19 December 2008

Forgot Your Boat and the Icy Pullout

Here's the last boat in the Provo Marina. Looks like this one is stuck until spring.

I pulled my boat out Thanksgiving weekend, it was a cold, cold day with a little ice starting to form around the lake. But we got in one last sail, so it was worth it.

In the future though, I think I'll plan to pull the boat out on the first 'warm' weekend in the last week or two of October.

I was watching on the marina webcam as these guys below tried to pull their houseboat out of the water. They had propane torches going on the ramp to melt the ice so their truck didn't slide into the lake. The ice looked to be 2 inches thick already!
So now I am just counting down the days til April when we can put the Unsinkable2 back in for the sailing season. I went out this last week and knocked a foot of new snow off her tarps on the side of the house.

10 November 2008

Sailing a Hunter 30

When we bought our Catalina 25 in spring, my father in law bought our Venture 21. He had always wanted to try sailing, and was eager to give it a shot. He put the boat in up at the Great Salt Lake, and spent many days out there sailing it.

After a few months, he was convinced of two things. First, that he loved sailing. And second, that he needed a bigger boat. So he looked around a purchased a Hunter 25.5.

For Utah Lake, you really can't get much bigger than a 25' boat. The lake is 10-12 feet deep, and the marinas are shallower. And although you can slip your boat at the marinas from spring through fall, you must get them in and out with a trailer.

But my father in law, being on the Great Salt Lake, started looking for a bigger boat. Eventually, he landed on a Hunter 30. What a great boat. The Hunters are very roomy inside, they make great cruising boats. He laughs when he tells us what the resident marina ranger said of the Hunter, calling it a "Furniture Boat."

I have been out on several trips on the Hunter 30 now, and really enjoy sailing her. These pictures are from a day sail we took in November. It was really cold, but the lake was beautiful and the weather clear.

With a step down stern, we back the boat into the slip. This was quite a challenge to get used to with such a big boat in a tight marina, but then someone suggested standing foreward of the wheel, facing aft when backing the boat in. That really makes it much easier - much more intuitive.

18 October 2008

Dad n Daughter Sailing

Tonight I took my daughter, #3, out sailing. I hadn't sailed in the past few weeks because of an unseasonably early snow, a trip out of town, and ridiculously cold weather recently.

I always look forward to spending time with one of my kids one-on-one. With 6 kids, that chance doesn't come up very often! We arrived at the marina with an hour and a half of daylight left. It only took about 5 minutes from the time we stepped out of the car to the time we were backing out of our slip.

#3 took the helm and eased us past the other sailboats and docks out toward the lake. The water level has dropped substantially in the last 2 months, we're certainly ready for more snow in the mountains this winter to bring our lake levels up. We usually raise the swing keel just 25 turns of the winch, which is plenty of clearance to make it in and out of the marina without running aground.

I had gone below to find the genoa, when I heard #3 call from the cockpit, "Uh Dad? The bow is sinking!" I ran up to the cockpit to see what the problem was. Sure enough, the bow was nosing down towards the water. And the shore wasn't moving. We had run aground!

She cut the throttle back on the motor, which immediately stopped the boat from diving, and I raised the keel another 3 turns. Underway and off to see the world again.

As we left the marina, there were several kids standing on the break water throwing rocks at some object in the water. My #3 and I decided it would be funny if I hid down below while she stood alone in the cockpit, giving the impression to onlookers that an 11 year girl was sailing the 25 foot sailboat alone. There were no other boats in the channel, so I ducked out of sight down below. As we passed, the rock-throwing went noticeable silent as the kids all stopped to stare at this seafaringly intrepid young woman.

Past the outer channel markers, and up with the sails. There were 3 other sailboats on the lake tonight, slipping quietly along in the light air and slowly setting sun. With the genoa raised, we maxed out at about 3 knots. In the cool fall air, and with no where to go, that was all the speed we needed.

