Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Boat Fever - Winter 03/04

Boat fever had officially set in, we did a lot of shopping around during the fall of '03 and over the winter season. In September of '03 while visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Chicago, we made a side trip up to Waukegan to look at a few boats on the hard at Larson Marine. Was particularly impressed with an Erikson 'Independence' that we saw there, 31 ft, it was a little rough looking, but it looked like repairs we could probably handle. Keenan and Tim were most impressed with it, but Terri was a little hesitant. We did a little research and learned that only 78 of this particular model were ever made, and almost all seemed to be still sailing, and that they had a small but devoted following. We planned on waiting until spring, and if it was still available, think about making a lowball offer on it. By December, the Erikson had already sold.

Tim discovered around this time that the Dickerson he had his eyes on in Sutton's Bay had been reduced in price by about 5000 bucks. He started lobbying the others but there were still some major qualms about it - wooden boat, would we be able to handle the upkeep - it did not have roller furling, which we have grown accustomed to - bigger boat than we have ever handled - the way it kept popping up like providence gave Tim the feeling that it was 'meant to be'. By the time we returned from a xmas trip to Florida, the Dickerson had already sold.

In January, we attended the Strictly Sail show in Chicago at Navy Pier. Toured many new expensive boats, sat in on a lot of seminars, on traveling abroad, traveling with kids, sailing charters in Greece, sailing around the world, and sailing on the North Channel (which sounded like a LOT of fun).

In March of '03 we took a few looks around the Torreson Marina boatyard at various boats they had for sale. One boat in particular caught our eye, tucked away back in the corner of the warehouse, an old Chris Craft that had been newly awgripped, listed as a 1970 ( we later learned it was actually a '67 ). A newer engine from the late 90s, a simple, roomy, solidly built boat. After our second trip out to look at it again, a rainy spring day (which would be how most of the spring would look that year), we decided to make an offer, which was accepted that same day, and we were in business. We also inquired about boat slips while we were there, and we ended up with a slip directly across from the Classroom boat 'Pandora' where we took our sailing lessons the previous summer.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Traverse City Sail Charter Trip

(photo, left) the route of our northbound trip through Traverse Bay stopping for the night at Power Island, then north to Sutton's Bay for a night at the marina

A month or so after our sailing class, we looked into chartering a sailboat as a way of gaining sailing experience, and to try out a short trip alone, to see how we handled it. We had been looking at a few boats here and there in the meantime, a few used boats for sale in Holland (a 30' O'Day from 1979, a 30' Pearson from 1976), and then looked at a few in Charlevoix prior to our charter sail (an S2, an Irwin 30 footer, a Catalina 27 ft), but for the most part, we aren't even sure what it is we are looking for, having only had a limited amount of experience, and don't even know what questions to ask the salesperson.

(Sketches by Tim from the diary, Photos by Terri)

