Hot Fudge Sunday

Sunday August 28, 2011

Back in July when we had our friends Jared, Jeff and Darryl out with us I promised that we  had to get them out again sometime.  It didn’t take much twisting of the arm on either side as we all love to spend time together and had such a blast the last time we had gone sailing.  I was a little worried that Darryl and Jeff would be sick of seeing me since I had dragged them out from morning to well past night just a few days before for my birthday, but they were just as excited to see us and our boat again as we were to see them.  Without having the good sense to pull up to a dock to pick them up again we made 2 trips in the dink to get everyone aboard.  The day was already becoming quite hot and we were all ready to get our sun and drink on.  Even in late August the nice days become more rare and I think we all wanted at least one more weekend with the heat of the sun on our skin.  The weather report for the day had me depending on winds not over 10 knots, but once out on the big lake they were blowing at a steady 15.  Since everyone seemed to be enjoying our swift ride of 6 knots of speed versus having the heat of the day on their skin, I sat back with my glass of boxed wine and enjoyed the company.

After awhile the chilly breeze made everyone scramble to the little bit of sun shining on the port side.  Since we were on a tack that put our headsail directly in front of the sun creating 90% shade on the boat we decided to fall off a little and this would cover the whole starboard side in sun.  Darryl and I were sitting on the edge with our legs dangling over the side watching the water pass by.  Spending weekends on the lake I’ve seen tons of different things floating in the water from food wrappers and water bottles to balloons and magazines.  Staring into the distance I saw a while arch in the water, what looked like a swimming noodle just floating along.  Darryl spotted it as well and we pointed it out to Matt to see if he could make out what it was.  Now that all of our curiosities were piqued we changed our course again to get a closer look.

Once we came upon it within a few hundred feet it was unmistakable that the white arch was the side of an overturned boat.  A silence fell across Serendipity as we had all realized what we had just seen.  Everyone started scanning the water around to see if there were any stranded people along with the boat in distress.  It wasn’t very large, about 12-14 feet long, and at this point we were about 8-10 miles from shore.  Not a good spot for an overturned boat to be.  My heart sank into my stomach for a moment when I saw what looked to be an orange life vest floating near the hull.  Luckily when we got a little closer I could tell it was a wooden centerboard to what we could now see was a sailing dinghy.  It was still a little nerve wrecking not knowing if there might be someone still adrift out there, or even worse, trapped underneath.  We realized right away that we needed to call the Coast Guard on vhf and inform them of the situation.  With never having hailed anyone besides the fuel dock we were at a bit of a loss as what to say as ‘Mayday’ seemed too extreme for the case.  We settled on ‘Muskegon Coast Guard’ (3 times followed by our boat name) and waited for a response.  What seemed like forever and was probably only 30 seconds we heard back and gave them a description of what we had found.  They asked a few questions such as an exact description of the dinghy and our location.  We had floated away from it a bit while hailing the CG and also didn’t have our GPS on to give an exact (or any) coordinates.  With a guess we replied that we were 5 miles West of the pier and would have to get back to the dinghy to get a better description of it.  While questioning us the CG asked if the overturned boat had a rainbow sail and a laundry detergent bottle attached to the mast.  Since they seemed to know something close to our description was out there it made me wonder if they had been informed of a missing person and had a description of their boat, or if someone reported their boat missing and we happened to come upon it.  After telling them it would take us about five minutes to get back to it they jotted down our phone number and said they would give us a call.  Bringing our sails down and throwing on the engine we motored back.  Coming up to it again I could see Bennett 1400 written across the hull and the sail was mostly white with a three colored rainbow across it but no laundry detergent bottle at the mast.  We still weren’t sure if this was the one the Coast Guard was looking for or if there were multiple boats lost the day before.

While waiting to get a call on our phone we heard some chatter on the VHF relating to us.  It was another boat in the area, Hot Fudge, asking the Coast Guard if assistance was needed.  They had heard our ‘distress’ call with our very approximate location and wanted to seek us out.  By this time I had been circling the dinghy for about 5 minutes with no word from the CG on what we should do, or if they were planning to do anything.  We hadn’t seen anyone in the water yet and were leaning toward the idea that it was abandoned.  Matt and Jared’s friend Andrew decided the the dinghy needed a closer inspection and were thinking if no one was going to call us on what to do with it, we’d just tow it back ourselves.  Just as they were getting their life jackets zipped up and tow lines ready our phone finally rang.  It was a gentleman from the Coast Guard asking if we had gotten back and could give a very detailed description if what we were seeing.  I have him the name and size of the boat along with any other distinguishing features.  They also asked for our location again, which by this time I could tell we were a bit more south than we had originally thought plus a few more miles out, and even though I had told Matt we should turn on the laptop to get coordinates it had not been done.  The CG told us to stay put while they met us out there, but would still not give us any more info on the missing dinghy.  However, Jared had been below and heard more chatter from Hot Fudge mentioning someone had to be rescued off a dinghy the day before in bad weather and US Tow had never located the abandoned boat.  It looked as if they were still also trying to locate us on the water as well.

