Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Weather Tease

So as I posted in my last post the season is over. So why isn't the weather worse? Not complaining really all that much as I have to get all the leaves raked, read the children do, and I need to clean the gutters. But it has been so nice in October and November here in MN that it would be awesome to have a nice trailer sailor to take out whenever. So I guess that is the next phase of the plan. By this time next year have a nice 23-25 foot trailer sailor so that when the boats are all off the water I can still get out and sail a few more times. I would have loved to have been out any day this week but today... damn. 65 degrees and a nice 15-20kt breeze. Yesterday it was a bit lighter wind but about as warm. We don't get many fall days like this in MN, its usually about 20 degrees cooler and we all remember a certain Halloween when we got 30+ inches of snow. So of course next fall when I do have my own boat, yeah you guessed it, I can see us having another one of those Autumns that you can't get the leaves up because of the snow on the ground. Oh well, only 5 months until sailing starts again.....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Seasons end....

So the 2010 sailing season has come to an end, my first full season. The season here in Minnesota is at the most 6 months long and I sailed 5 of them which, is pretty good all things considered. Ice out came early this year so the boats were in the water early, I first sailed on April 15th this year. I would be sailing through October but the timing of my boat club membership and financial availability made that a non-possibility. That will not happen next season as I will re-up my membership in the first quarter of next year and that will cover me for the entire season.
The season had its good times, its aww this sucks with no wind times, it’s oh shit times, and it’s it doesn’t get any better than this times. Considering I was on a sailboat when each of these occurred, it is all good. For me there are few things that compare with being on a sailboat. Whether I am skipper or crew, I have found that being on the boat is when everything is in order for me. No rat race, the life stress is gone. Just me, the boat, and those that mean the most to me out on the water. There is no other place I would rather be. Hard to explain, but if you get it, you get it.
I have sailed in good conditions and less than optimal conditions this year. Even with the wind up, the boat heeling over, having to put reefs in out on the water, rain, and waves, I still would rather be in those conditions on a sailboat than anywhere else. Obviously I do prefer nice winds with the sun and not freezing in the wind and rain, and waking up to frost but, I am sailing and that is what it is about.
My two trips up to Lake Superior were by far the best trips of the year but also, there were some awesome times that Sam, Stu, and I had putting around Lake Minnetonka as well. Hopefully we can all get up to Pike’s Bay next season and I can show them how awesome it is to sail on the big lake and actually explore some of the islands. On ‘tonka and Superior.
So that’s the 2010 season, sad to see it go but I have some great memories and I learned so much this year. I am looking forward to next year already and can’t wait for the ice to be out and the boats back in the water. Check back every once in a while over the fall and winter months as I am sure I will be posting some thoughts as I muddle through the non-sailing months.
Fair winds……

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall Flotilla on Lake Superior

A while back I received an e-mail from Northern Breezes Sailing School about an upcoming fall flotilla on Lake Superior they were offering. It was $295 to sail from Pike’s Bay in Wisconsin to Spirit Lake Marina in Minnesota. I jumped at it and called the next day. The sail would be from October 1st through October 3rd with everyone meeting up at Pike’s Bay on the evening of September 30th. We would be delivering the boats that the school uses for the ASA 103/104 classes and that are also available for charter through Northern Breezes. Seeing as I was going to take my ASA 103/104 on Aerie, a 36 foot Islander, I requested that I be on one of the other boats, a choice of two 34 foot Hunters. See the posts below in regards to my trip for my ASA 103/104 certifications.
About a week before departure I received an e-mail stating I would be on Taboo, the newest of the two Hunters and a very nice boat. The Hunter 34 has been around for quite some time and the designers did a pretty good job with the interior. The sailing performance is not bad, no speed records but sails pretty good. They are a bit tender initially and stabilize after heeling over at first. Putting in a reef is recommended over 15kts as they become a bit overpowered at that point.
I also found out that the captain that was going to be on my boat was Tony. Tony was my ASA 101 Basic Keelboat instructor. He also was my ASA 105 Coastal Navigation instructor and was my instructor for the refresher course I took in the spring. So I guess you could say he has taught me pretty much all I know about sailing. Tony is a great guy, excellent instructor and has been sailing for over 25 years. He got his start in the Navy on fast attack nuclear submarines during the later years of the Cold War.
We all were to drive up to Spirit Lake Marina Thursday and then van pool over to Pike’s Bay just south of Bayfield Wisconsin were we would board the boats. We would be leaving our respective vehicles at Spirit Lake so they would be waiting for us at the end of our trip. The plan was to go out for breakfast on Friday morning at Northern Edge, then sail out in to the Apostle Islands and have a raft up and spend the night at anchor. We then would sail to Cornucopia Wisconsin and spend Saturday night at the dock in the marina there and have dinner at Fish Lipps. We would then leave early Sunday and make the long run to Spirit Lake just south of Duluth on the St. Louis River.
The boats that are part of our flotilla are;
                Aerie – A 36 foot Islander, fast boat but older so not as “nice” inside.
                Jolly Swagman – A 34 foot Hunter, nice boat a bit older I think than the other Hunter in the fleet.
                Taboo – A 34 foot Hunter, pretty much the same as Jolly but a few years newer.
                Faith – A 39 foot Fairweather Mariner, very nice boat that will be doing an Atlantic crossing in a year or two.
There is about 5 of us on each boat one had 6 so there were 21 of us on this little adventure. The weather forecast had been looking pretty decent as well for the entire time, winds could be a bit light but the temps would be in the 50’s but, Saturday night did come with a frost warning.
The drive up to Duluth was nice, weather was great and of course no traffic traumas as I left at 3pm. I could smell autumn in the air as I got more north. I arrived at Spirit Lake Marina about 5:20pm, not bad on time. I had just missed the first van and had to wait for the next one driven by Tony to arrive. He got to the marina around 7ish so it was a bit of a wait but no big deal. A few others had arrived before then and we waited on another before we headed out for the hour and a half drive to Pike’s bay Marina.
After getting to the marina, I met my other three crewmates; Jocelyn & Brian from Stillwater Minnesota and Dennis from Prior Lake. I got the dinette settee as my bunk. Basically the dining table lowers down and you move the bench cushions over it and sleep on that. I liked it as it was about as wide as a full size bed so I had some nice room. Tony took the “couch”.
We arose the next morning and it was agreed that we would meet at the marina club house around 8am. The facilities at Pike’s Bay are great, very new and clean. So we all took showers and prepared for the day. We met in the conference room and discussed the upcoming trip. It was decided that we would sail up the West Channel, then between Oak and Stockton Islands, then north between Oak and Manitou Islands, then back northwest between Manitou and Otter Islands, then back north again to anchor in a bay on the eastern shore of Rocky Island.  A nice little sail for the first day, Apostle Islands PDF map link for reference.
The weather was over cast as we left the club house and got in the vans to drive over to Northern Edge for breakfast. Forecast had changed to a 30% chance of rain. After we were seated and ordered our food, I looked out the window and noticed we apparently fell within the 30% zone as it was raining. The temp was in the low 50’s as well. After breakfast we checked the weather radar at the marina and saw that the rain was going to last a little while but then clear out. Also, there really was no wind but that was supposed to change later in the day too. So we all boarded our respective boats, fired up the motors, did our prep work to leave the dock, and then we headed out in to the lake.
Before heading out I was very glad I decided to bring my complete foul weather gear instead of just the jacket. Pants, boots, & gloves all came in handy this day as we were on the lake in a light rain. We left the dock a little after noon and began our run up to Rocky Island. An hour or two later the wind started to pick up a bit, those NOAA guys kind of know their job, and we raised the main sail and rolled out the jib. I was at the helm when we were motoring when it was decided to raise the sail so I got lucky and was the first one to truly sail on our boat. The winds were between 6 and 10 kts and yes, she was a bit tender initially but settled down quickly too. We did get a few gusts that were higher but nothing really unsettling. We had a heel angle between 15 and 20 degrees which was not bad at all. 
I was at the helm for about an hour I guess when we switched again. I think Dennis was at the helm now, the winds were picking up to about 15-20kts apparent, which is the wind speed the sails “feel”, so we decided to put a reef in the main, we had heeled over a couple of times to 30+. So I got up to the mast and attached the reef grommet to the hook as someone else held the main halyard so the sail wouldn’t come all the way down, and then they pulled the reefing line in to secure the clew of the sail. I wasn’t sure who was doing what as I was at the mast in 15-20kt winds heeled over at about 25 degrees and making sure I didn’t miss a hand hold and roll off in to the lake.

