Michigan City: A Day in Photos

Michigan City, Ind., was an unexpected delight. It had been quite awhile since Aaron and I had been there, and we’d never been there with a toddler. There were so many things to do within walking distance of the marina that we never even made it to town.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let these speak for themselves. For reference, though, we stayed at the Michigan City Port Authority marina and spent the entire day at Washington Park and Beach. This amazing space included the Washington Park Zoo, a charming little spot with a walk-through aviary, petting barn, 70-foot tower, zebras, monkeys and more, and the Oasis Splash Park, where Claire could have spent the entire afternoon running through the misters and watching the giant bucket fill up and dump.

Also, I’ll be creating another section of the blog that details things to do and places to explore in each port we visit, so stay tuned!

We could have easily spent another day here – a true gem just a stone’s throw away (and a reasonable sail) from Chicago.

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Michigan City or Bust

Our first Lake Michigan crossing of the season is complete!

We had been tentatively planning our first family trip for this weekend, but there’s a lot to consider when you’re sailing, and it tends to dictate the destination. I looked into heading to New Buffalo, MI – a stop that we skipped during our month-long adventure last year. But our boat draws 6.5 ft., and some Michigan harbors aren’t that deep (one of the tradeoffs of getting a boat with a fin keel rather than a shoal keel, which is only 3 to 4.5 feet.) So, New Buffalo was out.

We also considered sailing up to North Point Marina, right on the border of Wisconsin, or over to St. Joesph, Mich. But those are longer sails, and yesterday morning, the lake was powerless to a bear hug of fog that the sun didn’t burn off until right around noon. Thirty miles away, Michigan City, Ind., seemed like a great alternative and a comfortable 6- to 7-hour sail. Plus, their marinas are plenty deep.

We cast lines at about 12:30, settled into our 100-degree point of sail and more or less followed it all the way here. The winds were 5 to 10 knots out of the southeast, so we couldn’t just sail the whole way, but we were able to motor-sail for a fair portion of it with both the jib and the main flying.

Aside from a pesky swarm of biting flies that set up camp in our cockpit, the trip was lovely. Claire ate her weight in crackers, took a two-hour nap and played with some of her animals up on the bow.

Cracker break!

Cracker break!

Claire shows her hippo who's boss while Aaron checks our course.

Claire shows her hippo who’s boss while Aaron checks our course.

We also made friends with a passing freighter.

Getting pretty close!

Wanna race?!

These longer sails are also great opportunities to shake off the cobwebs a bit, and we realized that we have a potentially failing battery in our house battery bank. It wasn’t a problem during the crossing, as we switched to our other battery and always have an emergency starting battery on board. But, it’s another project for Aaron to add to his list. The boat does a great job at keeping that full.

Clarity pulled into her slip for the weekend in the Michigan City Port Authority Marina at around 6:30 and I made a chicken stir fry dinner while Aaron took Claire for a walk to scope out the sights. With full bellies and a sleeping toddler, Aaron and I collapsed on the deck with margaritas to watch the sun set over Lake Michigan.

Today, we’ve been exploring our haven right by the marina – a playground, splash pad, zoo and the beach, all a short walk. Details about our on-land adventures to come. For now, it’s time to explore!

Port in a Storm

Storm At 31st

The best place to be when a storm rolls in is tucked away down below on your boat.

With Clarity safely tied off at the dock, the sound of the rain is a steady shhhhhhh in stereo, above and all around you, and you feel like you’re in the middle of a waterfall. As the wind picks up, the boat rocks to match (depending on how much give you leave in the lines), and you can’t help but feel the pulse of the storm. It’s truly special.

After we spent last Friday through Monday at Clarity, Aaron left Tuesday morning for a work trip to Vegas and I drove with Claire to visit my in-laws in Michigan. His trip was busy but productive and we made lots of great memories. Claire tested out every rain puddle at grandma’s house and did somersaults (literally) on the trampoline with her cousins, Ryan and Jason.

