Sunday, May 30, 2010

Night Sky picture

One of our dogsledding guests who brought their family sailing for a three day trip sent me this link for a stunning nighttime picture of Outer Island Light. The link for a short video with a couple pictures and their story is here The night sky from the cockpit a sailboat anchored in the Apostle Islands is extraordinary. The Islands are so far from background light that the stars are much brighter even than on the mainland.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More boats in!

We put Egret in a couple weeks ago and I got some pictures of it. A large crane picks up the boat and gently sets it in the water. It made me nervous the first couple times having all that boat swinging through the air, but now I am used to it and often help guide her into place.
The keel has 7500 lbs of lead in it and you can see it here hanging below the boat. The sole purpose of the weight--called ballast--is to keep you from tipping over when the wind blows hard. The further you lean the more the keel acts to keep you up!

Egret is such a beautiful boat, I couldn't help taking a picture at the dock. The name Egret comes from a friendly Great Egret that watches us in Florida on our yearly March trip to the Panhandle area. Emma and Greta, our daughters names, combined makes Egret!

4th Graders

Today we took my daugther's 4th Grade class out sailing. The energy from a group of 4th graders is more powerful than a hurricane. I had the girls, plus their wonderful teacher Ms. Kouba and Captain Andrew took the Boys, along with Mr. Lemmler. They fought over who could steer next, and whose turn it was to go up on deck. The water was measured today at 64 degrees, which is warmer than all of last summer! They took turns putting their feet in as we sailed along. They want to go faster, lean over more and be more daring. What a change since 3rd grade, when they all screamed when we heeled over a little! This small town has the greatest kids!

The North Coast Community Sailing program visited school today, so we piggy-backed with them. What a great organization. I hope some of the kids take advantage of their program this summer and learn how to sail.
Feels like summer in the Apostle Islands already!

Friday, May 21, 2010

1st Trip

We sailed this week for the first time. The water is normally in the 30s in May, but this year it is already up in the 50s! That means it is like summer out there. The trip went very well on Egret. We sailed out to Long Island, anchored, and two couples rowed to shore for an hour of this beautiful wild beach. The sail back required a little help as the wind was light, but we sailed most of the way.

We are getting a daily lake breeze. It is the same as a sea breeze. The air warms up over the land, rises and draws in the cool air over the Lake. It starts at about 10am and lasts until late afternoon. By early July, it is all over, but it makes for wind almost every day until then. Some days, there are even whitecaps. There are certain spots where the lake breeze is best, others where it is calm. The feel of the moist lake air on a sunny hot day is an unforgettable Great Lakes experience.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Teenagers at their best

Normally, sailors take down the sails and motor into a busy anchorage. With a dose of hollering and frustration, they drop the anchor, back the motor down to set it, and finally, shut off the noisy engine and settle in for the night. It is a bit like watching a couple back their motor home into a narrow spot at the campground. To improve their skills, the teenagers who sail on our group trips learn to do this all under sail, with grace and pride. This often draws applause from those who may be anchored already, and certainly admiration.
On our group overnights, each new group of six teenagers aboard get pretty good at running the boat after a couple days. A group from a couple years ago, I remember well. They arrived the first evening at the dock with very little skills but lots of enthusiasm. The next morning when we left Bayfield, they drilled and learned and practiced laughed and by the second day the girls were running the boat all by themselves. They had gone from knowing very little about sailing to mastering such advanced skills as anchoring under sail.

The wind was blowing hard the evening of Day 2 as we approached Raspberry, one of my favorite Apostle Islands. The waves were several feet high and we came tearing across them toward the point that protects the anchorage from the open Lake. Beyond the point, the water was flat glass calm and contained several other boats resting at anchor. As we came to find out, one of the boats was another group of teenagers--boys, with their captain, who had motored in and dropped anchor a little while before (picture the RV couple at the campground). They were jumping off the boat and swimming, trying to show off to each other and anyone else around, as teenagers do. We were aimed right for them as we roared past the the point and into the calm, crew ready to douse the sails and drop the anchor. Now, when someone is sailing in hard right at you, it appears like you might be rammed and sunk, but at just the right moment, the young lady at the helm turned hard to port spinning the boat into the wind. The others furled the jib (the main they had taken down a minute before) and we quickly came to a stop in the perfect resting place. The anchor was deployed. After practicing this manoever five times over the past two days, no one was even excited and they acted like they had done it all of their lives. The girls cleated off the anchor rode and returned to their discussion about Twilight, or whatever book they were reading. They paid no attention to the neighboring boat but there was a subtle pride when the boys applauded. "What's their problem?" Giggle.

Energy Independence Project

We started installing our components this week to make two of our boats more energy independent. While they still have engines that we use to get in and out of the harbor and drive the boat when there is no wind, we won't have to run them at all just to charge the batteries on a several day trip. If there is decent wind, we can often sail in and out of anchorages and sometimes even docks.

Now, I could go into an endless discussion about costs and benefits of what we are doing, but I'll just sum it up instead. We tried electric motors several years ago, but they are still too expensive and batteries are still not good enough for a long offshore trip. Rather than try to save the 20 gallons of diesel we use per boat every year,

Five years ago, we installed auxiliary electric motors on Dreamcatcher, which lasted only a couple months before they died. They were not designed for staying underwater

Since the wind is our main energy source, we only use about 20 gallons of diesel per year on each boat. I can save more fuel by riding my bike to work for a week, than to try to change the auxiliary power on the boats to electric. We tried an experiment five years ago and although it worked well, we decided to make the boats sail better and that would be more effective. Electric drives, powered by wind, solar and just turning the prop backwards when you sail, are available but still too expensive. Our objectives with this project are only to eliminate the need to run the engine for an hour every day to charge the batteries for our electric needs.

When you do the math, conservation is a lot cheaper than solar or wind generation and has a long term benefit. We use electricity for lights, VHF radio, radar, GPS, music system, fresh water pump and for charging electronics and cell phones. Air conditioning is only a matter of opening a hatch; heat, stove and oven are propane; there is no microwave and refrigeration is much more efficient by using ice from our ice maker in Bayfield. Radar is only used in fog, so it doesn't drain much most of the time. All the electronics are pretty efficient. That leaves lights and they are easy to replace with LEDs. Our new loads will be about 1/5 of what we used last year. That means the solar panels can be 1/5 the size.

We found some roll-up solar panels that can be attached on top of some of the canvas on the boat that protects us from the sun and spray. If the weather is bad, we can take them in. They will provide plenty of power for a several day trip without using the engine.

Most sailors motor in and out of the quiet anchorages so they can charge their batteries while making their maneuvering easier. I can only remember a couple people sailing in and only a couple sailing out of the anchorage, so when we do it, everyone watches with wonder. Running a diesel for short periods is not good for them, is noisy, and stinks, so we are looking forward to not having to do this. It is also great skills training for everyone and often draws applause from other boaters...

That reminds me of a story, which is much more fun than watts and amp-hours.