Sunday, October 9, 2011

Last Sail of 2011

This is the Sunset over Chicago from Lake Michigan tonight.  The lights of Wrigley Field, to the left, are out as they typically are in October.

This was a fantastic boating weekend!  I had a "boys night" Saturday night with Conor and Emmet.  Today our friends Mike, Kelly, Rob, and Zoe joined us for one last lazy sail.  We covered almost 15 miles and spent about 4+ hours on the water followed by dinner at dock.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chicago from Lake Michigan

I don't live near mountains, but I live near one of the world's most beautiful skylines. There are only one or two other boats on the lake so it is safe to say Karen and I are only two of a handful to be seeing this sight right now.

October Sail, or Four Hours of Peace

It's over 80 degrees in Chicago today! It's perfect on Lake Michigan with the temperature in the low seventies on the water. This is the skyline from Donnybrook reaching on southerly winds on the lake.

Today is a great example of how kids change your life. Before kids, Karen and I would have taken today off then gone somewhere together. Maybe we would have sailed to Michigan City or New Buffalo. Maybe we would have driven to a bed and breakfast somewhere gone to my parents for a long weekend.

Today, we dropped the kids off at school, had breakfast (M Henry on Clark near Ashland, very good!), ran a few errands, and will be on the boat for four hours before we have to pick the boys up again. Karen is reading. I read a little, am writing this entry, and otherwise am doing what I like to do.

We'll be back on land by 2:30, will be with the kids again by 3:10, and our peace will be over.

Sarurday I'll have a boys night on the boat with Conor and Emmet, watch the Marathon Sunday morning, then go on a family sail. Next Saturday Donnybrook will return to her winter home at Crowley's.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rainbow At Belmont Harbor!

This morning's rain turned into something special, a rainbow! I was hoping I'd see one after sitting in the rain with blue skies directly overhead, and I got my wish.

It's been a long time since my last post. School has started so I'm up early taking boys to school (which makes going to the boat after work harder). The days are shorter--it's dark at 6:30 now. It is easy to let other activities compete for my time, plus it's been cooler than normal for September.

I plan to get at least one more good sail in before Donnybrook goes to her winter home at Crowley's mid October.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Verve Distance Race Results

After a postponement due to storms, we started close to 1:30. Race Committee shortened course so it was a one leg race, 12 miles north to the first mark. It was too long for the wind.

We started in variable wind and barely made way. We deployed "Blue", our cruising spinnaker, but were making only two to three knots. We bobbed for two hours only to get decent wind, out of the northeast, for the last hour.

Several boats withdrew. We stuck with it until the race ended at 4:30. No boats finished.

Provisioning for the Verve Distance Race (Why I'm planning to be slow)

The Chicago Yacht Club's Verve Distance Race is today! As other boats are lightening their boats, we're provisioning for a race AND a day at the airshow Sunday (we have 10+ people coming over). Remember, Donnybrook is a cruiser first.

Combine with the forecast light winds I'm anticipating a slow race. With my fantastic friends and crew (Brian, Mike, Bob, Roxray, and Carlos) we'll have a great time no matter what happens.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Smokey Sunset Over Chicago

It was a better than usual sunset tonight, thanks to the fire in Cicero filling the sky with smoke.

I took co-workers Larisa, Noey, and David for an after work sail tonight. We sailed on a reach straight out about 4 miles and returned. Larisa was looking for the moon to rise, but it wasn't coming up until 8:40. We had do return to dock before then because of Noey and David's train schedule so she had her husband take her to Montrose Beach after the sail (parking is better there).

This was a fitting end to three days on Donnybrook: Pizza with the family and a sleep over with Conor Sunday before his first day of sailing lessons, a day off work Monday for boat chores (interrupted by a few work conference calls) and a solo sail, and finally a very pleasant after work sail with co-workers tonight!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sailboat vs. Ship

I saw this on Sailinganarchy.com.  If you ever wondered what happens when a sailboat doesn't yield right of way to a large ship, see this.  The pessimist says it's ugly.  The optimist says it could have been a lot worse!

There are a lot of comments on the Sailing Anarchy forum.  My favorite:  "A freighter captain told me once, you know what they hear on board when a freighter hits a sailboat: nothing. "

The Hanne Knutsen in this video is 870 feet (265 meters) long.  The sailboat is about 36 feet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cruisers--Can You Go The Distance? Verve Distance Race

UPDATE:  The 2012 Verve Distance Race is Saturday, August 11.  See this article for information, or visit www.vervecup.com.

The Chicago Yacht Club Verve Committee has been working hard make the second running of the Verve Cup Distance Race attractive to sailors who don't feel competitive in windward/leeward course racing, including Cruising Sailors.

This year's race will be an approximately 24 mile course against the backdrop of the Chicago Air and Water Show.  There will be Offshore, Mac "Cruising", and Jib and Main sections for every type of sailor.  Rafting at Monroe and Verve Cup social events are included in the modest $2.50/foot entry fee (after August 5 there will be a $75 penalty).

Social events include live entertainment, a competitor party sponsored by Karma Yacht Sales, Mount Gay Rum, and Modelo Especial (NEW) Samuel Adams beer, a casual grill, full use of the Chicago Yacht Club Main Dining Room and Bar, chair massages by Equinox Fitness, and displays from the Verve Cup's co-sponsors, Audi and SLAM.

Fourteen boats are already registered.  Please consider participating in this great event.  To register, go to the the Verve's Yacht Scoring Site and select Online Entry Form / Application.  You’re registering for the Verve Offshore.  When prompted for your Racing Course/Class, select ORR Saturday Distance Race ONLY.

See Chicago Yacht Club's Verve Cup Distance Race for my impressions of the race!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Arrival at Belmont Harbor

Bob and I arrived at Belmont Harbor Friday night at 11:43 pm. Surprisingly no one was on the docks and we only saw a couple of boats on the water. It's a cool night in Chicago, at least on the lake, so I expected more people to be out on a Friday night.