We talked about the play she was trying out for, school, friends, and why we liked sailing. We also talked about what she would do if I fell overboard - how to stop the boat under sail or under power - and how to rescue someone.

The evening was so quiet, we could hear spoken conversations on the other sailboats over a mile away. With the water getting closer by the day to the winter freeze-over, there weren't very many power boats on the lake. Just a few fishermen, and miles and miles of quiet water.

We saw an object floating in the water about a half mile away, and decided to sail over and see what it was. Dropping from a broad reach to a run, our speed dropped to 1 knot, but we were in no hurry. There was just enough wind to lightly fill the sails. The object turned out to be a mylar balloon with the words "Get Well" printed on the sides. We hoped that the person being wished well wasn't tied to the balloon's string, which dangled down into the lake...

On the way back we passed Todd Frye's boat. If I'd brought my good camera, we'd have taken a fantastic shot of her. However with only my cell phone camera, this was the best picture I could get, sorry Todd :) Todd offers the only sailing school on the lake, the Bonneville School of Sailing & Seamanship.

Time to drop sails and motor back in. The other kids were calling, anxious to watch the Indiana Jones movie which was now out on DVD.

A very peaceful night sailing, and a great night with my #3.

16 October 2008

Jogging Chicago's Marinas

I don't enjoy being away from my family for business trips, but luckily I do not have to travel often. I spent 4 days this week in Chicago for a business conference. My hotel (Hyatt Regency) was right on the Chicago River, and only a quarter mile from Lake Michigan.

So I got up early one morning to go running. Heading east toward the lake, I saw a few other joggers out, and decided to follow them, assuming they knew where they were going. After a few minutes, we all found ourselves at the dead-end of a street. With a puzzled look on my face, I asked the others, "I was following you, I thought you knew where you were going?" "No, I'm from out of town and just thought I'd try to run over to the lake." So we were all equally lost. Pretty funny!

The challenge with running in downtown Chicago is that there are 3 levels of streets, so even when you can go down, you are probably only dropping into Chicago's underbelly. After several minutes of wrong turns, I finally crossed a bridge over the Chicago River. Looking west, the view took my breath away. There was a full moon over the Trump building project, and the view was fantastic. I had brought my cell phone along - it has a gps so I wouldn't get too lost - and took a few pictures along the way.

Finally, I found my way down to Navy Pier, and then turned south to run along the lake. It wasn't long before I started seeing masts up ahead, and knew that I was headed in the right direction.

The harbors and marina extended for several miles, and I think I ran a lot farther than what I had planned. The sun was rising, and there were more boats than I ever get to see back home on Utah Lake.

I have been to Chicago several times in the fall, and it is generally quite cold and wet. However this time the weather was really nice. The temperature this morning dropped into the upper 30's, but the sun was rising across the lake and it seemed to be warming up by the minute.

Actually, I was so enthralled with all the boats that I wouldn't have minded temperatures into the twenties that morning. I noticed that most of the boats were larger than 30', although there were some Catalina 25's thrown into the mix.

Before I realized it, I was approaching McCormick Place, where my conference meetings were held. Oh-oh, that's about 3 miles from my hotel, and I would still need to head back for a shower before starting meetings that day. So I ended up running 6 miles that morning, about twice as far as I normally run.

But honestly, if I didn't have meetings, I think I could have run for another hour that morning, my mind was full of thoughts about sailing Lake Michigan, and covetous thoughts about the bigger sailboats idling at their mooring buoys, itching to be sailed.

07 October 2008

Google's Navigation Aids for Sailors

I was out sailing earlier this summer under a full moon and 10 knot winds. Beautiful night for sailing. I sailed from the Provo Harbor about 7 miles to the southwest, just sailing "wherever the wind blew." And then the winds kicked up considerably, clouds covered the moon, and the waves started getting a little uncomfortable. I couldn't see anything. And the wave/wind combination was so strong that I couldn't leave the cockpit to go below for my spotlight.

