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.