(from the diary - Tim writing unless otherwise noted)
August 20, 2003
(photo: Tim at the helm of 'Fluttercut') A big step forward for us in sailing experience, our first solo sail with a chartered vessel in Traverse Bay. As a way of 'checking us out', we sailed around with 'Captain Bryan' from 9-5 on Wednesday on a 27 foot C&C named 'Fluttercut'. We returned to Bay Breeze in the afternoon, tied up and let the Captain off at the dock, and the Foleys were unleashed upon an unsuspecting boating populace. A strange and heady feeling, taking the boat out ALL BY OURSELVES. Our plan; to head northeast to 'Power Island', anchor for the night, then head to Suttons Bay in the morning, weather permitting (a thunderstorm was predicted for sometime in the next 24 hours). We successfully motored out of the slip, and avoided an 'in-progress sailing regatta' in the middle of the bay, then hoisted the sails & headed north on a beam reach. We were doing pretty well (a little shaky on our first few controlled jibes, but were getting more confident with each maneuver), and we were coming closer to the island when a big powerboat disregarded our right of way, making no move to avoid us, and we had to make a quick emergency jibe to get out of his way. A little flustered and tense after that, but we recoverered nicely (putting into practice Captain Jim's BFU Rule; i.e. anying Bigger Faster or Uglier you are well advised to get out of their way regardless of the rules). We doused the sails upon nearing the island, put on the motor and looked for a place to anchor for the night. There were a number of partying motor boats moored here and there, so we chose a spot near the dock and put out the anchor, after which Keenan and Tim went out for a swim. (Terri opted out, with a "its too doggone cold").
Tim & Keenan swam to shore and were exploring the beach, walking around the end of the island out of sight of the boat. Terri was dismayed to discover that the boat was dragging dangerously close to a neighboring powerboat. Tim and Keenan returning in time to see Terri desperately trying to pull up the anchor herself to avoid collision, and a mad swimming dash was made to the boat to assist.
We managed to pull anchor & motor out of that situation without too much difficulty, then looked for a better spot to spend the night. By that time (9:00 pm) it was starting to get dark and most of the neighboring boats were heading home. We ended up with the island to ourselves by dusk.
We discovered at this time, that the masthead light was not functioning, so we found a portable light below that we could hoist overhead via the halyard. There was a short section of rope attached to the light which we paid no mind (but should've), and then when we hoisted the light to the top of the mast it occurred to us "um, how are we going to get this back down?", not to mention the fact that the light was loose up above and in the increasing wind it was banging around on the mast. The extra section of rope should have been attached to an additional line to both secure the light above and to ensure a way to bring it back down again. Now we were in danger of losing the use of our halyard for raising sails, and of dying of embarassment when we came back to the dock with this portable light tangled around the top of our mast. The weather was starting to stir up a bit by 10:30, but will gradually die down over the night, with far off thunderstorms booming in the distance.
Tim will spend most of the night running around on deck in his underwear, trying to figure out a way to get the light back down, and checking to make sure our anchor is holding. But despite the stress and fear, to find myself on the deck of a sailboat beside a deserted island under a beautiful northern Michigan star filled sky is an awesome feeling.
The far off thunderstorms reached us by 5:45 in the morning with a loud lightning crash, and we were checking the VHF for weather forecasts, but the worst of it ended up passing us to the south, but we still got an impressive lightshow. We did a fairly good anchor job, although we did drag just a bit, wondering if I'll ever get to the point where I can relax and enjoy this.
(Terri) The morning found Tim up and determined to free the mast head light. The storm wasn't so bad . . but all that noise was a bit much. Tim got up early and ate, then thought more about the light problem, and fell back asleep in a strange position on the setee and ended up with a sore neck. BUT HE DID IT! He and Keenan managed to get the light down and free the halyard! (they figured out they could loosen the topping lift and by shaking it with plenty of slack, they managed to unfoul the light and gradually lower the halyard). After a brisk swim for the boys in the morning, we are going to head for Sutton's Bay.

(photo: Fluttercut in her slip at Sutton's Bay Marina, Tim in the cockpit and Keenan cooling his heels in the water)
(Keenan) 24 hours of sailing ALL BY OURSELVES I still can't believe it, we are actually sailing! Last night, apparently we had a huge thunderstorm, but I slept through ALL of it. I was a pretty sound sleeper... Oh well, I woke up had cereal (can't believe Dad ate the Lucky Charms!) (he needed them for the halyard rescue, Keenan) and we got the light down! Everyone was thoroughly excited, we then swam and started heading for Sutton's Bay. We kept our nerves to a minimum. We used our chart and looked at bouys to find our way there, then used our radio to get us a slip at the marina. Mom did an excellent job at docking, and I did a bunch of those 'circle thingies' with the dock lines. The rest of the day was spent walking around and eating. Mom & Dad slept in the afternoon but Keenan kicked the water & took a shower, and we congratulated ourselves on a job well done today.
(Tim) Just around the corner from our mooring at Suttons Bay I discovered a boat for sale that I had been looking at on the internet (I hadn't noticed that it was moored in Suttons Bay when I was checking it out). A Dickerson Ketch, 36 footer, center cockpit, an older wooden boat from 1969. The interior boasted two separate sleeping quarters fore and aft, and had a lot of older equipment aboard, old winches, barely any electronics. Tim was smitten, but couldn't get anyone else excited by it. (odd considering what we eventually ended up with, not much different in price or age, or amenities). Terri wasn't crazy about the idea of a wooden boat, and the issues involved in upkeep. Also not sure how much more difficult a two masted sailboat is to handle than the sloop rigged ones we've grown accustomed to. (photo is actually of a 40 foot center cockpit Dickerson that I found on the internet)
(photo, left) the route of our return voyage back to the Traverse City marina, stopping for lunch at Power Island again on the way back.

