ASA Sailing Course 104


Author:  Pete

Location:  Bower’s Harbor, Michigan


Day 5:

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.



DAY 6:

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.





DAY 7:

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?


ASA Sailing Course 103


Author:  Pete

Location:  Traverse City, MI
[44° 46′ N85° 37′ W]


DAY 3:

After a little breakfast on deck in the morning sun we started class by tearing through the boat in the morning opening all panels and looked at systems.  From stem to stern we opened panels, traced wires, discussed potential problems and fixes.  Never jammed so many people in such a small space.  I think I hear the clown-car music…


Had lunch in the cockpit in the sun at dock.  Spent the afternoon working on navigation in the salon.  We covered the basics of reading charts, what symbols meant.  Practiced plotting courses and the like.


Took the boat out for a sail and polished our navigation.  Discussed and demonstrated rules of the road, and honed our crew overboard technique.  I thought about suggesting a good pirate mooning pass on the tourist tall ship Manitou, but I decided against it.  This isn’t Cartagena after all.


Back in the marina Captain Dan took us aboard several different monos-hulls (regular type sailboats, as opposed to ‘cat’ catamarans) to get the feel for various layouts.  Some were geared more towards living comfort, others for better sailing performance.  In some I couldn’t tell what the main focus was.  I think some boat designers drink too much.  It’s been said before, every boat is a compromise.


Cleaned ourselves up in the nice marina showers.  My parents came down from Charlevoix, an easy hour drive, and took us out to dinner at the North Peak Brewery.  Less sea legs today as the water had been pretty flat.  I preventatively had a couple pints to ward off any nausea just to be safe.  We all had a good deal of beer, ribs, fish, and fun.  Tried to walk off some of dinner on a stroll through busy downtown Traverse.  Back on board we had the best sleep yet.





DAY 4:

Started off the day with our ASA 103 test.  Gathered in the marina lounge and took it early to get it out of the way.  Pulled a 95%, despite our groggy state.  I missed the following question:

7)  If your boat is taking on water through gaping hole in the hull should you:

a)  Issue a Pon-Pon to the coast guard, put crew in lifejackets, turn on bilge pumps, and plug the hole.
b)  Keep on sailing.  Sinking is for sissies.
c)  Run around the deck flailing hands above head as international sign for ‘No Idea What I’m Doing’.
d)  Get off the boat immediately.  Better to be swimming in the drink than on a boat with some water inside.


Blue skies gradually gave way to gray ceiling. Took the boat out for one last go around to cement our skills.  A touch wavy and blustery, and none too warm.  But we donned rain jackets for the light spits of rain and we were fine.





On our return we stopped to pump out the holding tanks and refuel.  Ah, a glamorous life for sailors.


Said goodbye to the Clara Mae, our trusty 31′ Hunter.  Passed it off to Steve and Matt, our sailing compadres, who took it out for charter in the following days.


Played tourist walking around downtown Traverse with my parents for an hour or so and had a celebratory dinner out at a great smokehouse to wrap up our second set of sailing courses. Headed back to crash out aboard our new boat for the 104 course.



ASA Sailing Course 101

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Author:  Pete

Location:  Traverse City, MI
[44° 46′ N85° 37′ W]


DAY 1:

We drove an hour south to Traverse City in the early morning to start our last round of sailing courses and get officially certified as sailors in the US by the American Sailing Association (ASA).  Found Great Lakes Sailing Co., our sail school and our vessel for the ‘keelboat’ course, Clara Mae, a 31’ Hunter.  Hunters, from my limited understanding, are basic boats with average sailing capabilities, nice interior looks, and a reasonable price point.  Not something we’d be looking for when we go offshore, but fine Michigan bay sailors.


We also met our sailing peers, two hardcore divers, Steve, his son Matt, and a fellow local photographer, Cory.  Our fearless Captain Dan, a quintessential sailor archetype with stories from the North Channel to the island of Trinidad.


Captain Dan put threw us into action immediately, showing us the systems on the boat, then walking us through the processes of pulling out of a slip, we motored out of the harbor and into Grand Traverse Bay.


We practiced motoring maneuvers, getting the feel for the (relative to the 15’ Boston Whaler I’m used to) heavy boat’s handling characteristics.  Very different driving a heavy, deep boat with keel and rudder, rather than a light, thrust-vectoring jet boat.  We managed.  Practiced turning, backing up, docking, picking up moorings, etc…


We eventually put the mainsail and then the headsail and cut the diesel.  We worked on tacking, and took turns on the jib and main winches and at the helm.  We had a decent breeze and even got some heeling in.  Under Miranda’s command we got the boat to 6.9 knots, a record that would not be broken for the duration of our course.




In the evening we returned to the McGurn household.  Hadn’t seen Nick since the wedding in Cartagena and hadn’t seen Ian or Breanna since last summer!  Their adorable daughters were having a sleep over with grandparents, so we didn’t get to see then, but we did get to have a couple of strong mojitos in the back yard.

Walked to restaurant, guffawing at old jokes and new jabs.  Really great to see those boys (and Breanna).  Had dinner at a fabulous restaurant, ordered a plate of mussels as big as my torso to start and tore through it.   Once I was seated and in an enclosed space I started to get pretty wobbly.  At first I thought it was the mojito, but it was ‘sea legs’ kicking in.  I felt like I was still on the boat.  Sort of disconcerting.  Fought it off with a couple of pints of good Founders beer.

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Ate to our hearts content and then walked home in a little bit of rain.  Drove back to the marina in the increasing shower as Cherry Festival fireworks burst hemispherically out of the bottom of the low cloud layer.


Spent our first night on a boat together!  We were the only two aboard so it was like having a little cozy cabin.  It almost felt like being back in our little Casita in Chile… but with a constant, mild earthquake, and at much lower elevation.  And more humid.  And with Cherry Festival revelers squawking outside.


Okay, so it was just a small space like we’re used to.  The rain on windows and a good deal of fatigue put us to sleep in the ample aft berth.  Slept fairly soundly, though to begin with I kept hearing noises and felt odd feeling the movement of the boat.





DAY 2:

Woke to some cloud cover and breakfasted in the cockpit.  When our compadres arrived we cast off and motored out of dock and into bay.  We unfurled our sails and headed north up to Power Island.  Over the hour or so it took to get there the sky cleared and sun came out.  We mustered some speed and took turns on the helm.  Cutting into the gap between the island and mainland we discussed navigation aids, then practiced anchoring in sandy bottom off of the eastern side of the island.


We worked on tying various knots and covered radio protocol as well.  We multitasked and took the ASA 101 test while we at lunch ‘on the hook’.  Collectively, Miranda and I got an average score of 98.5 with a standard deviation of 1.5.  Sorry, couldn’t help myself.  Needed to do some math.




Weighed anchor and set a run for home, working on rules of the road, navigation, and crew overboard drills all the way.  Pashouwer took us into dock to wrap up our 101 course.


Barged into Ian’s again as they were making Mediterranean food, homemade palau and nan.  With their darling daughters Pash and Doc Brown and I helped put everything together.  Had to go outside when room started wobbling until wine kicked in.  Yikes.   We sat outside in the perfect T.C. evening, enjoying the good food, fine weather, and old friends.  That night Miranda and I slept much more soundly the second round on the boat once had gotten used to all the little noises.