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 40 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…

That’s an American Boat!

IMG_0031We’ve heard this a couple of times since we’ve been in Canada while Tortuga’s been tied up in a few of the harbors/marinas.  We wondered whether the people were fascinated by the fact that it is a boat traveling from the United States or for some other reason.  We have not seen that many sailboats in the Canadian waters and big sailboats for that matter. The sailboats we generally see are smaller and local to the area, and likely out for daysails.

So we asked the harbor master in Pictou, and his impression is that people are more intrigued by where the boats come from.

The people we meet in the slips are generally very curious either about the boat and/or about the route that we are taking to get the boat back to Chicago.

Prince Edward Island

View of Tortuga in the distance in Murray Harbor
View of Tortuga in the distance in Murray Harbor

We’re currently in Murray Harbor, PEI on a very quiet and calm Sunday morning.  The water is a bit thin getting into the harbor, so we’re waiting a little for the tide to come in a bit to move over to the fuel dock, and then leave the harbor.

Yesterday’s sail from Port Hawkesbury through the Canso Canal to Murray Harbor was a ton of fun.  We were reaching the entire way with 24-28 knots of wind.  Once the sails were up, and the engine off we were making 7.2 knots over ground, which I was quite happy with.

Halfway across the Northumberland Straits we decided to heave to for a bit to see how Tortuga handled the seas.  With her nose pointed 50 degrees to the wind, Tortuga calmed down and we sat there enjoying what was an awesome sailing day.  Janet was a bit peeved as she had just labored to prepare lunch in the galley while we were underway and heeled over at 30 degrees.

We’ll leave Murray Harbor in a flooding tide and make our way to an anchorage in Pictou for the night.  Tomorrow, we’re off Charlottetown to tie up for a few days.