PFD’s were required at all times when we were in the cockpit or on the deck; they only came off when we were down in the cabin. Wasn’t really a big deal for me to be up there, you just have to be aware of your surroundings always when on the deck of a sailboat.
The single reef did quite nicely as we sailed along for a good stretch of our first run of the trip. Of course as we got about an hour from our destination the wind died down a bit too much and we motored the rest of the way. The forecasted winds changed as well, so our first anchorage was no longer viable as the winds were to build overnight from the northeast so we decided to anchor on the southwest side of South Twin Island.
We rafted up; all four boats tied together a beam of each other. Each person/couple brought a desert to share with the chicken & veggies we grilled. We got all tied up just before sunset and ate dinner under the stars. I forgot how many stars you can see without the light pollution of the city. Saw a few shooting starts as well, course an hour of stargazing was interrupted by another batch of rain coming in. So we didn’t get to socialize as much with the other crews. We headed in to the cabin when the rain came and then called it a relatively early night. We were all pretty tired from the day’s sail. I had forgotten how much you work when sailing in higher winds, the boat has a tendency to head in to the wind or “round up” when it gusts or gets stronger so you have to steer her back away from it. With waves, that can be a bit of a workout. As I lay in bed I began to realize that the congestion and what not I had been feeling all afternoon was not due to the weather but due to the pesky cold virus. Oh joy, just what I needed on a sailing trip.
We awoke the next morning to cloudy skies and brisk winds. We decided to put in a double reef before we set off as the winds were around 20, just to be comfortable. We would be sailing to Cornucopia Wisconsin on Siskiwit Bay. Corny, as the locals call it, is about the size of the palm of your hand. Really, it is a small town. A couple of cool shops, a small fish market, a general store, and a bar/restaurant known as Fish Lipps.
Sailing was pretty good with the double reefed main, we also “reefed” the jib but as it is a rolling furler jib we rolled it in a bit and were done with it. The waves were a bit higher today, about 2-4 feet, as the lake had had all night to get churned up. On Superior you have “Square Rollers” for waves at times, basically nice waves with decent sized flat top to them, kind of exciting when you sail along with those. It was more work keeping your course too as you are fighting the wind gusts and the waves but, you work through it. I was at the helm and things were fine, but interesting weather and wave-wise. I was turning the wheel back to get the boat back on course and Tony said “Get her back where we need to be Dan.” I replied “I am trying to…” Tony then said the obvious, “Don’t try, just do it.” And so I did. I cranked harder on the wheel and she came back. Now, there was no “yelling” at each other here, it was just that I needed to get the wheel over and Tony was just reminding me of it. No big deal, sometimes conversations get intense on a boat, especially in rougher seas.
Our course took us south between Rocky Island and Otter Island, then west under Bear Island, north of Raspberry Island and York Island, north of Sand Island and the beautiful light house that is there. It is manned by a volunteer during the season. Then we headed southwest after the light house and headed straight for Corny.
By the time we were near York Island the sun had come out and the winds had become much nicer. We shook out the reef and we sailed quite nicely. As we passed to the north of the mainland, basically between Sand Island and Eagle Island, Tony pointed to port and said “Look at that!” We all turned and say a large, white headed bird about 15-20 feet about the surface of the lake. A bald eagle was heading right for us. He turned and headed around our bow and then headed back on his original track, lowered himself more, dropped his legs down and snatched a 10”-12” fish out of the water and flew off. I never thought I would ever see anything like that “live”. It was an amazing thing to see. Of course all the cameras were down below but, all 5 of us saw it and as I said, damn that was cool!

