Thursday, September 29, 2016

he said...she said chronicles chapter 2

Ann lay flat on her back on the cool concrete. She didn't even realize she was adjacent to the dumpsters. 

"Trying to get my land legs back," she said without opening her eyes. She heard Josh come out of the men's room. The priority after pulling in was to find a toilet that stayed still while you did what needed to be done. 

It had been a long night for both of them. They had waited for the best weather they thought they'd see based on the 10 day forecast. It started out all right, but had deteriorated in the middle of the first night. 

Mackinaw Island would be 48 hours if they could head straight there, but between the wind and the seas on Lake Michigan, straight there was not an option. 

The weather in the fall was far from steady, with fronts being impacted from every direction, the Jet Stream, Pacific storms, Atlantic storms. All of it reeking havoc on voyage planning. 

When they left Racine, Josh had intended to cross the lake and wait for the Easterly wind shift to head north on, but in the middle of the night, they'd decided to tack on Ann's watch. Josh was groggy with sleep and he hadn't explained his plan clearly. Ann didn't want to wait until he was in a deeper sleep and had thought it wise to tack early rather than risk getting too close to the coast. 

It was beautiful sailing when Josh came back on watch. He didn't think much of having tacked to Starboard, that is until Ann was deep asleep and he wind was building. The only item on his checklist that didn't have a mark next to it was "run the feeding lines". A lot of good it would do at this point though, he wasn't going to wake Ann and have her sit at the helm while he went out on a rolling deck at night to reef he main. 

How many times, and from how many sources, did he need to hear, "reef early", "if there's a chance the wind might build overnight, reef while it's still light out"? 

He furled in half the jib. It helped, but not enough. They were still overpowered. Nothing made that more apparent than when Ann came out for her watch. It was 1 AM and it was clear that she was in no condition to pay attention to what the boat was doing. 

"You feeling alright?" He ask, knowing the answer, but trying more to judge her spirits by the response. 

A silent look before positioning herself with her head over the leeward lifeline was not the answer he was hoping for. After her prayer to Poseidon was over, Josh told her to go lay back down. 

"Can I lay out here?" The cool moving air of the cockpit must have felt better than below deck. All of the hatches and portlights had been closed up tight since waves we occasionally breaking over the bow. 

"Of course. Can I get you anything?" 

"Mmmm, no. It won't stay down anyway" 

That was enough to solidify the decision to head for closest protected waters. According to the chart plotter, that would be Sheboygan, WI. Josh kicked himself having not shared his plan to stay closer to the Michigan side of the lake. They could have been in white Lake or Pentwater instead of back on the same shore they'd left about 12 hours prior. 

He knew it was the right thing to do though. He was going to be standing watch until they got there and it was the closest port. He plotted the course, then pulled up the harbor in his reference books and on the computer to study the entrance and find somewhere to stop or drop the anchor. 

The last 3 hours, he ran the engine, the waves had continued to build and with the job furled the rest of the way in, and a full main still flying, he wasn't making very quick progress and he knew he needed to get there and get the boat stopped before he'd get his first mate back to a human like state.

It was a little before nine on Friday morning when they approached the breakwall lighthouse. A race committee boat had sped out past them and there were small sails converging at the mouth of the marina they were going to be pulling into. They were agile and appeared to be well driven, though after the long night, Josh wished they'd have allowed for a little more maneuvering room at the harbor mouth. 

Ann pulled the boat quietly into the slip as Josh stepped onto the dock with the bow line. They had made it through their first night at sea. 

The waves were going to continue to build all day, but should start to subside overnight and into Saturday as the wind shifted to the East. That sealed it. They'd stay the night. 

The night had been almost as rough on Interlude as it had been on them. The Lazy Jacks separated from the boom in two places and the slug attached to the head of the mainsail had chaffed through on the aluminum headboard. 

After taking care of the necessities at the marina, they got to work fixing the main and the lazy jacks. The little leaks that dipped when it rained, let a little more water in the decks are awash, so cushions were pulled out in the sun to dry. 

A gentleman was preparing a rigid hull inflatable in the next slip to go out. 

"What's with the small boats out there?" Josh asked. He assumed, rightly, that this man had something to do with the racing. 

The man hopped back into the dock and walked over to introduce himself. "My name's Bernard. There are two things happening." He was quite excited to explain that we had happened into both the Women's match racing series and the blind sailing world championships. (You read that right.)

Bernard was a part of the organization that ranked the sailors vision for the system of determining fairness. He invited us to a cookout that evening at the yacht club adjacent to the marina before leaving to go watch the racing. 

All the necessary tasks completed as best the could be, Josh and Ann collapsed onto the dinette berth. It had been about four hours before he felt her move. He was in the same position he landed in when he later down and his body scolded him for that. 

Ann was on deck staying quiet as a mouse thinking he was still asleep. If I don't get up, I won't sleep tonight he thought. He wasn't sure that was true, he might have been able to sleep through the night. It had been a long time since he'd pulled an all nighter, much less one where he had to prop himself so he would crash across the cockpit at the odd roll. 

