After giving up sailing for eight weeks of the sailing season in Chicago, spending somewhere between 15-16 days working on this boat, we made it to the starting line of the Chicago Yacht Club to Mackinac Island race.
We still had things that needed tweaking, and during the race (more like a sea trial) found some sixteen more things that would be nice to iron out to make things as nice as possible. None of them huge, all of them minor stuff.
Because we were still drilling holes and mounting things the morning of the race, we just weren’t quite as ready as possible. While the boat was 99% ready, and the crew was 100% physically ready, we did not have the time to scour over the various weather websites to study what might occur during the race. As a result, we didn’t have a race strategy leaving Chicago. So I’d put our effort at about 5% mentally ready.
Those who did look at the weather patterns (like everyone else in the race!) saw that there was a bubble of strong wind on the Wisconsin side of the Lake expected. By sailing by the seat of our pants, we were moving well and went to the Michigan side of the Lake. While the race started on Saturday, most of Sunday we sailed all by ourselves. No one around but us. Late Sunday a boat from a different section showed up (a faster boat) and we started playing turtle and hare with them. Every four hours we would pass one another.
On Monday as the boats converged to go through Gray’s Reef passage, we finally started seeing our competitors (I think we were 23rd out of 24 boats in our section at this time). With 35 miles to the finish line, we whittled down one, then the next, the next and had one more in our sites when that boat finished, then we finished. We ended up 20th out of 24 boats. A race strategy before the start is critical and we paid for not having one.
The parties and meetups with friends on Mackinac Island as usual was pleasureful and the stories went late into the night. The boat had brought the six members of the family safely on a 333 mile journey the length of Lake Michigan and 7 miles into Lake Huron. We took 57 hours, 29 minutes and 23 seconds, the winner of our section finished in 53 hours and 32 minutes, the stronger breezes on the Wisconsin side of the Lake make a huge difference.
29 years ago, we substituted a 33′ sailboat for another rehab project boat that was 43′ long twelve days before the start of the Mac race. Results as I recall, were about the same. Not prepared, rushed to get to the starting line and just sailed up the Lake.
To return all of these boats to their home ports after the race, many of the crew jump off the boats and either drive or fly home. Small crews either rush the boats back to Chicago non-stop, or couples take their time and cruise back to Chicago taking a few weeks, stopping at many of the beautiful ports the Lake has to offer.
A couple on our boat opted to go on a 2-1/2 week cruise down the Lake. On the fifth day of their cruise, fog set in. A navigation error led them into an unforgiving rock reef. At six knots under motor, the keel hit a rock, then another one. This led to the bottom of the boat front and back of the keel tearing allowing water to enter into the boat. Both crew received soft tissue injuries when they fell forward. A Mayday call was made and a close by boat came over and placed one of their crew aboard to help bail water.
The United States Coast Guard took over later putting one of theirs aboard who took on water duty. The boat was towed into Charlevoix, MI, and hauled out of the water.
When a boat can be repaired which this one could be, but the insured limit is less than what it would take to repair her, the insurance company calls this a “constructive total loss,” pays the insured limit to the owner, takes title to the boat, and sells her off as salvage. This is what has happened, and ends our journey with this boat.
That was a ton of work, for one relatively short sail.
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