November Sails in September

Mother Nature and Lake Michigan have not been particularly friendly to us this week, as we’ve been slowly but surely making our way south.

Cold, dreary, rainy, foggy – all those attributes you look for in a lovely September sail! It’s been highs in the 50s during the day and lows in the 40s at night. As I wore the same pair of pants three days in a row because my other pair was already in the laundry, I learned that I didn’t pack appropriately. And investing in foul weather gear might be a good idea before next year’s cruise. Helly Hanson, do you also make sets for toddlers?

After a bear of a day sailing to Frankfort, we had the same conditions all the way to Ludington the next day, and then we got socked in for two days as the wind howled and the waters got angry. The middle of the lake saw 18-footers on Wednesday. Tucked in safe in sound at Harbor View Marina, we enjoyed the library and the cozy fireplace, though we were bummed that the hot tub was closed for the season.

On Thursday, Aaron’s mother, Penny, and her husband, Brian, visited us with the best gifts we could hope for – jars of homemade chili, cornbread muffins and freshly baked chocolate cupcakes. We dug around town with a stop at the library (one of the best around for kids), ate some ice cream at House of Flavors and shared dinner on the boat before they headed home.

Friday, we caught a window before more storms set in and sailed to Pentwater. Our friends Jack and Dawn drove up to join us for dinner at the yacht club, and then we joined them at Muskegon Yacht Club, their home port, the next day after a six-hour sail. Hours of chats, laughs around a bonfire – they’ve become fast friends that I know will be friends for years.

Then today, it was on to Holland. I was looking forward to an easier sail – the last two had been rough, as the lake hadn’t calmed down after the cold front settled in. All of the forecasts called for waves of 1 to 2 feet, and the sun started shining just as we cast lines. Finally, a calm, sunny sail! Well, as can happen, the forecasts were wrong, and as soon as we were halfway through the channel and headed out to the lake, it got lumpy. We sailed 2- to 4-foot waves with 10- to 15-knots of wind the whole way down.

And a miracle occurred. I didn’t feel sick. In fact, I loved it! For the first time, I was able to fully enjoy sailing in those conditions, the jib out, us hauling down the lake, riding the waves at a 15-degree heel. It seems that my exposure to longer sails in waves has helped me curb my symptoms. Maybe if we lived full-time on our boat year round, I’d get to a point where I don’t get seasick at all :).

We sailed, rather than motored, up the channel to Lake Macatawa – something we did on the way in to the last two ports, and something that just felt good to do, seeing as we’re a sailboat. We got the boat settled at Anchorage Marina, Claire took a swim in the heated pool and we all collapsed in our spaghetti. And it dawned on me that today was our last full family sail day. If only we could do this forever…

 

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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…