"Joy to the World"

Monday, December 26, 2016

When is a Christmas hymn not a Christmas hymn? When it’s message is equally strong in all seasons. Actually, that is true of every hymn we normally associate with Christmas. Even “Silent Night” can be sung in July as a reminder of Jesus’s love for us. But unlike most Christmas hymns, “Joy to the World” doesn’t even mention Christ’s birth except for the beginning reference to “the Lord is come.” It is truly a hymn for all seasons, and we should sing it throughout the year.

The 1719 lyrics by Isaac Watts are his paraphrase of Psalm 98. Here are verses 4–9 from the King James version, which was probably the one Watts used.

4Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
5Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.
6With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King.
7Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
8Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together
9Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.

And here are the words to “Joy to the World” as found in The Lutheran Service Book published by Concordia Publishing House.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.

Praise God for the wonders of His love in 2017 and always.

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

Monday, December 19, 2016

Is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” a hymn or a carol? I searched the Internet for the distinction and ended up even more confused. For example:

Hymns are traditional poems which have been taken from the Book of Psalms. They have been around for 100s of years and are sung by congregations while worshipping God in public. Carols, on the other hand, are festive songs. They are generally religious. [Quoted from http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/religion-miscellaneous/difference-between-carol-and-hymns/]

 Quick tip: One is sacred, the other secular. . . . Hymns are songs in praise of God and thus have a suitably portentous note about them. . . . Carols embody [secularism]. [Quoted from The Economic Times, December 23, 2012.]

Neither of these definitions works for me. Although all hymns are scriptural, not all of them come from the Book of Psalms. And although there are secular Christmas carols, many have a strong sacred component. I also found sites stating that hymns are solemn while carols are joyful, but that isn’t universally true, either.

So my best guess is that “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a carol rather than a hymn. The setting relates to current events rather than to Biblical ones, although it does have a strong Christian message in its final stanza. It doesn’t really matter what I call it, though. What matters are the words and what they convey.

As an aside, Longfellow titled it “Christmas Bells.” John Baptiste Calkin used the first line as the title when he set the poem to music in 1872. Calkin also used only five of the seven stanzas, dropping the two that referred to the Civil War.

The Internet is in conflict about when Longfellow wrote this poem, although most sites date it as either 1863 or 1864. The Civil war was raging, and Longfellow was grieving for his second wife, Fanny. Their older son, Charles, had enlisted in the Union army against his father’s wishes and was twice wounded, although he survived. The country itself was going through a very dark period in its history. So Longfellow had reason to despair.

And yet the final stanza of Longfellow’s poem says in ringing tones, “God is not dead; nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail.” That’s a message of hope rather than despair.

Here is Longfellow’s poem as he wrote it.

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
     And wild and sweet
     The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
     Had rolled along
     The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
     A voice, a chime,
     A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
     And with the sound
     The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
     And made forlorn
     The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
     “For hate is strong,
     And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
     The Wrong shall fail,
     The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

May you experience that peace and good will this Christmas.


The picture at the head of this post is from a painting of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that was done by his younger son, Ernest Longfellow, in 1886. It is in the public domain because of its age.

"Hark the Herald Angels Sing"

Monday, December 12, 2016

This week I am covering another of Charles Wesley’s hymns. The angels in the picture will provide a clue, and the title of the post absolutely gives it away. Yes, I’m talking about “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

That wasn’t the original title or the original beginning. According to Hymnary.org, George Whitefield changed the first line in 1753, the refrain was added in 1782, and various other wording changes were made before the 18th century was over. The original version was also much longer, with ten stanzas rather than just the three we usually sing today.

Charles Wesley’s first two lines were:

Hark, how all the welkin rings
Glory to the King of Kings.

(According to my dictionary, “welkin” means the vault of heavens, or the sky.)

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is usually sung to the tune “Mendelssohn,” is also an anomaly. The tune is based on Felix Mendelssohn’s “Festgesang,” which the composer claimed was not fitted to a religious text. But William Cummings didn’t care what Mendelssohn thought when Cummings adapted the music in 1856 to fit “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

Here are the three verses that most of us know. Again, this version comes from The Lutheran Service Book published by Concordia Publishing House.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King.”

Christ, by highest heav’n adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as Man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel. Refrain.

Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth. Refrain.

Next week I’ll discuss another Christmas hymn. Or is it a Christmas carol? I’ll cover that distinction, too.


The picture shows the indoor nativity scene at the Church of Ste. Genevieve in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. I took the photo in 2014.

"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus"

Monday, December 5, 2016

Does Advent celebrate Christ’s first and second comings or His first, second, and third? Most Christians think of two comings: His birth and His return in glory at the end of time as we know it. But there is another coming between those two: when He comes to individual Christians to dwell in their hearts. “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” by Charles Wesley refers to all three.

Charles Wesley wrote thousands of hymns, and many are still in use today. I will cover two of them in this blog.

According to Hymnary.org, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus) was first published in 1744 in Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord and contained two verses of eight lines each. Depending on which tune is used, however, some hymnals break it into four stanzas.

Wesley used near rhymes when he couldn’t find a true rhyme that conveyed his meaning. For example, “release us” is a near rhyme for “Jesus”; “forever” is a near rhyme for “deliver”; and “merit” is a near rhyme for “Spirit.” Although purists don’t like near-rhymes, many contemporary poets use them. And apparently it isn’t a new practice.

