Our Ascent into Complete Randomness (We’re Out of Bay City)

The defining characteristic of the Lakes is their unpredictability. And today, as we finally left port, we saw a most perfect display of this temperament.

Here’s the story.

First, take a moment to review the photos from our first day out last summer. Now, mind you, it was later in the season. But, notice the sunshine, the calm water, and the crowded marina in Tawas.

Today was a different sort of adventure.

We looked, looked, and looked again at the weather forecast. If NOAA were correct, we would be on a beam reach until Gravely Shoals, then we would be on a close reach, or motoring. Sounded good. Once again, we put Bay City to our stern.

Do take note of the solar light on the rail...it's significant.

We motored while flying the genoa for the first stretch.

Typical Bean.

As we continued down the channel, we were overtaken. But it was a worthy adversary.

It was so unbelievably clear. Almost from the beginning, we could see all of the markers, leading to the first “spark plug,” in the center of the Bay.

Bay City is still visible, as well.

Things changed as we approached the first spark plug. It seemed we were having problems with our own spark plugs. The engine did its usual randomly shut down routine. We thought we had fixed this by installing a water separator, but apparently not. Luckily, the boat continued, under genoa, at a slightly slower speed, as Rob went to work.

We didn’t have much luck with the engine. It kept quitting after 15-20 minutes. However, the wind was increasing, and soon the genoa was simply too much, We spent the next leg of the journey sailing under main only (a rare occurrence). While we were sailing, we passed another interesting boat, in the opposite direction.

I had the helm all this time. At one point, I suddenly was unable to control the direction of the boat. I turned us into the wind, to stabilize us, and Rob reset the sails. The wind was not being consistent.

I kept following the compass, holding the course. Rob took over, being tall enough to see over the cabin trunk, and said, “You’re heading right for Gravely Shoals!”

Meanwhile, we made our annual sacrifice to the Lake gods (remember that solar light…A wave crashed over the back and claimed it).

This is the only way to sail...

After rounding Gravely Shoals, the wind inexplicably stopped. We ran the motor for a bit, knowing it would not last long. Then the wind picked up, cold, and from the opposite direction. The skies became dark, but now we were going where we needed to be.

Then, as we entered Tawas Bay, past the freighter docks, the wind stopped again. We motored, but it soon restarted, warm, and completely different. We were able to sail, right up to the entrance to the marina. I called while we were under sail, and they said, “Are you that sailboat that is approaching?” We dropped the sails, unceremoniously, just as we rounded the wall. We entered too quickly but docked beautifully.

For Tawas, this place is desolate. We did not see any people on their boats, and there were few boats. However, at the park, we saw a family of 3 playing there. Their daughter wore mismatched lightly-colored clothing, and they were both barefoot, with a wagon. Obviously boaters, it turns out they are from the same marina as us. We enjoyed talking to them, as our kids played.

And they're our neighbors here! Amazingly enough, both of our preschoolers are sleeping well tonight...

Dinner, of course, was Pronto Pups (as the owner of the Pronto Pups stand is a huge Moonraker fan). We talked to another couple, who was fascinated by our boat, and knew it from previous visits.

We have our work cut out for us, with the engine. But we are lucky that, as Rob pointed out, Moonraker was not designed to be a motor boat. It’s made for sailing, but they reluctantly included an engine. Today, it (and Rob, the more experienced sailor) proved itself beyond all measure.

Why We Aren’t in Tawas Yet

It’s been wet. Super wet and miserable. Today, we left our boat for most of the day, to go into Midland for Beanie’s therapy and some thrift shore shopping. But we came back, and it was leaking EVERYWHERE (except underneath!). So, it’s definitely better to only be taking on water from the topside. But still!

It’s raining again tomorrow, but we had already planned to meet my parents at the Midland Mall, then have them drop us off at the boat (taking back their car). Then, we had planned to leave on Sunday, which was supposed to be nice.

Guess what? Now it’s supposed to be yucky. And I don’t care. We’re getting out of here.