We all made it back to Oak Park safe and sound on Friday evening, but in the light of Saturday morning, I saw how much cleaning needed to be done (maintaining two homes is a lot of work! More on this in a post to come). Also, Aaron saw that I needed a toddler break. So, after Claire’s nap, he packed her up and headed to the boat for a daddy-daughter date while I stayed back to remove at least a few layers of grime from the condo.

Thunderstorm and flash flood warnings were posted for the Chicagoland area and Aaron kept a close eye on the radar. He took Claire to the splash pad at the harbor per her multiple requests (she’d be getting wet either way, right?), and just as the wind and rain picked up, they hurried back to the boat and climbed down below to towel off and eat sloppy joes.

The storm passed just in time for the sun to come out, and Aaron was able to catch the most beautiful sunset.

Sunset

I’m headed to the boat tomorrow morning to join them. The forecast calls for possible thunderstorms in the evening… I’m hoping for a repeat performance.

Claire’s Corner: Parents… You Have to Teach Them Everything

Tales from the Crib…

Sometimes, you need to give your parents a run for their money. I consider it my full-time job – keeping them in line – and I’m very good at it.

We got to the boat Friday morning and shortly thereafter, mom and I met up with some friends to head to the beach. It’s such a high, running out to the water and getting just far enough in to make mom scramble and yell. I did it at least five or six times, then picked up some goose poop from the flock that was sunbathing nearby.

Also, do you know how much fun it is to pack as much sand as possible into your swimsuit and your swim diaper, cake your hands in it and then dig around the beach bags looking for snacks?!

(Note to other kids reading this: Sand is the gift that keeps on giving, all day, everywhere, no matter how much the parents think they’ve washed it off. There are so many places to hide it! But your eyes are not two of them.
I learned that one the hard way.)

So we got back from the beach and mom and dad seemed pretty convinced that I was going to nap. Mind you, I was exhausted – but this is the time, kids, when you have to remind them that you’re in charge! I rallied. After all, as I’ve mentioned before, naps are for sissies.

What to do with an entire two hours that you’re usually snoring and your parents are trying to accomplish tasks? Demand something you want! Again. Then again. Then again. The exact same thing (it doesn’t matter if they said no or yes – this is irrelevant). I said “I want a snack” at least 30 times in one minute. It was a personal best. Then, when they gave it to me, I threw it on the floor. And cried. #Winning

When mom and dad realized that going out for a sail would not be a good idea, we played around the boat some and dad and I fed a duck that stopped by for a quack chat.

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But I brought it full circle during dinner. Dad grilled brats and mom made a fruit salad. I could tell they were tired and just wanted to get through the meal, but tough love is the best love sometimes! I knocked my bowl of fruit salad all over the cockpit and climbed on mom while she tried to finish her meal because, quite frankly, every moment that she’s accomplishing something else is a moment she could be focusing on me.

All in all, it was a busy day! I was pooped (ha!) from all of that teaching so I passed out pretty quickly for the night.

Saturday, though, I gave mom and dad a break. The sun was shining and the wind was steady out of the southeast, so when they strapped me into my harness for a sail, I didn’t protest too much. To be honest, it was fun watching the bubbles and boats passing by with dad and reading books with mom in the cockpit with a mouth-full of trail mix.

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When my stomach was rumbling for lunch, I realized that all of my aminals must be hungry, too, so I climbed down below and fed them while mom got me some cheese and crackers.

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I was still tired from the day before, so when she whispered a prayer and hesitantly tucked me away in my travel crib for a nap, the rocking of the boat was so soothing that I gave in. And what do you know! – I woke up two hours later to the sails coming down and us motoring over to tie off lines at our slip.

Then, it was off to the splash pad at the park to paint the town red with one of my best buddies, followed by an impromptu pizza party back at the boat.

Sometimes, when I let my parents be the boss, it can be even more fun. (Just don’t tell anyone I said that.) Sunday is a new day though – stay tuned!

A Sailor Prone to Seasickness

It was five hours into our crossing from Chicago to South Haven, Mich., last summer when I knew things were going to go downhill.