Wesley also used repetition to make a point. Notice the word “born,” which starts a line four times, including the three lines that begin the second (or third) stanza. This repetition emphasizes the incarnation. Lines 4 through 6 do not repeat a word but do repeat an idea, using a different description of Jesus in each line. That reminds me of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Here is the text in two verses as found in The Lutheran Service Book published by Concordia Publishing House. The four-verse versions simply split each of the two verses in half.

Come Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art,
Dear desire of ev’ry nation,
Joy of ev’ry longing heart. 

Born Thy people to deliver;
Born a child and yet a king!
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Join me next week for a look at a Christmas hymn that Charles Wesley also wrote.


The portrait of Charles Wesley at the head of this post was painted by John Russell around 1771. It is in the public domain because of its age.

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"

Monday, November 28, 2016

I love singing Advent and Christmas hymns and carols, but I don’t always stop to think about the words or the work the lyricist/poet put into writing them. So between now and the end of the year, I’m going to look at the lyrics of five Advent and Christmas carols, starting with an old standard: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

According to Hymnary.org, the text is taken from a 7-verse poem that dates back to the 8th century. J.M. Neale translated it into English in 1851.

The author is unknown, so how can we understand his thought process in writing the poem? (And yes, given that it is an ancient text, the poet was probably a he.) Actually, we can tell a lot from the poem’s structure. First, each verse reflects a different Biblical name for and description of Christ. For example, the first verse calls Him Emmanuel, which means “God with us,” and “Son of God.”

Second, Hymnary.org says the original Latin verses created a reverse acrostic on the term ero cras, which means “I shall be with you tomorrow.” Unfortunately, the acrostic was lost in translation. Still, it’s presence in the original reinforces the poem’s traditional use as an Advent hymn.

If you look at “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in more than one hymnal, you may find that the first verse and the refrain are the same (except for minor variations in spelling), but that the other verses use slightly different wording. That’s to be expected from a hymn that is centuries old and was originally written in another language. Even the refrain was probably a later addition. But the text of the hymn has remained true to the original meaning, which celebrates the various names and attributes of Jesus and looks for His return.

Here is the text of all 7 verses as found in The Lutheran Service Book published by Concordia Publishing House.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ord’rest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go. Refrain.
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain.
O come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree,
Free them from Satan’s tyranny
That trust Thy mighty pow’r to save,
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave. Refrain.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery. Refrain.
O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Refrain.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace. Refrain.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Choose Your Audience

Monday, November 21, 2016

When I ask new writers who their audience is, they often say, “everybody.” That would be fine if all people were alike, but they aren’t. In writing, as in speaking, you must write (or speak) to a specific audience. If others enjoy it as well, that’s a bonus. But authors who write sweet romances aren’t going to attract many male readers, and that’s okay.

For the past two months, I have been selfishly aiming my blog posts at an audience of two, Roland and me, to preserve our sailing memories. I’m glad that some of you came along, and I hope you enjoyed the posts. But you weren’t my chosen audience. I made a conscious decision to write for two people.

That’s the point. Every writer should know who he or she is writing for before starting a new project, whether it be a holiday letter, a blog post, or a novel. Choose your audience, and then keep those people in mind as you write. If your holiday letter goes only to close family, maybe they care about the flu that kept you from getting anything done in May. But if it goes to friends and extended family, they probably don’t.

When making your choice, consider the medium as well. Looking back, I realize that blog posts aren’t the best way to preserve memories for such a small audience. So I apologize if I wasted your time.

You don’t need to write for a million people, and it’s okay to be selfish now and then. But be sure you know who you are writing to.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Sailing Lake Michigan--Southbound

Monday, November 14, 2016

As mentioned last week, we spent an extra night at Ludington, Michigan, during our 2011 sailing vacation because of the strong storms forecast for the afternoon. That was after the severe storm we had experienced while we were at Holland and before others that we would still encounter. Fortunately for us, the worst weather occurred while we were docked.

But others weren’t so fortunate. The Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac—better known as the Chicago-Mac—took place while we were on vacation. In its 103-year history, the race had seen its share of bad storms and overturned and damaged boats, but nobody had lost their life. That year, however, two sailors died while we were at Ludington. They were farther north, but it does say something about the nature of the storms over Lake Michigan.

We left Ludington for Muskegon after the storms had passed but while conditions were still not ideal. We needed both pairs of eyes for lookouts as we motored through dense fog in the morning. It cleared up in the afternoon, but it was a long day with nine hours on the water.

Coming into Muskegon, we passed two prominent lights—the Muskegon South Breakwater Light and the Muskegon South Pier Light. Both are painted red and shaped like silos, and you can see them in the picture at the head of this post. The tan building is the Coast Guard station.

We also had an up-close-and-personal look at the Lake Express high-speed ferry between Muskegon and Milwaukee. It wasn’t as nerve-wracking as our experience with the Badger, though. This time we saw the ferry coming toward us before we entered the channel, so we circled inside the breakwater until it went by.

