Macaroni In the Buff

Sunday July 30, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

52 Week Countdown

Sunday July 24, 2011




Ever since 4th of July weekend when the mass of fog rolled off the lake and brought out the sun we have been having nothing but perfect weather while we are out on the water.  I am also loving the heat that is coming with it.  Most people will give me a crazy look when I say this, but I really do prefer ‘hot’ weather.  When temps start getting up to the 90’s I get excited.  Maybe I’m a little cold blooded, I don’t know.

Not having anyone to entertain this weekend we didn’t have much more of a plan than to get the boat out in open water and just go.  We tend to do this a lot when it’s just the two of us.  If winds are fair we point the bow East and travel that direction for about 4 hours before turning around to make the trip back.  It was on one of these ‘go nowhere, do nothing’ days that we started talking about how nice it would be just to start our trip right now.  Nevermind that not only do we not have enough $ in the cruising kitty, the boat wasn’t near ready, and all of our belongings are still at home, we were ready to just run.  We had our backpack with a weekends worth of clothes, and Matt had his credit card on him.  We could just pick up what we needed along the way.  I know I have about six pairs of shoes set aside for the journey, but one pair of flip flops would do for now.

It was fun to spend the day pretending that we were heading off on our trip, even if we would have been heading in the wrong direction (side trip to Milwaukee?).  What it might be like if this was the last time we saw the Muskegon pier.  Have 99% of the places we stop next be places we’ve never been before.  To let go of the comfort of the predictable and head into the unknown.  Bringing myself back to the reality we actually have in front of us,  although we still have our weekends on the boat through the summer to look forward to, this next year of waiting is going to be very very hard.  This season is only going to be a band-aid on a wound that can only be healed by throwing of the mooring lines for good.  We’re still looking at a departure date of mid to late July of 2012, so in order to get myself there I’m officially starting it.  The 52 week countdown begins now.







*These photos are of areas near Glen Arbor, MI.  A place I can not wait to get back to, especially in the boat!!

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.  Maybe if we were in one of the Phuket Boat Tours, then it could have been possible. 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?

Come Aground?

Saturday July 2, 2011

This was supposed to be the weekend that we were going to start a two week cruise around Lake Michigan going everywhere from Chicago to Mackinac (through coastal cruising, not the race route) but since I just got done training for my position at my new job they did not feel that a few weeks off would be the best way to retain information.  So we had to settle for what we were left with and that was a three day weekend.  I’ll still take it.  We got to the boat the night before after an extensive grocery shopping trip ready to leave at a few hours after the crack of dawn.  That happened to be around 8:30 and we were motoring to the channel with sunny skies and warm weather.  Getting into the open water there was a fresh breeze blowing around 20 knots and waves were only 2-3 feet but coming in chaotic patterns.  After initially setting the autopilot and sitting there watching it change course between 30 degrees while it would over-correct itself from one direction to the next.  Finally I took my place behind the wheel, the original autopilot.  While I steered us on a pretty straight course we rolled into some fog and temperatures began to plummet.  Not in a ‘Day After Tomorrow’ kind of way, but enough for me to realize that my tank and nylon hoodie were too thin and the only extra layer of warmth I could add would be a spring jacket that ‘should have been warm enough’ to get me through the weekend because after all it’s July.

Cruising deeper and deeper into the fog we could no longer see the shore and we were blanketed in our own little world in the clouds.  Steering the boat became very disorienting as it felt like I was shooting straight West and was constantly checking the compass to verify that I did have Michigan coastline to my starboard side and not miles of water between me and Sturgeon Bay.  I told Matt that I’d hand steer until we reached Whitehall and then he could relieve me for a bit.  Silly me assumed that through the fog I’d still be able to see their lighthouse and be able to tell when we reached that point.  Since our radar had just been removed and the laptop with our GPS was in the cabin it wasn’t until I was five miles past Whitehall that we took a look at our location.  The winds were being very favorable that day, and since our SOG tracker was also out of commission we didn’t even realize that we were cruising along at a nice 6.2 knots.  With our seemingly endless trip from Holland to Muskegon last year we were allowing ourselves to get to Pentwater near late dinner time but at this speed we were looking at late lunch!  When Matt got behind the wheel it didn’t take him long to get into his old habit of easily getting off course, and the fog was not any help.  We resigned ourselves back to the over-correcting auto pilot while we relaxed under blankets in the cockpit, keeping an eye out for other vessels and shared a craving for some steaming New England clam chowder at that moment.  Not too long after, I was left alone to keep lookout while Matt caught some zzzz’s below.  Fog was continuing to get more dense and I sat on the top step of the companionway while craning my head to the left, under the genoa to the right, and in an Exorcism fashion behind me.  My heart jumped into my throat when a beautiful blue hulled boat came out of the haze like a ghost ship to cross in front of our port side bow.  While it was a little close for comfort we weren’t in danger of crashing and my guess is he knew I was there long before I knew he was.  Even though the stereo was faintly playing in the background it took me a minute to realize I was being hailed on the VHF and by the time I ran below there was silence.  Matt, who had been woken up by the call mentioned it sounded something like ‘vessel crossing on my port side please respond’ but I was too scared to reply back and figured that since we had already passed and collision was avoided it wasn’t a necessity that I get in touch with him.  I should have though, especially since Matt said he may have been hailing me to let me know that he was photographing our boat with sails up wanted to find a way to share them with us.  So if you’re out there somewhere beautiful blue hulled boat with toast colored bimini that was out in the fog on 4th of July weekend and had some newbie that couldn’t make you out on the water, please get a hold of me, I’m curious to what you would have said.  Even if it was just to tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing.

