Author Archives: John Weller

About John Weller

Brought up sailing on Lake Macatawa (Holland, MI). Raced Sprites (12 ft main and jib) at the local yacht club as a youth. Raced on LicktySplit J35, BlackBeard S2 7.9, and Lake Effect T30 on Wednesday nights with the Bay Shore Yacht Club racing organization. Enjoy teaching, sailing, and skiing to those who want an adventure.

Holland to Milwaukee 2014

My crew of three and I made the Lake Michigan crossing and it was a BIG success and a personal achievement.  We crossed 73nm from Holland, Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and returned one day later.

We started at 4AM Friday and motored across because a lack of wind.  We could have water skied across the whole lake.  The fog arrived about 10AM and stayed with us until 3PM giving us only about 100-300 yards visibility for most of the crossing.  The flys found us half way and covered our boat.  We arrived 5PM in Milwaukee’s beautiful marina South Shore Yacht Club. Lots of people, fun, and excitement at the marina as they are the host of the Queen’s cup.  We had to wait for the Queens cup racers to leave so that we could find space to fuel and get a slip.

Later on, a member volunteered to give us a tour of downtown Milwaukee, river pathway, and a history lesson.  Thanks to the unofficial Milwaukee ambassador, one of my crew, my son, wants to move to Milwaukee after his bachelors degree.

Because of weather forecast, we chose to leave Saturday noon in an attempt to avoid the thunderstorms.  As we left, big anvil cumulus nimbus clouds grew from land and threatened us from land.  The wind was nice as it ranged between 10-20 knots.

The fog was at 1000 yards when we started and thickened only providing us 100 yards of visibility for most of our journey.  The rain and lightning never caught us.  At midnight, the stars were awesome.

Making the Holland channel in the dark near 4AM seemed harder than it should have been.  I have been through that channel a hundred times, but this was the hardest time, mostly due to the numerous green lights through the channel and the long time span between flashes.  Once we successfully navigated the channel, we dropped anchor for the evening in front of where the old Point West restaurant was years ago.

We note this crossing as a huge success as we skipped past threatening storms, rode the waves, trimmed for the wind, and took precautions through the fog.

Every boat has issues and these were the things we encountered.  Some these items added to our anxiety while others were minor inconveniences.  Overall, a 35′ C&C provides sufficient living space for four adults.

  • The GPS/Radar failed twice.  The first was in the middle of the lake heading to Milwaukee with heavy fog.   The error message was “NO FIX”.  We read turned off the radar and let it rest for an hour while we read the manual.  Eventually we started the unit and pressed “restart GPS”, and after a few repeats, it kept our GPS fix.  Then starting out on Saturday to return, the GPS would not hold a GPS FIX requiring many minutes of work and review of our decision to leave.
  • The binnacle compass light required touching, moving, tugging, and hoping so that it would stay lit during the night time hours.  The  compass was considered more accurate than the electronic compass and we used both to gain keep confidence on our direction.
  • The wind instrument powered off and stayed off when we switched batteries.  We re-connected the wires in the cabin and it re-started.
  • Engine starting was a challenge again.  We often had to switch the batteries to “All” in order for the starter to have enough thrust to start the diesel engine.
  • Raising the anchor requires finesse.  While retracting line, the line does not drop nicely into the storage bin, and then it requires manual cleanup every few feet.
  • A heavy red line for an unknown purpose that runs up the mast is frayed badly and in need of replacement. It is not the main sheet halyard.
  • Main sheet line shows wear and tear.  It may be time to be replaced.
  • The water pump and waste compressor would not stop running so we had to start and stop them from the instrument panel when ever they were needed.
  • I wish the check battery gauges would work like my camper with a gauge of 1-10 and 10 being full.  Also, I always wondered if there is a separate battery for the engine and others for the electronic gear.
  • Desk lamp red light was not working.  Thankfully, I always bring my own headlamp.
  • Dock pole has a crack from previous use and the twist locking was unpredictable.
  • We lost (or it did not have?) the small 4inch marine gadget cover.  We searched high and low and unable to find it.
  • The least important item was the most noticeable.  The bungee cord in the cockpit for holding the table securely needs replacement.