We motored or motor-sailed the entire trip across Lake Michigan. We averaged 6.3 knots over the 93 miles from Grand Haven. Donnybrook's Universal M25XP diesel engine ran flawlessly all day.

The trip total is almost 700 miles since the 2011 Mac race started two weeks ago. We traveled 343 miles since leaving Mackinac Island 9 days ago. Most of that was with the motor.

Bob went home so I'm spending one last night on the boat alone. I'll be up early cleaning and putting things away to get Donnybrook back to Karen's high standards.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Message in a Bottle

The boys talk about sending a message in a bottle from Donnybrook. It seems like a good idea! My bottle is an old Sailor Jerry rum bottle with label removed. I made an inside label with "message in a bottle" clearly visible from the outside.

Inside I placed a short note with the location dropped (middle of Lake Michigan: 87 degrees, 5 minutes west and 42 degrees, 21 minutes north, about 34 miles east of Waukegan) and my email address so the finder can tell me where found. I also included a dollar as a treasure and incentive to email me when found and even sealed the lid with silicone to keep water out.

I did the same thing on a cruise several years ago. Karen and I threw a bottle with message off a cruise ship while we were south of Cuba. Someone found it on a beach on the east coast of Florida 300+ miles from where we dropped it and sent me the letter!

We'll see where this bottle ends up.

Last Land Until Tomorrow

We had a good time in Grand Haven Thursday night. After a pump-out and fuel stop this morning we're returning to Chicago, 90 nautical miles southwest across Lake Michigan. We expect to arrive around midnight.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lazy Day in Pentwater and sail to Grand Haven

The forecast was for rain all day Wednesday so we decided to stay in Pentwater another night. Winds were forecast to be more favorable as well. We made the right decision!

The XM Weather radar (thanks again, Todd) showed rain south of us. Our neighbor for the day, who also waited out the rain, told me it rained all day in Muskegon. We would have been in the rain all day if we left.

Bob and I used the down day to rest. We explored town and checked out boats in the marina. After lunch I took a nap while Bob went for a walk. Before dinner we visited 2 of the 4 bars in town.

We talked to a couple from Egypt. He grew up in Windsor, Ontario and now is a principal at a British school in Cairo. He brought his wife back to spend time at his family's summer cottage. He even brought his kit surfing gear all the way from Egypt to try his luck on Lake Michigan.

Dinner consisted of penne pasta with Karen's delicious meat sauce and garlic bread cooked on Donnybrook. Food cooked and eaten on the boat always tastes a little extra special.

Today we're motor sailing south to Grand Haven, our last stop before returning to Chicago. Bob made fresh brewed coffee (I still get a kick out of the percolating coffee pot) and I made scrambled eggs with ham steaks for breakfast while under way.

The weather is nice: cool and overcast with relatively flat lake and southwest winds which are helping us to motor sail at hull speed. This morning's thick fog burned off mid morning. It's not as nice as Tuesday's "best sail ever" but close.

We're seeing a lot more boats going up and down the shore today, especially large cruisers. People must be positioning their boats for the weekend.

The picture is Donnybrook at Snug Marina in Pentwater with her boat neighbors for the night.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sunset at Pentwater

The sailing was so fantastic we made it to Pentwater instead of Ludington. Our Frankfort dockmates told us Pentwater is a nicer marina and I agree.

We had dinner at the Pentwater Yacht Club with a great view of Pentwater Lake and the Channel to Lake Michigan.

Best Sail Ever!?!

It sure seems like it. We've been motor sailing at 6.5+ knots since Frankfort. We're regularly surfing at 7+ knots and have seen 8.5+ knots. Everything on Donnybrook is working as it should which is very rewarding to me!

I absolutely love Lake Michigan. The cobalt blue waters and deep blue sky are amazing. The cumulous clouds are bubbling up over land, Michigan a few miles to my east and Wisconsin 60+ miles to my west. We've seen one boat in the past 4 hours.

We've been listening to "The Bridge" on Sirius-XM (thanks, Todd, for loaning us your receiver!) and now have Bob Seger on the MP3 player. Life is good!

Under Way to Ludington

After a quiet night in Frankfort we're under way south. Our target is Ludington. If we make good time we'll try for Pentwater.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Frankfort Sunset

Blue Day

One of my favorite characteristics of northern Lake Michigan is how clear and crisp everything is! Last night the sky cleared and I saw more stars than I'd seen the entire trip. After getting up to check docklines (the wind picked up over night) I fell asleep watching stars out the port hole.

Today the sky is cloudless and the water is a rich cobalt shade of blue, thanks in part to the 100+ foot depth. Everywhere you look you see blue. The only exceptions are the green forest, tan sand, and my red Mount Gay rum hat!

The air is cool, about 73. With the wind you need a jacket. It feels more like football weather than July sailing.

The island in the background is South Manitou Island, one of my favorite places. We won't be able to stop since we stayed in Petoskey two nights. Next stop: Manistee, Michigan

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunset Over the Manitous

The sunset from Leland is fantastic!

South to Leland/Odawa Casino

We're heading south toward Leland! Here Bob is looking south down Grand Traverse Bay. The sky is overcast and it's cool. Winds are out of the southeast as we motor sail in 2 foot seas.

The Odawa Casino was a lot of fun! They have a shuttle that will pick you up and drop you off from many places in the area. We called to request a pick-up from the marina and the shuttle was there in 6 minutes, exactly as promised. We were back on the boat within 15 minutes of telling the valet we were ready to return. It wins my praise for convenience to boaters.

