Well, as I write this (0830, September 30) we have officially closed the Lake Vermilion house for winter and have begun our meandering trek that will eventually land us in Grenada in early December. We have had a beautiful end to the season here near Ely, MN. In fact, we have some misgivings for not staying a bit longer as the weather looks to hold on in the 60’s for a couple of weeks. Because we do not have facilities for a hard freeze or snow, we try to predict using our own historical data over 22 years when we need to get out before we are stuck in bad weather. This year we leave geraniums and inpatients still blooming, fall colors just emerging, pine needles coloring the forest paths, and the beautifully calm clear lake waters. ..oh and some perfect pickleball days left.
As we drive, we listen to the devastation that has occurred to some awfully familiar places in southwest Florida from hurricane Ian. We think of friends with boats in that area as well as up the east coast, in this storms possible path and pray for their safety.
So this is a quick post to share the origin of the blog name. We had just sold our house in Amery, WI in 2016 as hurricane Matthew was bearing down on Georgia , where we had stored Lost Loon for about 8 months. We watched in near horror as the near eye of the storm approached land. We would have been essentially homeless had bad luck come to our good boat. But, we were lucky that the timing of high tide and tidal storm surge didn’t cause our boat to float off her stanchions, and the winds were not destructive. As we left Wisconsin, headed for Georgia with our 2007 Suburban loaded with our sailing possessions, I began to think of a name for the blog. It came to me that despite of everything and ourselves, we were actually, finally, really, and apparently going sailing. Well, for my pickleball friends in Ely, who don’t have the sailing lingo here is the double meaning.
When sailing, the wind that blows from the east (our Caribbean trades) is known as the TRUE wind and of course measured in knots. As a sailboat travels over the water, it encounters this true wind but also as the sails cause this forward motion the wind you feel is actually more than the true wind (for a simple explanation I wont get into the whole thing about angles and vectors) this is the APPARENT wind. The apparent wind is what you sail to, or trim your sails for. This us because this apparent wind changes as the direction of the wind hits the sails. Anyway, that explains the “double entendre “. So, dear pickleball friends you are now versed in some relevant sailing jargon.
Latest greatest book I finished reading.. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. A cool account of the whaling trade that ran out of Nantucket Island. Exciting and educational, it shows some the ancient methods of sailing and navigating.
The latest addition to the Lake Vermilion fleet is a 1981 15 ft Sparkman Stephens designed fractional sloop Designers Choice. (For those of you who are not aware, S and S are top of the line designers for so many boats. They have designed early on masthead yawl rig sailboats, naval marine units like the ones they used for D-Day, power boats and bluewater sailboats like Hylas, Morris, Tartan, Palmer Johnson,Nautor Swan…and others. ). Not the most elegant or creative of boat names, but our DC is apparently one of nearly 8000 produced we are number 680 built between 1968 and 1985. The THS (theoretic hull speed) is a whopping 4.78! But her sail area/displacement ratio or performance index is 41.52!!! A good racer is at least 18-20.
We were looking for a something a bit more challenging than the sunfish that I have had so much fun with over the last 15 years.
She has a few gel coat cracks, and some hull blisters, but we’ve had her out on the lake twice now and in moderate winds she is a blast. The mast goes up easy with 2 people, but light enough for 1. And she is rated for 900 pounds of passengers and gear!! There is even a boom vang to manage the mainsail shape and a spinnaker pole to use with a bright yellow symmetrical chute.
The day we brought her to the cabin last week we had 15-20 knot winds and towed her alongside the Lund fishing boat. We were mistaken when we thought that a 300 pound boat would easily be dragged ashore given an improvised ramp. (Granted it was a 3 foot rise from the lake to shore land) WRONG! We spent nearly 2 hours pulling her up on a couple of heavy beams we rescued from the boat house we just took apart. The following day we headed for L and M Supply in Virginia and bought 4 – 10 ft, 3 inch PVC pipes and screwed those to the wood and she came up like a charm.
We probably need a bigger winch, but we switched to a nylon strap, and bought a improvised bridle. Now we can at least get it out of the water with fewer explicatives! Getting the boat out of the water prevents her from banging on the dock and getting caught in a wind storm there or worry about a coming loose from a mooring during a midnight storm.