Don’t worry. We’re not going to be stupid. We won’t leave in winds over 20 mph, or crazy waves (over 10 ft, or so). We won’t go out if a thunder storm is predicted. (You don’t really want to feel St. Elmo’s fire burning within you!).

But, we’ve done rain. We’ve done waves. We’ve sipped tea while sailing in the cold. And, as much as we love Tawas, we’ll see nothing this summer if we keep waiting for the perfect day. And I can get soaked just as happily there as here.

Here are some pictures from today:

But, you know what? Last summer’s beginning was idyllic. Every day of our cruise was beautiful, filled with sunshine, until the unexpected and tragic last day. If I never have to hear that sound again, of fiberglass against rocks; if I never have to descend the steps, into a puddle; if I never have to take the (broken) helm into crazily dense fog, as we are slowly sinking; if I never have to fight to have a harbor even look at our damaged boat…If I can skip all of that, I’ll take the rain. This is just part of the game, and I’ll definitely take it.

Repair Day!

We got the mast repaired bright and early this morning. They also ran the spinnaker line, so we will be able to fly the spinnaker when we go downwind!

We had intended to leave port today, but the forecast caused for some cold and miserable conditions on the Bay, followed by two rainy days. We don’t so much mind plowing through waves, but Tawas is not a fun place to be rained in. Everything is outdoor, and it’s a long walk to the bathrooms and showers. We would much rather enjoy that port on a nice day.

Things are clearing up on Sunday, and after that it looks like it will be pleasant and in the upper 60’s. In the meantime, we’re borrowing a car tomorrow, so that we can take Beanie to therapy, Rob to work, and all of us to the store to pick up some supplies (like parts for our stove, so I can finally cook in here!).

Here are some pictures from today and yesterday:

Installing the water separator required Rob to climb into the side locker.

This morning, it was back to the launching area to get the mast fixed.

While we were waiting, we saw a familiar face (under power this time).

This guy had the fun job! Relying on a crane with cables, rather than our 45-year-old ropes.

Meanwhile, Rob cleaned up his "clutter corner" on the quarter berth.

Securing the spinnaker lines.

So, although we’ve been stuck, we haven’t been bored! Having the extra time has been nice, actually. We’ve gotten more settled in to the boat, and it is getting more organized and feeling more like home.

Some Pictures From Yesterday

I was having difficulty uploading photos yesterday, but today I’ve had success! (It’s a matter of tethering the mobile hotspot to the laptop, and using Internet Explorer instead of Firefox). So, yay for problem-solving!

First, here are some close-ups of the Appledore under sail.

Uh-oh! Here is the spreader, with the missing pin.

And there is the engine, being repaired once again…

Beanie’s enjoying her new Marble Works!

So, we’re here today. They will repair the mast at 8:30 tomorrow morning, and then we will be on our way. It’s supposed to be cloudy and in the 60’s. The wind is going to be 9 mph NNE, so we might be able to do a close reach.

The Day We Almost Went to Tawas

We had our last night on A-dock last night. We drank a toast. We took a walk. It was all very wonderful and bittersweet.

I couldn’t sleep last night, because I was so excited about sailing again.

And sail we did, this morning! It wasn’t the beam reach we’d been hoping for, and it wasn’t even a broad reach. We were as close to going upwind as we could be, and we were heeled over, even though we were just flying the working jib (the smaller one, without the main sail). We saw the Appledore (a local tall ship) under full sail, which is very rare; they almost always motor sail. We saw a Coast Guard boat rescuing another Coast Guard boat, which was hilarious. We were definitely going to get to Tawas early. Rob sent me down below to call our parents and let them know our ETA.

My phone didn’t work, for some reason. And that was good, because Rob said, “Oh no!” right as I put it away.

I asked him what was wrong, and he pointed at the spreader. The starboard side spreader was completely disconnected, on the outside.

That was a problem. If the spreader fell out, our mast would most likely bend in half. Yes, bend. in. half. The boat wouldn’t be totaled, but it wouldn’t sail anymore this summer. We would probably be calling Tow Boat, or, more likely, figuring out how to get into port with a horrible crippled, bent mast.

