Electric Cheetah

Errand Running & Lunch at the Electric Cheetah

Thursday August 15, 2013

Electric Cheetah

It took 30 hours of traveling from Guatemala, but we finally arrived at Matt’s mom’s house in Michigan (where we’ll be staying our 10 days here) yesterday around 5 pm.  The journey started by leaving Serendipity an hour before our bus was scheduled to pick us up in Rio Dulce, and after sitting around waiting the 45 minutes we assumed we had if the bus to came on time at 10, we waited yet another 30 minutes since it was running late.  There was plenty of time on our hands to get to the airport in San Pedro Sula Honduras (current murder capital of the world!), so the 30 minute delay itself wasn’t anything to worry about.  What did freak me out though, is when our bus died as it was crossing the bridge out of town and I was afraid we might be SOL for getting to Honduras that day.  Do they even send back-up buses for breakdowns? Within 10 minutes though, we were back up and running.  Our bus line for the day (Fuente del Norte) wasn’t as fancy as the line that Ana Bianca and I took to Antigua, so there were no movies, and since I had a new Nook waiting for me in Michigan, I didn’t bring my old one to keep me busy for this leg of the journey.  We listened to music, slept on and off, and had a very straightforward border crossing.

We were dropped off at a very large bus terminal in San Pedro Sula at three in the afternoon, and still had ten hours until our plane departed.  Since we did happen to be in the murder capital of the world, we didn’t know what taxis we could trust and forked over $8/person (half of what it cost us to get from Guatemala to Honduras) to be able to take another bus from the terminal to the airport.  With departure from the bus terminal only four short hours after we bought our tickets.  We passed the time by having dinner at a Burger King (Matt was so excited), and watching movies in Spanish in the VIP lounge of the Hedman Atlas bus terminal.  Once we did get to the airport I realized we probably would have been better off staying at the bus terminal for as long as possible since there was no comfortable place to sit in the airport.  With nothing else to do, we grabbed some dinner from the lounge area before everything closed up for the night, went through security, and then sat on the floor in front of the restroom playing with our computers since that was the only place in the airport that seemed to offer electrical outlets.  Come 1:00 am, we were finally able to board our flight.

Next stop was a short layover in Ft. Lauderdale, which turned from two hours into four.  Not a big deal, except my brother was supposed to pick us up from the airport in Detroit, our next destination, but only had about an hour he could spend with us before having to go back to work.  Matt’s mom and step-dad were planning to take us the rest of the way back, and now we were feverishly trying to send them messages on our computers that we needed to be picked up from the airport instead of my brothers house.  There was no response when we boarded our next flight, and we didn’t even know if we were going to have anyone meeting us at the airport when we landed there.  All worrying was for naught though, and as we walked out of the terminal and toward baggage claim we saw there smiling faces and opening arms welcoming us back.  We gathered all our bags and made a quick stop for lunch before driving the three hours across state and back ‘home’.  In addition to both of us being ecstatic about the fact that we were back home, we also got to enjoy Christmas in August by opening all the packages we had shipped there, ready to bring things back to the boat when we head back to her.  Matt had his boat parts to fawn over, but I was more excited about things like my new Nook, Skittles, and Michigan Sweet Cherry Coffee.  I was also surprised with some more ‘foodie’ items from Matt’s mom, like a fridge stocked with Red Stripe and Lime-a-Ritas.  I love when people pick up hints I leave on the blog.  Pepsi and Skittles when I went to visit my parents, a case of Lo Carb Monster from Nate when he passaged with us, and now my favorite adult beverages from Matt’s mom.  Thanks for reading between the lines you guys!

flowers in garden

back deck

 Feels so good to be home again!


Today, between a whirlwind of errands, I was able to squeeze in lunch with my best friend Laura.  After having been up for more than 30 hours, I still dragged myself out of bed at a reasonable hour this morning so I could get my hair cut at one of those beauty schools where you still get the treatment of a massage, shampoo, cut, and style for less than $20.  What I thought would take an hour max turned into two, and I was racing my behind through the streets of Grand Rapids, trying to get there for my lunch date before she assumed I stood her up (no cell phone, so, no way to contact).  Luckily when I walked into the Electric Cheetah, a trendy hipster style sandwich shop, she was still waiting there for me with a glass of wine in hand.  Which after some shrieks and hugs, I was told to order one as well.  As usual when you spend time with someone you haven’t seen in so long, we were so busy catching up that our waiter (someone I used to serve with at a different restaurant five years ago, coincidentally) had to come back four times before we could force ourselves to take two minutes away from talking to look at the menu.  Although a number of things looked like they would have been fantastic, I went with the Yahtzee sandwich, partially because it looked so tempting with it’s swiss cheese and haystack onions sitting on top of a patty melt, and partially because it allowed me to play a round of Yahtzee to see if I could win my sandwich for free.  The five dice were brought out to me and through three rolls I had all but one matching.  Darn it!

Jessica and Laura

 BFFs for 19 years.

Yahtzee at Electric Cheetah

YAHTZEE!!…..Or not.


Even when our food came it was hard to stop and take a bite because we had so much catching up to do from the previous year.  At one point we kind of laughed and forced ourselves into a five minute silence so we could actually eat what was on our plates.  Which happened to be…a ton of food.  I knew that half of it was going to be going home in a box as soon as it was set down in front of me.

Yahtzee sandwich - Electric Cheetah

 Which didn’t stop us from ordering dessert though.  Laura was just as hell bent on tasting their monster cookies as I was on tasting one of their 40 different varieties of craft root beer.  In the end I boxed up half my sandwich and one of the cookies to take home with me.  Hope Matt’s still hungry when I get there.

monster cookies - Electric Cheetah

 Before I could leave the restaurant though, I had to sneak into the bathroom with my camera to capture how cool the walls in there were.  Every side, top to bottom, was covered in puzzles.  Not something you see everyday, so I figured it needed to be captured.

puzzle of Chicago

Cheetah puzzle

 After hugs and sad good-byes Laura and I finally parted ways, although we both could have stayed all afternoon and well into the night without running out of things to talk about.  As it was though, my day was still full of plans and I needed to get a move on.  Even though I could have caught the expressway on the outskirts of town, I needed a good view of my old city and took a drive through it’s center, taking in all the sights I’d been missing over the past year.

Grand Rapids, MI

 The Grand River & Blue Bridge

John Ball Park

 John Ball Park & Loch Ness Monster


Part of the reason I was taking the long road home was I also needed to make a stop in our old neighborhood to visit Sobie, our old butcher shop.  We have plans to grill steaks with friends in a few days, and if there has been one thing I’ve been missing from Michigan just as much as my family and friends, it’s the steaks they sell here doused in a delicious teriyaki glaze.  While they were being packaged up I couldn’t help but drool over all the other specials in their display case.  If only we had a month here instead of just over a week!

Sobie stuffed pork chop

 I want one of these…

Sobie bratwurst

 …and one of those, and those, and those…


By the time I got back home I’d already been gone for seven hours.  No rest for the weary though.  Tonight we’re going out to dinner to see Matt’s sister as well as his dad and grandpa.  Time to go get pretty.  Since, now I actually have the tools to do so.

Jessica on back deck

 Damn it feels good to be a girl again.



It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye, But So Fun!

Sunday August 5, 2012

I think the broken part on our boat may have been a blessing in disguise as the extra time in town is giving us plenty of time to say proper goodbyes to family and friends.  In our previously packed schedules our goodbyes were either going to be divided into large group parties without much one on one time, or a 20 minute visit scheduled in between other visits or on the way out to the boat.  Our extra forced time on land is now allowing for many more lunches and dinners to spend quality time with people and remind us of how much we’ll miss them.

