Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunset (?) Cruise

Drove out to Muskegon on Sunday afternoon with the purpose of trying for a 'sunset cruise', but the beautiful blue skies and sunshine we'd been enjoying the past few weeks gave way to overcast grey skies by the time we got there. The wind was a steady 8 knots from the northeast, so we decided to go out anyways. Despite the overcast skies, the sailing was remarkably fine. The waves were a little choppy in Lake Muskegon, but once we got out on Lake Michigan, the waves had calmed to less than one feet, and we got some nice speed (hitting a top speed of around 6 knots), heading southwest, and made it as far as the 'mystery buoys' south of Muskegon light (a set of markers out away from shore, which we have seen before on our sails, which might be either fishing buoys, or maybe some sort of weather station, since one of them has some equipment attached to it -- one of these days we should get a picture of it). On our return trip, we had just passed a sailboat of comparable size to us, so we thought we try and 'race them back', but they did much better speed than we did, and besides, it ended up being not only a race with that one small sailboat, but also a race with a 1000 foot freighter to see who would reach the channel entrance first. The 'Indiana Harbor' and us reached the entrance at about the same time, so we dropped our headsail and patiently waited outside until they entered and then followed along behind them through the channel.

We had managed to sail the channel on the way out, on a run with the wind directly behind us, at about 3 knots, but sailing back in proved problematic, with the wind directly on our nose, so we flaked the main and motored the rest of the way in. Gave the engine a good long session on the way back to the marina, and it was nearing dusk when we pulled into the slip. Terri volunteered to pull us into the slip this time, since she rarely ever does it, but lack of practice proved her undoing and overshot the entrance, at which time she called me back to complete the maneuver. I think we are going to put her to work on driving in and out of the channel the next few times, just so she can get used to it.

We noticed there was another Chris Craft sailboat parked across the way from us, so we took a stroll afterwards to have a peek at it. It was a fellow Cherokee, and boy was it in nicer shape than ours. We were peeking at several boats' 'swim ladder' solutions on the way in tonight, concentrating on many that had a similar stern configuration as ours, and this Cherokee had a unique set-up, with the swim ladder attached to the fairlead track. Looks like an elegant solution, but I wonder if they have problems with the jib sheet getting fouled on the swim ladder?

Ever since we got the visit from the Vetters, Terri has been suddenly reading a lot of sailboat ads and blogs online, and talking more about reviving our original '5 year plan', and today mentioned something about taking another 'sailing lesson' - this time down in Fort Lauderdale to learn some offshore cruising. Also seems to looking at a lot of other boats, and pointing out all of Fanny's flaws at frequent intervals. Anyhow, not sure how to take it. We've still got a ways to go in cutting our 'land lines'.

(battery 1)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

At long last sail

Been a hard summer for Fanny, she's only been able to get out about once a month, and it seems to always be a cloudy overcast day with either too much or too little wind. Each time we visit her, she looks very sad, covered in cobwebs and decks stained with bird and spider droppings. Me and Terri drove out this afternoon, after a long hiaitus due to conflicting schedules, a full illustration workload, and uncooperative weather.
I was a bit leery to take her out, to tell the truth. After her diesel repairs by the marina came back with a surprisingly low pricetag*, I was sure that perhaps the mechanics missed a crucial problem with the engine, and we'd go out and get stuck without the power to return to our slip again. We got there around 12:30 or so and started off by giving her decks a good scrubbing, and then straightening up a bit down below and tending to a few minor repairs. The wind was a light 5-10 knots, so we figured we'd give it a try, despite my fears, and, if the engine failed, we could at least have better wind this time for attempting our first 'sail into the slip' experiment.

The engine did fine, however, never heating up much past 130 on the meter, and once we got out past the mooring balls, we raised the sails and didn't turn the engine back on until we came back. For once, the weather was beautiful, the skies were blue, the wind was a comfortable but boisterous 5-15, and we tooled around at a steady 5 knot speed, with only a heel once in a while to make Terri whimper.

The winds were from the Northwest today, which made sailing down and back the channel possible, and we did one for the record books, both sails up, moderate heel and averaged 5-6 knots both out and back. Once on the big lake, the waves were a bit more choppy, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-3 foot waves, a few whitecaps on the bigger waves, but not completely uncomfortable. We were running short of time, however, so after about 300 yards past the lighthouse, we decided to come about and head back for the marina, and for smoother sailing on the little lake.

We came *this* close to trying a sail into the slip on the way back in, but the wind was picking up closer to 20 knots by this time, and I just plain chickened out once we got in the mooring field, and popped the engine back on for the rest of the maneuver. A beautiful, but short sail today, and hopefully we can get out for one overnight before the season is over.
(battery 2)

*the diesel repair came back with a 90 cents for parts and 120 dollars for labor, with an enigmatic explanation that 'the coolant was checked and the engine was run 'up to temperature' and everything checks out fine' -- I'm still not sure why the coolant went dry before, or if the thermostat was even checked... but it seems to be working now..