On Sunday morning, we refueled the diesel, pumped out the waste, and hosed off the decks.  We then re-connected the shore power and activated DC power, and closed all windows.

Captain John

Afrayed Knot Sailing Lk Michigan Crossing Flotilla 2014

Afrayed Knot Sailing’s first Lake Michigan Crossing flotilla is planned for June 26 Thursday!!!

We will depart from Holland, Mi, Lake Macatawa, Anchorage Marina, heading to Wisconsin for a day or two on land, and then return.  The exact port in Wisconsin has not been decided.  Although, Milwaukee is a top choice.  We plan to fit in some land event (i.e., Wisconsin brewery tour and/or a baseball game).  We plan to return to Holland on Sunday, but keeping Monday open if the weather dictates.

Plan on jokes, songs, music, and great food.  Some games are planned along the way including photograph scavenger hunt.  Winners to be awarded prizes upon return in Holland.

With the crossing being 80 miles long, it will take 12-14 hours at 7knots and a strait line.

The lead sailboat will be a 35 C&C chartered from GT Sailing out of Holland and Anchorage Marina.  If you need to charter a sailboat, contact GT Sailing http://www.gtsailing.com

Weather planning: Depending on the weather, we will need to leave late Thursday night or early Friday A.M., and could be 2A.M. or 6A.M.  We need to make port in the daylight.  Our return trip may leave late Saturday night through Monday A.M. to return to Holland safely.

Warning: Lake Michigan sailing can be dangerous.  Waves can reach 15ft, but we would attempt to limit our travels in six feet or less.  Sailboats tend to get wet on the interior in rough weather through ceiling fixtures and where the deck meets the sidewalls, therefore, careful packing is strongly encouraged.  The trip will be cancelled if lightning is imminent in our path to be traveled or gusts are forecast to exceed 25 miles per hour for an extended period of time.  Boat safety inspection begins Thursday at 6P.M.  Rain alone will not be cause for cancelling.

Contact me if you are crew looking for a boat, or a captain looking for crew, at john.weller@afrayedknotsailing.com

Short test run – 90 miles

Our first short leg from St. Maarten to BVI was a short easy get to know each other trip of 90 miles.  We lost site of land for a few hours. I learned our owner had the right safety equipment for ocean crossings. We easily passed the Atlantic Rally Club safety inspection. The club takes the crossings very seriously as the want a 100% success for all passengers and boats.

Caribbean to Bermuda Delivery Completed

The trip to Bermuda went excellent. Calm winds for two days and nice to heavy winds for three days.  Only 12ft swells and max winds of 27 knots.  BVI is nice, but so is Bermuda.  I can’t wait to return to both islands .  Finally made a movie of the recent caribbean trip. I cut it into four parts and I messed up the audio so it replays the same song in all four parts.

http://youtu.be/8BfCvav0nIw    part 1
http://youtu.be/5b8sqpAXQTg  part 2
http://youtu.be/XnSqiC–Kwg    part 3
http://youtu.be/0HHxJ4wxgYY  part 4

Cons: No battery charger for my kindle.
Auto helm did not work on first and last day.
Pros: One night we saw a whale breach three times, although in the distance.
Saw two dolphins.
One full night of shooting starts, 20+ an hour.
Covered another 1000 miles in my log book.
Met wonderful people in the WCC Atlantic Rally and that staffed the WCC Atlantic Rally.
Became a junior member of the Prairie Pirates.
Great food for not planning a detailed daily menu.
No sea sickness.
Really impressed with Bermuda and site seeing, but driving the scooters is a risky adventure.
Crazy dinner menu by me.  We needed to eat the chicken that was thawing in the freezer that was not working 100% as a freezer.  So I cooked it the pressure cooker with coke-cola and BBQ sauce for 40+ minutes.  It was delightful.
Bermuda is seasonally warm, and snorkeling in mid-May is a cold thrill.  We did see barracuda, and lots of big fish.  There are thousands of places to snorkel on Bermuda island.

BVI to Bermuda complete success

This delivery included 26 other boats all headed to Bermuda in preparation for continuing on to Azores and Portugal.  We came in second place on the 840 mile trip.  The Benneteau 47.3 First is a fast sailboat with sufficient comfort.  With the three of us, we completed the trip in nearly 5 days, only to wait for an hour outside of Bermuda while two other merchant ships were piloted into the channel.

