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About Our First Boat
A Morgan 24 – Points Unknown
2004
Under Way
~ Getting a Feel for the Heel ~
Points Unknown Icon
Kelleys Island
Our Maiden Adventure
Dry, sunny weather finally arrived on the weekend of July 9th. We made it to the marina by Friday afternoon, early enough to leave the dock and take a couple of spins around Sandusky Bay. Shortly after we bought the boat, the previous owner, Jerry had been kind enough to show us the ropes – literally. But this was the first time Points Unknown had just us two as crew. And Don was a sailing virgin.

While growing up, he fished on a lot of different lakes; Wingfoot, Conneaut, Erie, from a lot of different powerboats; jon, pontoon, center console. However, until now he'd never been on a body of water in a sailboat. Our US Power Squadron classes gave him a leg up to be sure. But imagining the physical experience can only go so far.

I, on the other hand had been sailing on this lake for nearly two decades – though always as crew on another's boat with an experienced hand onboard. Now it was our boat, and I was the experienced hand guiding Don through each maneuver. Fortunately, Points Unknown was a nimble little vessel that quickly verified each lesson. The smile could not be wiped off my face that day!

Daylight had started to stretch longer over the hours, and we squeezed out every minute sculpting long, lazy eights with our many tacksA maneuver by which the vessel's bow, or front turns through the wind so that the sail changes from one side to the other. and jibesA maneuver by which the vessel's stern, or back turns through the wind so that the sail changes from one side to the other.. I glanced away from the sail for a moment and noticed that Don's fretful face had finally transformed into a broad grin, just like mine. Then like a teasing nymph, the wind piped up and nudged Points into a heelLeaning sideways at an angle..

"Whhoooaaaa…SHIP!" he gasped (well…it sounded like that anyways). "Any boat I've ever been on, and that would have meant we were sinking!" he stammered while grabbing the cockpit coamingA vertical surface designed to deflect seawater..

"Let's bury the railTerm for when a sailing vessel is heeling sharp enough to dip the leeward side in the water.!" I cheered, but he needed a bit more time to get comfortable with that maneuver. Actually, only two months time and then I'd be the one grabbing the cockpit coaming!

Passing Cedar Point Amusement Park
~ Passing Cedar Point Amusement Park ~
Just Around the Corner
Rather than move Points Unknown closer to home, the prospect of sailing to remote destinations off the mainland was more enticing, and that was possible with the string of islands that only existed on the western end of the lake. In the expanse of a weekend, we could experience island life on a dozen little enclaves and really feel like we'd journeyed to a different world, totally worth the 90 minute drive.

Saturday dawned as beautiful as ever for a Northern Ohio summer day, so we pointed our bow toward the closest offshore harbor, Kelleys Island. Though the second smallest of the Great Lakes, Erie is also the shallowest. And that, along with Ohio's incredibly unpredictable weather is what makes it the most dangerous.

With an average depth of only 60 feet, it doesn't take long for winds to whip the waves up into high peaks. Additionally, because it is such a narrow body of water the troughs are usually pushed close together, making very dangerous conditions for watercraft. It's believed that over 2000 shipwrecks are consigned to Lake Erie's depths, most of which were imprinted on the tee shirt my mother gave me as a boat warming present – her way of saying 'Be Careful!'

But today the water was calm, the winds were light, and we had just 8NM to our destination. Once outside of the marina, the sails filled and Cedar Point soon slipped past. Heading out over the deep blue waters of a lake that is still so vast its opposing shores lay far beyond the horizon was far more exciting than riding any rollercoaster that shoreside amusement park had to offer.

Kelleys Island Welcome
~ Kelleys Island Welcome ~
Hooked on a Feeling
Apparently, everyone else was anxious to kick-off the short sailing season, because by the time we arrived the marinas were full. We didn't have a dinghy to take to shore, so anchoring would prohibit us from actually stepping foot on the island. Our only option was to take a spot on the outer wall of the Portside Marina pier. As long as the swell stayed mild, we'd be fine. (Did I mention Ohio's unpredictable weather?)

Docking a single engine sailboat is always a stressful endeavor. With the pier already lined in other vessel, the fact that we had to parallel park it really enhanced that anxiety. Jerry had shown us how tightly we'd turn and we were tiny. All we needed to do was squeeze in between a couple of expensive yachts. So with Don on the tiller and me at the bow, and everyone at the docks, on their decks, and in the diner watching, our relationship was truly tested.

There are a few times in one's life when some sort of magic takes over, and despite practicality, rationality, and reason – a perfect 10 is earned. Against all odds, you glide with grace, you orate with eloquence, your pitch sounds perfect, you hold all the aces, you hit a hole in one. Then you keep your cool and come off looking like a pro. For us, this was one of those times.