We haven’t had a night off since Wednesday when we went to dinner with Matt’s sister and her boyfriend, which ended up in hours of after dinner drinks which I knew it would.  So is your night when you go out with bartenders/servers who’s profession is staying out late and drinking.  Matt and I were introduced to Bazooka Joe and Applesauce shots and I was using Bahama Mamma’s and White Russians as chasers.  All of that plus only six hours of sleep, somehow I still rocked it out at work the next day.  Thursday night was a nice relaxing dinner with my uncle and grandparents in a quiet little bistro.  We related all the information of the trip they may not have caught a family gatherings, the route we’re taking, where we’ll sleep at night, how we’ll wash our clothes.  Making sure our jump off point to the Bahamas wasn’t too far north of their town of Sebring, FL (guess I haven’t paid attention to midland Florida geography) we made plans to meet up for a day when we’re passing down the coast.  Before hugging and saying goodbye we also showed my grandpa how to locate and read text messages on his cell phone.  I’m sure my dad will be happy to hear that he wasn’t being ignored on purpose.

Friday was my last day of work and there was no way I’d be allowed to go home without having a few last drinks with coworkers.  Gathering on the patio of one of our favorite happy hour restaurants we talked about the politics of work and funny stories that were not safe for our instant messages.  It was a smaller group, but made up of my best friends there and we could have sat talking until the place shut down but I was on a borrowed car that I needed to get home for others.  As much as I was looking to get out of a cubicle and spend a few years seeing the world I know I’ll have moments where some random thought is on my mind and I’ll want to quick message my friends but they won’t be at my fingertips anymore.  I won’t see them five days a week and I may never actually see some of them again.  That’s been one of the hardest nights to leave so far.

Saturday was a double eventer, lunch with one group of friends and dinner with another.  Driving out to our old neighborhood we met up with Matt’s oldest friend Kevin, they’ve known each other since kindergarten, and his wife Cindy.  They treated us to a delicious and filling lunch at a restaurant called The Crooked Goose that just opened and features many Michigan specialties.  It was an amusing little place and I could see us becoming regulars there should we have stayed in our area.  Matt and Kevin’s other good friend Korey joined us at the restaurant and after we had our fill of fried bologna sandwiches and flash fried pretzels we made our way back to Kevin & Cindy’s for games.  Just like we used to do years ago when Matt and I would stroll over from our backyard to theirs we sat around the table and played games of Apples to Apples and Dominoes.  Somehow Matt was able to lay down a red ‘Local Police’ card for Kevin’s green ‘Lazy’ card (Kevin is a local cop) and I hijacked their cards by filling out a few blank ones myself.  One of them may not have been a noun, but I love it all the same.  Then for Dominoes I won the first game while Matt won the next two and we were not allowed to leave the house until someone other than the two of us won.  Leaving here could have been a very hard goodbye as well, even now I miss all the time we used to spend together, but there are already plans for one more dinner this week so I can hold back my tears until then.

Rounding out Saturday night was dinner with another group of friends, no strangers to being posted on this site, Tyler and Ken and Mindy.  After stopping by Ken & Mindy’s newly built house which we’ll probably have to live in the basement of when we come back, we met up with Tyler for dinner at the same place we had just been Wednesday.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this place is only a mile from our home.  I have a feeling that everyone might be trying to get us good and drunk their last time out with us.  Since all the guys used to work together they dove right into conversations about sales while Mindy and I talked about girly things like what kind of clothes I’m packing, and again, how we’ll do our laundry.  A surprisingly popular question that I get from a lot of people (we’ll be taking our clothes to laundromats and very rarely actually washing anything on board).  We didn’t get to finish it out with a crazy night like we normally would with this group but with Mindy being 6 months pregnant and the two of us going at it all day it was just one last relaxing dinner with good friends.

Rounding out the weekend was dinner with Matt’s dad today.  After a few failed attempts at finding a restaurant (Captain Jack’s on the beach is still closed??!!) we ended up at a tropical themed restaurant a few miles from the marina and caught up on lost time.  It has been absolutely amazing spending so much time with friends and family before we leave.  Everyone has been so kind with thoughts and words and even going away gifts.  It makes going away that much harder, realizing what we’re leaving behind, but we couldn’t imagine a better send off.  Thank you all so much!

The culprits for my almost workday hangover.

Bazooka Joe shot

Yes, it was as good as it looks.

Hijacking the Apples to Apples cards.  They’ll be happy to have it after we’re gone.

Even their dog Izzy was partaking in the good times.

Just a couple of unemployed bums now.

Adios, Sayonara, Bon Voyage

Sunday July 29, 2012

Tonight we had the pleasure of going to a going away party thrown by us by Matt’s side of the family, a kind of kick-off for all the good-byes we’ll be saying this week.  Arriving at his grandma’s house we found all the t.v. trays set up in the living room and the seats laid out in a specific order with everyone assigned to the same certain seat, just as they have been since I started coming here 12 years ago.  And I had learned years ago, don’t ever deviate from that seat you’ve been assigned.  Once all the family had arrived it didn’t take long for us to move to the dinning room and fill up our plates going around the table buffet style.  The theme for decorations was tropical and Matt’s mom had even run around town tracking down matching plates, napkins and balloons displaying that theme and dotted with sailboats on the front.  Hanging from the chandelier were cut outs of tropical flowers and placed on top of the soda cans were paper umbrellas.  Back on the dessert table Matt’s cousin had baked and decorated cookies in the shapes of sailboats, seagulls, and mermaids.  In addition to the labor that had gone into the cookies alone there was a beautifully decorated cake showing the globe and a sailboat cookie sailing across it’s horizon.

Although conversation had originally started about the trip and the route it quickly turned toward family stories which I enjoy the most.  Just like every Christmas when we get together everyone went through recounting humorus stories of their childhood, some of which I’d heard before and love to hear again and some that were brand new to me.  We recounted instances of how Matt and his siblings would use inappropriate language as children and I leared that if his mom laughs too hard while eating there’s a chance something may come out her nose.  This is something I really wish I knew in the 13 months we’d been living there, I would have pounced on her with a joke as soon as she took a bite of food.  There were stories of funny things pets would do and our first clunkers of cars.  It was a great way to say good-bye to everyone, not talking about what’s to come but instead reliving the great times from our pasts together.  Thank you to Matt’s family for the wonderful send off.

What A Fine Looking Crew!

Wednesday July 11, 2012


Cutting it close as alwasy due to the terrible traffic that I swear only gangs up on me Wednesday afternoons,  I made it to Torresen’s with 15 minutes to change and walk over to the yacht club.  Until I saw that both bathrooms were occupied and had to hurridly drive over to the other side to find open ones.  Rushing to get to the docks I started to walk down and didn’t see the tan hull of Island Dream anywhere.  Getting in panic mode that I had actually missed the boat for once I finally saw her at the far end of the last dock having been blocked by all the other boats until I was almost on top of her.  Walking down the dock the opposite direction Tom greeted me, thanked me for the boat hook I deposited on his deck a few weeks ago during a drive by gifting and told me that the new crew shirts were in and I had one waiting for me on the boat.  Yippie skippy!, I had been waiting for these since they were first mentioned at the beginning of the season.  I had wanted a little momento to take with me, show my support for the team after I’d left, and show that I, Jessica Johnson, had been part of a crew.  Stepping on deck I saw Shannon in her turquois polo and went down to grab mine.  Pulling off my t-shirt (I did have a tank underneath, no strip shows here) I slid the polo on and went back above deck to hang with my crew.

It was a pretty crowded boat that night, all regulars except for one new face.  Her name is Margie and she crewed with Tom last summer but had been in Africa until last week and resumed her sailing duties as soon as she got home.  I think Tom must have mentioned me before I got there because she already knew who I was, that I was leaving in a few weeks, and joked that she would be my replacement.  After stating that I should give her my crew shirt when I left (she hadn’t gotten one that night) I was releived to hear Tom say there were more at home because I was ready to go into a death grip to keep this thing.  When Rob and Jules hopped on a few minutes later they changed into their new shirts and we had a fine looking crew.  The women had solid color polos with Island Dream on the chest and the guys were a little more festive with button down Hawaiian-esqe shirts (all in the same color tone so it looked very good) with Island Dream on their chests as well.  Besides the people on Chicken Poop (oops, sorry, Chicken Soup) we were the only boat out there in matching gear.  Getting on the water with plenty of time before our division was to start we moved around the crew to keep four people on the foredeck while the remaining 7 were seated in the cockpit.  Full crew tonight indeed!

