Monday, August 22, 2016

on fits and starts.

Where to begin. I suppose the beginning is fine. It certainly gives the clearest picture of how we ended up here. And by here, I mean Racine.

We left on the night of August 10. Just Josh and myself after a long few days of preparing. We had been been home for a few days after Josh's brother's wedding and left Fozel there with my mom and Josh's parents to care for and meet up with us in Michigan. The plan had been simple. Josh and i would go up to the boat, stow all the gear we still had to drag from the condo, make some last minute adjustments, and of course, actually launch the boat. We were really hustling. But Sara and Allen came up on Tuesday and after Interlude was splashed, it all sort of happened. I should have been worried about the amount of time it took for Josh to get the engine going, but I figured, "hey, it's been up all winter, I wouldn't like to be forced to start after enduring that winter weather either." The truth is that I had enough to focus on. In any case, we both sort of ignored it.

Fast-foward to Thursday. We successfully motor sailed across the lake. We did some sailing but used the engine for more than half. It wasn't perfect wind conditions, but nothing terrible. And all was calm. We stood our watches, we slept, we ate protein bars and listened to podcasts between scanning the horizon and checking the autopilot and AIS system. We arrived safely in Muskegon around noon. Paul and Ginger met us shortly thereafter with Fozel. We hooked up to shore power, we stowed the sails and all our stuff and then we departed for the afternoon. Nothing was amiss.

Friday morning we decided to move marinas. We had been at Pointe Marine. It was fine. Sparse and they told us not to drink the spigot water. Whatever. Fine. But it was further from where Ginger and Paul would be camping that night than we'd like, so we were lucky enough to secure space at the dock at the campground. Turns out if you're camping there, you are eligible to tie up a boat at their dock, free of charge. It was buggy and didn't have any hook ups, but for one night, we didn't care!

We stayed one mosquito filled night then untied and set off to get a bit of diesel before leaving for Mackinaw. That's when we had a bit of trouble. The engine was less than thrilled to start. It was like it didn't even want to turn over. Okay. Whatever. It started.

After 6 hours of Fozel napping (um, I'm thinking that may be a seasickness symptom?) and us making very little headway north on our sail to Mackinaw, we gave up. We started the reluctant engine and pulled into White Lake, the next stop up the coast. We opted to anchor for the very first time, which was successful. It was extremely protected waters and there was no chop. I had some trouble getting the stove started so cold dinner it was. We sat in the cockpit and snuggled. It was a nice calm night.

I should also mention we didn't run any electronics that night. So it was a mystery why the battery bank was showing such low voltage. Luckily, after some coaxing and using a battery jumper box (a box you plug in that would be able to jump your car battery in an emergency) it started. It was problematic enough to give us both pause. So, it being a Sunday, of course nothing was open in the sleepy little town of Whitehall on White Lake. We motored over to South Shore Marina. Whitehall is part adorable little Michigan town, part sleazy town. The hotels were either sky high or super sketchy. Ginger and Paul stayed there that night in a $60/night hell hole. Oh well. 

So Paul and Josh got to work while Fozel and Ginger and I found a laundry mat, food, and a park. We killed a few hours while the did some trouble shooting. They thought it was the alternator and swapped out the faulty one with the extra we had and tried to take it to an Auto Zone to have it tested. No go. They were no help. We did get the name of a marine guy who would be open on Monday and might take a look. Cool. We stayed at the marina Sunday night then called the guy, dropped off the alternator and wasted the rest of the day. He told us it would be ready the next morning. We moved to a marina closer to the hotel, had the best ice cream bar of my life, and went out for pizza where Fozel met his first girlfriend, Brooklyn. She was a cute little 8 year old who allowed him to play with her giant fire engine. 

The next phase of the plan was to leave Fozel with grandma and poppa and sail to the next port, Pentwater, where they'd meet us with the fixed alternator, have dinner, then sail on to Detroit. I would sail with Josh until that point and then I'd drive back to our parents' to celebrate Fozel's birthday and then he and I would fly to meet Josh, who would be to Buffalo New York by then. So, Tuesday morning, we did it. We headed out, and made it to Pentwater. This town is much cuter but they charge an exorbitant amount to tie up for a few hours to go ashore to have dinner. It was like $16 for 3 hours. I'm sorry but, huh??

All goes well and we sail off from Pentwater around 9 and start standing watches pretty much right away. 3 hours on--scanning the horizon, hand steering, listening to podcasts, etc. Then three hours of rest. I have a hard time sleeping such short stints but it worked. We drank lots of water and ate too many protein bars. Around 11 am, the watch was changing. Josh thought we should fire up the engine to charge the batteries. It didn't work. Around this time the wind was dying and we were being bit by flies every 5 minutes. Oh, and did I mention we were in the middle of the lake? Equidistant from Sturgeon Bay, WI and Traverse City, MI. 