On our first morning in Muskegon, we went to the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum, just up the street from the marina. The exhibits were mostly about submarines and their involvement in the Pacific during World War II. The gem was the World War II submarine U.S.S. Silversides. We took self-guided tours of the submarine and of a decommissioned Coast Guard Cutter, UCCGC McLane. The highlight of the submarine tour was Roland’s attempts to get through the inner hatches, which weren’t made for tall men. That’s the next picture.

We had planned to leave the following morning and we did—sort of. The wind blew us into the dock as we tried to depart, and a few small pieces of wood splintered off the dock. Our port lifelines got stretched, and my hand temporarily came between the boat and the dock, giving me a blood blister. But there was no damage to the side of the boat at all. Still, it should have been a warning.

Once we got out onto Lake Michigan, the high waves bounced us all over the place, so we chickened out and returned to Muskegon. It wasn’t a lost day, though. That afternoon we took the trolley to see the historic Hackley and Hume homes. Hackley was a lumber baron, and Hume became his partner later on. The houses, which are right next to each other, are both ornate but in different ways.

We finally left Muskegon the next morning, intending to go all the way to Holland. However, the weather forecast called for possible thunderstorms for the next two days, so we stopped at Grand Haven and spent two nights there. Again, we had a good view of the show from the musical fountain. As soon as it concluded on the second night, I got ready for bed. Then I heard a very loud ship’s whistle and Roland called down to come outside immediately and bring my camera. A lake freighter was coming up the river and passing close by the marina. We were safely out of the way in our slip, but it was a pretty big ship for that small river. You can see the results of my night photography below.

When we left Grand Haven, we decided to bypass Holland and go all the way to St. Joseph. It was a long day on the water, and St. Joe was just a place to spend the last night on our way home.

Even the final day had its bit of drama. The waves were a little rough when we left St. Joe, and we hadn’t been gone very long before Roland noticed that one of the two lines from the dingy to the hitch that attached it to the boat was broken. We didn’t want to lose the dingy, so Roland slowed Freizeit down, put on a harness, and worked from the rear step while I drove. It took two tries to attach a new rope, but we did it. All while underway, too.

That was our last sailing vacation. We tried two other times, but mechanical problems and bad weather worked against us. And over the last few years, uncooperative weather and various obligations have left us with very little time on the water.

So it is time to sell the boat.

But we will keep the memories.

Sailing Lake Michigan--Northbound

Monday, November 7, 2016

Freizeit’s last sailing trip—and ours—came in 2011, when Roland and I sailed up the eastern coast of Lake Michigan. The trip had two purposes. One was to spend several days at Holland, Michigan, with my mother and brothers cleaning out Mama’s house. The other purpose was for pure vacation fun. I was retired from my salaried job and Roland had the summer off, so we could take as long as we wanted.

We were gone for three weeks.

Our first stop was at New Buffalo, Michigan, which was just a place to spend the night. From there, we went to South Haven. It’s a small town with a decent marina and a nice pier. We stayed there two nights and found time to relax. The picture shows the pier at dusk.

From South Haven, we motored to Saugatuck. The wind would have been great if we were going in the other direction—or if we didn’t have a destination in mind and could go wherever the wind took us. But since we had to be in Holland in a couple of days and wanted to spend one of them in the Saugatuck area, motoring was our only option. At least it was an option. I can’t imagine the olden times when ships had to rely entirely on the wind.

We spent those two nights at a marina in Douglas, which is across the Kalamazoo River from Saugatuck. The location was convenient for touring the S.S. Keewatin, which was considered a luxury passenger ship in its day (1908 to 1965). Then after lunch we walked to the chain ferry that crosses the river between Douglas and Saugatuck. It would have been good exercise on a cooler day, but it was a tiring walk in the heat. We when we got there, we took the hand-cranked chain ferry across the river. After walking around Saugatuck (through streets filled with artsy shops aimed at tourists), we took a bus back to the marina.

The next day was Sunday, so we went to church before heading up to Holland. We were docked by 1:00 p.m. and had time to do laundry and a few other things before we would start cleaning out Mama’s house the following day.

On Monday morning, we were eating breakfast and listening to the radio when a weather alert came on warning of high winds and severe storms in the area. Roland immediately went outside and tied the boat up as securely as possible, and we unplugged all the electronics. We had almost finished battening down the hatches when the rain came.

The storm created massive power outages and brought down some huge trees, including some of the most stately ones in the Pine Grove at my alma mater (Hope College). But the boat and its contents were safe, and Mama’s house only lost power for a minute or so. Still, we were glad we weren’t out on the lake.

After spending three days cleaning out Mama’s house, we sailed up to Grand Haven, which has a “musical fountain” that puts on a music and light show after dark. We had a perfect view from where we were docked.

The next day we went to White Lake. We usually docked at municipal marinas, but this time we stayed at the Yacht Club, instead. We chose it because it was the closest marina to the White Lake Light Station, which is a historical lighthouse that is now a museum. Someone told us it was about a mile or a mile-and-a-half walk, but it seemed much longer than that in the heat. We had to walk back, as well, because we hadn’t ridden our bikes and we had no other means of transportation.

From White Lake, we sailed up to Ludington. We passed a number of homes on top of the bluff/dunes. Great views, but a l-o-o-o-n-g way down to the beach, as you can see from the next picture.

