Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bus Roadeo -> Dock Rodeo

Professional bus drivers have been competing in driving contests called bus rodeos (or roadeos) for years. These drivers show off their ability to drive 40-foot buses--in a straight line, back into a blind loading dock, and parallel park.

I'm thinking of getting the local yacht club involved in a docking rodeo to help hone and show-off our skill. I can get the big picture, floating cones as markers for instance, but I don't have an idea about to score ability. Any ideas?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Shift forward

I was raised in Wisconsin where the motto is "forward" and forward is where we found Speakeasy's gear when the shift level popped off as we left the Chicago Lock and headed toward Lake Shore Drive bridge on the Chicago River. The last time we lost gear shifting capability was returning a charter in Road Town, Tortolla, BVI. In that case, we were stuck in neutral and drifted safely to raft on a catamaran.

On the River, we were in little danger. The throttle worked and there was plenty of space in the basin to avoid other craft. The Skipper fetched the tool box and we sought the vice grips. Of course, the grips were safely stored in my tool box at home, rather than on Speakeasy, so I made do with regular pliers until the Skipper talked vice grips out of a fellow sailor's tool box. Let it be noted that in order to move the gear shaft from reverse through neutral to forward requires no more than a 5-inch vice grip. Any longer and the handles of the wrench get caught in the spokes of the wheel.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Drifting in Door County

The GPS tells me we are 144 feet away from where we first marked our anchor using the MOB (Man Overboard) feature. That means we're drifting. It's now after midnight. Jim is asleep in the salon and I'm not asleep in the V-berth. I haven't slept a wink since the winds picked up. Howling overhead relentlessly. Thank goodness we found this little cove on the southern side of St. Martin Island closer to "Death's Door" passage than I want to be.

Half an hour ago, we discussed what action to take. It's pitch black outside. No moon at all or maybe a couple of days into the new moon. I will check that later. Jim suggested we could re-position the anchor and move ourselves closer to shore. But he's taken an Ambien and is very groggy. I don't like the idea of him getting to the bow of the boat much less hauling up the anchor. We had enough difficulty setting it before the sun set and the winds picked up. I didn't realize how hard it was to get the boat into reverse gear. I'm thinking of human error v. staying put.

The rollier it gets, the more we drift. According to the chart, to starboard, it's shallow. To port, there is a shoal. This cove is 3/8 of a mile wide. What the hell is that? I lived in Switzerland so long, that I have meters in my veins, not miles. No concept of three/eights of a mile. We have 125 feet of anchor rode (line) out so we should hold until dawn's early light.

Later, Jim puts the second anchor out by attaching it to the first one. He puts out another 25 feet of rode. Then he goes back to sleep. Not me. I set my iPhone timer for 45 minutes and am always awake as it hits one minute to go. I don't fixate on the GPS which, by the way, frequently beeps to signal it has lost the satelite.

In addition to the relentless wind, the temperature is dropping. I have on ski underwear including knee-high ski sox and on top of that every item of clothing I packed. I wear my Lake Michigan Unsalted hoodie with the hood up. Jim has given me a parka, but I am shivering and I know it's fear. I lie in my bunk with a flashlight, GPS and iPhone.

Every 45 minutes, I crawl out of the V-berth, put on my boatshoes and pad to the stern. I've figured out how to open the hatch. I remove the top panel and crane my neck out the little opening I've made. Aiming the flashlight at the depth gauge, I can see that we are still at 13 feet. Earlier Jim reckoned that if we drift fast, we will drift south...with four miles until we reach Washington Island. But now the wind has shifted. It's coming from the East. That means we will drift into the rocky extension that was intended to protect us.

Should I awaken Jim? No. Let him sleep. I plod back to my berth. It's high so I have to maneuver to get into it. Once in, I reset the timer.

I've been bothered by an insistent tapping. Now it's driving me to distraction. It's not just the sound. It reverberates. Has the boom vang unfastened itself? Mentally, I try to figure out what piece of equipment could make this irregular incessant noise. The next time I check for our depth, I flash my light to see a blue fender attached to the lifeline. The next day I learn that the fender is stored in the anchor locker and Jim hung it to get it out of his way. Hung it at exactly the spot where my head is positioned inside. Of course, I could walk to the bow of the boat and untie the fender, but the waves are strong and the wind is howling. And I don't have a tether. I left Chicago in such a hurry that I neglected to bring mine. That would be foolhardy. So I put up with the irregular reverberation thinking of Edgar Allen Poe's "Nevermore."

Eventually I succumb to a restless sleep. I pray. If the wind pushes us into the rocks, at least we will be on land. But would I be able to get out of the boat to rescue myself.

Daylight creeps in only after 6 a.m. It has been a long weary night. Years ago, Jim Kidd - Congregational minister and avid sailor told me, "Beth, if you're not scared shitless at least twice a year, you're not really alive." I'm certainly set for the next six months at least.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hove To Picnic

Every year the armed services presents their air and water craft on the Chicago waterfront. It's a dazzling display of flight--I've never been close enough to see the water part of the show. Since we live in the flight pattern of the show, we get a week of window-rattling jet fly-overs. To get away from the noise and vibration, one can go to sea.

We set sail from Monroe Harbor to get some comfort from the heat, but it was also a better way to get away from the noise and see the air show. At about 3 miles, we were beyond the close-in craft getting a close look and within the racers in the Verve, which were out about 5 miles. Here, we hove to and got out our picnic (thanks to Susan for this picnic tip). Surrounded by lots of traffic, but in no traffic pattern, we enjoyed lunch and the air show. What a surprise.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Repairs after the sail

After over a month on Lake Michigan, Speakeasy is dirty and needs repair. The cleaning is the usual tidying, washing, and waxing. There are a couple of broken parts that need attention: the boom vang and the head plunger.

Speakeasy has many Garhauer parts including the boom vang. Garhauer gets high marks from sailors for quality, durability, and cost. However, the boom vang fitting to the mast sheared in half a couple of days before we came back home to Chicago. I made a temporary repair with lines so that the boom vang would not harm us, the boat, or itself, but it was useless as a vang.

I wrote to Garhauer, which wrote back immediately with a part. I sent a photo of the broken part just to make sure and got an immediate varification. That's good service. The part will arrive in a couple days.

I'm not sure what is wrong with the head, but the stool no longer holds any water--it drains out. I think this is due to a faulty valve in the plunger. The result is that we often have stinky air in the head coming directly from the holding tank. I've got a new plunger, but don't relish the task ahead.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Living the Dream

We're home. The sail back from New Buffalo was fast and furious. We awakened at 6 a.m. to the sound of dogs barking....Mark's choice for the iPhone alarm. Without coffee or our daily dose of Michigan blueberries, we checked the weather forecast, then unhooked the electric and warmed up the engine. Leaving Ellen Fiedler's slip (B105) was easy. Reverse, glide. Reverse, glide. However, when I put the engine into forward, I couldn't turn the wheel. Or thought I couldn't. I'd checked it before departure. Does it jam? Do I jam? I need to check this out when other boats aren't in the vicinity. Mark yelled, "Starboard." That damn "Starboard"! Eventually the wheel responded, and we moved past the four boats on our port side without incident.

We left the channel and were on the high seas by 7 a.m. We put up the sail and jib. The winds were brisk. Our heading was 270. The winds increased. The sun came up. Photo op! The winds increased. We reefed the jib. Then we reefed the main. Although we had less sail out, our speed didn't decrease. Speakeasy was racing along at 6.8 to 7 knots. As fast as she could go! At first I was nervous. What if the winds increased? Thankfully until the home stretch, they stayed at about 20.

The final hour was breathtaking. Literally. The Chicago shoreline was within reach as the winds picked up. Mark said we'd take in the foresail. At my starboard post, I waited for him to give the command, "Release." But he didn't. Of course, if I'd looked in his direction I would have seen that he was trying to bring in the jib. When I finally did release, the foresail went every which way. We finally brought the boat back to order but it was harrowing with the sail out of control.

Now we were "So close and yet so far."

I aimed for the cut with the Chicago Light on our starboard side. I turned on the engine for better maneuverability. We went through the cut. I took a deep breath. Once inside the outer wall, I headed into the wind to take the mainsail down. For some reason, it wouldn't come down. Mark had to go up to the mast to ease it down. With gusts of up to 30, that unnerved me. However, he managed with ease and grace!

