Thursday, July 31, 2008

Brilliant "Sound and Light" Finale to Speakeasy's Adventure

Jim Haring, good friend and master sailor, drove up to Port Washington Sunday. Mark drove Jim's car back and Jim and I spent two days sailing to Chicago.

Yesterday we started from Racine at 8:30 and decided to sail all the way back to Chicago. First the lake was like glass. No sun. Just muted shades of gray from above the horizon to the boat. Then the lake started undulating. Wide broad ups and downs. Then choppy. One patch with strong wind and white caps. Then calmer. Then waves began to build. By now we have been sailing - sometimes with engine on - for 12 hours. Chicago is visible from miles away. As we get within 6 miles, we see lightning. Jim says, "That's just heat lightning." I haven't heard that term in years. As the city gets closer and the city lights begin to sparkle, the lightning increases. Behind Chicago the sky explodes in bright voluminous bursts. We hear the huge thunder strikes. I do not want to be caught in lightning. Thoughts of Sarah recently having been hit by lightning flash through my brain. I throttle up. Can we beat the storm?

The winds pick up. We furl the jib and head in through the outer breakwater wall called the 'Gap' with the Chicago Light to our right. Red right return. I remember that we sailed through here at the start of the trip one month ago. My eye catches the instrument panel above the wheel for one split second. Gust of 50 miles per hour. I do not allow myself to think about the speed but try to keep a course. We manage to take down the main sail but the Dutchman system intended to neatly fold the sail up along the boom doesn't work in such high winds. The sail flies out almost over the side of the boat. Jim gets two sail ties wrapped around. I have enormous difficulty finding the next opening. I know I'm looking for a red light atop a tower--some 30 feet or more above the lake. However all the city lights flashing red and white make it almost impossible for me to find. In addition there's a blinking red light on some building behind the red light that I'm trying to keep my eye on. Usually when you come through these breakwater walls, the sea gets calmer. Not tonight. I turn over the helm to Jim who steers us to Speakeasy's mooring ball North Juliet 23 as if he's been going there on a regular basis. We're almost at the mooring ball. The skies open. The rain comes down so hard it hurts. Precariously poised on the bow, I reach as far as I can to grab the mast buoy that is attached to the mooring bridle. I pull up the lines and hold on for dear life. Finally I'm able to attach the two ends through the bow cleats. We are safe and sound and I am soaking wet.

Jim and I huddle below in the cabin until the lightning subsides. A Monroe Harbor tender boat comes to fetch us. We get to the Columbia dock. Mark meets us with Bob Bradley's car. He drives Jim home. He drives us home. I don't even go to my apartment. Right to 1001. Mark draws us a hot bath. He pours two glasses of wine. I stumble out of the bath, dry off and fall into bed. So happy and relieved to be back in Mark's arms.

I sleep. What a grandious finale to Speakeasy's Adventure. Yes, I'm capitalizing Adventure--from Harbor to Harbor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


It seems strange not to be on Speakeasy, not sleeping, eating, and sailing on her. I'm not testing lines or swabbing the deck. I'm not checking her oil or raising her "Don't Give Up The Ship" flag. I'm not on water and I don't see a different lighthouse every day. I'm home, although Speakeasy seems more like home than my historic condo building in Chicago.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Beth's iPhone and laptop got soaked along with the nav station contents due to a hatch being partially open (deceptively unclosed). The phone may be unrecoverable, but the laptop came back to life after the keyboard dried.

A day later, the laptop 'O' key went bad, but the iPhone came back to life. The iPhone didn't last long. It began overheating. After cooling it in the icebox, it took a charge and came back to almost normal, but not normal enough to be useful. Half of the screen no longer responds to presses so only half of the programs can be accessed, half of the keyboard, half of the voice mail messages, etc.

Friday, July 25, 2008


A harbor is a place of safe haven or refuge. This morning while on our way to White Lake from Ludington we chose to enter a closer harbor rather than suffer 7 more hours of head wind and 4-foot waves. A thunderstorm was in the forecast and we didn't want to run into it. Pentwater beckoned and we aimed Speakeasy for its light. 

Pentwater is a very special place on the Friday following the Race to Mackinac (The Mac). Many of the participants raft their boats at the Yacht Club and throw themselves a big party. We are docked at Snug harbor, just past the Yacht Club and have a grand view of the festivities. 

We were happy to get a slip because of all of the activity. Beth called on the VHF radio and was welcomed to slip 6. Something was not usual about the radio message if I heard correctly. I thought I heard "stern-first." Speakeasy has never gone into a slip stern first. We approach slip 6 and immediately see why we must dock stern first--there is already a boat in the slip, which is bow first. I hastily review in my mind and with Beth the Maryland way to dock stern first--approach the slip from the channel (preferably into the wind), turn the bow away from the slip entrance, apply reverse to draw the stern into the slip, apply lines as necessary. Okay. Got it. BUT, there was a 10--15 knot cross wind and I had never actually done this!