Our first full day in Ludington was a Sunday, and we went to church at St. John’s Lutheran, which is LCMS (the same denomination we belong to). LCMS has two seminaries, and Fort Wayne is more liturgically conservative than St. Louis is. I tell you that so you can understand our experience with the service.

The pastor of St. John’s went to the Fort Wayne seminary. The announcement sheet told visitors that St. John’s provided a blended service, offering “contemporary, as well as traditional music, along with a selected mix of liturgy and creeds.” It may have been a Fort Wayne seminary idea of a blended service, but the music was so contemporary that my father used it in his traditional services in the 1960s. In fact, the entire service reminded me of my childhood.

The plan for Monday was to sail north just far enough to take pictures of Big Sable Point Lighthouse from the lake and then head south past Ludington to Pentwater.  However, we modified our plans because the weather forecast called for strong storms in the afternoon. We made the trip north, hoping that it wouldn’t be too overcast to take good pictures, and the sun did come out—briefly—at just the right moment. That’s Big Sable Point Lighthouse in the picture at the head of this post.

We were almost back to Ludington when the storms started. We got soaked, but the thunder and lightning stayed in the distance and the wind speed did not increase enough to be a problem. By the time we reached the entrance to the channel, the sun was trying to come out again.

That day had another adventure, as well. We had hoped to beat the large S.S. Badger car-ferry through the channel, but it left just as we did and moved faster. The channel was wide enough for both and the Badger passed without incident. Still, it wasn’t comfortable watching that big ship bearing down on us.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse was as far north as we got. Next week I’ll tell you about the trip back south.

Temporary Home

Monday, October 31, 2016

Freizeit was a travelling vacation home, but it was never supposed to be a home at home. Then Hurricane Ike hit.

By September 14, 2008, Ike had already wrecked havoc in the Lesser Antilles and Texas. It was still carrying the water it had picked up when travelling over the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and it needed a place to dump it. So Ike looked at Northwest Indiana and smiled. Or, more accurately, it cried, giving us 10 inches of rain in 24 hours.

The picture at the head of this post shows what the sky was like several days after the rain stopped. You can see the masts on the sailboats at the marina.

September 14 was a Sunday. After we got home from church, Roland went down by the Little Calumet River and saw crews trying to sandbag it. The river had already broken through in one spot, however, and Roland came home and told me to get ready to evacuate if necessary. Then he went to the town garage to help fill sandbags.

I packed clothes for both of us for several days. I also grabbed towels, Roland’s school bag, my laptop, and my camera and loaded them into my car. I left as soon as I saw the water come flowing down our street.

I also made sure to take the boat keys, as I knew that would give us a place to stay. Roland thought of the same thing, so after filling some more sandbags, we drove both cars to the marina. Many of the bridges over the Little Calumet were closed, and even I-94 was flooded, so it took us over two hours for what is normally a 20-minute drive.

The best thing about staying on the boat was its location. Both of our jobs were north of the river, so we didn’t have to cross the Little Calumet to get there. We did for church, though. Several people remarked that we went to the water to escape the water. Pastor Stumpf wanted to know if we had any animals on the boat, but we didn’t. No ark for us.

I’m not sure where we would have stayed without the boat to flee to. Several families from church offered their spare bedrooms, but I like my privacy. We probably would have gone to a hotel. Fortunately, we didn’t have to.

It was two and a half weeks before we could stay in our house again. The water came up about 5 feet on the lower level of our tri-level home, practically destroying the laundry room, the second bathroom, and the family room. Roland likes to joke that he filled a dumpster with the books he had to throw out. The water also rose almost a foot in our office, the garage, and the rooms behind them, which we had been using for storage. But the living room and kitchen were raised slightly and didn’t have any damage. Neither did top floor with the bedrooms and the other bathroom. So we returned home as soon as the town cleared the house for habitation.

The next time we stayed on the boat, it was under better circumstances: a vacation trip up the eastern coast of Lake Michigan.

You can read about that next week as I conclude this look back at our sailing adventures.

The North Channel--Part II

Monday, October 24, 2016

Some boaters terminate their North Channel trip at Little Current, and others go on to Georgian Bay. Although we would have liked to travel on, we didn’t have the time. So after attending church on Sunday morning, we left Little Current heading back west.

Our first stop was at a pair of islands called the Benjamins or, more accurately, North Benjamin and South Benjamin. After anchoring in a cove between the two, we took our dingy and explored the rocky terrain. The first picture shows Donald and Roland standing on one of the islands.

After a quiet night, we moved to a nearby anchorage at Shoepack Bay. Getting there was uneventful, but anchoring was another matter.

We had put the anchor down, and Roland was backing up to set it, when he heard a sickening sound. The rope between the dingy and the boat was too long for what we were doing, and it wrapped around the propeller. Roland had to put on his swim trunks and dive down into the water several times before he got it unwound. Fortunately, there was no damage.

The next morning we pulled up the anchor and navigated through some narrow channels to Spanish on the Ontario mainland. To get there, we had to go through Little Detroit, which is a very short channel that is not wide enough for two-way traffic. For several days we had been hearing people on the radio announcing “Securit√©, securit√©, securit√©, [#] foot sailboat entering Little Detroit going [east or west],” and we got a thrill out of doing it ourselves. We waited for two sailboats to come from the other way before signaling our intention to follow yet another sailboat through in the same direction we were going. The next picture shows Freizeit approaching Little Detroit.

