Friday, July 30, 2004

Sailing Therapy

The summer and fall of 2004 was a tough time for us, emotionally as well as in terms of spare time to devote to sailing. With the onset of my Father's illness and near-incapacitation, I volunteered to be the primary care-giver for the duration of the chemo treatments, which spanned late summer through the end of the year, where I was posted in South Haven. We were able to make occassional escapes, a weekend here and there, and we managed one more 'destination' trip late in the summer, but the days of simply 'shooting over to the boat when the weather looks good' were out of the question for the rest of 2004.

July 25 - Arrived late Saturday night from South Haven, After 2 weeks of 'medical stress', it is a welcome break to relax out on the lake. Sunday is absolutely beautiful. Sirrus clouds, blue sky, calm lake and just enough wind for a relaxing sail. 3-4 knots if we get our mojo straightened out with Mr. Bernoulli. Saw the Lake Express ferry & a big white freighter heading in the channel this morning. A ton of motor boats out on the lake in the early morning. (fishing? or heading out for a peek at the Chi-Mac race schedule for this weekend). Pulling out of the slip was a bit undignified thanks to choppy waves & weird wind from the east. Played Rack-o with Keenan & Terri last night, & Keenan got to sleep in the V-berth for a change of pace. A large sailboat tried to cut us off as we were leaving the channel, but we shortly thereafter left him in our wake thanks to our superior sailing mojo. On our return, a large freighter was coming out of the channel, and Tim got a little nervous and waited in the anchorage area until he cleared the channel, Terri thought I was being a weinie, and I probably was, there was more than likely enough room for both of us. We did a decent job of docking back at the marina with the exception of a pair of 'split crotch cargo pants' that Tim found himself suddenly wearing after doing a stretch for a dock line. The onboard 'knot meter' didn't work the entire time we were under sail today, but seemed to work fine while we were motoring. Very strange (zebra mussel buildup?)

July 30 - Another weekend escape, got here around 11, the weather was a bit overcast, but it improved by later in the day. Nice breeze, 10-20 knots, medium waves 2-4 ft. We did numerous boat chores today, fixed drawer rails in the v berth, replaced the track slider that broke with a new one that didn't quite fit right, cleaned the deck, scrubbed out the interior, dried out the bilge again & fixed a leaky head sink drain (source of bilge water?), tomorrow will do some more teak work. Cate & Brian and kids came by around 3pm in spite of my poor directions. The weather cleared up and the boat seemed tickled to have some company aboard, as she put on a rollicking good show for the guests. Good speed under sail & hopped and frolicked through the waves much to the delight of Cate & Josie, but didn't seem to do much for Brian or Jake. Had a nice 2 or 3 hour sail & finished up with Coronas in the cockpit and a trip down to the beach to eat at 'Sneaky Pete's'. One other exciting aspect of the day: we saw another Chris Craft Cherokee as we were returning down the channel. Couldn't figure out why they were hooting and hollering at us and waving at first, but soon worked it out. First time seeing another boat of our pedigree - named "Sea Hawk" -- Beautiful day.

Unfortunately, Terri dropped the halyard overboard as we were putting away the sails in the channel this afternoon, so it looks like we will be visiting the ship's store. After the visitors left, me and Terri were heading back from the 'imperial procedure hut' when we noticed a sailboat coming into the marina under tow from a powerboat. Asked if they needed help and it turns out their engine died out on the lake and needed help getting pulled towards their slip. We climbed over different boat transoms and around docks trying to help guide them around the marina, until Terri suggested a good idea for them to use their tiller as a 'scupper', moving it back and forth to give them some forward momentum, which worked like a charm, slowly but surely guiding them towards their slip. "Lobo" finally made it back home, thanks to the help of half of the marina. Nice to see everybody pitching in like that, gives you kind of a secure feeling that if something does go wrong, you won't be in want of a helping hand.

August 14 - Maintenance visit from Tim & Terri while Keenan is staying at the Kroes compound in Whitehall. Did some teak work. More bilge water to soak up - where the heck is it coming from?? Replaced the halyard shackle, fixed a hose, and the latch on the engine cover. Planning a final summer 'destination cruise' this coming weekend, will pick up Keenan in White Lake and continue north to Pentwater.

Sunday, July 4, 2004

Fireworks in South Haven

Our plan is to take a multiple night destination trip to South Haven, where my sister and her husband have a summer home. We hope to be in South Haven for the friday fireworks display on the lakeshore. At this point in the narrative we switch completely over to the 'Ship's Log', and on this trip we kept a running tally of GPS coordinates and small observations during the day. I'll spare you the dull coordinates, and try to flesh out the shorthand comments.

July 1 - Cast off at noon, Keenan took us out of the slip flawlessly, and we are on our way. Beautiful hot weather, light variable winds. Bugs and biting flies are a bit of a nuisance on this trip, and we don't make much progress at first with the sails up. At 2:30 we have a small emergency, when the boom becomes disattached from the mast due to a failed cotter pin. Tim quickly jury rigs a replacement out of spare parts that seems to do the trick for the time being. By 3:00 we are still only about as far south as P.J. Hoffmaster Park and shortly thereafter the wind dies down completely. We switch to the motor for a while. Pass Grand Haven around 4:30. The water is smooth as a mirror, with no wind at all, and even the 'apparent wind' from our forward motion with the engine only provides a slight breeze. Would like a small breeze to pick up if only just to shoo the flies away.
By 6:00 we are just past Port Sheldon, wind has picked up a little bit, we open the mainsail to get a little help from the wind and smooth out the motion/steering. Another breakdown occurs, we have been using the head on the way down, and even though we supposedly had it pumped out in Whitehall two weeks ago, it is overflowing out the air intake and backing up the outtake pipe onto the deck. Yikes what a mess - we use a bucket attached to a dock line to wash off the deck, and resolve to look into it when we get to South Haven. (we would discover later that instead of pumping out our holding tank in White Hall, the girl at the dock actually filled it with water in order to get better suction, but then forgot to pump out all the water - so luckily the mess on the deck was a lot less messy than it COULD have been, being very dilluted).

