Friday, July 12, 2013

Something Different for the 2013 Mac Race

This year I'm trying something different and sailing the Mac on a friend's boat, Talisman, a Tartan T-10 (pictured).  You can track me here.  Look for the T-10 group (section) and the boat Talisman.

Sailing the race on Talisman will be a lot different than Donnybrook.  Donnybrook was built for comfort. Talisman for competitive buoy racing. 

Buoy racing by nature doesn't have an overnight component so accommodations are sparse to say the least.  The Mac will be 50-60 hours.

Living on a boat like Talisman during the race has been compared to primitive camping--there's barely a camping stove compared to Donnybrook's stove and oven.  Where Donnybrook's race menu emphasizes enjoyment, Talisman's is about subsistence and limiting bathroom usage.

The real difference, however, is in the racing.  The T-10 fleet is a one design fleet meaning all boats have the same specifications.  Some off the best sailors on Lake Michigan are in the fleet.  There's no handicapping.  20+ other boats will start with us and we expect to sail neck and neck with some of them for 333 miles.  The boat that finished first wins.

The return trip will be different, too.  Karen and the boys are still meeting me on the island, however I'm driving back with them.  My goal is to show them some of the fantastic places I visit via Donnybrook and get them excited about an extended cruise next year. 

I'm really looking forward to the change. Look for more articles describing differences here, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, May 27, 2013

10 Years of Donnybrook

I was reminded that this is my tenth season with Donnybrook Sunday morning while getting dressed. The t-shirt I was putting on was made for my first season with Donnybrook.
The shirt idea came at a bar.  I was sitting at my then favorite bar, Joe's on Broadway, with two good friends when we decided to have shirts made.  We had nicknames printed on the back of each. My friend, Todd, still wears his whenever he visits even though the name on the back of his shirt is "puke"--because he gets seasick in a bathtub but still sails with me.

I remember the October day Karen and I looked at Donnybrook for the first time. We'd looked at several other boats but none felt right. Karen a I climbed aboard her and we knew immediately she would be ours. A few weeks later we owned her and the next spring we were sailing her on Lake Michigan.

After 10 years I still enjoy her as much as the first year. I still look forward to seeing her after work. I can't wait to spend the weekend with her and I feel sad to leave her after spending all weekend together. Time away is sometimes nice, but eventually I want to go back to her.  She's a stable part of our family.

It seems like a lot would change in ten years, and it has.  Surprisingly a lot has remained the same. 
  • We live at the same address.  Many of our neighbors are still the same.
  • We work for the same companies.  Our jobs may have changed or our offices might be on on different floors, but our paychecks come from the same place.
  • We still have many of the same friends we did in 2003.
The biggest change?  Our immediate family of 2 (with a cat) is now a family of 4 (without a cat).

Other changes:
  • The trees are taller, appliances newer, and paint fresher at hour home.
  • We've moved farther apart from some friends and closer to others.
  • We drive a newer car.
  • I don't mind as much getting up early and enjoy going to bed early.
  • I'm 10 years wiser.
In the end, ten years of owning Donnybrook doesn't really feel like a milestone, rather another point on the boat ownership journey.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ships and Bridges

The area around Crowley's, where Donnybrook is kept in the off season, is fascinating if you like ships, bridges, trains, and the like!  In 2011 Chicago was ranked 36th in the United States in total trade with over 19 million tons of freight passing through.  This surpasses ocean ports such as Jacksonville, Florida and Oakland, California.  A lot more ships than most realize visit Chicago.

Michipicoten about to pass under rail lift bridge
The Michipicoten is a 695 foot Canadian flagged bulk carrier. She was being helped by a tug up the river. It took several minutes to pass under the 95th street bridge, where this picture was taken.

G.L. Ostrander/Integrity heading toward Lake Michigan
A few hours after the Michipicoten passed, we saw this tug/barge combo heading to Lake Michigan.  The 95th Street bridge is up allowing her to pass. 

The barge is the Integrity.  The tug, pushing her, is a separate vessel called the G.L. Ostrander.  The FleetMon app installed on my smartphone showed her destination to be Green Bay with an ETA in just 16 hours.

Fuldaborg in the distance
A few weeks ago Carlos and I spied the Fuldaborg, a Dutch freighter, at Iroquois Landing near where Lake Michigan and the Calumet River meet.

US Steel Railroad Lift Bridge

The tracks lead to this lift bridge and serves the former US Steel South Works site.  The bridge is up most of the time, however Donnybrook had to wait for this bridge as recently as 2 or 3 years ago while a switching train engine passed.

Tug and barge heading up river
There is plenty of barge traffic on the Calumet river.  This tug is pushing a handful of barges up river.  The Chicago Skyway bridge is in the background with part of a railroad lift bridge to the left.

Commercial and pleasure craft coexist

This shows how low the lift bridge is.  The tug had to stop in a hurry as it appeared to be expecting the lift bridge to be up.

