Location: Bower’s Harbor, Michigan
Woke aboard the Osprey, a 39’ O’Day. She’s the creakiest boat we’ve ever slept on. Okay, we’ve only slept on one other boat before this. But Osp is pretty loud. She lightly thunked, sputtered, groaned, grated, and chuttered all night. Didn’t bother Pash and I too much though.
In the morning we met Dirk our new instructor, a tall southern man with a charming, smoky drawl. Also got to know our classmates, Bob and Lynn from St. Louis, MO, just up for a week or so to do the course. They’re about our parents’ age, but seem so much younger with their witty sense of humor and Midwestern charm. Miranda was especially excited to hear that they are also alums of Ripon College, a tiny private college where she did her undergrad that no one else seems to have heard of, much less have attended.
We tore the O’Day apart from stem to stern looking at different systems. We spent a great deal of time discussing the workings of the marine engine. Cooling, fuel, and transmission systems were all covered in detail. We talked about troubleshooting problems and finding solutions. Dirk was knowledgeable and direct with his instruction. We find that, as teachers, it’s difficult to be taught anything without analyzing the teaching style of our instructor. Dirk certainly knows his stuff. It comes off with all of that ‘good ol’ boy’ charm too, which is all the more fun. Bob and Lynn had more sailing experience than us, but perhaps not as much technical reading about the components, so we had similar questions and levels of understanding, which made the discussion enriching for all.
After walking through the boat we went to Tom’s food market (the Northern Michigan version of Whole Foods, without the snobbery), and provisioned the boat. We bought chow to feed five for three days. In total three lunches, two breakfasts, and a dinner, snacks, copious wine and beer for about $260. At about $50 per person, not too bad for five people eating well for a long weekend.
Loaded the boat and made ready to sail. Dogged hatches, closed forward seacocks, cast off lines, and motored out of the slip. I took her out into the bay where we raised main and head sails and headed north. Along the way, Cap’n Dirk taught us how to make a towing bridal and practiced on the dinghy we’d been dragging on the port cleat.
The fickle wind swung on us during our sail north, sometimes coming from the west, providing a gorgeous beam reach, other times turning to north, forcing us to tack. The Osprey didn’t like to point too far upwind, making for a slow and inconsistent approach to Bower’s Harbor. Along the way we worked on knots and sail theory and got to know our new friends aboard.
Turned west into the marked channel between Marion Island and the mainland and anchored in the sheltered north harbor a few hundred meters off a wooded area.
Practiced anchoring with a stern anchor to keep the boat from swinging. Miranda and I rowed a Danforth anchor out in the little dinghy that Osprey had been towing. Didn’t have too much faith in the little anchor when we sent her down, but it held us through the evening as the wind swung.
And then it was cocktail hour. We had drinks and snacks and began to prepare our dinner. I took a quick swim. The water was still pretty darn cold despite being the middle of July, but the deep blues and aquamarine tones of clear Lake Michigan make up for it. Grilled shish-kabobs, potato salad, and a green salad all went down pretty darn well.
Then before we blinked it was another day in paradise filled up. The stars came out. Bob, our St. Louis contingent, bemoaned the lack of stars in the city. We pointed out Cassiopeia, the dippers, and Polaris. Nice to be in the northern hemisphere and see them again. Then it was off to bed at our calm, little anchorage. I’m sure they won’t all be this peaceful.
Woke leisurely to a glassy bay. Some light clunking and wafts of coffee lured us out of our cozy stern berth. Stood on deck and looked out over the bay before we breakfasted on yogurt, granola, bagels, and coffee.
Spent the morning at anchor going over classroom stuff. We learned about chart plotting and calculations. Not a problem for two math teachers. Significant applications for algebra, stoichiometry, vectors, and trigonometry. And they said that the Law of Cosines wasn’t useful…
We ran a few man overboard drills in bay. There was no wind to speak of, so we focused on those most useful to being under power. The big Osprey really took longer to stop than anything I’ve piloted.
Motored north towards Suttons Bay. Worked on triangulation location and plotting routes. Smooth seas made for easy work below deck.
Put up full 160% genoa and got headway even with really light air. Turned south-west into S.B. Got close to running aground on sandy point. Should’ve been marked with buoy.
Pulled into S.B marina and lightly ‘kissed’ dock. I wasn’t at the helm, so it was okay. Tied up, had more drinkies, and went in to town for dinner. Came back and sat in the cockpit for a while watching the stars come out before going to bed.
Night at the dock is significantly louder than at anchor. Squeaking dock lines, waves slapping the hull broadside, people talking on shore, and the like. I’m sure my preference to be ‘on the hook’ will only extend to calm seas and low wind.
The day brought almost no wind. We did some classwork aboard Osprey for an hour or so, discussed routing strategies and methods, then shoved off. Motored through the negligible wind out of Sutton’s Bay and headed south down Grand Traverse Bay.
The flat seas made for good navigation practice. We navigated by dead reckoning, and triangulation from sightings, and used GPS to check our verify our position. We discussed sources of error in navigation and calculated leeway and current.
Smooth motoring all the way back to Traverse. Not as great as being able to sail back to port, but the hum of the engines and the easy glide of the boat made for a nice afternoon.
And just like that, we finished our week-long set of courses from the American Sailing Association. We took and aced our last of the three tests, and then headed back to Charlevoix to reconnect with my folks. All done, for now. But, what a blast to spend seven days sailing, sleeping on a boat, and sharing stories with experienced sailors. We’d love to take a catamaran class while we’re down in Florida, but having our own boat should give us plenty of practice, and any money we spend on more lessons is less money for the trip. So, we’ll see. We feel like we’ve learned great deal, and really honed our skills. I know Miranda was struck my how much we had already learned from Mario during our lessons in Chile… maybe our Spanish is better than we give it credit for.
I know one thing for sure- how will we ever wait it out until September to get back to Florida to start up this adventure? These past week really solidified how excited we are to start sailing on our own, and reinforce that, hopefully, this isn’t such a crazy idea. Right, Mom?