Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Picket Fences of Beaver Island

Once we've recovered from our dramatic entrance into Paradise Bay, we walk up to the main street. Hugging the edge of the harbor, the stores and restaurants are strung out with spaces in between. At the south end across from a pristine public beach is the Catholic Social Center. Then a cottage or two. Then the ramshackle house containing the Mormon Museum. Next a large hardware store with gift shop attached. The Shamrock Tavern with an outside eating area. Next the locals watering hole.

Then a proud Community Center. We walk inside and are impressed with a full-size stage and raked seating area. (Note to self: Inquire about a one night stand for solo show!) We learn that we've just missed "Beaver Tales," a sold-out evening of island story telling and song. Upstairs is a lounge. A couple of white-haired islanders or tourists work at computers. A few kids are playing games although most of them are out in front with skate board in one hand and bottle of pop in the other.

We continue strolling up the main street. More houses. Including one with a large banner announcing, "It's a boy!" Farther along, the full-service breakfast cafe, followed by a full-fledged market. We roam the aisles finding items we didn't know we needed: a Beaver Island cap, citronella candles in metal tubs, a can of evaporated goat milk, a CD of the latest community meetings. At the meat market counter, the butcher tells a customer, "Yup, I'm a granddad. It's a boy." We congratulate him.

As we're checking out, we see The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. We avert our eyes.

A couple more stores and then a toy museum which we never get to. We walk back to Speakeasy on the lake side.

That's when I am struck by the unique community landscaping scheme. Every several hundred feet is a 15 foot-long white picket fence planted with flowers right to the sidewalk. Roses, snapdragons, black-eyed Susans. Fences as in Frost's "fences make good neighbors"? A more likely message is "Don't fence me in."

Clairy (aka Mac Book Air) is my new best friend!

Speakeasy sails past the Chicago Light and into Monroe Harbor Thursday evening, 21 days since leaving for South Haven on July 1st. 21 days with great weather, adventures, food, family and friends. This year before the memories fade, I will choose a photo for each day and describe it.

Clairy will help. I've been waiting for her for three years. First time I laid eyes on her I knew she would increase my enjoyment of writing. She would keep procrastination at bay. But how could I justify the price of $1700 when I already had a durable Mac G4 (purchased with the discerning help of my son Thomas in 2004)? I wait for the price to drop. It doesn't. Even after the iPad's introduction, the Mac Book Air = $1700.

On our shake-down cruise end of June, we visit fellow sailors Ellen and Ciro who rave about their twin Mac Book Airs: "Perfect for the boat!"

Why do I deny myself something which will help me write a one-woman show. If the Mac Book Air can make that happen, why resist?

Mark recommends Small Dog Computers. For a limited time only, a Mac Book Air costs $1200 plus software. In a mad rush I beg the sales person (yes, I do speak with a real person) to ensure my Mac Book Air will arrive Thursday July 1st. The day we leave.

Then I alert the building engineer of The Franklin Building. "Please, Frank, I'm getting an important package which requires a signature."

"OK, Elizabeth. It comes. I sign."

Rushing out for last minute errands, I see the the delivery truck. I approach the driver to ask him to contact Frank in case I'm not back for the afternoon run. "Sure, but I know you. How 'bout I just sign your initials?"

Oh, my. I live in a neighborhood: Printer's Row where people look out for one another.

When I arrive home, the package leans against my door. As I unpack the Mac Book Air, two plastic doggies fall out. Small Dog Computers is a funky firm! I'll leave the bull dog to guard our apartment. The little sqatty dog comes on Speakeasy! Yeah, we have a mascot!

And I have my Mac Air Book. But I cannot pronounce it. Look, I've just typed it incorrectly. She (yes, she) needs a new name to distinguish her from the Mac Power Book G4, the iPad and our two iPhones.

She is christened Clairy: How so? Mac + Air = Mary. Too plain. If I use McClain, the clan of my Scottish forebears, I get McClainy. Nope. Suddenly "Clairy" introduces herself.