The first attempt was pretty good, but Speakeasy came up short and we tried again. The next attempt was even worse--too close to neighboring boats. Nonetheless, dock hands had our lines and after some fending we were docked. Safe harbor! 


Wind is the reason to sail and the reason a sail turns into a foil to propel a boat. Wind can also turn on you. We've avoid high winds on our trip, but be didn't avoid a day with no wind at all.

Up with the sun, we motored out of Frankfort. The glassy Lake was just as flat as the harbor we had just left. Knowing that the weather report called for no wind, we didn't even take the sail cover off. A course was set for Big Sable Point and the autohelm did the rest. While the boat sailed itself, Speakeasy's passengers read and told stories. We even lit the stove for a warm lunch.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Leisurely en route to Ludington

We are seated in the cockpit. Mark's reading John Barth's The Last
Voyage of Somebody the Sailor, and I've started Robert Stepto's Blue
as the Lake. The autopilot is keeping a true course of 205 degrees
towards Big Sable Lighthouse after which we'll cruise into the marina.
This is very much a day of leisure.

I've just had a cell phone call from brother Bob. Sixty miles south of
us, he's also on the big lake and he already has landed one fish in
his little boat. He will drive up and join us for dinner providing
the main course which we'll cook on our little grill on the stern.

My mother grew up in Ludington. She spent her summers diving off the
lighthouse wall. Two years ago as the sun set, Bob, Thomas, Sarah,
Felicia and I walked to the lighthouse and just as the sun's evening
glow filled the sky, I slipped her ashes out of my backpack into the
water. This afternoon as Speakeasy enters the harbor, I'll wave in her
direction. "Mother! Look at what your little girl is doing now!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Today we sailed at sunrise because of a long distance to go and fair winds. It's a very pleasant sail from Grand Traverse through the Manatou Channel when the the wether is good. It is often foggy or windy. The waves can build quickly between the islands and the shore as wind forces down the channel. Today, however, conditions were ideal--NW wind at 10-15 knots and blue sky.

Frankfort, south of the Manatous, is a lovely village--actually part of twin villages, Frankfort and Elberta--with a clean and handsome marina. Marinas are all different, most Michigan harbors have a municipal marina with some State aid and consistancy. Most of these compete with private marinas and yacht clubs for docking business.

Docks, or slips, are far from uniform in each marina. The traditional slip consists of pilings that one loops lines over at the four corners of a boat. Most marinas have some variation of this, usually offering cleats or loops in addition to pilings for tying dock lines. Some marinas have floating docks, which are lower than the normal docks fixed to posts. We've also docked on walls and ends of docks when slip spaces are filled.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The last time I anchored a boat of any kind was just after the new
year in 1984. I remember how to do it in broad strokes--prepare the
spot, ready the anchor and drop it, slow back the boat until enough
rode is let out. This morning we got out books to review the process
and vocabulary.

We are very familiar with mooring to a floating can in Monroe Harbor
and we're improving at docking and entering slips head first. By
comparison, anchoring should be a simple extension of mooring to a
can. The books are helpful, but I can't believe that anyone would ever
sail at all if they had to read and understand Chapman (the bible of
boating) before they sailed. Chapman's jargon is dense. I understand
only every third word.

By noon we had checked the anchor and rode and were ready to practice
anchoring. We heard in Leland that Omena bay had a good anchorage and
it was on the way to or next harbor at Northport. The wind was light
and on our nose, so sailing was not in order. Instead we would
concentrate on anchoring.

As we got closer to Omena, we could see that it was picturesque. Sandy
shores, trees and houses mingled together. The were a few boats at
anchor near a beach and what must be the village center.

As we got closer were realized that the water level decreased rapidly.
We circled a possible snchoring spot a couple of times, but it went
from very shallow to too deep very quickly. We moved on a bit and
found the same issue--wildly fluctuation depths. Then, Beth said "we
are stuck." Sure enough, I good see the bottom all the way around the

I'd read in a magazine the a keel could often be freed from the bottom
sand by shaking the boat from side-to-side. The picture in the
magazine showed multiple beefy men leaning out over the beam. I could
see how that might help, but I wasn't sure if Beth and I could put
enough weight into the maneuver. I tried shaking the shrouds while
Beth reversed the boat. In seconds we were free!

Lesser sailors would have abandoned the lesson there and then, but not us. We persevered. Explored the bay a little more to starboard and spied a diving bird--was it the loon? Oops! stuck in the sand again! Deeper than before.

I circled the boat to see how deep it was and where it might be deeper. I could clearly the bottom sand. There was a bit of deeper water off our starboard quarter (thanks to Bob for the "quarter"), but reverse and full reverse did not get us free. I began shaking the shrouds to rock the boat in hope of loosening us. No go. Beth and I had a conference. We decided to shake the boat and use full reverse simultaneously. "It's free," Beth shouted, but I could not feel any motion. She was right, though. We were moving ever so slowing back to deeper water. Within a few feet it was 60 feet. 