I motored around the second sea wall. Now came the challenge of finding our mooring. We'd left it more than one month ago. And it was new to us: North Juliet 14. I no longer remembered exactly where it was and certainly couldn't visualize any of the surrounding boats. Suddenly I remembered that we'd put a pale blue trash can with a hot pink protective noodle on the mooring can. In the distance, I saw it. The colors had faded but the adhesive J 14 were visible. We headed straight for it. Mark reached out and grabbed the mast buoy.

We were home! The heat was sweltering and the noise of Lallapalluza was overwhelming. I needed to get off the boat and find shade and quiet. Quickly we stashed the perishable food (including a five pound box of blueberries) in our backpacks, grabbed the laptop and one bag of dirty clothes and called the tender. At the Lakeshore Drive crossing, I spotted an empty taxi who sped us back to our loft. We raced for the shower, dropping backbacks and sweat-soaked clothes en route. After a luxurious shower in our own shower, we drank huge glasses of cool water and stretched out for a snooze. Grateful, oh, so grateful for air conditioning. Later I retrieved the Sunday New York Times and Mark ventured out for milk.

We whipped up bowtie pasta with arugula, feta cheese and Michigan tomaotoes. We drank Fonthill Sea Air Verdelho 2006 wine. We stretched out again to read the paper and slept.
Now it's Monday morning. Mark's already at work and I'm vowing to write every day.

Richard Reynolds was on Speakeasy last week in White Lake along with my brother and friends TJ and Jodie. When Richard, whom I've known for decades, stated, "Living the Dream," he caught me off-guard. I'd never actually verbalized what we're doing. But it's true. We are living the dream. Doing what we love to do and loving each other.

For now Harbor to Harbor adventures are over. Next summer we will explore the Channel Islands. In the meantime, let's see if I can turn this blog into a booklet or a playlet or at least an outlet for my need to be creative and productive when I'm not on the water. When I'm on the water, all other needs fade away.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dinghy Cruise

While our friends were cruising in their dinghies to F Dock, we
cruised our dinghy, EZ, on the Galien in New Buffalo.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stuck in Saugatuck

We didn't get to know our slip neighbors in Grand Haven until we were
about to cast off. Two motor cruiser were sailing together from
Peoria. They intended to go to Beaver Island (as had we) but poor
weather left them stuck in Manistee for 4 days.

Once we were out of our slip and past the brass band rehearsal and
dancing water display, we made good time to Saugateck--mostly motor
sailing. Our intention was to drop anchor just inside the channel and
dinghy up the Kalamazoo to the bustling tourist center.

We turned into the anchorage a couple of boat lengths from the channel
buoy and were stuck in 3.5 feet of water--at least that's what our
depth meter read. I suspect the depth was about 4.3 since our depth is
4.4. We wiggled out of the muck and backed into the channel. There was
nothing to do but head up river.

Beth radioed various marinas, but a fishing tournement had taken all
the slips. Our only chance was if Tower Marina could loan us a slip
used by a yearly customer who was away. After some confusion about
whether we were a sail or motor cruiser and more delay, we got slip 7
at Tower. By now we were in Saugatuck and Lake Kalamazoo.

We began looking for the Marina, which was on the south side of the
river in Douglas. In front of the Marina was a confusing set of
markers--no wake, green, and red. A large paddlewheel boat was coming
at us. We veered toward the Marina into the no wake zone, avoiding a
class of kids sailing dinghies. Where was slip 7 anyway? Oops! We were
stuck again. This time the meter read 3.3.

We shook the boat and tried to back out, but we were too far in the
shallows. I hailed a couple I had seen earlier in a dinghy similar to
ours. They were happy to take the anchor out so we could kedge our way
out, but we manage to only turn the boat around and get a few yards. I
should have let all the line out.

Meanwhile, Beth called Tower Marina. They agreed to tow us to the
channel. Soon two great guys were hauling up our anchor and towing us
across yards of muck to the channel, which was just 15 feet deep. We
were no longer stuck in Saugatuck.

The Call of the Blueberry

Heady matters today! We're on the boat and in port. Grateful that Michigan's blueberries make us regular. Once we've finished our coffee and fresh blueberries with peaches atop oatmeal that we've covered with heavy cream, we head for the bathhouse. Bathhouse is a euphanism. We're heading for the toilet. There in a steel stall with cinderblock walls and linoleum floors slanting to a center drain, we do our business. My family calls them "beams": a word coined by toddler Sarah decades ago which immediately and permanently replaced "BM."

Doing our beams on land makes living on Speakeasy more pleasant. The fumes emanating from the head are less odoriferous. And since we have a rule that not even a single piece of toilet paper can be put down the head, completing our "Toilette" on land is more sanitary.

Ode to a Muskmelon

The farmer lady says, "This is a good 'un" We buy it. While I fetch coffee at the main street cafe, Mark halves the melon and scoops out baby-tooth seeds and squirmy innards. When I arrive at the picnic table in the sunshine, the two juicy halves await me. As I tuck in a spoon and sliver out a bulbous morsel, I inhale the musky ripeness. A first bite summons muskmelons of yesteryear. Pungent sweetness slides down my throat. Oh, but could we return to the tastes and sighs of summers past.

But why so melancholy, oh, melon?

This is the day to let juice and memories trickle down my chin.

Praise to the lowly muskmelon--not the cantalope nor the honeydew. You catapult me from present to past and back to present. Slurp.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Market Day in Grand Haven

Last summer when we were fortunate enough to stay in Grand Haven it was Market Day. The farmers market is on public riverfront property near a museum and the fish cleaning station. I assumed that we missed the Saturday market this year because we pulled in on Tuesday afternoon. Last year we were out of pie (and other things) and our case was similar. To my surprise. We Discovered that Wednesday is also Market Day. We were in luck--an early morning stroll through the farmers' stalls before heading off to Saugatuck.

The produce was piled high with vegetables, peaches, blueberries, cherries, and apples. Also, the lady that had pie last year had a cherry pie waiting for me. Yum.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Goodbye White Lake

We returned to the scene of the accident, Moxies in Whitehall, to leave the memories behind. It's not that the memories were all bad, we had lots of fun with family and friends and enjoyed Whitehall and sister city Montegue (Book Nook and Java Shop, Utopian Market, Beth I's Pies). White Lake, we'll return.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Eight foot waves and gusts to forty!

Sipping coffee and wiping up the egg yolk with a thick slice of
buttered home made toast, we are waiting out the weather at The Favor
Cafe in Montague. The walls are painted sky blue, but through the
windows, the sky is steely gray. We walked here from Speakeasy.
Mark's foot and leg ate still swollen so it was a slow walk. Next we
will get provisions at the local food store. We hope to set sail
Tuesday for Grand Haven--once the waves and winds subside.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Counting the days and now the hours

We're picking up the car at 9:30 a.m. and driving to Muskegon where we can leave the car. My brother will drive us the last 20 miles to Whitehall and Speakeasy. We plan to stop for blueberries and peaches, corn if it's ripe. But what we really want is to be on our boat. She (boats are always feminine) is where we feel most at home during the summer. Mark has checked the weather forecast: high waves and strong winds so we may have to rest in Whitehall for a day or two before heading back to Chicago.

If we get to The Book Nook, we can blog. If not, you'll hear from us within a week or so. We have friends waiting in the wings to help us if need be. But I'm sure we'll manage just fine. I may have to tread outside the cockpit more than usual. Mark may be at the helm. But we'll be on our boat.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bob's First Rule: Don't Fall Off the Boat

Every season, Beth reads a letter her brother, Bob, wrote to her about boat safety. The first rule is "Don't fall off the boat." It's a good rule. Our friend, Jim, always tethers himself to the boat at night or when single handing. That's a good idea. Since I landed in the water instead of on the dock the other day, I've been thinking about rule 1.

