Random Sailing Questions Asked and Answered – Pot Pourri, Odds and Ends

Random Sailing Questions Asked and Answered – Pot Pourri, Odds and Ends

Anyone running a Blog knows to look at the Analytics of their website, which shows them the search words readers used to find your Blog (we do not know who you are, we just know the question you asked).  I thought it would fun to bring some questions forward that haven’t been answered in my other articles, so here we go –

How Many Hours Are There in Winter? (asked 42 times)
I wonder if this is a math problem for many students looking for the cheap and dirty answer on the internet, rather than doing the math themselves?  And why did Google send them to a site on Sailing?  Anyway, Astronomical Winter (Northern Hemisphere) began December 21, 2013 11:11 AM  CST (shortest day of the year – Winter Solstice) and ends on March 20, 2014 11:57 PM CDT (Vernal Equinox – day and night of equal length).  Obviously the time changes from CST to CDT during this period and needs to be included in the calculation.  There are no leap days during this period in 2014.  Many variables to consider, eh? If you make both the start date and finish date CST counting the pure 24 hour days in between, it looks to be 89 days and 46 minutes.  If you ignore the time change in the midst of these days and use CST at the beginning and CDT at the end, it looks to be 90 days and 46 minutes.   The conundrum, which one will you use?  OK, while that had nothing to do with sailing, while you’re here, poke around this site and see how you can go sailing!

How to Practice Sailing in Winter? (asked 6 times)
There are multiple answers.  You can Frostbite Sail throughout the winter, or Iceboat Sail (click on any of the many articles on the right border) throughout the winter, or head to warmer climbs (Florida, California, Caribbean, etc.).  Many top flight sailors make sure they sail in the winter using one or a combination of these methods.

Sailing Across Lake Michigan? (asked 4 times)
Going across Lake Michigan East to West, or West to East, is commonly a pretty pleasant sail.  Most Lake crossings get you out of sight of land for hours.  Mariners plot a course on the chart to determine the compass course to steer by (after including magnetic variation which is the earths twisting of the direction North due to varying amounts of Iron in the ground, and including magnetic deviation which is the boat’s compasses inaccuracy).  As one travels, mariners either check the GPS, or other methods to see if they are on course and make changes to the course to get to where they want to go (many GPS need to have the magnetic variation programmed into them).  Total reliance on GPS is a mistake, because if power is lost or the GPS system goes down, it is good seamanship to have secondary system of a paper back-up.  Visiting ports away from home is always fun, it is best to arrange dockage on the other side of the Lake before heading out.  Most harbors are in downtown areas within walking distance with plenty to do once there.

#1 Chicago Charter Fishing on Lake Michigan? (asked 1 time)
Go to the Fishing ChicagoNow section by Don Dziedzina.  This section is all about sailing.  Or better yet, take up sailing!

Best Place to Take Pictures Chicago Air and Water Show? (asked 1 time)
I’ve been ashore, out sailing offshore, and at anchor off North Avenue Beach to see it.  I haven’t been up in a condominium penthouse or deck, yet.  In my opinion being at anchor as close to the boundary line the City sets up with buoys, straight in line with North Avenue Beach is prime seating.  It helps to have an AM radio to give the play by play.  Why is it best?  We can see off to the West behind the buildings where people on the beach have their view blocked.  We see the planes coming from the West when they are trying to surprise the audience.  When the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds are doing their set-ups, we see them off to the West and can follow them non-stop throughout the show.  Better yet, when the airshow is over, we go for a sail, while everyone else clogs the roadways.  By the time we are finished sailing and put the boat away, the roadways are clear for our easy drive home.  A few times we were racing six miles away from shore, a couple of Warthogs were flying low overhead, and we waived at them as they passed over, going away from us the pilots wiggled their wings left and right waiving back to us.  Cool!

Boat Electrical Maintenance Course? (asked 2 times)
While there are many books written on this subject I would encourage you to read, I am not sure I have bumped into a boat electrical course around Lake Michigan.  If anyone is aware of one, shoot me an email, my email address is on the right side of the screen.  I’ll update this article then.  One thing I have run into twice and have burned it to memory, after doing a lot of wiring, I fired things up and either they didn’t work or glowed dimly.  Just when I thought I was done – drats.  Each time it was the bus bar that is cascading layers of metal, and when putting the tester on it, the voltage is reversed (double-drats).  What it took was either putting screws in each hole on the bar, or simply tightening all of the screws on the bar.  Instantly it worked!  An electrical engineer working with me the second time had the most dumbfounded look on his face – priceless!