We were in the last division to start that night and after we had all sails raised we tried to get ourselves in the best position for the start.  Being in the last division to start gives all the boats in that division plenty of time to get on top of eachother and nearly hit.  Assuming that all the helmsmen know what they’re doing and see all the boats around them I’ve actually started to enjoy this part the most.  When I’m sitting up on the high side of the deck and out of nowhere a boat crosses in front of our bow with less than five feet to spare.  Your heart starts racing as you did not see it coming and it’s kind of like a rollercoaster ride after you take that first plunge and your heart jumps into your throat but at the same time you still know you’re ok.  When our horn sounded we were near the front of the pack with a few others very close on our tail.  The upwind journey to the first marker near the dunes left us on a straight course for a very long time before eventually tacking as we had been getting great speed and there was no reason to change.  When we did begin our tacks it took a littled bit of getting used to the cluster F of having so many people at the front of the boat changing sides.  The first one we attempted I was ready to run in front of the mast as I always do but Rob advised a tuck & roll under the boom.  I was a little afraid to go for it and while waiting for an opening I became tangled in the jib line and dragged back close to the cockpit.  All was fine though, I sprang right back and dove over to the new side with a new war wound (huge bruise) on my back thigh that I was proud to show off.

While getting close to the first marker I was ready to hop down below deck and get ready to assist shoving out the kite when I found that position had alredy been taken.  Sitting back on deck I just enjoyed the view while everyone else went to work on their tasks.  We rounded the marker and raised the kite without problem but the downwind run caused us (and everyone else) to suddenly lose a lot of their speed.  Shannon was placed against the boom to hold it out as far as possible but the rest of us just sat back and enjoyed the view.  Since we were able to stay on a single course for the whole run I just absorbed the sights of the other racers, admiring the colorful spinnakers of the other boats around us and their skill of rounding the next marker and beginning their upwind journey.  While sitting on the rail after we had started upwind once more Margie came to sit next to me and ask questions about my upcoming journey and tell me of her travels in Africa.  It was reassuring to hear that leaving your regular life behind to experience something new is completely worth it and you can (mostly) pick up your life right where you left off.

Since winds were not extremely high and there were no issues of the spinnaker going in the water or someone getting hit in the head with the boom, the rest of the race was mostly a pleasure cruise.  Since our upwind course off the wind was different from almost ever other boat based on the point of sail we could all get our best speed that night we spend most of our time by oursleves without the close call anticipation of ‘are we going to pass them?’.   There was a bit of excitement in the last 10 minutes of the last leg where there was a mad rush of boats to the last marker located at the Northwest end of the lake.  While off on our own we were closer North to the marker while the other remaining boats were all piled up on the West side.  Then the race was to see if we could get West before they could get North, but sadly they were closer.  As Island Dream rolled up to the finish us rail meat were now riding the low side trying to help gain as much speed as possible.  We hung out the lifelines with our toes touching the water and the jib pinned against our back.  Our finish horn sounded and we cheered, another race completed for Island Dream.

Instead of heading back to the docks to open the cooler it was immediately ajar and out came these monsterous 24oz cans of Lime-A-Rita.  Three times larger than the normal 8oz size they come in (did you like my math there?).  Everyone wanted on the Lime-A-Rita bandwagon but there were not enough to go around.  That problem was quickly solved by emptying some water bottles on board and filling them with tequila flavored beer to pass around.  The sails were still up but we were slowly ambling back toward the dock with no rush to get there as there was still light in the sky and it was a beautiful night.  Just a few minutes into this pleasurable booze cruise I got a text from Matt that said he was locked out of the house and could I come home right away because no one else was going to be there for the rest of the night.  Looking at the happy faces of everyone on board who probably used Wednesdays as their big socializing night with friends, there was no way I was going to ask to have the motor turned on to get me back to the dock as soon as possible.  Matt had a vehicle and and iPhone, he’d be fine for a few hours.  Once the motor finally was tunred on because we were nearing the mooring field there was a consensus going around that everyone needed to check out Serendipity.  I pointed Tom towards our new spot out in BFE and everyone gathered on deck as we came closer.  There were Ooooos and Aaaaaahs all around and she was given approval for me to be able to travel aboard.  She was also given a Bud Light bath from everyone on ID as it is apparently good luck to spray beer on a departing boat (come on guys, no champagne?).  When we finally tied off at the docks I couldn’t ignore Matt’s pleads any longer and had to say quick good-byes to be on my way.  The good news is that there is still one more race next week with a going away celebration at the end.  And since Matt will be right by my side we’ll be able to party until after the stars have come up.

4th Of July Parade Of Boats

Wednesday July 4, 2012

Midweek holidays are a tricky thing because you con yourself into thinking the whole day will be spent completing projects that need to get done although once the day off is upon you it’s hard to do anything but take the time off from the daily grind to relax.  After spending the night and doing nothing productive except get the dinghy washed we woke up early the next morning to try and give the deck a good scrub down as well before my parents came out to see the boat and us for the last time before we all meet up again in Panama.  I should have started at the cockpit and worked my way forward because by the time the phone rang with ‘We’re here!!!‘ I had barely gotten half way and the cockpit was still a mess of smudges and other things I’d rather not find out what they other.  Nothing a sport-a-seat thrown over the top couldn’t fix though.

On their last Michigan trip my parents were able to enjoy 90 degree heat at 10:30 am on the deck without any shade from the bimini which still wasn’t up yet.  It was nice that we had been able to spend so much time with them while they were in town catching up on everything in life and this last visit was all about us and the trip.  Then came the farewells and a few tears from my mom.  We assured her that Panama was not that far away and after that would be New Zealand.  After tucking them into their rental car that we rented from this site, and waiving goodbye we went back to Serendip for a long three hour nap since low’s in the 80’s and a down blanked piled on top of you at night do not make for good sleeping weather and we were lagging.

Waking up in the mid afternoon with no finished projects to show for the day we pulled out the bars for the bimini again to make final measurements and cut.  Unfortunately the last part could’t be completed because the rivet gun was left at home.  By this time though the afternoon heat was becoming unbearable and a swim in the lake was necessary.  While wading in the water I started to see familiar race boats making their way out on the water.  Crawling back on deck and cracking open a beer I sat tucked under my towel and enjoyed the race from the spectators side.

Having spent most of the day napping or relaxing in the cockpit while watching a regatta we did not get a second wind of energy to do anything productive.  Eating potato chips and crackers for dinner we watched the sky begin to grow dark and the fireworks start to emerge.  Many people around the shore including the Muskegon Yacht Club had some small ones of their own but I was waiting for the big display.  Last year Matt had been out here himself and said there were multiple shows going on every direction you could look.  As the last bits of light were leaving the sky the larger fireworks began to come out.  Turning your head in every direction you’d see some from the country club up the hill from our mooring, others blazing over the dunes of the state park, and the municipal show being put on in town all the way at the other end of the lake.  Swiveling in multiple directions to try and get them all in I finally settled on the ones closest to me at the country club.  It was way after my bedtime by the time we left but completely worth staying since next Fourth of July we might be in the South Pacific.  Sparklers anyone?

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.

