R 22

Rhodes 22


1st Yr Experiennces

Dynamic Equilibrium was not our 1st sailboat. My 1st year experiences occured in Compromise, a VanDeStadt & McGruer Siren 17. My wife, Deb & I had purchased the boat + Chrysler 6 hp outboard + trailer from a dealer in Midland, MI. We daysailed it for a couple of weeks & overnighted once with it on Sanford Lake. But, the dealer had said, "This boat is seaworthy enough to sail on the Great Lakes." So, we decided we were going to put the boat in at Au Gres, MI, stay overnight at the Au Gres Harbor of Refuge, sail about 30 nm up the western Lake Huron coast to Tawas, MI, overnight at the Tawas Harbor of Refuge, & sail back to Au Gres the next day.

I could tell many funny stories about that 1st cruise because things started going crooked right from the launching. However, for now, I will only relate something which happened as we were pulling into our slip at the Tawas Harbor of Refuge.

I guess I should 1st explain what a "Harbor of Refuge" is. The US Army Corps of Engineers, local communities, the MDNR have teamed up to build a wonderful system of recreational marinas along Michigan's Great Lakes coastline. They're called Harbors of Refuge & the state is attempting to put one every 15 miles of Great Lakes coastline. They're not quite there yet because Michigan's Great Lakes coastline is so vast & there are long stretches of virtually uninhabited wilderness in the upper peninsula along Lake Superior.

However, there are a couple of hundred Harbors of Refuge already up & running with more being added to the system every year. So, it's already a pretty impressive system. The Harbors of Refuge system makes it possible & safe to sail the Great Lakes with much smaller watercraft than would be otherwise required. The Tawas Harbor of Refuge is built up at the northern end of Tawas Bay, which gives good protection from every direction except the south.

To complete the weather protection for this Harbor of Refuge, the engineers designed a mile long steel & concrete bulkhead which is attached to the shore on one end & wraps around the harbor like a capital letter C. It's a pretty impressive & intimidating structure, something you wouldn't want to hit with a shiny new plastic boat...

The outboard motor was also new & the dealer had adjusted the air/ fuel mixture to be a little on the rich side for the break-in period. At idle, it tended to foul the spark plugs & stall.

So, after a long day of sailing, we're pulling into our slip. I'm going a little faster than I would prefer in order to keep the motor from stalling. But, it's OK because Deb is going to throw the dock attendant the bow line as we pass. He'll snub it off & everything will be cool. However, Deb neglected to attach the bow line to a cleat. I wish I had a picture of the dock attendant's face as this neatly coiled dock line landed in his hands & we zoomed past! Or my face for that matter. I attempted to shift into reverse & the motor stalled.

By now, the steel bulkhead at the end of the slip is looming up pretty fast! Without thinking, I ran to the bow, jumped over the bow pulpit onto a piling, grabbed the bow pulpit, & started pushing to stop the boat. I immediately realized I'd made a big mistake & the boat was probably going to pin me against the bulkhead! Scared to death, I must have had an adrenaline surge, because I managed to stop the boat with just enough room for me to fit between the bow pulpit & the bulkhead. I was breathing heavily, pulled every muscle in my back, arms, & shoulders, & was starting shake a bit from the fright.

As I started to climb back on board, a polite applause went up from all the neighboring boats. I was embassased, but stood there on the foredeck & acknowledged the applause. Deb was so mortified she ducked below into the cabin, leaving me to finish tying up the boat. Eventually, she got her composure back & we went out to dinner in Tawas. So began my cruising career...

Roger Pihlaja
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
07 Feb 2001

The first year's experiences, which we all can laugh about years later, are things new folks don't want to bring up. It's only after a bit of time passes, and the wounds heal that most of us talk about the first time we put our foot up to brace against the seat, only to miss and slide off the seat and under the leeward seat. Man did that hurt. Of course, after I pulled myself together and got up, the first thing to do was look and see if anyone else saw that magnifignant maneuver. Yea, I planned that neat tack and I followed through just like I expected. Of course I can steer from that position.

Hasn't happined to you yet??? Bet it will. It's funny a year later. Ever gone swimming when you actually planned to get in the dinghy? I am not going to talk about that one. Nobody was there to see it, so it did not happen.

07 Feb 2001

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