At Spanish, we walked downtown, where there wasn’t much to see. It was a hot day, so we waited until the sun started going down before climbing up an observation tower and hiking partway along a nature trail. That was much more worthwhile than our walk into town had been.
The following day we headed to Blind River, also on the Canadian mainland. The trip was very picturesque. We sailed through Whalesback Channel, which takes its name from a rock or island simply called Whalesback” after its shape. Among the other partially submerged rocks were some very insignificant ones with a very significant name—Page Rocks.
Blind River wasn’t anything special, nor was the trip from there to Thessalon, also on mainland Ontario. It was a nice evening, however, so we went to a festival in downtown Thessalon. After eating dinner at a fish fry fundraiser, we walked around looking at vintage cars and listening to vintage music from a live band.
From Thessalon, we headed back to DeTour. The trip was a rough one, with sunny skies but high winds. We didn’t even try to sail as we navigated around reefs and pounded through the waves. We had to stop at the Drummond Island Yacht Haven to clear customs, and fighting the wind to dock was quite an experience. Then we pounded through more waves until we got to DeTour.
The next day we left Donald in DeTour with the car and asked him to meet us in St. Ignace that afternoon. It was Saturday, and we went to the 5:30 p.m. mass at the Roman Catholic church near the St. Ignace marina so that we could leave early the next morning. That we did, with Donald and I going by car and Roland taking the boat back by himself, as he had come.
It took Roland longer to get home than we had anticipated. That’s because the boat had some mechanical problems, and Roland spent several days at Charlevoix waiting for parts to arrive. The mechanic finally got it fixed, however, and Roland eventually made it back to Holland.  
Although the trip wasn’t without mishaps, this time we made it to the North Channel and returned home with the boat intact.
Living on the boat during our North Channel vacation was good preparation for the following year, when Freizeit became our temporary home. That’s the subject of next week’s post.

The North Channel--Part I

Monday, October 17, 2016

Now that we had a bigger boat, we were ready for another attempt at the North Channel. This time we made it, but we still had some unwanted adventures along the way.

By July 2007, Caroline was married and John had a summer job, so neither of them was available to go with us. But Roland, Donald, and I made the trip. Or, more accurately, Roland made the entire trip and Donald and I joined him for the best part of it.

The timing was good. Our home marina had kicked boaters out for the year because of construction at the nearby casino. As a result, we had moved Freizeit to Holland, Michigan—a location that cut several days off the trip. Even so, we needed approximately four weeks, and that was two more than I wanted to take off work. So Roland sailed up the east cost of Lake Michigan by himself.

Donald and I planned to drive to DeTour Village, on the eastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and meet Roland there. But between bad weather and mechanical problems, Freizeit was still a day away when we crossed the Mackinac Bridge. So I joined Roland at St. Ignace and we sailed the final leg to DeTour together. Donald drove the car to DeTour and met us there.

The first night out together we anchored at Harbor Island, which was where we were heading when disaster struck on our first trip. This time we made it without incident and had a peaceful night at anchor. It was a good thing we were well rested, however, because our first mishap had simply waited until morning.

When we tried to raise the anchor, we discovered that the rode (anchor line) was wrapped around the keel. Roland and Donald got into the dingy and rowed around and around the boat until the rode was unwound. Although it was a hassle, we chose to view it as a learning experience. The next time we dropped anchor, we didn’t let out as much rode.

Once we got underway again, we began out eastbound trip, marina hopping along Manitoulin Island on the Canadian side of the border. The first stop was Meldrum Bay. There wasn’t much to do there, but I remember it as the place where we (or rather I) had our second mishap. The marina was somewhat rustic, and we had to walk to the nearby campground to take showers. As I was coming back in the dark, I missed a step down onto the gangplank leading to the dock and twisted my ankle. We iced it and bound it up with an elastic bandage, and I rested it as much as possible.

Actually, although I classify it as a mishap, it wasn’t anything unusual. For klutzy me, spraining my ankle on vacation is almost the norm. I don’t let those sprained ankles keep me down long, either.

From Meldrum Bay we went to Gore Bay, which had a nice marina. My ankle was getting better, and it didn’t take much walking to see the few sights there, anyway. First, we visited a building that housed an art display, a restaurant, and an observation tower. Then we walked by All Saints Anglican Church, established in 1880.

Our next stop was at Kagawong, which was my favorite spot on the entire trip. The picture at the head of this post shows Freizeit at the small marina there.

That afternoon we took a picturesque walk to Bridal Veil Falls. Donald climbed over the stones and walked behind the falls. I wanted to join him but wasn’t sure my ankle was up to it.

We also saw two churches. St. Paul’s on the Hill United Church was built in 1881 and is the oldest building in the hamlet. St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church had a mariner’s motif, as you can see from the stained glass window in the picture below. The unique pulpit was made from the bow of a boat wrecked in a storm in 1965.

The other picture is Bridal Veil Falls. You can see how it got its name.

The next morning we went to the Kagawong public library to check our e-mail. It was very small, with two computers for library patrons and about the same number of books that we had on our bookshelves at home. But considering the size of the town, we were surprised it even had a library.