Back at my post I kept an even closer eye for anything moving in the water.  The problem with that was visibility was still getting worse and worse.  I even changed my position to sitting at the bow but when visibility was literally brought down to 50 feet I knew I needed a second pair of eyes with me.  Dragging Matt up on deck we each took a section of water to focus on.  Our speed hadn’t let up at all and after 3 hours of traveling we were already just over half way.  We continued on like this for awhile until the fog slowly started to dissipate. Unfortunately when the fog went away so did the wind.  It was a hard thing to do but I forced Matt to turn on the engine because I was not going to let our now 2 knot speed carry us the rest of the way to Pentwater.  As the sun came back out the layers of clothes began to come off and the grill was fired up for lunch.  I don’t know if it was our food that attracted them, but as soon as the fog or any sign of clouds were gone there were swarms of black flies out in force.  It started out with just a couple here and there, we’d swat them away and continue on with our lunch.  Another couple would join in with the buzzing, but not too much of a nuisance.  Then the biting began.  My god, there are few things I hate more than being bitten by black flies.  The smacking and swatting became rapid fire from me at that point and it was only moments before the fly swatter was out.  One down, two down, then five, then ten.  I’m not kidding when I say they began piling up on the floor of the cockpit.  Then the game went from killing to disposal as they were picked up and thrown off the side for fish food.  We did leave a few around though, just to send a message to the others.

By the time the swarms started to thin out we were coming up on the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.  If you’re not familiar with these, they’re a popular place for people to take dune buggies, Jeeps, Pickup trucks and any four wheel drive vehicle to cruise through the sand and dunes.  It was packed already on this holiday weekend and the top of the dune was lines with ORVs, their windshields glinting in the sun.

 Even with my zoom at max I couldn’t fully capture it


Knowing that Pentwater was just around the corner we started cleaning up the boat and changing into real clothes.  It was at this point that I realized I hadn’t packed a razor for the weekend and tried to substitute with those Euro Smooth pads that you see on tv.  Let me save you the consumer report and tell you right now that they don’t work.  Giving up hope on having smooth legs I turned my attention back to the GPS which was letting me know were were close enough to start looking for the Pentwater lighthouse which for some reason I would have expected to be as big as Muskegon or Grand Haven and was surprised to see just a little green and white striped pole.  Pointing the bow in that direction we bore down on on a beach full of jet skiers, power boaters, and high school to college people out sunbathing.  My brother always told me about when he’d go here with friends in high school and I didn’t realize how popular it was.

(Photo courtesy of

Definitely feeling out of place as the only one around we could see with a mast (don’t let the photo above fool you, there were no sailboats our this day), we navigated our way through the narrow and shallow channel into Pentwater Lake where our guidebook said there were good anchoring spots just past the channel walls.  Making our way into the inland lake the ‘anchoring’ spots were surrounded by mooring balls and only 35 feet from shore.  This was not going to work out.  Continuing our way in we saw a little inlet where a cat had already dropped anchor and it looked like there was just enough room for a 35 ft Sabre to fit next to it.  While Matt took position at the bow I was at the helm slowly motoring between forward, neutral and reverse.  Apparently we’d found a spot with a really soft bottom and weren’t getting great hold.  After sitting for 20 minutes and trying to monitor if we’d moved all the decision came to try again in another area not right next to another boat that we could cause damage to.  Motoring further into the lake we’d scan left and right for good spots to spend the night, but since it was a long narrow lake they were few and far between, and mostly already taken by other boats.  Coming up near the end of the lake we found one more inlet that was much bigger and completely empty!  Getting ready to make the turn toward the inlet I could see light and shallow water that I was making sure to stay very far away from.  I was still a good 200 feet from land when I began cranking the wheel in but somehow within seconds I watched the depth finder go from 30 feet to 14 to 7 and and our boat came to a screeching halt while Matt and I lunged slightly forward from the force.  Yes, I had just run us aground.  I was in complete shock as I thought I had been so careful, and Matt starts yelling “Throw it in reverse, throw it in reverse!”.  It was one of those moments like felt like it was going in slow motion as I came out of my daze and threw the throttle in reverse while upping the RPMs.  My heart was pounding as it felt like nothing was happening and I imagined having to call a tow and forking over our entire savings for it, but the boat starting backing out and soon we were in the clear again.  The whole situation probably happened in under 90 seconds but it felt like a lifetime.  If you ask Matt about it again now he’ll tell you that we hit with such force that we ended up on the coach roof, but I think he’s just trying to make me feel bad for being the first one to run the boat aground.

Getting my nerves to settle back down we made it into the inlet and dropped anchor right in the middle.  That way if we dragged during the night, no matter which direction we went hopefully one of us would realize before we could do anymore damage that day.  Since it was still just late afternoon I was hoping that we could take the dinghy into town and do a little strolling around.  Apparently Matt was more hoping for a quiet evening at anchor and since I get my way 95% of the time I figured we could do what he wanted that night and just chill in the cove.  Once I realized we weren’t going anywhere I poured myself a glass of wine and pulled out a notebook to start writing the post about our maiden voyage from Holland.  The one that happened over a year ago.  I’m that far behind on my writing.  Good thing my memory is impeccable when recounting things I enjoy.  We also went for a swim but since the ladder was not an option because the dinghy was in the way we resorted to using the fender step which is normally incredibly helpful from when getting to the dinghy to the deck but not a great way to pull yourself up from water level.  Even when Matt lowered it an extra 3 inches I couldn’t leverage myself up and made the decision to stay in the water until I was done for the night because once he helped me up I was up for good.

It was exciting to be in a different place for once and even though we were confined to the boat for the evening it was interesting to get a different view of our surroundings and get a little taste of what our life will be like starting next year.  Not even having experienced much yet Matt asked if I thought I could do this everyday for a few years and it didn’t take me a moment to respond “Absolutely”.