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About Our First Boat
A Morgan 24 – Points Unknown
2004
Vacating the Marina
~ Vacating the Marina ~
Points Unknown Icon
Season Finale
A Boat Storage Story
The docks were looking as bare as the trees, so we had to face facts. The time had come to take Points Unknown out of the water and put her into storage.

One of our marina mates called it Boo-Hoo day, and we totally understood. There would be no more sailing in warm breezes, no more days of island adventures, no more nights anchored under the stars. I had never been so sad to see a summer end.

When I called my mom to ask if we might borrow her mini van for the haul out, she curiously hesitated.

"I don't think it's powerful enough to pull your boat out of the water." she worried.

"It's a 5000 pound boat! I know it can't!" I couldn't help but laugh at her misunderstanding. "We just want to bring some of our gear and the outboard back to the house to store over the winter. That's why we wanted to use the van."

To be fair, in May we were just as nescient as mom still was regarding the workings of a full blown marina. But now we had a season of experience under our caps, and a travel liftA four wheeled, motorized steel frame designed to launch and hoist larger boats. schedule to keep.

Yarns
Though I've chronicled 7 pages of memories about that short 6 months, there were many, many more occurrences like the one above, that I just do not want to slip away. At the beginning of this chapter, I mentioned all the Crazy, Lazy, Amazing, Amusing, Terrifying, Intimidating, Gratifying, Relaxing, Taxing, Pleasurable, and Memorable adventures we had during that one season on our Morgan. So I've decided to document all these other noteworthy incidents here as little yarns (all true), spun around each of those adjectives.
Snake in the Coils
~ Snake in the Coils ~
A Crazy Experience
While strolling down the dock, Don pointed out a snake coiled around a cleat. It blended in with the boat's dock line almost perfectly.

"Do you think that's real?" he inquired.

"Nah, it's fake." I confidently declared. "People use them to scare off birds, so they don't poop all over the deck."

I reached down to pick up the rubber reptile, then quickly stumbled backward as it slithered to life and wiggled away. Don and I followed its path into the water, and as it swam to the breakwall we began to observe that there were more snakes…many, many more snakes…EVERYWHERE!

How had we not noticed all of them before?! These scaly spine-tinglers were innumerably integrated into every feature of the marina! We spied supine serpents woven into the rocky shore. They were curled up in ropes and writhing around dock posts. Then we noticed dozens upon dozens piled up on the swim platform of every powerboat in the marina! Suddenly, Don and I were very grateful it took a ladder to climb out of the water into Points Unknown.

These yardstick long sidewinders were, in fact, later identified as the very endangered Lake Erie Watersnake (LEWS), a non-venomous subspecies with one of the smallest geographic ranges of any vertebrate in the world. The nerve-rattling invasion we'd encountered was actually the LEWS in their late spring mating balls, an annual event that fortunately ended quickly. By the time we next returned to the marina, all the squirmy hissers had dispersed thankfully, and we could relax comfortably – onboard. But it'd be sometime before I'd be willing to jump in the water! No matter how big the bay, to swim with that many snakes is just plain CRAZY!

Diana Relaxing
~ Diana Relaxing ~
A Lazy Experience
Being new to being members of a marina gave us insight to a marvelously sociable boating culture we scarcely knew existed. We spent lots of time relaxing outside in the cockpit surrounded by others doing the same. Like neighbors chatting over the hedges, we bantered between boats about our projects, our passages, and our plans.

During one scuttlebutt session late in the season, Don and I recounted our perilous passage back from Put-In-Bay, along with the subsequent experience of nearly sinking. Our neighbor was astonished, but not for the reason we thought.

"You sailed all the way to South Bass Island!?" he marveled. "I've had my boat for 6 years and never been out of Sandusky Bay! The guy on the other side of us hasn't ever left the marina!"

We'd spent every weekend, holiday, vacation day, and a handful of weekdays on Points Unknown. Any moment the wind was right, we headed out to explore, to romp, and to frolic. Though we were happy to stay in the shelter of the bay when the lake was less then ideal, it was still a very confined puddle compared to what lies beyond. When NOAANational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. said GO-ah, we took their advice and went!

But it was nearly just as much fun to laze around onboard at the marina. If a small craft advisory warned us to wait, and the boat-job du jour was done, we had the time to read a book, play a game, or chat with our neighbors. We came to appreciate that all the distractions caused by housework, errands, television, and computers were miles away.

Turns out sometimes boating bestows the time to do nothing; to wait for the fish to bite, to listen to the water lapping on the shore, to follow the flight of a seagull, to watch the sun slip down below the horizon. This was an unexpected aspect of life on the water that I could get behind! I mean what other sport encourages its participants to be LAZY?

