Great Loop Day 026 Sept 23, 2016, Frankfort to Pentwater, Michigan, Spinnaker Run
Frankfort to Pentwater, Michigan.
"The sea finds out everything you did wrong." ―Francis Stokes
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Day 26 Friday, Sept 23, 2016. Oh boy! Completed 63.3 miles mostly downwind with 3 to 5-foot rollers on my stern. Made it to Pentwater. A sleepy little town. Must be, all the shops are closed at 5 pm and everyone has gone to bed. That is the trade-off. Spend time sailing and gain distance or make it a short sail and do the town.
Lake Michigan is not one to give quarters. You got to take it when the weather's right. Today the weather was right. Tomorrow's forecast has easterlies coming. The good news being it is we are on the east side of the lake. Offshore breezes call for calmer water. I have plans now to hank on the working jib and motor sail taking advantage of these infrequent easterlies. Spent another full day on the lake getting farther south.
Today's ride had... Hold on... I noticed I am losing daylight and need to dig out the jib sail bag and set up the lines, it's much easier to do dockside than on a rolling deck. First I got to chase away all the spiders from their temporary home. They probably all came from my home port in Sandusky, Ohio with a few shanghaied here and there. Hank on the jib. Free the jib halyard from the mainsail cover. Redo the cover. Attach the halyard to the head on the jib sail. Run the jib downhaul thru the hanks. A downhaul is a line that makes it much easier to lower the jib while sitting in the cockpit. Tie both the starboard and port jib sheets to the jib clew using the good ole bowline knot. Run the sheets thru the jib cars on each side. Coil the free ends and secure them in the cockpit. Sure a roller furling would be nice but why miss all this fun stuff? Not me. Maybe when I get older. For those not aware a roller furling is a rotating mechanism that rolls up the jib sail on the forestay. Pull the jib sheets and the jib unfurls. Pull the roller furling line and it wraps up on the forestay. The whole time I'm keeping an eye on Mickey who's exploring the dock and climbing the posts. Got him leashed but he finds new ways to get tangled. Well, the jib sail is done.
Getting back to today's sail. The Sea Marie carries onboard 2 spinnakers. The standard symmetrical and a smaller one a friend had given me from a Highlander sailboat. It's about half the size.
The lake's slow rollers were gently lifting the stern and Sea Marie would surf down the wave. Winds were behind me off the port quarter. Not strong as I was motoring at about 6mph. Time for some thinking. Would she handle a spinnaker in this rolling sea? A small one of course is easier to handle and not as dangerous. Now my mind goes into action. What could possibly go wrong? I'll keep the mainsail covered and not use the working jib. Only the spinnaker. A spinnaker is a triangular sail like the jib and main. It has the top grommet called the head that the halyard attaches to and has a line tied to the clew, the grommet closest to me in the cockpit at the bottom of the triangle. A jib or a headsail has a grommet on the clew where 2 lines, starboard, and port sheets are attached. The tack is where the bottom front grommet is attached to the bow. Normally, a spinnaker has two control lines, one is called the spinnaker sheet and the other is called a spinnaker guy line. A guy line is attached to the spinnaker pole to extend the sail. I chose to leave my spinnaker pole at home. There's a way to run this sail without it. I've done it many times. In light air, I attach the bottom front grommet to a snap shackle in front of the boat that is used for the headsail downhaul. Then run a separate sheet on the other end back to the cockpit. Fly it just like a jib sail. But today wasn't a light-air day. I need to think of a plan. I need to know which lines to hook up and where. Lines, lines, and more lines. I carry an assortment of lines onboard. Like a golfer and his clubs. Each is designed for a specific purpose. For example 150 yards from the hole I will use my 7-iron. Drivers, putters, and sand wedges complete the assortment.
Sailboats carry lines for specific purposes also. Dock lines are made to be elastic to help absorb the shock of the boat tugging at the dock. Halyards are super strong and with very minimal stretch, some halyards on larger boats will be attached to a cable. Steel cables don't stretch. Sheets fall somewhere in between. Not too stretchy not too stiff. I've been using my old halyards for sheets. I'm not racing and they work well. I think I have it worked out. Use the jib downhaul for the spinnaker guy and my regular jib sheet for the spinnaker sheet. Spinnakers are usually launched from a bag called a turtle. It is stored in a round bag with a small hank on the bottom attached to the front near the bow. I have a turtle bag but decided on a forward hatch launch. With at least 2 people it's spectacular to watch a well-practiced team launch it. One pulls on the halyard the other on the sheet. The guy line is usually set before the launch. And out like a fast-blossoming flower. She fills with air and the boat lunges forward with additional speed. But there's only me to do the work of many. What do I pull first? On the halyard, once the sail fills with air, the tension is enormous and difficult to raise up any further. What else could go wrong? If the sail is not stuffed correctly it gets entangled as she goes up. It can hourglass. Twist right in the middle looking like an hourglass. The easiest way to prevent this is to hold the head of the sail and run your fingers along and down one of the edges to the end while in the bag. Keep that to one side then do the other side. If the edges are continuous then there should be no twist.
The lines are set. I went forward wearing my PFD with the chest harness rings attached to carabiners I got from Ed Kowalski, my old climbing buddy, I clipped myself to a jack line. A jack line runs from the bow to the cockpit. Flat webbing about 3/4 to an inch wide works best. With the line laying on the deck stepping on a flat webbing will less likely cause you to slip working on a rolling deck. The purpose is simply to keep you attached to the boat should a wave pitch the boat and knock you off balance. To save space I elected to use one of my spare jib sheets for my jack line. Just have to be more careful where I step.