The casino was very nice as far as casinos go. It was understated--you probably wouldn't know it was a casino if you weren't looking for it. Inside it was nice without being too flashy. There was a night club, the O-Zone which was playing metal music. At least one other bar, and a couple of restaurants. It is smaller than the Horseshoe casino in Hammond (which is the only other midwest casino I've been to).

Staff were friendly but not enthusiastic. Table limits seemed low--only a $5 minimum at the roulette table. Drinks were reasonable compared to downtown Petoskey bars--$7.75 for a Sam Adams and Seven and Seven. Rest rooms were clean.

The biggest surprise was the other visitors. Most were our age or younger. I was expecting older people--I guess that's the stereotype I hold of midwest casino patrons. The people we talked to were on vacation from central or eastern Michigan. A lot of people seemed to be local twenty-somethings out on a Saturday night.

Bob doesn't gamble--he's too smart to give his money up that easy. I lost my planned $20 playing roulette. I also bought a couple of polished Petoskey stones from the gift shop.

As a change of pace from small town restaurants, bars, and shopping, I recommend the Odawa Casino.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sunset at Petoskey

Petoskey is one of my favorite Michigan ports. To me its the perfect combination of livability (Ace Hardware and JC Penney downtown) and tourism.

Kevin and Mike returned home today. I get Bob in their place! After the sunset we'll head to the Odawa Casina for some people watching.

The weather today was nice, especially compared to Chicago. We had a short rain shower this morning. There was a nice lake breeze which kept everything comfortable.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gray's Reef Lighthouse

At night its only a red flashing (rotating as you get closer) light. During the day you can see it is a true lighthouse standing 85 feet above the water.

This guards the southern entrance to Gray's reef pasasage.

Strongest Mac Race Memories

Kevin, Mike, and I are heading to Petoskey, Michigan today. The winds off the nose so to make time we're motoring. We're talking about our stringest memories:
1. Two people died during the race. It's a stark reminder that it's not all fun and games and that Lake Michigan is something to be respected.
2. The smell of pine trees after the storm. We were about 3 miles east of North Manitou and it smelled like we were in a pine forest.
3. The amount of lighting during the storm.
4. Sitting for as long as we did during the lulls.
5. Gray's Reef fog being so thick.
6. The number of satellites and shooting stars we saw, especially the one that broke apart as it fell.
7. Racing another boat the last mile to the finish.
8. Kevin sleeping for 16 hours a day!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Finish

The picture is of Donnybrook (Megan pictured) approaching Mackinac Island shortly after the finish as we're taking sails down.

The sprint past the bridge toward the finish was generally uneventful. We lost our angle for wing on wing sailing with Blue so we had to gybe to the finish. After a few gybes we finished on Tuesday at 12:28:47 for an elapsed time of 93:28:47 hours on the race course, corrected to be 72:21:11 hours.

In the cruising division we placed 39 of 50 boats to start, with 40 boats actually finishing.

After the race we spent two nights on the island resting and spending time with the family.

Our plan is to reach Petosky Friday night to change crew. The wave forecast for today is bumpier than we'd like so we may stay at St. Ignace depending on how late we leave and how soon the waves lie down.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bridge First Sight!

Tuesday at 9:40 am central: The bridge is starting to emerge from the fog at 1.5 miles! Normally we can see the bridge from 20+ miles.

Kevin, Jake, and Todd figured the secret to down wind performance: We need a spinnaker cut for down-wind! They were sailing faster than a Catalina 320 with a symetrical spinnaker (racing division).

Other than an ore-ship sighting at close quarters and making good time, the rest of the night was uneventful.

Next post: the finish!

Gray's Reef Passage

Tuesday, 4:45 am: We found Gray's Reef covered by a fog bank which made the passage almost surreal. We could hear the bells and horns but couldn't see them until we were on top of them. We didn't see any ships which was a disappointment

It took us over 12 hours to go 23 miles today, which included several hours of speeds less than 1 knot and frequent 0.00 knots on both the knotmeter and gps.

We're flying Blue for the last quarter mile of the passage. We're optimistic winds will pick up to get us the 16 miles to the bridge quickly. Best case we'll be to the bridge by 9:00 am Tuesday and finish the race by 10:30. Mike, Megan, and I are off-watch so I trust Kevin, Jake, and Todd will get us there safely.

The picture is of the last bell and turning mark where we turned east with some of our company and sunrise in the background.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gray's Reef 10 Miles Out

8:26 pm central: It's been a slow sail but we finally have some wind! We're 32 miles as the crow flies. God willing, we'll be in before morning.

Gray's Reef, 19 Miles Out

2:15 Central Monday. The shades of blue are incredible! Publicity and fears about sailing on Lake Michigan center around storms, but this is more typical.

The cumulous clouds about 25 miles north (over the upper peninsula of Michigan) need watching as they can bubble up into thunderstorms.

7 Miles Southeast of Beaver Island

2:10 pm Central Monday

Storm Over Manistee

This storm is 17 miles south of us over Manistee at 11:00 Monday morning. It has a similar profile on the weather radar as the storm we were in last night.

It shows how isolated thunderstorms can be. Even last night the worst of the wind and rain was over in about 15 minutes. The storm in this picture will be mature for only an hour or so.

See "Thunderstorm Lifecycle" under the "Weather" shortcut on the right side of this blog for a description on how storms are born, mature, and die.

Morning on Donnybrook

It's about 11:30 Monday morning on Donnybrook. We're getting ready for our late morning breakfast (breakfast sandwhiches similar to Monte Cristos with Canadian Bacon and colby jack cheese). Here Megan is enjoying fresh brewed coffee.

I had an epiphany as to why cruising boats sail slower than racing boats. In addition to the job of keeping the boat moving, there is the distraction of luxuries that a boat like the T-10 doesn't have, like making a meal from scratch.

Man (binocular) Overboard Drill!

