We Saw A Loon!!

Ben and I traveled to the Michigan-Ontario District twice in the last month, once to Crystal Lake and then last weekend to Portage Lake (near Ann Arbor). We had a great time, and great wind, at both clubs. It's not a bad drive for us. In both cases it took a little over 5 hours of driving time. There is the pesky matter of losing an hour on the way there, but that's life.

At Crystal Lake we had 11 boats from six different clubs. It was also their districts, so that added a level of competition and excitement too! The wind was great both days (see photo above!). That's us and the Gerrys duking it out. Bill and John Pfund are probably just outside the frame....

The most unusual thing that happened that weekend was that Ben and I got into a port/starboard with a loon Sunday morning. It was THRILLING! I've never been that close to a loon before. I would say it looked a little startled and nonplussed by our boat before it dove. But it was very cool to see it's elaborate black and white markings. If you've never heard a loon call, you can hear it here:
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/common_loon/sounds

The results and a good write up of the weekend can be found at the FSSA website under regatta results. Steve R, the regatta chair, also put up a great collection of photos at that same link. Crystal Lake District results

 Here are Frank and Marianne Gerry, the regatta winners, celebrating with three servings of ice cream!

 From left, John and Bill Pfund, winners of the Michigan-Ontario Districts, and Suzie and Brian Hawkins, of Portage Lake, also in Michigan. They were the hosts of the Hot Scot regatta ... see below!

The "Steves." Steve Last, on right, was the very dedicated PRO, and Steve Rajkovich, the fleet captain and photographer for the weekend.

Here is the Crystal Lake Clubhouse. It's very attractive. And here is the boat ramp...I think it is the smallest ramp I have ever used! And it goes right into a marsh, but it is very very pretty....

Then just last weekend we hopped in the car again for another jaunt to Michigan. This time to Portage Lake, home of Brian and Suzie Hawkins, among other sailors, and the Hot Scot regatta. We had another really fun weekend. This one was extra special because we got to visit my childhood pal, Nancy, and her family (hubby Steve, kids Ben and Isabel). They took us to a great ice cream place and Saturday night we had dinner at an amazing Italian place, called Mani's, I think.

Anyway, the sailing...wind was pretty good both days, though it was a little gusty at times. Portage Lake is tiny and yet the race committee is good at setting long races. They do that by having us go around so many times that you get dizzy and can't remember what lap you are on! They use these placards, painted wood with symbols for either an upwind and downwind loop or a single up or down. The races this weekend consisted of, picture it, three plaques with up and back images, with three more plaques, each with a single arrow. So we were doing four and a half ... loops, if you will. My job was to count and not get confused. I almost had to use all my fingers to keep track!

The most exciting thing that happened to us the first day, the first race in fact, was that while trying to get the starboard spinnaker sheet back around the bow (we'd lost it under the boat...we NEVER lose it under the boat. NEVER!!), I fell off the boat. The first thing I thought was, "DRAT," because we had been reeling in the leader, Bill and John Pfund, and at that point were just barely ahead of them. The second thing I thought was, "no problem, Ben will grab me and pull me in." NOPE. He grabbed me all right, but then I PULLED HIM in!!

Luckily, I was still holding the spinn sheet, don't know how or why, so  I left Ben and his bright yellow life vest floating in the lake, and pulled myself back to the boat. The jib was still cleated so that baby was sailing!! The safety boat (thank you safety boat, never got a chance to do that on Saturday) helped me clamber into the boat, I uncleated the jib, the Pfunds delivered Ben back to the boat and we limped back to the starting line to try our luck in the second race.

It did seem to be the regatta of a million problems for us! That spinnaker sheet did not want to behave, then the clip that attaches the jib to the foredeck came undone and the jib folded up like an accordian. That is slow, so there I was back on the bow, trying to fix the jib and not fall in (I was successful that time, but only barely). Our lines got knotted over and over in the most creative and unique ways I've ever seen. The vang in with the jib, the spinn in with the centerboard, you get the idea. But anyways....as they say, we kept sailing and having a great time. No other disasters, but some near misses....

Lessons we learned Saturday: when/if I fall off the boat, Ben will let me go, and do a man overboard drill once he's stopped the boat; and when you have to re-rig a spinnaker sheet, better to do it on the downwind and hoist the chute a little late than fall off the boat and not finish the race! A third, embarrassing lesson I learned was to make sure your clothes are comfortable. The fleet came back in between the second and third races and I put on an underlayer to make up for being sopping wet, but it made my pants fit too tight. That whole last race I felt like I'd aged 20 years! I couldn't move, everything I did was a struggle. I thought I was just tired from my "swim," but it was definitely not that. The next day I just wore my foul weather pants and that worked great. I felt like a million bucks! And it probably helped our sailing...see below

Sunday we came back, refreshed by our Italian dinner with Nancy and Steve and rejuvenated by the fresh, beautiful weather. The wind was still kind of gusty but the holes were much bigger. The first race we lucked out with a shift in our favor (finally!!) that put us 1/2 a leg ahead of the fleet. We managed to keep our lead despite some nerve wracking moments when we had no wind and everybody else did...or at least it felt that way. I learned that when  you get that far ahead, no lead is enough, you always want a bigger, more comfortable one. And yet, when you are grappling the whole race, then a boat length or two at the finish feels like plenty.

The second race we had another good start but as the holes grew more frequent, I was moving all over the boat trying to keep it balanced. It was a losing battle. No sooner had I got to the low end, but a gust came and I should have been hiking. I got up to the high side, only for Ben to urge me (note there was no yelling implied), "go low! go low!" And so it goes...

We rounded the last leeward mark just behind Bill and John Pfund and John's fiancee Katie (didn't catch her last name). Thanks to some savvy strategy on Ben's part we managed to pass them and then stay, barely, between them and the finish, eeking out a second place finish. It was satisfying to catch Bill because he is a tough tough sailor who is very good at reeling sailors in himself.

 Bill, Katie and John accepting their first place trophy...

 Here is the Portage Lake clubhouse. It's owned by a single guy and it's got a great viewing deck. Forest Rogers spectated both days from there, I believe.

The day turned pretty chilly by the end, and while we ate the pizza that Brian and Susie (Suzie? Suzy? help!) had ordered, we bundled up and  enjoyed the trophy presentation. The Pfunds won, for something like the sixth year in a row. Maybe we'll have to come back next year!! I know Frank and Marianne Gerry got third place and the rest I can't remember. Maybe I'll email Brian and see if he can send me the full results....

Anyway, that's it from my sailing world for now. Just four days until the Glow in the Dark begins. Also we have eight sailors who have qualified for the Travel Series, assuming they come to the Glow! We'll award that trophy at the end of the weekend, too. Stay tuned!!