inland travel quite a bit because any time we’d want to leave the boat it has to get put in a marina, then you’re paying for your extra traveling on top of that, and the cost can add up pretty quickly. There is one spot we came across though, that we felt very comfortable leaving the boat for two days and knowing nothing would happen to it. Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale Florida. With this place being so small and protected, there’s not much that could go wrong here. It’s definitely the calmest anchorage we’d ever been in, and the only time you could even tell you were on a boat was when the weekend traffic came in,  full of small power boats dragging tubers between all the boats.  Which is almost entertainment in itself, standing by on your radio to call a mayday because you’re 90% that one of the tubers is either going to wipe out directly into an anchored boat, or worse, the other tuber headed right at them.

Lake Sylvia

 

Worst Current

Taylor Creek, Beaufort, North Carolina. I know we were still relatively new to the cruising game when we got here, but ask me to go back there now and my memory is so full of horrible images of trying to get the anchor down in that area that you will see me take an overnight passage on the Atlantic just to avoid it if I can. The current there was bad. About 4-5 knots if you weren’t at slack tide. Couple that with being completely overcrowded and I still think it’s my number 1 or number 2 (ok, so Georgetown was really busy when we got there) worst anchoring experience as far as getting the hook down. As soon as I put the boat in neutral we were already sideways and quickly heading for anything behind us, including a wooden channel marker. It took three attempts to get it down and feel comfortable with ourselves. The place itself though is great once you do get your anchor down and tell off the catamaran that has anchored right on top of you two hours after you arrive. A charming town to one side of you and an island with wild horses to the other. What’s not to like?

Taylor Creek 2

Click on the monkey’s fist to read others bloggers on this topic.

The Monkey's Fist

 

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Ooooo Barracuda!

Tuesday April 15, 2014

catching baracuda

This morning finally signaled our departure from Bimini.  With east winds keeping us put for just about a full week now, I can’t say that we were disappointed to be sitting here while we were waiting.  This is a really great island and I’m sad we passed right by it last year.  But now it’s time to get a move on, and quickly too.  We have lots of friends already in the Bahamas a lot further south than we are, and we’d really like to be able to catch up with them.  It seems as if a lot of people are congregating in Georgetown Exumas right now, but we’d like to try to make to to Long Island once more for Easter if the winds will carry us down there fast enough.  It’s a long way to go in about five days, but should the winds be on our side, we should be able to put in a lot of miles each day.

The winds when we left were supposed to start of SE but then clock all the way south in the early afternoon, which we needed because with a goal of getting to the Berry Islands via the NW Channel, we needed to go in a southeast direction and did not want to motor into the winds all day.  We knew we wouldn’t be able to make the full 70 miles to Frazier’s Hog Cay, but hopes were that we could get within about 5-10 miles of the channel and anchor in the banks for the night.  The whole area that we’re passing through doesn’t have depths over 25 feet, and if the weather is settled, there’s no issue just dropping anchor right in the middle of it.  You probably don’t want to be right next to the channel and have your anchor light be mistaken for a buoy, or sit right on the path of the magenta line in case anyone is traveling through the night, but winds didn’t look like they were going to get over 15 knots and we weren’t worried about having a bumpy night.

Kim and Jereme on Laho left with us this morning to buddy up for the day and night, and as we exited north Bimini there were a parade of sails all going the same direction, every other boat waiting for the same window that we had.  The sail north out of the lee of Bimini was great, but just as predicted, rounding the North Rock and pointing ourselves at the Northwest channel, winds were almost on the nose.  The headsail had to come in and the engine went on.  Not quite how we wanted the day to go, but we’re just looking to put on miles at this point.  It feels like we spend all of our time now waiting around instead of actually going anywhere.

Laho sailing

Georgie resting under dodger The morning was absolutely beautiful, and it was another one of those days that we had to sit back and thinkabout how lucky we are for being able to live this lifestyle.  Our friends back home had just gotten to the office, snow might even still be on the ground (FYI, I could not have survived this past winter if I was back home), and here we were, sunshine and warm tropic waters in front of us.  A quick cup of coffee made from my AeroPress, and I was in absolute heaven.

