Sunday, March 27, 2011

Capt. Kyle Goes Flying

Capt. Kyle flying the plane.
My friend and crew member, Jake Miller, took me flying Thursday while we were visiting Oshkosh.  It was a perfect night for flying with cool, smooth air and great visibility.

Jake after the flight,
as Emmet runs by.

The scale of the earth is readily apparent.  I could see all of Lake Winnebago from a few thousand feet up.  From the air it's hard to believe the lake is 30 miles long and 10 miles across.  It'd take Donnybrook a few hours to cross and half the day to travel the length, something the Cessna 172 would do in a matter of minutes.  In fact, we could see Green Bay about 30 miles to the north, and Jake tells me you can see Manitowoc and Lake Michigan 60 miles away to the east on a clear day.

Conor during pre-flight.
The boys loved visiting the airport.  They "helped" with the pre-flight check out.  Karen and I decided it was best if they didn't fly.  Maybe in the future.  Besides, I wanted to have some fun and didn't want to risk giving the boys, most likely Conor, motion sickness.
Emmet during pre-flight.

Karen kept them entertained in the terminal building while we were in the air.  They watched me land and Emmet came running out to greet me and help put the plane away.

Captain Kyle climbing.
Note the horizon.

I did have fun!  Jake let me fly much of the time.  I practiced turns, dives, and ascents.  During one dive I had the plan up to 140+ knots (over 160 mph) airspeed, the fastest I've been in control of any vessel/vehicle/craft.  At 3500 feet it didn't seem as fast something low to the ground or on the water, but still a lot of fun.  We did some sharp banks, practiced stalls, experienced zero gravity, and did a few touch and goes before landing.

There are many parallels to flying and sailing.  Jake and I talked about some of them during the flight. The first is the weather.  You really are at mother nature's mercy.  As any good pilot would, Jake checked the weather several times.  The first prior to take-off.  Again while flying a nearby airport (adjusted altimeter based on local conditions), then again prior to landing.

Landing the plane and docking a boat give like challenges.  In both cases you're maneuvering close to immovable objects--dock in the case of the boat and the runway in the case of the airplane--and you don't want to hit either any faster than you have to.  Docking and landing are the hardest activities with either vessel.

Pressure over control surfaces is similar.  In boat sailing and flying the more pressure the easier it is to control.  As the plane slows down its response gets mushier and its less responsive.  As a sailboat slows down, the rudder is less responsive.

The sails on a boat are really infinitely adjustable air foils.  You can change the shape as conditions change.  The plane allows you a relatively finite amount of control.  On the plane you make your own wind (engine).  With the boat you harness the wind you can find.

I enjoy and respect both activities.  If I didn't live near a major body of water I'd be a recreational pilot.  In fact, I took several lessons (about 10 hours total) during college.  Maybe one of these days I'll be able to practice both.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring at Belmont Harbor and Harbor Improvements

You know it's spring when the the mooring balls go in at Belmont Harbor.  The first picture was taken on the bike path at Belmont Harbor and looks south east toward the Chicago Yacht Club Belmont station.  Donnybrook's summer home is just to the right of this picture.
Mooring balls in the foreground.
Chicago Yacht Club Belmont Station in the background.
Looking east from Belmont Avenue/bike path.

The view below is to the north and shows the main part of the harbor.  Notice the lack of star docks?  Westrec/Chicago Park District has removing several of the star docks to make way for more docks.  Over 100 new slips will be added.  A map showing the configuration is here.  It'll be interesting to see how they handle restrooms and parking for all the new boaters and guests.

Belmont Harbor looking north from Belmont Avenue/Bike path
Note the missing star docks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Where are Megan and Maureen?

Crew Megan and Maureen sang in tonight's Siamsa Na Ngael, a fundraiser for Old St. Pat's held in Chicago's Symphony Center.
Can you find them in the choir?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Boat Nerd

How would you like to cruise on a Great Lakes freighter? See Lake Michigan or another Great Lake from the bridge of a 1000 foot freighter? The opportunity is out there. Boat Nerd is making available the chance through non-profit raffles. See their trips page.

Donnybrook is laid up at Crowley's Yacht Yard Lakeside at 95th Street and the Calumet River in Chicago. See where freighters are laid up on Boat Nerd's layups page.

You can see which ships have passed various points on the lakes at their Vessel Passage page.

www.boatnerd.com is a fun page to explore if you're interested in Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Cruising Sailor's Reflection on Winter

To me the most tangible sign of spring occurred this weekend. We gain another hour of evening sunlight! The days are already noticeably longer and earlier I saw the first robin of spring, but winter still holds a grip. Below freezing weather and snow are possible for another several weeks. The sun, however, won't set again before 7:00 until mid September! The desire to spend time outside will be stronger, especially after work.

The weather was much different a mere six weeks earlier.  The region was in the midst of a historic blizzard. While walking around in the blizzard that night, I was thinking about sailing. The wind reminded me of being on Lake Michigan during a blow. It was impressive and awe inspiring. The conditions were dangerous if prepared, deadly if not. It was the same feeling as watching Lake Michigan rage during a blow.
Diversey Harbor Looking North on February 2, 2011.
This is near the site where a drowning occurred during the blizzard.

The feeling the next day was almost surreal. Lake Shore Drive was closed. There was no traffic noise near Belmont Harbor.  This is a rare experience between the quiet and and snow drifts over the docks.

Later as I was near Diversey Harbor the sky started to clear. While taking pictures someone told me to be careful as someone drowned the night before nearly where I was standing.

Belmont Harbor on February 2, 2011.
This is Donnybrook's summer home.
Routine weather doesn't affect us the way extremes do. We're made uncomfortable, scared by, or worse during most weather extremes. I say most because the positive extremes (extreme beauty, absolute perfect conditions) can inspire or give us great pleasure. Understanding and harnessing the negative extremes can build a healthy respect for the power of mother nature.

That respect is important to cruising sailing. It's easy to enjoy the perfect day on the water but its rare to have that more than a couple of days in a row. If you spend more than a few nights on the boat on Lake Michigan you're sure to encounter extremes.

The people who survived being washed out to sea while photographing the tsunami certainly have a new respect for conditions (Story here).  They were probably looking to experience a historic event as Peter Davis, the gentleman who died in Lake Michigan during the blizzard, may have.

I recently re-read two posts from last year, Mac Sail Practice and Thunderstorm LifecycleMac Sail Practice illustrates how a routine sail can quickly turn to adventure. Thunderstorm Lifecycle is the meteorology behind the storms.  Obtaining experience and the respect gained is key to enjoying cruising in a sailboat.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Charlevoix Draw Bridge on Youtube

Donnybrook now has a YouTube page! This is from last August when Dan, Roxray, and I visited Charlevoix. It's not exciting, but interesting if you've never been under a draw bridge. Enjoy!