She is my new best friend!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chicago Light

South Shore Yacht Club at First Light
Chicago Light
We left Milwaukee at first light to avoid a approach storm and to get to Monroe Harbor, Chicago before dark. The Lake was glass when we left. We were in fog at the Racine Shoal. Radar told us that the light was a few yards off starboard and a fishing boat a few yards of port. We only saw the light when the fog lifted.

Light rain followed the fog and wind and waves picked up. The wind was on our nose and kept increasing from 10-20 knots. By the time we reached the Chicago Light, the wind was 20-30 knots.

We didn't know how bad the storms were behind us. The Milwaukee area had inches of rain and tornadoes. We, however, were safely at harbor where we dined one last time on Speakeasy before going ashore.

Sunrise Leaving Milwaukee

We had a great time in Milwaukee: the Power Squadron's river tour, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Sailing Center, Three Brothers dinner, and the South Shore Yacht Club.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Incompetent Linesman

Our lake Michigan cruises are fun because it is an adventure. We find new places and people. We also learn about sailing and cruising. I've been learnimg more about docking lines so that we can get into strange slips with more safety and ease.

Jack Klang, a resident of Suttons Bay, MI and an expert on single-handed docking has been a great influence on me. He's a master of the spring line. For our trip, I got two beautiful 50-foot lines and mid-ship cleats that affix to Speakeasy's track. All set.

In practice, I may be the worst line handler on the Lake. I've dumped the spring line in the water several times, given dock hands lines with knots, missed lassoing cleats, and (this may be the worst of all) aimed for the wrong cleat so that I couldn't stop the boat before the bow hit the dock.
I'm totally incompetent and must mend my ways before something really bad happens.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Bridge Opens for Us!

Sunday morning. as we approach the “open on demand” bridge in Sturgeon Bay, I’m at the helm. Radioing to the Bridgekeeper, Mark is prepared to give Speakeasy’s height (48’ from water line to the tip of the mast) but since he isn’t asked he doesn’t divulge! Mark’s from Wisconsin. (More about Cheeseheads, the Musical in a later blog.)

Speakeasy glides slowly in neutral. Cars and vans continue to cross. Then the barricades drop.

Slowly and symmetrically, the bridge opens above us.

I put Speakeasy in gear and give her some throttle. But not much. Gracefully we slip under the open arms of the bridge.

Once we leave the bridge behind, we cruise through a man-made channel and past a magnificent lighthouse out into the Big Lake. Ready for a new adventure. Together and heading in the same direction.

Later today, we talk about our wedding vows. We plan to use images and memories from this sailing summer. Special to us and hopefully to our guests on 10-10-10.

Missing Michigan

It's been a couple days since we were in Michigan (Menominee in the UP) and I'm already missing the harbors where the docks are cared for, showers are clean, and dock hands are capable. Oh, and the fees are much less.

Case in point. We had only an exposed wall to tie to in Algoma. Last week it took all of the harbormaster's wits to keep a boat from sinking. Another boat wasn't as lucky.
Another example. The dock hands in Kewaunee included a man on a cell phone, his 4-year-old daughter, a power boater from Marquette, and the harbormaster. We prepared for a port slip, but had the end of a dock shared with another boat. The dock had a cutout in it so that the entire length was not on the same plane It was only a port tie if you swung wide into very shallow water and played current against wind.

I'm in a foul mood so here are other complaints. We were given no instruction about wifi, which is important for this blog. The bathroom was nearly out of paper. The office was open for a couple minutes when we arrived and a couple minutes before we left. This cost twice as much as Menominee. Take me back to Michigan!

Speakeasy in Kewaunee

Some say that "kewaunee" means "I'm lost" and so it seemed as we entered the harbor of this picturesque village during Trout Festival. We were lost in time. We motored past a band stand with musicians playing Folsom Prison Blues, tents, carny rides, and fisherman everywhere. 