Boats to Live On? (asked 3 times)
Tons of people live on their power or sail boats in the harbors in the summer time.  Many find it more affordable to have a boat in the harbor, than to buy a condo as a second home on the lakefront.  They keep their bikes on the dock or on the deck of their boats locked up.  The Lake waters keep it cooler than the City or the Suburbs.  They also hang out with fellow boaters on the docks and share their experiences.  A few boats have air-conditioning should the air temperatures become oppressive.  So what would one need in a boat to live aboard?  Bunks, refrigeration, stove, fresh water, hot water tank, shower, and a holding tank.  Some boats are designed to hook-up a hose to the dock water system to the on-board system so there is ample fresh water.  Some harbors provide showers in harbor buildings which might be your alternative to a shower on-board.  Many cook and eat onboard, go out for dinner, or order food delivery – just like at home.  By law, head (toilet) water is not to be put into the Lake.  So the boat needs a holding tank for waste.  Each harbor has a Pump-Out Station that you might have to move your boat to once a week, or so, to empty the holding tank.  Or some slips for the bigger boats have a connection available to Pump-Out right at your slip.  Another option is a service called Honey Jug Marine Sanitation, just make a call and Scott Baumgartner will swing by with his boat and take care of it for you for a minimal fee.  When wintertime comes, there’s much more to deal with.  The harbors close and you have to take your boat elsewhere.  There are some marinas on the river that will let you live aboard during winter.  There’s no insulation in a boat and it takes a lot of heat to keep it warm, but the space to heat is small as a trade-off.  Some insurers will require that you put a bubbler or swirler under your boat to keep the river from freezing around your boat.  Be cautioned that all insurance policies exclude damage from freeze or thaw.  Or you can take your boat south to Florida or the Caribbean for the winter and hang out there instead!

Can a Sailboats Sail Freeze? (asked 1 time)
No. Water spray can accumulate on a sail and freeze, but shakes off when the sail is not trimmed and shakes in the breeze.

Chicago to Northern Michigan By Sailboat? (asked 1 time)
Why not?  The Lake is open, with safe harbors and marinas dotting the course all the way up the Lake.    Many people do this each summer.  You could take the Michigan or Wisconsin side up and the other one back home.  Both sides of the Lake are different in character.  The Michigan side tends to have warmer water, as the summer breeze blows the warmer surface water to that side.  While there are plenty of places with rock shores, most of the Michigan side is sand shores.  On the Wisconsin side, it seems that more of the shore is rock, and less of it is sand.  There are some reefs to be aware of on both sides, so follow your chart faithfully.  Some “harbor hop” spending 6-8 hours sailing each day, and having the late afternoon and evening to enjoy the new harbor.  Others might start by making a long distance sail to begin with – 24 hours, just to get their boat further North to begin with and then harbor hop.  There’s much to see and explore, and history to learn everywhere you go.

Crosby, Stills & Nash Sailboat? (asked 1 time)
In that great sailing song “Southern Cross” the sailboat shown is not the boat David Crosby has owned since 1967.  His long-term boat is Mayan, a 1947 59′ centerboard wooden Alden Schooner.  The boat in the Southern Cross video was chartered and its name was Southern Star.  It was a 75′ Tripp design (1970 built at Stephens Marine in CA).  Designed as a racer, a new rating rule (IOR) appeared at that same time and never had a chance to show its speed for the old rating system (CCA). She was 73′, maybe when she healed over the waterline extended to 80 feet. She is a centerboarder and was originally based on Chesapeake Bay.

Click play, crank it up, and replay it while continuing your read!

Four Masted Sailing Ships on Lake Michigan? (asked 1 time)
The Tall Ships that call Lake Michigan home are: Red Witch has 2 spars; Windy has 4 spars; Friends Good Will has 1 spar; Denis Sullivan has 3 spars; Manitou has 2 spars; Wind Dancer 2 spars; Inland Seas 2 spars; Champion 1 spar; Welcome 1 spar, and Madeline 2 spars.  During the Tall Ships Festival could bring more from places away from Lake Michigan for a visit.