The fenders breathed a gentle sigh as we flipped the dock lines around the cleats with the ease of a couple old salts. I swung agilely around the shroudCable that runs from the top of the mast to the sides of a ship's hull. on my way to the cockpit while Don wove the sheetsRopes that control the sails. in a clean coil. Then we both went below and whooped up our excellent moves. The feeling of excitement, awe, pride, and pleasure that we felt after sailing alone on open waters, and successfully reaching a remote shore; this was probably the very point at which we both became completely hooked.

Kelleys Cows
~ Kelleys Cows ~
Going Past the Past
It'd been many years since I'd been to Kelleys Island, and this was another first for Don. Surprisingly, Ohio's North Shore boasted some of the best vineyards in the country, and one thing I knew for sure was that several wineries were located on these islands. It was time to celebrate and I knew just the place to go – Kelleys Island Wine Co.

After spending the morning out in the cooling breeze, we quickly broke out in a grumbly sweat under the confines of this verdant land. And it didn't help that I'd led us down the wrong path. But if we were to become cruisers, traveling more often on foot than on fuel was a going to become part of our future. And it gave us a chance to really enjoy the island's rural landscape and quaint cottages. Time moved at a slower pace here, and the scenery transported us to a bygone era.

Though it's the second largest Lake Erie island, Kelleys is still just over four square miles. And a lot of charm, history, and natural beauty is packed inside its 11 mile shoreline. The island's ancient history is etched in the grooves left by the glaciers, and the petroglyphs inscribed by the natives. But it was the dense red cedar forest and limestone quarry that attracted the Kelley brothers in 1833. And the churches, school, library, and town hall born of that era still stand amongst the many centuries old manors and cottages.

Our Happy Hour
~ Our Happy Hour ~
Island Wining and Dining
Our visit to the winery was perfect. A plate of lovely Ohio cheeses washed down with a nice bottle of local wine did the trick to relax us into the island's mood. Our walk back toward the boat was curtailed by a couple of kids out for a golf cart joy ride.

They were most definitely delighted with their independence, and kindly stopped to offer us a lift. We happily hopped in for a bit of a wild ride, then after dropping us off they departed in a giggle of frenzied freedom.

It didn't take long for us to wander into all the little, nautically themed shops and bars, until we landed at the Casino, a quintessential angler's pub that, back in the mid 50s had become famous for their talking dog, Tarzan. The Boston terrier's guttural words were said to be more comprehensible than those of the fishermen who lingered at the bar. It was the perfect, quirky place for us to tie one on as well, because it was so close to where we'd tied the boat.

When we returned to Points Unknown, she was wallowing almost worse than we were. Perhaps that's why sailors are notable drinkers because the alcohol sort of equalized the loll of a sailboat. We'd no problems falling asleep in any event.

A Seasoned Sailor
~ A Seasoned Sailor ~
Early Morning Taps
Just as the sun began to filter through our eyelids, a light rap started to percolate overhead. I shook off the sleep to be sure it was real. Tap…tap tap…taptaptap. With no particular rhythm the noise bounced all over the deck.

"Don, do you hear that?" I prodded him into wakefulness.

"It's just rain drops." he resisted.

"But it's sunny out, and it doesn't sound right." I persuaded. June had been a lousy wet month so we'd spent many a rainy night onboard, and I was fairly certain what I was hearing was sharper – more staccato.

Don sat up, his interest peaked. "Maybe dew dripping from the spreaders?"

And then "RATTATTAT-TAT" burst directly overhead. Close inspection through the narrow ports revealed nothing to explain this bizarre clatter. We finally got the nerve to slide the companionway hatch open, and pop our heads out into the frenzy.

You could have knocked me over with a feather! Our bright, white deck had attracted a swam of mayflies, which in turn attracted every pointy beaked seabird on the island. The normally skittish diners were so intent on their breakfast, they weren't even scared off by our sudden appearance! When they did finally fly off, nary an antenna, leg, nor wing was left behind. The birds had cleared the decks!

First Love
With its lovely vineyards, historic villages, natural wonders, beaches, and boardwalks; Kelleys Island has so much to offer, in fact that we were drawn to sail to its shores several times that summer and each adventure was different. We even spent our very first night at anchor in the North Bay, far from city lights where the night sky blanketed us in stars. Those many firsts will forever make me sentimental about Kelleys Island.
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“Greatness is not where we stand, but in what direction we are moving….we must sail, sometimes with the wind, sometimes against it, but sail we must, and not drift nor lie at anchor.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes