Sunday, July 26, 2015

Stopping the Swing

I'm not sure what it is, but at anchor our boat tends to swing more than those around us. Sometimes, if the wind is shifty and you're sitting inside during a good swing you get the feeling like your back in the gravitron at the fair. You know, the ride that spins and you're pulled against the walls where you can flip upside down and quite literally climb the walls. Sounds like fun in a boat, right? Okay, it's not quite that bad, but you get the idea.
Remember this?
Sure, we discovered a couple times that I forgot to straighten the rudder before locking it in place, fixing that seemed to help a little but we were still swinging more than we liked. We decided to deploy our sea anchor off the back of the boat to help create some drag and hopefully decrease the swing. It worked pretty well and we now use it fairly regularly when we're anchored in a good breeze.

I'm still not sure if the amount of swing we have is normal, normal for our type of boat or if there is something else going on that is contributing to it (dinghy drag? tying the rode to the side cleat at the bow? imbalance in weight distribution?). It's really not that big of a deal, just more of an annoyance, but when we're swinging almost 180 degrees (which happened in Charlevoix), we get a little concerned about how well our anchor can handle the motion without having to re-set itself numerous times. 

Got any ideas, tips or tricks? Fill us in!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It's...A New Car!!!

Mackinaw City, right across the street from the marina
I can't tell you how many times I've heard cruisers liken their dinghy to a car and, although it's not my favorite analogy, it's so true (I don't have another analogy at the moment - ha). It really is our lifeline to shore, which we still want/need to get to regularly, dependably and in a timely manner!

Okay, we had a dinghy. And it floated and putted around just fine if you don't mind putting some air in it every day or two. Then we found a fantastic 8hp motor on Craigslist and couldn't pass up the deal. Our 5hp motor was my Grandpa's and although it worked perfectly (kept in pristine condition) and we could have taken it with us, I really wasn't keen on the idea of taking his pristine motor in a salty and abusive environment. So we got the new motor, strapped it on the dinghy and proceeded to ride around on it at lightning speed, at least compared to what we could do with our little 5hp. Then one day we happened to notice that the transom was quite literally splitting apart from the additional weight and force of the new motor. Yikes.

We knew we would need a new dinghy when we got to Florida anyway as our PVC dinghy wouldn't stand up long in the ridiculously strong sun down south. Now we needed a new hypalon the north. We called around to numerous marinas and nobody had hypalon models in stock, with our short season and comparatively mild sun rays there isn't a big demand. Especially when hypalon is more $$$.

We found a deal on Defender for last year's model and after many calls trying to work out where we could meet the dinghy and who there would accept and unload the freight delivery, Mackinaw City was it. The Municipal Marina happened to be right next to Shepler's Ship Store, one of the big Ferry operators for Mackinac Island. The delivery was supposed to be there on Friday but ended up not making it until Monday. So we splurged for 4 days in the marina. Even if there were anchorages near by we would have stayed at the marina, the ferry traffic and the waves they kick up is insane and I can't imagine rocking and rolling and fighting the wind in the straights for even a day. However, after four days we were ready to get on the move again!
Our 89lb dinghy came in a 220lb package
Kinda looks like a car, cover and all 
Mercury 280 - 8' 10"
Fiberglass bottom

Keeping watch while waiting for us to come back with the new dinghy
Then we realized we had to get rid of the old dinghy, probably should have thought of that sooner. We sure weren't lugging that around with us for the foreseeable future and it was (a little) too nice to just throw out so we turned to our old standby - Craigslist. We listed it on Sunday morning and that evening a family stopped by and bought it! Faaaaantastic!

Now let's get out of here!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Misty Mac

Watching for the next "big one" coming at our beam
Both Ron and I have traveled over the Mackinac Bridge countless times on our way to/from family vacations "up north" going to or through the Upper Penninsula but we have been waiting for the chance to sail under the Mackinac Bridge since we started planning our little escape and today is the day we get to do it, cross it off our bucket list, stick a fork in it it's done!!

