Monthly Archives: May 2013

Our First Week On the Water

Last time we updated the blog, Sea Change had just left the dock at Barker’s Island Marina (Thursday, May 23), and we had arrived in Knife River, MN for the first way point of the voyage.  Since then, we’ve made a lot of progress!

Friday, May 24 – We left Knife River early in the morning – about 4:30 AM.  Temperatures had dipped to about 28 degrees (F) overnight, so it was chilly.  As we left, Lake Superior had a fresh coat of skim ice on her surface.  We continued to see the ice layer until about noon.  Friday was a long day of part motoring, part sailing.  We made landfall in Bayfield, Wisconsin around 7:00 PM that evening.  When we reached Bayfield, we were  honored to have Mel Whiteside as a dinner guest.  Mel is a fellow sailor, who now keeps a home base in Bayfield.  He used to own a Pacific Seacraft 34 like ours, and he’s made the trip from Superior to New Zealand, which is almost the same trip we’re on.  Mel generously gifted us with his charts for the South Pacific, and indulged our questions about the trip.  Mel is a wealth of knowledge, and we truly appreciated his time.  Thanks, Mel!


Icy Lake Superior surface, May 24, 2013

Saturday, May 25 –  After a walk around Bayfield, we headed to Stockton Island, part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  We anchored in Presque Isle Bay.    It was our first night at anchor of this trip/season, and it was a pleasure.  I really enjoy the gentle rocking of the boat in a nice, calm anchorage.  I tried out the oven for the first time since the recent fixing, and made home made coconut-date granola, which we’ve been enjoying since.

Franklin keeps a lookout.

Franklin keeps a lookout.

Our anchorage: Presque Isle Bay at Stockton Island.

Our anchorage: Presque Isle Bay at Stockton Island.

Sunday, May 25 - The weather was warm and sunny, and we enjoyed a day at the beach and a hike through the forest on Stockton Island.  We were also fortunate enough to meet a member of the local Coast Guard Auxiliary, who gave us a free safety inspection.  Sea Change passed with flying colors, and earned a 2013 safety sticker!



Monday, May 26 – We left Stockton Island about 4:30 AM, bound for the entrance to the Keweenaw Waterway.  It was an 80 mile stretch, with no known hospitable anchorages along the way.  We considered a marina in Ontanogan, Michigan, but other sailors had warned us that it might get too shallow for Sea Change’s 5 foot draft.  Our Monday was another one of those memorable Lake Superior days.  Cold, windy.  It was a long day, beating into the wind.  We didn’t see any other boats all day.  Even with the help of our trusty Yanmar Engine, It was after 11:00 PM when we arrived at our destination.  Entering the waterway at night was a challenge, and we were grateful for the technology of the GPS and chartplotter, which were great aids to navigation in that situation.  We tied up at Lilly Pond, the Harbor of Refuge just inside the entrance.


View off the stern when we woke up Tuesday morning. Entrance to Keweenaw Waterway as seen from Lilly Pond.

Wednesday, May 27 - We had an easy and quick quick trip into Houghton, MI.  We also experienced another sailing milestone.  We received our first visit (boarding) from the U.S. Coast Guard!  For our landlubber friends, what this means is we were effectively “pulled over” by USCG officers.  They boarded our vessel and conducted an inspection.  The officers checked our IDs and registration, inspected all of our safety equipment, and also checked our waste management/sanitation system.  We’re happy to report that we received no violations/citations.  We’ve worked hard to dot all our “i”s and cross all of our “t”s, and our successful passing of this spot check is a validation of our efforts.  The officers were friendly, and they even indulged me by allowing a snapshot!  At the end, they asked survey questions about what boating safety courses we may have had.  (Shane and I have each taken four American Sailing Association courses, as well as the Minnesota Boater Education Course).  I recently read in the Cruising Woman’s Advisor that 84% of all boating accidents involve an operator who has never taken a boater safety education course.  Following the inspection, the officers  gave us a carbon copy of our Boarding Report.  They told us that the most frequent violations they cite are life jacket violations and lack of stern mounted throwable PFD.

Our first USCG Boarding!

Our first USCG Boarding!

