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  #1  
Old 08-04-2008
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Lake Michigan adventure

(this gets a little long winded, sorry in advance)

Spent the last week on vacation, a family reunion just south of Grand Haven, MI. My father brought along his Harpoon 5.2. First day of sailing was a real adventure in a centerboard dinghy!

The house we rented was ~3 miles north of the Pigeon River. On Sunday we set out with 3 of my nieces and nephews to sail the boat from the Pigeon River out onto the big lake and the short sail up the coast to the beach near the house. My dad's idea was to give boat rides to the family off the beach, loading would be accomplished by beaching. The forecast was for ~1 ft waves and ~8 knot winds. Well, as we motored out the channel into the big lake the waves were more like 3+ ft and coming straight from the west into the channel - a nice fun bounce. Once out the channel we turned north and the kids had a great time as we sailed a nice reach. The kids went into the bow to enjoy the bounce. It started to get exciting a short distance north of the channel, we noticed a bit of white topped waves in front of us, at first we thought they were from a motorboat wake, then we realized they coincided with the outflow from the nearby power plant. The outflow was so strong running counter to the waves that it was pushing the waves up and causing them to get frothy. Sailed through that without an issue except that one cousin (8 y.o.) got a nice case of seasickness. I took over the role of comforting him. After a bit we drew close to the beach where the rest of the family was. We got the other two kids off the bow and surfed our way into shore. The waves were breaking in multiple spots, a few broke on the second sand bar out, all broke on the first sand bar, and then there was the shore break. Well, we got royally pooped on the way in, the water was several inches deep in the boat but we made it into shore.

Now the real fun started, the kids got off while 4 of us tried to drag the boat up onto the sand and out of the beach break. It wasn't going to happen with a 600+ pound boat that was filled with a few hundred pounds of additional water. After a quick conference my dad and I decided the boat was just going to be a problem on the shore and our best bet would be to take it out past the breakers, anchor it, and then swim back in for lunch. So, a couple of us started to push the boat out while my dad tried to fire up the outboard. No such luck, the outboard wasn't happy, had probably gotten a shot of water in the carburetor. Eventually I was the only one pushing the boat (don't know what happened to my brother-in-law). I was up to my neck in water as we were approaching the first bar, soon I was pushing the boat into the breaking waves. I know most were 3 ft with a couple of 5 ft thrown in for fun but they seemed a mile tall from my position (it is not comfortable to watch a breaking wave lift a 17 ft boat above your head). I moved to the side of the boat and managed to keep myself from being hit by the boat and pushed us through the breaking waves. Once across the first bar I had my dad hand me the anchor so I could swim it out further (as I didn't think I could push it through the deeper water past the bar). With the anchor in hand I swum out past the second bar and set the anchor, the boat was bouncing nicely between the two bars, still moving quite a bit but at least the suction bailers were able to get most of the water out and my dad was able to get the motor going. I hauled myself in over the gunnel and we had a quick conversation. We decided conditions were too rough for the planned rides from the beach and that our best bet was to head back to the Pigeon River boat launch. There we could either leave the boat rigged on the trailer and make shuttle rides in the car to bring people down or we could just take the boat out for the day.

So, I went up to the bow and began to haul in the anchor. While I was crawling up to the bow a couple of big ~5ft waves came breaking in over the outer bar and we shipped 'green' water over the bow. The first one knocked be back and almost off the boat. I think I managed to grab a shroud to stay on, my leg hit something on the boat and gave me a nice bruise on my thigh. Well, we got the anchor aboard, and had a nice sail back down to Pigeon Lake, rode the high waves across the outflow of the power plant, coasted down the waves into the mouth of the channel, and hauled the boat out. We decided at that point we had had enough sailing out of the Pigeon River, the big lake was simply too rough for the family sailing we were looking for.

The rest of the week my dad sailed out of Lake Muskegon (one of his normal sailing haunts) and Lake Macatawa. I went out with him 3 more times, twice on Macatawa (in one day), and once on Muskegon. We had great uneventful rides both of those times and we sailed out onto the big lake with no problems. Got my wife and kids (4 and 2) out on the boat twice and they all had a good time.

Now that they all had a good time I think I might be able to get the bank account opened to buy my own boat... Stay tuned for further adventures.

(sorry for the long post)
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Old 08-04-2008
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Nice post Froggy...had a good time reading it!
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