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.