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)