We docked at Cornucopia around 3pm or so. We had plenty of time to walk around, socialize with the other crews and take in the town. It was small yes, but it had great character. We enjoyed a great night at Fish Lipps having dinner and a few drinks. Everyone seemed to have a great time and we all head back to our boats around 11pm. It was going to be cold Saturday night too so we fired up the heater and it got to be about 70 in the cabin. Sunday was going to be either motoring or motor sailing as we all wanted to get home at a decent time and it was about 45 miles from Corny to Spirit Lake Marina. We decided to get up at 6am and head out by 7am, having breakfast underway. This should get us in to Spirit Lake around 5pm.
We awoke the next morning to a nice layer of frost on the boat and the dock and everything else.
It was chilly, I would think in the lower 30’s easily. We prepped the boat for departure and headed out around 7:10am. As the sun came out, it was a beautiful day, the frost melted and the boat dried out.
We did get some wind for a bit so we motor sailed for about an hour. But mainly Sunday was a day to motor along, relax for the most part, and let the auto-helm handle the steering. We saw a lake freighter off in the distance and a commercial fishing boat too. The “motor” to the river entrance was pretty mellow, which for me, was great as the cold I picked up was starting to really dig in.
We passed through Duluth, up the St. Louis River, to the marina. Jocelyn and I were on the bow with binoculars identifying buoys as we went, her husband Brian was looking out for other boats, Dennis tracked the buoys we identified on the chart and Tony was at the helm.
We got in to Spirit Lake about 5:15pm. Not bad time, but still a very long day. We packed our gear, cleaned up the boat and said our good bye’s. I so wanted to just get home at this point. I got in my vehicle and headed on south. Got home at 8:13pm, easy to do when you go nearly 80. Cold was kicking my butt so I basically had Stu unload my vehicle, talked to him and Sam for a bit and went to bed.
This was a great trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Hopefully I can get on the trip that brings the boats from Spirit Lake to Pike’s Bay in early June, more daylight and different weather. I gained some great sailing experience and met some great people too. Hopefully we can sail together again sometime, I would really like that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Leroy the Cricket

With the weather getting cooler and the leaves starting to change color the sailing season here is coming to an end. I reserved the Pearson for Saturday and Sunday afternoons with the hope of getting in one last sail in before the end of my season. Which, this year is September 30th on Minnetonka as that is when my boat club membership expires. Will re-up early next year as it is a 12 month membership not a seasonal one and then next season I will be able to sail in October until the boats are pulled for the winter.
Saturday was gray, rainy in the morning, and very calm. I made the decision earlier that morning that there was no use even driving out to the marina as I had checked the forecast and current conditions. Clouds would clear out but, wind would be barely at 3kts. Not really conducive to sailing. So I ran errands and Stu went to Sam’s volleyball tournament and stuff that needed to get done around the house was dealt with. Sunday looked very promising in regards to the weather. Sunny, decent temps and some wind. Plus the Vikings were playing the Lions. Does that even count as professional football?
Sunday we get up and head to the marina. The weather is great, sunny and warm and a bit of a breeze. We get to the marina and are ready to leave the dock in about 5 minutes. As we motor out I notice that the 6kt breeze is non-existent but, you never know, the wind could be out on the lake. We motor out in to Gideon Bay and I raise the main. Didn’t really need to point in to the wind as it was slight but we did anyway.  We roll out the jib after cutting the motor and we are sailing! Oh wait, no we aren’t, we are sitting in the middle of the bay hoping to catch any sort of breeze.
So we are sitting in the bay, bobbing a little in the occasional power boat wake, not bad at all. I look up at the Windex to see if it shows anything and nope. That’s when I noticed the stow-away we had. A cricket was on the main sail about 5 inches above the boom. He was just sitting there on our fully raised sail. None the worse for wear, the absence of wind allowed our new friend Leroy, Sam named him, to just sit there and enjoy the ride.
I decided after about 20 minutes of sitting and doing nothing that maybe we should motor in to the lake a bit more and see what we can find for wind. So we head out farther in to the main lake area.  We get past the shoals of Solberg and Sunrise points and are in front of Excelsior Bay when I cut the motor again. Nothing, not even a wiff of wind. Leroy has decided to move off the main and plant himself on the starboard bench of the cockpit. Apparently the breeze we created by motoring disturbed him on the sail so he hopped down. A few minutes later he even got bored with the situation and flew off.
So after about an hour and a half of trying to find any wind what-so-ever, we decide to call it a day. I fire up the motor and we head in. Was really easing getting the jib furled and the main down and tied up. Docking with no crosswind is also very simple. Would have preferred the 6kts of wind though and a nice season ending sail. But that is one of the things about sailing, its very weather dependant and that is not a bad thing. We were out on the water, me and my kids, and we were still having fun joking about the 2 degrees of heel because two if us were on one side of the boat.
All in all it really was a great season of sailing. We all learned a lot; I know more now than when we went out the first day and there is still more to learn. I have more confidence now in my sailing abilities than I did at the start of the season and my comfort level as a sailor has increased. Sam & Stu did enjoy themselves also and I am hoping that Stu will be taking the same class I did to get started in the spring or early summer next year. Sam, she just likes to ride, which is great. She can crew as well but prefers to handle the boat as we leave the slip and as we dock. She is the dock hand I guess and Stu is more of a sailing crew person. The point I guess is we all had a good time sailing. That’s what it’s about I guess, me being able to spend some “quality time” with my kids before they get too old and head out in to the world on their own.
I still have one sailing trip left and that is this weekend up on Superior. Going from Pikes Bay Marina to Spirit Lake Marina Duluth to store the boats of the boat club for the winter. There will be one extra one joining us as well so there will be 4 boats with about 5-6 of us on each boat. Should be a fun trip as the weather looks great and even if the weather wasn’t optimal I am sure it would be a great trip. That will be the next post, of course complete with pictures and vids.
Of course today, Monday, as I sit at work and look out the window, it is sunny, warm and the wind is blowing about 10….. Go figure eh?
Well the Minnetonka season is over for us and sailing in general will be in a week. Hoping I can get through the winter and ice out can’t come soon enough. Looking forward to spring already……

