07/15/2011, North Point Marina
I have been telling everyone around "J Dock" at North Point Marina that we would have sailed months ago had it not been for my wife's unreasonable demand that we turn the perfectly serviceable ice box on our 30 foot family weekend coastal cruiser into a proper refrigerator. In vain, I pointed out that the traditional Lake Michigan sailor's fare of canned Dinty Moore beef stew and Hormel Chili does not reguire refrigeration. I put up a good fight, and lost only because everyone else in the whole world took Merry's side on this issue, including every person on our beloved J Dock besides me. Larsen"s Marine in Waukegan was going to give me an installation proposal in March, but I told them to "hold off", I had to talk to my wife! So we didn't order the darn thing until 3 weeks before we sailed, which is why our boat was still at North Point when the tornado hit! This happened on the Thursday before July 4th, in the late afternoon, and we were not down at our boat. To our good fortunate Frank, our longtime dock neighbor, was on his boat and ran to our boat when he saw that the back tube of our new Bimini had come out which was twisting with the canvas flapping all over the place. He saved the day by pulling it down and tightening a set screw. Others were not so lucky, 2 boats had their furling Genoa sails come out and were dismasted. Many boats lost all of their canvas and a big cabin cruiser had its fly bridge torn off. One boater was running to his boat to rescue his dog and the storm picked him up swirled him around and dropped him so that he broke his leg. We have a small rip in our canvas and the back tube in our Bimini is bent, but we were lucky.
This won't keep us from sailing. The new refrigeration arrived and Larson's did a great job installing it the following week. On July 10th we said goodbye to our family and our son Brad drove us down to our boat so we could spend the night prior to our departure the next morning. However, our departure was delayed by another a storm with winds of 55 mph and lots of lightening. I wanted to shield our new electronics with my own body! However, we were again lucky and our boat survived although a couple of other sailboats had their Genoa's unfurl and suffered damage. We finally departed from North Point under power around 2 in the afternoon. Our dock had no electricity or water and most of the boats had been moved, so it was mostly a lonely departure. Nonetheless, our adventure begins!
Great friends have celebrated our departure, a beautiful compass rose quilt, clever cakes- sailboats, buoys - sharks- life preservers, provided great company and delivery of our fatty knees dinghy (Dimples) to our harbor , included a facial prior to departure... fond farewells and yet here we are .
Friends at J dock are wondering if we are really going to leave. It feels a little like your ninth month of pregnancy ... when interested friends ask "when are you going to have that baby"!! Our baby is currently... refrigeration. Wiley kept dithering about whether or not we should have (or should spend money on) refrigeration - after all couldn't we just get ice along the way.
However, St. Merry - as his old law firm used to call me - was not so saintly and demanded to be able to keep food that would keep food poisoning at bay. So, we are waiting for the arrival and installation of refrigeration. We will keep you posted but hope that we will be leaving around the 4th of July - if not before otherwise Wiley's new name will be the "iceman".
05/11/2011, Winthrop Harbor, Illinois
So our kids think we are senile... what else is new? We are spending all of their inheritance by pouring money into a hole in the water - our sailboat - Les Miserable - or hopefully less miserable. We need to leave on our trip before they can have us committed!
Our plan, now that Merry is joining the retired life Wiley has lived, is to sail the Great Lakes to the Erie Canal and on to the Inter coastal - to the Bahamas. We will return home as often as needed but plan on a minimum of a full year of traveling should we find that we can continue to enjoy (tolerate?) :-) each others company.
So far to prepare for our adventure and update our boat we have added new instruments (plotting, depth, speed), new cushions in and out, new sails, replaced the stuffing box, dutchman furling system, Bimini and dodger, dinghy motor and dinghy dogs (flotation), purchased charts, installed new LED anchor lights, had the mast and rig inspected, completed our Captain's licensing course, etc. etc.
We are currently working on sanding off 19 years of old bottom paint (a real fun job - NOT!) , cleaning and waxing the hull , and looking into purchasing refrigeration for the boat. Wiley's latest pride and joy is the new 37 pound Bruce anchor!
We continue to plan on leaving during the last week of June and have a long list of to do's as well as hope to do before then. We will keep you all posted.
Green became the color of our arrival and stay in Indiantown Marina. Twelve days ago we recovered our boat in Indiantown Marina from seven months in the burning heat and torrential rain of the fetid swamp and jungle that is called Florida. Les Miserable had been over-taken by the swamp. The deck was spinach green mixed with a black mildew. The ladder we had locked up had vine grown through and around it. A strong tug on the ladder resulted in a long length of vine following me as I dragged it to our boat. Ah, but how could we complain when everything at home was blinding bright white from all of the snow and deep freeze that lingers in Chicago-land.
