Monday, November 2, 2015

50th Anniversary Fall Regatta last race of the year

The last weekend of Sept was  the 50th Anniversary Fall Regatta at the Wayzata Yacht Club. On Sat there were 2 races, and I had 2 crew with me. The winds were light and we ended up not finishing the first race because we were so far back. On the 2nd race we did finish but ended up being last. Despite that, we enjoyed the day. On Sunday I was not able to find crew and the wind was about 15 to 19 knots so it was going to be a sporty day. I decided to single hand the boat for the race. I did end up finishing last but only by 34 sec behind on the first race, and 6 sec on the 2nd race. By the end of the second race some of my tacks were getting as good as we would do with a full crew. I felt really good about that. I was dead-ass tired but was grinning from ear to ear. The next day was my knee surgery and was hoping to get back for some of the last races of the year, but in the end it was our last official of the year. It was great way to finish the racing season.

Late fall sailing on the Shackleton Cup 2015 

Getting close to other boats

During any given race, there are boats coming from every direction, and part of the job of everyone on board is to be watching for other boats. It is not uncommon to have a close call or more every race. With 50 to 130 boats all racing together, it is surprising there are not more boat crashes. Crashes are rare but do happen. This video was shot by a friend of mine during a race this summer. He had planned to duck behind our boat but with the wind we had that day his sails powered up faster than he thought. I saw him coming but I had the right of way so held my course as long as I could, lucky we both turned in time so we did not crash. The best I can tell, there were only a few inches between both boats. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

First Solo Race

On Sat August 29 I raced solo for the first time ever. The race was the MS/burton cup, which is one of the longer races. The course goes around big island, but also loops into 3 of the bays. The winds looked very light and I was not sure if we would race with 2-3 knots of wind. I talked to the crew and we decided they would not drive all of the way out and maybe not race. My plan was to work on the boat with some new rigging if the race was called. In the end they did have the race.  Three of the racing clubs on the lake took part in the cup. There was a lot of boats out there even with the light wind.  I got a good start ahead of a number of boats, slowly some pulled away from me, and by the first leg there was a group of 4 of us. I was starting to pull ahead two of them. By the second leg, I was losing ground on one boat. On the last leg, 2 of the boats bailed. Leaving myself and Seeker and, despite having a good lead, Seeker slowly started to catch me. At a few points the wind dropped to 0.0 knots and the boat stopped moving. With the power boat chop and no wind I wanted to quit. A few times the boom jibed from the power boat chop. About this time the race committee was telling us we had 1 hour left in the 5 hour time limit. It looked like it would be close.

As we got close to the finish line Seeker pulled a head of me. As we finished, Seeker was 6 sec ahead of me and our boats were overlapped.  This is after 4 hours 47 min 11sec grrr. We did have an extra 12 plus min. to finish. That part was fun.

I was really tired as I headed back the club.  I docked the boat and got everything ship shape and put away. When I pushed the boat off the dock to go to the mooring ball, I heard a pop, and hyper extended my good knee. I knew it was not good. It has been sore past few weeks.  I plan to see the Dr on Monday. My guess is I will miss a few days work.

I had planned on sailing in the PHRF rumble in the bay as well as the C series race the next day, but can't get on and off the boat, let alone get out to the the mooring ball.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Late Summer Update

We have been racing most weekends for the past 3 months or so. I also have been racing on the same boat that I raced on last year on Thursday nights. Racing 3 days a week has been keeping me busy. We have races planned until Oct 23 plus there is one race in November, but we will see if mother nature allows that. Most races we are the last boat to finish in our fleet. Because we have been showing up and racing we are in 6th place of 22 boats that have raced on Sundays this year, with 4 or 5 races to go. Last weekend was the last race of the woman's series races. The winds were a little higher and we ended being the only boat to show up in our fleet so we took the gun (or 1st place) with Lori at the helm with a crew that included myself and another friend Laurie. I affectionately refer to them as "Team Lori."

We have a bunch of longer distance races coming up over the next few weeks. Normally races last about an hour, but these will probably last 2-3 hours with a time limit of 5 hours. One of the things I realized this year is when I initially set up the mast position, it was too far aft (or back) and it effected how the boat sails. I re-rigged the mast once and will probably do that again in the coming weeks, to see if that will help with the weather helm on the tiller, along with boat speed and heeling. For the most part the boat has been working well all Summer. When we pulled the boat out of Lake Minnetonka to go to the Apostle Islands in July, the rudder paint seemed to be coming off and some of the bottom paint had worn along leading edges of the boat. So there will need to be some touch up next Spring, and possibly re-doing the whole rudder...again.

