Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Location of Donnybrook's Swimmin' Hole

Location of our mid-lake swim, in 500 feet of water. No land, not even another boat, in sight!

The Middle of Lake Michigan

01Aug@1442 Central: Storms, big seas, and adventure gets a lot of attention, but often Lake Michigan is calm and docile. We've been motor sailing for over 6 hours and it's been uneventful. In this picture you can see Donnybrook's wake extending to the horizon. We're 40 miles from Grand Haven and 50 miles from Belmont Harbor, Chicago in 520 feet of water. There's been no wildlife to speak of, except for the occasional fly. We passed one tug with barge and a handful of pleasure craft crossing the lake to Michigan.

The mood has been relaxing. We're taking turns picking music, catching up on reading, sunning, and talking. Life in the middle of the Lake is similar to that on dock, except there are no other people and generally nothing man made in sight, except for Donnybrook and the stuff we brought along. Some people might be bored, but it's really awe inspiring.

We're looking forward to the traditional mid-lake swim and lunch. We'll probably take turns napping after that so we'll be alert for the night watch.

No one has had cell coverage for hours. Even the VHF radio has been quiet. I expect the chatter to pick up as we start to get into radio range of Chicago.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

B-Team Becomes A-Team

Ellie has not been on a sailboat before sailing on Donnybrook. She'll be sailing from San Juan to Massachusetts when she becomes a junior at University of Maine. Her uncle and close friend of mine, Bob, asked her sail with us to give her a feel for life on the water.

Damn! Does this girl get sailing! With 5 minutes of instruction she's keeping Donnybrook on her way to Grand Haven in challenging conditions. She's getting a great upper body workout. For those not familiar with sailing big boats in these conditions (20 knot winds, 4-6' waves), it looks easy with a good helms person (as Ellie is) but can get messy pretty quick with a few mistakes.

Thank you, Ellie, for making my trip back to Chicago a little easier!

Working on Donnybrook

Here Dan is keeping the boat moving. Donnybrook sails herself for the most part, but requires constant monitoring. Dan and I see each other only once or twice a year so we spend this time catching up.

A significant aspect of sailing is you spend so much time together with your crew. I strive to pick crew I want to be with and, I think, form a stronger friendship with the people I sail with.

You form a bond with the people you sail with. The bond is something that is hard to replicate off the water.

Second Watch on Donnybrook

The off-watch crew of Ellie and Bob are relaxing belowdecks on Donnybrook. Today is the first day since the race we've been able to make any significant headway under sail only. We've been riding northwest winds toward Grand Haven and making good time.

Last night was fair sleeping. Thunderstorms are neat on the boat while at dock, unfortunately it gets stuffy with the hatches closed. Bob and Ellie are catching up on their sleep.

One of the best things about sailing is you can function on the boat under way just as if you're at dock. We can cook, shower, and do anything else while sailing. It's like sleeping in a giant baby cradle.

We're doing 7 knots, which is fast on a cruising sailboat. The waves are 3-5 feet. The experience is a little piece of heaven! We can do this for as long as we have wind and water. This is the type of sailing that takes people across oceans!

In our case our next port of call is Grand Haven and the promise of fun and excitement on the Coast Guard Days midway.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Badger Leaving Ludington

Here, the Badger car ferry is sailing into the sunset for Manitowoc. We had a nice dinner at Jamestown Brewery then found ice cream before walking to the beach for the sunset. The incoming storms blocked the actual sunset, but it was still a nice night.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Foggy Sunrise and Hike on South Manitou Island

It was fantastic sleeping last night. I needed a blanket for the first time on the trip. The air got cool and the fog rolled in. This is what I saw while making sure the anchor didn't drag this morning. The anchor was fine.

My inflatable dingy, Samman, was left behind in Bob's garage so shore excursions from anchor require flagging down a ride or swimming. Yesterday we put our shoes, snacks, and other stuff in plastic dry bags, unfortunately one leaked so we returned to Donnybrook to re pack. Dan was spooked because his smokes got wet and decided to stay on Donnybrook rather than risk losing another pack to Lake Michigan.

Bob, Ellie, and I tried again and made it to shore with dry supplies, but only Bob's shoes were re packed. Rather than return to Donnybrook, we decided to hike barefoot.

Our feet were fine. The trails are mostly grass or sand. South Manitou Island is a time capsule of what rural Michigan life was like in the 1940s before it became part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We saw old farmhouses, one built in 1860, barns containing a mix of horse and tractor driven farm implements, orchards, and a one room school house.

