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.