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Boat Clubs and Boats

The only way I have access to a sailboat is through my boat club with the school I use. Northern Breezes on Lake Minnetonka, Shorewood Yacht Club. It has worked out pretty good for the most part but there is that whole sharing thing. You have to sign up to use a boat, I use the 26' Pearson as that is the one we all fit on comfortably, has a cabin and all. Anyway, that sharing thing.... Some people just don't seem to pay attention on how the boat is set up when they get there and that they should at least leave it in a "condition" that someone else will be able to use.
Happend to us last Sunday on my birthday. We had sailed fine the day before, was a bit chilly but the wind was good and we got in a good 3 hourson the water. That's another thing, you only get the boat for 4 hours.... can only string together multiple uses if no one has it reserved on that day. So it can be kind of difficult to spend a day at the marina and sailing when you want. But, that is one of the prices you pay for not having your own boat.

On a quick side note, my daughter, Samantha, is the photographer/videographer of the family. So she takes most of the pictures and videos. Her friend Jessica was with us my BD weekend and she took a couple of pics of the 3 of us. Sam, Stu, and myself. All the pics and the vid are from Saturday's sail.

So on to Sunday, the 5th. So me being all "Sailing Guy" now I really wanted to just have a nice sail on my birthday with my kids. We did great on Saturday but, well you know. Anyway, so the weather is actually a bit better Sunday. We motor out the channel as usual and point "Nightcap" in to the wind to raise the main. I pull on the halyard and it goes about 3 feet and stops. I tug and nothing happens... Great. So I check the reefing line and it is all freed up as it should so I pull what little of the sail is up back down and try again. No luck, up about three feet and it stops.

So I am looking at my options at this point, go up to the mast and trouble shoot, motor back in and see what the problem is on the dock, or just go back in and call it a day. So seeing as I am the only person who can helm the boat as my kids are not quite there yet and the only person who can trouble shoot the issue, I decide to head in to the slip.

Now the Pearson 26 has a bit of freeboard so when the wind hits it from the side it likes to spin. Not just so that it is head to wind or stern to wind... it likes to spin around and around and.... well you get the picture. Well at least this one sure does. So after spining a bit and getting the sail ties on and trying not to spin a tapestry of obcenities to hang from the mast, I decide I have had enough and we just motor in and call it a day.

I know, I know, hind sight has me stepping off the dock, calming down, and then having a look at the problem in the slip and then hopefully going back out. I guess it was the annoyance with what "day" it was and wanting it all to be just right. I think the problem was that someone had reefed the sail the evening before and then cleated the reefing line. They do not have to do that as there is a clutch that you close and then all is good. All I had to do to shake out the reef was open the clutch and the line would have run clean as I raised the main....

So this kind of goes back to that whole people need to undestand the boat that they are using. One time before, when the people came in late and we were standing there waiting, the guy decided to get me a new tank of gas for the outboard. Well this boat has a 2 stroke, yep you guessed it, he came back with a tank of just gas. I noticed it, talked to Mike the marina manager, and he gave me back the original tank. Still had over a gallon in it and this thing sips gas so there was no problem there. If I would have used that gas tank, I could have, probably would have, siezed up the outboard and then we would have really been stuck. There is a nice little sign in the lazerette now telling people basically "DON'T REMOVE THIS TANK!! IT'S A 2 STROKE! FUEL IN YELLOW BUCKET TRUCK!!"..... *sigh*

So then today, the 12th, my daughter and I go out for an afternoon sail. Seems the boy recalled at 9:30pm yesterday he had some homework to get done so he stayed home to do it. Offered him the chance to go and he said no, he was going to stay home and get it done. Huh, sometimes you do get it right with your kids... So we get to the marina and I notice a shore power cable, well an orange extension cord attached to a shore power adapter, attached to the boat. Never saw that before. Saw Mike and walked over and asked it there was anything different about disconnecting it and he said no.

Asked why the cable and well, people like to evening sail. I like to evening sail but you are supposed to have the boat back 15 minutes before sunset. Well seems people motor for about 5 minutes, barely charging the batteries, and then run with the lights on. There is only one battery on Nightcap. So then you get back in, it sits for a few days.... battery drains, maybe they leave the lights on..... who knows.. so anyway, hence the shore power and more people not really paying attention to the big picture. Who knows though, maybe other people in the boat club hate the way I leave the boat but, never got a phone call on it. And no, I have yet to call and complain......