Two days of minimal wind, and all motor depleted our fuel by 50%.  Chased on our first night by three lightning storms in all directions blinked at us throughout the first night.

 

Then three days of sailing with and without the spinakkers all down-wind, at nine plus knots. our fastest day was 206 miles.

Photos coming soon.

Short BVI update

Safety check complete. Forecast is for light winds for 2-3 days. Spinnaker is ready on deck. Skipping med patch. Noon Saturday start off of Nanny Cay then west past Jost Vandyke and north to Bermuda. Captain and crew ready. Food is stocked.

Caribbean Delivery

2013 will start out with a splash.  I have scheduled a delivery with the owner/captain in May.  The boat will be a Beneteau 47.3 2005.  Matt will join me and he will add three new countries to his list, St Martin (French and Dutch), British Virgin Islands, and Bermuda.  The first leg from St Martin to BVI will be about 75 miles.  Then on May 4 we depart for Bermuda for 850 miles.

Skyped with owner on March 27 – boat is safe and seaworthy and has three kinds of electronics onboard, but no radar.  Owner has years of experience.  He is from Belgium.  He will have his sons arrive in Bermuda as they continue in the ARC Europe to the Azores and Portugal.

Checked on Visa requirements – none needed.

Matt’s passport just arrived. Great

Flights are scheduled.

Stay tuned.

Devotion, Passion, and Success – now a licensed Captain

During my teens, I raced youth sailboats at the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club in Holland Michigan where my parents were members.  Then in High School, I sailed my parents 25’ keelboat for eight years taking short trips, hosting guests on day sails, and enjoying the challenges of rough seas.  In 2007, My wife and I chartered a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and then more charters on Lake Michigan.  Somewhere while sailing on blue waters, I became passionate to the idea of becoming a sailboat captain myself, with aspirations to teach others to sail and take passengers on short voyages.  After researching the requirements for captain’s license, the goal appeared reachable, but not easy, as the requirements included 360 days of Documented Experience in the operation of vessels, with 90 of the 360 days occurring in the last three years.  Since I believe I had most of the 360 days on parents sailboat, I needed a way to get 30 days on the water in three consecutive years.  Therefore, I volunteered for one year with the Bay Shore Race Committee out of Holland, Michigan, and then as crew for three years on various racing sailboats.  These sailboats range from 27’ to 35’.  This goal has taken determination and persistence, as the sailboat racing included driving one and half hours on Wednesdays and some Saturdays to the marina dock for hours of practicing and sailboat racing.  I think the experience is similar to dancing with many different partners, which ultimately gives you better control and command of multiple boating situations.

This spring, I passed the written exams, completed other requirements, and filed my necessary paperwork.  Today I received an official response from the United States Coast Guard that my application for US Coast Guard Captain’s license has been approved, with Master credentials including power and auxiliary sail, up to 50 gross tons, on Great Lakes and Inland waters.  The Masters license enables the captain to take more than six passengers, up to the maximum allowed per vessel.

I do not see my day job changing just yet, but I plan to use the new credentials to enjoy life in a new way with teaching others to sail, providing multi-day adventure trips, and delivering yachts.

My special thanks go out to:

  • My wife and family as I was away “Working” on my captains license so many evenings and weekends
  • My brothers, Jim, Jerry, Gary, and Pat who are all boaters, and my sailing brother Mike who is no longer with us, but long remembered
  • Captain Nic Battaglia for great stories, advise, and help on tough subjects
  • Captain Kim Grotenhuis for the sailing opportunities on Dorothy Gale and Paradigm
  • Bay Shore Race Committee for the time on the water and great friendships
  • All the boat owners that had me crew on their boats
  • My employer for allowing me to escape work a wee bit early on Wednesdays
  • My friends who would listen to the dreamer
  • Mariners Learning System for their great self-paced coast guard captain study program

Memorial Day on the Water

Lake Macatawa in Holland was busy and hot.  The winds were dropping, so we had to rely on the iron genoa (motor).  It was pleasent and the waters were busy.  Big and small boats were out enjoying themselves.