Monday, 3:30 pm: We finally got some wind! It filled in nicely. We got some good speed and heel, then the binoculars fell over!

The crew immediately gybed and went back, gybing several times in the process. The binoculars were not found.

This provides some lessons learned:
1. Make sure there's a spotter who does not take his eyes off the person in the water. A crew member was watching but lost sight when he had to ease a sheet,

2. Mark the spot! If this was a person, throw the man overboard pole, buoy, and light, plus cushions and anything else! Press the MOB (man ober board) button on the GPS to mark the spot. In this case, an old pfd used as a cushion would have helped the boat to come back to the spot.

3. Keep the boat tidy! Don't leave stuff on the deck that can slide off if conditions change.

4. Be prepared to maneuver. Keep the cockpit clear so you can work. Don't tie sheets or coil halyards you might need to run free.

5. Things shrink quickly in the lake. In this case only the strap floated (the binoculars were a few inched below the water). Being blue they were impossible so see from more than a boat length or two.

I was below starting a nap when all this happened but the crew should be stronger for the experience.

Monday Afternoon Update

3:05 PM Central Monday: We're ghosting along between Charlevoix and Beaver Isand. Wind is variable and shifty. We'll be sitting in a hole barely moving then find some wind to push us for a few minutes before stopping.

Rainbow's End, a Tartan T-10 (a third the weight of Donnybrook) passed us earier today but isn't pulling that far ahead of us.

We still hope to be in late tonight.

Mac Race Night 3 Random Thoughts

Mike, Megan, and I were on our 9-3 am watch. The main accomplishment was clearing the Manitou passage and turning north to Gray's Reef. It's 49 miles northwest of our position.

Everyone is tired. Once we got the sails trimmed, we worked on getting the boat to go faster.

I write this from my bunk as Mike enjoys a cigar and Kevin and Todd watch after the boat and try to go faster.

Lake Michigan Storm Warning

Friday's weather briefing predicted the greatest risk of severe weather would be Sunday night... And they were right! The picture shows Todd's chartplotter with XM Weather and Donnybrook in the target of a large storm cell.

Our strategy was to drop all sails, start the engine in case we needed to maneuver, and let the wind push us under bare pole. We ended up averaging 4 knots down the channel during the storm including a peak speed of 7.1 knots.

There were around 15 boats within sight of Donnybrook as we were sailing through the Manitou Channel. We moved as fast as many of the boats.

We heard on the VHF two boats needing assistance, including one who reportedly lost a mast. Megan saw a boat get stuck by lightning. The boat glowed for a second after the strike then no lights.

Crew stayed below during the worst of it while the auto-pilot steered and admired the vivid lightning.

All are well, maybe a little cold and wet.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Speed Contest

Our friends on Endeavor, a Beneteau 37, bragged on Facebook they were sailing at 8.8 knots. Here's proof Donnybrook was sailing at double digit speed (10.1 knots), with Todd at the helm! I could only get her to 9.6. We were regularly sailing in the high 7's and low 8's this evening, under full main and genoa.

The winds have been out of the southwest in the high teens, too much for Blue. Donnybrook doesn't sail dead downwind so we had to gybe multiple times to get to where we are, which is 6 miles west of the Manitou straights.

We have 100 miles to go and we're "planning" to get there midnight Monday night. We'll see if we can arrive on the same day as most other boats.

Talking About the Race

The CYC Race tracking system has been down the entire race. Todd is telling family about www.saildonnybrook.com to keep upwile Kevin steers.

Michigan Shore near Sleeping Bear

Sunday, 4:40 PM: Blue (our cruising spinnaker) was pulling us along nicely as the wind was building. We found we were doing sustained 7 knots and regularly surfing to near 8 when the helm began to feel over powered.

We nearly averted a wipeout then decided to douse the chute (ballsy considering we're the only boat of two dozen not flying a spinnaker).

We went with a reefed main and full genoa and could go nearly as deep and about the same speed. The wind continued to build so we reefed the genoa.

We crash gybed to avoid two neck and neck spinnaker boats and ended up close to the Michigan shore near Sleeping Bear National Lakefront (see picture)..

We're now on a direct sail to South Manitou Island, 30 miles away.

We lost a lot of time and know we're at the back of the fleet. Enthusiasm is turning to weariness but we continue to enjoy each other, Donnybrook, and Lake Michigan.

Mac First Afternoon

The sail so far has been perfect! Lake Michigan is treating Donnybrook and crew right. Our strategy is to sail north as fast as we can in the lake breeze and be in a position to catch the predicted building breeze Saturday.

We've been on a reach since starting the race averaging 6.5 knots in the estimated 10-12 knot east wind. Waves have been pleasant, generally 1 to 2 feet,

Everyone is doing well. Todd, Megan, Mike, Kevin, Jake, and I are all getting along well. We all bring something different to the boat which makes it especially enjoyable.

We're Back in Cell Coverage!

We've crossed Lake Michigan and are sailing north to Big Sable Point for a turn trough the Manitous, 61 miles away. We're sailing comfortably in the high 4's with some chop (1+ feet).

We're a few miles off Ludington so we have cell coverage. I'm posting articles but they may show up out of order depending on how fast they go through.

2011 Mac Race Day 2

Last night's main event was a non-event: No Wind. We ghosted along slowly most of the night. We sailed about 12 miles off shore near the transition zone between east and west breezes.

This morning we were becalmed for awhile, then sailed in the low 2 knot range in variable winds. A light wind finally filled in from the south. We got some discouraging news from Sarah, Todd's wife, that we are toward the end of the pack. We remain opptimistic!

The boat is working well. The only problems have been a clogged head (someone flushed a handi-wipe, it came out) and a stuck outhaul.

The breakfast pizza's were fantastic. Everyone is enjoying snacking on Karen's Rice Krispy treats and cookies.