During one of the women's races there were three short races crammed one after the other in a couple of hour period of time. The very first one we decided to put Jane at the helm. She has not been at the helm much at all, let alone during a race with really light wind. We ended up having the entire fleet waiting for us to finish, but we finished. Overall she did a great job, despite my tension on the board. One of the more social events that the club has is a "nightcrawler" race. We meet at the club in the early evening on the Saturday closest to a full moon, and the boat that returns last, wins. The 4th of July ended up being a nightcrawler event, and Excelsior has a large fireworks display out on the lake. It was a lot of fun sailing around in the light winds, watching the fireworks, under sail. There were hundreds of other boats on the lake. After sailing back to the docks, we spent the night on the boat.

We've had a number of race days with little to no wind, and so race officials will typically cancel those races. However, they did not cancel one weekend when they probably should have, and we, along with all the other boats in our fleet, ended up abandoning the race. There wasn't enough wind to push us anywhere, and ended up just bobbing in the water. This past Sunday we had quite the opposite wind, with gusts in the upper 30 knots and sustained winds in the 20s. That race was cancelled. Sometimes they will do a "heavy air" race, if there's enough boats willing to sail. On Sunday, there were about 100 people standing outside when they asked for a show of hands of people willing to race. There were only 2 or 3 hands raised, and mine was not one of them. The only other reason a race will be cancelled is because of the potential of thunderstorms and lightening. Rain is not a reason for cancellation, and luckily we haven't had to get wet this year.

We have not gotten out nearly as many times with friends this year as we'd like, but are hoping to in the next month or so before it gets too cold. We also haven't blogged much this season because we've been racing so much. Hope to do more writing as the season winds down.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Apostle Islands Trip 2015

Donavan, Jane, and I were able to spend time in the Apostle Islands again, and we had a really fun time. We spent a couple more days there than we did last year. Here are the highlights:

Day 1, Thurs, July 16: Left home at around 8 am, and headed to Little Sand Bay. Along the way had lunch at Ehler's General Store in Cornucopia, and met Video Blogger Andy Miller, of Boat Works Today. Donavan has followed his blog for a while, and Andy has helpful videos on boat repair. We arrived at Little Sand Bay in the early afternoon, and met our friends there, Jeff, Kari and their daughter Nellie. Little Sand Bay is the only part of the Apostle Islands National Park that is on the mainland. We spent a few hours rigging the boat and putting it in the water. Luckily the rain didn't come until after we could duck for cover inside our boats. We ate dinner on our friends' boat and stayed dry (thank you guys for a really good hobo dinner). After Jane and I left for the showers, Donavan managed to slip and fall between the boat and the dock. He was bruised, and fortunately only his lower legs fell in the very cold water. Glad nothing worse happened, or we would have been heading home before the vacation even started. Donavan was very sore the next few days. We listened to the rain and wind all night, not much sleep.  
Our boat is on the left, and the Teachers Lounge is on the right. Umbrellas make for really good hatch covers in the rain.

Took this shot at 5:30 am, the fog was just starting to lift as the sun began to rise behind the clouds.

Day 2, Fri, July 17: We sailed, alongside our friends' boat, to Devil's Island to look at the sea caves. They are beautiful to see up close. The wind was perfect that morning, and we sailed for 12 miles downwind, wing on wing, using the pole to hold out the jib. Apparently that's called a whisker pole, or whiskey pole. Who cares. Anyway, it was a gorgeous day, and the only problem was that we were swarmed by vicious, biting black flies near the sea caves. We used our dinghies to sail inside the sea caves, and the flies just got worse. Regular bug spray does not stop these flies one bit. We decided to head to Oak Island after that, and anchored for lunch. Nellie jumped on our boat for that stretch of the sail, and Jane and Nellie had fun playing together. We anchored near the hole in the wall on Oak Island, which collapsed a few years ago, but it's still used as a landmark. It took us a while to get our anchor to stick, kept coming loose. We used our dinghy to go to shore, and play on the small beach and collect rocks. There was a sign on the beach saying that the campsite was closed due to bear activity. (!!!) I scanned the ground for big paw prints, and didn't see any. The girls were so excited to play in the sand, that we hung out for a while. I continuously scanned for bears. Nobody else seemed concerned about it, but I remained on bear watch duty. We never saw any bears, but later learned that a park biologist had recently been within one foot of a bear and used bear spray (like mace) to try and scare it off. But it didn't make a difference!  So the national park service thought it best to close that area for the time being. After about a half-hour, we hopped back in our dinghies and stayed the night on our anchored boats.  The anchor alarm kept going off all night, so we didn't sleep well.  In the morning Donavan helped Jeff deal with a line that wrapped around his mast. It was a rough morning, with not much sleep. 
The trees were barely hanging onto the edge of the rocks. At the Apostle Islands, it's very easy to see how the earth is in a constant state of flux.

