Late October Dinghy Danger, sailboat’s on the hard

It’s over.  Boat’s officially up on her rack for the winter.  Balanced on some iron rods on a cement parking lot, waiting for the return of summer days.  We keep her about 15 miles south of downtown, up the Calumet River at Crowley’s Yacht Yard.  It’s about a 2-3 hour sail south from Monroe Harbor where we keep her moored in the summer.  My boat partner and I do the trip together most every year and it’s always a great time.  This year we had perfect wind and weather, fairly warm for a late fall day, with a beautiful sun and nice breeze out of the west.  Each year we need to take the harness off our buoy, get the dinghy from shore, pump out the head (where the toilet proceeds are stored), and fill her up with diesel before heading south.  Noteworthy this year was the dinghy pickup procedure.  I dropped Aaron off on shore to get the dinghy, which he promptly did, dropping her into the water and shoving off while I pulled the big boat up beside him.  He got ahold of the boat, stood up in the dinghy and began tying her to the stern of the Imjatse (the boat’s name, she’s an Ericson 28).  I asked him “You all set?” and he said “yep!” so I gunned it as we were in a hurry.  Next thing I hear is “hey! hey! hey!” and I look back to see him laying on his back on the side of the dinghy, flailing around, body half in the water, half in the dinghy, desperately trying to stay out of the water as it slowly heeled over. 

 I watched him, turned back to the wheel, turned back to see him, not sure what to do for a split second before I cut the gas, but too late as I watched him, fully clothed in about four layers, slip into Lake Michigan.  I dropped the ladder and in a split second he swam to the boat and seemed to fly up it, next thing he is standing there in the cockpit with me and we both begin laughing, doubled over.  Would have been even better had he not had his I-phone in his pocket which was destroyed.  Suck.  Fortunately he had some foul weather gear on board he was able to change into.

A tradition we have is drinking some Ol’ Grandad Whiskey on the way down.

Ol' Grandad on the Imjatse

Before we left, there was a fairly bad omen – a sunken boat being hauled out of the harbor.  Very sad to see.  Apparently several boats broke loose from their moorings during a fierce storm out of the southeast.  Monroe Harbor is unprotected in the north end of the harbor to swells out of the southeast – huge waves can roll in straight from the lake after miles of building up, unchecked by a seawall.  A few boats’ harnesses couldn’t take it and broke loose and the boats were quickly blown into the north end of the harbor where they were beaten to death against the iron walls and sank.  Very sad and a recurring nightmare of mine.

We made a gorgeous sail about three hours south under jib and main, avoiding the shoals but barely, watching the depth gauge go from 28 feet to eight feet in just a few seconds, that’ll wake you up!

We entered the outer Calumet harbor and radioed the drawbridges, they kindly stopped the car traffic and both opened for us.   We waited maybe five minutes for another sailboat as well as a tugboat to both head up the river with us.  After a smooth landing at the Crowley’s docks, my girlfriend Lisa picked us up, great day!

A weekend or two later we again headed to the boatyard and winterized the boat, and also shrink-wrapped her.  About a four hour job.  Also changed the oil, put in a new oil filter, and ran antifreeze into the engine and through the water system.


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