Frankfort: A Day in Photos

On Saturday, for the first time this trip, we spent the day in port, and it was a beautiful one.

Despite a forecast of high 60s and rain for much of the day, the clouds lifted by 10 a.m. We perused the farmers market just a few steps from our slip, where a strapping young lad working one of the stalls gave Claire a sunflower as big as her head.

We dug around town, trying out the coffee shops (I love Petals and Perks!) and making big teddy bear friends at The Bookstore. We even went for a stunning beach walk along the sand cliffs just north of the channel. All of the fun wore Claire out so much that she actually napped – a miracle in itself!

While she snoozed, Mark and Nikki, a lovely couple who also live in Oak Park and sail (they own a boat and Mark races with Aaron on Turning Point), met us on Clarity and then drove the three of us out to Landmark, their 40-acre playground about a 30-minute drive inland. The property includes inviting log cabins, a vineyard and a masterful red barn that everyone gathers around to eat and chat.

It was a relaxing evening of great company, with plenty of dirt for Claire to dig around in, trees to hide behind and caterpillars to befriend. She even went on her first dates – yep, that’s dates, plural. Two men in one night – Nikki’s nephews. Claire’s gonna be a heartbreaker.

We drove back to Clarity, got Claire down and collapsed. This morning, we took a quick trip to Point Betsie lighthouse before setting sail for Leland! More on that later. Here, some Frankfort snapshots.


An Amazing Milestone

We are currently tucked away in our slip in Frankfort, listening to the waves lap against the stern, and I am amazed at what we have accomplished.

Clarity is now in uncharted territory!

Last year when we took our month-long trip, we made it as far as Manistee at the end of two weeks before turning the boat around to head back to Chicago. It was our first family cruise and we had had a number of mechanical issues that plagued us all along the way. Manistee felt like as far as we could push.

In less than a week, we’ve made it a full port further north than we managed in two weeks last year. I am so proud of us.

The evening we got into the Muskegon Yacht Club, we reconnected with a wonderful couple we had met there last year – salt-of-the-earth, good people. They were sailing up to Ludington the next day, which was our next stop, so we spent the nine-hour sail yesterday racing each other up the coastline and throwing jokes back and forth over the radio. It was a memorable sail, followed by a memorable evening in port, telling stories and drinking too much tequila. It was as if we had known them for years.

Based on the weather forecast, we planned to spend today in port, but halfway through the morning, there was a break in the rain and the forecast and waves looked decent. Our friends headed south to Pentwater and we headed north, intending to go to Manistee. The first part of the sail was a bit rough, with moderate waves, but once we rounded Big Sable Point, the lake laid down a bit and we were on a better point of sail with following seas.

As we were getting close to turning on the blinker and heading in to Manistee, Aaron jokingly said, “You’re going to hate me for telling you this, but Frankfort is only about three hours farther.” Claire was happy as a clam, the conditions were great, we were flying along between 7 and 8.5 knots boat speed downwind, and it was only 1:30 p.m. We thought, what the heck?! Let’s do it!

Five hours later, Clarity was tied off at the dock, Aaron was getting things settled and Claire and Kermit were smiling and swinging at the playground right next to the municipal marina. (I just love that kind of city planning.)

Already, this trip has made me so in awe of what we can accomplish – and have fun doing it! And, it has made me even more in love with my family.

Tomorrow, a day in port (for sure).


Three Ports in Two Days!

Four days into our trip, and already plenty of adventures! Clarity is currently docked at the Muskegon Yacht Club, though that will change in another 10 hours or so.

Aaron’s sail from Chicago to Holland on Sunday took just more than 13 hours. Luckily, the sail was relatively uneventful, and Claire and I also had an easy drive up to Grand Rapids the same day.

We stayed with my mother-in-law, Penny, and had wonderful family time Sunday evening and all of Monday, when Aaron was able to join us. We also ate so many delicious homemade meals that I thought I might burst. My mother-in-law is an amazing cook and an excellent baker. I think she made five pies in the two days we were there.

Many thanks are also due to Penny and Brian, her husband, for all of their help. They watched Claire while Aaron and I both got some work deadlines out of the way, and Brian accompanied me on my epic shopping trip that afternoon to provision the boat as best I could for the next few weeks.