Candy Coated Raindrops

Friday June 22, 2012

When Matt and I woke up this morning on his 30th birthday we walked out of our bedroom and expected to see the whole living room and kitchen decorated with balloons, streamers and signs, just as his mom had done the previous year for his 29th birthday. She must have listened to pleads of ‘I don’t celebrate birthdays, please don’t do anything’ because the area was not adorned with a single balloon. We went through our morning routine getting ready to go to the boat so it was pretty quick with just pulling on a t-shirt and shorts over a swimsuit. Going into the bathroom to brush my teeth I saw there was a note on the counter wishing Matt a happy birthday and that his card was in the bathroom downstairs. I could already tell where this was going, but he was busy sitting on the floor of the living room making sure we had all the necessary componets to bring out the radar and get it installed over the weekend. I mentioned his birthday card was downstairs and he should go get it. Following him down the steps we walked into the basement bathroom to see that there were signs, streamers and about 30 balloons taped all over the small space as well as a card with gift enclosed. He had a good laugh and I personally think he would have been a little disappointed had he not gotten one streamer on his birthday. Walking back upstairs I had my birthday gift waiting for him on the counter and made him open it. Wrapped in Christmas paper (I wrapped it the night before and it was the first thing I came across) were a pair of Sperry Topsider loafers.  Something for him to wear on the trip besides sneakers and sandals since those aren’t his thing anyway.  There was a period of a few years where he wore a pair of Banana Republic loafers to do everything from hiking to mowing the lawn.  I think he was very appreciative of the gift since it’s nothing he would splurge on for himself.

 Packing up the car we headed out to the boat with a quick stop at West Marine to exchange for a smaller pair of shoes (apparently they run large) and food. Before going to the marina we pulled into the offices to see if they had the situation figured out yet of what mooring we would be at. The woman who had been working with Matt on the issue was not in the office at the moment but we were told she would call or email when she got in. When we pulled into the marina the sun was bright in the sky and winds were also gusting at a decent speed. Lugging the big box containing the radar we went over to the slip that had our boat and loaded everything below deck. Neither of us wanted to sit at the slip for very long as we always feel crowded and on display.  After the crew around the docks had gone to lunch and we were sure they wouldn’t see our attempt at a departure the engine was turned on and we began to undo the docklines.  Matt was behind the wheel backing us out and I was at the bow keeping one line around a cleat until we were clear of the docks.  Backing into the area that boats are normally launched into we cleared everything with no problem and were soon making our way into open water.  I did find out though that Matt had actually turned us in the opposite direction that he was originally trying for, it just happened that everything still worked out.  Good thing there will not be a lot of marina’s in our future or if there are hopefully we get a lot more practice moving around in small spaces first.  Once in the lake we didn’t even want to bother checking out the new mooring the marina was trying to put us at but headed straight towards the dunes instead.  Forecasts had been showing for some isolated storms to come through that day but the skies were looking clear.  When we did cross infront of the channel and were able to look out to the big lake there did appear to be some large puffy clouds covered in a pink haze far out on the horizon.  I’m guessing that was the storm that was coming our way but it still looked pretty far off.  Pulling into a spot between two powerboats enjoying the early afternoon we had our new anchor set up and ready to drop.  Matt stood up at the bow with the remote for the windlass  and I followed directions from behind the wheel of neutral and reverse.  The anchor dug into place very easily which was nice because for some reason in my head I remembered anchorings being a stressfull situation.  Maybe racing has just got me much more comfortable of what a boat can do before you’re in real danger.  Plus this time we were not surrounded by the jagged rocks of the breakers and that helps ease one’s mind.

Set in a stationary spot we didn’t feel like doing any real work and I wanted to get a better glace at what looked to be the storm clouds coming in.  Since we had the dinghy towing behind us we jumped in and motored to shore.  Trying to walk up the steep initial dune I didn’t plan on going very fast since lack of treadmill time this summer has left me a little out of shape but as soon as my bare feet hit the burning sand both of us were sprinting up to try and find a spot of shade at the top.  Peering over the dunes to Lake Michigan the clouds were not looming any closer than they had been almost an hour ago when viewing them from the channel.  Practicing my weather forecasting capabilities I predicted they would reach us in four to five hours.  Walking/sprinting up one more dune we found a nice spot in the shade and sat down to relax.  With no cooler and not much shade around us we only relaxed for a few minutes before getting restless and heading back to the dinghy on shore.  Dashing down the sand at top speed we both went right for the water to cool the burning soles of our feet where we spent a little time on a beached log before stepping back in the dinghy and reboarding Serendip.

With the storms still a few hours off and being protected from the wind we pulled the large bag containing the mail sail up on deck so we could attach it to the mast/boom and clear out a little space from the saloon.  Plus sails are good to have for, you know, sailing.  Having watched this multiple times now on Island Dream before every race I felt confident that I knew what I was doing.  Bringing the tack (forward part) of the sail up by the mast I put Matt on winching duties and asked if he was ready for me to start hanking the foot of the sail into the boom.  He replied that no, the head of the sail goes up first and then the foot is attached.  Confused as I was sure I had just watched this multiple times I explained my logic to him but was still denied.  Figuring that Mr. OCD was still more versed in everything sailing than I was I let it go and attach the halyard to the head of the sail and told him to start winching.  It hadn’t even gone ten feet up when he stopped and goes, ‘Wait…no, the foot of the sail does need to go on first’.  Mmmm hmmm.  So the toggles were slid through the boom and it was finally ready to go up the mast.  Other than a small issue of where I had inserted the toggles upsidedown where the battons were (sorry for all the nautical lingo for you non sailors) where the sail had to be lowered and then raised again the process was done pretty quickly and we were putting the sail cover on.  Yes.. one more lump of fabric out of the way.  Celebrating the small victory I sat with some crackers and a pop in the cockpit.  When Matt came back up after changing into his swimsuit I wanted to get my very rare ‘I told you so’ in so I looked at him and asked ‘So how’s that logic of yours working out?’.  Straight faced he looked right back at me and replied ‘How’s that piece of food in your teeth working out?’  Touche.

Because of all the labor that’s been poured into the boat for the past, oh 8 months?, neither of us were in a work oriented state that day and raising the main was enough to call it break time.  I had finally remembered to take the hammock we had purchased years ago for camping out of my car and bring it on the boat.  Wanting to see how it would work out Matt started pulling out yards of line to attach it to the mast and the forestay.  The first attempt left his butt repeatedly bumping into the hatch as he swung back and forth.  The second attempt gave about three inches of clearance but left a little squeak.. squeak.. squeak of the furling as he swayed in the breeze.  Knowing that adding a second person would take away any of the extra space between the hammock and the boat I decided to go for a swim instead.  Teetering over the side of the deck it took a lot of preparation to get ready for my first plunge of the year as it was not incessantly hot and I didn’t have Matt to push me in before I was ready.  After a few false starts I forced myself to take the leap before my mind caught up with my impulse.  The water was refreshingly cool and took a few moments to get use to.  Since we had rushed out of the house in the morning and I didn’t get a chance to clean up I used the opportunity to wash my hair (with eco friendly products), lathering up on deck and jumping back in to rinse.  When I was all clean I let my body just float around with the breezes for a few minutes before getting chilly and climbing back on board to nestle under my towel.  Trading places I took over the hammock while Matt sampled the water.  I don’t know if he was having the same issues I was in the hammock but the wind started forcefully swinging me back and forth at more than the rocking pace I was expecting and that coupled with the vertigo from floating in the water quickly sent me below deck to lie down before I could become even more sick than I was starting to feel.

