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....