I knew there was an old marina about 2 miles south, and even had it marked on my GPS. No problem, I decided I better spend the night there rather than try and make it to home port that night.

I couldn't see anything, the night was completely black under the clouds. The "marina" was used for launching small trailered fishing boats, and did not have any working beacons or useful lights.

By the GPS, I was headed straight into the opening between the jettys. But as I got closer, the sound of waves smashing into the rocks all around me told me that my coordinates were perhaps off by a bit. I was nowhere near the opening.

I moved away from the shore to figure things out. The waves were too big to spend the night at anchor, there were no boats in the area, and I was too tired by then to try and make it to another safe harbor.

And then it dawned on me. I pulled out my cell phone (an AT&T Tilt) which had a GPS on it. The other thing it has is an interface to google satellite imagery. Within a minute, it had acquired, and accessed the cell tower to download the google satellite image.

The great thing about the satellite image was that it had been taken in the daytime, so I could clearly see the jetty, with my position superimposed on the image. I motored back towards the jetty, staring desperately at my cell phone screen and listening for the break in the crashing waves. After a minute, there it was! The picture above is what I saw on the GPS. Winds were coming from the northwest (top left). You can zoom in a lot closer than what is shown here, I took the screenshot zoomed out to show the entire length of the little marina.

The jetty opening was only about 15 feet wide (actually a little wider, but when a sailboat sails into a recreational fishing marina, you can only use the center of the channel because the keel drafts much deeper than those fishing boats...) There was no way I would have made it in the dark. (My GPS coordinates had been about 100' off.)

I slipped right into the little empty marina, watching the small blue dot move along the satellite image right up to the empty dock. I spent a very relaxed night listening to the waves crash against the jetty, thankful that I wasn't experiencing the sound from the other side of the wall...

This is a great emergency navigational tool, and it is probably available around most lakes and coastal cruising areas - anywhere you can get cell phone reception the phone can superimpose google's satellite photos. The best part is, AT&T charges a monthly fee for the satellite image services, OR... you can download a plugin free from google.

Follow this link for the discussion on the Catalina Owners Association forums:

Here's the google page with more information. The service is free from Google (you will use your data plan on your cell phone though)


Looks like it works on just about any phone operating system:

"Google Maps for mobile works on most phones, including those that run the below platforms. You can always download Maps to your phone using your cellular connection -- just visit m.google.com/maps on your device's browser, or send yourself a text message using the button at the top of this page. Some mobile phones also support the ability to sideload Google Maps onto your phone.

* BlackBerry
* Java
* Windows Mobile (download binary)
* Symbian S60 3rd Edition (most new Nokia smartphones) (download binary)
* Palm OS (download binary)
* iPhone (pre-installed)

09 September 2008

9' of snow = crushed hull

I saw the saddest thing this August. We were on a canoeing vacation on Idaho's Warm Lake, and I saw an immaculately maintained West Wight Potter on a trailer. I couldn't understand why she wasn't in the water, tied up to one of the many private docks around the lake.

Warm Lake is a beautiful lake for day sailing. The water is naturally heated by underground volcanic activity, and it is so clear you can see forever. I walked around this boat, admiring how well-equipped she was, and secretly hoping we'd find her skipper amenable to taking us out on the lake.

And then I saw it. It was truly horrible. The entire portd side had been crushed lengthwise just below the waterline. Asking around, I met the owner. He said he'd pulled the boat out for the winter and spent the entire time in his cabin nearby. The boat was stored mast up, tarped, and with a boom tent rigged to shed the snow. It was a particularly snowy winter, with as much as 9 feet of snow on the ground. It never occurred to him that he ought to go down and shovel off the boat.

In spring when he walked down to the lake to put the boat in, he found the crushed hull. The poor guy was really choked up.

