Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Not the Day to Go Sailing

When you wake up early in your somewhat comfortable V-berth to the feel of your well-tied-up boat swaying back and forth and shaking beneath you, and you hear the sound of a strong wind whistling around the masts of other sailboats here in the Winthrop Harbor marina, and you check your windy.com weather app that shows the wind blowing in double-digits with gusts over 30 knots from exactly the way you want to go (south) . . . well, you just try to go back to sleep and accept that this is NOT the day to sail back to Chicago. 

Or you get up and write a blog post. 😊

Yet what a great little sailing vacation we’ve had this week so far! The day after Todd installed our brand new Quantum mainsail, we experienced a glorious sail from Burnham Harbor in Chicago all the way up to Kenosha, Wisconsin. We enjoyed walking around the harbor area, visiting the Great Lakes Beer Fest (of course! it's Wisconsin!), and hanging out with Bryan & Angie who keep their boat there. And the next day, with their experienced help, we learned to fly our gennaker - yes, it's magenta and magnificent! And now we have a new strategy for our low-wind days. We love it! 

On another day we walked a narrow sandy path lined with sea oats & tall grasses towards the shore of Lake Michigan where waves smashed up against the sandy beach, flocks of seagulls squawked, sweet little sandpipers chased waves, and one surfer guy enjoyed the weather conditions. 

Last night we used our Magma boat grill for the first time. We happily created some delicious veggie kebabs - that paired  perfectly with a Carmel Cabernet. 

And now it looks like we're socked in here for another day and night. 

Not such a bad forecast.

Cheers! 🍻 🍷🍷

Friday, August 6, 2021

Our Sailing Mini-Cruise

After a few days working on our boat in Chicago Burnham Harbor, we decided we were ready to spend several days cruising around some of the southern ports of Lake Michigan. We pulled out of our home slip on, let’s see, um, well it’s hard to keep track of days when you’re on "boat time" - Monday maybe? 

Nancy all set to cast off 

Kent cleaning the cabin upholstery

And sailed 12 fun nautical miles toward the marina in Hammond, Indiana. We trimmed our sails to allow the winds to gently push us along and said happily to each other: “Ah, this is why we bought a sailboat!” It was comforting to find our same slip (we’d been there once before) and pull into it without difficulty. We enjoyed our night on the boat in Indiana even though we discovered that our restaurant (the main reason we went back) wasn’t open because it was, well, yes - Monday!  

The next day we sailed 26 nm to Michigan City, Indiana. Which actually provided us with 28 miles of sailing because we needed to keep tacking to stay on our course - nope, winds aren’t always favorable for the direction one wants to go. And this led to yet another adventure in docking in a new marina - and frankly we don’t really have our home harbor docking perfected yet! We enjoyed our overnight in this pretty port town. 

We even took time to hike along the sand dunes and out to the lighthouse the next morning.

Here's a view of the beautiful sand dunes along the Indiana/Michigan shoreline.
And also a view of how VERY FLAT the lake can be and how sometimes NO amount of trimming sails can help speed the boat along! :)

Yet then the winds were perfect for our smooth and glorious 7 nm ride to New Buffalo, Michigan, where it appears that part of the harbor master’s job is to help sailors pull into their transient slips - ah, perfection! What a sweet little harbor town, in spite of the interesting "duck weed" we encountered in the marina.

We were hoping for a 38 nm speedy return home to Burnham across the big lake. And by speedy I mean, well, all day! Indeed we left at 9 AM EST and pulled (rather successfully I might add) into our slip in Burnham at 5 PM CST. Ah, but so much better than a full day at work, right?! And what a sail for the approach to Chicago!

{SO SORRY - cannot get the videos to play on the blog - YET!}

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Passage to Chicago. Oh My.

Well, we made it to Chicago via water - a rather magical experience!

Cool Heads Prevail was all ready to sail, bobbing about in her slip in St. Joseph, Michigan, and we were certainly ready to sail, yet carrying on at home in Normal, Illinois, frequently checking weather & wind & sea conditions and waiting for all elements to align so we could attempt our 52 mile journey across Lake Michigan to deliver CHP to our home harbor. 

What seemed like suddenly, we found ourselves heading north in two cars, leaving one near our dock at Burnham Harbor in Chicago, and driving together in the other to Michigan - and yes, that would make the sixth time in two months! Back on our boat at last, we made finals preparations to begin our crossing early the next morning. 

Red sky at night, sailors' delight.