The day started off pretty exciting when we left the protected, quiet harbor Beaver Island at 6am and were immediately hit with 18-23kt winds. And rain. We didn't really mind, actually it was kind of fun. We got to get our rain gear on and sail for the first time in a rather intense environment. The the rain came harder and I had to wipe my face every few seconds as if I'd just come up from underwater. No biggie, still kind of fun and still pretty warm...otherwise I would have had some issues with the situation ;) We sailed the lumpy seas with a double reefed main and our old faithful engine purring us along as we took waves on the beam - ie.) it was a rolly ride!
Rockin' and rollin'
Note: Lexie is comfortably cocooned in her blanket, oblivious to the world around her
Snug as a bug
Then the wind and waves calmed down enough to put full sails up and finally shut the engine off. That may be my favorite thing in the world, that moment when the engine goes silent and all you hear is the hull pushing through the water. Only now we were still cruising at over 6kts (8ish mph, yeah, that's fast for us) and we thought, "sweet, we're gonna be able to sail right under the bridge!". And that's right about when the wind completely died and the fog started moving in. Que a little mist, then a lot of mist and more fog and the closer to the bridge we got the less of it we could see. Major sad face. What happened to all the fun pictures and poses I had planned (just ask Ron, I had plans)?!?

Instead of sunny skies, champagne-filled glasses and big smiles we got eerie silhouettes, frizzy hair (me) and cold noses (okay, we still smiled), but you know what, WE DID IT! Bye bye Lake Michigan, hello Lake Huron...and the North Channel! Yahoo!

Pretty huh?
There's supposed to be a bridge right here
Found it!
UNDER the bridge!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Beaver Fever

Beaver Island, we have arrived!
At one of the numerous public beach accesses in the harbor

No, we didn't pick up a case of the dreaded beaver fever from the water (something I followed up on regularly back in my working days, and something I know way too much about ;)) But we did find an island that we could spend a lot more time on.

After waiting out some dodgy weather and taking the earliest window we could, we finally made it to Beaver Island. The weather wasn't really cooperating and for a little while I didn't think we'd be able to make it but, alas, we did! The forecast was calling for some wind and waves building across the lake but instead we were faced with some decent rollers from all the wind the day before and not even enough wind to keep the sails full. I think Ron unfurled and furled the headsail at least five or six times trying to see if it would help even a little bit but in about 10 minutes he'd be rolling it back in mumbling about the incessant flopping of the sails. So we motored. And motored. But we made it.

I was excited to check out the (free) museums talking about the island's interesting, and even strange, history. Ron was not. He made it through the museums in record time by "looking at some of the pictures".
Main Street along the bay, watch out for traffic! 
The museum is the white building down at the far end.
We were tempted to stay for the big music festival going on the next weekend but 1) we'd like to keep moving and 2) it wasn't cheap to attend @ $40 per person per night. Ouch. Besides, the island is supposed to get insanely packed with festival-goers. Probably would have been fun,but we'll have to pass.
Ferry to the mainland
Whiskey Point coming into the harbor, complete with the Whiskey Point Lighthouse and and old Coast Guard station that is now part of a biological research facility for Central Michigan University.

We spent a lot of time walking around but really there was just a bunch of houses and businesses. Fun to gawk at as we walked by but not photo-worthy. So what was photo-worthy? If you've seen any of my photos on our Facebook page you might guess that it's the water. And you'd be nothing but right, and it just keeps getting better the farther North we go (just wait 'til we get to the North Channel)!

Don't be fooled, the water in these pictures is anywhere from 8, 10, 12 feet deep. Looks just like the Carib right?!? Go ahead, jump on in, it'll only take your breath away for a second ;)

And, for the first time on our trip, we were able to see our anchor 20ft below us! Trust me, going from water where we couldn't even see our whole rudder to all of a sudden seeing our anchor laying on the bottom is pretty darn exciting!
Our Mantus anchor nicely dug in to a sandy spot...
even though winds were so light at the time that
our chain was holding us in a totally different direction
Ron braved the cold to catch this picture.
He be crazy.
I feel like I keep saying, "I wish we had more time to spend here" everywhere we go but it still applies to Beaver Island too. With half the island being state forest, including two inland lakes, I would have loved to have been able to do some camping and hiking to check more of the island out. Darn it, why do we have to keep seeing such beautiful, interesting places that we want to see more of?? This sucks ;)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Lake Charlevoix

