Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lake Pepin 3.0

We spent last weekend sailing Lake Pepin, which ended up, once again, being a mixed bag of weather, fun with friends, and boat repair. Mostly it was good weather and sailing fun. It was an event organized by a sailing club we belong to, the Northern Lights sailing club. Friends of ours, fellow club members, and experienced sailors/cruisers, Bob and Ilona Rouda, told us that cruising is really just boat repair in exotic locations. That proved to be true after the metal rudder box cracked at the seam on Saturday, and delayed an afternoon sail by about an hour. More on that later.

Donavan, Jane, and I left Afton on Friday morning, motored down the St. Croix and Mississippi for about 9 hours, and arrived at the Lake City Marina before dark. Since our little motor has only 6 HP, we averaged about 5.5 knots (6 miles per hour) going down the river, with the current. Since the river is high right now, we actually maxed out at 9 knots. That is super fast for our boat!!!  Donavan and I traded off steering the boat. Jane stayed busy by looking out the hatch and watching the scenery, playing mad libs, reading, and playing games on the kindle. Donavan used the auto pilot and made some adjustments to it, so it could "talk" to the garmin/GPS thing. We had to do a lot of dodging of logs, since they were floating all over, and could potentially cause damage to the boat. Unfortunately the auto pilot doesn't detect stuff like that. It's amazing seeing how high the river was--water was right up to the foundation of many homes and cabins. We saw the same thing last year over 4th of July. We saw a lot of bald eagles soaring above us, and landing in the tree tops.

This is a photo taken near Prescott, WI, where we have to wait for the two lift bridges to lift so that all 38-feet of our boat can get through/under the bridges. This is actually pretty cool to watch. Here's a link to video we took with the GoPro. I recommend skipping the first 10 minutes where we are literally driving in circles waiting for the trains to pass, and watching at 10:10, where the bridges actually lift up. Donavan talked to the guys running the bridges via radio. The rail road gets priority, so first the rail road bridge has to clear, then the highway-bridge guy has to stop traffic and open the bridge, and has to be coordinated together. There's a whole radio language that involves saying things like "over" after everything you say. I kept thinking about Dukes of Hazard when Donavan was talking, and I wanted him to say "This is Roscoe P. Coltrane!" Timing was of the essence, so I used my filter and refrained from saying that outside of my head. When the bridges are up, we needed to get our asses going, because there was line of cars waiting to get on with their Friday afternoon commute, and probably a train coming in the next 5-10 minutes.

Saturday morning it rained, so the club decided to start the sailing in the late morning. Shortly after we got the sails up, the first gust of wind came along, and we all heard a booming, pinging sound from the back of the boat. Within a few seconds, Captain Cummings ordered the sails to be dropped, and he was already starting the engine. He realized that the metal rudder box that holds the tiller to the rudder had cracked at one of the corner seams, and split about 3/4 of the way up the side. We'll include photos later after we get them from our friend.  Without the rudder box holding everything together, it was possible we could have lost steering. So it was important for us to get back to shore.

Within 10 minutes, we were tied to the dock and Donavan had removed the rudder box. He talked to the manager Mark at the Lake City Marina, who called a place on our behalf that could weld the part...on a Saturday afternoon! And, Mark offered to drive Donavan there. What a rock star! Donavan borrowed a car from a fellow club member, and got the part welded. He was back within the hour, and we were back in the lake with the sails up shortly thereafter. That was the best scenario that we could have imagined. We figured that we were done sailing for the weekend when it first happened. But thanks to Mark and our friends, we were able to salvage the afternoon and get some good sailing in.

The winds were calm, but it made for a lovely, leisurely sail. As always, we got to know some fellow sailors better, and made new friends. Saturday night we had a tasty dinner at Port 104, and on the walk back to the boat, Jane and I spotted baby ducklings on an evening swim with their mother.

Sunday morning was sunny and beautiful. However, little to no wind. Jane expressed  interest in doing something other than being on the boat on Sunday, so her and I spent the morning at the park and beach, hunting for sea glass and pretty shells and rocks.

We were able to get photos of the Donovan Too coming in from their sail on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday afternoon, we said good-bye to our friends, and began our return trip, up river against the current. We reached the lock and dam #3 (5 miles upstream of Red Wing, MN) and discovered dragonfly exuvia stuck to the lock and dam wall.

We arrived at the Treasure Island Marina at 8 pm Sunday night. We were going about 2-3 knots at full throttle, so considerably slower than the trip down river. Donavan decided to ride the mast for some reason, and I took a quick shot before he changed his mind. The sunset was beautiful beyond words.

Monday we filled up with gas in the morning at 9 am, and returned to our home base at the Afton Marina at about 5 pm. Donavan used the auto-pilot from Prescott to Afton. The boat steered itself, and made for easy navigation. It was a slow return trip, and allowed for relaxation and time together. I enjoyed the slow pace, and could soak in the sights and sounds. It felt like a human pace, which often isn't the case when driving 60 mph in a car, or flying above the clouds. Sailing is definitely about the journey, not the destination. I'm celebrating my 40th birthday tomorrow, and enjoying the journey is definitely more important to me than it used to be. I wouldn't change a thing about my journey.

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