The water is really clear, and the caves look like a maze of pillars and holes.

Day 3, Sat, July 18: In the morning, both boats sailed to Manitou Island where we toured the remains of the fishery and got a history lesson about the hard work that had to be done in order to make a living in the area. Volunteer Denise was there, same as last year, and was fun to see her again. She actually lives on the island for a couple of months each Summer. We hiked a short trail to where there used to be a sand spit, to do some more rock collecting, but there really wasn't much of a shore to speak of, so we turned around and went back to the boats. Felt good to stretch our legs after so much time sitting on the boat. We parted ways with our friends because of scheduling and weather predictions. Donavan, Jane, and I headed towards Stockton Island, sailing most of the way, and motoring the last part of the trek when the wind died down. Weather was predicted to be very windy that night and tomorrow, along with storms and hail. We lucked out, because the wind was the only part of the forecast that showed up.  We slept somewhat better that night since we were at a dock, but the high winds were causing a halyard to bang against our mast, waking us up. The wind was so bad that I didn't want Donavan to go up on deck, in the dark, and tighten/fix the problem. He eventually did at about 2 a.m., and we all slept better for it. 
Jane took this shot through our rolled up sail while we were still anchored near Oak Island.

The sunsets are some of the best parts of vacationing in the Apostle Islands.

Day 4, Sun, July 19: Since the wind was forecasted to howl all day, we planned on staying put and relaxing in the safety of Stockton's shores. Jane and I explored Stockton Island, while Donavan rested his sore and tired body. He called it, "holding down the seat cushion." We spent a lot of time at Julian Bay, playing in the sand and wading in the crystal clear water. It really does look like the Caribbean in that part of the islands. We were hoping to see Park Ranger Stu Whipple again this year, since he made such an impression on us last year, but unfortunately he had ended his time with the National Park Service. When we asked the new ranger there about Stu, he said that he should keep a greeting card handy for all of the people who ask about him, to sign and send to him.  The new ranger Zac was great, and we attended a couple of his presentations. One included info about Bears, and the other was about an endangered animal called the Pine Martin that has recently shown up on field cameras that are set up on the island. No one has seen this animal on the island for 20 years, so they are excited to learn more about its presence.  The wind howled all day and night at the dock, which was on the South side of the island, but on the Northeast side, in Julian Bay, it was calm. 
Jane and I came across this driftwood on a hike.

Julian Bay

Having fun in Julian Bay

Spent a lot of time staring at this scene, enjoying the day.

The forest looked like a fairy tale.

Day 5, Mon, July 20: We needed to leave the paradise of Stockton Island this morning. Jane was insistent that we go back to Julian Bay to find "the perfect stick," she had left there the day prior. So we made the short walk back, but couldn't find it. We all took one last look at Julian Bay before heading back to reality. We needed to give ourselves plenty of time to get back to Little Sand Bay, so we headed out at around 10 am. The wind was blowing straight at us the entire way, around 20 knots, with 30 knot gusts. There were rolling waves all around us, between 3-5 feet tall. Unfortunately we didn't get to sail at all that day. We motored the whole way, and arrived mid-afternoon. Motoring the boat instead of sailing gets a little boring for me.  The water was splashing all over us because of the waves and wind, so I wore my rain coat. Jane stayed below and listened to her iPod. The wind and the motor were so loud that it was hard to talk. So I used the time to memorize the islands, both by location and in alphabetical order. Donavan looked at me funny when I recited them, but I felt vindicated when later on I was correct on the location of the islands, whereas he was not. :) 

We docked again back at Little Sand Bay, and did some de-rigging in preparation to put the boat back on the trailer and leave the following morning. Since there aren't showers or running water on the islands, we were grateful for being on the mainland where there were hot showers. We all agreed that we smelled and felt a lot better after the showers. We decided to have dinner in Bayfield for dinner, just a 15 min drive from Little Sand Bay. We ate at a great little restaurant called Greunke's. We did not partake in their signature fish liver dish.  However we had really good fish and pork, and Jane declared her cheese curds to be "the best cheese curds ever." We drove around Bayfield for a bit, did some shopping and had some ice cream before heading back to the boat. In the morning we finished taking the mast down and loaded up the truck, and were on the road by 10 am. 
People line up on the docks each night at Little Sand Bay to watch the sun set.

