Every sailing school student and charterer has a unique story about their sailing background…from those who have never set foot on a boat before showing up for class to those who grew up around boats.
This is Bruce & Tracy’s story…
Our first ever charter as a family was “Windfall”, a Catalina 36 in Great Lakes Sailing Co.s fleet. We chartered for 6 days in July 2009 and sailed (in order) to Northport, Petoskey, Beaver Island, Charlevoix, and Sutton’s Bay. Our favorite marina was Charlevoix Municipal, but it’s hard to name a favorite harbor town. We really liked both Petoskey and Charlevoix; who doesn’t? One of Great Lakes Sailing Company’s team, Dirk, sailed with us the first day to Northport as we got to know the boat. That was nice.
I (Bruce) started sailing in high school on an AMF Puffer dinghy on an inland lake in upstate New York. I always hoped I would have a larger sailboat someday . . .
We raised our family in a far west suburb of Chicago and spent many weekends at Whitewater Lake in southern Wisconsin. We had an 18’ Hunter on that lake which was just big enough for our three children and me to anchor out in the lake and sleep in overnight. it was also a good boat for our family to sail. It had a simple jib & main sail plan and an outboard motor for getting in and out of dock.
Our transition to big boat sailing as a family happened one morning at a coffee shop when I asked my family if they’d like to charter big sail boats if I got my ASA certification for chartering. They said “yes”, and in summer 2008 I went to an ASA sailing school in Muskegon, MI for 3 days of training culminating in the bareboat charter certificate.
After our first charter with Great Lakes Sailing Co., we chartered a Beneteau 39 in the British Virgin Islands just before Christmas in 2009. Everybody loves BVI chartering – – the water is crystal clear, the sailing is easy, the mooring at each harbor is easy and island life is simple everywhere you go.
The only other charter we have done was a Catalina 400 in the Grenadines between Christmas and New Year’s in 2011. The Trade Winds came in early that year and we spent a week sailing in constant 30 knot winds with 10 – 20 foot seas. The mooring fields are poorly maintained and anchoring is what you do at each island you visit. But you wake up a few times each night as gusts higher than 30 knots roll through the anchoring area checking to see if your anchor held through that. It’s a much more challenging area to charter and sail by far than the BVI.
After chartering the Catalina 400 in the Grenadines, I was ready to buy a boat and sail on Lake Michigan. The Catalina 400 was the only boat I considered because of how well it had stood up to the conditions we sailed in the Grenadines.
Our boat is a Catalina 400 named “Viva la Vida”, and we bought it in 2012. We raced the Chicago Mackinac race in 2015 with it as well as a few smaller races in preparation for the Mac Race. We live in the Charlotte area of North Carolina now and sail “Viva la Vida” all around Lake Michigan between Memorial Day and Labor Day each summer.
We have no permanent slip anywhere. We take her out of winter storage just after Memorial Day and within a week or so have begun our adventure. We visit 20 harbors each year and then put the boat away for the winter just before Labor Day.