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Posted on Jun 27, 2012 | 0 comments

Review: Bag It

I have to admit, as much as I like documentaries, I can only watch one every couple months. I just don’t think I can handle the shock to my system more often than that. If you’ve ever watched movies like Supersize Me or Sicko, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Dan and I recently watched the documentary Bag It on Netflix and it was another shocker, though I would recommend it especially for those of us who have to worry about the state of the ocean in the near future.

Bag It begins with the basic premise that disposable plastic items (such as the typical grocery bag) are wasteful and harmful to the environment. Why spend so much energy to produce something that is going to be instantly thrown away? The movie goes on to address the impact of plastic garbage in the oceans and the toxicity of plastic in our bodies. It is amazing how many chemicals are getting into our systems from the plastic products that we use everyday.

Watching this movie definitely gave me some additional confidence about our choice to move onto a sailboat in the near future. I’ve known for a while that our physical environment is toxic to us and I hope that removing ourselves from the “plastic” lifestyle will help to decrease the impact on our health and especially Carter’s health as he grows up. I understand that there will always be risks to our health anywhere we go, but why impose them on ourselves?

Bag It also drove home the responsibility that we have as consumers, and especially as future cruisers, to protect our oceans. If we intend to enjoy beautiful beaches and bountiful reefs, we should take care to preserve them. I don’t know what kind of life my son will choose to pursue, but if someday he has a boat of his own, I sure hope there is a beautiful anchorage for him to watch a sunset from. It’s our job to make sure that’s possible.

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Posted on Jun 24, 2012 | 0 comments

Lesson Learned

As we’ve mentioned in the last couple of weeks, Dan and I have been taking a sailing class through our local yacht club. It was a 3 week/9 session class that was surprisingly simple. We had no idea what to expect going in to the class, but I don’t think either of us expected almost no instruction at all. Our  first day, we  learned how to tie a bowline knot (which we had already learned in scuba class), were shown a model boat to demonstrate points of sail, and learned how to rig a Laser. The other 8 sessions were all sailing, all the time.

We had a surprisingly good range of wind speeds to learn on the Lasers/JY15/Capri 22 that we got to sail. On our first day of sailing, there was about 1-3 knots of wind the entire evening, a.k.a. not fun at all. Our last day of sailing was somewhat more exciting at a breezy 20-25 knots on our instructor’s Capri 22. During most of our classes, the instructors were all in chase boats just watching us and yelling at anyone they thought needed an extra boost. There were some students who definitely needed more help than others, but luckily Dan and I weren’t in that category.

Even though we are both extremely happy with the results of this little class, it’s hard to describe exactly what we learned how to do. Sure, we picked up a few pointers on how to rig the boat easier and how to hike out of a Laser/Laser radial, but that doesn’t really encompass what we walked away with. The real benefit of the class was training ourselves in what a sailboat is supposed to feel like and how it is going to react. The small boats that we were sailing are much more reactive than our MacGregor, and certainly more reactive than any cruiser that we would be living on in the future. We left the class with considerably more confidence than we started with, which was worth the cost of the class and then some to us.

It also taught us that sailing Lasers is really fun.

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Posted on Jun 20, 2012 | 0 comments

It was a breeze

We had the opportunity to sail our MacGregor 25 on Saturday with Michele’s sister Melissa, Kyle, and Kyle’s wife Becca. In 13 knots of wind. Thanks to our sailing classes, we had a great time. The confidence that Michele and I have gained from our classes is what made the difference between a great sail and another misfire. We launched out of Detweiller Marina and were quickly underway thanks to our new-to-us 7.5HP outboard. Our trolling motor just isn’t cut out for more than 7 or so knots of wind and waves. Then the outboard decided to take a break. Sound familiar?

No worries, however. We were in an area of the marina that is very protected from the wind… namely the narrow mouth of the harbor. We quickly let out the mainsheet to allow the boom to point to wind (we were only 20° or so off the wind) and begain raising the mainsail. That is the time that we realized someone (me) hadn’t been paying attention and tied the mainsail to the wrong end of the halyard. Normally there wouldn’t be a “wrong” end of the halyard on a MacGregor… but there was this time because it was tied off to the wrong cleat on the mast. This shouldn’t have been an issue because the fix is as simple as quickly lowering the main, untying the halyard and properly retying the halyard. This was the point in our voyage, however, when the divide between those who have taken a sailing class and those who have not became evident.

A suggestion was made to lower the bow anchor, forcing the boat to point to wind, prior to fixing the halyard mishap. Lowering the anchor would have definitely pointed us to wind and allowed us to easily avoid crashing into the rock seawall we were beginning to drift towards. There were a few problems with this suggestion, however. We were nearly completely blocking the mouth of the busiest marina in Peoria, the rocks were getting quite close, the jib was fully rigged and lying on top of the bow cleat that we would attach the anchor to, Oh, and the anchor was in the stern locker. Without an anchor line attached, mind you.

Michele quickly lowered the main and retied the halyard while the others were debating the anchor suggestion. Good idea!