He got up. Surprisingly those four hours did a lot to help the recovery. 

"Wonder what time they start serving over there," he said motioning behind her to the yacht club. 

Ann was afraid she'd woken him when she got up. "Probably before too long." 

They made themselves presentable to the outside world, landers don't understand life on a boat. 

It was a cool evening. The Worlds Largest Grill from Johnsonville was cooking up burgers and brats. There was a beer truck. A band was setting up under a large tent. Josh had eaten a sandwich before they'd left the boat, but he had a night of Ann's brat all the same. They each had a beer and shared some idle chat with strangers around one of the tables. 

Josh was getting antsy. The band was tuning up and it was getting a little load for his tastes. He wanted to find Bernard again though and thank him for inviting them. He saw him in line for a beer and tapped him on the shoulder. 

Bernard introduced them to Walt, the skipper of Team USA 1 in the blind world championships. It was an honor to meet someone who was able to not only sail without sight, but do it competitively. Josh had raced in the past. He knew that it was important to use every sense while at the helm, but trying to imagine doing it without what he considered the primary sense, seemed to almost be beyond possibility. Yet here was a successful skipper of a crew who did it. 

They had beers to deliver back to the rest of the crew, so as they made their way through the crowd, Josh and Ann made their way to the edge of the gathering and decided to take a stroll through the town. 

There wasn't much happening for a Friday night. The town was mostly quiet save for a few restaurants and bars that were doing brisk business. 

They returned to the boat and settled in. Someone at the yacht club had mentioned fireworks and they listened to them as they watched a little television before bed. Josh was the first one asleep.


Not only was Ann's stomach filled with anxiety, it was also feeling the effects of the building waves. She offered to take the first watch, knowing that before too long she'd need to be horizontal to sleep some of it off. After a few hours of rolling side to side in the cockpit and a few granola bars in, she had her first encounter with the beast commonly named seasickness. 

Below deck after the first watch and every watch after that was absolute torture. The dim red light casting an eerie glow over everything, rendering them a mute crimson color, did little to ease her discomfort. As soon as she could extricate herself from her life jacket, she pulled the covers up around her neck, barely taking a moment to peel off socks and pants before falling into a deep slumber. They had left the salon berth intact for sleeping underway, easing the pitching by sleeping in the center portion of the boat. It didn't hurt that both she and Josh wedged themselves into the corner of the berth, keeping them stationary for the 4 hours they allowed themselves to rest. 

The remainder of the night followed like that. Wake, totter against the rocking of the waves into clothes and lifejacket, and climb the precariously swaying companionway into the cockpit for the next watch. Mostly Ann read, strummed her ukulele, and listened to podcasts through headphones. She'd snack and every few hours, lean over the railing to empty her stomach of their contents. The night seems worse than the day. The velvety blackness of the sky rendering the horizon obsolete, it felt like falling down a hole. There was nothing on which to fix her gaze that was stationary.

The decision to head to shore was made when they both were too battered to carry on. Unfortunately, the seasickness had rendered Ann's stomach empty and her body too weak to even try to stay upright. The sleep on her off watch time had been taking longer to achieve and she was exhausted. While Josh, the saint that he is, steered a course for Sheboygan, Ann could do little but fall asleep in the cockpit, drained of all her energy and gumption. Once they arrived in the harbor, the waves were blocked enough that she could steer while Josh jumped to the dock to tie up. They took stock of the damage below deck (because with waves beating you continuously for hours you're bound to have some collateral damage in the way of things having fallen off of or into places they don't belong). The offender this go round was a bottle of balsamic vinegar, spilled across the stove top and down the front of the oven to the cabin sole. The odor, sharp and overpowering, clung to everything it had touched. After sopping up the mess and arranging the damp items sodden with lake water that snuck into the nooks and crannies of the interior of the boat, and making a few repairs of things that came loose during the windswept night, they crashed. Four hours of hard sleep for both of them came in almost an instant. 

Ann woke first and took snacks and her kindle on deck to stretch out and hopefully allow Josh more sleep. A full belly and sleep had done wonders for her morale. Shortly thereafter, Josh woke and they brushed teeth (a personal hygiene habit that often gets overlooked on long hauls) and combed hair, etc before joining the real world. 

A fellow dock mate they had encountered earlier had mentioned a cookout at the yacht club next door that was accompanying the races that weekend, one being the world blind championship sailboat races and one the international women's match racing. They couldn't resist the chance to rub elbows with some heavy hitters in the world of sailing and support the local sailing programs. Beer and brats never tasted so good. They ran into Bernard, the dock mate who encouraged them to join in on the festivities that evening.  Bernard was also the sight classifier for the blind racers. He was with the skipper for the American team who couldn't have been nicer or accommodating to their many questions and curiosities. After visiting for a few minutes, they let him get back to his crew. Not knowing anyone there, they decided to get a bit further afield of the marina and yacht club and wandered into the twilight doused downtown. 

The stores were mostly shut up tight for the evening but several restaurants were filled with hungry patrons enjoying the company of family and friends. They wandered back and tucked in for the night, listening to the fireworks being let off on the breakwater outside.