Sitting on the couch, not in the cockpit

Mark's leg is healing, but we will be here in Chicago until Sunday when we'll rent a car and head up to Whitehall. The good days of summer slip so quickly away, just as Mark slipped so quickly off the dock. If I looked in the mirror right now I'd see a perfectly formed pout on my lips. Feeling sorry for myself instead of seizing the day to tackle one or two tasks that need completion before we can move in together. I want to be on Speakeasy. Except for having difficulties with WIFI, I don't mind being removed from technology. I like having fewer choices of what to do, wear, eat, read. I relish being smack dab in the middle of nature. I especially love the constant connection with Lake Michigan. My awe and respect for the lake grows as does my concern for its future. So here I am on the couch and wishing I were on the water. Last year we had ten amazing weeks of summer after returning from our Harbor to Harbor adventure. This year we may have just as many good sailing days. So now let me clean out my files, choose a kitchen faucet, and be grateful for this day. Just this day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Looking Good

Docking is an art that can be improved with study and practice so the Speakeasy crew reads instructional books, watches instructional video, and pays attention when others are docking. Before we approach a dock or slip we review tasks, procedures, and strategy so it's not surprising that we look like we know what are about to do on our approach.

The other day we had two relative novices aboard, but we instructed them on what to expect and what to do. We took our positions and looked good. After we got in trouble and I landed in the drink the neighbors exclaimed "You looked like you had enough help. You looked good."

It turns out the being good and looking good are not the same. I guess it's not surprising that we looked good. Among the crew were three actors--two thespians and a clown.

My CPR flew out the window!

Last Thursday was an eventful day for Speakeasy! We took Sarah and Felicia out for a sail. From our mooring at Moxie's, we motored across White Lake to the channel which took almost an hour. Once out in the Big Lake, we put up our sails and turned the engine off. For an hour, we enjoyed blue sky, sun, wind, and waves of 2-4 feet.

As we returned to White Lake, we created a plan for docking. Winds were out of the north west and our slip (with starboard tie up) faces north so we anticipated that Speakeasy would be gently wedged into the dock. We put Felicia at the Port Stern ready to secure a line over the bollard. Mark stood at the bow, ready to get off the boat and secure bow lines. Sarah was at starboard mid-ship with a fender in case the wind bumped us too strongly.

I was at the helm as everything went dreadfully wrong. I turned into the slip. The wind pushed our bow to port. Mark yelled, "Starboard." It was so engrained in my brain that the wind would push us to starboard, that I didn't react. I saw the starboard stern bumping the post. I did not see Mark as he leapt for the dock. One foot on, one foot off, he slid against the dock into the water and immediately crawled back up. Finally I yelled, "We could use help," and two people from a nearby boat ambled over.

So many lessons to learn. But not yet. Sarah suggested to Mark that we go to an Urgent Care Center, but he said he was OK. We wiped the blood off and disinfected the 10 x 10 inch wound. We put on gauze and wrapped it with an ace bandage. Sarah fetched ice and we put some in a baggy and Mark put it on the wound.

We'd timed our outing so we could attend a booksigning at The Book Nook and Java Shop in Montague. We arrived in plenty of time, and I suggested Mark sit in an easy chair right at the window because it had an upholstered foot rest. As Jeff Alexander told us the grisly story of finding dead 70 dead loons on the shoreline, the room got hotter and hotter. I motioned to ask if the shade could be lowered to keep the late afternoon sun at bay, but no one responded. Later Debra did lower the shade, but by then Mark was sweating and dehydrated and possibly in shock. He leaned over and said, "I need water." I wove through the audience and asked at the counter for water but was told I couldn't get tap water because it wasn't filtered. I could purchase a bottle of water which was in a case on the opposite side of the room. As I figured out how to get to the bottled water without disturbing any more listeners, I heard my daugher say, "Mark!" I looked over, and he was slumped in the chair. I shot across the room and reached him almost immediately. I called his name loudly. He gave me a brief far-away look and passed out again.

What happened next? It's hard to remember accurately. Someone asked, "Shall we call 911" and I answered, "Yes, call nine eleven."

Fortunately, oh, so fortunately a man in an orange shirt took over. "Let's lie him on the floor. Get away everyone else. Let's lie him on the floor. Now elevate his legs." A woman brought wet cloths for Mark's forehead.

The paramedics arrived five minutes later. Debra told everyone to move outside. The paramedics lifted Mark onto a gurney and into the ambulance efficiently. By now, I was giving information to someone with a clipboard. Eventually I got into the ambulance. Jeff was talking to Mark. Keeping Mark talking to be accurate. They checked his heart, his pulse and told me in their opinion, we should go to the hospital. We drove off with Sarah and Felicia following in their rental car. I sat in the front seat with Tony. I couldn't hear what Jeff and Mark were talking about, but I did hear voices. I learned later that Jeff had shared his secrets for catching salmon with Mark.

After tests and X-rays, Mark was released at 9:55. Just in time for us to dash across the street and get his prescriptions filled. We arrived back at the cottage an hour later.

Now we're back in Chicago and Mark is recovering. We hope to get back to our beloved Speakeasy this coming weekend.

I took a CPR course in March 2009 at the Columbia Yacht and received my certification. But when faced with my first accident, I failed miserably. I have re-read my materials. I plan to re-read them regularly. I shudder to think how much worse the accident and the subsequent events could have been.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Safety Knife

Ray, the. Knife man of Stony Lake, sold Beth a fine knife, which she
use to open a box. The box contained new reels for her brother, Bob,
who chided Beth for dulling her knife by slicing paper and tape. I
hope she'll never have to use it as a safety knife--cutting her way
through lines on Speakeasy.

My very own knife!

I don't feel comfortable with knives. I'm fine with a butter knife, even a small Swiss army knife. But neither of those would be strong enough to cut a line on Speakeasy. Sailors need to be prepared. I don't want to end up like those three football players who couldn't extricate the anchor of their fishing boat and lost their lives.

So walking back from the Cottage Cafe, I suggest we stop in at a small concrete-block building painted an unassuming gray. Stony Lake Cutlery. I've gone by it hundreds of times and never had any desire to explore. But now I need a knife.

Mark and I open the door. We are surrounded by knives. Small, long, skinny, thick. Ray's smiling face greets us across the counter.

I tell Ray that I don't want a knife that I have to open up (a switch blade) because I fear that in an emergency, I would cut myself. He understands. He shows me a small knife which could be put into a black rubber sheath. Problem is, I cannot get the knife in or out of the sheath. Even after he oils it.

Then he reaches under the counter top and pulls out a knife encased in a tan leather sheath.

"Now, this here knife is an award-winning model. Won the award in 1958. Made in Nova Scotia. You won't find this knife in those catalogues like Cabala's. Only find a knife like this one at a store like mine. Why if I had to make this knife, I'd have to charge you three times as much."

Carefully he hands me the knife. Carefully I take it. I have trouble getting it in and out of the sheath.

"Do it straight. You got to slide it in and out straight, not crooked."

I practice. I'm getting the knack. He takes it back to demonstrate how I can hang it on my belt and how I can attach the string to the sheath if I'm going to use it a lot.

Sixty-dollars later, the knife transfers hands. Since I don't have a belt, I carry it. Carefully.

Mac Sunset

As the sun set on day 2 of the Mac, many boats were floating near
Stony Lake MI where we were visiting with family and friends for a few
days. It was going to be a long race with such calm conditions.

Friends need to stay in touch

Sunday our dear friends Robin and Patrick Dickson drove up from East Lansing . We hadn't seen them in one year! Friends need to stay in touch. Hugs, pokes in the shins, brushing elbows, every touch counts. Otherwise a friendship is skin-deficit, not unlike 'nature-deficit,' the sub-title of a book Patrick spontaneously gave me. Sitting on the deck, we caught up on all fronts while enjoying Chalk Hill Chardonnay. Robin has the world's most infectious laugh, and it was wonderful hearing it sprinkled throughout our conversatin. Later Sarah, Robin and I swam in the lake. Later still we grilled brats and finally drove to The Big Lake. Robin and Patrick had to get home, so we said good-bye with hugs and kisses. As Mark, Sarah, Felicia and I watched a glorious sunset, I thought about our skin time together. Yes, those xoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxo count.

A sailcloth bag for the sailor!

Guess what we're having for dinner!

Ray at Stony Lake Cutlery

Stony Lake's Cottage Cafe

Monday, July 20, 2009

Camaraderie at the Cottage Cafe

This morning Mark and I walked from our cottage at Stony Lake to the Cottage Cafe. Armed with mugs of coffee, we sat outside. Mark opened up the laptop to communicate with Chicago while I communed with the world according to Stony Lake. I chatted with Mary Chandler, local doyenne, property owner (my Bob rents a cottage from her) and banjo player with the Marek Music Makers. Also at our table was Jack Jonker, musician, entrepreneur and proud owner of a litter of puppies. Two hours floated by. No problems or perils of the outside world intervened. Nope, we're mesmerized by this almost off the map little sliver of paradise.