The sail started out great. Minimal waves, good breeze and a nice but non-threatening overcast that prevented the sun from beating down on us. Then two or three hours in came the swarm of biting flies, so thick that you couldn’t see white on the deck and so hungry for a place to land that all three of us had to put on pants and long-sleeve shirts just to maintain sanity (and even then, I don’t mind saying that I lost it a few times).

But finally, all of a sudden, as quickly as the flies had come in, they were gone. We could breathe again, though the wind disappeared and made actual sailing impossible. It was getting to be lunchtime, so I put Claire down below for her nap and Aaron and I grabbed a bite on the bow while our pal Auto drove us through glassy water for awhile.

And then we realized why the flies had left. Slowly but surely, the wind established itself in a new direction and began to build as the storm approached. We had checked the marine forecast fastidiously before we departed in the morning and though there were some storms forecasted, they were supposed to be closer to shore, near New Buffalo and St. Joe – a fair distance southeast of our course. But, as can happen, this one tracked further north than was predicted.

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Calm before the storm… I wasn’t really up much for taking photos once the waves kicked up…

The pouring rain wasn’t that bad, really. Aaron and I have sailed in it before and, though a little unpleasant, it’s perfectly manageable if you’re wearing the right gear. The height of the storm only lasted 15 or 20 minutes, and Claire slept through the whole thing – a miracle!

But what the storm lacked in length, it made up for in shifting winds, kicking up the waves and making Lake Michigan a washing machine. And it stayed that way, after the storm passed, after the sun came out. Also, by that point in the day, we just wanted to get to South Haven as quickly as possible. This required sailing in the ditch – the absolute worst approach to the waves.

When I felt that first pang of seasickness, I knew it was just a matter of time, and I perched over the side of the boat, fingers and toes clenched, and waited. And it came. Again, and again, and again.

I’ve had bad motion sickness for most of my childhood and all of my adult life. Those twirly rides at carnivals, simulation games, tiny planes, and yes, big waves – these are my nemeses, to be avoided at all costs. But as soon as Aaron and I started dating, I was out on sailboats more and more and became determined to overcome it (especially after some embarrassing dates early on).

I’ve tried it all – Dramamine, Bonine, motion sickness wrist bands, prescription patches behind my ear, ginger pills, ginger ale, ginger beer. Most have had little or no effect on me – Bonine being the most successful, but even the non-drowsy version made me so loopy that it wasn’t really an option. (Taking care of Claire while we’re sailing is my No. 1 job.)

BUT, contrary to what my doctor told me, it has gotten more and more manageable the more time I spend on the boat. In all of the sailing we did last year, I only got physically ill twice – first, during that South Haven crossing, and then during a sail from Racine, Wis., to Milwaukee – a story for another day.

I even do relatively well in bigger swells now, and I can go down below in most conditions. Heck, I’ll even fix us lunch in the galley while the boat is tossing anything that isn’t secured like popcorn in the microwave. It’s predominantly when the winds and waters are confused and kick the boat around in every direction at the same time that I can’t overcome it. And in most cases, the best medicine for me is just to have a job and stay focused on it, keep my mind off of it as much as possible.

Incidentally, Claire also became seasick on those two occasions, and on that crossing to South Haven, when she came up from her nap, it took her about 15 minutes or so of sitting on my lap in the cockpit before she got sick on me as I was sick over the side. I have never appreciated solid ground and a hot shower more than when we finally docked at South Haven that night. Unlike for me, though, who stays sick for the rest of the day once it’s set in, she was smiling and singing songs again as soon as it had passed.

You can’t foresee everything, but the marine forecasts are pretty reliable. And that’s why, on some perfectly sunny, warm days – such as this past Sunday – we’re docked at the harbor. These same days sometimes bring winds of 15-20 knots and 6-to-8-foot waves. Not my prescription for a pleasure cruise.

I don’t think I’ll ever fully shake the seasickness, but life on the water is worth it to me. And if it means we’re a little more conservative with when we go out than other boats, so be it. I must keep remembering – we’re cruisers! Having fun sailing isn’t just desirable – it’s required.

Claire’s Corner: Naps are for Sissies

Tales from the Crib….