Trolling in small circles around the dinghy we kept a lookout to see who would reach us first, Hot Fudge or the Coast Guard.  I was finally able to get Matt to turn on our GPS and we gave a call back to the CG with our exact coordinates.  Another 5 minutes later we saw a big white boat speeding toward us that we assumed was them.  A few of us that were getting a little bored by this point thought it might be fun to add some excitement to the afternoon by jumping overboard and having some beefy guys from the Coast Guard come to our rescue.  Maybe even get a helicopter out.  Matt had a good laugh at this but made us promise that no one would drop over.  Once they were on top of us and the dinghy we got another call on the cell and they told us this had been the boat they were looking for the other day, thanked us for our assistance and dismissed us.  Heading back to shore we were making jokes that a.) The Coast Guard was probably pissed that we found the boat that US Tow couldn’t and now they’d have to go through the trouble of bringing it back to shore and b.) Hot Fudge was probably upset they couldn’t get to the boat first and we were the ones to take all the credit (all kidding aside they sounded like very nice people that just wanted to lend a hand).

Once out of sight of the CG everyone’s drinks came back out and we got back to enjoying our Sunday.  The wind and waves were building a little bit and it was fun to watch one of our unexpecting  guests get sprayed with a rogue wave over the side (I know, I’m so cruel).  As we neared closer to shore we were treated to a nice show of kite surfers getting 15-20 ft of air.  Some even came within a few hundred feet of us so we could get a close-up view.

Finally making it into the channel the winds died down a little and things started to warm up.  Darryl was dead set on going swimming and since the water by our mooring can be a little murky at times we detoured and dropped anchor next to a set of sand dunes next to the channel to do some grilling and swimming.  Matt fired up the grill while I dug into Jared’s cooler for his sweet-tea vodka and and lemonade (a very good combination).  Matt cooked the brats to perfection this time and we were all so hungry that they were scarfed right down.

I asked Darryl if he was up for a swim to the dunes so we could climb up them and run back down.  I may be close to turning 30, but this is something I don’t think I could ever tire of.  Standing on the side of the deck there were three of us that were going to jump together but Matt decided I needed to be the first one in the water and gave me a early shove.  The water was a bit colder than I expected but I didn’t want to let out that scream of “Holy S*%t, this is freezing!!” for fear of scaring anyone else from getting in.  I told Darryl the water was great and he should join me right away.  He blindingly trusted me and him and Andrew were in the water a moment later.  Knowing from past experience that a swim to shore could take quite awhile I started my trip in while the boys stayed around the boat getting out and jumping back in.  When Matt realized I was serious about going in he started following me, and shortly behind him was Darryl.  We all made it to shore safely, although Jeff who started out when we were about 2/3 of the way there and worked too hard to catch up and was a little more than exhausted when we reached the dunes.  He stayed by the water while the three of us crawled our way to the top.  No one wanted to do any further exploring with me and there was a creepy guy watching us from the next dune over.  Racing to the bottom we all made it without falling all over ourselves and waded back into the water.  Jeff and Darryl decided to stay behind and we would up anchor and swing around to get them.  I was surprised I had enough energy to get back to the boat although I did learn that whenever I started doing the backstroke I’d turn myself around and start swimming back to shore.  I did make it to the boat eventually and we brought it close to shore to grab the boys.  The sun was starting it’s descent and everyone was getting into a comatose stage.  Bringing ourselves back to the mooring we packed it in and began to shuttle our guests back to shore.