Funny Rules for First Time Boaters? (asked 1 time)
I don’t have a list per se, but try these:

  • If you’re going to puke (mainly from motion sickness), there is a whole lake to let it go in.  Don’t run down below due to embarrassment or modesty and let it go there.  Cleaning up barf into the Lake is sooo much easier.
  • Don’t ask us if we park somewhere when the sun goes down, and start sailing again when the sun comes up (we sail 24/7 non-stop).
  • When the boat begins to heel (as far as 45-degrees) get used to it, that’s called sailing.
  • Always ask someone to show you how the head operates, don’t try to guess on your own.
  • The only thing that goes into the head must first have entered your mouth (Oh my God women, stop putting hair in there!), other than tissue.
  • Get used to some water coming out of the bilge an onto the floor below decks, all boats seem to leak.  You are not sinking.
  • It’s OK to go topless (never happened on my boats though, still waiting).

Has Anyone Sailed Around Lake Michigan? (asked 1 time)
I’m not sure there is a record books with this information.  Many sailors have cruised the harbors of the Lake, some take a week, a month or longer to enjoy and could have easily sailed “around the lake” in this period.  Having made the Chicago Mackinac Race 39 times (runs the full length of Lake Michigan and 6 miles into Lake Huron), bringing the boats back home, sometimes we cruise down the Michigan side of the Lake, sometimes the Wisconsin/Illinois side of the Lake.  So there are lots of boats who have sailed “around Lake Michigan” though maybe not all in one shot.

How Deep is Lake Michigan? (asked 1 time)
922′ give or take.  In the past 30 years we have seen a swing of the Lake height by 7 or 8 feet, which obviously changes the deepest point by that much.  This is found about mid-point on an East-West line off Frankfort, MI.  Interestingly, the deepest point is about 350′ below sea level.

How to Sail Around the World in Your 20’s? (asked 1 time)
I think if you asked 20 different people this question, you would get 20 different answers.  The first answer is obvious, buy a well founded boat, equip it and go.  Other answers include becoming a merchant marine, get qualified as an engineer, captain, or other position, and get paid to sail people’s boats around the world.  The other is by word of mouth, maybe someone you know or they know is going around the world and needs a hand.  Some do it sort of like hitchhiking.  In many ports there is a bulletin board, you post your name and where you want to head next, and people looking for crew find you.  There are a some online crew finders, be wary, many seem to be single males looking for a female crew (I hope I don’t have to explain this to you).  But one thing you’ll have to consider is how long you plan to do it.  If people push themselves around the world quickly, they could do it in a year, but they won’t enjoy it much.  Many do it in two years, others who really like exploring do it in five.  I have a friend who left Ft. Lauderdale at Easter to be in Australia for Christmas.  They went through the Panama Canal, to the Galapagos, over to Tahiti where their anchor became stuck (wink).  Stuck for a whole year.  They made it to Australia one year late.  What I am saying is, somethings are too good to pass by quickly, and one must be very flexible in their plans (and the reverse might happen, geo-political changes cause boaters to suddenly avoid certain parts of the world suddenly).

How do Sailors See at Night? (asked 2 times)
How do you see in your backyard at night, going for a walk in the neighborhood, or on a camping trip?  Ambient light.  Light from stars or the moon provide adequate light.  The light loom from cities up and down the Lake bleed out into the Lake.  And I’ve been through electrical storms with so much lightning at night, you could read newspaper print!

How is a Life Sized Sailboat Controlled? (asked 1 time)
A few lines, or lots of lines.  Lines that haul sails up and down are called Halyards.  Lines that pull sails in, or let them out are called Sheets or Guys depending on their application.  Then there are all sorts of control Lines: outhaul, downhaul, cunninham, inhaul, barberhaul, boom vang or go-fast, and backstay.  To steer the boat, there is a rudder underwater wrapped around a metal or carbon fiber post that goes up to the deck and attached to either a tiller, or a steering wheel.  Stability is controlled in different ways depending on the boat, there’s a difference between a keel boat (lead, steel, cast iron) or a centerboard boat (wood, composite, aluminum) which is a fin that goes down into the water in the center of the boat.  The keel (very heavy) is designed to keep the boat upright, and counteract the pressure of the sail that tries to heel the boat over and counterbalances that.  A centerboard has no weight underneath the boat, and this type of boat uses humans as ballast moving from side to side to counterbalance the pressure from the sail.  Centerboard boats do flip on their side and roll over upside down intentionally, unless you are quick enough to keep it from doing so by moving fast to recover and keep it upright.  All of these things are variables, and can be adjusted in a zillion variations.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like control, sometimes it feels like trying to herd cats!

