Monday, August 31, 2009

No Boat Weekend

We were in Indy for the MotoGP race the past weekend. Well, I was. Deb was in Indy to see Kristin, Brian and Christopher. She endured a day at the race track Sunday but spend most of the weekend working with the kids and playing with the baby. They were kind enough to find Grandpa-T a place to sleep.

Friday morning I headed out to the track from St. Louis, did about 100 miles in pretty hard rain, and watched the racers practice on a soaked track, just like last year. (If it ain't raining, it ain't Indy.) Deb rode in Friday night and somehow missed riding in anything worse than mist. Less than an hour after she got to Kristin's house it starting raining again. Hard. I don't know how she does it.

Saturday dawned sunny, cool and perfect for motorcycle riding (and racing). I got on the GXSR to head to the track only to discover that my (nearly shot anyway) back tire had a nail in it. Deb was kind enough to let me borrow her ZX-14 and I headed out. Deb's bike is big, fast, quiet, smooth and fun but, (and don't tell her I said this) the shifter is hooked up backwards. I told Deb not to worry about the flat, I would just plug it when I got back to the house. (I was pretty sure she would ignore me, and I was right. I got back to find a new pair of shoes installed on the Zuki.)

Since I am the only MotoGP fan in these parts I will refrain from boring you with race details. It was a circus with some big names hitting the track hard, two Americans in the top 5, and no hurricane.

After waiting about an hour for traffic to start moving around the track Deb and I headed home. It was a much easier ride than last year but still pretty cold. It would be hard to prove global warming by midwest temperatures this year!

I did catch a case of machine lust this year; BMW had their new S100RR sport bike on display (as did Yamaha with the new R1). I swore off BMWs after the K1200RS went away to buy Nomad, (best deal I ever made) but yowzza...that is a sweet looking piece of motorcycle go fast.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The say necessity is the mother of all invention...

but this may be carrying it a little too far.

I think I'll stick with tacking back and forth to get there, and if the wind is just too hard on the nose to sail where I want to go, then I think I'll curl up in the hammock with a good book! (Can you imagine that wind turbine letting loose in a storm????)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Wee Bit of Adventure

I got to the boat early Friday afternoon and started down my "fix it" list. The biggest job on that list was replacing the galley and V-birth lights with new, adjustable L.E.D. units. (P.S. Deb injects here that these are the best improvement we ever made to the boat. Tim earns big brownie points with this one.)

Deb arrived around 7 PM. It was getting late, getting dark, the wind was blowing, and we were both tired after a long week. Saturday morning was the BYC "Poker Run" with the registration and Captain's meeting at 1000. All good reasons to stay at the dock.

So of course Deb and I went sailing.

The wind was blowing pretty good and as I backed out of the slip the bow swung the wrong way, recalling visions of my first attempt at getting little Nomad to the lake. This time though I backed hard across, just shy of the boats on the next dock, spun the helm, called upon our little diesel to dig us out of the hole, and got the bow pointing the way I wanted. It was a bit sporting but we got it done. Rounding the corner to the lake provided us with a most spectacular view of the setting moon back lit by the red sky of the setting sun.

Once on the lake we had to work through a small rigging problem trying to set the main with a single reef. In spite of the darkening skies and pitching deck we figured out what we needed to do, (though it did cost me another hat as I wrestled with the flailing mainsail). The broad reach to Coles Creek was a perfect night sail. We set the hook in total darkness having the inlet completely to ourselves. Though a bit bouncy with the wind and waves, the temps were delightful for August and we had a comfortable night. (I think Deb just wanted to try out her new galley L.E.D. light while coving out.)

Saturday we got up early to sail back to Boulder and join the fun. We got there around 1030, (close enough to on time for sailors) got our registration and directions paperwork, left the dock again and started a romp around the lake in Force 4 / 5 winds. It was a great day of sailing and at the end all the participants gathered around to draw cards and enjoy dinner. As card players Deb and I are pretty good sailors. Between the two of us I'm not sure we drew 4 cards that were the same color; needless to say we didn't win anything. That didn't matter though. Afterward Bill mentioned that "Paradise" was heading for Coles Creek for the night and we were welcome to join her. That sounded good to us and little Nomad left her slip for the third time, actually getting to Coles Creek first. We set a hook and were joined by Paradise, Orca and Quicksilver.. It was the first time we rafted up at night and it was kind of fun. (Serenity, another boat from Boulder, was resting nearby.)