We spent a few days in Lake Charlevoix waiting out a few storms (that really didn't end up being much) before crossing to Beaver Island. So what did we do? Let me show you.
We had our first hot weather and hid from the sun...
Played on the SUP...
Lexie too. So much easier to get her back up on than the dinghy!
Although it doesn't look like it.
Since we had two days to wait out some weather we decided to make the 12 mile trip to Boyne City at the other end of the lake. Thanks to Active Captain (which we're learning the true value of), we anchored right near a park with a little beach for Lexie to swim at and just up the street was a grocery store...and laundry mat. Oh, the things you start to notice once you're cruising - public bathrooms, laundry mats, garbage can locations, Mutt Mitt dispensers...
Is this not the most awesome tug you've ever seen?!?
Boyne City even had a handy Shopper's Dock where you could park for easy access to the shops and stores. Very handy.
With the weekend over, and the traffic back to normal, we headed back to Round Lake to anchor and wait out some storms and once again visit Charlevoix. The lake itself is pretty deep and the shallowest we could anchor in and still have swing room was 42 feet. We let out plenty of scope but our swing still put is fairly close to shore and the uber fancy boats these rich people have. Like this guy, co-founder of Four Winns boats (and his 8,000 sq ft attached boathouse).

Anchored in Round Lake

Just a little guy docked at the municipal marina

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Poker Run Fun

 Unbeknownst to us our next destination, Charlevoix, was in the midst of not only an art fair that made the town boom, but also a charity poker run which included dozens of go-fast boats zooming all over. The poker run, in case you were unaware, includes 5 predetermined destinations where participants get a card at each stop. The winner is the one with the best hand in the end so it's not really a race but you can't tell me these people are out blowing big money on fuel for no reason. It's like when there are two (or more) sailboats buddy's always a race to the next place!

On our way to Charlevoix the boats passed us going south and (way) before we made it there the boats were already on their way back from their 80 mile trip to Traverse City. It was a little loud (which got annoying after a while) but it was a sight to see, tons of boats flying by us, helicopters filming overhead, it was nuts! Then there were tons of spectator boats out watching the run too. The town sure has woken up since our last visit two years ago in early May to bring Hullabaloo home for the first time, that sleepy, quaint little town was now teaming with people and boats.
I was pretty nervous going into the channel, trying to time the bridge with all the other boats crammed in and going every which way but Ron seemed pretty calm and comfortable with it. In fact, the most irritating part of it may have been me and my endless  "do you see them?", "watch out for..." and "they're slowing down" comments. But we made it! And when we got into Round Lake we were even more in awe..
They may be crazy loud, but at least they're pretty
We went through Round Lake to Lake Charlevoix to find a place to anchor and ended up just down from Irish Boatshop where we bought the boat. It seemed a little bit full circle at that point and pretty crazy that just over two years ago we were watching her go in the water and feeling like giddy little kids on Christmas morning and now here we are...cruising on her!

Being the people watching addicts that we are we had a blast anchored just down from the boat launch where all the go-fasters were pulling their boats out. Seriously, I think we sat on the deck snacking and people watching for at least 2 hours. Pretty entertaining...yeah, we know how to have a good time ;)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Last Minute Gem: Balsa Core Rot Found

OF COURSE we would find this little gem of a surprise 3 days before leaving! Why on Earth would it happen any other way?