The wildlife we saw consisted of birds, a gardner snake, and large toad.

The most amazing thing about this uninhabited island is how quiet it is on the island. You stop walking and it is perfectly quiet. I've never experienced quiet like on South Manitou Island.

Thus remains one of my favorite places on Lake Michigan, if not the world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beaver Island Sunset

We're at anchor in St. James Harbor on Beaver Island, Michigan. Garlic bread is baking in the oven, water is boiling for pasta, and home made pasta sauce is warming. Good tunes are playing.

The picture is our view as we wait for the stars to take over the night sky. I have to remind myself that this is work, returning the boat to Chicago after the race.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Moment of Finish and 2012 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac Results

This is my view of finishing. Donnybrook set a boat record of 69 hours, 51 minutes, 46 seconds which corrected to 54:33:46. Overall we finished 28 of 43 boats in the cruising division. We were 18 of 20 in the competitive Cruising 2 section.

Official Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac results are at http://competitor.cycracetomackinac.com/results.cfm.

In the picture Todd and Roxray are holding the sail number board. Mike is standing by in case anything is needed. I'm sitting next to Mary as she steers us to finish.

It's a tradition on Donnybrook that the new crew steers at the finish. In fact, I don't think I've ever been at the helm while finishing a Mac race.

More thoughts on the race to come.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Capt. and Crew

My family complains that I'm not in any pictures, so here I am next to Roxray. Behind is Mike and Todd is at the helm.

68 hours on the boat so far and we still look pretty good!

Reaching Down the Straights

Mary and Roxray are contributing by keeping Donnybrook flat. We're under Genoa and main while the Tartan in the background is nicely flying a spinnaker,

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunset Over South Manitou Island

South Manitou Island is one of my favorite places on Lake Michigan. We were fortunate enough to sail by at sunset. Here, Mike enjoys the scene. Roxray is below heating beef stew and beer bread for dinner. Todd is navigating and reviewing strategy for the rest of the race, and I'm making sure everything continues to run well.

This is our last night on the race with an eta of 3:00 Monday afternoon, our target of 72 hours.

It's been a great journey, with more to come.

48 Hour Update

198 total miles sailed and 174 miles from the start! Still sailing nicely. We're in the company of faster boats today.

Our shore support told us we cut Endeavor's lead by half over night. We also passed at least one of our Cruising 2 competitors. We remain optimistic for a strong finish!

Sunday Morning Sunrise

Saturday, July 21, 2012

24 Hour Update

At 3:00 pm today we sailed 101 total miles and were 86 miles from start. We're sailing strong again after the rigging problems!

We expect to see some lights on the horizon tonight after losing site of other boats earlier today.

6.5 knots on Donnybrook

What's it like to race up Lake Michigan on Donnybrook? This is one view. It's Saturday and we've sailed over 70 miles. We sailed very well through the night with as many as 22 boats within sight at 1:00 am. At sunrise there were still nearly a dozen visible.

This morning the wind was starting to build after stopping for part of the night. We readied "Blue", our cruising spinnaker. Once up and set, trouble! We had an 18 inch rip! Down came the chute for patching. Once down, the cause of the tear was found: The plastic spreader cover was on the deck.

My first thought was I should go up to put the cover back up. After some thought, I realized Mary and Roxray are both much lighter than me. I asked Mary if she'd volunteer to go up the mast to replace the cover, and she agreed!

After about an hour we had the cover replaced and were underway again. We had some main halyard problems from sending Mary up but they were fixed after another hour or two. Total loss from the adventure: maybe 6 miles.

We're now sailing 6+ knots on the rhumb line. We finished breakfast, pancakes and sausage. Thanks, Todd, for cooking! The crew is exhausted after the all hands event so the auto pilot is steering (benefit of cruising division) while I watch sail trim and tidy up.

Up the Mast

Here, Mary is about 20 feet over the water getting ready to put a spreader tip cover back on. We're about 30 miles from the nearest land in 400+ feet of water.

The need for planning and self sufficiency is one of the many things I like about sailing. There's no "roadside" assistance for repairs such as this. If we couldn't fix it we'd most likely have to withdrawl from the race and motor 5 hours to Grand Haven for repairs or risk tearing another expensive sail.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Before the Race

I'm at the Friday morning skipper's meeting. There're still a lot of details to attend to, but we're in great shape for our 3:00 start.