On Tuesday, Penny and Brian drove us to Clarity, where we waited out a storm before making the decision to set sail for Grand Haven. Also, after yet another failed nap attempt, Grandma and Grandpa offered to drive Claire up to Grand Haven to meet us. The change in routine had wreaked havoc on Claire’s sleep. Too many fun things to do with Grandma and Grandpa! I don’t need to nap! Sleeping through the night? What’s that?! But we knew that once we got into a routine on the boat, she’d fall back into place. And for the most part, she was in great spirits.

The sail up to Grand Haven just the two of us was a great introduction to our trip. The sun came out and we were able to sail without the engine a little more than half of the way. Claire actually napped for Penny and Brian on the drive, thank goodness, and we all had dinner together in town before getting Claire to bed on the boat – just in time to catch the musical fountain show, which is exactly what it sounds like. As much as I roll my eyes about how silly it is, the show is a cute idea for a seasonal town, and they’ve made some improvements to the lighting and sound since last year. Claire would dance her heart out to it – maybe next year, when 9:30 p.m. isn’t so far past her bedtime.

Penny and Brian headed home and we started sawing logs shortly thereafter – all the way until 10 a.m. this morning! Claire and I dug around downtown Grand Haven for a bit while Aaron tended to some work calls, and after a stop in Oddside Ales, our absolute favorite local haunt, we packed the boat up again and set sail for Muskegon.

Claire napped about half of the three-hour sail, and even though the wind shifted onto our nose halfway there and the waves steadily built, our first family sail of the trip was a memorable one. We grabbed a slip at the yacht club, home to just about the nicest people on earth, and Aaron took Claire for a dip in the pool while I got dinner ready.

Tomorrow, our plan is to keep heading north while the weather conditions cooperate – either Pentwater or Ludington, depending on how ambitious we feel.

It sure feels good to be back in the saddle again…


See Ya Later, Chicago!

ClaireSunglassesFinally this boating season, stars and schedules have aligned! Tomorrow, we cast lines and head to Michigan for three or four weeks.

The plan? Live on our boat full-time, make our way north and see as much as possible before throwing the trip in reverse. We are so excited and blessed to be able to do this. Also, the decision to pull the trigger and go was not one we took lightly.

Interested parties can find any number of sailing blogs out there, though I don’t know of any others focused on sailing the Great Lakes with a toddler. But many families are cruising the Caribbean, or even circumnavigating the globe, and documenting their experiences. I’ve actually gotten frustrated reading some of those blogs lately. The pictures are beautiful, and the stories are alluring! But I don’t find them altogether honest. I’ll always be honest here.

Aaron and I had countless conversations about whether or not we should take this trip – not because it wouldn’t be an amazing experience, but in order to make sure we really wanted to take on all of the extra weight that comes with it. Last year, we did a similar trip, and for a similar length of time, so we have a pretty good idea of what we’re in for. With any sailing trip, though, there’re bound to be surprises.

What if weather and waves kick up while we’re sailing? I will likely get seasick, though I’m finding better ways to manage this. Also, if I’m sick, it’s almost a guarantee that Claire is, too. And then the bulk of the responsibility for sailing the boat and getting us safely to shore falls on Aaron. And that’s a heavy burden for him if I’m not at my best as co-skipper.

What if Claire gets a cold while we’re gone? What if she enters another lovely phase of being 2 years old, testing even more boundaries? What if, an hour into a six-hour sail to our destination, she decides she wants off the boat? And then refuses her nap?

What if we’re out and the autopilot quits? Or the steering fails? Or our engine or batteries shut down? Do we have a back-up plan for as many situations as possible? Are we prepared for emergencies?

What if Aaron and I get into a fight while we’re out there? Clarity’s 36 feet can seem pretty cramped in situations like that, and it’s not as if one person can just go for a drive to burn off steam.

(I bring all of these scenarios up because they’ve all happened at one point or another.)

And can we get things organized enough at home to be comfortable leaving for that long? What about work, for both Aaron and me? Oh, and somebody has to stop in on Tink regularly, too!

Then, of course, there’s the financial consideration. Sure, we will be taking our “home” with us wherever we go, but unless we anchor out, we will be paying for slips in every harbor we stop at. These can run anywhere from $35 to $75 per night, sometimes even more, depending on if we stay in a relatively basic municipal marina or a fancy private one with a swimming pool and a hot tub (yes please!).

The truth is, while we’re gone, we will be paying for our condo in Oak Park, paying for our slip at 31st Street Harbor, and paying for our transient slip. G. U. L. P.