Sunday morning dawned clear and calm. We spent part of the morning fixing a small water leak Deb discovered while cleaning the inside of the boat. We tried to sail home but the light winds directly out of the north made that impossible, so we ended up motoring back to the marina. As usual on Sunday we headed to the pump out station to empty the head. And as usual we passed the MacGregor 36 catamaran that is tied to the end pier. This time though, Gabe was getting Tango ready to sail. Somehow Deb talked us into crewing so we hurried our pump out visit, tied little Nomad to her slip and jumped aboard Tango for a final sail of the weekend. (Best I can give you is a stock photo - we didn't have time to grab the camera.)

Tango is an open bridge-deck catamaran with a HUGE sail plan. I think the jib on that thing would just about cover Nomad like a blanket. Even with the light and funky winds there were times when we were making close to 10 knots, the water rushing past the twin hulls and flowing under the tramps. It was cool beans!

After tying Tango to her dock and taking leave of new friend Gabe we went back and tended to Nomad, who was in serious need of some T.L.C. You see, as we sailed out of channel Saturday night a swam of core bugs descended onto her decks and sails. (Corps bugs, we found out, are named after the Army Corps of Engineers. It seems no one in the area ever saw any such a critter until the Corps built the dam that stopped the river that made Carlyle lake. So now we know.) Corps bugs, when squished, make a nasty, hard to remove, purple / black spot. Nomad looked like a bug war-zone, her decks stained with the demise of thousands of the little creatures. Scrubbing her clean took hours, and it was still and perfect weekend.


I can always tell how good our weekend of sailing was by how bad a case of "tilt" I have when we get home. "Tilt" is the memory of sailing that our inner ears bequeath to our brains even after we stop tilting on the boat. Early on I had it bad enough that I had to hold on to the shower walls when I closed my eyes in the shower - even 8 hours after I put my feet on solid ground. Now that we've been sailing all these months I only get it after a lot of lively sailing or a particularly long time of sailing, both of which we got this weekend. It was the perfect weekend and I have a major case of tilt. Unfortunately, pictures and video wash out the wave heights so no one believes you unless they experience it themselves. I'll leave you with one nice picture though and I'll let Tim tell the rest of the weekend's tales since he does it so much better. Suffice it to say that it was the perfect weekend. I couldn't have made it better if I had special ordered it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sailboats are Magic

Really. Here's how I know that...

A week ago Thursday I had a dental appointment. Mine is a good dentist, but every dentist I have ever had eventually gets around to hurting me. Last Thursday was the day. By the time he was done the entire right side of my face felt like it had been used for Cardinals batting practice. Today, ten days later, it still isn't back to 100%.

A week ago Friday we headed off to Indy. to help Kristin and Brain get their house ready to sell. As usual we loved spending time with Daughter, Son-in-Law and grandson. And as usual we worked way too hard in the blistering heat trying to get as much done as we could. Once upon a time I could do that kind of thing without penalty. Nowadays that kind of effort extracts dues. Ignoring the pain in my jaw was a bit easier given the pain in my shoulders, back and wrists. I don't know how much a pick-up truck full of mulch weighs, but clearly it is more than a person my age should be shoveling around in a day.

Last Monday I rolled out of bed early for the first of 3 days of flying. And I mean really rolled. The attempt to swing my legs overboard and exit the bed in the normal fashion provoked serious protests from my lower back. It was an effort just to bend over to tie my shoes. By Tuesday morning I could barely manage even a roll out of the hotel bed. This was added to the continuing complaints from my jaw, which was getting worse rather than better. (Could it be that continuous altitude changes are not good for fresh dental work?) In any case electric like jolts ran down my jaw from my eye teeth, turned north at my neck, traveled through my inner ear and finally set off sparks in my brain.

On Wednesday the 3 days of flying turned into 5. It took a month to get to the end of the week and I didn't think Friday would ever arrive. It did (of course) and brought with it a marathon of tugging contrails around the country. Starting from Morgantown, WV we went to Waterloo, then to Kansas City, St. Louis, (a stop added at the last minute) back to Morgantown and, finally, back to St. Louis. I rolled the mains on home turf, parked the jet, changed out of limp and wrinkled flying clothes, sagged into the Saturn and drove the two hours to the lake. It seemed a long, long drive.