Mike, Todd, Roxray, Mary, and I will be racing in 6 hours and on the island in a few days!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Race to Mackinac Personal Safety Equipment

Sailing in the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac is a yearly ritual for many people, a once in a lifetime event for yet many more people, and a dream for others.  The reality is personal safety is something that must be taken seriously.  As last year's race illustrated, things can quickly go wrong while sailing on Lake Michigan or any large body of water.

The above picture illustrates what equipment Donnybrook's skipper and crew will wear to prepare themselves for the worst possible scenario, starting with the inflatable PFD and safety tether, crotch strap to keep the PFD from riding up and your head above water, personal safety knife, light, PFD refill kit, spare bobbins (they do expire), and a handheld VHF radio.

Sailing is one of the safer sports there is as long as you stay on the boat (see US Coast Guard 2011 statistics).  Falling overboard and getting seperated from the boat, especially at night or in bad weather, is not good and puts the boat's crew at serious risk.

2012 Chicago Mackinac Race Tracking

You can follow Donnybrook via Yellowbrick Rack Tracking.  Watch her compete in Cruising 2!  I'm optimistic this year as Donnybrook went on a diet, I'm guessing down 500 pounds from last year's race.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

8 minutes later...

I return to the day to day. I'm standing in front of my office waiting on the 145 bus to take me home. A balding man is sitting alone with the top down in his new Ford Thunderbird. In front of him is a good looking man on a hard tail Harley waiting for the light to change. Blue lights from a police car are flashing down the block. There's only one police car so it must not be too bad.

I ride over the Michigan Avenue bridge and see no fewer than six tour boats, all with camera flashes flashing.

Up and down the sidewalk thousands of people are walking, shopping, listening to street music, and enjoying the summer night.

Around the corner...

Before "Death Cab for Cutie's" music ended, the sound of Gypsy Rhythm Project's performance in Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion could be heard. The pavilion unfolded while walking over Columbus Drive on the BP Pedestrian bridge. My environment changed from the Lake Michigan serenity, to a music festival, to nature, to artful rhythms played to the backdrop of children playing in the grass and young lovers enjoying each other and a bottle of wine--All in the space of a ten minute walk. Watching over the scene was Michigan Avenue's street wall, seen in the picture above.

This is truly a fantastic corner of the world.

Mid July Evening in Chicago

Thursday is a gorgeous day in Chicago. These boats are enjoying the last rays of the day in Monroe Harbor. The band "Death Cab for Cutie" is playing at The Taste of Chicago a few blocks away. Grant Park rabbits (I saw eight!) are eating grass in the dusk. Squirrels are chattering and shaking their tails. People are walking, pushing baby strollers, riding Segways and bicycles, sitting on park benches, and generally enjoying the warm breeze. People are playing tennis on the public courts. Birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing.

There are no clouds in the sky as it turns from blue to gray to star filled.

It's a nice night in Chicago.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chicago Yacht Club's 2012 Verve Distance Race

The 2012 Verve Distance Race is less than 1 month away, running Saturday, August 11. There’s still time to register, but hurry because registration closes August 3.

New this year are predefined race courses of different lengths (8 miles to almost 30 miles) to match different wind conditions.  

The entry fee of $2.50/boat foot includes:
  • Race entry including a world class Race Committee.
  • Access to social events at the Chicago Yacht Club's 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 Chicago Yacht Club, Monroe Harbor station.
  • Awards include:
    • Brag flags for first, second, third places in each section.
    • The overall best corrected finish will be awarded the 8 Mile Buoy Trophy.
This is a fantastic way to spend the day on the water, either as an experienced racer or someone new to sailboat racing.  Come early or stay late and enjoy downtown Chicago's beautiful Lake Front, steps from Millennium Park, Chicago's Museum Campus, and all the arts and entertainment Chicago offers.

See the Notice of Race for race specifics.

How to register?
  1. If you’ve registered before you’ll see your information. If not, you’ll be asked to select an event. Select 2012 Verve Cup Offshore Regatta and click Go.
  2. Complete your information and select your desired racing course/class:
  • Distance Race / JAM (Jib and Main)
  • Distance Race / Cruising
  • Distance Race/ Offshore Racing

  1. Click Continue and submit my registration to this event.
  2. Follow the prompts to complete your registration.
What you’ll need:
  • A sailboat
  • A crew willing to have fun
  • An ORR certification (you have one if you’ve sailed in the Mac race)
  • Sail numbers and a number board (see your sail maker)
Please email me if want more information, or see the Verve Cup's official web site.  www.vervecup.com.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sail Donnybrook and Social Networking

I like learning about new things and generally figuring out how stuff works.  This year the Chicago Yacht Club is promoting Twitter as a way of keeping family, friends, and coworkers informed about what's happening during the 2012 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, so I've been exploring Twitter and digging more into social networking. 

I've taken the challenge and dusted off my little used #Saildonnybrook Twitter account and added a couple of feeds to this blog.  The first, just below this blog's page title, contains Donnybrook's Tweets.  The second, to the right, shows the #RaceToMackinac Twitter feed.

Facebook is still linked to this blog site via Social RSS, however they've limited their capabilities to one update a day.  The feed also hasn't worked since March, but hopefully it's fixed.

I don't like facebook, but it is a necessary evil in the age of social networking.

I'll still be posting here, but during the Mac Race and return cruise I plan to make more short updates via Twitter.

Sail Donnybrooks Twitter page is https://twitter.com/Saildonnybrook.  The facebook page is here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sheared Shift Lever Screw (or, how a $0.49 Part can ruin a day)

The picture is of old and new parts. The old part is what I tried to fix after the screw holding the transmission lever sheared. The new part is what I got from Edson.

Two weekends ago Donnybrook was sailing on Lake Michigan outside of Belmont Harbor, Chicago. It was a beautiful day on the water. At the conclusion of the sail we started the engine and turned into the wind to drop sails, only the transmission didn't seem engaged. We tried shifting into gear again and had propulsion.

At dock the transmission clutch was wobbly. It took a couple of tries to put it into reverse. Thankfully Donnybrook was safely at dock while troubleshooting. After some more fiddling the clutch lever started to spin free.

Why did this happen? The $0.49 screw sheared off! I did some internet investigation and found this happens if the screw holding the shift lever backs off, the pressure of shifting is transferred to the screw and it'll eventually break. Edson support confirmed this--lever screws must be tight.


I thought I could fix this. Safely at dock I used vice grips to attach to the shaft to shift gears. It was difficult, certainly not practical In close quarters.

I removed the shifter component (easy once the compass was off) and tried to back the broken screw off with tools on Donnybrook. This was impossible.

I took the shifter component to my parents' where they have a much better workshop than I do. (It's funny how at 43 years old I still depend on my parents. Will my boys still depend on me in my 80's?). I spent 2+ hours and two trips to the hardware store to drill the broken screw out only to fail. The screw is much harder stainless steel than the shaft.

In the end I gave Edson $50+ for a lever assembly and new screws. It took 15 minutes to install.

IMPORTANT: PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS as the details keep the major components working.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 NOOD Distance Race Results

Grace Anne ran into a wind hold which, combined with big nasty flies, forced us to withdrawl from the race.  The good news for the race is most of the boats did finish.  The results, below, are from the Office NOOD Site:


Hosted by Chicago Yacht Club, Chicago, IL
June 09, 2012

[View in Media Format]

Long Distance Race(Sat Only) (22 boats) (top)

Series Standing - 1 races scored

Information is provisional and subject to modification

Regatta results last updated: Saturday, June 09, 2012 4:13:21 PM CDT

Click on race number to view detailed race information.