So Sam and I enjoy a few hours of sailing today. Winds started to build after about 1:30pm or so and the lake got all churny. We brought in the jib for a bit and then got tired of doing the bob and roll with the waves. So we decide to head to wind and bring down the main. So can ya guess what happens when I try to start the motor? Yep, nothing... that sick feeling you get in the cold of night in the middle of winter when your car won't start, that was it.. So of course the boat drifts a bit and then starts to spin.... weeeeee!!!! Well not quite but you get the picture. I unsheet the main, which of course was tight in the cleat and got me yanking on it, and we sail a bit more until I get us farther from those wonderfull shoal marker buoys.

So I head her back in to the wind and start pulling on the starting cord. Well it took a few good yanks but she fired up. Oh the relief........ So we got the sail down, Sam noticed one of the guides was out of the track so yeah, let's pay attention folks, again. We get the sail tied up on the boom and we motor back in. Was a pretty uneventfull docking, which was nice. I had to give her a little bump of power to get in to the slip as we started to drift sideways in the cross-wind but, no big deal.

 So yeah, being in the boat club really is a great thing and I am very glad I can be a part of it as I have inquired about a couple boats and they have been sold, slow to act I guess. But, I think it may be best that I don't own a boat quite yet, maybe this time next year unless the opportunity kicks in the door... will have to see. Having your own boat does make things a bit easier as you know the boat and know how you left it but, as I said, maybe another year on that........

Friday, September 3, 2010

SAILING the Apostle Islands Day - 5

Well here we are on Sunday morning. A quick breakfast of Cheerios and a can of V8 for me. Some coffee made on the alcohol stove on the boat and we were all ready to go. We fire up Aerie's motor and we head out in to the lake. We found a spot on Long Island to practice anchoring. It is right in front of one of the light houses, the one near the dock on the length of the island, not the one on the point. Anyway, nice sandy bottom and we all are going to give it a go.

The winds are probably 10-15knts, perfect. Sun is out and it's kind of warm but heck, we are sailing! So we do some more man over board drills for everyone. Folks that wanted to work on tacking and gybing took care of that. I grabbed my camera and took some more pics and videos. I had raised my Sail With Courtney burgee on Saturday but, the weather was good today so we sailed with her today instead. Click here for more info on that, and have your Kleenex handy. We all got a shot at anchoring, both at the helm and at the bow with the anchor. All did a great job and we had no issues with the anchor holding.

As it was about 1:00pm we decided we should head back to the marina. I don't think anyone really wanted to but, we all had to get home and it is about 4 hours to home from there. So we got to pleasure sail the rest of the way back. The vids and pics are from that run to the marina.

  Parry brought us in to the dock perfectly. We tied a few knots on the boat to show we could, then Vicki signed our log books. There, it is signed now, I got it done! We buttoned up Aerie, said our good byes and headed off towords our respective homes. I left the marina at 3:08pm, stopped in Washburn for gas and pulled in to my garage at 7:12PM. Not bad time.

This was a great experience and I cannot wait to go back up and sail the Apostles again. I am hoping to do a charter up there next season with my kids. I will be back in Bayfield September 30th as Northern Breezes is doing a flotilla of the 3 boats they have there. We will be taking them from Pike's Bay Marina to Spirit Lake Marina in Duluth. But that is a story that is waiting to unfold. You will be reading about that here soon enough....


Motoring in the Apostle Islands - Day 4

So I failed to mention in my last post about day 3 that we figured out quite the nice run for us to make to our anchorage. The pic is of Rob, his wife Shayla, Parry (in the glasses), and myself figuring that all out. It's about 17 miles or so for us to sail to the north end of Oak Island, winds were from the south west. Our course was to head south east for a bit leaving the marina, then head north east up the North Channel between Madeline Island and Basswood Island. Turn north west between Hermit Island and Basswood, then sail between the mainland and Oak Island. Sailing around back north east and then east around Oak Island to our anchorage in a nice bay area at the north end of Oak Island. Open the map link in the previous post to have a look at it.

So from the title of this post you mat be wondering what I mean. Well, we all got up nice and early to head out to our great anchoarge. I downed a can of V8 and a couple Nutri-Grain bars, the other folks did about the same. We check the weather and it is blowing pretty good and supposed to build but, we have 2 reefs in from the day before so we figure we should be good to go.

We get out of the marina, past the sea wall and we see lots of white caps on the waves. The seas are at about 2 - 3 feet and the boat is moving up and down quite nicely...... I am at the helm and we decide that maybe we should put in a third reef, as low as this can go. So Rob, Perry, and our instructor Vicki head up to the mast to take care of this. Luckily I was at the helm so I didn't make 3 for 3 but Rob did. So as the sail bunches up at the gooseneck it gets more difficult to get the hook for the reef in to the grommet on the sail, so they decide that to do the third reef they are going to use some spare line to tie it instead.

Reefing is a blast!! Especially in 20-24 knot winds and 2-3 foot seas, especially if you have never been in it before. Shayla is with me in the cockpit and seeing as we are getting spray over the bow and the boat is moving a bit, I ask her to go below and grab my PFD. As I am putting it on I see Vicki come back and go below. She comes up with her PFD on, and 3 others for the rest of the crew. She also has thethers in her hands and Rob digs out the jacklines.

So a jackline, that is a line that runs the length of the boat on each side so you can attach your tether to it. I have a PFD withn a built in harness just for this purpose. Vicki does too and so do 2 of the three PFDs she brought up from below. So Shayla does not have a harness on her PFD, I do and am at the helm. Guess what hapens.... I know go forward to help with the reefing. Guess I am 3 for 3 then. That was interesting. Moving with the tether, having to unclip to get around the shrouds.and then up to the mast. We got the reef in about 5-10 minutes later and we all headed back to the cockpit.

Rob took over the helm and we were all watching the seas build and the wind get stronger. A few minutes later Rob recorded a 31kt gust, we were steady at about 25kts. Remember the math I talked about in the last post? It works out to about 29mph steady and the gust was about 36 mph. Now we had not even raised the sails yet, we were just motoring. So we exchanged glances and our instructor "suggested" that maybe we should head back. Now of course she has the experience for this stuff but none of us had been in it before so erroring on the side of caution, we headed back in.