Out of the slip before 8 AM, we were thrilled to be greeted with the US Coast Guard standing at attention as they raised the flag and played reveille, definitely a magical and inspiring moment! Of course not meant for us, but we rose to our feet and graciously soaked it up as a perfect way to start our momentous day. 

At 54 degrees and bundled in layers, it felt fresh and sweet to be heading out so early in the morning. As we sipped our coffee we saw fishermen standing along the seawall, a few little boats in the water, and an ambitious paddle boarder near shore. 

As we headed further out onto Lake Michigan there was less activity on the water, but we occasionally saw a fishing boat or a tug with a barge or a giant steamer off in the distance. The further away from shore, the fewer vessels we sighted. And soon we were unable to see land or anything except water in any direction. No internet nor cell tower coverage. Quite a heady feeling.

And out on the water with the light wind blowing from the southwest - exactly the same direction to which we were heading - we knew our sails were not going to help. So we motored. 

And we motored. And motored. Slowly. I got lots of very needed practice at steadily holding the helm.

Along the way we kept hourly track of our coordinates, wind speed, boat speed, and sea conditions. We swatted pesky flies that were hitch-hiking their way from MI to IL aboard our boat, we played ukulele, we listened to podcasts, we marveled at this miraculous journey over this very large body of water. 

SO. Chicago is 52 nautical miles from St. Joseph. And we were averaging, oh 5 nm per hour with our sturdy diesel engine running at 3,000 rpm. Yep, just like you we kept doing the math and coming up with the same thing = we'd be enjoying this ride for ten hours! 

And then, sometime after our peanut butter sandwich lunch: Land Ho! We spotted the gloriously unmistakable skyline of Chicago far, far out in the distance to the west. Wow! We were 26 miles away, exactly half-way! We high-fived and toasted with our water bottles.

Later in the day when the wind changed direction and kicked up slightly we unfurled the jib. And we sat together on the foredeck near the bow to admire the skyline, soak up the warm sun, and enjoy the fact that we'd made it this far. 

A short clip en route across Lake Michigan.

We inched closer & closer while viewing the Chicago skyline.

And many, many hours later with the sun beginning to set, we were snugly tied up in our slip in Chicago! Home port! What a ride!

Securely tied up to our slip in Burnham Harbor. Our new Chicago condo.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Maiden Voyage

⛵We spent day one eagerly and enthusiastically working on Cool Heads Prevail, digging into drawers, closets, bins, & cabinets, scrubbing, polishing, rearranging & making room for our own gear. 

Feeling energized by the results, and discovering that the next's day's weather was looking rather iffy, by mid-afternoon we decided to take her out for her first sail. Or perhaps first motorized ride. We'll see.

With Kent at the helm we carefully backed out of our mooring slip and motored out the St. Joseph River, passing the sweet St. J Lighthouse on starboard, and on towards Lake Michigan. The day was sunny and pleasant and we were feeling happy, waving to people on shore and on other boats.

Once in the big lake we kept motoring on a 252 degree course to the southeast, knowing that would be our bearing on the day we eventually head towards our home harbor of Burnham in Chicago. 

The going was slow (about 1 knot per hour), and the wind was light out of the northeast (about 7-8 knots). After awhile I took the helm and headed up into the wind while we (and by we I mean Kent) scrambled to the foredeck to grab the sheet lines and unfurl the jib. That kicked our speed all the way up to about 2. 

It was supposed to be my job to unzip and unbutton the cover of the mainsail and pull it off, and I did it. And it was also supposed to be my job to stand on the foredeck and pull the halyard to raise that big important sail. But soon we realized there must be a better way! 

So we (and by now you know what that means) raised the mainsail from the cockpit, with only a brief foray onto the foredeck to unjam a snag. It was a masterful feat! With both sails gloriously flying and the motor turned off we managed 5-6 knots. 

And we sailed! 

After 2 hours we headed back to the safety of our West Basin harbor, with only just a wee little bit of  trouble getting back into the slip and tied up. Okay yes, well we're still working on this. 

Her short maiden voyage was complete. And we're ready to sail her to Chicago as soon as the weather becomes more stable. Hoping for fair winds in a few more days. Meanwhile, back home to Normal to wait.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

We Bought A Sailboat!

⛵We're off on another exciting adventure - and this one doesn't involve getting on an airplane. Yet, like other grand travel excursions, it does involve lots of dreaming and learning and planning. 

The past six years of chartering sailboats in both Chicago and the British Virgin Islands have helped us decide that we need one of our own. 