Don Covering the Mainsail
~ Don Covering the Mainsail ~
An Amazing Experience
Autumn wailed in with a cold and blustery reminder that the season was nigh, but as long as the blankets kept us comfy, Don and I were determined to spend every night we could onboard. Rigging and canvas were successfully torn from their lashings by the incessant wind, so rescuing and resecuring them was the morning's first order of business. After verifying everything was put to rights, we walked up to the marina to wash the chill bumps away in their shower facilities. But when we returned to shore, we were stunned by what we found. It seemed someone had pulled a giant plug and nearly drained the lake!

The first indication of the drastic drop was the inclination to our floating dock. The ramp on shore sloped down to the wharf at a frighteningly sharp angle. Looking over the bay, we noticed large swaths of previously submerged rock and muck, laid bare to the stiff breeze. Once we returned onboard we were stunned to see that the breakwall eclipsed our view, enclosing us in a fortress of anaerobic infused boulders. The lake had to have dropped six feet!

Erie, as is all the Great Lakes, is considered to be non-tidal, meaning the impact of the sun and moon's gravitational forces are nearly imperceptible. So everyday, all day long, everything in the harbor remained fairly status quo as far as soundings were concerned. Where did all the water go?

When we first started our journey to become cruisers, we attended many preparation classes given by the USPS. One course I found quite tedious was Weather, but I remembered a phenomena covered during that seminar called Seiche. It was a term Don and I hadn't heard before so it stuck in my brain.

A seiche refers to a standing wave, or an oscillation of the surface of a landlocked body of water caused by resonances that has been disturbed by wind and/or atmospheric pressure. Yeah – I warned you that it was tedious.

Basically, when strong winds persist in one direction over the lake and the barometer is on the rise, the two forces have the ability to shove the water en masse, causing the windward side to drop, while the leeward side rises. We'd been badgered by both weather conditions during the night so the environment was ripe.

Apparently, because of its shallow depth and long northeast to southwest axis, Lake Erie is particularly prone to extreme seiches of up to 16 feet! Hmm…I guess that's why the USPS covered it in our class! But what I found so astonishing was how quickly the water level retreated. In only 15 or 20 minutes, we'd lost half the depth of the lake! To see first hand, this remarkable weather spectacle was AMAZING!

An Evening on the Water
~ An Evening on the Water ~
An Amusing Experience
One evening while on Points Unknown, Don and I were sitting outside in the company of our neighbors on both sides, who were also hanging out in their respective cockpits. Evening had spread a blanket of darkness over the entire marina, but that didn't drive us below. It was such a nice quiet night out under the stars.

One boat just a few docks over, however, was having quite the party. Their boogie down music, boozy singing, and boisterous laughter wafted over the marina. Apparently, these two revelers weren't aware of the amazing clarity with which sound travels over water. But all ears in the marina must have pricked as soon as the persuasive parlay began.

"Let's dance naked on the flybridge!" giggled one.

"You want to?! I will if you will!" the other goaded.

"Come on! We'll both do it! It'll be a blast!"

The two scampered up to their boat's high platform; their continued daring discourse made it easy for us to pinpoint their dance floor. After more prodding and prompting, they pledged to strip simultaneously.

In unison the countdown commenced. "One… Two…"

Apparently, these two kooks weren't aware of another thing about traveling over water. All well prepared mariners keep high-powered spotlights onboard – we're talking 1,000,000 candelas bright. In the likely event that something should happen on the water during the night, it's extraordinarily important to be able to see as well as day. So in the time these two wags worked up their courage, the rest of us quietly made ready.

"…THREE!"

BAM! The marina lit up like a stadium! Beams from every direction were drawn on two drunks in the midst of disrobing. Laughter exploded from every dock as the lime lit couple bent over in embarrassment, hobbling away in escape while trying to use every other limb for cover. I can't say what they might have thought about, or if they even remembered getting caught in the buff by a bunch of boaters. But I do know their unanticipated audience found the striptease exceptionally AMUSING!

The Extinguishing Decor
~ The Extinguishing Decor ~
A Terrifying Experience
Points Unknown's monstrous Coleman® camp stove nearly gassed us out of the boat each time we used it. All the more reason to replace it with the sleek Kenyon marine stove I won after a rousing bidding war on eBay. Unfortunately, because it wasn't exactly 'new,' my acquisition didn't come with instructions.

You might be thinking "It's a stove! How hard could it be?"

Well let me tell you. This particular stove burned pressurized alcohol – something neither Don nor I had dealt with before. I liked how the fuel tank was integrated in the body, but there were odd little cups under the burners, and a weird plunger thingy between the on/off valves. Oddly enough, the internet didn't impart much information, only that pumping and priming had to occur before cooking could commence.