(Terri) Just think that it's too much boat for us right now. 30 or 32 foot would be good. I'm thinking a 30' Catalina would be good. Came highly recommended by the salesperson & Captain Bryan. Keenan still likes the S2 we saw in Charlevoix (more of a racing boat than a cruising vessel) Do we need that much speed? Have to do more investigating. We all got a bit of sun on Wednesday, and we are much more careful today. Not too much sailing today (thurs) - Just as we arrived here at Sutton's Bay we heard thunder and saw a bolt of lightning touch down behind the town. It rained during lunch while we visited a local pub, and then we had dinner aboard the boat. Fed the ducks. Keenan had fun with that and with the 'circle thingies' with the dock lines. Should be a very smooth night tonight. Much more so than last night. We have docked once, anchored overnight, used the VHF to call the harbormaster. Yikes, it all seems like a dream. Who would've guessed we'd be on a sailboat totally in charge after so short a time. What a trip. Tomorrow calls for sunny, high to 76 degrees with 5 to 10 mph winds in the morning. Let's go sailing!
(Tim) (photo: View from Fluttercut on our last day as we headed back south to Power Island, seen in the distance) Only sailed 3 & 1/2 hours today, but they were tough ones. Waves two to four feet, mostly sailing on a broad reach either wallowing between the waves or riding the crests like a surfboarder most of the way. (Keenan preferred the more active direction, while Mom & Dad preferred the more sedate gentle surfboard action). Did lots of jibing today, but only sailed today with the headsail due to the weather. Very proud of the crew, we've sailed from Traverse City to Sutton's Bay, Anchored in rough weather, sat through a thunderstorm, solved a tricky situation, rode some medium to big waves, navigated using our chart and buoys, and used the VHF for the first time. Just about the best vacation we've had in a long time, with a real sense of camaraderie among the three of us, that I haven't felt since our backpacking days years ago. Now just to hold our enthusiasm in check until next spring when we can make a well thought out decision about whether or not to purchase a boat of our own.

August 22, 2003
Friday morning we left Suttons Bay around 9:15, extremely pleasant day, 5-10 mph winds out of the northwest. Beam Reach most of the way in a straight shot to Power Island for lunch. 2 hour trip compared to the 3 & 1/2 hours to make the same distance yesterday. Me & Keenan swam to shore and did a short hike after sandwiches & grapes. Lovely afternoon, now getting ready for the run back to the charter company to end our trip. Thank you Fluttercut (or Blubberbutt as we unfairly called you in the heat of the moment), fun little boat, fun vacation.

Hour and a half to get from the island back to the charter company. Beautiful sailing weather, not much traffic to speak of until we got near the marina & we did fine with our 'rules of the road' and avoiding other boaters. Pumped out the head, topped off the diesel tank (only used 1/2 gallon of fuel on the entire trip). Keenan got a free tee shirt from the charter company because we proclaimed it our 'best vacation ever'.

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Sailing Instruction with Captain Jim

(photo above) A map showing where on Lake Muskegon and Lake Michigan most of our sailing experiences in the sailing class took place. The smaller box insert shows were Torreson Marine is located, and most of our 'motoring & docking' maneuvers took place.

We received our 'Sailing Instruction' packages a month or so before the class, which included a textbook that we were encouraged to read ahead of time, plus additional information regarding 'rules of the road', safety, and our 'sailing passports' which were small booklets for entering our 'sailing experience' into. We had the option of driving to the boat every day for class (it would span three days), or we could sleep aboard (which they recommended, probably because it helped sell the whole 'experience', and encouraged future customers). Our class would incorporate both Sailing 101 and 103. We arrived the night before class with our sleeping bags and gear and moved aboard 'Pandora', the Torreson classroom boat.

(from the diary - Tim writing unless otherwise noted)

July 8 2003, 6:30 am
We spent our first night aboard a sailboat last night. From what I gather, none of us slept particularly well. I awoke every hour on the hour to check my watch, chalk it up to nerves. We are actually doing this - taking our first tentative steps in a seaward direction. Terri says I yelled "THIRD!" in my sleep last night -- I must still have baseball on the brain (the end of little league season having just finished up). "Pandora" is a C&C 30 ft from what we can gather from materials onboard. A little cramped down below, Terri and I taking the V berth and Keenan on one of the side berths. Sunrise was beautiful this morning, and the rigging on all the boats in the marina sound to me like wind chimes. Swallows flying around the neighboring boats.

July 8, 2003, 7:30 pm
Our first day of sailing class went very well. We all three passed the '101' exam, Keenan with a score of 89%, Terri with a score of 83%, and Tim with a score of 95%. A lot of fun, especially the tiny taste of 'sailing' we got near the end of the day with the headsail. Terri managed to keep her cool, even when the boat went into 8 degrees of heel. Keenan is practicing his knots as I write this, he was a bit apprehensive this morning when our teacher was grilling us on parts of the boat, but once he got behind the wheel, he had a big grin on his face the rest of the day.
(Terri July 8) Well, day one down. Very fun. Last night was something. Found the boat on our own, no power (we later found out how to hook up to shore power), Showers not so good. But we are on a boat. We now know that Pandora is a 32' C&C. 83% on the test was a bit disappointing - but Keenan did great. Tomorrow we sail most of the day. After just today, Keenan wants a sailboat. How to do it cost effectively . . . Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

