I started out with a thirty foot finkeel Plastron, MIRAGE,a club racer
I bought from my old buddy Bill VerValin, who won yacht of the year with the boat at New Buffalo Yacht Club, (it's on a trailer in my barnyard here in SW Michigan for sale
very reasonable, (by the way). A very tender
speed demon, built strong , a good boat to learn sailing.
When I learned enough to realize the true state of my ignorance and how vulnerable it made me on the water
, I realized I needed to learn more and GET A BIGGER BOAT.
462 CC in St. Pete, I dismantled it ( I hate canals and river trips and hope to never have to do it again as long as I live) trucked it to the very Southern end of Lake Michigan where I spent five years, while working as a high-rise steel
the boat, the systems and improving my boat handling skills to where I would be "good to go: when "early retirement" time came.
I financed the big boat and still have a way to go to own it outright, but I spent alot of money
on getting it more shipshape as the years went on, keeping it in the water for three winters in the lake ice (bubblers) and living aboard
much of the time.
I knew exactly what I wanted in a boat. My philosophy is simple, GET THERE! Spending four years on Lake Michigan and working some of the time on a barge/drilling rig five miles offshore
, I got to see the best and the worst the lake can be.
July (believe it or not) often brings hellacious multi-day storms with prolonged high winds directly from the North/NW and steep set, high frequency waves over 20 feet. This is
usual in the Winter and common in early Summer.
When we were shaping up the drill and spoil barges and getting ready to move to the drill site, I asked the drill boss/superintendant "where you going to run when the lake gets up?" His agitated reply," I was in the Beufort sea, thirty foot seas and icebergs, I got four seven thousand pound Danforth anchors with inch and a quarter plow stell cables!!"
I said, "OK, but where are you gonna run when things get crazy (having seen those 17 footers in my little fin-keel)?" At that point, he was going apoplectic, and I really thought I would like to stick around and finish this job so I shut up.
Four weeks later, in the first part of July, we got the warning a screamer was coming through for about 48 hours right out of the NW with 330 miles of fetch. We had a huge spoil barge 250 feet long, a drill rig barge with a Manitowoc 4100, and another large barge with an even bigger Manitowoc 2250 (my barge). I ran the deck
winches and moved my barge about ten feet off the drill platform and then made sure thouse anchors were buried.
I and a co-worker was on anchor
watch till things got too crazy and the tug came to evacuate our sorry a**es off. At the height of the storm, 22 footwaves battered the shelving shore of the southern Lake Michigan shoreline. Ocean-going cargo vessels had to anchor
out as three of them were unable to make the entrance to the Port of Indiana.
When the tug came alongside, the bow was going up and down about twenty feet, ten feet above our heads and tenfeet below, a well-timed jump and you made a safe landing as the bow went down.
After the storm, the big spoil barge was on the shore holed in many places. It crashed on the property of U.s Steel
and i believe it was melted down for scrap. The other barge had broken three cables
clean and was twisting in the wind
on one remaining strand, it's winches battered to scrap from the near demolished crane. My barge (of course) was
Sailing my blue water ketch
on Lake Michigan introduced me to full gales, square seas (night-sailing from Half-moon Bay to Traverse Bay in a NorWester, and incredible lightning
storms from fast moving summertime storm fronts (nothing like you get in the true tropical Inter-Tropical Convergence Zones, but terrifying none-the-less).
To be honest, most sane people don't sail in the high latitudes in the Winter, they go South and "put the lime in the coconut." That's what I did. But I was able to safely accomplish this by making a plan and sticking to it. I am not experienced like some of the sailors writing here, but I've learned a great deal from all the knowledgable sailors who have been will to mentor people like me here. I thank you all for taking the time to share. It means a lot to those of us still "feeling our way along."
Having my bigger boat and doing coastal cruising and short 250 "offshore" passages up the middle of the lake, got me enough ability and confidence to start on my way. (Plus the help of my friends)