Todd's Sirius XM radio is a fantastic addition!

2011 Mac Race End of Day 2

Day 2 ended on a high note. After fighting light winds we found ourselves sailing Donnybrook's best course (reach) on the rhumb line to the Manitous. As I write this we're 118 NM from South Manitou island sailing on a broad reach at 4.7 knots.

We're looking forward to a beautiful night sailing. We watched the sunset over dinner (sandwiches and fried chicken) and the full moon rise later. It's clear overhead and stars are starting to come out.

We've been tracking two sailboats about 6 miles to our east. Its nice to know we're pacing with other boats, even though we're at the back of the pack. We're hoping we'll see more boats in our section in the morning.

The refrigerator fan is working very well. Total power consumption is much reduced from last year as a result, and food is staying colder, longer. Last year the chicken fiesta would have been partially thawed.

Mac Race Night 2 Random Thoughts--What Happens on a Night Sail

I'm on the first watch tonight (Saturday), 9:00pm to 3:00 am. Conditions are mild and the auto pilot is doing a fantastic job keeping us sailing straight and the winds are steady so sail trimming is minimal.

I'm up with Mike and Megan. Todd is sitting up with us until he's ready for sleep. Mike and Megan are seeing who'll see the first shooting star of the night while I'm enjoying some of Mike's ice coffee. It's very rich, tasting almost like a strong smoky stout.

We're 30+ miles from Mikwaukee and we can see the tops of fireworks and heard the booms from the grand finale.

We estimate it takes over 3+ minutes for the sound to reach us (7 seconds/mile). Yes, we CAN hear the fireworks from 30 miles away. It's that quiet in the middle of the lake.

Megan has her star finder appout and is showing us the planets.

The red LED lighting down below is nice. It's bright enough to finf things, doesn't kill night vision, and doesn't use much power (0.4 amps).

When Mike asks for brownies, give him just one. Don't give him the full pan with a knife.

We saw two satellites nearly cross paths. One was moving west to east. Less than a minute later another passed south to north over the same part of the sky (straight up) as the first.

Midnight: We see the first boats from the Saturday start. 1:00 am, they pass us.

We see Jupiter rise. Megan points out Neptune and Uranus. Mike makes the obligatory jokes.

We passed the 100 mile point after 34 hours. The previous two years we covered 100+ miles in the first 24 hours (140+ two years ago). Let's hope the slow part of the race is over!

Megan's iPod has been playing for awhile. Most of the music has been good. Mike wants more Dave Mathews.

Megan wakes Kevin, Todd, and Jake up for their watch. I brief them on what happened during the night and what to watch for in the coming hours. I'll get up at 9:00 for breakfast.

It's now 4:00 am. I'm laying in the aft cabin listening to my radio while finishing this entry. I'll sleep with my sleep mask so the morning sun doesn't bother me. The motion of the boat is very gentle and it is very quiet even though we're moving at 4+ knots. The only sounds are the gentle rush of water over the hull a few feet from my head and the quiet conversation and music from the cockpit above me.

It'll be a great night for sleeping and getting ready for Sunday's sailing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

2011 Chicago Mackinac Race is Today!

Donnybrook leaves for the 103rd Chicago Race to Mackinac Friday!  Follow us on the tracking web page:  http://race.ionearth.com/2011/cycracetomackinac/.  Finding Cruising Section 2 and look for Donnybrook.

Sailing Anarchy also has excellent race coverage!  See On the Water Anarchy or read about it on the Sailing Anarchy Message board.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dusk at the Playpen

We spent the afternoon anchored at the Playpen (anchorage north of Navy Pier). Here we're passing through the breakwall entrance.

How Many PFDs on Board, Sir?

I saw this stop near Navy Pier Sunday. There were A LOT of people on the boat. I'm sure there was a PFD per person. Remember, the inflatable PFDs count only while being worn.

Note the machine gun on the bow of the Coast Guard boat.

Follow-up from Thursday's Storms

Everyone who ended up in the water after Thursday's storm is safe.  See the NBC 5 story.  6 people from three small boats sailing out of Montrose Harbor ended up in the water.  My favorite quote from the article:

A fire department rescue boat pulled two other sailors from a third sailboat to safety. 
"From the fire department's standpoint, we're there when you need us.  And in this situation they needed us, and we were there," said Purl.
Fireboat leaving the scene Thursday.

It's nice to know there's help when you need it.  The best course of action, of course, is to be careful and prepared so you don't need help.  This level of response isn't available in most places on Lake Michigan.

There were (no exaggeration) nearly 20 emergency vehicles, including the fire helicopter and various rescue boats (Chicago Police, Coast Guard, and Chicago Fire Department).  They were stationed at both north and south parking lots, at Belmont and Lake Shore Drive, on the shore, and more I'm sure at Montrose Harbor.  
Part of the Response at Belmont Harbor's Entrance.  A Coast Guard
boat is in the background. 
The storm was the real star of the night.  The second storm, the one with the vivid lightning and hail, was mostly after dark so it was too dark for any meaningful pictures.  This gives you a feel for how ominous it was before the body of the storm hit.
Storm Clouds from the deck of Donnybrook.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fantastic Evening at Belmont Harbor

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the evening on Donnybrook Thursday night.  My chores included organizing the lazarettes, running through the Mac Safety Regulations, and putting new Illinois registration stickers on.

Excitement started when a Chicago Fire Department helicopter and all sorts of emergency vehicles--20+ including police and fire by my count--converged on Belmont Harbor.  According to the VHF several sailing school boats were capsized by a storm.  I hope everyone is okay. 

In the past I've witnessed small sailing dinghies such as the Vanguard 420 or Lasers will tip over--which is part of sailing--and well meaning people on shore call 911 to report someone in the water.  The response is quick--fire department at both north and south Belmont harbor, lifeguard, police, and fire boats, and the CFD Helicopter.  It's nice to know help is there when needed.  It's debatable if help is really needed or not.  I hope everyone is okay.  See this Chicago Tribune's article.