Our final stop on Manitoulin Island was at Little Current. It is a very popular stop for boaters, and we had to circle a while before we could reach Spider Bay Marina by radio to get a slip assignment. We didn’t write it down, but Donald and I both heard it as “Pier 1, Slip 3.” Unfortunately, we were already a ways down Pier 1 when I saw that Slip 3 was occupied. Before I had time to say anything, we struck bottom. After several attempts and a lot of help from other boaters, someone finally towed us free. Amid the cheers of the onlookers, we left that Pier and came to Pier 3, Slip 1, which was where we were supposed to go in the first place. I still don’t know if they said it wrong or if we heard it wrong, but at least there was no permanent damage. Not like the grounding on our first attempt to sail the North Channel . . . .

We stayed in Little Current for two nights so we could do laundry and spend time shopping. Although the Canadian town looked like small town America, it wasn’t particularly picturesque. I wasn’t impressed with the shopping, either. But we did see a nice sunset.

Now it was time to turn around and take a different route back. I’ll talk about that next week.

Moving Up

Monday, October 10, 2016

Most sailors dream about moving up to a bigger boat, and Roland and I were no exception. By August 2002, we had done our research and decided to purchase a new Beneteau Oceanis 331. The 34-foot boat would give us an additional 10 plus feet in length as well as another 3 feet in width.

Within a week we sold one boat and purchased another. Roland went to the Michigan City Boat Show on a Friday while I was at work and put down a $1 deposit to hold the one the dealer was displaying. He returned on Sunday—with me—to put down a larger deposit and complete some paperwork. The dealer and his wife delivered the boat by water about two weeks later and took us on a shakedown cruise to show us how to sail it. That was necessary since Freizeit was not only larger but had a wheel instead of a tiller and roller furling instead of the sail-raising system we were used to.

The boat was delivered in early September, so we only got out once or twice before the season ended. The next season we spent more time on Freizeit, including an extended weekend trip to Milwaukee, for which I scheduled two days off of work. This trip included my brother Donald but not my daughter, Caroline, who was working at Camp Lutherhaven that summer.

The plan was for Donald to come up on Wednesday. I would go to work on Thursday as usual and then take the train to Waukegan, Illinois, where Roland, Donald, and John would pick me up. But things don’t always go as planned.

When Donald hadn’t arrived at our home by eight or nine on Wednesday evening, Roland wondered if he had forgotten. Well, yes and no. He had remembered about the trip but forgotten the day. We weren’t sure we could afford the extra day before leaving, so Roland and John sailed to Waukegan by themselves. Donald drove to Waukegan, and we both joined the cruise there.

We hoped to sail all the way from Waukegan to Milwaukee on Friday, but there were thunderstorms in the distance, so we decided to stop at Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, right before the Wisconsin border. We arrived just as it started to rain, and we did sit out some thunderstorms that night.

On Saturday, we finished the trip to Milwaukee. We had some good sailing for a while, but the winds weren’t coming from the right direction. We eventually took the sails down and motored the rest of the way, just barely beating the rain again.

After going to church on Sunday, we sailed back to Winthrop Harbor. We could still see Milwaukee in the background when we also started seeing storm clouds and lightening behind us and travelling in the same direction we were. We considered taking shelter before Winthrop Harbor but decided to try to beat the storm if we could. Rain isn’t a hazard when sailing, but lightening is, especially with the sails up. So we took them down and motored. We managed to beat the lightening to Winthrop Harbor, but we got soaked on the way.

Donald had left his car at Waukegan, so I took the train there on Monday and picked it up, then drove it to work. Roland, Donald, and John had an uneventful sail home.

Das Zeltlagermanie didn’t have enough room to sleep four adults comfortably, but Freizeit did. That’s one of the advantages of moving up.

But it took several years before we made another try at the North Channel.

Murphy's Law

Monday, October 3, 2016

Murphy’s law says that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. A good sailor tries to anticipate what can go wrong and prepare for it. Roland and I were not good sailors in 1995 when we made our first attempt to sail Lake Huron’s North Channel.

By 1995, we had already sailed for three seasons. But we had stayed close to home, and our experience was limited to the wide-open spaces and uncluttered depths of Lake Michigan. Now it was time to try something different.

It was to be a two-sailboat trip. Donald would bring his 18-foot Precision, Scheherazade, along as well. Twelve-year-old Caroline would sail with him during the day and sleep on Das Zeltlagermanie at night, and eight-year-old John would reverse that. The picture at the top of this post shows the five sailors as we got ready to leave Indiana.

It was the first time we had trailered Das Zeltlagermanie more than a few miles. Now we were making the much longer trip to DeTour Village—my childhood home—on the eastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We stopped several times on the way to redistribute the weight on the boat to prevent swaying.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and perfect sailing weather when we left the marina at DeTour and headed for our first anchorage at Harbor Island. We had been out for about an hour and were sailing in moderate winds. Das Zeltlagermanie had just completed a tack when . . . Crack! Suddenly the spreaders from our aluminum mast were on the cabin roof and the sails, shrouds, and lines were dangling in the water. The mast had snapped just below the spreaders without giving us any warning.