He said he was going to part her out, but this was August - summer was almost gone - and he had not been able to bring himself to do it yet. Although I really coveted some of her hardware, I could not bring myself to make him an offer. It felt like too much like asking someone for a loved one's organs - someone who wasn't ready to accept what had happened yet.

So the morale of the story is, shovel your boat.

06 September 2008

Klemheist Mast Climbing System

My brother Dan and I decided to get up early and get a couple hours of sailing in before things got too busy. We arrived at the marina around 7am (ok, not too early after all.)

We had a great light air sail using the main, genoa, and whisker pole. It was one of those sails where you just sit back and relax, talking about pointless, useless, interesting things. (Our discussion centered around how we could design a time capsule that could be buried in the lake, and then found and retrieved years later - yeah, it was that relaxing.)

On the way back to the marina we encountered a problem. The foresail halyard managed to get wedged into the top of the rear shroud's cotter pin. No matter what we tried, it would not come free. I was not anxious to lower the mast, so we applied some climbing and caving skills we had to develop a simple mast climbing system.

In caving, there is frequently a need to ascend ropes, and there are fairly elaborate harness systems which make that possible. The challenge in this case was that we needed some way to grip the mast for climbing.

I suggested the Prusik know (named for its inventor, Karl Prusik, an early 1900's Austrian Alpinist.) But my brother knew a knot called the Klemheist, which is better suited to gripping large irregular shapes like a mast because you can use webbing, which is wider and provides more surface area friction than cord.

The picture at right shows two Klemheist knots, attached to the mast. The tail of one knot is tied in a loop for the climber's foot, and the other tail is connected simply to a regular rock climbing harness - or any seat harness.

The climber ascends the mast in a sit-climb method as follows: Stand in the foot stirrup, releasing the weight from the second Klemheist knot so it can be slid higher up the mast. Then sit in the seat harness, while sliding the first Klemheist knot higher. When a brief rest is needed, simply sit in the seat harness for a moment before continuing. Coming down is done the same way.

The Klemheist knot is not as easy to move as the Prusik because there is more knot to manipulate, but it accomplishes the task just the same. It took me a few feet to start getting into the 'groove' of using these knots, but I only had to go to the spreaders, so it didn't take too long.

Once at the spreaders, the halyard was easily freed, and I repositioned the cotter pin so it would not catch again. I have decided to keep a climbing harness, caribiner, and a couple of 20' lengths of webbing on the boat in case I need to climb the mast again some day. I realize there are more elaborate mast climbing systems out there, but none can beat this one for price. If I ever needed to go abover the spreaders, I think I would just add a third piece of webbing to use in crossing the spreaders and steaming light. (Tie a third klemheist above the mast light to sit in while I moved the lower klemheist foot stirrup up above.)

05 September 2008

New Outboard

No, our outboard's engine oil is not supposed to be a milky, frothy white. But this is what the dipstick looked like when the engine wouldn't stay running 2 weeks ago. So we pulled the engine off the boat and brought her home.

I flushed the engine oil and ran it for a few minutes in a large bucket on the driveway, and sure enough, it turned white again. That means there is water getting into the oil somewhere. Probably a blown head gasket.

But it's already September, and I don't have time to rebuild the engine. In reviewing the summer, we lost about 5 weeks of sailing due to this outboard, and had a few other stressful trips when it took a long time to get started. So we decided to buy a new one, and save the overhaul job for sometime this winter. After some research on the Catalina Owners' site I decided to get a Tohatsu 9.8 from OnlineOutboards. Lots of guys have had great experiences with the Tohatsu outboards and in dealing with the guys at OnlineOutboards.

One week later I was sitting in an all day work meeting, when my wife sent me this picture on her cell phone. Now how am I supposed to concentrate at work when such a large box is beckoning on the driveway at home?!

It was like Christmas morning except it was September, hot outside, no snow, and no wrapping paper. I spent about half an hour reading through the manual so I fully understood the break-in procedure for the new motor, then we headed to the marina. My #2 son and I put the motor on, filled it with oil, and got it running. Tohatsu make a great engine. It was whisper-quiet, and idled at rpm's so low that the old outboard would have coughed, wheezed, and gagged at.