By the time I made it to little Nomad I could barely crawl into the V-berth. My back was stiff to the point of making it hard to breathe, my jaw ached, my right wrist wouldn't work right, and my ears were ringing from the noise of 8 1/2 hours of jet driving. Feeling every inch of the 3479 nautical miles of the week's flying and every one of the 19,745 days I have been taking up space on Mother earth; I was a seriously hurting unit.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling fine.

Sailboats are Magic.

The sailing this last weekend was pretty magical as well. Perfect winds blew in Saturday for a romp down the lake.

We ended up at Coles Creek for another impromptu raft up with 5 other boats. (Coles Creek is fast becoming our new weekend address.)

During the afternoon we splashed around in the lake with the young crew members from Miss My Money and Quicksilver. (Though a bit older they are almost as cute as my own grand daughters.)

I was a bit surprised to discover I could stand up on the bottom just a couple of boat lengths aft of the raft up. How we all managed to sail in and tie up without grounding is a mystery. Then calm winds and cool temps settled in for Saturday night. (Can this really be August in the Midwest?)

This morning we woke to a foggy sunrise, more swimming, and more perfect winds for a lap of the lake.

The sun burned through the haze and the good wind could not be ignored. Miss My Money and Gail Force set off for home. Nomad headed south toward the dam. From Coles Creek we tacked port and starboard, close hauled on a reefed main and working jib, heeled over and crossing paths with a whole parade of sailboats out playing tight on the wind. From the dam to home was mostly a broad reach / run, Nomad making better than 4 knots and seeing 6+ in the occasional gust. All while on a comfortable point of sail.

Magic all around.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sailor Genes

I had someone ask me again last week what it was that got me interested in sailing in the first place. Tim and I have given this much thought over the last couple years, and Tim likes to place the blame for our retirement plans squarely on my shoulder, but I can't concur. You see, last week was my dad's 84th birthday and while I was looking over some old pictures of him and reviewing some fond childhood memories, I found this one:

And then there was always the boat that went along with us camping...

And the boat that took us fishing...

Oh and while we're talking about fishing in that boat...there was the time that me and my mom and my dad were out in the middle of Indian River Inlet fishing, all a little drowsy from the sun and the rocking of the boat, when all of a sudden my mom looked up from her novel and said, "Paul I think maybe that storm might be a little close to us, don't you?". I believe that was one of the rare times that I saw my dad pale. We booked it as fast as that little 14 foot john boat would go to a little island out in the middle of the inlet where we turned the boat over top of us and waited out a tremendous thunderstorm.

So you see, I was destined from day one to be a sailor. It was all in the genes.

Happy Birthday Dad, but I think it was me that got the gift.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Shifting horizons

It looks like this weekend is an "Indy" weekend. Little Nomad will have to look out for herself. But I got to thinking about last weekend's adventures along with a conversation or two Deb and I have had about potential boats, and I was a bit startled to discover how much our "sailing horizons" have shifted in just a little over a year.

For example, last year at the Annapolis boat show we pretty much decided that center cockpit mono-hulls might work, but aft cockpit? Not so much. The ocean appeared to be way too close to the person standing watch. That concern has completely fallen by the wayside. We still like the aft cabin in the CC boats, but the usually tall house jutting out of the deck and the massive amount of windage now catch our eye more than the location of the water in relation to the driver. We also find ourselves saying, "It looks like a comfortable boat but how do you think it sails?" A year ago I'm not sure we could tell the difference between a good sailing boat and a bathtub with a stick. (Mast.) Now a sleek, aft-cockpit boat with a nearly flush foredeck to work on and a huge sail plan provokes thoughts of, "That would be nice. I wonder if the transom folds down into a swim platform and would the draft be too deep for the Keys?"