Speakeasy in Kewaunee

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Menominee Harbor, MI: Bikes and Books

Menominee is a friendly harbor town that has its water front the focus of the city. The very nice slips, good dock hands, and well appointed bathrooms, showers, and boaters' lounge make this a great stop. Near the harbor is a bandstand where we saw a talent show, restaurants, bars, and the city library.
The library is one of the spots where one can pick-up a yellow bike and ride it to another bike-friendly spot without charge. The library also has a story garden with plantings themes from well-known tales.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wifi everywhere but not a drop

Each public and private marina has had wifi on our cruise, but each of them has been problematic. Leland was over used by boaters and their friends and family. Their strategy to reduce use was to limit the distance that it would carry. The marina suggested that users come to the lounge to use wifi. I think that was a good strategy, but Speakeasy has a wifi extender (TheWirie) that usually allows us to access the Internet from the cockpit or salon even in a crowded harbor filled with masts. Not so in Leland. The signal strenghth was good, but it would not hold a connection for more than a few moments. Was this a protocol issue, strength, bandwidth, or something else.
As a test, I took the PowerBook to the lounge to upgrade Safari. Which I couldn't do in Leland or Pentwater where I had tried. The software downloaded without a glitch. Later in the evening Beth and I returned to blog and check weather for an early departure. The wifi was working but it suddenly disappeared. In the early morning, however, I could check the weather from Speakeasy using the extender. So, I'm not certain, but I suspect heavy usage is to blame for most of my wifi problems.
The Wirie folks are very responsive to my email queries. They suggested that it might be mast interference or too many access points on the same channel. On Beaver island, there are several open wifi spots near the harbor and even more private ones. With many fewer boaters vying for the bandwidth, but many more local users, I could get better performance before noon.
In many harbors, I've gotten better performance without TheWirie than with it. In Menominee, MI, for instance, I could not keep TheWirie active for more than a few seconds without a disconnection. Without TheWirie, I had a stable connection. I suspect software.

Mark Gillingham

Monday, July 12, 2010

Entrance Into Beaver Island

Talk about an entrance! Into Beaver Harbor. After leaving Leland at 5:15 a.m., we have a lovely sail northwards. Ten hours later the winds pick up suddenly. Mark wants to bring in the foresail so I steer Speakeasy closer to the wind. Mark cannot completely roll in the sail. Ten feet are flogging. Every gust of wind make the sail react. We are able to lower the mainsail without a problem but the constant flaying of the foresail is unnerving.

Although I have studied the chart of Beaver Island, including the arial photo provided in Lakeland Boating’s Lake Michigan Ports ‘o Call (aka The Bible), finding the red buoy to go around is difficult for me. A building with a day-glow red roof makes it even harder to spot that red buoy. Mark yells, “Don’t aim for the roof, aim for the trees to the right of the roof.”

The gusts are fast and furious. The flapping, clapping noise of the sail is infuriating. I steer to reach the private marina with whom I had communicated before everything went haywire. Now Mark wants to anchor to fix the foresail, but I don’t have enough control and am afraid Speakeasy will run into an anchored boat.

As we pass the municipal marina, I see that the width of the slips is generous. We must dock here.

As I make my approach, several boaters miraculously appear on the dock. Roland (I learn his name later, of course) gestures for me to use my handheld to communicate, but I can not hear him. Besides holding it in one hand and trying to steer with only one hand is hopeless. I let it drop to the floor of the cockpit and watch Roland’s hand signals. He motions for me to come into a slip with starboard tie up. Mark quickly puts on stern and bow lines and gets a couple of fenders into place.

I approach the slip with one thought running in my brain: This is not the time to come in slowly. I must use power. I must overcome the wind and the waves with the diesel engine. No success. At the last instant, I put the boat into reverse and give it as much juice as I can. We veer off, missing the dock. The boat is like a wild bucking bronco.

Now Mark takes over the helm. I move to the bow of the boat. People are yelling. I balance myself on the deck and grab the bowline. I know I must toss it to the man awaiting it. I must not let it fall into the water. If he cannot catch it and stop the boat, Speakeasy willl crash into the front of the dock.