Of course, I was reminded that "Time shouldn't fly; it should float."

Libraries are wonder-full!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shore Duty

While Skipper Beth is in Whitehall, I have duty ashore. Pictured is
the man who wrestled the cast iron and porcelain tub out of our soon-
to-be-remodeled bathroom. He's remodeling a basement and had just
bought a medicine chest. After he took ours he exclaimed "I'm taking
the new one back."

Snuggling, asparagus, Pinot Noir, standing at the helm

It was cold last night. I battened down the hatches. Actually I battened up the hatches because I had to stand on our companion steps to slip them in place. I had nothing warm to eat. No soup nor chili nor even microwave popcorn. But as I dipped into the fridge to pull out the mixings for a spinach salad (brr!), I discovered a plastic bag with asparagus. I'd bought two pounds in Pentwater and only grilled up one pound. I broke the stems off at their natural breaking place. Topped with sharp cheddar cheese and microwaved for 3 minutes, I created a lovely little meal without leaving my cozy cabin. About that glass of Pinot Noir. It was from a box. Merlot and Cab can stand the restrictions of a box. Pinot Noir is too delicate, too ephemeral. Slush it around in your mouth after it's been boxed, it tastes like the box.

This morning it was still cold so I nestled in my sleeping bag with no desire to rise and shine. But born and bred of hearty Protestant stock, how could I justify lazing around? Why not write a serious blog? A heartfelt blog?

Since I'm snuggling in a double sleeping bag currently inhabited by only me, my thoughts are of Mark. Mark is my sailor partner. He and I bought Speakeasy 17 months ago and from day one, we've loved her and each another.

We love to sail, we love to lounge in the cockpit and let our Autopilot take control when the wind is lax. Last year Mark read John Barth's 500 page Sinbad the Sailor while I dipped in one book after another. What does that reveal about our personalities?

When the winds are up, we work in tandem to keep Speakeasy on a steady course. We divide the tasks according to our skills. I steer. Mark does everything else. He's 6'2", lithe and lanky. He can reach for lines any which way. He understands how that gasket fits into that spade around that winch and through that watchamacallit.

I steer. I stand at the helm. I point Speakeasy into the wind to raise and lower the sail. I give the call "Ready about?" when we need to tack (turn). Then "Hard to lee!" to turn Speakeasy's bow into the wind and start us on another tack. We've done a lot of that this summer. Occasionally we jibe. The command is "Jibe ho!"

When we're in Chicago, I'm good at guiding Speakeasy back to her mooring ball in Monroe Harbor. North Juliet 14.

But now we're on the road, so to speak. We're either anchoring or tying up at slips from Harbor to Harbor. As I blogged last summer, just imagine you're parking a yellow school bus without brakes and you're steering from the back of the bus. That's docking. I'm doing better this year.
I've even docked stern first!

So where's the heartfelt blog I promised? In between the lines!

We repect each other, we laugh. I'm trying to learn to whistle. Whereas Mark is focused, I skip around. Sure, I try to say,"To change the subject." But most of the time, the new thought takes over so quickly that I don't have time to transition.

Now I'm (new subject) off to the Farmer's Market!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stern First -- A First for Speakeasy!

Last year we arrived in Manistee amidst a rain storm so Mark steered us in and up the channel to our mooring at the Manistee Municipal. (The Marina that recycles everything!)

This year the weather was sunny and calm. I motored Speakeasy in and slipped her into her slip with ease. Sigh of relief. But then a glitch! Our power cable wasn't long enough to reach from their socket to Speakeasy's stern. Mark suggested we skip power; however, we planned to anchor the following night (i.e., no electricity), and the fridge was filled with food, so I didn't agree. Only one solution! Dock Speakeasy stern first.

Mark hauled the electrical cable on board. Julia (Municipal Marina) stood ready to let the lines go. Speakeasy was raring to go! Remember, she's "rassig." As you may know, sailboats have prop walk usually to port. In layman's terms, that means that in reverse, the boat swings to her port (left) side. Remembering that, I backed her up with aplomb. But the river current negated her natural swing. Somehow we made it out of the slip and into the river. I put her in forward and eased down the river. I turned the wheel. She pivots beautifully. Then I motored back up the river but missed getting her stern into the correct position. I pulled away for another try. Mark was ready to call it quits, but Speakeasy and I were determined. By now a man from a nearby boat had casually sauntered over to lend a hand. So we had Mark and me on board. Julia and helpful man on dock. I eased Speakeasy along side the ends of the docks as close as I could get. I eased her forward until her stern starboard was at the corner. Then I put her in reverse and turned. Lines were tossed. Fenders fended. She was in. Good girl! Stern first.

Julia said, "I've never seen a sailboat maneuver in stern first!"

The Library Closes in Two Hours....shhh!

After a delightful lunch at the Favor Cafe with Danny Hartman who helped me earlier to get online, I peek into the Montague Public Library located on the first floor of Montague's Municipal Building which houses City Hall, the Police Department and a Meeting Room. The library is bustling. Computers are all in use. Three little sisters in pink play hide n' seek up and down the fiction aisles while their grandmother checks out books. Five people behind her wait patiently.

Patience again! Cropping up a lot today.

I wander up and down the aisles-- surprised to find hundreds of mysteries and romances, science fiction, straight fiction but only one shelf of non-fiction before the Children's Section begins.

The poster outside proclaims, "Today is a good day to learn something new." Where are the books for that? Then I realize that nowadays we search for knowledge on line. So if I want to learn about astro-physics, electrical engineering or planting a garden, I do that electronically. Actually I'm not interested in any of those subjects just now. But I've figured it out. So I've learned something today! Case closed.

Now I've taken over a sturdy oak table. I've browsed through Birds of Michigan to find the Plover that Mark spotted in Ludington as well as the Wood Duck I claimed in Arcadia. Or was it a Surf Scoter? I'll order the book later from my independent bookseller in Printers' Row.

In the meantime, I planned to write Stern First and once again I'm being seduced by Montague.

The Book Nook & Java Shop

Live Music at 10 a.m. at The Book Nook in Montague

Yesterday I rode my little red bike on the Rail Trail four miles up the way to Hart. On the way back, I decided to explore Montague. There was nothing here the last time I drove (as in car) down this one-block long main street (Is it a main street, if it's the only street?) This time I discovered The Book Nook. Cranberry-colored walls, wooden floors, the requisite blackboard announcing "Montague Madness," Whitehall Whitewash," and "Sailor's Sludge." There's a pet store on one side and a Yoga Studio on the other. At the corner I found a pub and gift shoppe with French Provincial placemats (made in China).

Of course, The Book Nook has WIFI and it's free if you purchase a cup of coffee. So this morning I bike back with my Apple laptop in my backpack. I enter and realize that the music I had heard while parking my bike was live. At 10 a.m. on Friday morning! Sitting in the windowsill with his guitar quietly amplified strums and sings a man who could have stepped out of the 60's. How do I know? Because I recognize his music. "The passing years will show....Time after time, you'll hear me say that I'm so lucky to be loving you." Who was I loving then? I chuckle. I'm smiling again.

Oh, my! Now he's singing "Satin Doll." One of my dad's favorites. I never really listened to the lyrics before! Oh, my!

What a wonderful place. Like the General Store of Yonder Years. Four women chat about scrapbooking for granddaughers and getting exhaust pipes fixed. Two codgers sitting at a high top table compare notes about drag racing and repairing porches. One is eating a yogurt frappe. The other sips from a bottle of water.

This musician has my number! He's looking my way and serenading me with "Exactly Like You."

Next to me is a young man who graciously helped me get on line. It took fine-tuning and fiddling but he persevered. I told him him I'm practicing Patience today, and when I learned he's a seminary student, I asked if "Patience" is one of the beatitudes. I'd planned on googling it, but nicer to ask him. He said, "No, but it could be considered as part of "The Pure in Heart." We're going to get a bite to eat later so I can tell him more about Harbor to Harbor and learn more about his seminary studies.

Right now I'm bloggin' and practicing Patience (if only for a day.) The gray skies outside don't matter. Inside is the sense of community that drew me to Printers' Row more than six years ago when I stepped into the Gourmand and into a new life.

