Nothing brings my husband more joy than being on the water and I love to travel any chance I get, so our passions complement each other well. We’ve had a lot of really incredible experiences together and we’ve been blessed to be able to see a lot of really beautiful places. Over the past 7 1/2 years that Dustin and I have been together, we have owned 2 jet skis, 6 power boats, 1 dinghy, and a travel trailer together- switching them up almost every summer for something different. While we had an absolute blast last year with our travel trailer, this year we decided it was time to get back out on the water so we put it up for sale and it sold in just a couple of weeks.
Part of this decision is due to the fact that Dustin and I have a shared dream of being able to travel and see the world. We’ve been trying to figure out any way and the most economical way to achieve this so we have been kicking around the idea of switching over from power boating to sailing for a couple of years now because of how much cheaper it would be. Marine fuel prices are usually completely inflated because the fuel docks know that we have no choice but to pay their ridiculous prices. However, one way around this would be to boat in a way we have never boated before. Sailing. Sailboats use barely any fuel compared to power boats.
Dustin grew up sailing with his mom and has a lot of really fond memories of their time on the Great Lakes together so for him, this idea was a no brainer. I have never sailed and to be honest, at first glance it seemed like a ton of extra work compared to turning a key and just driving, and not to mention….actually getting somewhere in less than a day’s travel, but the more we talked about the idea and the more research I did, the more I warmed up to the thought of becoming a sailor. The prospect of being able to put our sails up and go wherever the wind blows us, literally and figuratively, excites me. So I agreed to start going and looking at sailboats with Dustin. We decided we should look for something small to start so we could just try it out and see if we even enjoyed sailing, instead of investing in a really big and expensive boat.
We found an ad on Craigslist for a 28′ 1980 Glastron Spirit sailboat located about 30 minutes from our hometown.
Being that the price was so good and that the boat appeared to be in great shape, we didn’t waste any time going to look at it. In fact, the day we went was blistery cold and raining and we had to look at the vessel with the shrink wrap still wound tightly around the outside of it. We didn’t want to wait until a nicer day and risk losing out on it.
We could hear the wind whistling outside while we were looking at the cabin but I couldn’t help picturing us out on the boat in the warmth of the summer, sailing around and exploring some of the quaint little towns that dot the coastline of Lake Michigan.
The boat was in really great shape and we could tell the previous owners had taken great care of it. The inside was really cute, which I liked, and it had a diesel engine which is what Dustin had been looking for. Diesel fuel is cheaper and lasts longer so Dustin wanted to get a boat with a diesel so he could start learning about them more before we hopefully travel extensively by boat someday. After seeing the majority of the boat, I waved and motioned to Dustin to get his attention while the owner had his back to us and gave him a great big cheesy grin with a thumb’s up to let him know I was good with it if he wanted to buy it! About three hours later, Dustin and I were once again boat owners! We got an amazing deal because there was some motor work that needed to be done on the boat, but Dustin can fix almost anything so it didn’t deter us at all.
We ended up going to the previous owners’ house to do the paperwork with him and his wife and after talking to them for a bit, realized that we could all actually be great friends. We were all so much alike that it was crazy! It just felt kind of meant to be to buy the boat from them and we are hoping to keep in touch with them this summer!
A few weeks after buying Solace, and after we got back from our vacation, Dustin was chomping at the bits to get going on the work that needed to be done on the boat. Sadly, the day we got home from our trip, I got the flu and wasn’t a whole lot of help to him for the next couple of weeks, but I did muster up enough energy, cough drops, and determination to be able to go deep clean the inside of the boat one weekend while I was sick. Dustin spent all of his free time those next few weeks chipping and sanding the bottom paint, doing the mechanical work that needed to be done and tuning up the motor.
Once I started feeling better, I drove up and washed the boat after work one night and prepped the boat for a coat of bottom paint so Dustin could paint it the next day. He put two coats of bottom paint on and then we both spent the weekend waxing and polishing her up.
We now know that we should wax BEFORE we paint next year, because the wax messed up his nice straight lines on the bottom paint. Live and learn I guess!
The marina only had one time slot available before Memorial Day Weekend to put our new boat in the water so we took what we could get and made it work, although it put a good deal of pressure on us to get everything done in time since it was less than a week away from when we called. We were just happy we’d be able to get it in before the holiday so that we could enjoy boating over the long weekend.