I am not sure who was happier, the skipper or the admiral. There was no way she could have started the old outboard! But this Tohatsu is electric start, and very simple to use. The admiral took us in and out of the marina that night, and was quite comfortable knowing that a new outboard wouldn't cut out on us as we neared the rocky shores. In the picture on the left you can see the Tohatsu quietly doing it's job in the background.

Someone had posted in a discussion group that having a reliable outboard took half the stress out of their sailing trips. We wholeheartedly endorse that claim!

Winds were about 10 knots all evening, and we really enjoyed the sailing. There were 5 or 6 other boats out on that area of the lake, racing back and forth in the wind and plowing through the small waves. A beautiful night! The kids enjoyed relaxing down below. We decided to just fly the storm jib that night, because we had never flown it before. Although it was far too little sail for the conditions, it was good to know it was in good shape, and get a feel for how it handled.

The water level are dropping now, and we don't lower the keel until we're almost all the way out of the harbor. Todd Frye, a fellow Catalina 25 swing keel owner, dock neighbor, and sailing instructor, gave me a valuable tip - the keel only needs to be raised 25 turns in order to clear everything getting in and out of the harbor. This made our #3 happy, because her job is now easier!

With school starting, the kids are all back into reading. It seems like every one of them is hauling a book of some kind out on each sailing trip. I need to build a library of good nautical novels for them to read out there. I'm not sure if I'm thinking of the kids, or myself, because with that new Tohatsu, I might even get a chance to crash with a good book once in a while!

The mosquitoes were out in force when we got back to the marina, so everyone made a mad dash for the suburban while #3 and I tied up the boat, stowed the jib and closed up the boat.

The sunset was fantastic. It just kept getting prettier and prettier. If it wasn't for the fact that the mosquitoes were so thick that you could chew them, we would have lingered longer on the docks!

06 August 2008

The Peking Noodle Company Doesn't Lie (Right?)

Wow, so the Peking Noodle Company doesn't lie, right?

After all, I have never even heard of anyone filing suit over an unfilled fortune cookie, so it must be dependable.

I am not sure what is meant by "the Great Waters" but I have a hunch it is referring to something more tropical than Great Salt Lake or more translucent than Utah Lake...

I just hope it isn't the river Styx.

25 July 2008

Great Salt Lake is Boss (4 of 4)

The GPS first told us we wouldn't reach South Shore Marina until midnight. We were still running with the outboard, so we raised the main, which changed our estimated arrival time to 11:15 pm. Then after raising the genoa, the time would be 10:27 pm.

Winds were out of the northeast. We tried the whisker pole on the genoa, but it wasn't necessary, so we sailed with the main and genoa out at about 40 degrees.

The temperature was coming down nicely, into the mid 70's, and the sunset was beautiful. We each took a turn at the helm, and everyone else milled around on deck or in the cabin. Grandpa , ever the nap master, managed to catch some sleep in the bow pulpit, with on arm looped through the lifeline clutching the stanchion to keep from rolling off the deck.

I went below to store loose items and ready the boat for overnighting in the marina. It was such a peaceful night, the Brine flies weren't around this part of the lake, the air was cooling, and the sailing unparalleled. We wondered about overnighting at anchor in the middle of the lake, but the thought of a sudden storm and no safe harbor kept us on course.

It was dark as we approached the marina, and it was very difficult to see the channel markers against all the shore lights at Kennecott's smelter on the mountain behind the marina. My #2 son headed up on deck with a spotlight to look for any hazard markers in the area.

5 minutes after he went on deck, we picked up a conversation on shore about our spotlight. Someone was wondering if we needed help. I had my gps out and the course back into the channel was clear, so I jumped on the radio and identified our boat and the reason for the spotlight.