Some of the Same

Saturday August 27, 2012

Today was a bit of a hectic departure for us getting out to Muskegon.  As usual Matt was working until 4:00, and I was at home with Chris and Jack working on a garage sale trying to get a little cash for our crap as well as our nicer things that we didn’t have room to store and would never need on our trip.  When Matt got home I didn’t have our bag packed, nor did I have the weekend groceries.  Stopping at Meijer (best place ever) on the way out we needed to pick up dinner for that night as well as lunch for our friends we were having out the next day.  Normally it wouldn’t be hard to run into a store, grab a few items and be out…but our minds were completely empty this day.  We also didn’t want to stock up on things that we had at home and would have to bring back from the boat with us.  Hamburgers….too many condiments.  Sandwiches…too many condiments.  Pasta…probably not what our friends would want for lunch.  I think we wandered around for over 30 minutes before concluding that a bunch of brats, buns, and a container of mustard would get us through the weekend.  Pulling back out on the main steet we were treated with the odd sight of a car at a restaurant across the street that had done a parking job worthy of youtube.  There was a 2-3 ft stone wall built up from the sidewalk to the parking lot of this restaurant, and a poor older gentleman did not stop when he was supposed to and took a little dip down towards the sidewalk where his vehicle was now at a 45 degree angle.

When we reached the boat neither of us felt like doing anything productive since we were both exhaused from the morning.  Enjoying the warm weather we sat in the cockpit for awhile and listened to the radio.  When it got to the point of the same songs playing over and over again  (surprisingly not as long as you would think) we turned our attention to cooking a few of the brats for dinner.  We’re still figuring out the grill a little because we can’t seem to get a constant temperature of under 500 degrees even when we use the lowest heat setting.  This usually results in meat that’s charred on the outside and not fully cooked on the inside.  Something I love when eating steaks because I’ll taking mine just above moo’ing, but Matt will freak out if there’s any bit of pink.  Leaving the brats on a little longer than we should have to ensure a ‘well done’ temperature, they came off completely black.  Biting into one there were showers of charred goodness falling onto my plate.  I think I’d rather have it pink next time.

The rest of the night passed pretty slowly.  I hadn’t brought my e-reader so Harry Potter was out.  Chapman’s didn’t seem like much of an entertaining read at the moment and I had a feeling it would put me to sleep at 9:00.  Matt was content with his laptop and wifi so I didn’t want to drag him away from that to watch a movie.  With not many options I settled on pulling out my blog notebook and a glass of wine.  From anyone who’s tried following post around this time (very few people I’m sure) you’ll have noticed that I’m very far behind.  Like over a year behind.  I’ve gotten a lot of my posts jotted down in my notebook but they haven’t gotten up on the website because I was missing a few dates from before the ones I had written down and my little bit of OCD would not let me put them up if they were not in chronological order.  Matt is trying to make me see that I should put up the post I do have now and go back to fill in the gaps later but I know that will still irk me.  Maybe we can find a compromise somewhere.  While working on my writing I had either had too much sun that day, too much wine, or my writing is just more boring than i thought because I was still ready for bed just after 9:30.  I really need to start finding something to keep me awake out here.

Easy A

 Sunday August 14, 2011

If everything had gone as planned today would have been a family day aboard Serendipity with Matt’s mom and step-dad, along with his younger brother and friend.  One look out the window though and I could tell it probably wasn’t going to happen.  They were expecting a warm sunny day with a light breeze, the perfect kind of lazy Sunday weather we’d been having all summer.  What we were faced with were clouds, 25 knot winds, and choppy waves.  Not the most relaxing of weather.  So we rescheduled for the following weekend while suiting up in our foul weather gear for today.  Neither of us really knew what to expect out there, but previous stormy days have taught us it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Motoring across the small space to the channel winds were a constant 25 with gusts up to 30.  We had no idea what Lake Michigan might have in store, but we were sure it would be the same to worse than the smaller lake.  Cruising down the channel everyone on land was in shorts and t-shirts and didn’t seem to be the least bit chilly.  Fishing boats and other smaller yachts were passing by in the same gear and the wind gauge had dropped down to a mere 9 knots.  Maybe we were wrong, maybe the sun was going to come out and it would have been a gorgeous day after all.  Of course we were wrong (or correct), once we were back out on open water the wind kicked up to over 20 knots.  Unfurling the headsail about 3/4 of the way we placed ourselves close hauled and set the autopilot.  Personally I don’t completely understand going out on days like this if you’re not racing.  We didn’t have a certain destination in mind or a certain time we needed to be anywhere.  We were in other words, going for a pleasure cruise in a small craft advisory.  Onboard Serendipity there was no finding the best point of sail, and no trimming sails to get the best speed.  It was ‘let’s set the sail, set the autopilot and relax while the sky grows darker and the waves build higher’.  Maybe Matt was just interested in finding out how the boat and autopilot handle conditions like this since there will be times when we’ll have to travel through it on our trip.  Or maybe he was going through sailing withdraw since we hadn’t been out in two weeks and figured as long as it was safe enough for the boat to stay afloat he wanted to be on it.  And since I love him I put up no complaints.  Plus it was a little exhilarating when the waves began to build to 5-6 feet (a decent size for Lake Michigan) and we’d rise up the crest and fall down the trough, almost like a roller coaster ride.  After awhile of watching ourselves go into the waves and appreciate how big they really appeared when in the trough, I rotated myself to face back and watch them roll out from under the stern.

