Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The real first day - 927

Ok, some members of my sailing team have reminded me that the first time we went sailing was actually a week before the November 17 freeze. The first time we went sailing we had my old Hiawatha 3.6 outboard motor on the back of the boat. We hoisted the mast up and were motoring out of the channel while trying to figure out what all these ropes were for when the trusty 50 year old outboard started screaming. I quick ran from the mast to the motor and shut it down. The lower end of the outboard had stripped out and was no longer moving the boat. Now the embarrasing part - we hadn't purchased an anchor yet. We had no sails up yet, no motor, and no anchor. The wind blew us into a shallow part of the lake and we were stuck. No swimming either, this was the week before November 17. No radio either. Out comes the cell phone to call the coast guard. Yes, our first sail out we had to be towed by the coast guard. They didn't notice I didn't have an anchor. They did give me a ticket for not having the square throwable life preserver, even though I had two preservers for everyone in the boat and were all wearing one. My wife just reminded me that I also almost got knocked out by the boom (appropriate name) while trying to rig the sails after our keel got stuck and the boat was swinging wildly side to side. According to her I was in a daze, non responsive after allegedly being hit. I don't remember it. Ok, enough about that.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

First Sailing Voyage - Day 932

I will always remember the date November 17. It was the day that our family sailed together on our own boat for the first time. We froze. The waves were forcast to be 2-3 feet, we got 5-7 instead. 5-7 feet is no problem on our present boat. Our little 22 Ensenada trailerabole was overwhelmed. The waves went right over the cockpit. Everything on the boat leaked. The hatch, the centerboard trunk, the cockpit drains; everything. Every single piece of clothing was soaked with 44 degree (F) water. The sail was wet half way up the mast. We sailed for 22 miles and arrived in Grand Haven, MI exhausted. We tied up at a marina (free: not a soul in sight) and got a room at a bed and breakfast and ran their dryer all night long getting our clothing dried out. Everybody (except me) got seasick. The next day we motored back - Lake Michigan was a sheet of glass. Not a wisp of wind to be found. Ahhh. . . the memories. My family still went out sailing with me the next Spring. My wife is still married to me. I have got it good.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Shrinky Dink Sailboat and Varnish - Day 935

Went out to our sailboat to check on it while the wind gusted to 45 knots. It was an amazing cacophony of sound to hear the wind rushing through the rigging of hundreds of sailboats. If you looked up, you could almost imagine that you were sailing. This year we had the shrinky dink people put a door in our plastic cover so that we could get inside during the winter. This weekend we pulled all of the wood out of the interior to varnish piece by piece in the basement over the winter. If you do not enjoy varnishing things then you need to buy a boat made in the last decade. Every boat made earlier than about 1985 has little varnished wood pieces everywhere. Varnish is like the little protective piece of plastic that comes on the screen of your calculator when you buy it - temporary. If you want your wood to look like anything and boat to be worth anything then you are going to have to get used to varnishing. Fortunately I enjoy varnishing things, which is odd because I hate painting things with a passion. I think that it is because I enjoy wood, especially teak.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Liferafts - Day 941

Many vessels are found, often years later, floating after being abandoned with liferaft and crew missing. I am not saying that not carrying a liferaft is an option, but the only way I am getting into it is if I have to step up to get into it. Just imagine that you are in a boat getting beaten up by 35 foot waves and you have been bailing water with a five gallon bucket for hours and the wind is only getting louder. Then the mast breaks. There is your liferaft calling out to you. The liferaft requires no looking after on your part. It is a nice womb to curl up in and forget about all your worries. The only problem is that people in liferafts have a very small chance of survival. Estimates vary, but most are around a one in three chance of survival in the open ocean. I will take the sailboat thank you very much.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The things the glossy sailing magazines don't tell you - Day 947

I had huge buck teeth. I spent many many hours at the orthodontist office enraptured, mouth open, looking at some of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Stacks and stacks of sailing magazines with sailboats slicing the water with immense power, yet delicate and peaceful at the same time. Everything in the magazine is beautiful, even the rigging is like jewelry. Later I subscribed to a few (5) sailing magazines. Even more beautiful things. Then you get the boat. You find out about all the things they don't tell you in the magazines. Flies, seasickness, sunburn, cramped, constant repairs, small beds, lack of privacy these are a few of my favorite things. Sailing is all of these things and more. In my buck teeth days I loved the machinery of sailing. In my boat owning days, the machinery means less and less. It is the relationships that make the boat, not the things the magazines show you. The flies bring you together.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Things that sneak up on you - 948

What weighs 20,000 tons, is 1000 feet long, travels at 20 Knots and sneaks up on you? Freighters. You wouldn't think something that looks like it isn't even moving when you are on shore could sneak up on you when you are sailing, but it has happened several times to me. Freighters often don't see you, and even if they are looking for you on radar you are invisible. I at first found it impossible to believe that sailboats are inherently difficult to spot on radar, but I have had enough encounters with these behemoth vessels to believe it. Apparently a 40 foot piece of aluminum mast does not reflect radar well because it is rounded, and the Fiberglas hull is even worse. The only solution to this is to keep a good watch, but they still sneak up on you. A sailor in the Atlantic caught sight of a freighter just as it sliced the front of her boat where her 12 year old son was sleeping. This kind of thing scares me. I have timed several freighters from when I could see them during the day at horizon to when they passed me. It takes 20 minutes. The problem is that they sneak up on you from behind because they are traveling four times as fast as you are and they are for most purposes silent on all but the calmest day. I am going to buy some kind of timer that goes off every five minutes so that the person at helm can prairie dog and look around. 20 minutes isn't very much time on a sailboat.