A few minutes later the State Park boat approached us (I couldn't see the ranger, I believe it was Dave Shearer, the Harbor Master.) He offered help finding the channel markers.

I was a little embarrassed that he came all the way out for us, but then I realized that here he was, late ona Saturday night, doing everything he could to take care of those of us out on the lake. That was really terrific service, I don't know if I've ever met a more helpful person. He went ahead to each set of buoys and flashed his lights so getting in to the marina was really easy. I'm not sure if the State names an employee of the year, but Dave Shearer definitely gets our votes.

It was a great sail. 68 miles in all. 17 hours of sailing. We'll return tomorrow to pull the boat out and bring her back to Utah Lake, but I bet we'll sneak in a few hours of sailing on Great Salt Lake first...

Misadventure at White Rocks Bay (3 of 4)

As the afternoon sun increased, so did the wind.

Up near Carrington Island in Great Salt Lake, the winds heeled our Catalina 25, the Unsinkable 2, along at almost 7 mph. I remember first learning that most monohull cruising sailboats had theoretical maximum hull speeds somewhere between 5 and 8 miles an hour and thinking, "Wow, that is ridiculously slow." But anyone who has ever been on a sailboat traveling at this speed knows that the feeling is quite remarkable, and feels very fast. (Remember, if you are in a hurry to get some place, stop reading this and choose something besides a sailboat.)

When you feel a 10 - 15 mile per hour wind fill a 25 foot high sail above you, and the boat responds by heeling over 20 degrees, you suddenly feel like you are in the America's Cup. The adrenaline begins pouring through your body and every daily care is driven from your mind as your head fills completely with thoughts about every wave, wind, halyard, sail, and line on your boat. When you finish, you feel like you just finished a 3 day weekend vacation. Your mind is completely relaxed, and you are ready to take on life's problems all over again.

To put more power in the sails, we sat on the windward (high) side of the boat, hanging our feet over the side watching the miles of water slip by 6 feet beneath our feet. As the bow crashed through the waves, the spray covered us in refreshingly cool showers.

The crew was getting hungry, so I went below to cook lunch. I found the alcohol stove completely dry, and could not find more fuel anywhere. Without lunch, we were all getting a little tired, so we decided to head in to White Rock Bay on Antelope Island. We had a raft, and could go ashore and walk up to the gift shop at the state park to try and find some food.

With the depth sounder on, we cautiosly approached White Rock Bay. The water here was shallow, and we had to raise the swing keel and drop the sails as we slowly motored in to the anchorage, a few hundred yards west of White Rock. (See the picture, this rock extends about 15 feet out of the water, and is home to hundreds of birds.)

My #2 son began blowing up the raft, only to find that we didn't have the valve cover for it! Swimming to shore was not an option, because the low water meant we would have to wade - not possible in the mud along the lake bottom. We had lots of freeze dried food (Mountain House is our preferred brand), but no stove to boil water. And then we noticed the solar showers on the deck. They were already at 110 degrees. So we poured water from the solar showers into the food, and waited 15 minutes for it to rehydrate. It was great!

In the bay, we were gradually overcome by Brine Flies. At first there were hundreds of them, and then thousands. #2 started the fight against the Brine Flies, first with bug spray, then with a citronella candle, and finally gave up and took to photographing them. He has a very science-oriented mind, and when we finally returned home researched all kinds of information on Brine Flies. Here are some of the pictures he took of the Brine Flies and dragon flies.

What he learned was that Brine Fly season is between late July and early August. The flies lay eggs on the surface of the water, and then live 3-5 days.

The flies do not bite or sting, they simply land on everything and crawl everywhere. We soon realized that overnighting anywhere near the Brine Flies would result in no one sleeping. For the first 10 minutes you try and brush the flies away, but then you tire, and just let them crawl all over you. Psychologically, it must be like chinese water torture. One night under Brine Fly interrogation and I would have divulged every top secret I knew.