The first sail was fantastic. Winds were 8-10 and the lake was quiet, so no dodging skiers or tubers, like on the weekends. We had gunnels in the water and a few times needed a hiking strap in some of the heavier gusts. It’s nice to have 2 people comfortable in the cockpit, sharing the enjoyment. We spent a few hours just tacking upwind and then used the spinnaker on the return. We also rigged the spinnaker pole with the jib and came back downwind wing on wing…something we have yet to perform on Lost Loon.
Will be working on getting some of the larger spider cracks repaired and adding a few blocks for the spinnaker halyard and sheets, otherwise this 15 ft darling will be enough to keep me sailing year ‘round!
Last sail… since this time in early September, she’s been covered secured for the winter, and apparently ready seen the first snows of the season. Left to watch things as we head South to start our 5th sailing season in the Caribbean.
We are grateful for family and friends! We are fortunate for some great life experiences this last year!
While we await the arrival of a new little family member, as we spend time traveling between Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois to be with family and good friends. Yes, we are living out of a 4 wheeled vehicle until we can get back on the water and to Lost Loon.
We are thankful for all the friends and family that have given us a warm bed for a night or more along the way since we closed the Lake Vermilion place in late September.
We see our sailing friends head offshore via text and social media making their way to warm locations in the Caribbean……envious? Yes, a bit. But we will get there. Still trying to get all the boat parts and stuff together to schlep to Grenada. Until then we pack a duffle and unpack every few days, hoping we have enough warm clothes to battle whatever Winter throws at us until we leave.
So we hope this finds you surrounded with friendship and love .. as we move into the downhill run to Christmas.
With Lost Loon out of the water and meticulously stored for the Summer, we travel back to the US in mid-May to see family, enjoy the cooler climate, and yes, avoid hurricane season in the Caribbean. After a hot and busy week organizing on Lost Loon at Prickly Bay Marina in the south part of Grenada, we are ready to close the hatch and board our plane for US mainland. Its pretty strange to get in a car and drive 1300 miles (after spending 6 months sailing…not driving at all!) from Florida to North Carolina, to Illinois and finally Minnesota, our summer destination. We are thankful again that the weather has turned nice for our return to Lake Vermilion. As I write, we sit comfortable from our lake home in Minnesota and see that Hurricane Dorian has literally demolished the Abacos, and we monitor a few other tropical disturbances in the Caribbean.
In a matter of 2 weeks, we are back to work on land this time, putting in the dock, starting up the sand point well, taking off the winter shutters, picking up sticks, cleaning gutters, raking the leaves left over from the Fall before, and settling in for a few months to what we call our summer home. The water is chilly as the days have just warmed into the 60s. We are welcomed back in the evening by the call of the Loon. Most days are quiet as there are few residents that stay around on the lake all week. Coffee in the morning on the deck is highlighted by watching a mama duck bring her little ducklings around, eagles soaring high looking for breakfast, or listening to distant motor boats revving up for a morning fishing expedition.
We have owned this place since 1998 and being here full time in the summer we have finally had the opportunity to make some major renovations. Its truly nice to come back to more of a home than a 60’s vintage cabin.
So, in effort to continue the improvements we embarked on a project this year to renovate the lakeside boathouse. This structure has been home to a small aluminum boat, all the fishing equipment, water pump, lake toys, woodworking materials and outdoor implements. Literally, a catch-all, but this functioned as Mike’s workshop the last 2 years of the cabin re-do. It needs a facelift as well as repositioning. It happens to sit right in front of our sauna\fish cleaning building, and also blocks a lot of the lake view to the west. Built of sturdy rough sawn 2x4s, beams, and covered in corrugated gray steel, its a beast!
The first project at hand is to move the STUFF out, but we don’t have anywhere to move the STUFF. Enter project 1A…a new storage building. For 6 weeks this summer we (I use that pronoun loosely, because Mike did 99% of the work) cut trees, burned brush, fashioned useable timbers, and put up a storage shed.
Again this summer, we took many trips across the water and drove to our local Menards for the building materials. We were lucky to have Dave and Nate (Mike’s brother and nephew) here to help with walls one weekend! I was able assistant when things needed positioned, measured or held in place. We are finally ready to move equipment out of the boathouse, so we can start on that. Summer has segued into early Fall and were not sure we have time for that now. Of course, we will return next Spring and get that underway. Just as it is on boats..we always have a project!
