No Spray Paint in Chicago

Owning a boat is a lot of work.  We keep a running “to-do” list on the app, Wunderlist, and slowly chip away at it.  It seems that as soon as we remove one item, we’re adding two more.

This weekend we deciding the repaint the markings on the chain anchor rode.  While still tied up in the marina, we pulled 75 meters of chain from the anchor locker and serpentined it on the dock.  The chain was marked with a different color spray paint every 5 meters.  The markings give us a visual reference as to how much chain or rode we have out, an important item to know when setting a secure anchor in given depths of water.

Of course with any project there are setbacks.  This one came when we ran out of yellow spray paint. Not a huge issue, skip down to the hardware store and pick up a new can.  Not in Chicago… it’s illegal to sell spray paint in the city due to anti-graffiti efforts.  The struggle continues.


Out For The Day

Yesterday  the plan was to do a bit of boat work now that Janet has returned from her adventures in Haiti.

When we left Racine a few weeks ago we hoisted our furled gennaker before we left the dock. Normally this would have been fine if it wasn’t for the 20+ knots of wind swirling around. Upon leaving the harbor the head of the gennaker began to unfurl and wrapped back on itself becoming hopelessly fouled. We dropped the sail and stuffed it in the sail locker waiting for a calm day to sort it out.

Yesterday morning there was no wind, so it became ‘Fix The Gennaker Day”. It was a pretty straight forward affair of untangling the huge sail and carefully flaking it out on the deck, hoisting and refueling it.

With that task done, we left the marina and headed over to the fuel dock to fill our tanks for the season, 72 gallons of diesel fuel for $239. I’ll be surprised if we visit a fuel dock again this season, the great benefit of owning a sailboat.

Once fueled and looking at a stiffening breeze and sunny skies we made the decision to just sail.  Janet put us on a close reach, we set the mainsail and the jib and headed out past the racing boats and just kept going. We realized that few boats venture out past 2-3 miles from shore, and almost no one is on AIS.  Note to self… use the radar more 🙂

We should have hove to for lunch, but decided to stay on the reach and enjoy a cheese plate healed over.  The sun and wind were almost perfect as we moved along at a comfortable 7 knots.

After a bit of a messy tack, we brought her around and headed back to the marina, arriving at the same time as a typical midwest thunder storm. We tied up and got out the foul weather jackets to finish securing the boat. By the time we were done, the weather had cleared to sunny skies again and we wandered over to The Dock for a beer. All-in-all a good day.


Marina Life

We’re getting settled into marina life.  The most notable advantage is that our house is 3-miles from Tortuga’s slip.  After spending a year flying back and forth across the country to get aboard, this level of access is very strange.

The marina that we are berthed in is run by the Chicago Parks District and contains everything from small sailboats to million dollar powerboats.  Expectedly, there is a tremendous disparity of boating experience and seamanship.

Standing on the dock chatting with the skipper of a J/40 racing sailboat yesterday we saw a 30’ powerboat approaching a nearby slip.  Being helpful neighbors we wandered over to the slip to give the arriving crew a hand with their lines and tying the boat up.  Onboard were four “twenty-something” guys looking seriously anxious at their intended slip.  My sailor friend asked the crew for their bow line.  “Huh?…We don’t have one”.  No fenders were hanging over the side of the boat needed to protect the polished hull from the harsh wooden dock.  I asked for a stern line, and one of the crew threw me a line… all of it…both ends…secured to nothing.  I tossed an end back and asked him to secure it to an aft cleat.  I didn’t know that you could use a square knot on a cleat… you can’t.

In the end, we got the boat tied up, keeping it well away from a beautiful Jeanneau 50 that was sharing the well.  My sailor friend said that we’ll see a lot of that in the marina over the summer. The adventure continues.


A New Home in Chicago

Well, that took a bit of time.  We finally arrived in our new home port of Chicago the other day, after a chilly and breezy passage down from Racine, Wisconsin.

Tortuga wintered at the Racine Riverside Marina inside a heated warehouse.  During the cold months the yard labored to repair the damages that the boat had suffered as a result of her trip from Canada to the Great Lakes last Fall.  A gouge in the aluminum hull had to be repaired as well as a wrecked portlight.  To the yard’s credit the lads did a fantastic job.  Along the way they replaced the lifelines, sent the sails out for some repair and a good washing, and polished the hull.

