17 May 2008

The Sun's Big Lie

It was unusually warm today, and the family was begging to go sailing. (Like, do they really think they need to beg??) I advised the kids that it was probably too cold to swim, but undaunted, they all put on swimsuits and climbed aboard.

A beautiful afternoon, with light winds, a warm sun, and clear skies. Certainly the lake, fed by melted snowpack, would somehow alter temperatures to match the weather that day.

The mountain tops were still covered with snow, and I am sure there were hearty souls getting in a last run on the slopes that very afternoon. Not these hearty souls, we were headed into the balmy, tropical 55 degree waters of Utah Lake for a refreshing sail and swim.

My #4 and #5 kids suddenly became self conscious at how fair their winter skin was, and decided they needed to get tans. (These boys are 6 and 8 years old...) So they took over one of the cockpit benches, and raised their arms and legs in an attempt to capture as much sunlight as absolutely possible.

Well, the sun DID feel warm, and as the afternoon progressed, there were even a few moments when it felt hot. The older kids were already daring each other to jump over the side, and the banter continued back and forth until one of them swung a leg over the side and into the shockingly snow-like water. It was a wonder we hadn't hit an iceberg. But the sun continued to lie to them, and soon they had stripped to swimsuits and lifejackets, unable to resist the temptation.

Finally, reason gave way to summer fever, and over the side one of them went. Screaming like a madman. From the warmth of the deck, I could almost see his muscles contract and cramp up as his body plunged from the 85 degree air into the 50 degree water. He resurfaced instantly, and it was clear from his gasping that the muscles around his lungs had contracted similarly. But he was laughing, "It's liquid snow!" I was quite sure his would be the last splash we heard that afternoon, but I was wrong. Maybe my kids are not so smart after all.

The others soon jumped in, and returned to the deck time and time again, laughing on the deck, screaming as they jumped, and gasping or almost crying as they came out of the water.

Even the 3 younger kids decided to get in the water. They lasted a combined total of 4 minutes in there, and climbed back up the ladder shivering, blue-lipped, nigh hypothermic, and all smiles.

16 May 2008

Midnight Sail on Utah Lake

Friday night I set out with #2 and #5 for an overnight sail on Utah Lake. The winds were 10-15 knots, and the waves 3-4 feet. We left the Provo Marina around 8 pm and sailed southwest for a couple hours.

About half an hour after sunset, the moon rose. The night could not have been more beautiful. The lights on the shore faded to small specks as we headed further out. The moonlight shone across the tops of the waves, and the only sounds were the hull cutting through the waves and the occasional creaking of the tiller.

Our destination was Bird Island, a sometimes-visible rocky outcropping several miles south southwest of the Provo Marina. Our intent was to spend the night at anchor near the island, however after being tossed by the waves for several hours, the crew voted to return to the sheltered waters of the harbor.

By about 2230 hrs, #5 and #2 came out of the cabin to join me in the cockpit. #5 was tired and getting cold, so he lay down on one of the cockpit benches and slept. #2 spent half an hour in the cabin and came down with a slight case of Mal de Meer. After a few minutes in the cockpit, he retired to the forward cabin to try and rest.

The winds picked up around this time, and I was enjoying the sailing so much that I decided I could easily sail until 2 or 3 in the morning without tiring. The steady winds, the occasional spray of waves crashing against the hull, and the moonlight accenting the waves were intoxicating.

We sailed on, waiting for the winds to subside at which point I would drop anchor and settle in for the night. But the winds didn't let up. The crew was resting quietly, so I thought I would simply drop anchor in the waves, and try spending the night out in the open. But I started to worry as I imagined myself going over the side while on deck trying to anchor. The sleeping crew would not wake up, and I'd be carp food by morning.

So I pulled #2 from the forward cabin to come watch the helm. He came aft, and we discussed the options. We ultimately decided to head back for the marina. #2 and #5 slept on the cockpit cushions, and I stood at the helm, watching the waves, listening to the wind, and enjoying the long sail home.

I love the feeling of coming off a windy sail and into the marina. The instant we come through the breakwater, the water is as smooth as glass. The only hint of the exciting conditions outside the marina is the distant sound of waves breaking outside the jettys.

09 May 2008

The Crew and the Ship

With the new winch handle, we were ready for another maiden voyage. This time under sail...