Luckily, the nearest port was Bay Harbor. It’s not Alpena.

Then, our motor quit on the way. We sailed up the river, giving the motor a rest. We restarted it, and let it run until it quit a few times. Doing this, we made it back to our slip.

What was wrong? The motor seemed to have some water in the fuel, which it worked through and ran well. Rob will do more research today and tomorrow, just to be sure.

In order to fix the spreader, we could pull someone up in the Bosun’s chair. We tried this last year, with Rob hoisting me up, and the winch released after 2 feet. We haven’t been very keen on this since then.

Instead, we talked to the shop at the marina. They said that they would work with us if we would work with them. They will do the repair for free, but they’re so booked we’ll have to wait (in a free slip, remember…) until Thursday. That sounds like a great deal (and much better than crashing down on the deck…).

We also need new jib sheets, since both lines are frayed (one completely broke, and the other is close). We have a spare, but we’ll buy another while we’re here.

So, with all the repairs, I realized I needed to get some money from an ATM. I took off on the Moped (with a full face helmet; I’m not interested in meeting Jesus right away…) and headed to WalMart. I would get my money and some adult refreshments.

First, the Moped began wobbling as soon as I turned into the parking lot. Clearly the back tire was flat. I would fix that after I did my shopping.

I got the beverages, but the ATM did not want to give me money. It claimed technical difficulties, all 3 times I tried. I gave up and went outside.

Where two men were eager to be my knights in shining armor. One actually said he was there to buy a bicycle pump, so if I waited, all would be good. They only seemed more eager when I said I had no car, because I was a sailor living at the marina. Hmmm….

There was a gas station next door, so I declined rides back and headed over there. I tried filling the tire with the air compressor, but only black slime came out. I figured the tube was blown, but there was yet another older man who thought he could help. We tried it again, to no avail (really, I know as much as they do about these things, but I’ll humor them…). He watched the moped while I tried the ATM at the bank next door. It said I had exceeded my allotted ATM transactions. Thank you, Walmart. 😦

After declining another offered ride, I limped the moped back to the boat. I did run the engine, slowly, because that was quicker (and safer, IMO) than walking. Rob was there, feeling sorry for me, but impressed that I made it back (um…300?).

I still needed $$. So I climbed on the brand new folding bike. People in Bay City are much more courteous to Moped riders than cyclists. I got run off the road, and the handle bars slid. I was struggling to keep them upright as I made my way to the ATM, with Rob’s card (on the same account). Luckily, it granted me my money that time, and I headed back, carefully on the sidewalk.

Rob opened that wine box for me when I got back.

Otherwise, we’ve not been devastated to be back here. It’s A dock. We’ve shared our homebrew with our sailor friends, and caught up with everyone. It turns out we weren’t the only boat to run aground in Thunder Bay last summer! (Another one made it to Tawas, which wasn’t much better than Alpena). Most people had some sort of adventure to share.

So here we are. It’s not Patience Camp. It’s home. And I can totally hang out here another day before our adventure begins.

Birthday Party, First Adventure, and a Victory

All right, I probably should have written a post about our first day here, but I was relaxing, detoxing from a rather stressful school year. But here we are, on slip A-12 for the time being (yes, somebody took our old slip, but they’re really cool, so it’s OK). We can stay here free of charge for up to 2 weeks, but we’ll leave before that. We had originally planned to leave tomorrow, but we might wait until Tuesday. We’ll see.

The first excitement we had was Beanie’s birthday party yesterday. I’ve been a mother for 5 years now! That’s hard to believe. We wanted to have a simple party, with her 4 best friends (well, she has another friend who would fit into that category, but we’ll be seeing him on Beaver Island later this summer). She shares a birthday with one of those friends, and that girl’s mother didn’t want to do a big party either. So this was a party for both of them. Rob’s dad donated 4 tiaras and I bought 4 princess wands and cupcakes. We played around at the marina, while the dads were occupied with something else.