The swamp jungle would completely take over in a short amount of time if things were left unattended. It truly is amazing to look around at all of the boats left tied down in the boatyard and see how algae, mold, mildew, plants and frogs have taken over. Yes, frogs! Kermit is right though it is not easy being green - "people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky". However, it was not easy for me to pass over them, as they hopped out of and hid in every nook and cranny on the boat. (Additionally, dead frogs are gray not green - you can only imagine how I know that little fact (x's 6)! These are Florida tree frogs and they are about 2-3 inches in length. They are adorable when they are not on our boat. Southern Florida had an unusually wet summer and fall that resulted in this new adventure for us.
We were delighted to find jobs well done by the marina; our new bulkhead was firmly in place in the V and we now have a fuel gage on our engine panel. The new fuel gage means that we no longer need to completely clean out one of our large lockers in the back of the boat and drop over into the locker upside down with our head hanging in the locker to see the fuel gage. This is a special gift as you can imagine how checking the fuel levels could turn you a lovely yellow-green when you are out in this position in a rolling sea.
We have spent our time scrubbing the boat, cleaning the teak, unloading all of our supplies from the U-Haul truck we drove down, putting on the sails, shopping for and loading groceries, and taking in the Palm trees, green grass, and warmer weather. We continue to wait for a new battery, a new battery charger, new blocks for the main sheet and reefing lines, and a new winch. However, as you can only imagine this brings be back to more green $$$$.
We had a short visit with my father and Pat in Summerfield, Florida on our way down in the truck. Unfortunately, my father had a "kink" in his esophagus and had to have a procedure so that he could eat and keep food down. He is amazing - he was patient and then recovered quickly. He was home the same day as the procedure. Pat, as always, is a wonderful loving caretaker and made us feel so welcome even though they were dealing with this new health issue. Pat had us over for a lovely dinner and of course sent us off with special treats.
Two days ago I decided that I should take our anchor rodes out of the locker. I let out a scream as 30+ little frogs came jumping up! My hero, Wiley, came to my rescue and hosed the little mites down the anchor well drain - off they went swimming in the harbor only to return to the boat and begin to climb their way back up and onto the boat once again! My time was spent hosing them down the side of boat and "encouraging" them to find other homes. However, a couple of them had returned by the next morning to what they know as their home - but cruel woman that I am - they were once again deported (Wiley claims that I denied them due process by not giving them a deportation hearing ).
We have talked with our sons back home in Geneva and Algonquin and we were concerned about the dangerously cold weather they were experiencing. Sub-zero temps with wind chills in the -20 to -40 degree range! We "kindly" sent them a photo of us dining in Stuart by some Palm trees -they are a bit jealous and have requested that we send them no more photos with sunshine and stuff that is green surrounding us! Kermit sings... "When green is all there is to be - it could make you wonder why, but why wonder why. Wonder, I am green, and it'll do fine, it's beautiful and I think it's (where) what (we) I want to be."
Home at last. We were reunited with our son Brad, who had done a great job taking care of our house and the beasts who live within it - Barkley (the mutt) and Marmalade (the cat).
Merry taught her course in the EDU program at AU. She loves teaching fellow educators, and was in a great mood every day when she got home from class.
She waited too long to sign up for the class she wanted to take at the school of the Chicago Art Institute, and when she attempted to sign up the class was full. However, she was able to take an oil pastels class in St. Charles with her friend Nancy. She drew and painted all summer, and in my opinion some of her work was wonderful.
We both got together with friends - I with my few, Merry with her many.
Summer in Chicago is magnificent and we took full advantage. We went to five concerts in Millennium Park, of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra. The concerts are both world class and free. We always bring bread, cheese, a bottle of Rhone, and because we are now old (we used to sit on a blanket) our lightweight folding chairs.
Chicago is our nation's greatest city for theater. We saw some great plays. "The Pianist of Willesden Lane", a one- woman-show by Mona Golabek, a concert pianist with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. In the play Mona Golabek portrays her mother, Lisa Jura, who grew up in Vienna with dreams of becoming a concert pianist. Her mother was Jewish, and just before World War II began; her parents were able to place Lisa on a kinder transport - part of an effort by British relief organizations to evacuate Jewish children from Germany. Lisa ended up at a home for Jewish refugee children in London. As Mona Golabek tells her mother's story she morphs into her mother - and plays the classical music her mother loved and played. Her mother even played an old upright piano in the basement of the youth home as bombs went off during the blitz. Lisa Jura's parents both died in a death camp, but because they had incredible courage, which enabled them to place their daughter on the train - the kinder transport- knowing they would never see their daughter again, Lisa Jura lived, and I got to meet Lisa's daughter Mona Golabek after the play. I told her about my father, who fought in the U.S. Army infantry, through France and into Germany during the war.
We also saw Big Lake Big City at Looking Glass Theater with our friends Nancy and Terry, The Pullman Porter Blues with our friends Joan and her husband (Russ) my former law-school classmate. We saw Tribes at Steppenwolf - a play about a family's ability to listen and featuring a deaf actor. We went to famous Second City
(a wonderful gift from Sean and Tesia for Merry's birthday) - A Clown Car Named Desire, with both our sons and daughter-in-law. We enjoyed a production of Miss Saigon with our friend Ron. We also went and saw a marvelous production of Raisin In the Sun with Ron and Shira. We actually delayed leaving to go back to the boat in January so that we could see a preview performance of The Seven Guitars at Court Theater, one of the ten "century series" plays by the great August Wilson.