“Throw the line,” this stranger yells. I hesitate, breathe deeply and throw the line. He catches it, snubs it on the cleat and Speakeasy is stopped in her tracks.

It’s over in an instant. Speakeasy has been reined in. The sail still thrashes out of control, but we are in a safe harbor. Two men jump on board to help us get the lines in the right places. Then when they leave, we reposition Speakeasy so we can get the electrical outlet cord into the dock outlet. We turn on the power. We sit down. We don’t do anything. The adrenalin burst subsides. We are exhausted, but safe and sound.

And the day had started so differently!

Let me set the scene. We awaken at 4 a.m. in Leland Harbor. We stumble over the gang plank to use the heads. I am startled to find the cleaner woman in the ladies’ room. “Now I know why these bathrooms are so clean,” I declare.

“I have to get an early start,” she responds. “I like to be finished by 5:00 a.m. It’s too busy to work in here at night.”

By almost 5 a.m., we are almost on our way. Mark makes coffee in the percolator. Then I turn off the LP, throw out the jacklines for future installation, and tidy up the salon.

I start the engine and have an overwhelming desire to make a blueberry run. Since I have already left our entrance fob in the Marina Building, I plan to knock on a window, but lo, and behold, Ms. Early Bird Cleaning Team of One opens the door as I approach. A sign. A veritable sign. I believe in signs when I’m sailing.

Blueberry dump accomplished, I head back to Speakeasy and take the helm. Mark releases the bow line. I hand the stern line to him as he jumps aboard. I turn the wheel to port and ease us out of our improvised slip. We motor around the boats -- giving the Hinkley a wide berth -- and leave the harbor (red light to port and green light to starboard.)

Hello, stars! Big Dipper, Small Dipper, Orion, and many more. Breathtaking. Light wind as we put up the main sail.

We sip our coffee and salute a new day!

Later I fix fresh blueberries raspberries and strawberries on a bed on Siwss Muesli and cover with Fresh Naturaly Yogurt. Health fiends have nothing on us.

We sail. Actually we motor. Light winds require it. Three hours after departure, we have a blueberry pie break. Delicious.

As soon as possible we kill the engine and sail. Mainsail and foresail. Five knots. No other boats. On course.

We wing and wing for hours. Then the winds die a bit. I want to watch the World Cup Finals. Surely we will be able to do that on Beaver Island so Mark turns on the engine.

At the same moment the wind increases forcefully.

We make it in and learn several hours later that The Netherlands has lost to Spain. Anti-climatic after our adventure.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The (not so) simple life in Leland

Last time we were in Leland, I wrote about the simple life. I saw a teeshirt here that declared "Simplify." I said in my blog that I didn't need the teeshirt because I had successfully simplified my life. I wish it were as simple this time.

Our trip from Arcadia to Leland is blissful. We motor close to the shore so Mark can check out the chartplotter. "Oh, look, it says 37 feet and so does our old depth sounder." We go through shoals and a submerged vessel and beat Puffin to the harbor even though they motored by us a couple of hours ago because they chose a more cautious route.

Once we get to the fuel dock, we learn there are no slips available. We are asked, "How much do you draw?" No Picasso, not that kind of draw. How far does our keel dip into the water is the question. Speakeasy has a kind of a stubby lead two-winged keel actually. So the answer is " 4'4". Four feet, four inches. We only touch bottom when it's shallower than that. "Fine,"says Sarah, the Harbor Master. "We can put you around next to the the gangplank. I don't think you'll hit bottom. Just stay really close to the boats parked in slips. But watch out for the Hinkley. We don't want anything to happen to the Hinkley." (Hinkley = expensive little get-about picnic boat.) Slowly I motor around the slips staying as close to their sterns as possible. Just after the Hinkley, I turn sharply but still slowly and slip into place. Two dockhands help us. We're here!