I think Rob docked Aerie and it went without a hitch. We decided to do our written testing up at the clubhouse so at least something was done on Saturday. The first test was our Basic Coastal Cruising exam. ASA 103. We had some good review sessions but it had been a while since I was able to read the material so I was cautiously optimistic. Vicki scores the exam, not bragging at all as I doubt I could do this again but, I got 98 out of 100 correct and the two I got wrong, I wrote down one answer wrong and the other one I misread the question.... ooops.... Oh well.

So then after a review of the systems on the boat and other things for our our next exam, Bareboat Charter, ASA 104, we sit down to take the test. This one has 117 questions on it and is more difficult. I was really nervous on this one as some of the questions I had no idea what they were saying so I kind of guessed. Well at least I got all the navigation questions right. Guess I should have seeing as I got my ASA 105 Coastal Navigation cert. last winter. Anyway, I got 90% on this one so thankfully I passed that one too. So nice to have the written exams out of the way finaly.

So after testing Parry and I went down to the boat to put the sail cover on, hook up the shore power and what not. We did happen to grab a 6-pack of Killians at the clubhouse to take with us. I think we earned it to be honest. So we had that while getting the boat buttoned up. We returned with the chicken and cous-cous we were going to have out on the hook that night. Oh yeah and the 2 bottles of wine too. So we grilled up the chicken, made up the cous-cous and had a nice dinner together.

We polished off the first bottle of wine with dinner and then after cleaning up we all headed back to the boat for a few more cocktails. I opened up the bottle of Jameson, Rob had his rum. I think the gals had more wine and Parry had some more beers. We talked for a while and Vicki had checked the weather too. All the blustery stuff had stopped about 7pm, just like the night before. Really wish we could have spent at least one night out at anchor but, maybe next time. So after a couple of drinks we all head to bed hoping the wind is good for Sunday as we need to practice anchoring and be back to the marina by 2:30pm or so, so we can all get home before dark.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sailing (finally) the Apostle Islands - Day 3

We arose at the usual 6:30ish in the am and headed up the hill to the clubhouse to shower. Sleeping on the boat is really not that big of a deal. Especially when tied to a dock in a nice protected harbor. After we all were showered and back at the boat we headed to Northern Edge, it's where all the locals go in the evenings to get away from all us invaders. Food was pretty decent and the price wasn't bad. Had the lodge feel to it. Seemed like a place I could go lift a few with good friends and talk all night.

After we got back we checked the weather. As I said before, we are planning on spending two nights out in the islands at anchor. Well the weather had a different plan. Nice temps but, the winds are supposed to build throughout the day and in to the night. Starting at a nice comfy 10-12kts and then building in the afternoon to 20-25kts with higher gusts. Seas are to be 2-4 feet over night. Not very comfortable for sleeping. So we decide to just sail today and see about anchoring out tomorrow, Saturday, night. Click for Map of the Apostles.

We leave the dock under good conditions, get out in to the North Channel, and off we go. A beautiful late morning for sailing. We practice some tacks, a few jibes, and of course the fun filled man over board drill. Everyone gets a couple of chances as we sail up the channel between Madeline Island and Basswood Island.

We also get to do a nice little thing called "putting in a reef" while sailing, which we should have done at the dock, that is the best place to do it. We got to do this twice. Reefing for those that do not know shortens the main sail so that it does not have as much power, as the winds were building. We also rolled in our jib some as we had a roller furling jib. So as we are doing the first reef, I am standing on the deck at the mast holding the main halyard winch handle. I am holding the handle so I can slowly lower the sail so my crewmate, Rob, can put in the first reef point. All goes quite well, oh and we didn't have our PFD's on either. Another thing you always do when scampering about in higher winds and seas. So a little while later the winds are building more, probably around 15kts or so sustained. Multiply by 1.15 to get mph, save that math for a little later in regards to Saturday... So back up to the mast I go with Rob, why us two again I am not sure.


I have the winch and Rob is putting in the second reef point. Now when doing stuff like this you want to point the boat "head to wind" so the sails lose their power and the boat is more comfortable. Read "no heeling". Our helmsman, Parry lets her drift a bit from head to wind to close hauled and she starts to power up and heel to about 15. I, apparently Perry tells me later I said this with "urgency" in my voice, say "Can you get her back pointed head to wind please!". Just didn't want to fall in to 50 degree water from a boat doing 6kts without my PFD. When she started to heel, it got my attention.

So we get back to the cockpit and all is good. Just stuff you have to do sometimes when sailing. Perry was laughing about how I asked him to head'er back in  to the wind and all was OK, we got it done and all still in the boat. At around 2pm I think, no I did not keep a detailed log as this is all by memory now, we figure we should head back to the marina as things are still building and we are about 10-12nm out.

So we concentrate on sailing back, we do a couple of tacks to get on a course that we can just sail straight to the marina on. I take the helm for a while. We have 15kt winds, gusting to about 20kts, the boat is doing about 5kts, and the water is about 180 feet deep where we are. Its geting a bit darker as we sail along.

After sailing for a while longer the sun is nearly down so we fire up the motor and motor-sail the rest of the way back in. We get in about 7:40 or so, sunset I believe was 7:32 so yeah, it was getting dark.

But we made it OK and got Aerie tied up at the dock. About 8:30 we head in to town to go for pizza at Ethels. Great pizza, decent prices, nice atmosphere, and they had a local Wisconsin brewery beers. New Glarus Brewing, I had a Fat Squirrel. It is a nut brown ale and very good I thought. So I had 2.

