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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 4, 2012 | 0 comments

Busy Weekend

We had a busy weekend… a trip to the ER, a visit with parents, the cat brought a rabbit downstairs, and we still found time to go sailing! Michele was having some bad symptoms from her recent concussion, but everything is on the mend.

Family sailing - Carter didn't enjoy it as much... he's tired.

Michele, Kyle, Carter, and I had a great sail yesterday. The wind was a little too light, but hey… we’re learning! We were able to get both sails up for the first time, what a difference. The boat is significantly more controllable with the jib, properly trimmed (how do we know it was properly trimmed? We took NauticEd’s free sail trim class!), assisting the main.

Thanks to our new friend the jib (more weathered sailors need to keep the laughs at a minimum… you’ll wake the baby) we were able to sail a respectable 3.6 miles. Beginning at our new home port Detweiller Marina we turned South West and had the wind perpendicular to our course. The new marina helped immensely by reducing the time we spent between the marina and the channel. Detweiller is around 200 feet from the channel… Spindler is over a quarter mile. We had a beautiful sail past the downtown skyline.

Let me make a quick digression… there is a no wake zone between the two large bridges flanking each side of downtown where cabin cruisers (and wannabe cabin cruisers) like to raft up. To each his own, but it seems like a gigantic waste to buy a beautiful, expensive boat and never actually go anywhere in it. If you can’t afford the gas in your boat get a different boat… preferably one with sails.

Our Course

Upon our final turn into the marina, we were greeted by a cluster of drunkards sitting smack dab in the middle of the marina. I am under trolling motor power at this point, not winning any races here. One group of drunken people saw us coming in and decided it would be a good idea to power over, cross our bow, and park immediately in our line of travel about 50 feet away. After (as nicely as I could given the situation) asking them to move their drunken selves out of the way of traffic we were able to tie off at the launch ramp. Truly a wonderful sail! Michele and I begin our official sailing lessons tonight… we are used to just winging things, but our first few adventures told us to seek professional help.

Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on May 26, 2012 | 0 comments

Our Little Secret

We aren't quite at this level...

So, for those of you who are keeping count, Dan and I have been sailing this year a grand total of… three times. Well, actually he’s been three, and I’ve been sailing twice and trying frantically to find somewhere to land the boat once. Seeing as it is almost the end of May you might be wondering where all of our sailing stories are. There are a couple of reasons (see: excuses) why we haven’t seen as much wind this spring as we had originally anticipated, but hope to improve over the summer.

  • First, the weather has been crazy. All week it will be beautiful sailing weather, then its freezing and rainy all weekend.
  • Also complicating our plans is that our boat is not currently in a slip. This might not sound like a big complication, but it takes significantly longer prep time to have to pick up the boat and step the mast before heading out on the water. It pretty much limits our sailing time to weekends except for in the middle of the summer when there is a lot more daylight time to work with.
  • Finally, Dan’s brother Kyle has been working most weekends, and due to my status as resident weakling, we need help stepping the mast.

Now that I’ve got all of the logical reasons out of the way, here’s the embarrassing one: we’re a little afraid of another disaster. Our confidence has been somewhat injured by our failures so far. (Though one of our 3 days was actually perfect.) Kyle, Becca, Dan and I actually had the boat down at a marina on Sunday, but we chickened out after watching another boat glide peacefully out of the harbor, only to get practically laid down as soon as they hit the 20 mph winds on the river. We just aren’t ready for dealing with that yet.

No worries, though! We haven’t given up, we are just going to get a little confidence boost before doing anything else crazy. Dan and I are taking a sailing class starting in June that should get us right back to our good-old-selves. Nothing like a little hands-on where the most experienced sailor in the boat isn’t the one who took the free online class! In the meantime, we’re going on a sweet dive vacation to Bull Shoals, Arkansas…full details forthcoming.

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Posted on May 16, 2012 | 0 comments

Brotherly Love

It turns out Kyle is as crazy as we are.

I’ve talked about my brother Kyle previously when discussing various sailing adventures as well as my SCUBA progress… What I haven’t talked about are his and Becca’s (his wife) plans and dreams. I’m not going to try and articulate their dreams… no one could except them. Suffice it to say that they are planning on joining us in casting off and following our cruising dream. On their own boat, of course.

Kyle was the first person other than Michele that I discussed my crazy idea with. We were extremely excited about our newly hatched plans… almost giddy. Each time we researched cruising we became more convinced. We needed an outside opinion (We’ve since met with our friends Scott and Brittany from Windtraveler for one). Before approaching Kyle, I expected to meet resistance and a multitude of reasons why following my dream was impossible. Amazingly, I found nothing but support. Well… support and mutual interest. He began to express many of the same sentiments that Michele and I have about materialism, time freedom, and life in general.

I am not going to talk about the whys, the hows, whens, etc of Kyle and Becca’s plans… their story is their own. They have become part of Michele and I’s story in some ways, however. It is a huge comfort to know that we will be sailing with people we can implicitly, and without hesitation, trust. Not only will we have double the amount of spare parts, dinghies, tools, etc but we will have partners to experience the wonders of cruising with. I am sure there will be times when we wonder “What are we doing here?” Thankfully, we will have Kyle and Becca nearby for support. One of the things I am most looking forward to is meeting new people and new cruising buddies while we are on our adventures, but I am extremely lucky to have a brother that shares the passion and dream of cruising.


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