The black sheep in the cloud family

Matt tackled a few more projects while I napped and only woke me for a few minutes to listen to a song by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s playing on Pandora that I had been longing to hear.  Getting another hour of sleep in I woke up still a little groggy and went to the cockpit with a Pepsi to wake up a little more.  Just beginning to stretching out over the dunes were the clouds I had my eyes on earlier in the day.  At first they came over thin and wispy but soon became thicker and darker.  Right on time at just after four hours from I watched them from the top of the dunes.  Realizing we still needed to attach our equipment to whichever new mooring they assigned to us and it would not be fun to do with a storm rolling through we upped the anchor and crossed the lake to the mooring field in search of our new home, number 103.  Not ever paying attention to mooring numbers before except our old one of 35 we didn’t know what side to start on and ended up on the opposite end at 1A.  Strolling past the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s  we stopped even searching and just headed for the very end.  Swinging around from the outside and entering the field our eyes were peeled for numbers that might point out how close to 103 we were.  This area did not seem to follow any order as 99 and 108 were right next to each other.  Looking at all the vacant balls we could not find 103 anywhere.  Then we got smart and started searching ones with boats attached to them and sure enough 103 was already comfortably housing someone.  Knowing the offices were already closed for the night we left a quick voicemail for them to call us as soon as possible but knew we’d just have to pick a random spot for the night.  One of the issues with this is each  mooring ball is weighted down with different items and we needed to make sure we were on one strong enough to hold our 15,000 or so pounds.  Turning back to go to the area we had always been in the past we’d look at open areas and try to remember what size boats had been there or areas that would give us a lot of swing room in case we did end up at one too small for us.  Deliberating between two or three balls we finally landed on one that was closest to the open water of the lake and afforded the most swing room.  Matt boarded the dinghy will all the equipment and I circled around with Serendip until he finished and called me over.  I may have barreled into the spot a little too quickly but soon we were attached and safe enough for the night.

Checking the forecast though, that incoming storm was really closing in and we didn’t want to leave until we knew Serendipity would be safe for the night.  Since we were going to pick up fried chicken on the way home we opted instead to grab it before the storm came and bring it to the boat to eat.  Driving the 4-5 miles from the marina we pulled in to Lee’s Chicken which has amazing chicken and for so cheap.  I was really craving coleslaw and a biscuit so I ended up ordering a meal that came with three pieces of chicken and two sides plus a drink for under $6.  I don’t know why we don’t come here more often.  Getting our meals back to the boat we sat out and ate as a few boats from the yacht club started to pull out into the lake.  Most of them I recognized from Wednesday races and thought maybe there was a race being held that night.  Only around five in total were headed out so my guess was they were just getting practice in or Friday races were not popular at all.  Just after we finished eating I could see a haze on the other side of the lake near the dunes and it looked like the rain was finally coming.  Hanging out down below we let it pass over us.  The storm was quick and not very strong at all.  Once it was apparent the storm was gone I stuck my head out the companionway to see if the racers had come in but instead was treated to the sun poking out of the clouds and a brilliant full spectrum rainbow shining over the water.  I had never seen anything like it before, it was actually so bright that it made my eyes hurt.  Grabbing the camera and calling to Matt that he had to come see this we both stood in the cockpit taking it in.  We could make out the full rainbow from end to end in electric colors that also included blue, indigo and violet.  The lines between the colors were clear and concise and it looked like something that had painted onto the sky instead of nature made.  Neither of us could take our eyes away and continued to stare for ten more minutes until the colors slowly started to blend together.

Staying for just a little longer there was no dragging of the mooring and we felt confident that when we came back the next night our boat would still be there waiting for us.  Even though Matt does’t ‘celebrate’ birthdays I think he got a good one in.  Boats, fried chicken and rainbows sound like an ideal day to me.  Maybe I was trying to celebrate my birthday a few months early?  After all, mine will likely be spent in the Erie canal in a one stop light town.  Could be really fun or could be dismal.  We shall see. In any case I feel I have taken over enough of Matt’s to last until mine.  Did I mention we get to go home to pineapple upsidedown cake?

Survival of the Solstice

Wednesday June 20, 2012

This was a really exciting week for me to get out racing again, not only because I had missed last week but because one of our blog followers who lives close to the Grand Rapids area was going to come join me.  Jackie was one of the first people to like our Facebook page when I started it this winter and introduced herself stating that she and her husband were looking to go cruising in a few years as well.  We did a lot of corresponding through Facebook and comments on the website, and when she mentioned that racing might be a good thing for her to get into as well I told her she needed to come join me some night.  So after months of talking online we planned to meet up at a McDonalds on the way to Muskegon where we would carpool to the marina and she could finally experience all the fun that I kept bragging about.  When I walked into the restaurant she wasn’t hard to spot (partially because she was the only one in there) and immediately we started talking like we were long time friends just picking back up where we last dropped off.  After ordering a yummy iced coffee, just got hooked on those after visiting AZ, we loaded my car up with the beer she brought and made our way out to Muskegon without having to fight any traffic this time.  Along the way we discussed my trip, her trip, and all the different blogs we follow which turned out to be the exact same ones.  We also found out we listen to the same morning radio station and have a lot of the same interests.  It’s like we were twins separated at birth and finally got to meet for the first time.

Since we were making such good time on the ride there, when I pulled the car into Torresen’s I brought it back to the slip they had put Serendipity in while trying to find a new mooring for us.  We got out for a second to look around and while we didn’t go on deck or below I promised Jackie that I’d have to have her and her husband out sometime for a ride before Matt and I left the next month.  Looking over at the yacht club and realizing we should probably get over there I parked the car and we grabbed our stuff and walked the quarter mile down the road to MYC.  Walking down the dock to Island Dream I had Tom and Shannon waiving at me from on deck as usual and Mike and John were busy moving around getting all of the lines run.  After stepping aboard and introducing Jackie, the first words out of Tom’s mouth were ‘Would you be ok with not racing tonight?’.  Hmmmm…..the one time I bring out a friend specifically for the racing experience and we might not go.  I didn’t know if he meant that we’d just be sitting at the dock all night, but he explained that the winds were pretty high and we were short crewed and maybe a pleasure cruise on Lake Michigan would be better for us that night.  He also hinted that this would give me the opportunity to take the helm or handle some lines since we’d just be out for fun and not keeping a specific course.  I looked at Jackie and we both shook our heads ok.  Besides, it was the official first day of summer and we had two coolers packed with beer.  It was after we agreed to this that we found out the crew was split with half wanting to pleasure cruise and half wanting to race.  Part of me was still hoping that we would race just because winds were so high that it would be really exciting, and I could also show Jackie what a race was like.  While her and I stood on deck trying to stay out of Mike’s way while he still ran lines the census from Tom came back that we would actually be racing that night.  Until a shackel broke which meant we weren’t, and then it was fixed so we were back on again.

I hontestly had no clue what was happening with the on again off again race and it wasn’t until John and Mike were busy uncleating us from the dock that I had any clue on if we were even going to leave or not. Jackie and I sat up on deck with Shannon for a minute until Tom said that because of the high winds and the small crew that he wanted everyone back in the cockpit. We all made our way back and found seats spreading from one side to the other. Many of the other boats were already on the water with their sails raised and would dash back and forth from one end of the lake to the other. Heading out to where the course started we were downwind so the wind coming from behind us didn’t feel too strong but when we turned on a beam reach once we had reached the area of the start the winds were hitting us right on and it felt like they had picked up 20 miles an hour. Mike had the spinnaker all set to run while we were at the dock but with the whitecaps rolling over the water it didn’t look like we’d be using it that night. Turning ourselves into the wind the mainsail was raised and while most of us on board (myself included) were wanting to get the headsail unfurled Tom thought that conditions were too strong to let any of it out, but after Mike and John worked on him a little he agreed to let it out about 1/3 of the way.

Passing by the Torresen’s boat we found our division would be starting first and Shannon was ready with her stopwatch when the first horn blew with our five minute warning. With John being our tactician that night he would tell Tom when to tack and where we wanted to be  per the countdown and it somehow worked out that when the horn blew for the start of our division we were the first ones out of the gate, so to speak. There were no close calls of anyone hitting us that night but I pointed for Jackie to turn around and we watched all the other boats in our division fight for spots and come very close to knocking into eachother. Because many of them were sailing with a main and a head it didnt take too long for others to start passing us by. Without any work assigned on the lines Jackie and I sat aft with Tom near the helm and I would point out to her the things I actually did know were happening. Like when two minutes after the starting horn about three boats that were on our course tacked off into a completely different direction and that the first marker we were headed toward was probably close to a straight line forward from our starting spot and that while we’d all eventually have to tack that direction anyway these boats were doing it early because they most likely didn’t start on a good course or figured they could get better speed going in a different direction. I wasn’t sure if it was right but it sounded smart and I’m pretty sure I actually did impress her as one by one all the boats on our course ultimately changed to that direction as well. Maybe I could even be tactician next time. Although I’m sure all my directions would be ‘Oh, everyone else is tacking? Ok, we should probably tack too.’.

