Happiness comes from within.
I like that. We create our own joy in life. That is our intention with this new venture.
We have been blessed. We grew up in the Midwest with values to work hard and enjoy life. We hope to have instilled that in our children. They question our fairly recent decision to “sell the farm” and go sailing. For now we will do this part time and then more long term when the time is right.
I write this at 35,000 ft, traveling to Lost Loon in Stuart FL. Our boat has been waiting for us to return and sail her on our first crossing to the Bahamas.
IN THE BEGINNING
It started with the lessons. We decided (with the help of a very close friend) that it would be fun to learn to sail so we could charter a sailboat on vacation in primarily the Virgin Islands. What did we really know about sailing? Not much. The wind blows it moves the boat. The wind stops….uh oh then what? We had vacationed on lakes and rivers most of our life. We both grew up with fathers that treasured fishing. Bass fishing, walleye fishing, the occasional northern or sunny we what we learned to catch. We have enjoyed the Midwest for the Great Lakes and all the thousands of small lakes in between. We live in northern Wisconsin and deciding that the fishing was much better further north and bought a small cabin on Lake Vermilion MN. A beautiful spot to relax and, of course, fish or hike during the 3 or 4 months the lake isn’t frozen.
We have had a small Sunfish sailboat there for years, a gift from an uncle that enjoys the water and sailing as well. We spent some endless days trying to manage the variable winds on the lake.
We invested in a tired 25 ft cabin cruiser on Lake Michigan near Chicago. We had fun on weekends cruising the lakeshore or trolling for big fish. We own canoes and a kayak. Before we married we took off into the BWCAW and Quetico Provincal Park canoeing and camping for 12 days (That’s another story. )…..oh we can handle sailing ..Right? Needless to say we have water experience. So what could be so hard to learn to sail something larger than a sunfish? We found out after our coursework in keelboat , moving on to bareboat and coastal cruising. Following a sailing immersion weekend on Lake Superior out of the Apostle Islands we were totally hooked. It was fun, so we began to kick around the idea of owning a sailboat.
Fast forward to August 2008, Chicago suburbs, 85 degrees, I’m picking up a Precision 23 , sight unseen and bringing her ‘up North”. We had searched locally but found this great trailer sailing vessel 6 hours from home. We didn’t exactly buy the boat sight unseen, but had out daughter ( who knew nothing about sailboats) go look at her. We had 3 basic requirements no holes, no standing water inside, and an intact mast. Ok, we’re good. Heck, she even had a roller furler jib! We had educated ourselves on the Jim Taylor designed sailboat , reviewed the articles on how to buy a boat and within a week agreed on a price. Sanity was her name. I’ll leave that be. The boat had been sitting on a trailer in the suburbs just waiting for some interested soul to take her to water. It was in good shape , no holes. Her sails were older, but no tears. The cabin wasn’t as odorous as I expected, remembering the days of opening up a camper that had been put away after a rainy camping weekend. The previous owner helped me change the jib halyard. We repacked the cabin with all 10 thousand life jackets and headed to her new home.
This was a solo trip for me, Mike was on his annual Musky fishing weekend on Lake Vermilion. On the drive back, I would look in the rearview Saying ‘ oh my what have we done’. Arrival time home 1 am. Here’s the rub. We had less than 7 days to clean and prep Sanity for our voyage to the Apostle Islands.
I’ll spare details but as you can imagine we spent the hours we were not sleeping or working , on cleaning the exterior ( power washer was a savior as well as a son at home between jobs), repairing a damaged bulkhead, organizing what are now known in our household as lines ( not ropes), adding new depth / speed indicator, and arranging our inheritance of life jackets. At the last minute, we needed to make sure our outboard runs, major detail. We were so lucky. It only took a new spark plug a few pulls and she was running well. In all, we gave her a bit of love and we anticipated she return that in graceful response to the wind.
We launched her onto Lake Superior in Chevy Chase Family Vacation style ( driving around the casino parking lot to find the right wind direction from which to raise the mast). Our dream come true…. to anchor off Madeline Island on a summer night.
The end of the week after practicing our tactics and getting a feel for Sanity’s tenderness we headed her to Lake Vermilion for the rest of the summer. Year one a success. Only one disappointment, winter, waiting for the days to lengthen and most importantly the ice to melt. We have repeated this cycle for 4 years. With a few BVI charter trips in the winter to escape the harsh Wisconsin temperatures under our belt and a bucket load of sailing journals we convinced ourselves to explore the idea of ocean sailing.
