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.