Like last year, final commissioning took about a month.  Tortuga was gently placed in the water and the mast went up in short order.  All of the electronics needed to be reestablished and checked. The motor needed some adjustments. The sails were installed, and the running rigging was sorted out.  Many of the boat’s engineering systems proved to be a learning adventure for the yard, but in the end it all turned out fantastically.


Last week was a complete scrub down, both inside and out, that cleared away the winter’s accumulated dust and grim.  We did a short sea trial of the motor on a very cold and blustery day, and finally got all of the provisions onboard.

Over the weekend, the only days that Janet and I had mutually available, we brought our friend Anu onboard and set out for Chicago. The intent was to sail but the 30 knot winds and high, disorganized waves made the passage more uncomfortable than it needed to be.  We fired up the motor, and along with a headsail we averaged 8 knots and made it to Chicago in the late afternoon.

We’re currently tied up in a slip and are settling into marina life.  Now if it would just warm-up a little…

Getting ready for a big splash!

Tortuga underwent some significant updates over a long winter in storage. She now looks like new…new lifelines, a new Gori prop, cleaned sails, and a fresh polish of the aluminum hull. We put her in the water this week, though she looks like a motor boat right now without a mast 🙂

The next few weeks we will be cleaning and fully commissioning her for her inaugural sail down to Chicago. We are excited to finally have her berth in her new home on Lake Michigan. We are looking forward to some great sailing on the Great Lakes this summer, after an epic journey from the Chesapeake and through the St. Lawrence waterway last year.


In the sling
Mirror finish

Never believe the weather forecasts….including marine weather forecasts

Dad at the helm
Dad at the helm

From Murray Harbor in PEI we zigzagged across the Northumberland Strait to get a couple more sailing days in and increase our chances of seeing whales. Many seal and dolphin sightings, but no whales on this trip 🙁

However, we had an amazing day of sailing southwest in the the strait! Waves were low, the west winds were ideal for a close reach the entire way, and we really got to feel how Tortuga moves. Dad even took a turn at the helm.


Pictou Harbor

We anchored the previous night in a coastal town named Pictou back on the Nova Scotia side. It is apparently the birthplace of New Scotland. On display is a replica of the Hector, which carried the first immigrants from Scotland to North America in the 1700’s. The main street has tartan flags of all the clans from Scotland who settled there. We never found Stewart. We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at one of the local restaurants, with a great view 😉 and dinghy’d back to the boat. The winds shifted to the north at night, as expected.  We got a great view of the sunset from the stern of the boat.

View from lunch/dinner
View from lunch/dinner
Entering Charlottetown
Entering Charlottetown
Entering Charlottetown

The next morning (yesterday) the marine weather forecast predicted winds returning back to a west/southwest wind at 9-12 knots with gust up to 15-17 knots and waves around 0.8 meters.  Were we in for a surprise… as as we exited out of the wind protected harbor/bay entrance, we were hit with a northwest wind that was more like double the predicted wind speed. We faced more like 18 knots of wind with gusts up to 25 knots and big waves!  The only other boat we saw in the strait was the ferry that transits from Wood’s Island, PEI to Caribou, Nova Scotia. We were happy once we entered the Charlottetown Bay.  The winds were still brisk but the waves were much smaller and manageable.  What started out to be an easy jaunt turned out to be a long day of hard sailing. We had a very nice welcome from some relatives of Eric who were born and raised on PEI. We found a good local seafood restaurant to replenish us, too.

Tortuga is now tied up to a slip in Charlottetown, PEI. She’ll be here for a few days before she continues her next journey up the St. Lawrence Seaway. We’ve cleaned her up, written down detailed instructions, and prepped her to take on new guests. It is somewhat like sending a child to camp, as we are having a delivery captain sail her into the Great Lakes in the next few weeks. The summer is rapidly coming to an end and Eric’s and my schedules are becoming pretty hectic, such that the hope of us getting her to Chicago before the lakes freeze necessitates us to hire someone to move her along when we can’t.  Tortuga’s adventure continues…