Close behind in Scheherazade, Donald and Caroline realized that we were in trouble. They quickly took their sails down and came alongside to help.

Working almost without thinking, Roland, John and I pulled the sails and lines out of the water. Then Donald came aboard and helped retrieve the mast and secure the rigging so we would not lose it as we motored back to DeTour. We were proud of how calm we stayed in the crisis. I even thought to snap this picture after we got everything straightened up:

Back at the marina, we took the sails and lines off and stowed them away, and we removed the broken mast and tied it to the trailer. Das Zeltlagermanie looked naked and forlorn. But she was a conversation starter, and almost everyone at the marina came by to ask what had happened.

Das Zeltlagermanie still offered us a place to cook and sleep, so we stayed at the marina that week awaiting instructions from the insurance company. We used the time to sightsee the Eastern Upper Peninsula by car. One of the places we visited was the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. That might have been a mistake, as the museum and our vacation shared the same theme. But we did have dinner in nearby Paradise.

Sightseeing on land did not satisfy us, however. It was supposed to be a cruising vacation and we still had a motor, so we decided to take the boats on a weekend trip to Canadian waters.

In company with Scheherazade, we left the marina on Friday to cruise up St. Mary’s River. That night we anchored on the east side of East Neebish Island, rafting the two boats together. It was the first time Roland, the children, and I had anchored out, and we slept well. Donald woke during a thunderstorm and kept anchor watch until it passed, but our anchor held both boats through the thunderstorm and high winds.

On Saturday, we visited St. Joseph’s Island in Canada and then headed to Bruce Mines on the Canadian mainland, were we docked and spent the night. After attending church and doing some sightseeing on Sunday, we headed back to DeTour. In spite of our earlier mishap, we were enjoying our vacation.

Since we were motoring and Donald and Caroline were sailing in light winds, Das Zeltlagermanie got way ahead of Scheherazade. I navigated while Roland steered, and I kept a careful eye on a shallow, rocky area marked on the chart. We did not have a depth sounder or a GPS, but I was sure we were quite a ways east of the rock bed, so I was not concerned.

I had just relieved Roland at the tiller when he looked over the side and yelled, “Rocks!”

Too late.

Crunch. The rudder struck a boulder and was propelled forward, breaking the top rudder bracket and putting a small hole in the transom. The hole was above the water line, but we could no longer steer the boat with the tiller. Roland tried steering with the outboard motor, but he could not find the adjustment to loosen the steering. Despite the light winds, a strong swell made steering difficult. And without loosening the steering, the motor was too stiff to steer a straight course.

There were no other boats around us, and we did not know how far back Donald and Caroline were. We would have used the radio to call for help, but the antenna was at the top of the mast, and the mast was tied to the trailer back at the marina. We did not have a handheld VHF for backup, so we were unable to contact anyone.

When we saw a boat off in the distance, we shot off two flares but got no response. The boat was too far away, and it may have been too light to see the flares anyway.

Using the motor, Roland steered Das Zeltlagermanie in a circle to keep it from floating closer to the submerged rocks and further damage. Other than that, there was nothing to do but wait. We could only hope that Scheherazade or another boat would come by and see us, or that Donald would send out the Coast Guard when we did not return. It was mid-afternoon when John spied sails to the north. “There’s another boat,” he cried. “Could it be Uncle Don and Caroline?”

This time Roland tried the air horn. Three short blasts. Three long blasts. Three short blasts. Then a long pause.

Of in the distance, Caroline recognized our denuded sailboat and turned to Donald. “It’s Mom and Dad! They’ve run out of gas!”

“Get the air horn from the cabin and we’ll signal them back. Scheherazade to the rescue!”

Donald’s boat and motor were too small to tow us without our steering, so he used his radio to call a towboat. When the towboat arrived, it towed us to the Yacht Haven on Drummond Island. Roland, John, and I left Das Zeltlagermanie there for the night, borrowed a car, and caught the last ferry to DeTour. We got there around 10:30 p.m., just before Donald and Caroline arrived at the marina in Scheherazade.

By then we were all starved, but DeTour rolled up the streets at 10:00 p.m., and all the restaurants were closed. We had left all our food on Das Zeltlagermanie, and there were no stores open to sell us groceries. My family still had a cottage at DeTour, so we slept there that night. But there was no food in the cottage, either, and we went to bed hungry. To me, that was the biggest disaster of our vacation.

The next morning we ate a hearty breakfast before taking the ferry back to Drummond Island to get Das Zeltlagermanie out of the water. That wasn’t easy, either, due to the lack of steering and a steep boat ramp. But eventually we got it out and made our way back to Indiana.

We never did find out why the mast snapped. Our best guess is that we had unintentionally weakened the structural integrity of the mast when we widened a hole to replace a baby stay and added further stress by providing insufficient support at that point when trailoring the boat to DeTour.

Landing on the rocks was my fault. I simply misjudged the distance.

Two lessons we learned were to always carry a handheld VHS and don’t rely soley on judgment when determining distance from a reef or other impediment.

The dealer repaired the boat and the insurance company covered most of the cost. We spent several more years sailing Das Zeltlagermanie on Lake Michigan, and we didn’t give up our dream of sailing the North Channel.

But first we bought a bigger boat.

