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Teachable Moments


Teachable Moments

After sailing together for the Chicago-Mackinac race and on separate boats for the Port Huron to Mackinac, good friends Tim Prophit and Todd Jones departed from Mackinac Island  with their 12 year old daughters, Maren Prophit and Olivia Jones, for a cruise in Lake Huron’s spectacular North Channel. Our intention was to have a ‘daddy-daughter’ trip, taking our daughters sailing without the competitive pressure associated with racing and with a backdrop of stunning natural beauty. Plus the daddies needed a break from the daily grind. I had been looking forward to this trip since the day last fall when I decided to purchase the NA 40 "Fast Tango."

While my daughter Maren loves to sail, she is happier when she’s on a bigger boat with me, and if her pit bull Zeus can come, she’s even happier. I didn’t grow up sailing, and have heard many of my sailing friends speak fondly of family sailing vacations in the North Channel, so I had in my mind for some time to take her on a sailing vacation up there if the opportunity presented itself. Todd’s daughter Olivia similarly likes to sail, and never really got into the junior sailing thing. When I mentioned the idea to Todd, he thought it was a great idea, so after the Bayview Mackinac race, we headed up with the girls.  Neither of us are great planners, but as always, the logistics seemed to work themselves out.

While the BYC Mackinac Race Awards party was going on, Maren called me and told me she was on the ferry from the mainland along with Olivia.  Since Todd needed to stay with the crew of Burden to pick up their first-place flag, I was free to meet the ferry, and the two excited girls aboard it.  Olivia and Maren wanted to spend ‘just a half hour’ on the island, so off they went. 20 minutes later, they called, asking if they could ride bikes around the island with the Sherry family, which has been sort of a tradition for us and the Sherrys for the past few years.  We had to say no, and the girls found their way back to the boat (Teachable moment: Time nor tide waits for no man…or girl).

Having loaded a minimum of ‘cruising’ stuff (a small inflatable dinghy, sleeping bags, extra clothes) onto Fast Tango, my 1978 North American 40 (a boat with furniture), we headed to DeTour Village. Also, in addition to the furniture and cruising stuff, we had a specialty luxury item; the fitted toilet seat, designed to fit over the 5 gallon bucket, and the inspirational genesis for the newly formed ‘Fitted Bucket Society”. (The fitted toilet seat was a leftover from a charter group who seemed to not like the idea of direct cheek to bucket contact. I would never purchase such an item).

DeTour Village is a small port at the extreme eastern edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where we intended to fuel up, get some additional supplies at the not exorbitant Mackinac Island prices, and leave in the morning for our first stop, Long Point Cove.

This was my second trip to the North Channel, a body of water north of Lake Huron, and the Islands that span its northern border; my only other visit was 19 years ago. Despite Todd’s entire life of living and sailing on these lakes, this was his first trip to the North Channel. And it was the first time for the girls to take an extended sailing trip of any kind.

As soon as we were out of the Harbor, we hoisted the main, left the motor on, and activated the auto-helm.  Motor sailing at 7.2, we quickly covered the 30-ish some miles to De Tour Village. The girls each took a turn at the wheel, but were more content to let the daddies or auto-helm do the work while they enjoyed the sail.

Todd supervised while having a beer for himself, for me, and, for the auto helm. I decided to dry sails, and pulled every bag up from the forepeak, and arranged them on the bow and deck to dry. Laundry day on Fast Tango!

My next task was to rearrange and clean up a little and reorganize our dry storage, take an inventory, and make a shopping list for when we got to De Tour Village. Finding some items that may have been construed as contraband, I sank them.

Once in the harbor, I tried to find the little fish restaurant I vaguely remembered from 19 years ago.  The harbormaster told us that restaurant had closed years ago, but said there was another restaurant, and a bar, so off we went. At that point, I wasn’t sure we were even in the same harbor as we’d been the last (and only) time I’d been there. Walking into town, the restaurant was closing as we walked in, so, it was off to the local bar for some late night greasy dive bar fare.  With our 12 year old daughters in tow, we entered.

We couldn’t help but notice the loudmouth drunk sitting at a table in the center of the bar, pontificating about nothing to the other guy sitting at the table. (Girls, ignore the drunk guy…that’s what people do in bars). Olivia immediately was drawn to the shuffle board game, which is like a long narrow butcher board sprinkled with sawdust, on which you slide metallic discs to the other end, and score points, depending on their placement. Anyway, this game had little pegs sticking up in the middle of it, presumably to prevent people from playing, or practicing, without paying. But Olivia had no way of knowing this. So she slid a disc down the board, and it stopped when it hit the pegs. The loudmouth drunk made sure to let her know she had to pay to play the game. Being a Jones, she slid another disc, hitting the pegs again. This was apparently very upsetting to the loud mouth drunk, as the next words out of his mouth were ‘I love that game, that’s my baby. Don’t you fuck it up!’ directed at Olivia.

Now, if that had been my daughter he’d talked to like that, I would’ve just had to have a chat with the guy, but Todd sometimes has a bit more sense than I do, and, probably wisely, chose to ignore it. (Teachable moment: “Girls, ignore the loudmouth drunk, he’s an idiot”). Just in case though, I noted the presence of 3 other locals, who, I assumed, would rise to the defense of their loudmouth drunk fellow Detourian, should anything develop. Looking around for anything that could be useful to assist my in my defense, should the need arise, I noted the ashtrays on the table were the cheap plastic type, and of no use (as opposed to the heftier glass ashtrays), the chairs at the table were flimsy, but the bar stools were large, and appeared to have enough mass to be useful. I noted which bar stools were empty, and the fastest route to them.

Meanwhile, Jones had fed quarters into the shuffleboard game, and the girls were playing. Soon, our food arrived, and it was a pretty damn good bar burger, along with fries, fried potatoes, fried mushrooms, etc. (Teachable moment: Girls, bars only serve fried stuff. Don’t eat at bars too often, or you’ll get fat).

Washing this greasy feast down with a few Cokes, I soon had to take a leak. Naturally, I had to walk right past the drunk guy to get to the bathroom. Ok, don’t make eye contact, just ignore him. After I entered the bathroom, Jones told me he said “Will you look at that! He’s got an EARRING!. What the HELL is going on?”  When Todd told me this, I new we needed to eat up, pay up, and get out of there before it got ugly. to be continued…