Since our arrival in Michigan, we’ve had some great experiences, and another milestone.  The Houghton/Hancock area has been wonderful, and the folks at the Houghton County Marina have been phenomenal. Stay tuned for more on our adventures in Hougton County.  Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to blog again tomorrow.





Underway at Last!

Many of  you already know that the crew of s/v Sea Change has been stuck in port for nearly a month longer than originally planned, due to an extremely long winter (even by Minnesota/Wisconsin standards!) and then last week’s constant rain storms and fog.  You can imagine our excitement when the weather cleared up yesterday afternoon!   Beyond “ready”, we set sail early this morning.  Out of the protected harbor, through the shipping channel, and out into Lake Superior.  When Franklin woke up, we were already underway.  His first question was “The boat is making me wiggle.  Why?”.  He was excited to suit up and come topsides to see the waves.

Shane & Mary commemorative selfie shot - first photo of the voyage.

Shane & Mary commemorative selfie – first photo of the voyage.

Although our enthusiasm wasn’t cooled a bit, our bodies were were soon seriously chilled.  It didn’t take Franklin long at all to say “I want to go inside.  I like to be cozy“.  ”Cozy” is one of Franklin’s favorite words these days.  So down below he went, where he happily snuggled in “blankies” and napped away.  As for me, I had to change from my “regular” weather gear into my super-secret-weapon-take-on-the-world Mustang Survival Suit.  Seriously sailors, if you have any plans for high latitude sailing, I’m going to recommend this suit.  Not only is is incredibly warm, it is also a “float coat”, meaning it has PFD material built in.  No, I’m not being sponsored by Mustang.  But hey, Mustang, if you’re reading this with interest, you should totally message me. ;)


Thankfully, the cold cold wind died down by about noon, and the sun came out.  By the time we reached Knife River Marina, the temperature was very comfortable.  We all went for a walk up to one of our favorite local businesses, Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse.  The smoked meats and fish are local and delicious, and the proprietor is very friendly.  We come here whenever we’re in town.  Nope, no sponsorship arrangement here, either.  


149 Scenic Highway 61
Knife River, MN 55609


After the guys picked out their smokehouse delicacies, we went into Knife River, where Franklin was thrilled to find a park to play in. Tomorrow, we’re off for the Apostle Islands.  The forecast promises warmer winds, but I’ve got my Survival Suit set up at the top of the locker, just in case.



Bad Weather

Yesterday we wrote  ”But most importantly, most of the bad weather on this part of Lake Superior comes from the North East. There is no point beating into the wind for a few days with potential for the weather getting worse…”.

Here is the forecast for today:


The good news is that a good blow for a few days will probably lead to more settle conditions. We expect good conditions to set sail by the end of the week.

Waiting for the Weather

As my brother Adam, among others, succinctly pointed out, our average speed for this leg is zero knots.

While waiting for Customs and Border Control to clear us in, a beautiful north westerly and westerly breeze came and went. The afternoon we were cleared in the wind moved to the East and then North East and that is where it has stayed. The forecast is for the wind to continue to come from the North East for the next few days.

Modern sailboats can sail in the general direction of the wind (beat windward).  However there are costs to beating into the wind.

The most obvious cost is speed. The speed made over ground in the direction you want to go is much slower. Partially because you need to zig zag to your destination, and partially because the boat is pushed sideways (leeway).  The wave action can also slow a boat down.  A North East breeze blowing down towards Duluth creates steep seas which also reduce boat speed. In short, if your destination is windward it take much, much longer to get there.

Beating windward can be a lot of fun because it is more exciting. The boat feels more powerful as it punches through the waves. The wind feels stronger. However over long periods it is hard on the boat and on the crew. In the Spring  the water temperatures on Lake Superior are still only a few degrees above freezing so beating into the wind is cold (and often wet) for anyone on deck. There is more strain on the boat per mile and that means more repairs and more expense in the long run. Beating windward for long periods can be bad for morale and bad for the budget!

But most importantly, most of the bad weather on this part of Lake Superior comes from the North East. There is no point beating into the wind for a few days with potential for the weather getting worse, when we can relax at a dock, work on the boat and wait for better weather instead.

