I thought that Merry and I had a clear understanding that we would sail from Frankfort to an open anchorage at South Manitou Island, after a stop at the huge Sleeping Bear Dune. The first part came off. We passed the famous lighthouse at Point Betsie. The wind was out of the south at 14 mph, and the waves 3 feet or so, as we reached the great dune. We anchored, putting our new 37 lb Bruce anchor down, even though we had never used it before, and since our boat has no windlass, I was not sure that we would ever get it up again. The water temp was 74, and I was able to use mask and fins to see that the anchor was entirely buried in the sand. I convinced Merry that it was so rough, that we should wear our wetsuits when I rowed us ashore in Dimples, our 8 ft dingy. We were able to run the dingy ashore through the surf without too much of a problem. We walked down the beach and found a trail that led up into the dunes. The dunes were full of unique and beautiful wild flowers; we took pictures which we hope to post. We finally got to the high point where we could look down at our little boat. We made our way back down to the beach to discover that the wind and waves increased. We attempted to launch or dinghy but it took waves over the bow resulting in 4 inches of water in it. Merry shouted for me to get in and start rowing. We kept getting thrown into the beach. Merry gave a mighty push on the transom, and did a nose dive into the dinghy her posterior pointed to the sky and her face in the floorboard. We finally got to our boat and were able to set sail.
From North Point to Milwaukee! It took us about 7 hours and we arrived in the dark of night. We picked up a can at McKinley. (Hmmm... it is hard to believe that we could have driven this in about an hour - but must admit that the sailing was beautiful, that is ...until the attack of the FLIES!) I have quickly learned to talk like a sailor as I swing multiple flyswatters.
Onto Sheboygan, shopping, hot tub, pool time, ...a respite after storms and bugs. Yes bugs (plural) - every possible place that a mosquito can truly drive one crazy - ears, toes, fingers, the middle of my back have been bitten. So, when not swinging a fly swatter I am madly scratching.
A beautiful motor sailing crossing to Ludington- a wonderful harbor. A fantastic dinner at P.M. Steamers. We spend the next day swimming in icy waters using tri-athalon wet suits, sailing the fatty knees dinghy without be run over by the Badger car ferry, time in town at the Friday festival - free ice cream, music, etc. , a workout before writing our blogs and plan our next leg of our trip. All is good - we may be slow- but we are having fun!
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.
The mission of the starship Enterprise is "to boldly go where no person has gone before". We didn't do that.
Instead, like last year, we stayed in the Abacos. We had planned to go south to the Exumas this year - a voyage that would involve two (for us) fairly long passages. Our year in Florida and the Bahamas thus far, had included one cold front after another, with high winds "weird weather" (according to some of the Bahamians). We just didn't trust the weather.
Or was it inertia? There are always good excuses for not venturing out. Do they multiply as you turn into an old person - as I am, I turned age 65 in the Abacos this year is now by any objective measure? Apart from some anchorages we had not used before, the only new place we went to was Little Harbor and we didn't even go there in our own boat.
We went out on a dive boat from "Froggies" Dive Shop in Hopetown. It was billed as a "one-tank dive" at Sandy Cay 9a national underwater park), a stop at Pete's Pub (famous for its burgers and drinks) at Little harbor, and then an anchorage at a sandbar, to snorkel for sea biscuits and sand dollars. It was a windy day, and slightly choppy on the way to Sandy Cay, but we had a good dive - lots of beautiful reef fish and a nice moray eel to see. Then, on to Little Harbor, where "skinny water" - only 31/2 feet at low tide - had kept us from venturing their last year. We had been warned by the skipper of the dive boat to order our burgers right away, because Pete's Pub "slow cooks" them and it takes about 40 minutes. This gives you time to explore while you wait for your burger, and there is a nice walkway going to an impressive view of the ocean. After a couple of rum punches, the burgers came and were wonderful. We then walked over to the Johnson Studio, and looked at wonderful sculptures, many of them for sale, and we bought one - a little sculpture of a dolphin the smallest and cheapest they had. Everyone returned to the boat, which departed Little Harbor into increasing wind and seas - maybe three footers (actually, short of a hurricane, seas don't get very large on the shallow, sheltered Sea of Abaco). The skipper decided it was too rough to try to snorkel, so it was just a bouncy wet trip back to Hopetown.
On the way back, we saw Journey, a thirty-foot, over thirty year old Hunter sailboat we had first seen at Vero Beach, Fla. We met the young Canadian couple who owns her. Their plan was to sail down the Bahamas and then to the Dominican Republic and to points south. They are both SCUBA divers. They planned to live on their boat, with her getting a divemaster certification so that she could get a job on a dive boat, while he found some other job. They seemed not to have much money. At Vero, they had anchored in the one little corner of the harbor where a boat can, even though the cost of staying on a mooring at Vero is very modest. They told us that they almost always cooked on their boat, rather than eating at restaurants. They ended up crossing the Gulf Stream a day after we did. Journey's forestay broke while they were sailing across the Gulf Stream, but they were lucky and quick. They managed to avoid being dismasted. They pulled into the slip next to ours at West End to make repairs, and left for the Abacos that same day. We later saw heir boat anchored outside Marsh Harbor, which seemed odd. It turned out that their rudder had broken. They used their SCUBA gear to drop the rudder, repaired it, and then lifted it back into place from underwater. I had seen them anchored outside Hopetown Harbor (which has no space for any boats to anchor) while engaged in my "daily swim", and swam out to say hello. So now here was Journey, with the Sea of Abaco as rough as we had ever seen it, sailing south with "a bone in her teeth," headed for the North Bar Channel and the big waters of the Atlantic. Their immediate destination was the Exumas, and after that to points south, too (for them) the "undiscovered country". The sight of brave elderly little Journey and her young crew caused me to experience a wave of emotion - anxiety over whether the young couple would continue to be safe, and regrets that we had decided to "play it safe" by remaining in the Abacos. I wished that I were young again, unworried about our estate plan our health or mortgage, or kids, driving, Les Miserables south on a strong wind, irrationally confident that we could overcome whatever life threw at us, with no particular destination in mind beyond the as yet unknown "undiscovered country".
In truth, we were never like the young Canadian couple. When we were their age, we could not ever have afforded a thirty-year old sailboat. Our goals were not vague or impractical. Instead, our goals were not vague or impractical. Instead, our goals were specific, and perhaps banal - for me to graduate from law school, pas the bar, start a career as a lawyer; for Merry, to get a teaching job, pursue a career in education; for both of us to purchase a home, to have children and watch and help them grow. When I was young, as I do now, I used to worry about everything. Putting it down in writing makes our lives sound so common, even trite.
Yet, like the young Canadians, we too are heading for the "undiscovered country". The phrase is from Shakespeare (and, by the way is the title of the movie Star Trek VI). The "undiscovered country" is the future. In that sense, we are all on the same voyage. Maybe it doesn't really matter if we stay in the Abacos or voyage south. The Canadian couple are in their "spring, which is young once only" (Dylan Thomas). We are obviously not. But if we make the most of every day and never forget how lucky we have been, to still be on our journey, we can experience the same zest for life as they do.
Bon Voyage, Journey!