The simpler life gets, the more I like it. Why do we strive for the gold and glory? But that's another topic. In the meantime, I plan to write about the following:

Stern First: Docking in Manistee.

Blueberry Beams.

Four essential items for the savvy cruiser (see photo)

She Stoops to Conquer: An Arcadian Portrait

Sailing Home to Mama

My musician is packing up. I'll engage him in conversation. His name is Richard Ballard. "I've been playing guitar in my basement for 40 years. Now Deborah lets me play here in the mornings."

He'll be here tomorrow. So will I!

Dinghy EZ Was Not

On the pristine lagoon at Arcadia, we tested our new dinghy named EZ--a two-person inflatable roll-up model. I had difficulty getting the slats back in after I had taken them out to roll it into a small package to fit in the lazerette. a 10-minute job took nearly an hour while I wrestled with the slats and the inflatable tubes.
When we returned from the "Dingy Corral" I lifted EZ onto the foredeck fully inflated. I didn't need the frustration of putting EZ together again. Now we can simply throw EZ in the water when we need her.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lapping waves and Laptops

I awakened and looked out the porthole above my berth to see masts galore. What a glorious sight. Then remembering that my most creative time when writing Speaking Globally was at daybreak with a mug of hot English Breakfast tea, I hustled to turn on the LP, light the stove and boil just enough water to put into the thermos along with one tea bag. While I waited for it to brew five minutes, I noticed that the five photos for Paul Uhl, our Cruising Chair, had never wafted their way to his computer in Evanston. Drats. I put the laptop on the roof of the companionway. Five feet higher than the Navigation Table. Didn't help. The photos with the clever captions just sat there in the Send Box.

I poured the tea into a mug and added milk. I hate computers. There, I've written it. Mark is a computer guru, so I try to keep my fury contained. But no more. Trying to send these photos is ruining the nicest writing hour in my day. So do I stop? No.

I return to iPhoto and send each photo individually. I don't even send the largest version. The full version, they call it. I call it full of shit. Wow. First swear word of the day. It isn't even 9 a.m. and I 'm about to swear like a sailor. Why not? I am one! I'm not going to even read before I hit the publish post. Because I'd like to get back to writing.

To be specific, what I plan to do today is to transfer my witty poignant musings from three (yes, three!) notebooks to this blog. Not last year's entries. Although I may incorporate into this year's.

I like notebooks. They demand so little. Find notebook (usually the most challenging for me!) Open notebook. Find the next blank page. Preferably with wide blue lines. I like wide lines. Blue lines, please. Take pencil or pen. Write.

But only I can read my writing. And we want the entire world to be able to glance over my shoulder to know what I'm thinking and feeling. That's why I'm blogging.

I'm furious. Because now the sun hits the screen of the laptop no matter where I sit in the cockpit. So to blog, I have to go below. I have to deprive myself of sunshine sparkling on the water. Gentle breezes wafting through my tresses.

I go below and kneel in supplication before the nav station where the laptop sits omnipotent.

Any sailor will agree that the best moment at the beginning of every sail is when you turn the engine off. It makes a little beep, beep and beep. Then it's gone. The water laps against the sides of the boat. The winds reverberate through the sails and rigging. We are sailing! Leaving the noisy mechanical world in our wake.

I know I'm going to get that same satisifaction as soon as I publish this post and turn off this damn laptop. I feel the sides of my mouth begin to smile. Laptops be damned. I want the lapping.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Can You Write the Great American Blog When You Can't Even Get On-Line?

Furious, frazzled. What other 'f' words can I write to express my frustration? Mark went back to Chicago. Speakeasy and I are having a four-night sleepover here at Moxie's in White Lake. We have planned to have Speakeasy on the Michigan side of The Big Lake so we can have a lovely sail with my children and their partners.

In the meantime, I am planning to blog, blog, blog. Everything already written by hand will be transferred and posted. Last year I dreaded posting. I felt like I was hanging out laundry that had not been edited. Not even checked for stains.

This year, I have a new attitude. Let my words swing in the breeze.

So spending one fruitless (another "f" word) hour trying to sign up for Marina WIFI just about fried me.

I could have calmed my nerves by washing the kitchen floor. But the kitchen, whoops, galley floor is only two feet by two feet. So instead I talked up the hill. And over to the Wetlands Trail. An hour later I was calm. The sun still hadn't set. I returned and was able to complete the sign in. Now of course, I keep reading that this cannot be posted. So what do I do now? It's 10 p.m. I call it quits. Fizzling out. Finito.

Better by far by sea than by land

Last year, I intuited that entering a village by harbor is superior to driving into town. Now I can affirm that last year's hunch is correct! Today using my brother Bob's Ford Pickup, I drove Mark from White Lake to the Amtrak Station in Holland for his journey back to Chicago.

Then I decided to visit Grand Haven on the way back. Last year we arrived in Grand Haven on Speakeasy. We entered through the channel with the red lighthouse on our right. In the USA it's always "red right returning." We found our slip at the Grand Haven Yacht Club. We visited the Farmers' Market (Mark's rallying call, "We're out of pie!"), checked out the local museum, walked the beach, took the trolley. But most importantly, we entered from the big lake.

Sure there are charts and GPS. They don't compare to looking for a lighthouse. Miles away, we're unsure. Is that the entrance in the distance? On the interstate, you just speed by reading "Grand Haven Five Miles."

But out in the lake, we search for lighthouses and markers. As we approach the channel entrance, we check the wind and the current. As we enter, the board walk or the rocky walls wrap us in their protective arms. The waves subside. We can breathe. Then we motor up the channel. Perhaps we pass a coast guard station or a DNA research facility. We see people. And they wave. What a welcome! It's like coming home. It happens over and over again. From Harbor to Harbor.

Working on the Lake

Even while we enjoy the Lake and it's beauty, we must pause
occassionally to work. Beth was reading a telephone message for The
Great Books Foundation while we were anchored in the picturesque
lagoon at Arcadia.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Scribe

Writing on our way to Arcadia.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Waving and waves

As we motored out the Pentwater channel, fishing boats and speed boats passed us coming in. Every time I waved at the helmsperson, I received a wave. Some were energetic, some lethargic. I also waved at people standing on the channel boardwalk. A fisherman waved back. A skateboarder waved back. Farther out, I waved at a white-haired couple. No wave in return. The eldery gentleman turned to his partner. A short consultation. Then he waved at me. I wonder what she said to him. Just then a power boat sped in. Mark was on deck removing our sail cover. To warn him our boat would start rocking, I yelled, "wave." He raised his hand and waved.

I like the waving and the waves.

Big Sable Light

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A dryer sheet could have sunk Speakeasy!

Two hours of confusion. Speakeasy's two water tanks were out of water. The dock at the Muskegon Yacht Club didn't have water so I dragged a 200 foot-long hose out from the clubhouse. Not long enough to reach Speakeasy. Then an old codger appeared and turned the dock water on. We attached the hose and stuck it down the water intake in the stern. Every once in a while, a huge amount of water gushed out the bilge outlet. The water tank was discharging water as fast as we could hose it in. We had an issue. Details to follow in a later blog as it's now 7 a.m. and we need to leave for Pentwater. After consulting with Mark, Bob, and Shurflo website, Jim dove under the sink. The culprit? The cold-water hose to the hot-water tank had become loose. An hour later after both of us were in a variety of contorted positions on the floor, the clamp was back in place. We need a second clamp.

So what about the dryer sheet? We'd stuffed them around cushions to keep the damp and bugs out while Speakeasy was in dry dock. Who told us to do that? Maybe Roberta. One dryer sheet had wedged itself in our bilge tank clogging up the limber hole. That meant the bilge pump float switch didn't activate. That's why we had water all over the floor.