A few hours later while talking to Karen at home, the boat began rocking violently.  I real seiche (or storm surge) had hit!  You could see waves washing over the harbor entrance.  Water went up then down nearly 3 feet in about 15 minutes.  This was violent compared to what I wrote about in May.  See May's article here.

Shortly later I witnessed the most incredible lightning I've ever experienced.  I honestly felt the heat on my face as a bolt shot overhead.  I was legitimately scared, but awe inspired.  While below deck on Donnybrook, the hail hit and it was the loudest noise I've heard on a boat.  The hail was dime sized.  I wish I could have taken pictures but it was after dark.  I did a quick YouTube search and it sounded like what you hear in this video.

I had my trusty DSLR camera with me so I'll post some pictures later.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Belmont Harbor Movies In the Park

An attraction at Belmont Harbor this summer is the Chicago Park District's Movies in the Park. The schedule at Belmont Harbor is below. All movies are in the open field south of the Chicago Yacht Club Belmont station.

06/14/11 8:45 PM Movies in the Parks Movies in the Parks - North By Northwest (NR) @ Belmont Harbor FREE
06/21/11 9:00 PM Movies in the Parks Movies in the Parks - Dirty Dancing (PG-13) @ Belmont Harbor FREE
06/28/11 9:00 PM Movies in the Parks Movies in the Parks - The Greatest Show on Earth (NR) @ Belmont Harbor FREE

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Engine Mount Epilogue

This is a follow-up post to Changing Engine Mounts.

It's been over a month since I first ran Donnybrook with new engine mounts under her Universal M25XP and, after some learning and alignment work on my part, the job is done. 

The engine was extremely quiet and smooth on the 6+ hour motor back to Belmont.  The next day I started the engine to show a friend what an improvement the mounts were, and it was--until I put it into gear.  There was some rumble and an occasional knock at low RPM.  It cleared up at higher RPMs.  How could this be so?  It was so smooth the day before!

The next week we went for a short sail and it still wasn't smooth at low RPMs.  Higher RPMs (above about 2000) were fine.  I adjusted the alignment at the coupler but still no luck smoothing the engine out.  I read everything I could find on engine alignment and drive system noise.

Finally, I found the problem:  The drive shaft wasn't centered in the shaft log.  On the hard I visually inspected the shaft at the cutlass bearing and where it enters the hull from the outside and it looked centered.  When I moved the shaft with the coupler disconnected, it clearly wasn't centered but was sitting low.  I raised the engine 1/8" to 1/4" and the engine is now smooth at low RPMs with some vibration over 2500 RPMs.

A few days later I went out again.  It was "okay" but not "kitten smooth" like I wanted.  I talked to a friend and trusted engine mechanic who talked me through alignment.  His advice:  Patience.  Start with the engine a little low to account for the thrust pushing the engine forward.  Take into account the torque of the engine.  Adjust it a little at a time and watch to see what the engine is doing.

It took half a dozen trips up and down the companionway to get the alignment right.  My steps were:
  1. Run the engine in gear and feel the vibration.
  2. Go below.  Loosen the coupler.  Feel the gap between the two coupler halves. 
  3. Adjust the engine up or down until the gap was minimal (use a feeler gauge or finger nail).
  4. Tighten the coupler halves together.
  5. Start the engine and run in gear.  Was the vibration better or worse?
  6. If worse, repeat 2-4 but move it down or up (opposite to what was done in #3).
  7. Repeat until engine runs smooth.
Thankfully my problem was vertical position.  The horizontal position was okay.  Otherwise, you should adjust horizontal (side to side) position first.

I also had a friend run the engine in gear while I observed engine movement.  After almost two hours I'm finally satisfied with the alignment.  She idles smooth at 800 RPMs (based on my tachometer).  There's minor vibration to 1500 RPMs, and smooth to 3000 RPMs (full throttle).  My friend's observation is that Donnybrook is smoother than his boat, which had a yard replace her engine mounts and align this spring.

During my research I found this excellent article called Drive System Alignment by David Pascoe at http://www.yachtsurvey.com/.  It helped me to understand what is happening with the drive train.  An excerpt from the article:

Lessons Learned
The Nature of Inboard Drive Systems It is a common belief that engines and shaft couplings have to be aligned to tolerances of a few thousandths. There is some misunderstanding about this. Yes, the shaft coupling to transmission coupling needs to fit within several thousandths, but what were talking here is the coupling fit, not the shaft alignment. This is an important distinction that is often confused. I'll explain why.
 A conventional shafting system is essentially a free-floating, semi self-aligning system. How's that? Well, because the engine is mounted on rubber mounts, and the shaft is mounted in rubber bearings. Of course rubber being soft, that means that both the engine and shaft can and do move. See my point here? Since neither the shaft nor the engine is held rigidly in place, there's not much point in attempting to perfectly align the shaft with the engine, is there? No, because if everything is approximately aligned, the shaft will tend to self-center as a result of centrifugal force. The fact is that conventional shafting systems will tolerate a great deal of intolerance because of these factors.
The truth is that it is virtually impossible to correctly align engine and shaft with the methods that are commonly used. Because of the rubber mounts, the engine will not be in the same position when running as it is when stopped, when the alignment is made. Propeller thrust and engine torque will cause the engine to change position. And since the weight of the shaft sitting on rubber cutless bearings causes the rubber to compress, the shaft is not in alignment with the bearings anyway. When the boat is running and the propeller spinning, the shaft will align itself (but not if the basic alignment is out).