July 10 2003, 7:00 am
Well, yesterday was very exciting. We practiced sailing most of the day, starting with just the main, we sailed "the circle" (beat, beam reach, run, jibe, run, beam, beat, coming about, beat) - one person at the wheel, and one person on the mainsheet. Practiced some motoring in and out of a slip over at the harbor marina. Then after lunch we got out the headsail and did the circle again - this time with one person on the windward headsail sheet another on the leeward sheet, one on the mainsail sheet and one person at the helm (then switched positions and started again). Passed a big coal frieghter coming in, passed to its stern, then went down the channel to the big lake "wing and wing". Lake Michigan had absolutely no wind, so we hoisted the 'iron genny' and headed back. Once we were back in Lake Muskegon, Captain Jim went below and told us to handle it ourselves. Terri at the helm, she got a bit panicked at the quickly approaching north shore (where someone mentioned that it 'got shallow'), skipped a few steps, came about before we were prepared and we ended up with an accidental jibe, which rattled us all, & the resulting crash of the mainsail caused the teacher to come running up from below. At the time it seemed a big scary incident (capitalized THE INCIDENT in our diary), but in hindsight it wasn't all that bad. Nancy (fellow student) got a rope burn on her hand, Tim bent a fingernail back & Keenan got snapped in the back of the neck with a flailing headsail & the teacher spent the rest of the time that day supervising us. After class we visited the beach, fed the seagulls and came back to the boat to cram for our big 103 exam scheduled for the next morning. A Fun day overall, and we are starting to look a bit more wistfully at the boats for sale in the back lot at Torresons.
(Terri July 10) Me on a sailboat - what could be more odd. tim got this bug and we are trying to see if will work for us. I have been reading a lot about it. Tim reads the drama/adventure books and I read the how-to, we-did-it type self-help manuals. The class went better than I thought. Keenan did great. Now - do we make the jump? I have never liked being on a boat. Like to swim, but only in pools. Now we are looking into sailing. Retirement, far off places, travel, adventure. What would my mother think? As for the 'incident' - it happened very fast. All I remember is that I goofed. Hopefully I get the hang of it. I'm sure other people have had an accidental jibe and got over it.

July 12, 2003 8:00 am
It is now a couple days past our final day on board 'Pandora'. We all passed the 2nd exam, Keenan with an 82%, Terri a 91% and Tim a 90%. The weather that day was wet & the winds were gusty from the south. Steering was difficult at first, we recapped sailing the circle. Keenan is by now an old hat at this, barking out commands in rapid succession. Terri is still a little hesitant about it all and still likes a bit of reassurance about the points of sail & command sequence. It doesn't yet come completely natural to Tim either, but he puts on a confident demanor and hopes nobody will notice the steel grip he maintains on the wheel and the false bravado of his smile.
We then spent some time 'rescuing Bob' (an improvised 'man overboard', in effect: a fender with rope attached). Much easier than I anticipated, especially after reading the ASA Recommended Procedure in the manuals. Of course, it will be much more stressful and difficult in an actual Man Overboard Situation where you are not expecting it. We then learned how to 'Heave To' (still a little muddy on this one afterwards), and we are sure to need more practice at this. Then we headed down the channel and practiced anchoring n the cove. We came home after the class ended, and are starting to look a bit more seriously online at boat listings & newspaper ads. We may have to have a 'family meeting' to see where we think we may be heading with all this. Exciting to see this entering the realm of possibility where it once was just a crazy pipe dream.

(additional notes from margins in the diary - edited for clarity) Our instructor was Captain Jim Thompson, a Hemmingway-esque old salt with a fine sense of humor and thankfully a large dose of patience. A retired college professor, who winters in Florida, he had many a funny off-color story or anctedote, usually preceded by a disclaimer "How old is Keenan again?". Torreson Marina is more of a 'working boatyard' than a 'recreational marina', with nasty primitive shower & bathroom facilities, and it kind of reminds you of a 'auto mechanic's garage', but there is usually lots of activity to watch, boats being serviced, launched, etc.
Our fellow classmate, Nancy, had a boat on the other side of Muskegon Lake, that she got from a boyfriend, and she wanted to learn more about handling it. She was a speed demon, and really liked to see the boat heel over.
(photos, above) (1) Keenan at the wheel while we 'sail the circle', appropriately wearing an 'Old Navy' tee shirt (2) Terri at the helm with a look of "what the hell am I doing on a boat?" while Captain Jim appears to be biting his fingernails.