Suddenly the wind changed direction by about 60 degrees to where we were now on a beam reach and the full force of the wind was hitting the sail full on and was enough to quickly heel us where we had a rail in the water.  Without any direction from Matt I quickly jumped up to disengage the autopilot and change our course, but in the practice of being safe that day I had attached the short part of the tether from my harness to be clipped on by the companionway and when I jumped up to run aft I was quickly yanked backwards.  Un-clipping myself I was able to get to the helm and put us back on a close hauled course, now heading almost directly East toward the shore.  Matt was busy adjusting the sails and soon we had ourselves back on a calm enough path.  I was actually kind of proud of myself for being able to act without direction, and was able to set my mind at ease a little bit about being on large bodies of open water in the future.  Although I’m still learning and not quite a certified sailor yet, I don’t think I’m stupid enough to kill both of us.

Since we had been on our original course for awhile and lunchtime was getting past us, I forced Matt to go below and heat us up some soup since these waves were more than I could handle if I were to try and cook.  Over our lunch we joked about how hard it’s going to be to do things on long journeys in less than  perfect weather.  I’m not going to want to cook, I’m not going to want to clean, I’m probably not even going to want to shower.  Every three days I might gather enough strength to dip a wash cloth in a bucket of water and wipe myself off while being thankful that Matt can’t leave his now less than desirable wife because he’d have nowhere to run.  All this talk of personal hygiene made me realize that I needed to use the restroom and was going to need to go below into the rocking cave to do so.  Making matters worse, I was still all strapped up in my foulies and access to dropping trou was not going to be easy.  I was lucky enough to have a drop seat in mine but could just see myself getting more and more nauseous while standing in the head trying to figure it out for the first time.  Solving this problem I did as much as I could in the cockpit and then scrambled downstairs to go and get back up as quick as possible.  I strongly suggest for you ladies to practice finding a way to go in foulies before you out in bad weather because it is not a simple task.  At least not the first time around.

Once we were getting close enough to shore that we could no longer go straight we turned to go back to the channel.  My non complaints from earlier were about to start rising up and both of us were starting to get exhausted while not enjoying our pleasure cruise as much anymore.  When we got to the point by the lighthouse where we turn on the engine and bring down the sails, there seemed to be a glitch of getting the headsail furled properly.  It would roll up about 2/3 of the way and then get stuck.  We would then have to unfurl it all the way in the heavy winds and try again.  After four attempts we were not making any progress and the decision was made that it would have to come off completely.  This was a two person job, so after setting the autopilot with the engine on and now cruising South along the coast I dashed below to grab some rope and made my way to the foredeck to assist Matt.  He was already lowering and unhanking  it at quite a quick pace and didn’t realize that part of it had slid off the side and was dragging in the water.  I rapidly pulled it back on deck before any damage could be done and sat on it while Matt wrestled to get the remainder down.  Once we had it completely unattached I tried  gathering it into a ball to bring back to the cockpit, but it was too big for me to carry in my arms so I gathered it in sections taking care not to let it catch on anything and rip and also making sure I didn’t trip over it and fall overboard.  Before long we had everything secured and were able to make our way back in.

The weather changed dramatically when we had attached ourselves to the mooring as in all wind practically died.  It was nice to have the calmness but it also meant that we were able to go to work right away attaching the headsail and raising it.  Again Matt thought it would be best if I worked the winch while he hanked.  Didn’t I just do this?  I didn’t argue this time because I was feeling macho and thought I could get it all the way up on my own.  Which I did.  Then Matt noticed we didn’t pull the line to furl it first which meant there was no way to roll it once we had it up.  So back down it went where the problem was fixed and it was raised again.  I was able to get it about 2/3 of the way up this time before I forced a switch in positions.  Sitting on the deck still in my foulies after we had everything squared away I was happy for the day we had.  It may not have been the lounge around soak up the sun kind of day that I normally prefer, but I was tested as a sailor and I passed.  It may not have been with flying colors but at that moment I knew I was on my way.