A boat had just entered the bay and anchored ahead of us. The owner, Glen (it turned out) was now in his dinghy and rowing toward us. He was either going to scold us (Beth's theory) or give us assistance (mine). It turned out he did neither although he would have given us assistance had we needed it. We told him our story--anchor practice step 1, find a suitable spot. He applauded our practice. He said most sailors don't practice and do it badly, but this was not a good bay to practice in. Its bottom was too uneven. Glen, it turned out was a sailing instructor and taught anchoring. He listen to our story some more and offered his own advice while we drifted our boats. Glen had been anchored the previous night when a strong wind began to blow. He was up most of the night worrying about whether his anchor would hold and whether or not to set a second one. Setting a second anchor during a strong wind is dangerous. One must get in a dinghy with the second anchor and place it about 45-degrees off of the first anchor. It's better to do that before the wind starts to blow. 

I don't need the T-shirt that says "Leland Michigan Simplify"

Because that is what I am doing. I'm simplifying my wardrobe, my make-up and my life. Two nights ago, I unzipped a large zip lock bag (zip lock bags are a godsend on boats because they keep out moisture and mildew.) I filled it with 4 T- shirts, 2 blouses, 3 trousers and several pair of socks. Then I squeezed out the extra air and stowed my unnecessary clothes under the salon starboard side berth along with the sail covers. Except for lip gloss and mascara, I've given up make-up. I know the real me wears eyeliner and blusher, but it's not necessary now! My plastic see-through cosmetic case contains Dial soap, Lubriderm, Neutrogena SPF 70, and Degree deodorant. The case has a little loop so it's easy to hang up in the harbor shower stalls which range in decor and cleanliness from luxurious to primitive but probably not worth a blog entry. Oh, yes, I have one toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss. Shampoo and conditioner. That's it!

Except for shoes. I have five pairs of shoes and some brand-new knee-high rubber boots on board. We have a rule that you must wear shoes on the boat. Flipflops and sandals do not count. The shoes must be skidproof and not leave marks. So I have flipflops for the shower stalls. Tevas for the beach. Sandals to walk on the boardwalks, plus two pair of boat shoes. They do keep me from skidding. In Leland we met Kimberly and Wayne. Two years ago she went on the deck of their sailboat and slipped on some oil. She rammed her ankle on the binnicle. Bones shattered. She now has nine pieces of hardware in her ankle. Knowing that reminds me to walk and not rush around the deck. Walk slowly. One hand for me. One hand for the boat. Speaking of hands, I have sailing gloves with leather palms. They are mandatory for pulling and releasing lines (on a boat ropes are mainly called lines.) I have three hats for varying degrees of wind and weather.

That's it. Except for foul weather gear and my life jacket. They don't call it a life jacket any more. It's a PFD which you can also wear on a PWC or a VLSV or a TLTB. I don't like abbreviations, but that's another blog!

In the meantime, I'm still working on simplifying my life. Ending here will help.

Monday, July 21, 2008


The distance from Leland to Suttons Bay is not far. In fact a
reasonably fit person could walk there in a couple hours. By boat, it
is nearly 40 miles and takes most of a day.

To enter Grand Traverse Bay one must go North and then circle back.
Once we made the big turn, we lost most of our wind and our
instruments lied to us about wind direction. With the motor on and
sails extended, we made no more than 5 and-a-half knots and usually much less.

Shortly after crossing the 45th parallel from the North in Traverse
Bay we saw our first loon of the trip. I mark my loon
sitings--Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, and, now, Michigan. This was a
special day on the Great Lake.

How do I dock thee, let me count the ways....

So far, we have docked Speakeasy in nine harbors.  Every single experience has jangled my nerves and increased my blood pressure to bursting. Sailing eighty miles across the lake may paralzse.  (I just asked Mark --who is blogging about the loon -- how to spell paralzye and he responded, "Just like it sounds." Right!) So sailing across the lake may frighten me, but docking has become my downfall. Just imagine having to park your car in nine different parking spots. In some you have to pull up to the right, in others you have to pull up to the left.  Some are shallow.  Some have projecting rocks.  Then add the river's current going from west to east. Don't forget winds blowing from east to west. Or north to south or, hell, wind can blow from any direction.  Then add people sitting in their boats drinking beer and margaritas with nothing better to do than watch your antics.  Did I mention that you cannot just put on the brakes?  You have to put the boat into neutral and glide into the slip.  The slip is usually a mere 4 feet wider than your boat.  And remember the boat isn't really a car.  It's more like a school bus that floats.  But without brakes.  So docking has become my undoing.  I want to be at the helm because then Mark can race around the boat flinging lines at harbor dockhands and unsuspecting passersby while fending off hitting the wooden dock with a fender.  I'm never sure how to angle the boat and when to start gliding.  I pray for no wind, no current and at least three people on the dock who know what they are doing.  So far, except for Pentwater, something has always gone amiss.  But we persevere. Maybe next year we'll learn how to anchor.  


A dinghie is a small boat. It can be a sailboat like the Tech Dinghies
I learned to sail on at UW-Madison Hoofers Club. Cruisers in theVirgin
Islands and on Lake Michigan use modified inflatable dinghies as
tenders to get from anchorage to shore or dock.