Lowered the halyard and released the downhaul, and attached the lines to the spinnaker in the forward hatch. I am making sure the downhaul line I am using goes outside the forward stay and the spinnaker sheet is outside the shrouds. Checked the edges, and everything is looking good. Checked course and depth, motor and auto tiller working well. Scanning the waters ahead and to my side. No boat traffic. Ok. Let's do this!
I yank on the halyard. Up out of the turtle bag below the forward hatch the orange spinnaker snakes out and starts to catch the wind. Higher she goes with me pulling harder on the halyard. Cleat it off. Grabbing the spinnaker sheet I pull hard as the wind is filling it. Wait... something is not right. Oh No!! It's hourglassing. Twisted itself right in the middle just as it was going up. It's not wrapped around the forestay, that's good. That would be the worst scenario. When a spinnaker wraps around the front forestay it's very difficult to remove. The wind becomes your enemy. Many sails are ripped when sailors try to pull them free. So my twisted sail is to starboard. I release the halyard just a bit, grab the following edge closest to me, and pull. Harder. Don't let the sail get wet. Another tug. It's unwinding. The wind fills it. Now, raise the halyard. Harder. Put your back into it. Get that spinnaker higher. It's too late. Can't raise it any higher the tension on the halyard is much too strong. Don't let go of the halyard until it gets cleated. Grab the sheet and pull harder. She's looking better. The foot of the sail is but 3 feet above the waves. The boat continues to rock to the rhythm of the waves. I can feel the wind grabbing the sail and whoosh. The boat lunges forward.
A quick check on the GPS and we hit 11.3 miles per hour. Up the next wave, she slows down a bit. Then over and down the backside. Even faster as she goes. We are Blasting ahead! GPS is now at 12.5 miles per hour! We are surfing! The sail settles into a slow dance waving back and forth. Watch that forward edge, if it furls bring in the jib downhaul acting as the spinnaker guy line. Release the guy a bit till she unfurls then pull it in. Watch the wind vane. The tail of the vane should be pointing to the belly of the spinnaker. A gust of wind comes up, and the spinnaker struggles and wants to go higher but I can't raise the halyard. Gust subsided and still can't get the halyard to raise her up. The foot of the spinnaker is 2 - 3 ft from the waves. I release the sheet ever so slowly, going to spill off some wind to take the tension off the halyard then maybe I can raise it higher. It's not working. The spinnaker goes flat and travels to the left side beyond the forestay to the port side. I don't want it there. Now she wants to wrap around the forestay but before she can I yank hard on the spinnaker sheet sending her to my starboard and free of the forestay. Now watch her - don't take your eye off for a moment. Without a spinnaker pole to hold the guy line in place the makeshift downhaul now the guyline is moving to port on top of the bow rail. Should have rigged her to go under the bow rail. It's too late now. She's dancing a wild jig as the boat bounces on the waves. She speeds up to a steady 8 then 9 then lunges forward again at 11 then 12mph on the backside. Slows to 6 as she rides up the front side of the waves. The spinnaker's foot catches a few waves. That's not good. I yank hard on the sheet again and again. Keeping her belly full and her feet dry.
For over three-quarters of an hour, I watch and play the lines. It feels like the winds are increasing, It was time to bring her down. It was extremely tiring for one person in this wind to keep her belly full of air and continuously fly above the waves. The takedown will be in the cockpit. Grab the sheet and pull her in as the halyard is released. Release the guy line. Keep her out of the water. Grab the sail and pull her in. Done. The Sea Marie settled down to 7mph. We did it!! Not for very long but we did it, nonetheless. On to Pentwater and some food and rest. Fair winds and gentle seas...
Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Time to relax and take it easy.
Drying out the spinnaker. Sheltered from the wind here at the marina
The grounds were beautiful and empty of people.
Beautiful homes lined the shore inside Pentwater Lake.
For your reference the parts of a sailboat.
Comments from 2016:
Susan Christine Loving this vicarious adventure. Thanks, Henry!! Safe travels!
Pogo Bob For those of Henry's friends who are unfamiliar with the nature of sailboats, Sea Marie has a theoretical hull speed of around 6 mph. That is as fast as a displacement hull of that length can push the water out of the way. The only way to go faster is to climb up on top of the water (surfing). Thrilling is an understatement! I got caught downwind one time in our Catalina 22 using "main and motor" and the wind freshened to the upper 20 mph range. I couldn't drop the main, as it was let out to the shrouds and tight at the mast. I was afraid that if I tried to turn 180 into the wind to drop the mainsail, I'd broach before I got the job done. The good news was, we were being blown directly home. I covered just over 9 miles in one hour flat in a boat with a hull speed just shy of 6 knots. Scared the hell out of me. And I got into that situation accidentally. You, Henry, are a Wildman!
Henry Krzemien RN Right you are Pogo Bob. Using the online calculator I got a hull speed of 6.74mph. Waiting for Dockmaster so I can pay and leave. Got a 55miler today going to Grand Haven then south Sunday before storms set in. Looks like another layover Mon Tue and possibly Wed.
Pogo Bob Grand Haven was OUR longest layover (10 days). There are worse places to be stuck, should it come to that. We were there during Salmonfest, but that was last weekend, so won't be an issue for you.
Henry Krzemien RN As I often say, the weather is my mistress, much like a woman she can be nice and warm one day and bitchy and cold another. Unlike you, I had to bypass Grand Haven and settled for South Haven. Pushing hard to get off this monster of a lake.
Dan Whitmore Glad all is going well. Safe travels!
Mary Jo Cartledgehayes Every day is a new adventure! Traveling mercies.
Sandy Ujczo Durbin Pentwater Henry...we love Pentwater Michigan...we have vacationed there for several years...I love it!! I have pictures of the same marina and lighthouse!!!
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