Just as I was about to pop my head out of the companionway and tell Matt we might as well trail a line while we were moving to since this seemed like the perfect area to catch fish, I found out that he’d already rigged it up while I was below.  We each pulled out our e-readers and settled in for a long day of catching fish, since that’s usually what happens.  Never before have we had a bite on one of our lines while we’ve been trolling.

Imagine our surprise when not even an hour later we felt a tug on the line.  Assuming it was probably seaweed, since that seems to be the only thing our hooks normally grab on to, we pulled in the line to find out there was actually a fish on there!  Not quite sure what it was when we first reeled it in, I went to fetch our Cruisers Guide to Fishing where we quickly identified that it was a barracuda.  Handing Matt a set of gloves and needle nose pliers, he worked the hook out of the fish’s mouth and tossed it back in the water.  It wasn’t until we’d already let it go that I asked “Hey, aren’t those actually edible?”  Apparently they are, but Matt was worried about the possibility of ciguatera.  And with some friends having recently been affected by it and reading about their horror stories, we did not want to take any kind of chance with it.  The line was set once again, and we patiently waited for a large snapper to clamp on.

We did get two more catches during the day, but they were both barracuda.  WTH?  Did we suddenly become experts at catching them?  The second one that came along was huge and, as soon as Matt set about getting the hook out of it’s mouth, this thing began squirting blood like it was a prop on a movie set.  Within moments the whole back area of the cockpit looked like it belonged in a horror movie.  I wish I could have gotten a photo of what it looked like, but I’m not sure all of you would have wanted to see the blood.  I personally love that kind of stuff.  Everyone else?  I’ve heard not so much.

catching small baracuda

Laho sailing

big baracuda

 

Since most of the other boats that had left in the morning with us didn’t mind burning their fuel at a faster rate as they pushed on at 6-7 knots, our boats fell behind since we didn’t want to put too much pressure on the engine and have anything else go wrong.  Having talked about it earlier in the day, the plan was to make it as far as we could by 7 pm and drop anchor, starting again at day break.  We didn’t even come close to making the miles that we thought, still sitting back 20 miles from the Northwest Channel by the time 7 pm rolled around.  Not only that, but those winds that were supposed to clock around to the south decided to stay on our nose all day and then gust up in the evening.  What was supposed to be a calm night under clear skies and stars turned into the worst anchorage we’ve ever been in.

With nothing to block them from us, the waves built up to a nice chop and were tossing our boats back and forth, back and forth.  It was tolerable while making dinner and even while watching a movie, I’d put on a scopolamine patch to prepare for any kind of seasickness, but trying to sleep was almost impossible.  We both took sides of the salon, neither of us wanting to take the bucking bronco ride that was the v-berth.  Even then I feel like I should have had a lee cloth up on my side to keep me from falling out of bed.  Some of the waves weren’t too bad, it was kind of like being on a not too bad passage, but every couple of minutes one rogue wave would come and toss us on our side.  They always seemed to hit the port side where I was sleeping, so it only rolled Matt further into the nook of his bed while I was left bracing myself so I wouldn’t slide out.  Poor Kim and Jereme are probably completely deterred from sailing now, expecting every anchorage to be like this.

Laho anchored in banks

Having only collected about four hours of sleep by the time the sun came up, although we did purposefully wake ourselves up at 3 am to catch the lunar eclipse, the anchors were raised for more miles to be covered.  Deciding that they didn’t want to spend a second day sailing right into the wind, Laho vetoed going to Fraziers Hog Cay and opted for Great Harbor Cay to the north instead.  I don’t blame them.  If we didn’t have a schedule to keep, we probably would have followed them there.

Laho anchored at sunrise

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Hello, Goodbye

Sunday June 24, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Finding Jupiter

Saturday October 8, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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