The inflatables are distinguished by their bottoms (e.g., rigid,
roll-up, high-pressure inflatable), length, and propulsion (e.g.,
oars, electric motor, gas motor from 3-20 HP).

Other dinghies we've seen are all fiberglass and fold-up. Neither of
these has inflatable parts. Also, some cruisers use kayaks to get
ashore and to explore anchorages.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


"A cruise is conceived as a daytime sail from one harbor to another.
You arrive late in the afternoon (say), drop anchor, swim, hike, have
a drink, cook and eat dinner, then perhaps play cards, or simply talk,
perhaps address yourself to a specially recalcitrant part of the
boat's equipment neglected during the day. Everyone in due course
turns in, sleeps soundly, wakes up rested. The whole of the ship's
complement is up, and down, together" (Airbourne, 1975, W.F. Buckley,
Jr., p. 19).

A morning dip in the lake, cherry walnut toast at Stone House Bread and WIFI

12:56 P.M. and all is well in our world. Last night I decided to give up these blogs. I wrote for an hour in my spiral notebook. It was faster and more efficient than pecking away with one finger. Now I am trying again on my iPhone.

Sunday arrived with a placid lake covered with a placid sky. I felt like I was in a Lauren bedding dove-grey photo shoot. We walked to the beach. The water was like glass. The scallopy pattern in the sand under the water were clearly visible. Refreshing.

Now we are sitting at a little table outside the Stone House Cafe. Mark is reading The New York Times and I'm agonizing over my iPhone.

But I do have a point to make: I am where I am today. What a wonderful feeling. I hope to spend more of my time here. In my skin. Paying attention. Smelling summer. Breathing in the breeze. Hearing the bang of the shop's screen door.

I'm wearing my Swiss T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Ich Staune"? Is it a sign? I am astonished.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Leland is a lovely village that featues a river, lake, artists, shops,
and provisions. Leland Harbor is tacked onto the mouth of the Leland
River as if it were an after thought. Since Leland is the only harbor
in a 60 mile stretch, it is usually full and boats are often rafted to
the ends of slips. That's where Speakeasy ended her day--rafted.

After a nice swim in Lake Michigan, we wandered about Leland and
discovered that there would be an art walk that evening. As we
strolled from gallery-to-gallery, I noticed how tired and achey I was.
I sought out chairs on which to sit and cut short conversations with
artists and shopkeepers.

The Riverside Inn was buzzing with families vacationing in this
paradise, but I was not enjoying myself. The air felt cold. I gulped
water. We left our delicious fish meals half eaten and dragged back to
Speakeasy. I was sick.

I had difficulty sleeping and felt nauseous. I sipped water throughout
the night. Finally, about 5 AM, I made it to the head to vomit. Since
then, I'm letting Speakeasy and Beth take care of me.

Friday, July 18, 2008


In the upper midwest one can go north almost beyond civilization. I've
done this in family vacations by car to the north of Wisconsin. In
Miichigan in the Lake, North begins about at Ludington. The harbors
have more trees and wildlife. In Franfort, for instance, there was a
mink making rounds up and down the rocky harbor wall.

Beth's titles are long, light-hearted and possibly silly.

Mark's entries have short titles, often just one word. Since he's the
only one who can actually post, I am distinguishing my entries by
longer titles. Since I am typing these postings using one finger on my
iPhone, I am being more succinct than usual. Case in point.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


There are hundreds of lighthouses on the Great Lakes. The Michigan
Maritime Musem in South Haven shows examples of the basic lighthouse
types--cyllindrical, conical, and so forth. My favorite type is the
school house light, which combines a building (often painted bright
red) with a light.

Today we sailed with the wind at our back from, Manistee to Frankfort.
The white lighthouse could be seen from a few miles out even in the
haze. Although many lighthouses have been replaced with simple lighted
towers, the lighthouse, regardless of type, is a beacan for us.

The Frankfort Library is at the harbor and was full of patrons
tonight. A photographer was presenting a slide show of many of the
Michigan lighthouses, comparing historical photos to his own. Judging
by the overflow audience, interest in lighthouses is keen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This season has been filled with weather--cold, wind, rain, hail, and
worse. Summer is 3 weeks old and one of the summer patterns has
finally emerged and it isn't good for sailing--calm. Today was one of
those days. Wind was scarce and the lake was like glass.

It was time to head North and NOAA's wind and currents site predicted
that the wind would pick up later in the day so we set off about 7:30
with the engine running and sails up. This is motor sailing. By the
end of 7 hours of motor sailing one longs for the silence of sailing
with the motor off.

Lake Michigan: ferocious, limpid and undulant

 Some days we sail for seven hours on this magnificent body of water.  The water and sky are spectacular. Changes are often sudden.  Sunday we could not have managed to get Speakeasy into the big lake without great danger to her and to us.  Six foot waves, crashing white caps: ferocious. 