The gusts of wind were blowing on us hard as we made our way upwind and we were probably heeling near 25% most of the time. I looked back at Jackie to make sure she was doing alright and found that Tom had given her a job as photographer. This worked out very well as Tom loved to get action photos of the races but would always get yelled at by John for taking pictures while racing, and it also worked out for me because I left my phone down in my bag below deck and there were not any good moments to run down and go get it.  Finally decent photos of the race I can share from a real camera.  She was just sitting there with a smile on her face, taking pictures with one hand and hanging on for dear life with the other. When it was time to do tacks Mike, John and Shannon would work the lines while Jackie easily slid from one side of the stern to the other and I would try and find the best opening, doding between people and the wheel and usually slipping on some line along the way. Not my most graceful race ever but I always eventually made my way back over to the high side. As we neared the first marker a few of the division 1 boats that started after us had now passed us and were also rounding the mark and throwing up their spinnakers. I was very surprised to see them using their kites in winds that were gusting over 30 knots but I figured these guys were the pros and knew what they were doing. Shortly after we rounded the mark ourselves and didn’t have to do more than just tack we began to watch the destruction unfold of the boats ahead of us. One of the division 1 boats that had been flying their spinnaker had now broached and were having a hard time getting righted. They couldn’t turn themselves in a direction that would bring them upright again and their spinnaker was getting lost underwater. It was like a trainwreck where you couldn’t take your eyes away and of course Tom and I were shouting ‘Jackie, get the camera, get the camera!!’. Luckily these guys do still know what they’re doing at it was only a few moments before they were able to get their spinnaker back on board and were fully upright again.


Also on our downwind run we were treated to one of the smaller (but much faster) race boats, a Melges I think, with one of the crew memebers yelling and screaming about how the spinnaker was not raised properly. I think I learned three new curse words while listening to him. Have I mentioned how happy I am to be on a boat with Tom? As we sailed safely and slowily downwind there were a few more moments of other boats having out more sail then they couldhandle. Every strong gust of wind seemed to take at least one more boat down with it, usually just for a moment before they gained control and were back on their way. There was a point where we rounded the second marker to begin heading back up wind and just moments after we had passed it Mike was looking behind to a few division 1 boats that were about to round. I’m guessing they had gotten too close for comfort and one had to quickly veer way to avoid a collision. The boat that did veer must have also had an accidental jibe because as Mike described it, all the guys who were riding the high side were all of a sudden in the water because it very suddenly became the low side.  Probably a second or two later they popped back up and continued racing which fortunately meant that no one fell overboard.  It also didn’t take very long for these two division 1 boats to accelerate right past us as well as most of the other boats in the race.  By the time we had gone around the course once more and were now on our last upwind stretch toward the finish there was absolutely no one behind us.  I think a number of other boats had dropped out due to the strong winds or possible damage to sails, so it felt good just to know that we would finish at all.

While we still had almost half of the last leg to complete the only other boat racing now besides us had crossed the finsh and we wondered if the Torresen’s boat would even wait for us to cross as well before upping anchor and head back in.  I guess sometimes if the last boat is still a long way out they don’t always wait for it before packing it in.  As we tacked back and forth the last few hundred yards that little red boat was still waiting for us and when we passed between it and the marker we got our horn to signify we had completed.  There weren’t a whole lot of cheers on Island Dream but I think everyone was just tired and worn out.  Instead of heading back to the docks as usual we hugged the windward shore where winds weren’t blowing as hard and opened the cooler to enjoy a drink on the water before going back.  I tried to get Jackie to have an official end of the race drink, a Lime-A-Rita, but she said she wasn’t much of a tequila drinker and stuck with the Land Shark she brought although she did at least taste mine and said it was a lot better than she thought it would be.  Tom let me take over the helm and we cruised slowly past the mooring field that should have been housing Serendipity by this time and I didn’t get to show her off as I had wanted.  After performing a pretty nice tack we turned the other direction to mosey in the direction of the setting sun, enjoying that this was the longest day of the year.  I do love Michigan and the fact that the longest day of the year comes with a 9:30 sunset, keeping the sky bright until after 10.  I think that will be one of the things I miss most the further south we head.  Steering Island Dream closer to the yacht club Tom took back over the wheel for docking and parked us in a spot that was getting the last bit of sunlight before it fell behind the trees.  Everyone besides John was in no rush to get home and squeezed in the cockpit for more conversation and beer as Pete stood in the companionway to play bartender.  Tom’s wife Denise also joined us from where she had been watching the last of the race at the yacht club and pulled out the cheese and crackers she had packed for an after race snack.  Much more popular than the ultimate chocolate chip cookies I had brought which became slightly melted after sitting in my car for an afternoon in 90 degree heat.  I picked the cheese and crackers too.

So nice to finally meet Jackie in person!

When everyone finished their second (or first) round Tom announced it was time to take the boat back to the mooring and wanted to know who was coming with and who was staying behind.  Being a big tall guy, Mike backed down saying he didn’t want to overcrowd the dinghy and he’d wait for us at the yacht club.  Shannon and Pete stayed back with him which left me, Tom and Jackie to moor the boat.  Since I’m usually pretty handy with a boat hook having to use one myself all summer anyway I asked where it was so I could be ready at the bow to grab the mooring lines.  After I was told it was in the aft berth I searched through the cushions and sails but did not see the hook.  Being notorious for missing things right in front of my face I had Jackie look as well and when she came up empty handed I took over the wheel so Tom could look as well but with no luck.  He did come up with a hammer though and said he would just lay on deck while using the back to grab the lines.  For some reason I actually felt confident that I could bring us up to the mooring and perfectly slide in allowing Tom to grab the lines.  I knew enough to throw it in neutral early so we didn’t come barreling in at top speed but as we were slowly coming up on the dinghy and mooring ball I lost sight of them and ended up running over the lines instead of just pulling up next to them.  He was still able to grab the lines from the side before they went under the bow and since we came in slow enough we began to drift back a little where he could fully grab the lines and attach them to the cleats on deck.  I think from now on I’ll get my practice in with Matt and Serendipity to actually bring the boat up to the mooring instead of just grabbing the lines so I won’t have these kinds of issues again while driving someone else’s boat.

As Tom prepped the boat to close it up Jackie and I went about loading up the dinghy for the ride back to shore.  Finally and area her and I know how to do well!  I think Tom was actually surprised when he stepped back on deck to find everything neatly stowed away as I’m guessing most of the woman he’s gone sailing with always get on and off at docks and have never even stepped into a dinghy before.  Us two girls had no problem in one and also had no issue bringing up to shore and unloading it.  The big cooler was dropped off in Tom’s car and we wandered into the yard of the yacht club to find Shannon, Mike and Pete still waiting for us.  Since everyone was still in the mood to celebrate the solstice and the fact we were still alive we all headed inside where Tom treated us to MYC’s signature drink which includes rum and gin but I can’t remember what it’s called although I do know it was very tasty.  Jackie and I talked more about our identical interests and how eerily similar we were.  It was also fun playing with Tom trying to get him to believe that we really had only met 4 hours earlier.  There was of course talk about how Jackie would have to come out to race again, next time with her husband Ron in tow, while I would also try and get Matt to make it out for one race.

As the sun had long set by now everyone was starting to say their goodbyes it was mentioned that there would be a two week hiatus due to vacations and holidays.  Which means that I’ll only have two more opportunities to race since the last Wednesday before we push out for good will be just before the Chicago to Mac race which most of the racers will be participating in.  That doesn’t seem like nearly enough.  I’m still very sad and disappointed that I came into such a fun sport so late in my sailing career.  At least I know my ‘life’ on sailboats is just about to begin and that’s something to look forward to.  A lot.