The same kind of thing has happened with simply being on a boat. I don't worry much about the thing sinking out from under me while I sleep. The idea that a good boat, well maintained, will somehow just spring a leak and head for the bottom, has faded. I like being away from the dock and out on our own. (As much as one can be in a land locked lake just a few miles wide.) Night sailing still calls for care, but it is no longer the eerie habitat of so many unknowns. It fact it has become one of our favorite places to visit. The wind is what the wind is. (Again, here on our little lake.) When it picks up we will trim the sails in tight, reef if we need to, or bag one and sail on the other one. If it is blowing directly out of where we need to go and no amount of tacking will work, we drop all the sails, fire up the little diesel, and get where we were going. Once anchored out, I don't wake up every 20 minutes sure that we are dragging. In fact, if the winds are calm and the anchor well set, I forget about it entirely. If (say Pensacola) there is a chance we will drag, an anchor watch will do the trick and we will enjoy that as well.

If I had thought much about it I would have known this change would happen. This morning we flew down from SUS to HEZ, went 200 miles out of our way to dodge huge thunderstorms, flew up to FL400, ducked back down to FL230 to get under some bumpy looking clouds, and then shot the GPS 36 approach to get in due to the low scuzz hanging around. We knew there was weather so carried some extra gas. The approach was an easy call once we saw that the clouds were lower and filled more of the sky than the weather reports suggested. It was all pretty routine.

Nearly thirty years ago the 16 year old kid on his solo flight in a Piper Cub couldn't even imagine doing such things. (And not just because GPS approaches were the stuff of science fiction.) It should come as no surprised to that sailing will work the same way. Now if I had started when I was just 16...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Solo Night sail!

Well it wasn't exactly solo, since Deb and I were both on the boat. And it wasn't exactly a sail, though we were on a sailboat. On Friday and after dinner in the clubhouse we decided to make the run to Coles creek to spend the night. (And escape the carp). There was not a hint of wind so we didn't even take the cover off the main, just putted down the lake in the gathering darkness, counting on our little diesel. It was great fun, but I do understand why sailors hesitate to enter a strange harbor at night. Even with the waxing moon it was freaking dark out there! We crept into the anchoring area looking for the "No Wake" buoys remembered from the raft-up a weekend or so ago, but never did spot them. So we dropped the hook and cozied in for the night, just the two of us on our little boat. Come morning we discovered that we never spotted the buoys because we didn't get far enough in.

A check of the weather told of storms Saturday afternoon. Since Nomad has all the comforts of home except one, a shower, we decided to sail back to Boulder so we could enjoy a shower while avoiding the showers. We washed up while the rains rinsed the boat and by the time the weather moved off to the east we were ready to set off yet again. This time the wind was piping up and the trip to Cove 4 turned into the best sail of the weekend. Little Nomad heeled over under full sail and for the first time we dipped a rail in the water without rounding up. Of course we did dump everything off the starboard shelf, including 4 gallon jugs of water. Fortunately none of the jugs burst.

Orca and Paradise were saving us a spot and not long after we tied up Gail Force coasted in as well.

Good food (everything tastes better on a boat) and a rather remarkable amount of spirits were consumed.

The party went deep into the night and though there was no pain being felt in the moonlight, the same could not be said with the rising of the sun.

Deb and I don't drink that much so we enjoyed the morning for a couple of the others. After breakfast I decided an early swim was in order. The calendar might say "August 1" but the first plunge into the water? Yo Mama! After a couple of minutes I caught my breath and got comfortable. While making a few slow laps around the boats I suggested to the assembled (nursing cups of coffee while hiding behind sunglasses) that the cold water rush would be a sure cure. Deb and a couple of others joined me for a few minutes, but most allowed as their respective cockpits (and bunks) were as close to the water as they needed to be. We swam, sunned, watched the power boats come and go from the launching ramp, (including one weird looking apparition that turned out to be a VW bug mounted on pontoons)and generally just relaxed as the (lake) world went by.

Eventually we had to admit that the weekend was drawing to a close. Most of the raft-up crew was now functioning at a near normal level so we dropped lines and headed home. Nomad and Orca set sails but it was a lost cause. With the GPS reading "0.0 knots VMC" we bagged the canvas and called on our little diesel yet again.

From Friday evening to this afternoon Nomad spent all but a few hours out on the lake, did a bit of night exploring, anchored alone, rafted up, and buried a rail. Not too bad for one short weekend. And maybe some small line has been crossed as well. A year ago Deb and I were pretty happy to be back in the marina after a day's sail and were a bit cautious the few nights we were out, even when we were rafted up. Now we are much happier spending our boat time "off the dock," especially at night. And anchoring alone? That may well be one of my most favorite things.