Today as we left the Pentwater channel, the lake was destitute of wind or wave: limpid.  Had we not motored to Manistee, we would have been "as idle as a painted boat on a painted ocean. As it was, our reliable diesel engine propelled us northward although we traveled in a haze and could hardly see the shoreline.  We even missed seeing Big Point Sable.

We changed from shorts and T-shirts to long trousers and long sleeved shirts to ward off the hundreds, maybe thousands of little gnats that covered the cockpit floor and seats.  Mark's Buzz Off hat - impregnated with bug repellent - didn't bother them at all.

Sitting on the little elevated "perch," on the starboard stern, I marveled at what I saw.  360 degrees of water. The silvery, slowly rhymic waves emblazoned with crisscross patterns: undulant. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


We would not be able to blog as much without having WiFi Internet
access in some harbors. Normally, I write a bit on my Treo 650
smartphone and mail it to as a post. These posts rely on
T-Mobile or a roaming agent of theirs. Posts are limited to a few
paragraphs by the browser's text field. The browser cannot post or
edit a post using Blogger directly.

Beth has an iPhone that can post and edit on Blogger, but it takes
some getting used to. When editing, only three lines of text are
visible because the keyboard takes most of the screen.

The Powerbook is used as a chartplotter and editor when WiFi is
available. For about $50 will provide WiFi access in
some marinas at some harbors. We were covered in Waukegan, South
Haven, and Pentwater. Grand Haven has a municipal WiFi system, but no

Mark Gillingham
Harbor-To-Harbor Blog:
Speakeasy Photos:

"Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes
and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000
vaccuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1.5 tons." - Popular Mechanics,
March 1949

Pent up in Pentwater

Our sail to Pentwater is long and hot.  The winds die down and leave us stranded.  Mark spends what seems like hours adjusting the sails.  We gain a tenth of a knot....another tenth of a knot.  Then we lose it.  I fix lunch and snacks and try to read Bruce Catton's Waiting for the Morning Train.  

I'm excited to meet up with my brother Bob and we call each other a couple of times.  We never reach each other but manage to leave messages for each other.  His voice messages always appear with a delay of up to an hour.  Just as we are heading into the harbor, I see another voice mail from Robert Rankin.  Without listening to all of it, I call him and say, "Bob, we're just motoring into Pentwater.  We're right at the buoys.  I'm not going to talk any longer.  I will call you once we have found a slip."  I hang up and as Mark steers us through the channel, someone yells, "Slow down, you move too fast."  I look over to the breakwater.  It's Bob!  What a welcome.  What a thrill.  My brother's first look at Speakeasy is as she maneuvers into Pentwater.  

We have confusion about whether we're going to Charlies or Snug Harbor.  All I know is that we need to get the lines ready and fenders out.  Mark slows the boat to allow me to do this.  Then I see Bob gesturing for us to come into a fairlane.  Mark says, "Do you want to take her in?"  Of course I do!

I take the helm.  I think, "Slower is better.  Don't over-steer.  Don't overreact.  Where's the wind?  How strong is the current?" I am delighted to see my brother as well as another man on the dock.  Mark gives me directions in his calm voice.  I get to the slip without any problems.

I've done it!  I have eased Speakeasy into a slip in the elegant and effortless-looking way she deserves! 

Monday, July 14, 2008


Sunrise is a very special time on the water. There is the quiet of the
morning. The secret preparations to leave and quick burst of engine
noise. The fish jump and birds sing. The water shimmers as the sun
rises over the trees and lights the water fully.

Miles melt away with coffee and fresh berries. The sails make the
morning light even brighter. The sun takes over the day until it melts
in the Lake after Speakeasy is safely docked at the next harbor.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Grand Haven is a Great Place to be Tied up in"

"Grand Haven is a Great Place to be Tied up in" is the slogan for the Municipal Harbor and true in our case! We had hoped to sail to Pentwater today which was an overly ambitious goal. By 4 a.m. the winds are outrageous outside the boat. We're moored in a slip one mile inland from Lake Michigan. I peek my head up through the companionway and a gust of wind hits me with full force. It takes my breath away. Usually the winds are lighter in the morning, but not today.

We need to figure out how to proceed. In the meantime, I make coffee. I use a little Coleman stainless steel percolator. I pour water from a one gallon jug into the pot up to the six cup line. Actually there is no six cup line. The lines indicate 3, 5, and 7, but we've learned that six is just right! I put 7 spoonfuls of pre-ground Folgers coffee into the little basket. Put on its top. Then I put on the coffee-pot top. Then I climb up the four steps through the companionway to the cockpit. With the wind blowing loudly, I go to the stern of the boat and open a lazarette. A cylindrical tank of Liquid Propane is stored there. Everyone calls it LP. It scares me because I'm always thinking it might explode. I turn the knob. The gauge doesn't decrease which is a good sign.  Then I go back down the companionway to the Navigation Station to turn the switch to LP which allows the LP to flow to the little stove. So far so good. Then I push in the middle knob on the stove front and turn it to the left. Then I push in the knob on the far left. Click. Click. Click. Finally the flame flares up! I take my right finger off the middle button too soon. The flame dies. I start over. The third time I succeed because I remember not to depress the left hand button until I count ten. (One does a lot of counting on boats!) The flame has taken. Now I turn it lower. Then I hover because once the water pushes its way up through the funnel and through the basket and hits the little glass protuberance on the top of the pot, I need to let it "perk" for 5 minutes. I'm never sure when this will happen and don't want to be doing some other task which distracts me from the task at hand which is making coffee. I set the stop watch on my iPhone to 3 minutes. I reckon it has taken me two minutes to locate the iPhone. 