Another Lime-a-Rita for Another Job Well Done

Wednesday June 6, 2012

When I walked out the door at of work tonight around 4:30 it was very warm out but the sky was filled with lots of puffy clouds that the sun would poke in and out of, and off in the distance there were a few stormy clouds  you could see rain falling down from.  I was really hoping Muskegon was still clear (as the weather report said it should be) as this was the week I decided to trade in my water repellent jacket for just a regular fleece.  Making the drive west and getting stuck in so much traffic I kept watching the sky to see if those dark clouds matched up to where I was driving.  When the expressway ended into the main drags of Muskegon the direction of the waterfront looked clear although there was still one dark cloud passing overhead which dropped a little rain on me during my drive to the marina.  It quickly passed though and when I reached the road the marina was on it was all sun.  Knowing that I was already running late and all the parking spots near the marina were probably taken I just pulled into Torresen’s and left my car there while I ran down the street to Muskegon Yacht Club.  It was already ten to six and I knew the boat pulled out of the dock at six.  Hurrying down the platform I saw Island Dream was still there and Tom and Shannon were aboard waiving to me as usual.  When I stepped on I saw the familiar face of Mark who raced two weeks ago and then a few new faces once again.  Tom had brought his wife Denise out, as well has his son Michael.  There was also one more new guy for me to meet, another Michael (B), who raced with Tom a lot and I recognized from ph0tos on Facebook.  Everyone sat around talking for a little bit while we waited for the last crew member, Jules, to arrive.  Once we all saw her hot pink Vans walking down the docks we started to get ourselves ready to leave and were gone just a few minutes after she climbed aboard.

Conditions were what I would consider perfect if I was out sailing my own boat, but not ideal for any high speed racing this time around.  Winds were probably hovering around 10 knots and altough the sun had come back out temps were mid 70’s which had me wishing I had a light jacket instead of the fleece I brought which was leaving me chilled without it and too hot with it on.  Looks like this girl has just a few more items to shop for even though I told myself I’m done because I have way more clothes than I’ll ever be able to pack into the few small bags I’ll have alloted.  This night our division was starting second and we did give ourselves plenty of time to get on the water and our sails raised before even the five minute warning had gone off for the first division to start.  There was a little scrambling to find a stopwatch to time ourselves out perfectly for our start and I was being used as a backup with my phone while Mark was also timing with something he found in the cockpit.  After the first group left and we had five minutes until our own start we tacked and jibed a few times with the last one being 60 seconds before the start.  I still can’t get used to how close these boats get to eachother and as the horn for the start of our division went off we actually had to move out of the way from boat that was supposed to give us the right of way but wouldn’t budge.  Apparently we could have called them on it but Tom decided to let it go.

This is not the boat I was referencing above

Again I had no idea what direction we were heading but Shannon and I just hugged the high side while Michael B moved around a little to make sure we’d have the lines set up correctly for after we rounded the first marker and put up the spinnaker to go downwind.  Then he joined us on the high side but would run back to the cockpit to assist with tacks while Shannon and I would help fling the headsail to the other side of the boat, I’d skirt it before sitting back down until the next tack.  Not only were Shannon and I getting into a rythem near the bow but those working the lines in the cockpit appeared to have everything going smoothly as well.  I was a little surptrised to find out Tom’s son Michael didn’t do much sailing, and since he was handling the main would have to have orders like ‘sheet/ease the main’ or ‘let out the traveler….the traveler is the one right infront of you’.  For a beginner though he was doing great and we continued along at a good pace.

I was put on a job other than rail meat this week and just before we turned the marker to go downwind I ran below deck to help the spinnaker raise up through the forward hatch with ease and without getting stuck on anything while Shannon pulled the halyard to raise it near the mast.  With the spinnaker issues we were having the previous week I could just see something going wrong and it all being my fault, but Michael B was up there to help me and let me know which corner was going to start pulling up first.  I traced it back in the vberth to make sure it wasn’t snagged on anything and when they told Shannon to go I began shoving it through the hatch as fast as I could.  It went up without incident and besides waiting just a moment for the wind to catch it perfectly the mission was a success and we were back on our way.  The spinnaker was stationed on our port side and since the wind was starting to lose it’s strength instead of sitting on the high side we were now sitting on the low side, the same side the spinnaker was on, trying to heel it over in that direction and let the sail catch a little more wind.  There were a few jibes performed while on the way to the second marker and each time it would swing gracefully from one side of the boat to the other.  Since there were no high winds and no sail or boom vang mishaps tonight and everyone was in their groove it was almost like a pleasure cruise.  The three of us upfront would dangle our legs off the side and enjoy the view and the beautiful night.  I really should start paying more attention to what’s going on behind me in the cockpit though and to the sails and how they’re adjusted.  It was after all the whole reason I started coming out, but after spending all my days cooped up inside or doing hard labor on my own boat it feels so nice to get outside and just enjoy life.  I’ll pay attention next week, I promise.

After we had been traveling downwind for awhile and I saw the boats in front of us starting to make the sharp turn around maker 2 and lower the spinnakers I made my way below deck again to help bring the spinnaker in and have it stored in a mostly neat fashion until we were ready to use it again that night.  Before we made our turn around the marker the headsail had been unfurled and we were all in position and ready.  Michael stood just above me on deck and as we made the sharp turn ourselves Shannon lowered the sail just enough so that Michael could grab it from under the headsail and set about feeding it to me where I tried to keep it in as neat of a pile as possible.  After we were set on our new course I made my way above deck to sit on the high side to repeat the whole experience again.  Between all the divisions racing there was no one directly next to us, or in front or behind, that we were personally trying to beat.  Although we were racing well Island Dream does best on a beam reach* while a lot of the other boats will try for close hauled upwind or a broad reach or run while downwind so we were on our own little course away from everyone else.  There was one other boat in our division that was taking our wacky course as well  but they always seemed to stay just out of reach.  After two downwind runs and three upwind we crossed the finish line by the sandy dunes while the sun was getting close to disappearing behind their elevation.

This night it did not even take us getting back to the docks before food and drinks were brought out.  I think this is due to having Denise on board and I thank her for it.  The boys pulled out Bud Light Limes from the cooler while us girls enjoyed our dainty little Lime-A-Ritas.  Denise had also brought sliced cheese and Triscuits and while all members of the crew were happily chewing away Tom thought it would be a great time to bring out the camera and get pictures of us trying to smile through cheeks full of food.  Those photos may stay on Island Dream’s Facebook page and not make their way over to the blog.  It was another day of great weather and great friends and Wednesdays are definitely becoming my favorite night of the week.

Ok, here’s just one

Race Results –   Time Elapsed –  1:07:07    Average wind speed –  8 knots   Average Boat Speed –  3.833  knots  Distance –  5.2 miles

*  A beam reach is when the wind is coming directly over the side or middle most (beam) part of your boat.  A close reach is when the wind is coming as close over your bow as possible without going in irons (directly into the wind, a no sail zone).  Broad reach is when the wind is coming over the back quarter of your stern, aroud 4-5 or 7-8 o’clock if you use the bow as 12, and running is when you are directly downwind.

Rails In the Water

Wednesday May 30, 2012

After checking the weather report to make sure I’d be ready to go straight from work out to the yacht club for races I noticed that things were probably going to be very different from what they were last week.  On the night of my first race temperatures were in the low 80’s with winds under 5 knots.  Then checking weather.com today the hourly report was forecasting temps to be in the low 60’s with winds reaching 15 knots.  Knowing there was a good chance I might freeze my butt off I packed my foulies in a bag and wore a fleece lined top to work.  After speeding out to the lake once again I found that gettng there at 5:45 did not leave a lot of room for parking on the street and almost went all the way back to Torresen’s when I spotted one available spot left on a side street.  Grabbing my bag and a case of beer I promised Tom I’d bring since he supplied drinks last week I ran through the parking lot.  I knew the boat wouldn’t leave the docks until 6:00 but I also didn’t want them waiting on me.  Getting to the very end dock again I saw Tom and Shannon waiting in the cockpit along with two new faces.  After being introduced I ran below deck to get my beer in the cooler and slip my foulies on over my jeans.  Coming back up we waited for the last people to arrive which was only Rob and Jules.  A little bit of a smaller crew then last week but there were still seven of us and that would be plenty.