Lake Michigan Boat Races? (asked 9 times)
There are so many sailboat races on Lake Michigan, I’m not sure anyone cares to count.  Sailboat races are still an activity run under the auspices of Yacht Clubs as it takes infrastructure to run a race.  So just about every yacht club in every town runs one, if not hundreds, of races annually.  Roughly 1/2 of yacht clubs have land and buildings, and 1/2 of yacht clubs are “paper clubs” existing on paper only without land or buildings.  But they still have the infrastructure to run races.  Either way, Google search the local town or harbor, find what yacht club is there, email or call and find out how you can get into their races (either by crewing, or if you own your own boat).   They will welcome you with open arms.

Sailboat Collisions at Night? (asked 1 time)
Not fun, very scary.

In the tragic Chicago Mackinac in 2011 where a squall flipped a boat over killing two at night time, it took all of the spotlight from the race.  But not far from where this boat flipped in the Northern 1/3 of Lake Michigan, two other boats were sailing in the same squall conditions with limited visibility.   From the time the two boats saw each other, until impact, was estimated to be 6 – 8 seconds.  It was a T-bone collision, leaving a hole in one boat 7″ by 22″ long not far above the waterline.  The boat retired from the race, shoved sails in the hole and headed to the nearest safe harbor and made it.  Read more here.  I was in this race, but 60 miles away dealing with a different part of the storm on our boat.

Off Chicago in 1975 or 1976, two sailboats collided on a race course at night, when there was a miscommunication aboard one of the boats that caused the give away boat to hit the right of way boat.  It resulted in a collision with one sailor losing their life.  Read LM Case 5 for detail.

On that same night, I was on a boat in the same race before this collision occurred, where we were hit by another competitor.  We had an error on our boat which caused us to stop dead in the water, and the boat from behind T-boned us.  Damage to our boat was minor, damage to the other boat took a goodly size chunk out of their bow and was repaired.  The boat was sold to another sailor that year, and in their practice a week before the Chicago Mackinac race the following year, the entire bow tore off the boat.  The patch made on the bow was called a “cold patch” and didn’t adhere right.  There was no way to repair the boat quickly, and they didn’t make the Mackinac race.

What to do on a Long Sail? (asked 1 time)
A lot of things.  Get into deep discussions with friends and family, read books, do some onboard maintenance, if you are racing, spend every moment trimming sails and moving crew weight for optimal boat speed, look at weather forecasts, or enjoy listening to music (once doing a delivery from Bermuda to St. Thomas we had a looping cassette player.  A James Taylor tape was in there, and played non-stop for 24 hours, either we were too lazy to go change the tape below decks, or we all liked Stringbean’s tunes).  If the winds are light, and you are moving slowly you can cast a line and go fishing.  Some like to write while sailing.  If within connectivity cell distance of shore, some look online on a laptop with a cell antenna to see mostly weather, or news, or with smart phones, do your regular internet thang.

When You’re Sailing Around the World, Do you Drop Sails at Night and Go to Sleep? (asked 1 time)
This is the sailors favorite question.  Do cars stop at night?  Trucks? Airplanes? Sailing is no different.  Just as truckers and airplane pilots have a cabin for drivers/pilots get their sleep, so do sailors.  It is common to use a “watch system” while doing overnight sails.  The common system is 1/2 of the crew sleeps 4 hours, while the other 1/2 of the crew works the deck for 4 hours, then they switch, doing this around the clock.  While it might sound like each of the two teams on-board gets 12 hours of sleep a day, it’s not like that.  When off-watch, you will take care of hygiene, eat, spend some of that time trying to fall asleep, and will be awoken commonly 20 minutes early for your on-deck watch so you can get dressed and prepare yourself for another 4 hours of work.  All boats are required to have “navigation lights” operating at night, which tells other boats what direction you are heading, and you can see what direction they are heading.  The rules of the road apply at night as they do during the day, just like in a car.

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