Naps are so overrated. In fact, I can skip my nap and not go to bed in a timely manner. Just ask my parents! I’m teaching them slowly but surely.

We’ve spent seven full days on the boat so far, and I’ve managed to hold out at nap time for every. single. one. Really, I’m starting to impress myself.

Let’s look at the reality. Here’s exhibit A, where they expect me to be sleeping:

Claire'sVBerth2014

Nice and cozy enough, but when I could be hanging on my mom’s leg instead and demanding cookies, it’s pretty boring in comparison. And here’s exhibit B – all of the toys I should be playing with instead!

ClairePlays

Not to mention all of the fun games that I can play instead of sleeping. Such as how far I can throw my stuffed puppy behind the crib so mom and dad can’t reach it. How many times I can jump around before smacking my head on the ceiling. Licking the mesh side of the crib, unwrapping the sheet, dumping my water on the mattress, and yelling almost every word I know at the top of my lungs, just to see how far my voice will carry. (At least partway down the dock.)

If I’m being honest, my parents aren’t really being fair about this whole thing. I mean, I’ve seen them on at least a few occasions sneaking up to the cockpit after putting me down and eating cheese and crackers – MY CRACKERS!. That’s just cruel.

Or they’ll try to time it so that, right as I’m supposed to be falling asleep, we’re heading out for a sail. Really? Like I’d want to miss that! And besides – if I’m sleeping, who’s keeping an eye on the ducks? You can’t let them out of your sight or they’ll steal your snacks (even MORE crackers gone!).

It’s also prime time for me to “get rid” of all of the food I’ve crammed down for breakfast and lunch. And who wants to sleep in that for two hours? Not to mention that I’m sure mom or dad would want to take care of it before the smell permeates the entire salon.

By me refusing to nap, I’m doing them a huge favor, and one they don’t seem to be appreciating. They’re pretty grumpy about getting me out. I don’t know what their problem is.

And I overheard once that the definition of insanity is … well … I think you know.

So, we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day, and I bet dad will decide to take the paddleboard out for a stroll right after they zip me in. Surely, he needs a partner for the ride! To keep an eye on all of those pesky ducks, of course…

Race, Cruise, Repeat

FromDownBelow

One of the benefits of balancing cruising with maintaining a home base is that Aaron still gets to race. This past Saturday, he sailed with Turning Point in the Colors Regatta. While he and the rest of the crew were busy tacking and trimming and hiking and executing all of those adrenaline-pumping maneuvers that make racing such a high, Claire and I met some friends and paid a visit to her favorite animals at the Brookfield Zoo. After three rides around the carousel, some kangaroo watching and giraffe heckling, and a lot of goose and peacock chasing, she passed out for three hours back at our condo in Oak Park – catching up on those missed afternoon naps from the last few days.

Then, it was off to celebrate a successful day on the water with Aaron and his crew. Columbia Yacht Club, which hosts the Colors Regatta, threw a lovely party with live music, and Claire never misses an opportunity to show off her dance moves.

Sunday, we switched to cruising mode and took the boat out with a great friend who didn’t mind at all when Claire demanded that she make sunglasses and mustaches out of Play-Doh.

PlaydohSunglasses

We also came up with some new verses for “The Wheels on the Bus”:

     The sails on the boat go up and down, up and down, up and down…

     The hatches on the boat go open and close, open and close, open and close…

     The wheel on the boat goes round and round, round and round, round and round…

     The wind in the sails goes swoosh swoosh swoosh, swoosh swoosh swoosh, swoosh swoosh swoosh…

The conditions were perfect – a steady 10-15 knots out of the south to southeast – so we had the main and jib flying and left a lovely little wake in our path. Naturally, as you can take the sailor out of the race but can’t take the race out of the sailor, Aaron found some boats to chase.

Before the winds kicked up too much, we docked the boat and I took over the galley, making brats and couscous for dinner while Aaron took Claire up top to romp around on the bow.

All in all, it was a jam-packed few days that ended with, well, just about the best view in the city, in my opinion. To fall asleep and wake up to this…what a dream.

RoomWithaView