  1. I made sure the shaft was centered at the cutless bearing and where it entered the hull.  I didn't check it at the stuffing box.  Next time I'll remove the stuffing box hose to verify the shaft is centered.
  2. The hull really flexes!  The boat ran smooth the day the boat went into the water but not the next day.
  3. It takes two people to do the job.  One to run the engine and the other to observe what the motor and shaft are doing down below.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Chicago Yacht Club’s Verve Cup Distance Race

UPDATE:  The 2012 Verve Distance Race is Saturday, August 11.  See this article for information, or visit www.vervecup.com.

During my time sailing on Lake Michigan, I’ve realized I’m a cruising sailor at heart. I enjoy racing, however the Catalina 34 isn’t as fast and competitive as I’d like her to be for weekend buoy racing. I don’t think she’d even qualify for the NOOD buoy races based on her rating.

I enjoy distance races but they involve a quick turn-around (sail all day, party, sail back early the next morning) and essentially a full weekend commitment. Before kids that was fine. Now they’re really too young to take. Maybe in a few years.

I enjoy racing on friends’ boats, but there are only a finite number of weekends in Chicago’s summer and every day on a race boat is a day from Donnybrook, the family, or both.

I’m excited that this year there’s a distance racing series. A distance race is roughly a 20 mile race (shorter if conditions are light) to a point and back. To me it’s the perfect way to race a cruising boat. The race organizers offer three classes (depending on number of entries):
  • Jib and main
  • ORR Cruising (Mac race rules allowing only a cruising spinnaker)
  • Racing
A distance race is a less intense way to race. I’d be more comfortable bringing family or friends who haven’t raced before. There’s typically not as much tacking (think about the workout doing 30+ tacks during a day of buoy races) and there’s not as much stress to a novice racer due to mark roundings. There will be more reaching which is the fastest and most comfortable point of sail for Donnybrook and a lot of other cruising boats.

The Verve Cup Distance Race is August 20 with a 10:00 start near the Wilson Crib. The entry fee is only $2.50 per boat foot (through August 5) which gives you:
  • Race entry including a world class Race Committee.
  • Access to three days of social events at the Chicago Yacht Club Monroe station, including skipper’s meeting with professional weather briefing, live music and a Mount Gay rum pour.
  • A skipper’s bag with sponsor’s gifts (think sailor’s equivalent of a VIP gift bag).
  • Dockage at Monroe Harbor (with restrictions, see the Notice of Race)
  • The fun and excitement of competing with like sailors on beautiful Lake Michigan with the Chicago skyline and the Air and Water show as a back drop!
The Verve Cup Committee, which I’m a member of, is making it easy for boats to enter. Go to the the Verve's Yacht Scoring Site and select Online Entry Form / Application. You’re register for the Verve Offshore and when prompted for your Racing Course/Class, select ORR Saturday Distance Race ONLY.

You’ll also find at the Yacht Scoring Site the Notice of Race (a race’s rules and logistics), a scratch sheet showing entries, and other information. If you don’t have a rating certificate or sail number, the Verve Cup Committee can work with you to obtain the certificate and sail number.

Other distance races are the Nood Distance Race Saturday, June 11 and the Color’s Regatta Saturday, June 4. Donnybrook won’t be able to sail in either (Family commitments for the NOOD and out of town for the Color’s Regatta) but both promise to be fantastic events.

As of this writing there are already 65 boats registered for the Verve.  Six of which, including Donnybrook, are registered for the Verve Distance Race! The more boats, the more fun. If this type of event appeals to you. Please consider participating!
  • If you’re interested in sailboat racing, this is the perfect way to get your feet wet!
  • If you want to try out a distance race to prepare for the Mac Race, this is the perfect opportunity!
  • If you used to race and miss it due to some of the reasons I don't race, this is an opportunity to get back into it!
  • If you are looking for something more to do than sail around the cribs on an August Saturday, this is  the perfect event!
If you have any questions about the Verve Distance Race, contact me (leave a comment on this blog or email me (kyle@saildonnybrook.com) and I’ll help or put you in contact with the people who can help.

Again, more information is available at the Verve's Yacht Scoring Site or the Verve Cup's Official Site.

Update:  See Cruisers--Can You Go the Distance?  Verve Distance Race!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A picture can't describe...

...what a beautiful night it was to sail on Lake Michigan. Roxray brought his friend, Louis, out. We put the main sail and Lazy Cradle on. It was a bit of a puzzle since it only goes one once a year burt overall no problems.

The temperature was perfect with alternating warm land breezes (west wind) and cool lake air. It was never hot or cold. The water was flat. The wind in the low teens.

There's nothing more to say but that it was a perfect night.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Belmont Harbor Water Surge or Seiche

Today was another interesting weather day at Belmont Harbor.  We came down early afternoon during a downpour to find the south parking lot deeply flooded because a storm drain was badly clogged.

During lunch the view at the Chicago Yacht Club's Belmont station turned gray.  The fog returned after the storm passed.  In the period of about 10 minutes visibility dropped to a few hundred yards.  The fuel dock (perhaps 200 yards away) was completely obscured!

Low water after the May 29 storm.  High water was over the  bottom
of the lowest wall board, just 15 minutes before this was taken .
Most interesting was the change in water level.  I noticed a pretty hard rocking of several boats as if from a large boat wake, odd because no boats were moving and the wind was calm.  I also noticed the water was over the bottom of the lowest wall board near the cranes, unusually high.  Normal water level is somewhere closer to the white fender.  Using the ladder as reference, this was close to a 2 foot drop within about 15 minutes.

I don't know if this was technically a seiche or just a change in water level due to pressure change, but it was neat to watch.  I also noticed current around some of the boats.  Its not uncommon to see a swirling current at the harbor entrance.  I imagine it was pretty strong today.