It was supposed to be one of those "simple, easy, quick" projects. Haha, what a joke that combo of words is! We were just supposed to be rebedding a deck track that we knew had known was leaking when we bought the boat.
Holes, holes everywhere
What we didn't know/anticipate was the level of moisture in the balsa wood core between the outer and inner layers of fiberglass. We got digging around....and kept digging....and kept digging even more, more and more holes were drilled, more and more saturated wood was removed. Ron and I just kept looking at each other like, 'well, we're here, we're this far, we gotta keep going'. So go we went. All with our farewell party only 2 days away. Maybe people will just have to see our boat torn apart, which might actually give them a more accurate picture of what living conditions will be like.
Doesn't look like much but we got a lot out!
Now that we got all the wet stuff out, we had to put something back in that would provide some strength and support to the area. Epoxy it is. We hunted all over for epoxy, seriously Ron called about five 'local' West Marines and none of them had enough on hand for us...even combined. We were under the famous '5-7 day' delivery time to order it and it couldn't be over-nighted because it's a hazardous chemical (nice right?). Luckily Ron got in touch with a marine supply store he used to use for work and found they had enough of what we need....we just had to make a little 3 hour (de)tour getting back to the boat to get it. Whatever, we don't have any other options at this point and we want it done!
Follow directions!!
We went with "Git"-Rot, a 2 part epoxy. Understandably, I was a little anxious about using the product when it mentioned that the mixture 'may get hot enough to melt the plastic mixing container'. WHAT?!? That doesn't sound safe or effective. Then Ron informed me that he's used epoxy before and it gets warm, but it's no big deal. Okay, fine.

We mixed the instructed amounts together in the little mixing bottle about the size of a bottle of glue, but the area that we had to fill was so big it would have taken a ton of little mixings to fill it. So (and here's our bonehead move), we mixed the rest of the bottle so we could poor it all in together faster, you know, despite the instructions saying that mixing larger quantities can cause a 'larger reaction' between the two components. BAD IDEA. 

It started getting warm within a minute or two, Ron started using a syringe to put it in the deck and within a couple minutes he was yelling at me to get a bucket...because the epoxy container was SMOKING! After nearly wetting my pants, I grabbed a bucket and put a little water in the bottom to help cool it down and we threw the smoking/melting mess in. At this point I seriously contemplated throwing it in the water, worried that we'd manage to burn down the boat otherwise. Not fun. I do not recommend doing this.

I really really really hope we don't do this again!
After this near fiasco, we still had the rest of the deck to fill, and I was nervous. In a moment of genius, we decided to follow the directions and just mixed a bunch of smaller batches. It took a while, but it worked without smoking. However, the deck still felt warm where we put the epoxy in and I had to send up a little 'pretty please God, don't let our boat catch on fire' prayer. I'm glad to report that there was no fire, and a couple days later we re-drilled the holes and finished re-bedding the track.

We got the boat put back together, and just as our first dock party guests were arriving I might add. Sheesh, what an unexpectedly eventful few days! SO thankful it didn't delay us or wind up being even a bigger project than it was!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Northward Progress

We left Frankfort under motor and almost no wind, which we expected, but as time went on the wind picked up enough to do a little sailing. We were bound for South Manitou Island for the night. The only problem is that pets are not allowed on the island, that's a little bit of a conundrum for us so Ron came up with the idea to swing by Sleeping Bear Dunes and let Lex play on one of the dog beaches there then go to South Manitou for the night...genius! 
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes...
true size not captured in picture ;)
Yes, this IS Lake Michigan!
Playing on the beach
We made it to South Manitou just in time to start out on our 7 mile hike Ron came up with on the way over. There are miles and miles of trails that wind through the island passing by an old schoolhouse, cemetery, and old buildings from when the island was inhabited full time. Now the island is a nature preserve of sorts that has various campsites for tenting and a handful of cabins that can be rented.
Yup, STILL Lake Michigan
Very pristine nature on the island
The one thing Ron wanted to see, the Old Growth Cedars
Don't ask, I have no idea where this came from...
Shipwreck just offshore
Looking from South Manitou to Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes
Still Lake Michigan (haha)
 After our 7 mile hike our dogs were barking!! By the time we got back to the dinghy (and done speed-walking from the mosquitoes), all we wanted to do was dip our feet in the cold water. And take a nap. It would have been nice to spend another day on the island and finish hiking it but, alas, we had to keep moving. And Lexie might have just jumped overboard to get to shore by then. So onward we go!

Also, sorry all you get is Ron's ugly mug in most of the shots, that's what happens when I'm the one with the camera 90% of the time ;) We'll work on it!