While the coffee is merrily perking away, I open the top of the refrigerator and dig out a plastic bag filled with Michigan Blueberries. Then I take the spinner dish out of the salad spinner, pour in the blueberries and turn on the tap to rinse these plump delightful berries. I'm not sure how clean this water is as it's been pumped into the boat through the deck from a rubber hose by me at a pumpout/fuel dock/ fresh water dock in Lake Macatawa. Which is why I use only bottled water for the coffee. But wait, that water is boiling so maybe I should be cleaning the blueberries with bottled water and using tap water for the coffee. The iPhone timer goes off. I turn off the coffee. I turn off the tap water.

I pour two mugs of coffee and take them up to the cockpit where Mark has been hanging rags out to dry. It's only 7:15. We sit and enjoy the coffee although the wind is doing its best to beat us down. Once I've had a couple of sips, I retreat down the companionway. The blueberries have drained nicely in the salad spinner. I pour them into two plastic bowls and pass them up along with real cream. Real Michigan blueberries deserve real cream.

We are curious to see how strong the wind is at the lake's edge and walk to Lake Michigan along the board walk. On the way, we come to a "cage" twenty feet by twenty feet. It's a fish cleaning station. Inside four men are cleaning huge salmon. Each man stands at a stainless steel counter which slants down to a center hole into which they toss the head, the tail, the guts. Suddenly this fish garbage disposal is activated as an entire fish slides down and is sucked into the disposal. Its head and tail convulate  like it's gone crazy. One man shouts, "Stop. What are you doing?" The other fisherman don't say a word. They just continue filleting their fish. 

We pass the bleachers where people sit to watch the Musical Fountains after sundown. Now at 8:30 a.m. the Salvation Army Bank has taken the stage. A Sarah Brown sitting in the bleachers gives me a beatific smile. Mark and I join her and the congregation of 40 or so believers. I think of my Aunt Iva and her son John who is a Major in the Salvation Army. I push a couple of dollars in the donation pail. Then we stand and walk towards the Lake.

The waves are gigantic. A red flag announces danger.  Swim at your own risk.  No one is in the water.  Triathalon runners tell us the swimming portion of their event has been cancelled.  We are relieved.

We take a trolley ride, listen to a rock band and wander up and down the main street looking at 200 vintage cars.  Old Fords, Chevrolets.  a fancy LaSalle,  a sexy yellow Thunderbird.  I spend as much time observing the passersby as I do looking at the cars.  We are in Michigan -- cars reign!

We visit the Tri-Cities (Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrisburg) Transportation Museum in the old  train depot. I like the photo of Grandma Whipple on her little ferry boat. 

We have another ice cream one.  French silk.  Not as good as Sherman's in South Haven.
Then we head back to Speakeasy and grill some brats.  Salad with  home-grown lettuce and tomatoes.  More of the berry pie.  Red wine.  The sun set is wonderful.  We do not mind being "tied up in Grand Haven."


I've wondered if all cruisers suffered repair stops along the way like they do in books. Books offer exciting boat failures of major systems like engines, sails, and steering. Most repairs that I know are routine engine checks, winch lubes, gelcoat repair, and so forth.

Our friend, Paul, has a list of repairs that are part of a checklist to complete the purchase of a new boat. He's had this checklist of warranty repairs for over a year. While at the Independance Day weekend in Waukegan, he decided to reduce the list by at least one item. It turns out that his new boat is underpowered because of small propellor. The manufacturer provided a replacement and the warranty work included hoistin a 40 foot sloop out the water to replace the prop. It turned that the new prop was defective and the time and large equiqpment used to hoist the boat was wasted. The checklist was the same length.

While we were waiting for repairs in Lake Mackatawa near Holland, MI we performed many little repairs including preparing bungs to be placed near all of speakeasy's through-hull locations, hanging a fire extinguisher near the cockpit, and assembling a radar reflector so boats with radar could spot us more easily. These weren't major repairs, but ordinary things that sailors do whether cruising or not.

The marina was used to boats that needed large repairs--hull damage, electronics, masts and other rigging, and running rigging. Ours was in the category of running rigging, but the usual rigging expert was on vacation. James was doing his usual job and Dennis', the normal rigger. We had an appointment at the rigging dock at 0800 where there was a very high pole with an electric block and tackle attached. This pole was used to hoist a man up a mast or to help take a mast off or put it on (stepping). James was not ready at 0800 because another boat was in for "warranty service." On his way to Speakeasy, he was called to a job up another mast. Finally, he arrived at our boat. I had no idea how he was going to get the new halyard into the mast and out the side port where it exits the mast on the way to the cockpit through a series of fareleads. James dropped a light line with a fishing sinker tied to it from the top of the mast. Once it was down far enough, he lowered himself and grabbed the line with a small grabbing tool. Whoa! That small line was attached to the halyard and pulled up the interior of the mast over the top and back down to the mainsail.