After a lot of good pizza we walked down the street to the piers there and just looked out over the lake. Wind was blowing nicely and the moon was just coming off of being full. This was when I just sort of got lost in the moment and thought how much I missed the 2 most important people in my life (Sam & Stu) and how I wanted to share this with them. It was truly amazing what I was doing and I couldn't wait to do it with them.

So after waxing nostalgic, we walked back to my vehicle, headed back to the boat, and climbed in to bed. I still had a case of the "miss-you's" as I fell asleep....

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Sailing" the Apostle Islands - Day 2

So we all awoke about 6:30am or so and headed up to the marina clubhouse to shower and what not. Our instructor Vicki suggested we go to Egg Toss for breakfast in Bayfield. It was a nice small town restaurant with good food and decent prices. We went around the table and discussed why were there and what our sailing experience was. The Egg Toss is owned by the same gal that owns Maggies and Wild Rice restaurants in Bayfield. We also decided on what we wanted to get at the grocery store as we needed to provision the boat.

After breakfast we headed to I think the only grocery store in Bayfield A small little place but they semed to have everything we needed. Remembering we were in Wisconsin, we were able to get a 6 pack of Summit lager and two bottles of wine. At 9:30am.... why do I think that is such a good thing? Anyway, so we headed over to this little bakery, actually not everything is "little" in Bayfield... I can't remember the name but it was close to the grocery store. We ordered a blue berry pie. They will make it fresh and we are going to pick it up that evening.

So now that we have our provisions, and food, we head back to the marina and on to the boat. Its about 11:00am or so, wind is not so bad and the sun is out but it is still a bit cool out. Vicky let's us all know that seeing as it is pretty much mid-day, we are going to do docking practice. Did we ever do docking practice. Over and over and over... Each person piloted the boat at least 3 or 4 times and we switched on the dock lines each time.

We all did relatively well with the docking. I think we only had one time that I thought the boat was going to hit the dock, hard. But after a little panic, I was on the spring line and it slows the boat after it is in the slip, I had it around the cleat and no damage. There is a saying in boating, only come in to the slip as fast as you want to hit the dock. We practiced docking with a slip on the port (left) side of the boat, we practiced with the slip on the starboard (right) side of the boat. Until about I think about 6 or later as it took each person about 10 minutes each time. we would leave the slip, go out to the harbor entrance, turn around and come back in. Reverse with this boat was a bit interesting as it has pretty bad prop-walk to port so you had to compensate for that. So this day, we didn't actually sail at all.... but we needed to practice docking.

After we finally finished with the docking practice, we headed in to town for dinner. We went to Maggies, lots of flamingo sculptures but decent enough food and atmosphere. Prices aren't awful either. We decided that evening that we wanted to spend two nights on the hook. Out in the islands at anchor. We were all looking forward to that. After dinner we headed back to our boat. Vicki went back to the other boat across the way and left us to get aquainted. Perry and I each had a beer in the cockpit and Rob had some of his rum. After that we were all pretty tired so we called it a night. I was really looking forward to sailing the next day and spending a couple nights out on the water. Weather permitting of course....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sailing the Apostles - Day 1

I know that I said that the next post was going to be from the dock but, that just did not work out. There just was not enough time to think about writing a blog entry. So I will start from the begining and go through the whole trip. As you can probably imagine, this could be a bit long......

I left about 11:30am or so and headed up north 35 to Duluth. It was a cool day which I didn't mind as then I could have the windows cracked on my vehicle on the way up. The drive up to Duluth was very uneventful. Light traffic as most people were at work and the weather was great.

It has been probably 30+ years sice I had last seen Lake Superior and seeing her as I came over a hill to head in to Duluth was awe inspiring. Just the shear size of the body of water makes you feel insignificant. Seeing the lake did get me back in to the "mood" for the weekend, it had dulled a bit with the drive up the interstate.

Crossing the bridge over to Superior, WI was incredible and I wish I wasn't driving as I would have been snapping a few pics. I have never been to Superior, WI, quaint little town as far as I could tell. Only issue there was the train that held up traffic for about 10 minutes. Not really a big deal.

So after the train I head through town and on to WI Hwy13, the scenic route that kind of follows the edge of the lake. I didn't see the lake for a while as the trees were all in the way and I suppose the road really wasn't that close.

About an hour or maybe more from Bayfield I started to see the lake again through the trees. I was getting a bit more excited now and I finally found a wayside rest to pull in to. Basically a parking lot, some yard, a little permanent grill, and a glorified out house. The view was great. Seeing the lake and not seeing land on the other side.

I stayed for a few minutes to take some pictures, even contemplated climbing down the "hill", kinda steep, to get to the water's edge but thought the better of it. All I needed to do was slip and ruin the weekend with an injury.

So off I continued towords Bayfield. I took County Road - C as there was construction and the road was closed a few miles from the wayside rest. A bit of a detour but it actually brought me in through Washburn and then up a little north to Pike's Bay Marina where the boat was.

Getting to the marina was a relief. Finally here!!! I found the boat, not bad for 30 years old or so. Thom Burns, the owner of the school I go through, was on the boat as the binacle compass had broken. Glass top was off and some oil on the deck. I helped him get that off the boat and we chatted for a while. Was glad he was there as I got to the boat about 4:50pm and my instructor didn't get back in with a Family & Friends class until about 7pm. That boat was in a slip behind my new home for 4 nights.

Our boat's name is Aerie, a 70's vintage Islander, 36' LOA.

As I was talking to Thom he showed me around and I picked a place to sleep, I guess you could call it a berth. More like a thinly padded couch. But, it is a boat after all, not the Ritz.