I found two interesting articles explaining seiches.  The first, Seiches:  Sudden, Large Waves a Lake Michigan Danger is from Illinois State Geological Survey.  The second is Sloshing the Lakes:  The Seiche

Finally, the low clouds had an interesting texture and the wind shift to southerly winds brought noticeably warmer air.

Looking south after Sunday's storms.  Fractocumulus clouds?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is It Summer in Chicago, Yet?

Not at Belmont Harbor! It's only 50 degrees with fog and a strong north wind making Lake Michigan feel that much colder.

Tonight was the first night of Beer Can racing at Chicago Yacht Club's Belmont Station. There wasn't any racing but plenty of drinking, I'm sure.

Donnybrook should be out next Wednesday.

The picture is looking west toward Belmont Avenue.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

The boys and I took Aunt Mary, her friend Cynthia, and son Shamus on a short sail today. It was beautiful on the water with a distinct bubble between the warm land air and cool lake air.
We're hanging out at dock in Belmont Harbor waiting for Karen and Mema to meet us for dinner.
Here Conor and Emmet are entertaining themselves with the hose.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

When the Gales of November Come Early...

View of Lake Michigan from Montrose Beach Saturday, May 14
...Mid May to be exact. The picture show's Lake Michigan Saturday afternoon. Saturday night and Sunday were even windier from the north. Lake Michigan certainly wasn't beautiful and inviting this weekend, rather gray and intimidating. It was a good weekend for inside boat work, which I did.

Brian helped me clean and declutter Donnybrook. All the stuff we carried up from Crowley's but don't regularly use is off the boat: 150 feet of orange extension cord, 100 feet of garden hose, the oild change pump, my heavy tool bag, etc. She is now presentable to guests!

I finished the connections on the electric head. It works very well. This was a rewarding project which crew and guests on Donnybrook will enjoy. I'll write a more detailed article on the installation later.

After nearly five hours of hard work, Brian and I had dinner and watched baseball at Bridget McNeill's. I had the best chicken sandwhich of my life there: A chicken/advocado club sandwhich made spicy. Bridget's is one block east of Belmont Harbor's south side at Belmont and Sheridan.

After dinner and some drinks I spent my first night of 2011 on Donnybrook. It was cold outside--about 40 I'm guessing--but warm in two sleeping bags. I slept very well until about 7 Sunday, did some putzing, then laid down again to enjoy the sound of the wind and rain.

All and all it was a good weekend of boat work. There are only a few more boat chores to do and she'll be ready for sailing! Next Saturday is the boys' birthday party (Karen and the boys spent the weekend getting ready for the party) and saling with guests on Sunday.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Return Trip Results

We returned to Belmont at 9:00 Friday night.  Time on the water was 6 hours and distance traveled per the knotmeter log was 21 miles for an average speed of 3.5 knots.  I was concerned that speed over much of the ground was only 2 knots until I looked up the wind at the Harrison-Dever crib (Donnybrook doesn't have an anenometer) while we were on the water.  Sustained winds were almost 30 knots with gust to 35+ knots and peak winds over 37 knots!

I was commenting that the spray from the waves felt 10 degrees warmer than the air, and I was close.  The lake water temperature per the National Weather Service was 57 on the shore and 51 at the crib.

Today and tomorrow there are gale warnings on Lake Michigan with wave forecasts for Sunday to 8 feet.  I'm glad Donnybrook is safe at Belmont Harbor.

Conditions at the Harrison-Dever Crib May 13
while Donnybrook was on the water.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chicago from Lake Michigan

The trip from Crowley's is much slower than planned. What normally would have taken 3 hours is taking 5+ hours thanks to the steady north winds in the high teens and regular 3+ foot waves with the occasional 5+ footer. We had fog then rain. It's starting to clear and is turning into a beautiful but cold evening.

I have video and other pictures I'll post later.

The new exhaust riser is working as it should. There's not even a hint of exhaust smell down below.

The engine mounts are fantastic! At the helm I can't even hear the engine over the wind noise. Motoring feels like sailing because there is absolutely no engine vibration at my feet!

Sunset at Crowley's

From Thursday night, another beautiful May day... I installed the new exhaust riser from Catalina and started to put the boat back together.

I was planning to return to Belmont Saturday afternoon but Lake Michigan and mother nature had other ideas. Instead of returning in a clean Donnybrook Saturday, Mike, Roxray, and I are now planning to return Friday afternoon in a filthy Donnybrook. Let's hope the engine start and other prep work go as planned!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lake Michigan Stratocumulus Clouds?

I don't claim to be a meterorologist, hence the (?) in this post. I enjoy observing the weather and sharing what I see.

I was drawn to tonights clouds. There was a lot of texture with subtle shades of gray and blue which I enjoyed watching. These seem to be typical spring clouds over the 40-something degree Lake Michigan waters.

This view is looking east from the Chicago Yacht Club's Monroe Street Station docks. On the horizon to the left is the Columbia Yacht Club. About a third of the way from the left is the Chicago Harbor lighthouse. About a third of the way from the right on the horizon is the Odyssey dinner cruise ship. Click on the picture to zoom in.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Foggy Day at Belmont Harbor

South side Belmont from the Fuel Dock.
The Chicago Yacht Club Belmont station and Sailing School
is on the left.

Docks waiting to splash.
I couldn't resist stopping by Belmont Harbor on my way home from work.  I wanted to check out the new docks and the fog was the perfect excuse to stop.

There isn't much open water left in the harbor with regular slips where the star docks were.  It'll be interesting to see how much more congested the harbor feels.

Chicago Match Racing boats.

I saw two boats from the Chicago Match Racing Center coming in under sail.  It was cool (47 degrees) but even with the light wind it didn't feel that bad.

Geese at Belmont

The fuel pumps on the gas dock still listed gasoline at $3.49!  I can't imagine how expensive fuel will be on the water this summer.  I'm sure the lake will be less crowded.

I'm glad I own a sailboat!