So here we sit, waiting for better weather. We may make the 18 mile jump to North to Knife River if the wind swings around to the east for a few hours tomorrow morning. Knife River would give us a better angle of approach the to the Apostle Islands. However, one thing we do know is the weather will change soon and the right day will come for us to start making our way East across Lake Superior.

The Starving Times?

Gauging from the questions and comments we’ve been getting, I’ve realized that many of our friends have been visualizing the Sea Change crew subsisting on  a meager diet of saltines and canned beans for the next 18 months.  Never fear!  Although we don’t actually have a refrigeration system, there are many fresh and delicious things we can eat on the boat.

This voyage will be, for the most part, a long coastal cruise.  What that means is that we will sail from port to port, all the way out of the Great Lakes, down the East Coast of the USA, and then to the Bahamas for a several week rest before continuing on through Panama, Ecuador/Galapagos, to the Islands South Pacific.  There’s only one long passage in the whole trip.  This proximity to land and frequent visits to port towns, means access to grocery shopping all along the way.  Granted, we’ll have to walk into town and carry our food back in backpacks (or buses where available, taxis if needed).  We’ll probably re-provision nearly every week for most of this trip.  Hopefully, we’ll also be catching some fish!

But how can we eat fresh food without refrigeration?  Well, you might be surprised at how many foods don’t really need it.  For example, citrus fruits, apples, bananas, carrots, potatoes, onions, cabbage, squash, coconut and many other provisions, if stored properly, will actually last for weeks without refrigeration.  So will some cheeses – aged cheddar, for example, or Parmesan.  Other fresh foods will be the things we eat the first couple of days after shopping.  For dairy, we’ll be using evaporated milk, which so far has proven to be creamy and plenty delicious for our tastes.  Dry foods like oatmeal, rice, lentils, split peas and other beans will be staples, for sure.  We plan to make fresh bread aboard, although so far we’ve been using store bought.  We do have a sizeable icebox, so at times when we want to keep something cold, such as fresh meat, we’ll have to pick up a block or two of ice.

One of the coolest bon voyage gifts that we received is The Cruising Chef Cookbook (thanks again Michaela!).  Although we’ve been eating well so far, this book promises to raise our cuisine to the next level!

This is a cookbook for people who love good food and like to cook.  It is intended to show you how to produce sumptuous, nourishing meals that satisfy the apetite and delight the soul – meals made predominantly from fresh ingredients, no matter how long the voyage.  The great majority of recipes in this book are simple, one-pot affairs that can easily be made underway.  Most require common ingredients, found in every port, that store well and last a long time.  Every recipe has either been created by me during a lifetime of ocean cruising or is a simplification of classic recipes which are too complex for a boat. The Cruising Chef, Preface vii, by Michael Greenwald

This thoughtful gift promises to keep on giving!

This thoughtful gift promises to keep on giving!




Sea Change Solar System is a Go!


Our new solar panel on this rainy morning.

Shane put in a long day yesterday, remounting and connecting our solar panel.  It was cold and windy all day for him, but he persevered.  The result is that we now have solar power!  Thanks, Shane!  Having our solar operational will allow us to charge our electronics, including work computers, recreational, and navigation equipment, as well as operate our cabin lights.  Without solar, we would be dependent on either running the diesel engine to charge the batteries, or using marinas to connect to shore power.  The solar will help us to be more frugal, more environmentally friendly, and more flexible in our plans.  Last season, Shane had replaced most of the cabin lights with LEDs, which are also extremely energy efficient.  Thanks, Shane, for conquering this daunting task!


Keeping Franklin’s video games charged will be an important function of the solar panel. Educational games only, of course!

We Live on a Boat!

At long last, the day has finally come for us to move aboard!

Actually, the day came four days ago.  We’ve just been so busy moving and getting everything ready, we haven’t had a chance to sit down and blog.