So a dryer sheet could have sunk our boat. Irony indeed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coal Dust in Paradise

Dick Christian persuaded us to explore Port Sheldon.  No amenities.  No slips.  We motored in the narrow manmade channel and found ourselves in  sweet little Pigeon Lake.  We anchored on the north side of the lake at 17 feet.  Famished from the day's fresh breezes, we fired up the propane grill and soon two thick pork chops were sizzling. Fresh Michigan asparagus and slivered carrots bathed in olive oil and balsamic simmered in the veggie grill pan.  The pork was succulent!  The veggies were crisp and colorful.  Later the sky darkened.  The moon put in a sudden bulbous appearance.  Within three minutes she had hoisted herself above the distant tree-lined shore.  Shimmery clouds veiled her face.  Finally she stretched a beckoning path across the lake to Speakeasy's bow.  But we were not beguiled.  We went below and went to sleep.  We awakened  and went on deck. A thick layer of coal dust covered Speakeasy. Last night we'd heard Caterpiller Frontloaders as they shoved coal into hoppers up the tracks to the top of the power plant to heat the water that had been sucked in from Lake Michigan to create steam to create electricity so that the folks in this area can watch TV instead of the sunsets.  Progress at the cost of paradise.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Small Town Talk in Saugatuck

A brisk walk up the main street in the early morning sunshine. All the shops are closed. But as I approach a red brick with white trim one-story building, I see men entering the post office. Once inside I overhear the small talk. One customer, his friend and the Post Master converse: "Here's my friend. He's from Georgia." "Like the new stadium?" "I helped build it. Only could work on it weekends." "Do they let you into the press box?" "Yup." "Better than the one we got in Geogia." "Yup. I got a VIP pass." "Heard the Lions are going to practice here." "Yup. When they get around to it." ""Sixteen to Zero. Hard to break a record like that." "Yup."

Small town talk. I hate to break it up by asking for stamps. But I do.

As I exit, a second contingent of citizenry enters. Silver-haired women in cotton knit tops, polyester pants and white tennis shoes. I wonder if they join the conversation or just collect their mail.

I like being in a small town post office. I like being in all the small town establishments we encounter on our Harbor to Harbor adventure. The hardware store, the ice cream store, the drug store. But now we're off to an Art Gallery in Douglas. Or maybe we'll just board Speakeasy and head north. We don't have to decide for another five minutes.

Speakeasy? She's "rassig." That's racy in German!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Crayon

One of the delights of a summer picnic is the children who enjoy every bit of it. One of our delightful children (among the extended Columbia Cruising Fleet family) was coloring in a dime-store book while her older sister did word-find games in another. Each was obsessed with her task. The younger sister lost a crayon on the dock, through a space between two slabs, but it didn't fall into the river instead landing on a spanner just above the water. Dorothy spotted it and I couldn't help but make it a challenging game to attempt to retrieve it. The girl didn't seem to mind one way or the other.

Lee's strategy was to spear the crayon with a hot wire. Jim thought it would float in the same direction that a wine cork would so we should dump it in the river--which is what eventually happened but not before the hot poker strategy was tried. I ran to Speakeasy to get a wire hanger and a lighter. I unwound the hanger and heated one end. I carefully lowered the hot poker through the space between two slabs and down about 18 inches to the crayon. The wire started to melt the crayon, but then it cooled and the crayon rolled. I decided on a another strategy--to create pincers to grab the crayon using the hanger. I bent the wire and smoothed the ends and gave it a good careful attempt, but instead of grabbing the crayon it spun around and dropped into the river.

Based on Jim's theory of crayon floatation, we put a cork in the river and watched which way it flowed. The wind carried it slowly upstream. We watched for some time, but saw no crayon. Then, one of our group asked again if a crayon would really float. The youngster did her own test by throwing another crayon in the river. It sank immediately.

The game was over. The stories told. Another successful Cruiser picnic.
July 6th arrives. Blue sky. Sun. Gentle breezes. And Mark leaves. He and sailing friend Dorothy (aka Mermaid Girl) take the Amtrak back to Chicago. Sailing friend Jim Haring and I continue on Speakeasy. Today we plan to get to Saugatauk.

We've already lugged the twin bikes into the salon where they are resting on the salon berth -- carefully bungeed to a shroud in case the seas get bumpy.

My breakfast of fresh Michigan blueberries, oatmeal and cream (real cream!) was delicious. How easy it would be to stay here another few days, but we haven't sailed since Friday, and Speakeasy is raring to go. Delightful that our boat has a acquired a personality. In a word, she's "rassig." Get out your German dictionaries for clarification. Or wait for my next blog.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independance Day

The sun rose on a lazy day that featured a pancake breakfast by the
Rotatarians, an art festival in Stanley Johnson Park, and an ice cream
social. All of this before dinghy rides, dock dinners, and fireworks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Preparations for South Haven, MI

Among the preparations for cruising to South Haven, MI from Chicago are filling the larder. Beth got some great lox for Friday morning. Although the weather report is for light winds and clear skies, we have lots of clothes packed in addition to foulies. The RADAR reflector and tether line go up tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I realize that we can't peddle our boat, but we do have bikes. It will
be seen if we use them to forage for groceries or get to the play at
the park. Lee says that he has put about 5 miles on his year-old-bike. I hope I can beat that record.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Friends and Guests

Susan has sailing friends in Europe and when they visit her, we get
the treat of meeting and sailing with them. Sandra visited from
Austria and brought delightful weather with her.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


It's not often that we get to sail with those who live outside the

region, but a friend brought her friends and brother from Kansas for a

sail. The Spring weather has been cold and wet, but Sumday was warm

and dry--like Kansas.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Crow Foot

A crow-foot wrench is an open or adjustable wrench without a handle, which was created to get in tight places like the area beneath Speakeasy's toerail. The name comes from the shape the wrench makes when a shaft is attached to the wrench--it looks like a long skinny leg with a bird's foot.

Crow foot and Speakeasy are getting together because I haven't found a way to tighten the nut on the new starboard stanchion. My last idea was to cut back the length of the bolt that goes through the toerail. This required taking the stanchion off again, bringing it home to do the surgery, and replacing the stanchion. I had hoped this would give me enough room to get a wrench on the nut, but the wrench handles are in the still in way.

SEARS has reduced it's hardware department to a catalog, computer kiosk, back room, and Efran--the clerk. Instead of browsing aisles, one browses a catalog and chooses to pick up at the store. That's where you tell the kiosk what you ordered and Efran goes to the back room to get it. SEARS has wrenches of all kinds and each wrench has a lifetime guarantee. Now, I have 10 crow-foot wrenches to go with my 25-year old sockets that will last longer than I will.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shakedown Cruise

Our cruising fleet sets out across Lake Michigan on the Saturday before Memorial Day--a shakedown cruise. Beth was suffering from a cold and spent the cruise asleep below. Susan, a close watcher of sails and rigging, was on deck--a very good thing for Speakeasy.

One of the first things Susan did was rig a preventer by looping a line through a padeye on the boom and tying it at the new midship cleat. This made our broad reach so much more comfortable. Following that, a Cunningham was installed. Then, Susan noticed that the Genoa was not completely furled because of a mis-rigging. During a lull in the wind, we eased the sheet and re-rigged the Genoa. Another task completed was adding reefing lines to the new reef point. Susan even invented winch-handle holders on our line bags. If you want your boat to sail better and be more comfortable, invite Susan along.

Our goal for the day was to reach Michigan City where our friends had broken out drinks and appetizers on the dock. I was ready. Later we met local friends and had dinner at Bridges Waterside Grille. The grilled perch and sweet potato fries were great. Ellen said that the pulled pork was fantastic.

We slept in on Sunday, cleaned the deck, and gathered for a pot-luck. The food was great, but the temperature kept falling and the wind kept blowing off the Lake. Most of us fled to the warmth of our salons sooner than we want to.

Our slip neighbor, who owned an older Catalina 36 (well rigged), gave us a tip for keeping lifelines bright--clean them with cleaner-polish. His were very bright and Simple Green had not taken the stain off Speakeasy's lifelines. I'm going to give this idea a try.

One of our fleet got stuck at the entrance to the marina and had to be kedge out of the mud. I'm not sure how he got stuck, but I know there is a story. Another, in a powerboat, had fuel filter problems and nearly didn't beat us all home. Speakeasy had no issues and sails better now than when we left thanks to Susan.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The #1 Mooring-Can Cover

I found a recipe for a mooring-can cover and, before I knew it, Beth had shopped for the parts--plastic utility bin, straps, noodle, and reflective letters and tape. I wowed Beth with my skill at cutting plastic with an old solder gun and soon we had a can cover.

I didn't look forward to actually putting the cover on the can. The day we installed the bridal was windy and choppy so I got out of it. The conditions were better yesterday, so after other "more important chores," we tackled the cover.

We placed the can next to the swim ladder so that it wouldn't bang on the transom. Locked it in place with a line through the bridle lines and a second line through the padeye. With my PFD on, I locked myself behind one of the lines and sat on the swim platform to begin the operation. Beth handled lines and procured tools--it was a cool day so no need to sponge my brow.