Dustin left work early the day that Solace was going in the water so that he could meet the people at the marina who were putting the boat in. I recently accepted a position at a new company and had to go into my new job for the background check the same day so I wasn’t able to go with him unfortunately. It was raining buckets and I felt terrible that I couldn’t be there to help him and I was sad that I wasn’t able to see our boat finally go into the water after all of our hard work. But I felt even worse when Dustin got home, soaked to the bone, and told me that the marina hadn’t even offered to help him and he had to dock the boat in the rainstorm all by himself! Luckily, he is very versed in captaining a boat and managed just fine.
Due to the rain, we waited until the next day to make our maiden voyage. We had to drive the boat about 35 miles to bring the boat to our slip in our hometown. Not knowing much about sailing yet, we decided to just wait on putting the sails up and planned to motor the entire way home. Dustin estimated that it would take about 3 hours or so for the trip.
That day after work, we got a ride from a friend of ours who dropped us off at the boat. It had been rainy and foggy all day and on the way up to the boat, the skies started clearing up and the sun came out. We got excited for the nicer weather but by time we arrived at the marina, the fog had crept back in off the lake and was getting pretty dense.
It was only about 45-50 degrees out so we brought a ton of warm clothes and a blanket, just in case. We stocked up on snacks at the marina’s party store and grabbed a bottle of wine to celebrate our first voyage on Solace.
We ended up leaving the marina around 5:30pm and made it to the pier head at the end of Lake Macatawa around 6:05pm.
By that point, we had realized that the GPS was not picking up any satellite signal which was a little disconcerting given that we couldn’t see more than 10-15 yards in any particular direction due to the fog. Dustin pulled up Google Maps on his phone, we pointed the compass in the right direction and set out hoping for the best, praying that God would keep us safe!
After pushing about every single button on the panel, we still could not get the auto-helm to work, which made for a not so relaxing start to the trip since we were constantly looking at the compass to stay on course.
I went down into the cabin to get some snacks for us and while I was down there, Dustin got a phone call from his mom and stopped paying attention to the compass as closely. He called me up to the cockpit to look at what he thought was a really neat cloud formation in the fog. When I came out and looked up, his cloud formation looked strangely just like the beach to me so I quickly turned around and looked at the depth sounder and we were only in 4 1/2 feet of water! I quick yelled to him to turn around because he was steering us straight into the beach! Thankfully, we avoided any catastrophes but it was so hard to see so we gave it another go trying to figure out the auto-helm so it could hopefully help keep us on track. Dustin suddenly remembered having seen a switch inside one of the storage lockers under the seat in the cockpit and decided to see what it did. Turns out this was the switch we had been looking for and the auto-helm instantly powered on. The rest of the trip after that was much more relaxing for us and we quickly decided that we are never owning a boat ever again with auto-helm! It was wonderful!
For a brief moment, the fog lifted and we could see blue skies directly above us. The moon came out on one side and the sun peeked through the fog on the other. It felt as though we were boating through our own little tunnel of good weather for awhile. (Thank you Lord for that!)
It felt so fantastic to be together out on the water again! The cold weather didn’t even put a damper on things. We had a wonderful night together just laughing and talking and enjoying being in the moment. Dustin taught me a little about sailing and it was completely peaceful. Even though we were motoring and not sailing, I could already tell that there is really an art to sailing, and I started to really look forward to learning more! Once the sun set, we realized our time estimate had been a little off but we didn’t even care. We were having so much fun adventuring together through the fog that it didn’t even matter to us when we would arrive!
Soon enough we started to recognize where we were. The fog had eased up quite a bit and turned into more of a faint mist as we entered the harbor in our hometown. Suddenly we heard a familiar voice…Dustin’s mom had driven down to the beach and walked out onto the pier at 10pm to welcome us home! She is a captain herself and has been really excited that we decided to get into sailing. Her extensive knowledge is priceless and we are lucky to be able to learn from her! She then drove down to the drawbridge and met us again to take some photos of us as we went under the drawbridge. We had gotten lucky and arrived at the drawbridge at exactly the right time and didn’t have to wait at all for it to go up, which was nice since it was getting a little late by then.
About a half hour later, we arrived at our new boat slip where Solace will spend her first summer with us. Dustin’s mom was there waiting to help us dock, and to my surprise, my dad had driven down to help as well and had been waiting there for us to arrive! I thought that was so incredibly nice of him, of both of them, to drive down at 11pm on a work night just to help us and make sure that we got home safely. My dad is one of my best friends and an incredibly amazing, kind, and generous man. I feel very lucky that he is my dad and I’m excited for him and the rest of our family to be able to go out sailing with us 🙂
It was an incredibly perfect maiden voyage with Solace and left us giddy for the next time we get to take her out! 🙂
*Some of the photo credits go to Andrew and Chelsea Felix.