BUYING “THE ” BOAT
So how difficult can that be? Ok, what are the requirements for an ocean cruising sailboat? What do we know about marine systems? Diesel engines? Wind and solar energy? Fresh water systems? Fuel polishing systems? How many sails do we need, really? After a full year of perusing all the online listings, seminars at Strictly Sail Show in Chicago, and visiting boats from Texas to Florida along with a few on Lake Michigan (mid -winter) we found a Caliber 40 on it’s journey back from Grenada.
We enlisted the help of a Caliber broker and began our intensive on Caliber and cruising sailboats. Our first view of her was during a downpour in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, VI during a catamaran vacation with friends. That was serendipity. That was February. Fast forward through countless hours reading and reviewing the pros and cons of the different cruising sailboats, lists upon lists of what we wanted in a sailboat …we had finally made the decision. It seemed quite easy…. this Caliber had most of what we had on our “would like” as well as “would need” lists. We had a signed agreement by May 25. Sea Kite was ours. Not long after the papers were signed we were enlightened as to all the tax, documentation, and insurance work we needed to get done…Bliss lasted temporarily.
According to our insurance we needed to get Sea Kite above latitude 31 before hurricane season. We found a great location at Brunswick Landing, Brunswick GA. We made our first voyage up the ICW from Cape Canaveral to New Smyrna. We picked up some trusty sailing friends and made a coastal voyage to her new home in Georgia. Carefully, but hastily we closed her up for the Summer months, trying to follow the previous owners directions in French as to what needed to be removed, closed and covered. How difficult that was to leave her and return to Wisconsin.
THIS IS NOW
We have made a couple of trips to visit the Caliber getting to know systems and making her ours. We made a trip to measure and take supplies as well as change the name. She was Sea Kite and had given her Canadian owners 10 yrs of pleasure, but to make her ours we needed a fitting name. Loons live in the North during temperate time of year. They are an interesting waterbird that has a distinctive call. They can be heard on the lakes and rivers calling to their mates in the evening. Protective of their few offspring, they carry their newborns on their backs for safety from the perils of large predator fish lurking under the water. They are seen diving for their food. One will see a loon on the surface, dive for nourishment and come up several yards away, surprising the the observer. They travel south in the winter and have been seen as far as south Florida and southern California . Mike came up with the appropriate name for the boat. Lost Loon. It is fitting.
The move from Brunswick to Stuart took place last month (March 2016). We needed to break up the Bahamas trip into manageable pieces since we are still employed. If this were a wedding, we’d be heading to the church! We have arranged most of the provisioning and supplies on our trip down last month. We literally looked like the Clampits leaving Wisconsin headed for Georgia with food, fishing supplies, diving equipment, and more. We worked several hours packing the boat with the supplies, using every nook and cranny.
It was like that game we played where the object to move the numbered squares to get them in order, but you end up moving 3 squares (in our case rubbermaid boxes of like supplies and replacements) to to fit one odd piece of equipment. Their had to be a logical thought process of how to fit it all in AND remember where it was put!
We check all systems: fuel, water, bilge, electrical ,running rigging and finally standing rigging. That was Mike’s job. He can climb the mast at 60ft. I have problems hanging out of the second story washing windows. I stayed on deck with the halyard and winched him up, up, up.
Finally ‘ready’ . Time to move by day 3, after trips to Wal Mart, Home Depot and of course West Marine to outfit the ship. We refueled and were ready to go for offshore the next morning.
Our sail from GA to southern FL was a bit rough. We took 15-25 knot winds on the nose, so 50 hours of motoring all of the way. It was surreal at times. The night watches were short for the two of us now alone on the ocean. There was a sense that Lost Loon knew what to do if we gave her some direction. No more tender Sanity, we had multiple options for dealing with the wind now.
ANTICIPATION AND PATIENCE
What is it about preparing and planning for a trip that is so fun? It can be hectic and exhausting, but in all, waiting for the adventure can be very…. Exciting!! We have been doing that for months. This is now the true test. Crossing the Gulf Stream as a capable couple of sailors who know their boat. But we wait. There is no reason to head into the Gulf Stream with any component of a north wind. For my friends who don’t sail, that is what makes high waves and a very rocky ride into the night. So the forecast says in 3 days we can leave.
Until then, we continue to reorganize and tinker. That is, we inspect stuff and fix it, if it doesn’t work right or “McGyver-it ” so it does. I want a t-shirt that says ” I’m done fixing stuff, I’m going sailing”.
(Yeah, my first post!!!! It only took me 4 hours. I am hoping this goes faster. Please return daily to check for posts on our continued first Bahamas adventure!)