Leland is a wonderful port. We have a delicious dinner at The Riverside Inn. Our waitress Sarah is delightful...she lived in Tully, Connemarra Ireland so we compare notes about the friendliness and warmth of the Irish. We return to Speakeasy and watch a beautiful sunset. Since we are docked right next to the access to all the slips, lots of people walk by. We like to hear the comments on our boat ("Oh, isn't that a nice boat.") At ten o'clock quiet descends and we sleep contentedly.

Saturday a.m. breakfast at the Stone House Cafe. Cherry Toast with Tart Cherry Preserves and Lattes. What did we do before Lattes?

Lunch with David and Joan who pick us up and drive us to Fischer's Happy Hour Pub. Deep-friend onion rings, mushrooms and perch sandwiches. I indulge in a glass of local Chardonnay.

Then we return to the village of Leland. Mark cleans the boat. I provision for Beaver Island.

Despite the wonderful weather and great experiences, I'm just a little sad. You see, I finally decided to get a Mac Book Air. For three years, I have wanted one. It arrived from Small Dog Computers the afternoon of July first. We put it on the boat. We didn't try to use it until yesterday. It has water damage. Water damage. OK, it's just a Mac Book Air. It will only cost the price of a new Mac Book Air. So sometimes life isn't as simple as I would like it to be.

Leaving Arcadia

We have been living on Speakeasy for a week; however, this is my first blog.

Leaving Arcadia – well-named lake -- like glass. Quietly motoring out the channel, I have a glimpse of what it might be like crossing into heaven.

Influenced no doubt by the knowledge that my mother was born in Arcadia 98 years ago in 1912. I remember how frustrated she became in the new millennium calculating her age. “Beth, I just don’t understand how to figure out how old I am. I was born February 14, 1912.” By then she was 88 but she couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t subtract her birth date without what’s that called, taking away?

Seque to the sand. I cannot get enough of these dunes, especially here where they drop almost vertically into the limpid lake. This morning some are still shrouded in clouds. A big puffy mass of air with a misty underbelly. The sun will soon warm the clouds into submission.

To portside, which since we’re heading north is actually lakeside, two fishing boats perch on the horizon like complacent seagulls.

Now a monarch butterfly flits across Speakeasy from starboard to port and wishes us fair sailing.

Directly ahead, a fine black strip crosses the water like a low-slung breakwater. At 10 o’clock (the way boaters point out objects – using the bow of the boat as 12 o’clock on a wristwatch), the breakwater appears to open – or so it might seem if we were delirious and seeing a mirage. But we’re not. We have lots of water (only beverage while sailing), sunhats, sunsreen and even a sun umbrella that casts a welcome shadow over the helmsman, currently Mark.

Back to those creamy Palomino colored dunes. Small bushes and dune grass barely keep the golden sand from cascading into the water. Three hundred miles of sandy dunes skirting up the western shore of Michigan. Should be on the Register of Historic Places as the dunes are eroding away.

Today we’re motoring 5.7 knots per hour in 60 feet of water. We’re making our own wind which registers at 2.2 knots.

The clouds above cannot make up their collective mind. Cumulous crowd out mackerel-shaped ones whose striated wispy strips hang over the lake. Magical.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fog In the Manitous

Fog In the Manitous
We woke to fog in lovely Arcadia. The many swans that flew in with their machine-like thumping sound were gone. However, when the fog lifted, a swan appeared with two cygnets in tow, feeding just 200 feet from Speakeasy.

The fog was gone for 10 miles but returned as we approached the Manitous. A phone conversation told us that fog was lifting in Leland, our destination. We hoped it wouldn't be foggy for 20 miles. We had used the new radar heavily while entering Arcadia, but we were not expert users yet. Fortunately, the fog lifted as quickly as it engulfed us. It soon became hot and Beth began using our beach umbrella in new ways to keep the hot sun off of her. A boat, Puffin, passed us with a bimini. Why didn't we have one of those?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pentwater to Arcadia

Not sure what day it is. Got out of Pentwater about 9. Rain with periods of dry and sun. Dinghy strapped to mast in a bag gives more room in the fender locker. Engine running well and all day due to the very light breeze. As we past the Luddington Light, we thought of both Vera and Ruth whose ashes are strewn there.