Boat Owners

Monday, September 26, 2016

Roland and I became boat owners in May 1992. After we looked at several used sailboats with my two requirements (an enclosed head and a galley), we had almost decided to buy a 23 foot 1987 Beneteau First 236. It had all of the special sails in addition to the basic ones but was missing a ship-to-shore radio and a compass. Caroline and John loved it because it had an AM radio and tape deck. Before making an offer, however, we wanted my brother to look at it and give us his opinion. And while we were waiting for Donald to come up from Nashville, the owner succumbed to the beautiful weather and seller’s remorse and took the boat off the market.

That turned out to be a good thing. The broker received another 1987 Beneteau First 236, and it was offered at a lower price. It had fewer sails—just a main and a jib—but it did have the ship-to-shore radio and compass. The children were happy because it also had an AM radio and tape deck. So we bought the second boat, named her Das Zeltlagermanie (Camp Mania), and rented a slip at the Hammond Marina.

Das Zeltlagermanie was a fairly basic boat. It didn’t have either a wheel or roller furling. For those of you who don’t know anything about sailboats, that means we steered with a tiller and had to leave the cockpit to put the sails up and down. Steering was Roland’s job.

Putting the sails up, trimming them, and taking them down again was my job. The mainsail remained attached to the boom all summer but had to be raised by hand while standing at the mast. Although the boat came with a jib, we had to purchase a genoa, which is a larger headsail for lighter winds. We would choose either the jib or the genoa depending on the weather, and I would attach it before we left the marina. Then I had to go forward and raise it after raising the main. The picture shows me getting ready to raise the headsail. If you look on the right, you can see that the main is already up.

After spending about four hours on our boat with a private instructor, we felt ready to go out on our own. The first year, however, we didn’t attempt any overnight trips.

That came the following year, in August 1993. We planned to sail up to Holland, Michigan where my parents lived. Roland and the children were going to leave on Thursday and I would take the train to Michigan City after work and meet them there. However, thunderstorms prevented them from leaving on Thursday, so we all left together on Friday. That day had heavy fog and no wind, so we mostly motored to Michigan City. With less fog but still no wind on Saturday, we only made it as far as St. Joseph, Michigan, and called my parents to pick us up. After our visit, we returned to the boat and headed home.

The weather indications were deceptive on the way to Michigan City, so we kept changing sails from the genoa to the jib and back again before we finally decided that there wasn’t even enough wind for the genoa. It was our first experience changing headsails while under way, and we discovered that we were pretty good at it. In fact, I missed that job when we moved up to a boat with roller furling. Raising the sails was easier on Freizeit but not nearly as much fun.

We finally managed to get a good sail in the last day of our trip as we went from Michigan City to Hammond.

By 1995, we were ready to take a longer trip. But that’s a story for next time.

A Windless Day

Monday, September 19, 2016

The “sail” that hooked us on sailing wasn’t a sail at all. It was a very long, windless day on Lake Superior with five adults and four children crammed into my brother’s 18-foot Precision sailboat, Scheherezade.

We had joined up with my parents, brothers, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew to visit Washburn, Wisconsin, where my father grew up. They stayed in a motel, but we camped at the nearby Red Cliff Indian Reservation. We soon discovered that my first-cousin-once-removed Mike Keur and his family happened to be camping there, too. Mike’s daughters surrounded Caroline in age (one a year older and one a year younger), and Caroline and John enjoyed playing with them.

My older brother, Donald, had brought his sailboat, and he offered to take the Camps and the Keurs sailing around the Apostle Islands. It sounded good to us, so five adults and four children crammed into his 18-foot boat and took off.

There was very little wind when we left. We tried putting the sails up, but they didn’t do us any good. Although Donald hadn’t topped off his gas tank, he thought he had plenty because the wind was sure to come up in the afternoon. This was Lake Superior, after all. So we motored to Oak Island, where we ate our lunch and “mountain” climbed up a short cliff using a rope that was there for the purpose. The children had a great time. But when we got back on the boat, there was still no wind.

Donald was confident that the wind would blow later in the afternoon, so we motored to Raspberry Island and visited the old lighthouse there. Then we headed for home. Still no wind, and Donald had to motor very slowly to make the most of the little gas remaining. We had eaten all the food on board long before, and we were all hungry. Donald had a port-a-potty but no place to put it except in the cabin. Although we promised we wouldn’t look, the girls were too embarrassed to use it.

We were running on fumes by the time we found a yacht club with a gas pump and a restroom. Unfortunately, the facilities were only open to yacht club members. When they saw the children, however, they took pity on us and let us get gas and use the toilet.

Those needs had been met, but we were still hungry. It was 9:00 p.m. by the time we got back, and we all headed to town for pizza.

Then Roland said he wanted to buy a sailboat. I had two conditions: that it have an enclosed head and a galley where we could keep extra food in case we got caught out on the water at mealtime.

In spite of the mishaps, we enjoyed the peacefulness that comes with sailing. (And we had gone on a short sail a couple of days earlier where we actually sailed, so we weren’t basing our decision entirely on that one long day.)

So we bought our own boat, and the adventures began.


The first picture shows Donald, the Camps, and the Keurs on Oak Island. The second shows Caroline and John on Scheherezade.