The United States of America has never agreed on what it wants to be.
It's a rebellious country that at times welcomes immigrants and at other
times shuns them. I'm not sure what traditional Americana is, but I
think I've seen quite a bit of it recently.

The Independance Day celebration in Chicago brings hundreds of
thousands of area residents of many races and ethnicities to a food
festival and fireworks display on Lake Michigan. There is plenty of
ethnic food and music capped by a fireworks display.

Not to be outdone, Waukegan offered food, music, and fireworks too.
The 40 sailors in our group ate at a buffet provided by the Yacht
Club, which featured corn on the cob, fried chicken, and fantastic
cherry pie. Music was provided by a wind band, which played many
interesting and difficult pieces to the delight of the audience. Much
of the audience was of Mexican descent and I observed them enjoying
Sousa marches and twirling sparklers just as I did 50 years ago. I
think that is pretty close to Americana.

South Haven had its own version of Americana with a day-long
celebration on the Black River and the beaches of Lake Michigan.
Dinghies and larger boats floated up and down the river flying
patriotic banners. Cooking was going on in restaurants, boardwalks,
shores, and boats. The day culminated in a grand fireworks display.
More Americana.

It's easy to see Americana on Independance Day weekend, but does it
exit in a rust-belt state at another time. It does in Grand Haven. In
a single morning we saw a Salvation Army Band at the riverfront, a
rock band at a park, and a classic-car show on main street.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Lines (i.e., rope) have different names on a boat according to there
function. For instance, the line used to raise sails is called a
halyard. Halyards are made of tough stuff to withstand the forces of
hauling sails up a mast or stay.

While sailing close hauled in 20 knots and 4 foot waves our main
halyard made a snapping sound. I saw it slacken and the mainsail began
to sag. We headed into the wind and dropped the sail completely.

We reset our course for Holland, MI with just the foresail,which still
gave us about 6 knots. I watched the bow carefully for signs that it
was dipping too low into the waves since our power sail was foreward
now. The waves were decreasing below 4 feet, so the danger was

Our assessment of the halyard was that it had broken at some weakened
section. However, I avoided pulling the halyard completely out of the
mast in case it could help pull in a new halyard. The halyard was
already beyond the sheave at the top of the mast and inside the mast
itself. There was no recourse but to "climb" the mast, but beyond that
it was unclear to me how to get a halyard up the inside of a mast to
the top sheave and back down the othe side to the mainsail.

We were at the mercy of Eldeans in Lake Mackatowa near Holland, MI.
Sailor friends had very good things to say about Eldeans, so we felt
good about our stop at Eldeans Harbor Resort and Marina.

Friday, July 11, 2008


There aren't many organizations that work with as much data as the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA provides
weather information in multiple ways including a Web site and radio

At night and early in the morning we check the site and the radio.
What if NOAA is wrong. For instance, southwest winds at 10 knots is
really northwest winds at 20 knots with 4-6 foot seas. That was our

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

the blueberries and the fly swatter

i will cut and paste later....


I've been a tourist in many villages including the East and West Coasts and Midwest. It's easy to fall into the pattern of strolling from the beach to the shops, which mostly have the same items. I notice that families have a vacation gate to their walk that must be different than "real" shopping back home. To accommodate different generations in the group, the stroll is quite slow and deliberate. Of course, some families have a young skipper or a run-ahead scout, but even the teenagers seem to conform to the vacation stroll.

Being a tourist does not come naturally to me. I do enjoy a good bookstore, hardware store, or toy store (especially if it has a good science or hobbly section), but I'm not a great buyer. I enjoy learning the village shopping secrets--locals shop here, but this store is only for tourists. When I was a teenager I made my summer living (and school tuition) from tourists. This experience makes me very self conscious about being a tourist myself.

Friends Good Will

Our friend, Ellen, is a moving force in the Michigan Maritime Museum's sloop, Friends Good Will--a replica of an 1810 Lake shipping boat. The folks at the museum spoke of Ellen with glorious adjectives including "she's a great singer." Sea shanties are sung aboard Friend's Good Will and Ellen and the captain are leaders.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Our first morning in South Haven threatened thunderstorms and winds,
but the late morning was simply overcast. We'd slept in after the long
day sailing from Waukegan and another fireworks display with its
aftermath of noise. The plan was to take a dip in the Lake, get
breakfast in the old town area, and then get a couple necessary items
at the hardware store.