I mention all of this to explain that, in order to do this, you really have to want to do it. And you have to accept the inevitable challenges of a trip like this – and embrace them!

Luckily, Aaron and I are both realists, and at the same time, adventurists. With as clear a view as we can have, we are so excited that everything came together and we are able to “take to the sea” once again.

So, here’s the plan:

Aaron will be sailing Clarity over to either South Haven or Holland tomorrow (something he felt was important to do on his own), and I will be driving with Claire to Grand Rapids to visit with his family for a day or two. Then, while Claire and Grandma have some bonding time, I will do my big shopping trip to provision the boat for the next three weeks.

Aaron will likely take the boat one more stop up to Grand Haven and we will rendezvous there as a family on Tuesday, spending a day getting settled before pointing the bow north and seeing where the wind takes us. We will both be working remotely while we’re gone (how fortunate is that?!).

There will be lots of adventures and lots of pictures – I’ll be sure to share them with you! And I’ll be taking notes on each port to create a guide for anyone who hopes to follow in our footsteps, either wet or dry, with their kiddos.

Inevitably, there will be some trying times, and I’m sure we’ll get into some pickles. We always do. I promise to share those moments, too.

See you on the flip side!


Boating Life: The True Story

Living part-time on the boat for half of the year is an incredible blessing, and one that we take advantage of for as long as we can. But along with that “glamour” of life on the water comes the reality that it’s a lot of work. Not double the work of one home. It’s at least quadruple.

My responsibilities of keeping up the household at home transfer to the boat, too, which means making sure both are fully stocked. This includes food, clothes, toiletries, cleaning supplies, diapers (hopefully for not too much longer), etc. Many times, I’ve been sure that I had plenty of wipes at the boat, for example, only to get there and realize that I really should have grabbed some from the box I just bought for the house. I’ve learned the hard way to become very intentional about keeping a mental checklist of what’s where, and for bigger trips, writing it all down.

Aside from the material things, there are two houses to clean. Sure, the square footage of the boat is not the same as the condo – if you only include the interiors. With s/v Clarity, keeping the topsides clean doubles the job, and in many ways is much more difficult than vacuuming the saloon and wiping down the head.

One of the pesky Chicago harbor problems that all boaters have to deal with is spiders. Spiders in mass quantities. As soon as the sun sets, they come out to play, weaving webs around the gates, the dock boxes, and in particular, the boats. We found a spray halfway through last year that keeps them pretty well at bay, but you still have to regularly hose down the deck and brush off the lines and the sails (whadoyaknow – actually sailing helps with this, too!). When we are gone for more than a day or two, we head back to the boat knowing that at least a couple of hours of work awaits us. The plus side? Out of necessity, I have faced my spider fear head on and can now manage it fairly well.

On the reverse side, when we’ve been at the boat for days, the condo inevitably gets dusty and Tink makes sure to coat a variety of surfaces with fur. And regardless of the zip code, there are always loads of laundry to be done, meals to be made, dishes to be washed. This doesn’t even take into account all of the effort Aaron puts in to make sure everything on the boat, like the engine, the steering, the toilet, well, works.

Maintaining the households and a toddler is a full-time job.

One of the other realities is that taking the boat out for day-sails is a lot of work. It requires unhooking the water, AC and cable (I know, first-world problems); stowing anything down below that may fall when the boat heels, like the television (again, first-world problems); getting Claire situated in her harness and tether, and with plenty of snacks and toys to keep her entertained while we cast lines and motor out; and more. And when you get back in, you have to put it all back.

CaptainAndFirstMateBut the work is worth it. This past weekend, we got to the boat on Friday afternoon and on a whim, Aaron and I decided to try taking Clarity out for a night sail and putting Claire down while we were out. Amazingly, she went to sleep like a dream, and we didn’t hear a single peep when we motored back to our slip and climbed around the deck to reconnect the lines, which was what we were most worried about. Then, on Saturday, a dear friend joined us at the harbor and we decided to take the boat out again for the afternoon. Claire went down for her nap about a half-hour after we left the dock and snoozed for three hours! Any families that sail with kids know that these chances to actually sail as a couple without one of you having to manage a kiddo are moments to be cherished, and we did.

I made us dinner back at the dock and we curled up down below with books for the night.

Sure, there were some loads of laundry thrown in there, and lots of scrubbing of the deck (thanks Aaron!). It was a perfect weekend.