The rest of the voyage was uneventful (unusual for us, I know), but we were able to practice a few maneuvers that we hadn’t done before in our large-to-us boat. I admit that gybing in our MacGregor 25 would have been a non-starter if I hadn’t practiced multiple times in a laser beforehand. We have gone from chickening out in 15 knots of wind to having a great time in it… all thanks to the confidence gained from our dinghy sailing class.

Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on Jun 13, 2012 | 0 comments

Laser Sailing

Lightwind Dinghy Sailing

Michele and I have our fifth sailing lesson tonight… the lessons have definitely been worth it! We went in to the lessons not expecting to learn much in the way of “book” knowledge about sailing, our goal was to gain confidence by putting our book knowledge to the test. In someone else’s boat. By no means am I saying that we know even half of everything there is to learn about sailing, but reading every sailing book between here and the library has put our brains beyond beginner sailing classes. Our confidence and experience just needed to catch up.

Our first lesson consisted entirely of tying bowlines and explaining that you cannot sail into the wind… so far that has been the most “instructing” that has been offered in our class. One of the instructors put it best, “You don’t learn sailing by sitting there looking at a picture of a boat, you learn sailing by sitting on a boat.” Makes sense.


Almost the same thing. Almost.

We haven’t been disappointed. Every class since we have simply sailed the dinghies around while the instructors motor around and try to make sure the students don’t kill themselves. Several other students have said they are overwhelmed by the trial by fire method of learning to sail, but its exactly how I started. We have a choice of three types of dinghies in our class: the JY15, the Zuma, and the Laser. Obviously I chose the Laser. The Laser is a reactive, fast, and fun boat that will allow me to get the most out of the sailing class.

Unfortunately the wind was nearly non-existent during our first two lessons. We are talking 1-2 knot gusts. My Laser still moved in the water, but just. Michele’s Zuma didn’t stand a chance, however. She’s since seen the light and moved on to a Laser Radial.

The real fun started this past Monday when the wind was a consistent 8 knots with gusts up to 13 knots. Fully expecting to capsize within the first five minutes, I cast off in my miniature boat (No offence professional dinghy sailors… you just don’t go cruising in a Laser). Once I got out of the shallows the boat caught the wind and shot off like, well, a laser. I had read about hiking, watched videos, and listened to first hand stories from saltier sailors than I… let’s just say they don’t do it justice. Hanging entirely outside of a boat with your head below the deck (but above the waterline, hopefully), with the knowledge that your weight is the only thing stopping you from tasting the river is exhilarating. It’s also highly conducive to learning fast.

To be honest, up to this point I have viewed sailing as a means to an end. If I wanted to be able to live on a boat in the tropics, visiting new places and diving the best sites in the world, I needed to know how to sail. Sure you can motor between ports, but we don’t want to have to deal with multi-hundred dollar fuel ups at each stop. Sailing my Laser has been the first time that sailing has been fun simply for the sake of sailing. With the experience and confidence gained through these lessons, I’m sure our MacGregor will be able to live up to its full potential.

Follow your Dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on Jun 9, 2012 | 0 comments

Venus in Sole Visa

Tuesday night as Dan and I were driving home from buying our sweet new Keen sandals-which are totally awesome by the way- Dan was overcome by a sudden fit of anxiety. Okay, that’s somewhat over dramatic, but he did start looking around all of the sudden and slowing down the car. “We’re gonna miss the transit! We have to go find a spot to see it!” he said as he started driving in the opposite direction of our house.

For those of you who follow the news, you will probably recognize that Dan was talking about Tuesday’s transit of Venus in front of the sun. I am ashamed to say that I generally don’t pay any attention to the news so I had no idea what he was talking about, but of course he quickly explained and then I was just as excited to see it as he was. The transit of Venus is an extremely rare celestial event and won’t happen again until 2117, so it’s pretty much guaranteed that we won’t get the chance to see it again, though Carter might if he lives to be 107.

We quickly found a spot with an unobstructed view of the sun, which would have been difficult if we had waited any longer, but then realized that we didn’t have anything with us to be able to view the transit. You can’t look directly into the sun and see anything of course, and we had nothing (that we know of) to make a shadow viewing. We were somewhat dejected as we headed home to look at pictures of it on the internet, I know…super lame, right?

Luckily, on the way home we spotted an older gentleman standing outside with a camera pointed directly at the sun. We were hesitant to stop, but figured there wasn’t any harm in asking if he was looking at the transit. I’m so glad we did! Apparently, this man had an intense camera with a lens that filters out everything but 1/10th of 1% of the sun’s light, specifically for viewing events like this and solar eclipses. We got an amazing first hand look at Venus crossing the sun, and it was definitely worth the trouble, much better than watching it on a screen, that’s for sure.

As we were looking through his camera, the gentleman told us all about his trips to Mexico and Switzerland and a bunch of other places he had been just to view celestial events. As we drove away, Dan and I started talking about how cool it is that this guy is willing to spend so much time and energy for just a few minutes of something that he loves. He isn’t content to sit on the sidelines and let someone else experience life for him. It’s always nice to find a kindred spirit.

Follow your Dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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