Kent & I have been thinking about this for the past two years, pouring over online listings, watching YouTube videos, calling brokers. And then actually looking at real boats in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida before the world shut down last March, and then closer to home in Illinois, Wisconsin and  Michigan when it became somewhat safer again. 

We've changed our minds about key bits of information: what size and brand of boat (a 32 foot Island Packet? how about a 35' Sabre? maybe a 38' Tartan?); how much to spend (only what we've saved up or take out a loan?); and about where we would sail it (in the south where we'll have a longer sailing season or more nearby where it'd be more accessible?). And just about everything else. In fact the only thing we were very sure of was that we wanted a monohull sailboat, not a catamaran nor a power boat of any sort. 

So today we drove back to Michigan - for the fifth time in two months - and a 35' Tartan became ours! We will call her Cool Heads Prevail. Indeed.

Her mast is up, she's in the water. And tomorrow the work - and eventually the fun - begins. We have lots of cleaning and organizing to do to make our used, yet quality boat the comfortable dreamboat we're wanting. And a lot to learn. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Picturesque Delft - A Perfect Ending

Just when we thought this trip couldn’t get any better, we find ourselves in Delft for our last three days! This little town just south of Amsterdam is full of old buildings with picturesque facades, small canals, inviting cafes, and cultural history involving Johannes Vermeer, the House of Orange, the Dutch East India Company, and of course Delft Blue pottery.

Delft is also know for its markets, especially the Sunday flower market. As we arrived via train and sat at pretty much the first street corner cafe we could find, we witnessed nearly everyone carrying bouquets of flowers either by foot or on bikes! We ourselves were too tired to find the market or do anything but sip beer, but we sure enjoyed the people-watching scenery.

Delft Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) door
And today, semi-recovered, we took off on a bike ride (yes, another bike ride!), this time on our own to the nearby town of Den Haag (The Hague). I was rather on a pilgrimage to see certain famous Dutch paintings, and Kent has become quite an art appreciator himself. At the Mauritshuis, we viewed masterpieces such as The Girl With the Pear Earring (Vermeer), The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp (Rembrandt), and, amazingly, The Goldfinch (Fabritius)! Not a bad haul for a 13.5 mile bike ride!
Kent & the crowd appreciating a very famous painting at Mauritshuis in Den Haag

Our hotel room in Delft has wide windows opening up to stunning views of a canal and Nieuwe Kerk built in the 1500s

Flowers in Delft

It’s been fabulously wonderful weather these past few days and we are soaking it all up. 

We hope everyone back home is enjoying some nice sunshine by now. 

We know we won’t be seeing any 500+ year old buildings when we get back, but we are definitely looking forward to springtime with the home folks! 

Tot ziens!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bikes, Sailing, Music - What a Week!

This week as we rode up and around and through North Holland we've been doing things we've never done before, “going places we have never been, seeing places we may never see again” (thanks, Willie). We’ve enjoyed bicycling through towns, villages, countryside and seashore while negotiating the challenges of riding in a pack. We've totaled 140+ miles. 

And also we've been sailing on a 157 foot three-masted barquentine. Yesterday we spent the morning on our big beautiful ship helping hoist the eight sails. It took 7 people for each sail, and it was quite unlike anything we’d done before! What a thrill to be under sail in such a powerful vessel.
And this morning, after cycling eighteen or so miles along the coast of the Ijsselmeer (pronunciation anyone?) from Hoorn (a historic & charming harbor town), through the village of Edam (cheese!), to Volendam (another harbor town but today overrun by tourists at the beginning of this holiday weekend), we loaded our bicycles onto the ship for the last time and began our journey on water back to Amsterdam.

And we've been playing music on ukuleles. As I pedaled along each day I loved the frequent experience of hearing melodic whistling coming up behind me & then singing along with Ralph to “Four Strong Winds,” “Le Mer,” “Les Bicyclettes de Belsize,””King of the Road,” or other theme-related ukulele songs we’d practiced earlier. It made the miles so enjoyable. 

We are all looking forward to more ukulele tonight. On this trip, Ralph Shaw is all about strumming - using ukulele as a rhythm instrument and varying how it is strummed. He’s touched on trailing (basic clawhammer), slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, finger-picking arpeggios, accents on various beats, rolls, reggae, Bo Diddley strums, etc. all in the context of playable songs - not that I'm even close to being able to do all that! It’s been fun to learn more about ukulele. And play in a group. On a boat. With new friends. After riding bikes. Through the Netherlands!