I placed a 6" X 6" piece of rolled-up cutting-board material over the padeye between the can and the cover. I think this will offer some chafe protection. We placed another line through the padeye to hold the cutting board in place. I meant to place a similar piece of cutting board on the top of the cover, but could not get it in place. I pulled up on a line through the padeye to get it through the hole in the cover. At the same time, I pushed the part of the cover near the padeye down to get enough of the padeye to show to get the bridal shackle back on. Finally, I got the bolt through the shackle and the cotter pin installed. Whew!

We had to sacrifice the line that was stuck underneath the cover--the one holding the piece of cutting board against the can. Now we have a bright can cover, easy to find, and a protection for Speakeasy's hull on those less windy days ahead.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bridge Cruise

The forecast was for thunderstorms followed by rain, wind, and more thunderstorms. As we gathered at the yard, Speakeasy now in the river, the weather settled on a light rain and mild-to-moderate wind. A tribute to our crew (Saundra, Ed, Peggy, Dorothy, and Jeff), no one missed the ride up the River to the Lake in this less-than-perfect weather.

Our cast off corresponded with the arrival of three boats, which started further down the River. Now we were about 20 and would get to know each other quite well during the day. Our crew was given safety, line handling, and head information. All hands performed their duties very well.

The first few bridges went up in a nicely coordinated fashion with a long break at Congress Parkway--a freeway bridge. Within Chicago's Loop, we experienced wind shifts and gust with each skyscraper we passed. We listened in on tour boat speeches about the architecture and the the radio about bridges.

Our next long pause was an L train bridge at Lake Street. Past that bridge is the River's fork of North and South Branches. It was here that a series of explosions on the bridge, which we had just passed, filled the air. These electrical explosions occurred in spurts lasting 10 minutes or more. Our next pause (more of a lunch break) was for 40 minutes while the bridge crew took care of whatever was wrong with the exploding bridge.

Near State Street we rafted four-wide because it was so narrow. This allowed my fellow Great Books Foundation staff to see Speakeasy from their River-view windows. There was much waving. The staff considered the boat parade as a chance to celebrate the season or, perhaps, to laugh at the sailors in their funny-looking foulies.

We were among the last to enter the lock because we were chatting with Mike on a very slow Tartan Ten. I looked for a place on the starboard/windward side, which turned out to be a poor decision. There was only one place left and the boat just ahead was having difficult holding on. We had to abandon that spot and look for another further ahead. There was none. I made several attempts to go backward and failed, it turns out for the simple reason that I had not throttled up enough. After a dangerous attempt to place Speakeasy at the front of the leeward side, Woody yelled from Legacy to "give it more juice." Just the encouragement I needed at the time. Speakeasy eventually responded to more throttle and backed to a place on the leeward wall where there were no boats for 100 feet or more because there were no lines to hang onto. This was not an ideal spot, but at least the wind would keep us there.

About this time, a sailor on the windward side of the lock could not hold the line and fell in the River. As she struggled to hold onto the toe rail, Speakeasy's crew struggled to find anything to hold onto. Eventually, the MOB got back aboard and Speakeasy was secured. The lock was opened and Lake water poured in raising us up and, eventually, letting us out.

The Lake leg of the trip was through very choppy water and an 18 kt wind on the nose. Beth took the helm while I assisted the crew with fenders and cleanup. We were all happy to be out of the lock. As we approached the Columbia Yacht Club, dock hands Clay and Christian appeared ready to take lines. They were a fine sight and gave Beth confidence to make a perfect docking. All that was left was to get the bridal on NJ14 and toast all 'round with Ryan's Rescues (hot chocolate and Bailey's).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


On the way to the dock on our first trip to the harbor, we ran over a mooring can. Oops! I had some vibration behind the engine while approaching the mooring can for the first time. No vibration in reverse. No vibration forward. Then there was vibration in forward. Nothing in reverse. Then, nothing forward. Just to be sure, I had George look at the engine. He blessed it. He suggested that it might be a plastic bag. Whew!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


The yard manager told me that Speakeasy would be put in (commissioned) tomorrow. I had to gulp. "Is it ready," he asked. He was looking for slacker sailors who weren't ready for their scheduled departure--I
didn't want to be one of them. I declared that Speakeasy was ready, but was she? I had a sudden fear. "What have I missed?"
I had just finished the bottom paint and was admiring my work--except for the blasted epoxy drips on the keel from last week that looked like a novice had done it, which was true. I climbed on deck and did a mental check. I went below and checked seacocks. I put the speed sensor in the through hull. I checked the head and galley seacocks. I think it's okay. I hope so. If not, she may sink.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Besides the Chicago weather, there is one thing keeping Speakeasy from her watery Summer home in lake Michigan--her blistered keel. The more I sanded blisters, the more area seemed to have blisters. Cracks on the coat led to more cracks.

I've gotten different advice from spot sealing with epoxy to stripping to bare lead. I attempted to sand, but my 9V cordless drill does not make a good enough sander to complete the job. After a few minutes, the battery would die. Friends have better equipment: I had three offers. Bruce turned up with an industrial-looking power sander and soon I was finished. "The correct tool for the job," I remember my shop teacher saying over-and-over again.

The hardest thing about epoxy is mixing it. The hardest thing about mixing it is choosing the correct pumps for the resin and hardener cans. After a couple of missteps, I was pumping and painting on epoxy. I'm nearly home on this project.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


The life of a marine diesel mechanic may be lonely at times, but it
helps to be witty and have a lifetime of stories. I don't think there
was a diesel mechanic in the village I was raised in, but if there
were, he (surely would have been a man) would have been like Doug. I
would have thought the Doug was old. Now, of course, he's young. My
age. Doug has an easy way. Knows his stuff. Owned a boat. Knows all
the sailors that I know and knows their engines even better.

Doug went to work, ask a question, told a story, and repeated the
drill. In the end I was charged for 2 hours including the stories,
which were worth more. I also know how to change a filter, check the
fuel bowl, and bleed the low pressure system. Not bad.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Speakeasy's yard neighbor is names Blew--a fitting name for a
sailboat. Blews skipper, Bruce, is a clever man and a good person for
a novice boat owner to know. I was having difficulty finding the fuel
shutoff valve and watched Bruce hunt it down like a hound on the scent
of a great prize.

The fuel line appears to vanish just aft of the primary filter. At
first I thought the tank should be where the water tank is. Bruce
discovered this too, but didn't throw up his hands and quit as I did. Instead,
he deduced that the line must go aft even further. He went on deck and jump in the port quarter lazzerette, which is very deep. At the bottom, he found the fuel tank and nearby he found the shutoff.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Beth and I met Sterling of Sterling Sails at the yard so he could instruct us in the art of taking down the Winter cover. In the process we got to see Sterling's workmanship and care. Beth captured the seminar on video so that we might have a chance of getting the cover back on in the Fall.

I was impressed with the cover during the cold windy days of Winter. I could see why the cover held up. The superstructure was made of conduit twice the diameter I have seen on other boats. The cover had enough canvass to reach to the water line, protecting our waterboard from UV. Nicely done.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oyster Pond

Beth, Dorothy, and Bob went to the Radison Resort to see the inner harbor and amenities. Afterward, Dorothy held a snorkling clinic just off the boat. Beth was her in-water student and the rest of us followed along in the dry.

We had a short motor sail to Oyster Pond. Sunsail's staff was at lunch when we arrived and didn't answer our radio or phone. Like last year. Ron piloted in following the red markers. Sunsail crew was spotted taking a boat out. Oops. He lost his dinghy and had to return to retrieve it. We did what we could to help. Then he came back to take our boat to the slip. He gave us a reverse clinic while docking.

We had one more night aboard, but no more sailing so we needed to enjoy St. Martins. We took a cab to Marigot, which we didn't get to by boat. Marigot has a beautiful and large harbor with a new circle breakwater with a modified star dock cluster. We climbed to the top of the hill where the old Fort was located where we had a 360 degree view of the harbor and Marigot.

After a well deserved round of drinks, we ate near the water at Grille de la Mer gorging on snapper and lobster.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Anse Marsel

We had a few hours in Gustavia before we had to be off, so Dorothy and Bob arranged for a scuba dive and Beth and I took a trip to town for a walk to Shell Beach and food shopping at Tom's Food. By mid-afternoon we set sail for Marigot--or as close as we could get.