The Day the Spiders Have Their Parade

Saturday August 13, 2011

I wasn’t sure if tonight was a night we would be heading to the boat.  Morning thunderstorms gave their way to a few hours of sunshine and then back to dark-as-night skies at 3:00 with more thunderstorms and sheets of rain.  I was surprised when Matt got home from work and gave me the option of staying or going.  It was tempting to have the thought of a Saturday night at home for once with a few Redbox movies and maybe a Jet’s pizza.  But I did miss the boat since we hadn’t seen her for two weeks and we could also do those things on the water since we had movies and frozen pizza.  Since the rain was starting to die out and the chances of me enduring a wet dinghy ride were getting slimmer we packed up and left.

On the car ride over Matt mentioned he had spent the previous day washing the entire boat along with the waterline and sprayed the whole thing down with an Ortho spider spray so we wouldn’t have another episode like we did a few weeks ago.  Once at the marina we quickly loaded the dinghy and unloaded again at the boat.  I was placing the last piece on deck when Matt, still standing n the dinghy, pointed near the toerail and stated, ‘Ugh, there’s a spider sitting right there, get rid it!’.  I squatted down and saw said spider trying to blend in unnoticed.  Without a few beers in me first this time I was a little more hesitant about just picking it up and dropping it over the side.  It was a pretty good size, not as big as the self circumnavigating spider from before, but pretty close.  I inched my fingers toward it and backed them away a few times trying to find the best angle to make this work.  Finally I just took a deep breath, grabbed a leg and tossed.  Unfortunately it only a flew a few inches in the direction of Matt and he let out a little shriek while I laughed.  Filled with a little more confidence I took a solid grab and made sure it went in the water this time.  We watched it sit in the unnaturally calm water for a moment until Matt noted, ‘Oh what the hell?, There’s another one’.  I looked at the lifeline and sure enough there was another much smaller spider perched atop of it.  This one I didn’t even give a second thought to and pitched it overboard.  However as soon as this one hit the water it started paddling its ass back to the boat at motor-speed.  My thoughts immediately turned to it’s larger brother and where it may be.  Sure enough it was traveling at more of a doggy-paddle pace back to the boat.  I watched it disappear under the waterline as Matt worked at disposing of the smaller one with our dinghy paddle.  When it had been successfully flung a far enough distance we started a search party for the escapee that was now at large.  We spotted it near the transom taking breaks between swimming and resting.  Matt swung the dingy around back and while preparing his paddle again spotted two more spiders on the davit lines.

This was an all out war now.  We worked together as I dropped them in the water and Matt made sure they would not make their way back.  After disposing of a few more I saw the King of spiders, sandwiched under the Lifesling and the hawse pipe.  This one was not going to make it easy for me as the Lifesling was blocking the area I’d normally toss it over.  This one was going to have to be moved first.  I poked its leg and it was like watching the wings span on a bird.  Suddenly it became about 3 times larger than it had originally appeared.  Before I could even let myself think about it I slid the spider toward the stern with my finger and then pinched a leg and threw it over.  This one may have actually been affected by the poison because it did not put up any kind of fight and started to sink immediately.  The next 15-20 minutes was spent scouring the cockpit and stern area.  They seemed to be coming out in droves tonight and we was not going to be able to relax if we knew they were creeping around.  Once we were satisfied any ones that could be found have been found we began to ease up a little.  There was only one more time after that I had to get up for spider disposal, and Matt promised he would spray again the next day.

Wanting to get a swim in before dinner I suited up and jumped in the water.  As soon as I submerged I regretted my decision.  Even though I knew the wind had pushed the spider carcasses far away I could just imagine them floating right next to me ready to exact their revenge.  I swam far past the bow trying to distance myself as much as possible.  Every piece of floating debris gave my heart a jump.  After a few minutes I realized I was being a baby and I’d have to swim back to the boat eventually anyway.  It was then I could let myself enjoy the rest of my swim, staying out until the pizza was almost ready to eat.  The rest of the night went exactly as planned, pigging out on pizza and watching movies.  It turned out to be a much better evening than I would have spent at home with one very large exception.  Frozen pizza will never compare to Jets.