The kids each have certain jobs, and it actually makes sailing quite easy from a skipper's perspective.

My #1 son, who completed the American Sailing Association's Basic Keelboat course during a 3 day sailing class on the Gulf of Mexico. It may appear that he is closing his eyes at the helm, however I think the picture is more indicative of his advanced seamanship, including "Blind Helmsmanship." His other job is "One Handed Texter", which requires the ability to perform any naval task with one hand while rapidly texting your landlubber friends with a cell phone in your other hand.

My #2 son is the self-proclaimed "Bow Man". He takes responsibility for everything that happens on the foredeck, from anchoring to tying dock lines. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the job is using the boat hook, which we call "Ned Land's Harpoon", after the harpooner in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. His other great professional enjoyment is the shove-off. He can do more pull-ups than anyone I know, so he hangs onto the bow pulpit long after it's left the slip, then swings gracefully forward on up onto the bow.

My #3 has anointed herself "Winch Wench", and has developed an almost prophetic sense of the times we need to raise the keel a little bit to get over underwater obstacles. We are quite certain they are old U-Boats, unexploded mines, and sharks, although the Utah Lake State Park Ranger assures us there are no such obstacles in the lake.

My #4 is one of the "Fender Men" aboard the boat. His is the dangerous job of racing on deck to deploy and retrieve the boat's fenders as we exit and enter the marina. This is a difficult job, because there is so much going on during that time. Boom is swinging, lines are being coiled or thrown, and in the midst of all this chaos, the fenders have to be deployed at the proper height to ensure a safe docking.

#5 is the second Fender Man. He is apprenticed to #4 and learning the ropes very quickly. In training for his sailing adventures this year, he completed the first two levels of swimming classes, and has adjusted to nautical life with aplomb.

And finally, #6. We're not really sure what her job is. Mostly she just walks around on the boat being really cute and saying the funniest, most random things. Depending on the day, she either announces herself as being a Princess, or a Pirate. Arg!

And here is the Admiral. So named because I admire her so much. And last, and certainly least, is me. While I may not be nearly as interesting to look at as my crew, you have to admit that I have really cool pirate boat shoes.

05 May 2008

Maiden Voyage of the Unsinkable 2

Saturday May 3rd was the maiden voyage of the Unsinkable 2. Well, she was in the water a week before that but Saturday was our first time to fly some canvas.

We purchased the 1977 Catalina 25 Swing Keel from someone in Fremont, California. It's very difficult to find the boat you want in Utah, and California seems to be oversupplied with used sailboats. So even when you figure in the cost of gas and the 2-3 day trip required to drive to California and back, it is cheaper to buy a boat in California.

Once in the water, it took about 10 minutes to get the outboard started, and then we headed out into the lake. Here is a picture of our #2 at the bow pulpit. When we re-bedded the bow pulpit fittings, we backed them with steel plates, which gives it plenty of strength for his acrobatics...

The kids really enjoyed the bigger boat, and we were immediately glad we'd made the decision to upgrade. Prior to this, we owned a Venture 21. She was a great first boat for us, and we had many terrific adventures and overnight trips. But with 6 kids, the boat was quite cramped. We looked at a lot of bigger boats (than the catalina 25) however we wanted a swing keel and a shallow enough draft that we could sail well into October and still be able to pull her out of the water without a crane.

The kids liked exploring the boat in the water - apparently having the boat in the water made it completely different than when it was on the trailer in the driveway. They tested each of the berths, explored the deck, and would have easily spent several hours in complete explorer mode. Here is a picture of #4 and #5 celebrating in the companionway. That's my wife in the back left and my sister in law on the right.

A funny thing happened on the way out of the marina. On the advice of Todd from www.NowBringMeThatHorizon.com, I purchased and installed a new keel cable hose, along with a new winch. In my penny-pinching brilliance, I decided I could simply reuse the old winch handle, so I didn't bother ordering the new one. That's where the funny thing happened - the old winch handle did not fit the new winch. Of course we discovered this with the a full boat of eager sailors. Needless to say, I was not very popular that night as we humbly turned and motored the short distance back to our slip...
But the kids were kind, and we still had a great time. First thing tomorrow morning I will call CatalinaDirect.com and order that winch handle...