On to weather and hurricanes… I find the subject quite interesting. Being on the boat full time and relying on the weather so much to move us from point A to point B, we have to have the information on wind, waves, and precipitation. We are lucky to have several resources we utilize to make the decision on if we are sailing to a location or staying put. I listen to Chris Parker and associates on Marine Weather Center nearly daily. Usually tuning in at 0700 for his forecast of the Eastern Caribbean, we hear a 4 day compilation of his interpretation of the grib and surface analysis maps. This gives us a good indication of the conditions we can expect in our location. If I have decent cellular signal I can look at a few apps we use to confirm the information. Marine Weather Center had a website with all the information.
We use Windy (free app to download and obtain GRIB information) Predictwind( there is a free version, but for $99. /3 months we can get 3 weather models, destination planning and weather routing) and windguru. The disclaimer is that these sites ( except for Marine Weather Center) present you with computer generated information and there is no human interpretation of the data. That’s our job. And honestly the models are pretty ‘spot-on’, however we do find that there are errors…mostly not as much wind or different wave patterns than predicted.
If I don’t have any cellular service and on a passage offshore, I can use my Ham radio modem and connect to email services from NOAA and not only get text version of the weather in a particular lat/long region, but I can download surface analysis maps. Reading surface analysis maps isn’t difficult, but learning how to read them is vital, along with understanding how the current, 24,48, 72, and 96 hour interval reports give further information on developing weather systems. So, in order to keep up my skills in the off season, it is very cool to watch local weather or the development of tropical storms and how they die out or progress to full blown hurricanes.
The other resource I use is monitoring cloud formations. I learned a lot of this from an ASA Sailing course on weather I took in 2016. There are so many different formations day and night to watch. It is get so caught up in the formations I forget that I’m watching clouds. There are two basic resources at Weather works and Instructables, but the ASA course is worth the time if you need to learn weather for cruising purposes.
Best Summer Recipe Find
Carrot Hummus!!!!! Sounds crazy? Well it is!!! Delicious roasted carrots combined into a great hummus recipe. And its good for you!! First introduced to this by my daughter, who is great whole foods cook.
6-8 peeled whole carrots
3-4 Tablespoons Olive oil
3-4 peeled cloves of garlic (a few more if you love garlic)
1/4 cup tahini
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
15 oz can chickpeas (drained, but reserve the liquid)
Table salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Set oven at 400. Coat the carrots and garlic with 1-2 T olive oil and place on cookie sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Add the garlic about 10 min after starting the carrots, until soft when pierced with a fork. Allow to cool. Place the carrots, garlic, tahini, chickpeas, 1/2 tsp of salt and lemon juice in blender or food processor. Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Begin blending and add the reserve liquid from the chickpeas slowly until the right consistency is achieved. Taste and add salt if needed. Cover and put on refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.
This is a great recipe to have with veggies or pita chips. It is also a great substitute for mayo on a sandwich! Enjoy.
Thanks again for stopping….up next Fall happenings as we await a precious arrival before we set off sailing!
So the pics you see here in the beginning of this blog show us closing Lost Loon in May at Clarkes Court in Grenada. We were fortunate to have an uneventful process. The “carefree” sailing days are replaced with a few tolerable hot, dusty days in the yard. Bittersweet, we need to return to land life and see family as well as manage other parts of our life. As of this writing, we are now about 4 weeks from returning to spend another Winter in the Caribbean! The count down has begun!
We continue to live as vagabonds from one short term habitation to the next (or as gypsies..so well put by a close dentist friend of ours!) For the summer, we spent most of the time at our 3- season place on Lake Vermilion. We have completed the renovation we started last year transforming a 1950s cabin to a nice comfortable lake cottage. We also traveled to Illinois and North Carolina and spent valuable time with family in those locations. And of course passed several weekends with our Minnesota family and precious growing granddaughter! ( permission granted by the parents allows me to share one of my favorite pics!!)
They have been gracious to provide us with a warm bed and sustenance throughout the last few months, as well as priceless moments with “nos petite fille”!