There was very low visibility as we approached Arcadia, Vera's birthplace. That's what the new radar is for. It and the GPS helped us in to the channel and gave us confidence in our reading of the data.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Then, It Rained

Beth and I scurried to get our laundry to Snug Harbor before our planned breakfast with her cousins at the Cottage--a favorite of ours in Pentwater. I volunteered to wait for the clothes left in the drier and gave my order to Beth to get the usual--salmon omelet. I hurried back to Speakeasy with the dry laundry and threw it in the galley and on the ladder. The forward hatch was closed, I could see, but I wouldn't take the time to close the companion way (or check the other ports). Soon after I sat down for my delicious omelet, a huge and long down pour came out of no where. I should have gone back, getting soaked was better than wet electronics.

When we returned, most of the laundry was wet. Most of salon cushions were wet. My bag with new Macbook Air and iPad was wet, but not soaked. I pulled out the iPad and check the Air, which was in another bag. It was dry. I put it back in the bag--a big mistake, it turned out. The bottom of the larger bag was wet and it seeped through to the Air bag and the Air, which has streaks on the screen now. I was mortified. Beth was devastated. Hadn't we learned anything after losing a keyboard and iPhone on a previous cruise?

Later, we forgot these problems because the cousins had fresh salmon and trout. We let chef Bob do the grilling and we prepared ready-made salads. Cousins brought Beach Bum beer and we had a great time telling stories and eating delicious fish.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

White Lake to Pentwater

From Harbor
We are up early to leave this picturesque lake. Beth leaves the slip with little thrust and prop walks very close to the Commodore's whaler, tied behind his Catalina. A gusty harbor didn't help, but no harm done and another lesson learned--use more throttle.

The 15-20 knot south wind allowed us to wing-and-wing with the best effectiveness we've ever gotten on Speakeasy. However, when we attempted to roll in the jib, we had a bite in the roller line that prevented the last 6-feet of job to roll in. I spent 40 minutes at the bow unwrapping the roller line. The wind and waves were too great to do more, so we entered Pentwater with a flapping jib.

Beth's cousins were onshore--boys were going out on a fishing charter and girls and babies were waving at them and us. We tied up at the fuel dock to meet the girls and waited until after dark to greet the boys and their catch of salmon and trout.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Macatawa to White Lake

From Harbor
It's surprising how long it takes to get used to a boat, sails, lines--the whole system that is sloop. On idle moments, usually in little wind, we've tried to get Speakeasy to go down wind wing-and-wing, but we've never been very successful. This day, we had a 20 knot tail wind and had little choice that to try again to wing-and-wing. I had just gotten a block and tackle from Garhauer Marine with the intention of using it as a preventer. I was very glad I did. We successfully did wing-and-wing for hours. The preventer was was the key. We barely felt the 20 kt wind at our back. We should have kept going north until the wind stopped, but instead we turned in at White Lake.

We thought about anchoring at White Lake when we couldn't get ahold of the Yacht Club. Clearly, it was possible to anchor at in a nice area, but we kept going toward and nearly past the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club when someone yelled, "Do you want a slip for the night?" It was the Commadore of MBYC and we got a slip right next to his Catalina. Good karma.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Independence Day: Monroe Harbor to South Haven

Our cruising fleet of Columbia Yacht Club has taken to gathering for a yearly night sail to South Haven for the long Independence Day weekend. We set sail about 9:30 on the evening of July 1 and had a delightful sail in light winds and flat water. About 10 boats sailed that night and about that many joined us later for a sizable presence in a small town.

South Haven is a great harbor and village with many galleries, shops, and restaurants. On this weekend, there was a farmers market, art fair, parade, and fireworks. Our cruising fleet added a picnic and a group dinner at the South Haven Yacht Club.