It was now 6pm, and time to discuss options. The Freshwater springs off the shore of Fremont Island were 10 miles to the north. Winds were still out of the north, and the sun would be setting sometime around 9 pm. Under motor, we could reach the springs in 2 hours. Sailing, though normally much faster than motoring, would take longer because we needed to go directly into the wind - a point which we could not sail without tacking.

So we decided to motor north, arrive at 8pm, swim for half an hour, and then raise sails and head for the Antelope Island Marina for the night. It was a great plan, and we were all really proud of how nautical it sounded.

However as we motored north out of White Rock Bay, I remembered the chart showing shallow waters west of Antelope island, so we cut a wide circle around the tip of the island. And then I felt something bump the rudder. And again. Looking at the depth guage, I realized we were in extremely shallow waters. So we immediately cut further west for another mile and a half, still running into shallow water at every attempt to turn north.

It was now 6:30 pm, and I thought about the harbor master's comments that Fremont had claimed more sailboats than any other island on Great Salt Lake. I also remembered what he said in an email about our planned trip,

"My experience has shown that the first time a sailor ventures out on his first long voyage on the Great Salt Lake, she will let you know who is boss and will likely challenge you with blustery winds, challenging seas, and a little lightning for emphasis. If you survive these conditions, return home safely to challenge her again with respect, she will usually treat you kindly and provide an enjoyable experience (as long as you really check your weather charts thoroughly this time.)"

So we had a decision to make - if everything went well, we could make Fremont Island, and then find the Marina in the dark. But if anything went wrong, we'd spend the night out in unsheltered water. No one wanted to quit, but we decided that was the best choice.

So we turned south, and raised sails to cover the 20 miles back to the South Shore Marina.

[Continue to Part 4]

Sailing 68 miles on Great Salt Lake (2 of 4)

The northerly wind meant a long day of tacking, but no one seemed to mind. Although our goal was to reach Fremont Island, some 20 or 30 miles to the north, we were in no hurry. As every sailor has discovered, in a powerboat you may get there faster, but in a sailboat, you are already there.

It was my Dad's first trip on a sailboat, and we all enjoyed watching him learn the ropes. Lesson #1 was that the sails do not steer the boat. A sailboat can sail almost any direction except directly into the wind. The sails create an airfoil shape, actually pushing and pulling the boat along in the wind. The keel converts this force to forward motion, and the rudder provides steering ability.

So Grandpa took the helm and within a few minutes learned the fine art of watching the wind vane to determine wind direction, and listening for the luffing of the sails to determine when the boat was pointed too close to the wind. (When sailing almost directly into the wind, the sails will lose power and begin flapping, or luffing, in the wind. At this point they are not providing forward momentum.) He was a natural, and guided the boat along many, many miles of our voyage.

We took very long tacks, and turns at the helm, which left plenty of time to site and talk or even take naps as the boat sailed quietly, quickly along in the sun.

This was our first trip with the new Bimini, and the shade was terrific. The Bimini is 6' long - as long as it can be without running into the boom sheets at the aft or the cockpit. To shade the helmsman, we attached a large towel to the bimini and stern pulpit.

The temperature in Salt Lake City today was 100 degrees, but out on the water it was 10 degrees cooler, thanks to the cooling effect of the wind on the water.

After coming with 2 miles of Stansbury Island, we tacked and headed back towards Antelope island. I'd been told that the wind could likely completely die off sometime between late morning and early afternoon, however we were fortunate, and the wind kept blowing throughout the day. It certainly slowed for a few hours, but we still averaged about 4 1/2 miles an hour most of the day.

(I'm quite certain that the long tacks were not the most efficient method of sailing. I need to learn more about sail trim and calculating the optimal length of tacks and angles when sailing into the wind. But that will come with time.)

We reached Antelope Island's Split Rocks bay, and then turned westward again. The wind had shifted slightly, so we sailed toward Carrington Island, north of Stansbury Island.