The summer passed quickly. We spent time fishing, hiking, harvesting wild blueberries, and putting a new steel roof on the cottage.
Our life on the lake is challenging because we are on the north part of the lake further than the road extends. We have to boat everything in we use. This includes ..yes even the new steel roofing supplies. Thanks to Mike and Chris…their ingenuity made this possible.
In making our new cottage unique, my friend Cynthia and I decided to paint a door. this was a very enjoyable weekend project..and priceless piece of art!
There were a few days we did get out fishing…a passion of Mike’s and caught some beauties, northern Minnesota walleye! We also received our scout firefighter’s badge one day. There was a slight breeze that afternoon as we headed out to Big Bay on the lake for musky fishing (truth be told Mike fishes and I make sure I have a good book). As the breeze picked up and the afternoon progressed, we noticed a plume of smoke coming from a small island. It became darker, and in seconds we could see flames from about 1 mile away. We quickly proceeded to the location, where we expected to find someone burning a huge fire. To our surprise, there was no one around and a large part of the island was covered in fire. I tried calling 911, but with variable cell service cut out. Mike drove to a close spot where we thought it would be better and 911 was calling me back! I spent some precious 5 minutes telling the dispatch person the locations of the fire, knowing he needed to communicate this with the fire boat. I was assured they were on their way asap and told not to put myself in danger. We ran across the bay and procured two 5 gallon buckets with the intent of saving the island. We returned and inched the boat as close to the rocks without damaging the boat so we could get off. We were soon running a 2 person bucket brigade. We did have one other boat show up and with their 2 gallon bucket they had aboard, assist in putting out some of the “small stuff”, but there was a huge tree on fire that would take the professionals. Soon we saw them coming. as the fire boat approached we got off the island, noticing a small area where there may have been a campsite in the recent past….. Most of the fire was doused by the sole volunteer fireman.
During the months in Minnesota, I was able to work part-time at a local clinic. ( a shout-out to my new colleagues in Virginia , MN!! thanks for a great summer!) I worked in the family practice and urgent care areas 2-3 days per week. This afforded me the opportunity to maintain my license and continue to do something I truely enjoy. It was a mere 30 minute drive, but that was after the 20 minute boat ride acrosss the lake to get to the vehicle. This was not unlike our travels to get anywhere on Lost Loon. It was a great plan, most of the summer. I had only one late afternoon storm to wait out before getting Mike across the lake to pick me up. It wasnt until late September…my last days of work…and late days getting off work at 7 PM when arriving at the boat landing some days at 7:45 were getting chilly. By the first of October the days were chilly. We were having some night to 30 degrees and daytime highs of 40.
Yes, this is a picture of a 3 inch snowfall. Quite unusual and unexpected for this time of year. Mike actually had to snovel snow out of the boat for the first time since we have been coming to the cabin We are usually lucky to have until the middle of October to close things down, but by October 9th, we woke to temps in the very low 30s overnight and one partially frozen pipe. After Mike returned from thawing this with a hairdryer, we made the obvious decision to pack-it-up and head out. We had spent the last few nights, waking to check the water in the faucets and were not in the mood to wake to more pipes to thaw or worse broken ones! The job is fairly straighforward: pack clothes, clean everything out of the refrigerator, turn the water off and drain off the pipes, take apart the dock and lift it out of the water, cover the single pane windows with shutters. We have done this in an afternoon and were able to complete everything in about 3 and 1/2 hours. The sun provided us some warmth, but for this time of year, unexpectedly cold!
So the next question…..where to go? We decided to remain “off the grid” and head for a shared cabin in Superior Wisconsin …intended for deer hunting. It sits on 100 acres of woods in the most northwestern part of Wisconsin, along the Minnesota border. We had a few hours to prepare ourselves for the primative living…no plumbing, no running water, heated by wood burning stove. It happens to be just 8 miles south of the city of Superior, so not so far off the grid as it sounds. We stayed here 4 nights before moving on. We enjoyed a few nice Fall days of hiking and bird hunting (the guys…not me).
After a couple of days with our family, we have traversed south for a few weeks with friends in Florida, boating and diving, where we will escape the onslaught of cool temps in the Midwest and dream of sailing days to come!