We arrive at Holland around 7:00, call Eldean Marina for a slip for the night. Our VHS still doesn't seem to be working properly, so we end up using our cell phone which works just fine. Eldean is quite a fancy place, pool & hot tubs, nice showers & restrooms, but expensive as well, almost twice as much as the Whitehall Municipal Marina. The downside to this Marina, is that it is nowhere near shopping or a convenient walk to the beach. We feel trapped in an affluent subdivision.

July 2 - Cast off this morning with the help of a salty old man around 10 am after fixing the boom attachment with a part from the Marina store. Saw a BIG freighter pulling into Lake Mackatawa just as we were leaving. LOUD horn. Wind wasn't bad for the trip down to Saugatuck, but then died suddenly just past the Saugatuck channel entrance. Sometime before noon we were startled to find ourselves buzzed by a squadron of antique WW2 fighter planes flying in formation rather low to the lake. Wished we could have captured a photo of it, but they came through so very fast. Very exciting, 4 passed to starboard and 3 passed to port. Possibly (probably) heading north to the Muskegon Air Show.
We headed further offshore to try and find some wind (the waves out there looked a bit more choppy and promising), and eventually found some and sailed for some time quite nicely on a run. Tim rigged up a preventer out of dock lines so that we could set the sails wing on wing and sit back and enjoy the ride. Keenan made us some sandwiches for lunch around 1. Around 2:15 we found some nice wind and switched to a beam reach where we got our speed up to 5.6/7 knots.

Wind eventually died down around 3 and we switched back to motor sailing, and we pulled into South Haven around 3:30-4, and got a slip at the Municipal Marina on the South side of the river. Beautiful sunny afternoon, hot and pleasant. Called up my sister and got a ride up to their house for the afternoon, and then returned in the evening to the boat to watch the fireworks from the back of the boat, visible over the beach, followed by a long parade of boats heading back upriver to their slips for hours afterwards.

(photo left) a map of our route to South Haven with the stops along the way. On the return trip, we make the entire distance in a single day, approximately taking 12 hours to do so.

July 3 - Took Denise out for a ride. The weather was a bit breezy and the waves were choppy, hit a new speed record cruising around the harbor entrance. Came in just as it was beginning to rain. We did an expert job of exiting and entering the slip, starting to feel like we are really getting the hang of that particular skill. Denise thinks sailing is boring.

July 4 - Thunderstorms predicted. Very windy & huge waves, so we decide to hang around South Haven for an extra day and make the trip in one long shot the next day. Catch the 4th parade and went to a movie in the local theater ('Spiderman 2') plus did a little shopping in the little chachi shops downtown.

July 5 - Got our head pumped out properly this time, and it is functioning fine again. Yay! Filled the diesel & headed out by 9 am. Waves look even bigger than the day before, even right in the channel. No idea how big these waves are, very nerve wracking (yet oddly thrilling - Tim yelling 'Yee-Hah!' as we crest each wave, standing up gripping the tiller with both hands) trying to navigate and make any headway into them. Keenan tried sleeping in the V-berth, but found the ride intolerable and very quickly came above with us. Around 11 we were almost even with Glenn (not very far at all) when our anchor worked its way out of its attachment and went overboard, banging into the bottom of the boat. We weren't sure what the noise was at first (bang BANG bang bang) - Terri worked her way forward on the wildly pitching boat to pull the anchor chain back aboard and secure the anchor to the deck. We nearly lost her overboard in the process. Amazing how she jumped right out there to take care of it on pure adrenaline.
At 1 we made the Saugatuck channel, and skies finally cleared up, but the waves are still quite big. At 3 we were at Holland and the wind and waves were almost managable, so we put up the sails and got some good speed for a couple of hours. Tim thinks he saw a waterspout out on the horizon of the lake, and there were quite a few sailboats out enjoying the day around the Holland channel. At 5 we were at Port Sheldon and the wind died down, so we switched back to motor-sailing. Sunset just about the time we reached Muskegon around 9/10, and it was very nearly dusk when we finally pulled into our slip at Torreson's, the water smooth as glass yet again. Very tiring day. We've learned that you really can't count on the weather to cooperate when you have a destination in mind, and you are lucky if you can sail 30% of the time. We probably should have waited out another day and not braved those waves this morning, but we found ourselves having to get home with no leeway in our schedule. Quite a few little breakdowns on the way, the boom cotter pin, the dining table broke at one point (repaired it in South Haven before leaving), the anchor attachment needs to be strengthened, Traveller clamp broke on our return trip (eventually fixed by Torreson, after we tried jury rigging a newer part, and repairing ourselves), the latch on the sail locker broke (still not repaired), and the VHF still doesn't seem to work (eventually purchased a hand held VHF which worked much better than the one attached to the boat).

Shortly after this trip, Tim made a trip to Arizona to check on Dad, who seemed to be having some medical problems recently, and it ended up being much worse than he was letting on, eventually being diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and undergoing chemo treatments over the summer, and this situation ended up overshadowing much of the remaining 2004 season, although we did manage to sneak out on the boat a few more times, for weekend getaways and one additional 'destination trip'.