Around 7:30pm I had had enough of sitting around waiting for the rest of the people to show up so I head over to the marina next door as they had a Bar/Restaraunt, and I needed food and yes, a beer or a couple.... Was kinda spendy but OK... After dinner I met up with one of my other class mates. Perry, a mainframe programmer from Plymouth. He convinced me to go back to the bar for a couple more..... yeah that was difficult. So we headed up for a couple more as our instructor, Vicki, went over to the boat she was just on to spend the night. When Perry and I got back, we noticed our other classmates, Rob & Shayla, Rob is an electrical engineer and his wife Shayla is a physical therapist for Fairview, were already in the v-berth sleeping so we decided to call it a night.

So now that I have been typing and organizing pictures, I think I will post only a day or two at a time. So this is the conclusion of day one of my trip. As the first volleyball game is tomorrow night and then football and volleyball two days later, I am thinking posting this all will take longer than the actual trip. Until the next post.......

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Off to the Apostle Islands

Well I am packed and pretty much ready to go. Just have a small bit of laundry to do and then get through the next 4 hours of work and I get head out. The weather looks like it is going to be perfect. high 70's to low 80's all through the weekend and the winds will be up around 10-15 for the most part. I will be with another couple and the instructor, so 4 of us. Hoping that the weekend goes well and that the weather does hold. Have my foulies packed just in case. Along with some other important items like my PFD, navigation tools, some books to study for the courses I am taking, a bottle of Jameson, and 4 cigars. 2 Romeo #1's and 2 Macanudo's. You know, the imprtant stuff. Anyway, I am going to try to get some work done. Next post will be from the dock......

Monday, August 23, 2010

Weekend sail...

Went to the marina on Saturday with the kids for a lil afternoon sail. Had the boat reserved from noon til 4pm. Sat and waited for the folks who had it that morning as they were about 15 minutes late. Another checkbox in the Get My Own Boat column... Anyway, we headed out and sat in the middle of the bay trying to find some wind, weather guys said it was a steady 7mph. My, they were very optimistic. So after an hour we decided to head in, maybe Sunday would be better.

Sunday morning my friend Bob called and confirmed that he and his two kids would be joining the 3 of us for sailing that day. Headed out to the marina, the forecast was for about 8-12 that day. No worries on anyone having the boat that morning so we were able to get right to loading up and heading out. Wind was OK, about 6-7 as we headed out in to Gideon Bay.

Raised the main sail, rolled out the jib and we were off! Holding steady but not setting any records. Which isn't a bad way to start the day. Crossed the point on the east side of the bay and finally picked up some good wind. We had been doing a few tacks to work our way out of the bay and head northeast up the length of the lake.

Then the wind picked up nicely to about 10. Sails were trimmed in a bit so we had them powered up good and we were making great headway. It took us about 15 minutes to go as far as we went in an hour the day before. My daughter Sam and Bob's daughter Mia planted themselves up on the bow. I dunno, must be a girl thing... and us guys, myself, Bob, my son Stu and Bob's son Trent were back in the cockpit running the show.
We spent the day tacking back and forth, east and west across the main part of the lake. The J-boat fleet from I think Wayzata Yacht Club came out for racing. That was a sight to see, 30 or so sailboats so close together, maybe more. We were going along quite nicely, avoding power boats. We did catch a few wakes and one time almost buried the bow in a wave. Which was actually quite fun. We averaged about 5-8 degrees of heel though, some times we were at 15 and once for a bit we caught a nice gust and we put over to about 22. That got everyone's attention. Stu and Trent were helping crew the boat as I skippered and Bob was somehow in charge of refreshments. Not sure how that happened but it worked well, though he could've brought a couple more Spaten's.

So after about 3 hours we headed back in, the wind stayed good and we were able to head back on a nice close reach that became a beam reach as we headed back in to the bay to drop the sails and motor in to the slip. All in all it was a great day of sailing and I am looking forward to many more to come.

Just need to find "the boat" and we can sail all we want, whenever we want.....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Well here I am...

So I decided to make a blog, heck everyone is doing it right? I figured I would do a sailing blog as it is something that I have l grown to enjoy quite a lot. I figured I could relay my adventures on the great expanse of Lake Minnetonka, dodging power boats and other "stuff". Sure that will be exciting!! And also any additional adventures to larger bodies of water. Such as my upcoming trip to the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior.

My experience level is that I started sailing in September of 2009. Sailing had always been one of those things I had wanted to do every since I saw sailboats up close at the "Great Midwest Sports Show" way back when I was about 13 or 14. Long time ago, that's all ya need know.... Anyway, I had no idea how to get started back then and seeing as my family were not "boat people" there was no real oportunity there.

Fast forward about 30 or so years and after marriage, kids, divorce..... you know, the usual life stuff. It hit me one day to just go do it. So I hopped on the Interwebs and with that trusty Google thingy I found me a sailing school on Lake Minnetonka and took my ASA 101, Basic Keelboat class. I was hooked from the start, loved every minute of it. So after getting that certification I moved on to ASA 105, Coastal Navigation. I figured I might as well know where I am going so I don't run in to anything or end up where I don't want to be. Though, depending on where you end up, that could be OK.....

So now this season as a member of the boat club, I get to sail their boats! No insurance or slip fees or other ownership worries. I sail primarily a 26' Pearson sloop on Lake Minnetonka. My kids even seem to enjoy it.... So we sailed almost weekly this season. The season is winding down and with school and HS sports starting up, sailing in the evenings is pretty much out but, we still have the weekends.

This has been an amazing experience for me to do. Nothing quite like turning the motor off, with the sails up, and gliding through the water. A nice 8-10kt breeze moving you along. Its hard to describe what sailing does for me but, I am so relaxed on the water. Even when we have to come in and drive home, I feel so much better. I refer to it as Pacis Mens, latin for Peace of Mind... And I guess that is what sailing does for me, gives me peace of mind...