Remember the friends who met up with us in Tawas? Well, they got their homemade boat, the Proteus, ready and launched it in the river. The marina manager said they could have a free slip for the weekend, so they’re parked right next to us. This obviously meant that we should go out sailing together. I told the other people on the dock that they should place their bets. I would have placed my bet on the catamaran, but I really don’t know Moonraker well enough (keep in mind that our previous boat was horribly underpowered, and I’m still thinking of that).

Well, catamarans draw a LOT less water (they only need inches) than a monohull, even with a full keel (we take at least 6 feet). So our friends played around along the shoreline, while we went out the second marker. We were flying our main and running the motor still, when the wind blew us out of the channel, to the right. We weren’t worried, because we’d left the channel before. There are sandbars, but the worst of the is to the left of the channel, before the second marker. I kept feeling that sickening rumble, but that happens at the trough of waves, regardless. Then we stopped. I told Rob to get us out of there, and when we turned, our boat tipped, freakishly, because our keel was sitting on the sandbar. At that point I shamelessly flipped out, remembering Thunder Bay last summer. There was no way we could be done before we started this year!

My friend, Rosie, who doesn’t have a boat, brought me back down and Rob got us off the sandbar, using the sail to tilt our keel up. He lectured me about panicking, but I caught him checking the bilge, in the place that the water came in last year.

We turned out of the channel after the second marker, and I took the helm while Rob used the bathroom. I was happy that I could feel the tiller, in all the wind, and Rosie and I were chatting. Then we slowed down. A lot. Something was definitely wrong, as the wind had now decreased. Rob couldn’t come out soon enough. There was no sand bar to worry about after the second marker, but the troughs of the waves were bringing us close enough to the bottom to get stuck. When there are waves, we’ll have to be careful with the depth. Usually, there is 100+ feet of water below us, but in bays, it is significantly less. I knew by now that sand was less of a problem than rocks, and Rob used the same method as before to bring us about and get us off the sandbar.

We sailed into the river on a very comfortable beam reach, and the Proteus met up with us (we tried contacting them by radio, but they were having technical difficulties). On the river, they raised their jib, which we found to be odd. Then we realized what they were doing, and we raised ours as well. Unfortunately, it was our working jib and not our genoa, which does better in light wind (which is what we had in the river). Proteus was able to go in the shallow water, which allowed them to keep going past the wind-blocking power plant, but we have a very long boom, which allows us to have more sail area. We would be a close match in an actual race, which would be fun to do. Here are the results from yesterday:

Before we were out of the marina, the wind blew us inward, so I had to be ready to fend us off…

Beanie played with her new paper dolls. She later fell asleep.

Rosie, our passenger and photographer…

Up the river, with Proteus approaching….

Raising our jibs on the river (and look at their gorgeous main!)…

We’re still in this!

And there you have it. That’s Proteus, seeing the name of our boat…

Well, we didn’t exactly expect to overtake a catamaran, and I’m sure there will be a rematch later on this summer. But it was a definite reminder, that Moonraker is more than meets the eye…

End of the Pre-Season

Well, this weekend was it.

We had a birthday party Saturday afternoon, so we didn’t make it to the boat until that evening. I immediately got to work washing the upper deck, while Rob installed the new bilge pump. On Sunday, Grandma and Grandpa took the Bean, so we were able to finish washing, fixing the engine, and restoring order to the cabin. Here are some pictures:

Our camper, loaded up with stuff to put on the boat. We were able to bring over half of the things we're going to need for the summer.

Beanie playing with her iPad, in the camper.

Me taking a coffee break, while washing the hull on Sunday.

Beanie gave Mommy a hand...

Remember how the cabin looked last week? It's much more Martha now...

The cockpit is also greatly improved. We did a lot of "purging" of items from the side locker (the space under the seat) and the lazarette (the storage area on the back deck).

Clean, painted, and ready to go!

We can now drink a proper toast to Moonraker, in our new flutes!

Ready or not, here we come!