In fact we only got to Anse Marcel. A Radison Resort in the inner harbor and a seemingly protected anchorage. However there were light swells from the North and variable winds in the bowl. The guide book mentioned that the winds might swirl in the bowl-like anchorage.

We dined on lamb chops from Tom's--succulent. We did eat very well aboard. Our most memorable meals were made ourselves. Good for us!

Anse Marcel was a bumpy anchorage. A small swell from the North hit our beam while the wind swirled from the Southeast making our anchor snap often. Fortunately, Bob set the anchor well so we were safe from dragging. However, the noise was tremendous during the night.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


It was just a short motor sail to Gustavia on the main island of St. Barts. We hoisted the main while anchored like two other boats did. Even though this is a reasonable thing to do for power if the auxiliary fails, none of us was used to hoisting the main while at achor. It gave us confidence that the two cats that left before us raised theirs. Ron, the skipper of the day, took us to Gustavia.

After a short search, we found a yellow mooring ball in the anchorage at Gustavia about a mile north of the inner harbor, where Sunsail boats were forbidden for insurance reasons. Beth called the Harbormaster, but had trouble understanding his strong French accent on the scratchy VHS radio. We assumed we were in the correct place and jumped in the dinghy to check out the harbor and clear Customs.

Checking in after a long dingy ride was very easy compared to Anguilla. It was a holiday so some shops were closed including the tourist center. WiFi was advertised but did not work at customs. A money exchange a couple blocks down the street had a computer running the Chrome Web browser (which interested me) so we used it to check the weather and our mail.

After a great round of drinks at Le Select, we hailed a taxi gave us a tour of the island. Beautiful vistas!!! We stopped long enough in St. Jean to do some shopping and access the free WiFi there. This was the only free WiFi we noticed in the islands.

We began looking more carefully at the weather because our initial report had stronger northern swells arriving. The reports we received via Web did not mention swells at all. Tonight ESE wind at 10 kt. Showers possible Friday. Clear Saturday.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ile Fourchue

Our longest sail of the week. We rose early for bagels and motored around the north end of St. Martins into the east wind. There was a good reach to Ile Fourchue and we got review the highlights of the East Coast of St. Martins on the way.

Ile Fourchue is a beautiful uninhabited island and marine park. We took a swim, snorkle, and hike. We beached the dinghy on the sandy beach and walked up to the summit to see neighboring islands. On the way we collected rocks and noticed there were no goats. Apparently, the goat population ate itself to extinction.

We haven't had much problem with sea sickness, even though it's been rolly at times. Three of us wore a medicated patch, but Beth and Bob had difficulty keeping theirs on. Mine seemed to stick while swimming, hiking, and day-after-day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Prickly Pear, Anguilla

I was with a handful of other sailors at the customs office when the doors opened. Our extra copies of the crew list was very helpful, but I was never sure if we were "crew" or "passengers" and I was asked over and over again. But, I got through customers in just a few minutes. Or did I? No. The other half of customs--the part that really counted because cash was exchanged--hadn't happened yet because the agent was not there. I was sent to the "Commercial Dock" to find the agent. I did not know what I was looking for. Here we go!

I befriended a Scott who was trying to clear out of Anguilla and knew who the agent was. He hadn't seen her. He thought everything was too expensive given the world-wide money crunch. Suddenly, he saw her and engaged her in conversation about clearing out. "No;" she said. "Not possible." Hmm. Were we supposed to bribe her to do her job? The Scott sweet-talked her until she agreed to meet us back at the Customs Office. He thought she might give us a ride, but that wasn't going to happen. We walked the beach again back to the Office.

A half-hour later and $100 got me cleared to have lunch on Prickly Pair. It was easy. She had no forms. No receipts. No concept that I didn't know what she or I was doing! Still we both muddled through. Great! More paradise ahead.

We had a lovely sail and dinghy ride to a beautiful lunch spot. The view of the waves off the reef that spanned the entire width of the island was magical. I'd never seen so many kinds of blue.

We couldn't stay long, because we were to leave Anguilla that day. After lunch, we dropped our mooring ball and sailed to Grand Case, St. Martins, which was celebrating the weekly market day. The streets were filled with street venders and shoppers. A brass band marched up and down while children danced before it. We danced too.

La Bodega was a topas bar with a nice server and very slow service. A disappointing meal at a great location. How did we manage that?

The dingy dock was overflowing with boats. We had locked ours to a ring on the dock, but where was it? It had floated or been dragged under the dock to the other side.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Road Bay, Anguilla

The sea is better today, but nearly behind us. I attempt to keep the apparent wind at to more than 120 degrees. During a jibe or traveler line snaps off at splice. We make a repair on the go by holding back the traveler with a dock line.

We appear to be in plenty of time to clear customers this afternoon, but get to the customs 5 minutes before closing and they are already closed. Just what we didn't want.

Dinner is steak, corn, and mushrooms. Food really tastes good here.

After dinner, we played cards: a game I'd never heard of before called Mao. No apologies.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


The sea was 10-feet and higher and we had a good wind above 20 knots. It didn't take us long to reach Tintemarre, I little island with a white beach off the Northeast of St. Martins. We headed in and found a nice place to anchor. We could have gotten closer to the cliff for better protection, but this was our first attempt and it seem pretty good.

We set about swimming and taking in this paradise. Dorothy scouted the beach for the mud baths that were to be found just behind the beach. She reported that they had been comandeered by others, so we bathed in salt water instead of red mud.

The menu consisted of fresh-frozen salmon marinated in a version of my sister's recipe. I through these on the grill and hoped for the best. Later we learned that Ron doesn't like salmon, but he raved about this grilled concoction. Paradise can make anything taste royal.

The night was a bit rolly. New sounds and echos in a glass boat made our rest interrupted. Still, it was wonder for our first night in paradise.

Cast Off to Tintemarre, St. Martins.

Once the staff were back from lunch, we were ready to cast off. The tide was lower than usual and we wouldn't have enough depth along the out dock to clear with our nearly 7-foot keel. This didn't seem to bother the staff, one of whom boarded NiPolos 3 and instructed us to untie the main halyard before casting off. Another jumped into a dinghy and followed us. A few yards out along the outer dock, we ran aground. I was instructed to toss the halyard to the dinghy crew who tied it to the dink and throttled it until we were heel quite well and free. A few yards further, we were aground again and went through the same routine. I was taken aback the the nonchalance of these maneuvers. I considered running aground quite serious, but was happy for the practice in getting us free.

The next actions were to replace the halyard and raise the main. Sunsail didn't want us in the channel without power in case the auxiliary 75 HP Yanmar failed. Just the week before, Sunsail lost a boat returning to Oyster Pond because it got a cross wave that dashed it on a reef. The sea was 10 feet and the wind was 20-Plus at the mouth of Oyster Pond, so we were heading into it. We followed the dinghy out of the harbor into the narrow channel between two reefs on either side. The instructions were to keep the red markers close to port and continue past the red/white buoy for several minutes before setting a course to be sure we had sufficiently cleared reefs north and south.

None of us was going to take any chances. We followed the instructions to the letter and followed the dinghy to the buoy. We also followed a cat that had left before us. We saw it rise and fall with the incoming waves. At one point, we saw it airborne briefly before it settle back on the downward back of a wave. I was happy to be in a deep keeled mono-hull.

Oyster Pond Sunsail Chart Briefing

Dorothy and I attended the Sunsail chart briefing at their headquarters in Oyster Pond, Sint Maartens, Dutch Antilles. We got word that a northern swell would build by Friday and we would want to avoid that. We decided to go north first toward Tintemarre and Anguilla and then south to St Barts. We received many instructions about clearing in Anguilla---"take many copies of crew list." I didn't get a good feeling about Road Bay, Anguilla where we must clear customs.

Monday, March 2, 2009


March arrived like a snow lion with hours of lake effect snow created by cold air blowing off the unfrozen Lake. It's enough to make one think of Florida--something I've vowed never to do. Generally I write about Speakeasy or, at least, something to do with water but preseason baseball games have begun and Spring can't be far behind. Besides, I just learned what a Lady Godiva Pitch is--a pitch with nothing on it. Here's another one. A Linda Ronstadt Pitch is one that is so fast that it blew by you (as in Blue Bayou). Don't blame me. I've got cabin fever.