We bought Merry a road bike when we got back - a fast bike with clipless pedals and skinny tires. Merry went for 20 or 30 mile rides a couple times a week, and we rode our bikes together to Sycamore and Glen Ellyn. In the fall, we drove to Wisconsin to ride the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail, which follows an old railroad right of way, going through three very long and dark railroad tunnels, one of them ¾'s of a mile long!
Merry flew out to Colorado with her friend Joan and spent time at her wonderful home in the mountains. They took daily long hikes in the mountains, relaxed in hot springs, and took in the beauty of the aspen leaves turning. Joana has done an amazing job putting finishing touches on her home - laying floors, making cabinets, and much more.
I completed my tenth Chicago Triathlon this year. I felt that I trained hard all summer, but I did very bad in the actual race. My bike time was a huge disappointment. Well, maybe I will do better in 2014. We both ran the Sycamore Pumpkin run and I did rather well in that race. Our neighbors also ran the race and did well.
We had some work done on Les Miserable over the summer. We also added wood flooring to the master bedroom and hallway. Mark Rawksi, our daughter-in-law- Tesia's uncle did a fabulous job. I had planned to take another course toward an MA in history at Roosevelt University fall term 2013. However, one of the repairs - replacing a bulkhead under the V-berth - was so expensive along with home improvements, I didn't feel that we could afford the tuition at R.U. I hope that I can get a semester done in Fall Term 2014.
So, we did a lot of cool things done between when we got home in June, and went back to the boat in January 2014. One of the coolest was going to the Chicago Symphony Ball concert in September, where we heard Ricardo Mutti conduct music by Verdi, including pieces from Nabucco and Othello, which I liked so much that I bought CD, boxed sets of both operas.
For me, the best times of all were Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house with our families. The turkey, the Christmas tree, all of us together like we pretty much are every year - these were the most spectacular hours of our time hom
When we got to West End, I kind of thought we would spend five or six nights there. It is true that West End is expensive, but on the other hand, the snorkeling and swimming off their beach is great, and the resort restaurant has wonderful seafood and serves wither the best, or the second best Yellow Birds in the Bahamas!
But, no-o-o-o-o, Merry was worried about getting home to teach her June course at Aurora University, and it turned out there was a suitable weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream and Florida Straits the very next night. After that, the weather did not look good for as far out as the forecast went, including the possibility of a tropical storm in a few days.
Instead of spending the day after our arrival at the beach and bar discussing Bahamian government and politics with my Bahamian People's Liberation Party friend Harold Rolle, I spent the day with Merry getting the boat ready for sea. Our old halyard winch squealed and groaned as we once again used it to haul "Dimples" onto the foredeck. By the time everything was tied down and put away, the sun was starting to go down, and we had to go to bed early, because we set the alarm for 0200 - 2:00AM! - our usual time to get up when we are going across.
When the alarm went off, we got up and went on deck. We could see lightening in the distance. When we turned the navigation lights on, one of our running lights would not work: To go or not to go? We went, sailing out of West End with our battery powered emergency running lights duck-taped to the bow pulpit - just lake last year. At least this year, we had a fully functional marine radio. We cleared West End at 0305.
Does crossing to or from the Bahamas in a 30 foot boat ever become routine? So far, not for us. Yet this, our fourth crossing, was largely uneventful. The waves were four to five feet at the start, but had receded to 1 to 3 by mid-morning. We saw dolphins, but only in the distance. The cruise ship Carnival Sensation crossed ahead of us at 0500. Shortly after noon, I talked Merry into agreeing that we stop the boat in the middle of the Gulf Stream - so that I could go into the water with mask, fins and snorkel. Merry made me promise to keep hanging on to the ladder while I was in the water. It was cool to look down at deep blue, crystal clear water 6,000 feet deep! After I got out of the water Merry went in for a look too.
At 1535, we entered the inlet at Lake Worth, proceeded to the beautiful marina at Old Port Cove. We were able to clear customs by phone, using our local boater card.
Then the bad weather hit. It blew and rained off and on for almost a week. We stayed at the marina, having several great meals at the restaurant there- Sandpiper Cove. We rented a car for a few days, and were able to drive out to the big mall and see a couple of movies - Great Gatsby and the latest Star Trek movie. We ate at a great little "French Bistro" very close to the place where you tie up your dinghy if you come ashore from the anchorage.
At last, the weather cleared. We motored up the ICW to Peck Lake - a passage requiring seven bridge openings, five of them restricted (usually opening only on the hour and half hour). After a night at anchor in Peck lake and another day spent going to, and up the St. Lucie River to the St. Lucie Canal and through the locks, Les Miserables was back in Indiantown.