Over the weekend, we stayed at Barker’s Island Inn, next door to Barker’s Island Marina, while we did some final work on the boat before she was launched Monday morning.  Shane did an awesome job with the new bottom paint, new ”Sea Change” decals, and a quick buff and wax. Franklin mostly helped by not helping, and Mommy mostly worked to ensure Franklin was properly entertained and distracted from trying to “help” Daddy.  In true form, Minnesota and Wisconsin had a combination of rain, hail and snow on May 11, which added to the experience .

Monday we were thrilled to “Splash” our vessel for the first time this year.  Special thanks to the crew of Barker’s Island Marina, and also to our friend, Ashley Pratt, who helped us with Franklin, so Shane and I could both concentrate on the launch. Ashley also took some video of the splash for us, which I’ll load tomorrow when I’m connected to the faster marina internet (forgot to ask for the password, so working off Sea Change’s 4G card at the moment).


Tuesday, Mary earned the title of “Ship’s Squirrel” for her efforts stowing everything away, organizing the boat.


Wednesday, we raised the sails, repaired a rigging mistake we had caused ourselves, and got the truck cleaned out and listed for sale.

As of Thursday, the truck has been sold (thanks, Craigslist!).  We’ve also gotten cleared in with US Customs & Border Protection.  Why CBP, you ask?  Well, our captain is a citizen of Australia, which means our ship is also registered as an Australian vessel (notice the hailing port on her hull is Brisbane).  One of the things we’ve learned is that the US Coast Guard does not register vessels to non-US Citizens.  A member of the marina staff told us we’re only the second Aussie vessel in 30 years to come through this marina!


US Federal Building, Duluth, MN after clearing in

The crew is adjusting well to live aboard life. On Monday, after the splash, Mary and Franklin had this conversation:

M: So, Franklin, we live on the boat now.

F: Are you serious?

M: Yes, Honey, I’m serious.

F: Mom, you’re so funny. Explodes in laughter.

M:  So, Franklin, where do we live now?

F: We live on the boat now.

Today, Franklin found a piece of driftwood at the beach, and he thought it would make a good boat.  He also found a nice stick to make a mast. He asked Mommy to help him put a sail on it, and luckily enough there was a napkin and a string in my backpack.  When we saw a little girl and her mommy leaving the beach, Franklin suggested that they were headed “back to their own boat home”.  Tonight, he enjoyed playing “Scuppers the Sailing Dog” with his favorite stuffed animal.  Franklin loves his new Scuppers the Sailor Dog book, which was a gift from Eric, the service manager at the marina (Thanks again!).  We noticed that Scuppers looks a lot like Franklin’s favorite puppy.  And Scuppers’s foul weather gear looks a lot like Franklin’s.  Tonight, just for fun, we dressed that puppy up as Scuppers for the bedtime story.


Yup, the crew is adjusting quite nicely! 

Stay tuned for word on our upcoming departure.  Cast off is expected within a few days!



Goodbyes in Minneapolis

Thursday, May 9 was our last night in Minneapolis.  We were lucky enough to have dinner with Ruby and Darla one last time until we see them again in June & July.  We miss them already and wish they were here!

Friday, May 10, was my last day working.  While I was away, Shane loaded up the truck with the last of our belongings.  Since I had sold my car a few days earlier, I got a ride back into Minneapolis, where we met at the laundromat.  From there, we went to pick up Franklin from his last day at Ms. Bern’s daycare.  Ms. Bern has been so wonderful to our family, and it was hard to say good-bye to her and our little daycare friends .

To everyone else we love, with whom we didn’t get to have a better or more formal goodbye, we’re so sorry that we ran out of time…  Letters and post cards are already being generated, so keep your eyes on your mailbox!

Ruby, Mary, Darla May 9, 2013 Minneapolis, MN, USA

Ruby, Mary, Darla May 9, 2013 Minneapolis, MN, USA


Mary, Ms. Bern, and Franklin, May 10, 2013


Nakeshia, Franklin, Darien & “P”/Perusha




Knife River, MN

Lat: 46 42.84′ N Lon: 92 02.78′ W to Lat: 46 56′ 44″ N Lon: 91 6′ 53″ W
Wind: NE/E 10-20kts
Sea: 3-6ft

Single reef in main, genoa about 100%.
Beat north to Knife River from Barkers Island Marina, Superior WI.