Getting our assignments Shannon was put on the spinnaker halyard again and I was to assist one of the new guys Pete will all the lines at the bow.  Motoring out into the lake towards the start we didn’t have any of our sails up yet but all the other boats did and they would zoom past us heeling over so far that their rail was underwater.  I was hoping I’d get to experience doing that tonight on Island Dream since it’s always something I’ve wanted to do as a crew member but did not want to be the one in charge of the helm when it happened.  As we came closer to the start which was half way down the lake the five minute warning sounded.  Tonight our division would be starting first and we needed to get ourselves in position stat.  Rounding other boats we were just raising the sails when the one minute warning sounded and had barely gotten ourselves in place when the final horn sounded and it was time to go.  Immediately Shannon and I were directed to sit on the high side of the boat, the side that wind was coming over.  It didn’t take us long to start shooting out toward the first marker and begin to heel a little ourselves.  At first it was just a slight tip and then it went further and further until we also had a rail in the water.  This is exactly what I had been wanting to do forever!!  It felt like I had been initiated into the club of cool kids and was finally a racer.  Not that I was doing anything more than sitting my butt on a deck while keeping out of the way of everyone else, but it was still thrilling nonetheless.

I had no idea where the first marker actually was since the course had changed from what it was last week, and since anyone aboard who knew what we were doing was already busy doing something I didn’t want to bug them and just watched where the boats in front of us were going.  They all appeared to be headed to a spot kiddy-corner across the lake from where we started although with the sun also lowering near the direction we were headed it was impossible for me to pick anything out of the water.  Along the way we did a few tacks because to get the best use of the wind and weren’t able to make a straight line from the start to the first marker.  Every time we turned and the jib would be pulled over to the other side it would extend way past the lifelines before being sheeted back in but would get stuck on the outside of the lines when it needed to be inside which meant someone would need to lift the foot of the sail over.  A pretty easy job in itself except that tonight by the time it was trimmed in to where it needed to be the boat was already at quite  a large heel.  Since I had skirted it the first time after we took off from the start I decided that could be my job for the night.  So after a tack when everyone else was scrambling to the other side of the boat I’d stay on what would now be the low side and wait for the jib to be trimmed in so I could bring the foot of the sail over the lifelines.  When I had completed the task the boat would be healing so far that my toes would almost be in the water.  It’s a good thing Island Dream has a large gunwale (pronounced gunnel and is the upper edge on the side of a vessel) or else my foot would have slid right off the boat probably taking me with it.  So then after managing to keep myself on the boat I needed to find a way to the other edge which was a little tricky and had me imagining what rock-wall climbing might be like.  ‘Ok, if I stick my foot there I can get a little leverage to push myself up a bit and my arm might extend enough to grab that hand rail at which point my other foot can be moved to this spot and then I can make it over the coachroof which will act like a wall behind me to keep me in place.’  Each time I was able to do it without much issue but I had to laugh at the fact that if Matt were there watching me he would be freaking out because  he knows my clumsiness better than anyone here I’ve just met and would be positive that these actions done by me would leave me in the water.  I’m starting to think that my hard work sanding over the past few months may have really paid off in upper body strength though because if I were doing this same thing a year ago I probably would have ended up in the water.

As we got to the other side of the lake I could finally see the marker and the other boats rounding it and immediately putting up their spinnakers.  Shannon was in charge of raising and lowering again while Pete was in charge of connecting and running the lines.  As we did one last tack and rounded the marker Shannon began to pull on the hailyard to raise the sail.  As far as getting the head of the sail to the top of the mast it went up fine, but there seemed to be an issue where the sail itself was twisted and would not unfurl to open itself to the wind.  When things like this happen it’s immediate cause for concern because spinnaker sails can rip or tear easily and are not cheap to replace.  Steering off to the side and kind of taking ourselves out of the race for a minute we worked on getting the twists out, not really sure what was causing it.  After a few minutes of pulling and gently working the fragile sail it filled with air and we raced off again.  There were however a few issues again when we tacked and the spinnaker didn’t transition over to to the other side easily and had to be worked again. The boat was slowed down and Rob rushed up front to try and get it to pass on the outside of the furled headsail.  Once it came over the wind just didn’t seem to be catching it right and we lowered it back down and decided to continue for the moment with just the head sail.  Up to the point we hit the first marker we had been doing pretty good for position in our division, even with our last minute start, but now because we had to pull ourselves to the side a few times while the spinnaker situations were handled we were starting to fall behind.  And this moment here is why I’m so glad I get to race on the boat I do.  There was no yelling about what was going on and no blame being placed on anyone for not doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time to keep us in the front of the pack.  All we could hear from Tom is ‘Everyone’s doing a great job, keep it up!’

Apparently the only markers being used for the race that night was the one we started at and the one on the opposite end of the lake.  Headed upwind for the second time Shannon, Pete and I fell back into the positions of riding the high side with me pulling in the foot of the jib after a tack.  Rob would point out strong gusts on the water and could count down to the second that they would hit us and our heel would increase even more.  On our second downwind run the spinnaker went up without hassle and easily moved from side to side when we needed it do.  There was one more slight issue when not too long after we made our second downwind turn when there was a loud noise as if something had broken.  The three of us at the front of the boat turned around to see that the boomvang had just popped clean off the mast!  Still learning about what can go wrong on a boat I thought this may be a huge issue, especially with us sailing in slightly heavy winds, but the now dangling lines were just tied off to the side and Tom goes, ‘That’s ok, I’ve been meaning to replace it’.

Having no more major issues for the night we rounded the initial marker for our last upwind stretch to the finish.  I know we didn’t place that night, or what place we even took in our division, but just like last week once that horn blew to signal us we were done the whole crew cheered and high fived and hugged.  I was given the opportunity to take over the wheel while heading back to the yacht club which should not be an issue at all since that’s where I always am on our boat but this time I was a little nervous since these were sailors that knew how to point the boat into a direction best suited for the wind instead of having their husband mess with sheets while they pointed whichever direction they felt like.  I managed to get us back with pretty full sails and without running into anyone which is always a plus while the guys worked on dropping the main.  I did hand the wheel back over to time when it came time to dock still I still have never done that before and heard Tom can be like Captain Ron while he goes full speed toward the dock and parks it perfectly.

Just like last week the cooler was opened and most of the girls starting pulling out a Lime-a-Rita while I rooted around for a cold Leinenkugel.  Since I had not chilled the beers before bringing them and they had only been in the cooler for a little over an hour most of them had not chilled yet, but dang it I was going to have a Berry Weiss weather it was cold or not.  Sitting around the cockpit and passing around bags of Chex Mix we all relaxed and unwound.  About 2/3 of the crew occupies their winter months with skiing while they can’t be on boats and had some good stories to tell about winters past.  There was also talk from Jules on her past experiences with the Chicago to Mac race and how fun it can be as well as all the parties that go along with it.  It’s something I really wish I could experience but since we’ll be leaving for our trip about 10 days after that race I don’t think I can afford 3-4 days away from home and the boat with all the last minute projects that will need to be done.  Maybe a few years down the road when we come back?  All this talk of parties helped my first beer go down quickly and even though this is only week two it wouldn’t be a race night without a Lime-A-Rita for myself so I pulled a nice chilled one from the bottom of the cooler.  Rob wanted to try one of my fruity Berry Weiss drinks and even though his wasn’t very cold either he was a very good sport about it and even did the uplifted pinky for us girls to laugh at.

Week two of racing was another success in my book and it’s beginning to be something I look forward to all week long.  I’m so happy I started this year at the beginning of the season and I get to experience it hopefully 7-8 more times before I’m racing my own boat through the Great Lakes and down the Atlantic.