And then we broke. It had been a grueling week. New places, strange sleeping hours, stressful situations. We decided to take a step back. We would sail to Sturgeon Bay, take a few days to wait out the coming weather, and sail back to Racine. And here we are. We're calling it our shakedown cruise and regrouping. There were a few projects we had delayed and are now working on. We are here in Racine for the next month and will reassess at that point. We hope to try again this fall, but if not, we will try again in the spring. Everything is fluid at this point. We're just trying to move forward and know that shaking it off is the best way. I'm having a hard time not thinking of it as a failure, but if cruising was easy, everyone would do it.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

duffle bag full of drugs

When you hear the phrase "duffle bag full of drugs" an image comes to mind. A blockbuster movie with Denzel Washington flying through the air whilst shooting a gun or perhaps a headline on the city paper front page complete with a mugshot of some less than thrilled person staring down the camera. It's certainly not what I expected to be posting about but here it is. 

I was tasked with putting together our kit and let me tell you, I was nervous. With a plan as open ended as ours, I wanted to cover all my bases. So, I started with Google. Bayview Yacht Club, Riparia, and Practical Sailor were beyond helpful. And then I contacted some of our medical friends (shout out to Brandon G!) for more on the ground personal advice. After that, I made an exhaustive list of meds and supplies. It was a mere 150 items. You know, nothing big (gulp!). There exist some ready-made kits, but the the best and most comprehensive run in the $1000 range--way more than we wanted to spend at this time. So I set about organizing the comprehensive list I had and trimming it down. Ultimately we ended up forgoing things like sutures because for at least the next few years we won't be more than a few days from civilization and super glue and steri strips ought to do it until we can get to an emergency room. 

I ended up with 15 categories of supplies. They range from first aid (including rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, and tongue depressors) to cough/cold/flu. Once I had my final list of must-haves, I started price checking. I looked on amazon, target, cvs, walgreens, and wal-mart. I priced everything and bought from the least expensive vendor. Once we purchased and received all our items, I took them by category and bagged them up in gallon bags. If an item had specific usage instructions on the box, I cut it off and included it in the gallon bag. Each bag had a paper printout of the contents of said bag. Some of the categories were so exhaustive, we had to divide them into multiple bags, each labeled with contents. 

Once all the bags were packed, we strategically packed them into a duffle since that's about the only bag we could actually fit everything into! 

And that's about it. We have our comprehensive list to resupply from and will continue to monitor our usage and reassess what has been/is being used and decide what needs added or subtracted. We also have a very small kit (about the size of an average hard back book) that has our most frequently used items at close hand (pepto, nose spray, tylenol, tums, bandaids).

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

off at last

It's been at least 15 years, probably closer to 20, since I first dreamed of living on a sailboat and cruising the world. A lot has happened in the ensuing years, but the time has finally arrived!

We left Pugh Marina on Wednesday night around 10:30 PM. Many people asked us why we were taking an all night trip across Lake Michigan for our first passage. The reasoning is pretty straight forward. We are en route to Muskegon, MI. It's about 70 miles across the lake and we planned on making 5.5-6 mph, so it will take us about 12 per the plan to get there. Allowing for some contingencies, and some buffer, if we want to get in with good light, we needed to leave and sail all night.

I'll be honest with you, tonight was not the ideal sailing conditions that we would have liked, so we are using the auxiliary diesel to help us along a bit. But as I sit here in the glow of the instruments listening to the diesel hum, I can't help but feel at ease. This is where I was meant to be. I have my beautiful wife resting down below and we are meeting my parents in Michigan to pick up the boy. Life doesn't get any better.

It has been a long road to get here and we wouldn't have been able to without all of the love and support from all of our friends and family. The list is too long, but a few people do deserve special mentions for the extra help they gave us over the last month to help get us that last inch. My mom and dad and Ann's mom watched the boy for a couple of weeks so that we could get the condo renter ready. Sara and Allen drove up to Racine on their day off to help us rig sails and get some last minute provisions. They are also helping to shuttle our car back to our parents house for safe keeping.

To anyone who is dreaming of going cruising, just remember that there is always going to be something to try to stop you. If this is your dream, go for it! It's far from easy, but the best things in life are worth working for and sacrificing for.

One more note about leaving what has been our summer home for the last several years, the crew at Pugh Marina also deserve an honorable mention. I cannot recommend their services enough. Bill is a fair man and Stevie D can work miracles. We will also miss all of our friends at Reefpoint Marina. It was our second home for several years and the friends we made there felt like family.