Very soon the time had come to kick the tires and light the fires onboard the Morgan! I confidently filled the Kenyon's tank, and figured the rest would be learned by trial and error. I turned a valve on and held a match to the burner, but that experiment flamed out immediately. I pulled and pushed on the plunger a bit, but really didn't see the point. I tried turning the other valve on, then WHOA! The little cup under the burner overflowed, spilling alcohol all over the counter.

After mopping up that mess, I moved forward with what I'd figured out thus far. Pump, pump, pump. Turn on then quickly off. Ok. I got a petite cocktail in the cup. I struck a match and poof. It lit – I think.

The air wavered with heat, but there was no flicker of blue or yellow or orange. The ethanol disappeared into the ether, my only proof it'd burned away. Evidently alcohol blazes in a near colorless fashion, which added an unexpected measure of danger to the endeavor. I started thinking that old Coleman stove was looking better by the minute.

Then Don came below to assess my proceedings. I put on my 'I know what I'm doing' pretense and repeated the process. Pump, pump, pump, pump. Turn on, dribble, turn off. Poof. Just when the little cup lit, our little boat bumped.

"FIRE!" Don yelled!

Though I don't know why. I was standing right next to him and I couldn't see anything amiss. A ray of sunshine flashed through the companionway and verified the fiasco in a prism.

"OH MY GOD! FIRE!" Our countertop was engulfed, the flames licked at the wooden fiddleA raised edge to prevent items from sliding off when in motion.!

I reached for the pitcher of water to douse the fire but stopped when Don bellowed "NO! That'll just spread it more!"

The last thing I saw was Don ripping the extinguisher from the wall, pulling the pin, and squeezing the trigger.

Points Unknown probably only had a hundred square feet of space below her decks and Don emptied out that entire canister. There wasn't a particle of matter below that wasn't cloaked in white powdered. We choked our way out in a billow of bicarbonate. Once the cloud dissipated, we had such a mess! But more importantly, we also still had a boat.

Because we're literally surrounded by water, most people think that there's not much need to worry about fires on boats. But that is far from the truth. Modern vessels carry multiple types of fuel; diesel, gasoline, propane, alcohol, and lamp oil – all designed to burn efficiently. And most of these highly toxic combustibles don't mix with water, spreading the fire rather than extinguishing it.

We'd learned USPS courses prepared us for

The Scary Alcohol Stove
~ The Scary Alcohol Stove ~
A Intimidating Experience
Lighting that same damn stove while on a bouncy mooring.
CAPTION
~ CAPTION ~
A Gratifying Experience
I was especially gratified to discover our extended family wanted to become acquainted with our dream. Because when we dreamed out loud of sailing the high seas, they echoed back the trepidation we fought so hard to tamp down. They knew how we'd been raised with solid land under our feet. How could we feel we had salt running through our veins? But by the time the season came to an end, they seemed to understand.
CAPTION
~ CAPTION ~
A Relaxing Experience
Don's big fish
CAPTION
~ CAPTION ~
A Taxing Experience
Willie's Canoe
CAPTION
~ CAPTION ~
A Pleasurable Experience
Don and I had discovered a sandbar just east of Johnson's Island. It seemed completely out of place; a spit of powdery, white sand that clearly belonged in the tropics! Other than being 15 degrees too far North, it was quintessential in every way; secluded, serene, picturesque, and pristine. And perfect for taking advantage of Points Unknown's shallow draft.

After zipping around under the hot sun for and few hours, we nosed in and dropped anchor just a few yards from shore. Without warning, Don leapt into the lake. It took a lot of coaxing, but eventually all us of the fairer sex jumped in as well.

BUUURRRR!! That bugger never let on how cold the water really was! Even this late in the year the lake was slanting into the 60s! However, closer to shore the temperatures climbed, and our walk along the bar quickly melted the chill-bumps. Nancy and Lydia were just as enamored by our Atlantis on the lake as Don and I had been. We were pretty proud to show them an inkling of what we imagined it'd be like in our future as live-aboards.

CAPTION
~ CAPTION ~
A Memorable Experience
Watching the shooting stars through the hatch while anchored off Kelly's Island
CAPTION
~ CAPTION ~
Let's Become Full Time Sailors
That year we experienced the full gamut of emotions induced by sailing. We learned so many lessons, loved every moment, and were confident that this was indeed the life we wanted to live. Every day spent aboard was like a vacation, and in the end, we successfully followed what I consider the three most important rules about sailing. We kept the boat in the water, kept ourselves in the boat, and didn't hit anything.
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About Our 1st Boat
A Morgan 24 – Points Unknown
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