Weights on 95th Street Bridge
Mike noticed these odd looking weights chained to the bridge They were on booth leafs on both sides of the bridge. We theorized they are there to balance the bridge and necessary as part of recent bridge work.

The final picture shows the relationship between the bridges.  The raised drawbridge is the Ewing Avenue bridge, currently up for repairs.  To the left, out of the camera's view, is the US Steel lift bridge.  To the right (not visible, before the rail lift bridge) is the 95th Street bridge.  Behind the lift bridge is the Chicago Skyway bridge.
Bridges Everywhere!
You can read more about the bridges in the Encyclopedia of Chicago:  Calumet River Bridges and Great Lakes Shipping at the Boatnerd site.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Clean Boat

As I wrote A few weeks ago in Filthy Boat, the emotions are mixed this time of year. Mike, Kevin, and I made a lot of progress getting rid of the filthy boat blues.

A few hours scrubbing the topsides and hull and a few more hours waxing made a world of difference. Thanks to Kevin and Mike for their help last weekend and Carlos two weekends ago.

Donnybrook is in the water with a clean and waxed hull. The topsides are mostly clean and need some more wax (Mike did a lot Saturday).  Down below needs the most work and is the target of today's work.

By the end of this weekend I'll be enjoying clean boat joy back in Belmont!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Great Lakes From Space

I've recently discovered pictures from space on the internet. Here's a picture of the Great Lakes taken on a cloudless September day.

This puts sailing the length of Lake Michigan, from Chicago to Mackinac Island non-stop into perspective.

Our piece of the world is amazing, isn't it?

Source is NASA.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Filthy Boat

The emotion is similar every spring, alternating between "I wish I could launch today! The lake is flat and I'd love to be back at Belmont Harbor" and " The boat is so filthy. It'll never clean up. It'll be in the yard until June before she's ready."

The reality is somewhere in between. I don't have any critical projects this spring. A coat of wax on the hull and bottom paint touch-up are all that's required. The more cleaning and other projects I do at Crowley's, the fewer I do at Belmont.

April and May weekends are mostly full with family commitments so I'll really need to prioritize my work.  A filthy boat at the harbor is better than a clean boat in the yard, after all!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Back In The Harbor Again

I took my bike to run some errands today.  Riding south on the Lake Front Trail the warmer spring air, mooring balls in the harbor, and nice breeze brought my thoughts to boating season.
It doesn't feel like boats will start appearing on the harbors in 2 weeks--the unofficial opening is April 15.  It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Christmas, but here it is the day before Easter and the boats to support Chicago Yacht Club's spring frostbite sailing are in the water.  They've been sailing frostbite races several weeks already.

I'm sitting at my empty slip thinking about what a comfortable and happy space it really is.  I can't think of any bad times here.  Sure, there have been a aggravations and things that have upset me at the time (mostly boat related), but nothing specific that I can remember now.  All of my memories are of happy times with good friends and family.

Conor and Emmet will be 8 and 6 this summer.  They're reaching the age where they'll be able to really appreciate how special this place and owning a boat like Donnybrook really are.  They'll develop closer friendships with the other kids on the dock, I'm sure.

For Karen and me, some of our dock mates are earning the status of old friends as we've known some of them for as long as we've been boating, almost 15 years!  We have enough experience where our time on the water is less about the act of sailing and more about the pure enjoyment of it. What required thought or was a challenge is for the most part routine.  The enjoyment now stems from being with family and friends and doing something that strengthens a common bond.

I'm starting to lose the warmth from my bike ride so reality is returning.  It's only March.  I'm not sitting on Donnybrook, but am on the dock.  The location is the same.  The buildings I'm looking at are the same.  The sounds are the same (gulls, wind, flags snapping, traffic on Lake Shore Drive, halyards slapping).  The warm air and company of friends and family are missing for the immediate moment. 
Immediate family I'll see in less than an hour after I ride home.  Extended family I'll see tomorrow at Easter dinner. The rest of my family I'll see in a few days when we visit my parents and brother during spring break.  Friends I'll see as I'm able to see them.  I'll see Donnybrook in a couple of weekend when I start spring work.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring at Belmont Harbor and First Post of the Season

It's been awhile since I've posted. The off season really flies when your kids are growing, work is challenging, and you lead an active lifestyle.
The sun rising higher in the sky and the sun feeling warmer on my face is what's getting me in the mood for sailing.  I decided to leave work early today to enjoy the bright sun and check out the harbor.  The picture is where Donnybrook will be in only six weeks!
I had a big smile on my face as I was thinking about leaving a few minutes early (on time, actually) when a colleague remarked that I must be thinking about sailing because of my smile.  It surprised me because he was right, and that he could really tell!
I purchased a Google Nexus 4 phone recently.  I love the features. Android is a huge step up from from the Blackberry I used to use.  Everything about it should improve my blogging enjoyment and help make this blog more enjoyable to read.
Note the mini-iceberg in the foreground.  There was a subzero wind chill and gales on Lake Michigan this morning.