The greatest challenge of the day confronted my eldest son, who at some point on this tack lost cell phone reception. It was truly devastating, because he could no longer receive text messages from his friends. (Why doesn't AT&T put cell towers on the (uninhabited) Great Salt Lake islands...) He was not to be outdone however, and kept trying throughout the day. Here is a picture of a pose he mastered. Laying on his back, he could doze while keeping an eye on the windvane and with his free hand, occasionally check for reception. Incidentally, he holds a Basic Keelboat ASA certification, although this particular feat ought to earn him an honorary Helmsman's Technical Communications ASA certification, if such a thing becomes available.
[Continue to Part 3]

Long Voyage on Great Salt Lake (1 of 4)

"Great Salt Lake will show you who is boss" came the wise advice of Dave Shearer, harbormaster at Great Salt Lake's South Shore Marina. I had asked Dave for his advice regarding a trip my 2 oldest sons, my father, and I had planned to circumnavigate Fremont Island, the 4th largest island in Great Salt Lake.

One of my life's goals is to sail to Fremont Island in Great Salt Lake. Fremont is relatively barren. However, there is a freshwater spring that rises 100 + yards off its west shore in the middle of the salt water. Sailors who have traveled this far north report being able to anchor in the water above the spring, and experience the rare sensation of swimming in fresh water in the middle of salt water!
So we made plans for a 2 day trip in late July to circumnavigate Fremont Island.
We reached I-Dock, Slip #3 at the South Shore Marina at 6am on Friday. The docks are covered with massive spiders this time of year. And although I've never heard of sailor being dragged off the docks by the spiders, you certainly wonder if it is possible.

We loaded the boat with our sleeping bags and 2 coolers full of ice and cold drinks. The secret to staying well-hydrated in the 100+ degree afternoons is a wide variety of juices, sports drinks, and water.

My Dad and #1 son ran a hose from the dock to the water intake on the boat, and my #2 son watched below to tell them when the tank was full. We planned to swim in the afternoon to cool off, so we filled a couple of solar showers and strapped them to the deck to heat up in the sun.

Swimming in Great Salt Lake leaves you very salty, which is not a comfortable way to stay. The solar showers work well, by afternoon they reached 110 degrees, and could be easily hoisted on the forestay for a quick rinse on the foredeck.
I ran down to C-Dock to borrow a nav chart from my Father in law's old boat (my first sailboat), and then we were ready to set sail.
The sunrise was absolutely magical, with pillowy white clouds overhead reflecting in the blue water. We motored quietly past the sleeping sailboats and out into the deep water channel. Flocks of seagulls floated in the still water, and gracefully lifted off in flight to get out of our way as we headed for the outer channel markers.

Even with a 5 - 10 mile per hour wind, Great Salt Lake waters remain as flat as a mirror. I assume this is due to the heaviness of the water, which is many times heavier than sea water. The stillness of the water makes it feel like you are sailing on a large mirror, with every cloud or star in the sky reflected below your boat.
Morning winds were light, but with the genoa we easily made 4.5 miles an hour as we sailed north on the southerly breeze. After half an hour, the wind shifted eastward, so we adjusted sails and continued north.

Eventually the winds shifted northward, and would stay that way through the day. At that point we opted for a westerly tack out toward Stansbury Island, about 10 miles to the west of us. (See map below for reference.)

Great Salt Lake gets an undeserved reputation for being a 'stinky' lake. The problem occurs a few times in late summer when large amounts of brine flies lay eggs on the surface of the water and live for only a few days. When all the brine fly remains wash up on the shores, it rots, and winds blow the smell into neighboring towns. The great secret is that even during those brief periods, the smell is only noticeable within a few hundred yards of the shore. Once out on the water, the smell disappears and the air, humidity, and smell are idyllic.

See map below of Great Salt Lake. The South Shore Marina is labeled Boat Harbor on the south edge of the lake. [Continue to Part Two]