It was hard to leave. Last year I felt the same way. There's so many islands, and at each one there are coves and beaches to explore. And it all changes in an instant when fog rolls in, or rain creates rainfalls over the cliffs, or the sun shines differently on the rocks. I'm sure each season makes it all look different, too. We hope to be back next Summer, maybe staying longer next time. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Winds of Insanity: my first time racing

I got the chance to participate in an actual sailing race today at the Wayzata Yacht Club. Before I share about that experience, I'd like to say that belonging to a yacht club is so very not-me. I wish they called it the Wayzata Sailing Club, or The Place with Docks and Sailboats. The word yacht, paired with club, makes it sound snobbish, which I am not, nor are the members of this club from what I can tell. Serious racers, however, they are.

Today the wind held steady at around 18 knots, with gusts over 20 knots about every 5 minutes.  This was way outside of my comfort zone. Typically I enjoy sailing the most when the wind is around 6-8 knots, which allows for a leisurely pace and food and beverage aren't spilled.  With a calm wind, nobody has to make sudden shifts to account for tacking or jibing.  Conversations can be heard over a light wind, nobody has to cling for dear life to the lifelines, nobody is needed for "rail meat," and nobody is scared they will fall off the boat.
There's wasn't time for a photo today, but this was from last weekend on Mother's Day. See how the boat was pretty much flat? And how the jib (front sail) was kind of flapping in the wind? That was not the case today.

I knew what I was getting into today, and was given multiple outs, without shame and judgement (thank you Donavan).  I decided that if a whole entire sailing club with lots of rules and experienced people deemed it safe enough to be out on the lake, then it was safe.  I also trusted that Donavan would turn around if it felt like a bad idea to either one of us.  A third factor in my decision to race in the Winds of Insanity (yes that's a Princess Bride reference, thank you very much) was that we had a good friend as crew. He's experienced and calm, and exactly who you want to have as crew on a windy day. Thank you friend!

We were a little late to the starting line because the wind was bitch-slapping us around. That basically continued the entire race. The wind was really loud, and the sails slapped all over the place. I couldn't even hear half of what Donavan was saying the wind was so loud. It was a short race course, and I guess there was only about a fourth of the amount of boats racing as there normally would be if the weather was better. My job was to adjust the jib, and then to sit on the high side (rail meat) to act as ballast. I realized that I would be more effective if I weighed more, and am actively considering increasing the amount of cheese cake and ice cream I eat. There was a sprinkle of rain here and there, and mostly cloud cover, but it was warm enough. In our class, which is called PHRF II (I've asked and nobody even knows what those letters stand for), there were only four boats.  And we came in..... 4th!!!!  I was just happy that we finished.  Actually, right before we crossed the finish line, one of the race officials motored up next to us and told us that the weather was moving in, and that they were ending the race. They said they "got our time" and we should head back in immediately. Afterwards, at the dock, they explained that they added 20 seconds to the time when they told us the race was done, and called it good.

I thought I would be more scared today, given that I don't like heeling over much at all. But I seem to have gotten over that fear. Today was irritating more than anything because it wasn't relaxing or enjoyable sailing in those wind conditions. It was exhausting. Afterwards, all the club members hung out, chatted about the race, and had some beverages. I was told that today's wind was about the worst it would get, since they would cancel a race if the wind was much over what it was today.  So I'll keep racing, as long as the wind is calmer.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

1st race sorta

I raced our boat for the first time today. The Wayzata Yacht Club started the season with a tune up race today, and the real races start this week. I came in 2nd in my fleet, but there was only two of us. Of the 13 boats that raced today, I was dead last. I had one crew member that I had never sailed with before, and he had only been a on a boat a few times. So I was teaching as best as I could as we raced. At the end of the day we both had a good time and we are ready for more.   2 classes and 2 races this week coming up.