The Lake dip was cold but refreshing. There are many old and new
cottages near the North Beach area. Some of these cottages are on an
historic walking tour. By the time we showered and returned to
Speakeasy, the skies looked grayer. The radar showed severe weather
had already passed to the north and south. Rain, at least was very
likely. Hatches were closed and rain gear packed as we set out to
cross the bridge at the Black River. Rain with light hail began before
we got to the bridge so we took cover at the Michigan Maritime Museum.
In a couple minutes the wind slowed and so did the rain. We began

Captain Lou's under the bridge has breakfast but they had no tables so
we pressed on through a light drizzle. Clementine's was packed too, so
we pressed on through the light rain. The Golden Bakery had good
looking pastries, but only a cafeteria. Captain Nemo's had a table by
the window and the rain had picked up. Breakfast was over by now so we
settled for lunch. Just after we ordered sandwiches the power went
out. In the dark, we reasoned that ice cream would be better frozen
than melting and ordered some immediately. I had Turtle and Beth had
Chocolate Silk. The kitchen was slow due to the outage, but was able
to make sandwiches, which arrived on delicious rye bread. The rain stopped. 

Now that the rain stopped we could enjoy window shopping and
browsing the shops. The hardware shopping was much less casual. We
needed a good flyswatter--the cheap plastic we had was disintigrating
from the swarms of flies that kept attacking. We also needed a whisk
broom to sweep the deas fly carcuses. The broom was good but they were
out of swatters. Drats.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


It's 4:00 AM and my phone is chiming a wakeup signal. The captain, Beth, has called for an early departure for the 80 nautical mile trip across Lake Michigan. The swallows, which live under the slips, and a more exotic song bird I can't remember the song of are already awake.

The plan is to motor out onto the Lake quickly while cleaning and eating before setting the sails. Dock lines are casted and we're off.

The sun is still below the horizan as I carefully wind and stow the power cable and lines. The fenders, which we thought so highly of a few hours ago when they rotected us from the slip boards are forgotten until after coffee and then hastily stowed. The coffee was the best I'd ever tasted. The sun rose red.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


The Cruisers of the Columbia Yacht Club enjoy getting together at harbors in the southern basin of Lake Michiigan. This weekend we were in Waukegan, IL, which has a good marina with many slips. Other nearby amenities include a regional train, park, Waukegan Yacht Club restaurant, and marine services including boat sales, service, and storage.

We learn a great deal from the cruisers. Tips on docking, fueling, cruising, etc. Speakeasy's backstay adjuster was stuck. I didn't even know how bad it was because I didn't know how to use it. Basically, the adjuster pulls the top of the mast back and tightens the forestay. This can flatten the jib when sailling close the the wind, which improves the sail trim and, thus, sail power.

Really, the purpose of the club is to do something enjoyable (sail) and be with friendly others who like to do the same thing. It's about friends telling stories in the moonlight.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Day one of our cruise began as a spectacular day after a cool evening. Last minute packing and repacking was done so we dragged our gear to the street and grabbed a cab to Columbia Yacht Club. There we split--Beth to the captains' meeting and I to the dock where I was picked up by Mary driving her tender boat. She helped me load the gear and organized volunteers to unload at Speakeasy.

For the first time in recent memory the wind was light. We've had so many windy days with gust of 30-50 kts. Today we motor sail for much of the 27 miles. Or speed varied from a knot to 6 knots depending on wind and engine. Regardless of the speed we had a constant commpanion--flies. Hundreds of flies of different species. Some were smaller and others were larger. Some had red eyes. Some of the flies were biters but none of them were a match for our red swatter. Fly carcuses littered the helm until the white flooring could not be seen.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


When the wind gets higher, Speakeasy begins to heel and it is difficult to control. Reefing the foresail and mainsail helps a great deal. We have only one foresail, a 155% genoa that can be furled on a roller. To reef this sail, we roll the sail so that the sail area is smaller. With a smaller foresail and a reefed mainsail, Speakeasy can sail smoothly in 30 kts or more.

At about 15 kts, Speakeasy likes the main to be reefed. At 20 kts, it likes the genoa to be reefed too. Beyond 20 kts, Speakeasy requires even less foresail until it might be completely furled.

Sue, our sail trimming expert also got Speakeasy sailing better in a light wind by reefing the foresail. This seemed counterintuitive to me, but she reasoned that the large sail was collapsing in the light wind and causing turbulance that slowed the boat. Decreasing the size of the sail increased our boat speed that day by 0.4 kts--quite an increase at 3 kts.

Weather Helm

Weather helm occurs when a sailboat is over powered by the wind. The bow wants to head into the wind and the rudder wants to follow it. This puts pressure on the tiller or wheel. It takes strength and determination to keep control of the boat. To reduce weather helm, one reduces the main sail area by reefing it--on Speakeasy, we ease the main halyard and tighten the jiffy reef line.

The winds in Chicago have been high this spring and early summer due to near-daily storms from the West. While the wind clocked at about 70 mph was wreaking havoc on an art fair a few miles north in Evanston, we were sailing in 30 knots, more or less, away from the storm. Without a reefing system it would be impossible to control Speakeasy in these winds. With all of the recent weather, we've grown confident in the system and have reduced our weather helm.