Sail Boat Skipper Yacht Club Corrected 1 Total Pos

7779 Ocean Jim Banovitz [Racing] CYC 03:13:08 1 1 1

39530 Hiwassee John Bell [Racing] Chicago Yacht Club 03:25:02 2 2 2

25578 Paradigm Shift Dave Dickerson [Racing] Chicago YC 03:25:13 3 3 3

40625 Regardless Daniel Griggs [Racing] Chicago 03:26:28 4 4 4

52918 Safir III Robert Radway [Racing] Chicago Yacht Club 03:26:31 5 5 5

43535 On Edge Steve Dorfman [Racing] Chicago Yacht Club 03:30:09 6 6 6

USA 50785 Och! Brendon Docherty [Racing] Chicago Yacht Club 03:32:48 7 7 7

52337 Runaway Tom Gorey [Racing] CCYC 03:32:57 8 8 8

50134 Sirocco VI William & Viviana Fanizzo [Racing] Chicago Yacht Club 03:35:33 9 9 9

USA18 Hope Micheal Leland [Cruising] Michigan City YC 03:35:37 10 10 10

251 Endeavor Julian "Skip" Schink [Racing] Chicago Yacht Club 03:36:05 11 11 11

25123 JUMP Hank Graziano [Racing] CYC 03:40:37 12 12 12

52982 No Reverse Bob Horenkamp [Cruising] Columbia 03:54:01 13 13 13

0076 Mise en Place Paul Thompson [Cruising] JPYC 04:05:57 14 14 14

52891 Lugnuts Tom Dickson [Racing] Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club 04:08:13 15 15 15

40551 Sheet Music Gerald Hughes [Jib & Main] Chicago Yacht Club 04:40:51 16 16 16

30328 Rover Ken Colbert [Racing] CYC 04:42:11 17 17 17

52974 Endeavour Matthew Gallagher [Jib & Main] Chicago Yacht Clun 04:56:30 18 18 18

USA-69 Barracuda David Hughes [Racing] Chicago Yacht Club NO TIME 23/DNF 23T 19

52249 Sail Monkey Bill McGuinn [Racing] Chicago IL NO TIME 23/DNS 23T 19

4764 Grace Anne Todd Woelfl [Jib & Main] Chicago Yacht Club NO TIME 23/DNF 23T 19

52797 Princess M Carl Chaleff [Cruising] Chicago Yacht Club NO TIME 23/DNF 23T 19


- Scoring System is ISAF Low Point 2009-2012

- Finishes in [brackets] denote throwouts

- Click on race number to view detailed race information.

Information is provisional and subject to modification

Saturday, June 9, 2012

When a good sailing trip goes bad

Flies. That's all it takes. Lake Michigan is filthy with them this time of year. We lost air. The flies arrived. And our arch-enemy, Matt is ahead of us.

2012 NOOD Distance Race

Donnybrook wasn't able to sail in the NOOD distance race, but I was able to sail with my friend and Mac crew member Todd on his boat, Grace Anne, a Catalina 30.

The weather is perfect, high 70s on the water and southeast winds in the low teens. We're sailing along very nicely and having a great time.

Here, Ryan, Brendan, and Todd are keeping things under control while I'm serving as rail meet.

A Racer on a Cruiser

I rode my brother's old road bike, a Cannondale R1000, to the harbor this morning. It rides like a Corvette (I want a yellow Corvette) compare to my commuting bike, a Trek 7100.

Here it is secured to Donnybrook. Maybe the bike can teach Donnybrook about speed and Donnybrook teach the bike about comfort.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wilson Crib

Spring Return Sail to Belmont

Perfect. 25 knot northeast winds and 50 degrees seems the norm. Today is an exception with east-southeast winds in the low teens. Chicago's high was >90 today. It's in the 60s on Lake Michigan.

The NATO summit is this weekend. We stayed at least 3 miles from shore to avoid any fed intervention. It's been quiet except for the pair of F-18s circling.

My buddy Danny P is driving in this picture. It's a damn fine day on the water.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Green on the Beach

Here Conor and Emmet are building a pool with rivers to fill it. The Lake Michigan shore is winding north in the background.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

It isn't every year in Chicago we go to the beach for Saint Patrick's Day. Here are my feet in the cold Lake Michigan water. The boys and I are at the beach in New Buffalo while Karen is shopping in Michigan City.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

New Blog: Cycling, Health and Fitness

Last October I took an interest in cycling and I've started commuting to work as often as I can.  I started a new blog, Cycling, Health, and Fitness, to share my experiences.

I write about why I'm doing it in the first blog post, Why This Blog?  In short, it's to improve my physical health and allow me to continue to do the things I love, including sailing, well into old age.

I'm finding similarities between cycling and sailing.  I'll be sharing my ideas here and in Cycling, Health, and Fitness.  I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

First Post of 2012

October was my last entry.  It doesn't seem like almost 4 months ago.  Strictly Sail started to rekindle my excitement for sailing again.  This year I was able to contribute to the boat show!

I had the opportunity to help my friend, Matt Gallagher, in one of the seminars:  Your First Mac - A Cruiser's Perspective.  The purpose was to answer questions and continue to grow the Cruising Division.  We presented to an audience of around 20 with 3 or 4 cruising sailors interested in participating.

My other sailing-related activity has been resuming work around continuing to grow the Verve Distance Race.  You can read about last year's race on this blog, linked here.

I'm not planning major projects for Donnybrook this year.  Spring work will primarily be cleaning, waxing, and maybe some wood refinishing.

As the days get longer and weather turns to spring I'll be thinking more and more and sharing my thoughts on sailing Donnybrook on beautiful Lake Michigan!