Cape Dory Rendezvous – St. Joseph, MI, July 8-10

Southern Lake Michigan Cape Dory Rendezvous/Sail-in
St. Joseph, MI – July 8-10

The Ariel crew, Dave and David, will be hosting this year’s Lake Michigan Rendezvous at their home port of St. Joseph, MI, July 8-10. Come by boat, car or train! There will be sailing, great food, gorgeous Lake Michigan sunsets, a few prizes, plenty of good conversation, and maybe even a trip to the Midwest’s largest marine store, Wolf’s Marine.

St. Joe is an easy sail across the lake from Chicago and within a few hours of Holland, South Haven, and Saugatuck – just a few of several enjoyable ports of call along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. Come enjoy a great town with an updated municipal marina, a quaint downtown with a number of tasty eateries, and great views of the lake. Unwind, see the sights, and meet up with other great CD owners.

Drive-ins are encouraged, too! There are a couple of nice hotels, one of which overlooks the lake, and plenty to do in the area.

Hope to see you this summer! Check out the St. Joseph harbor report on this site for information. Here is the information sheet for this year’s rendezvous:


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Here are some quick distance estimates from Chicago, Milwaukee, and Holland to St. Joseph. We’d love to have CDs from all over Lake Michigan, so work St. Joseph into your cruising plans if you can.

Questions? Comments? Let us know by leaving a comment or emailing David VanDenburgh at ariel [dot] cd36 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Report: Traverse City to Suttons Bay


Contributed by Guy L., who sails his CD28 out of Traverse City.


Perhaps the best part of winter is that it gives us time to reflect on the previous sailing season and anticipate the next. Without a doubt, two adventures aboard my new (to me) Cape Dory 28 Sisu (name to change this year) will always stand out. The first was the CDSOA Lake Michigan cruise to Beaver Island in August, followed in October by our sail up to Suttons Bay from Traverse City.

As much as the trip to Beaver Island was a fantastic week with new experiences – e.g., difficult anchoring conditions, living aboard for a week – the conditions were such that we had to motor up and back. Suttons Bay was a great opportunity for some sailing.

Suttons Bay is an easy sail from Traverse City, just 15 nautical miles or so. We started out with brisk NW winds at 15, gusting to 25 mph. Having owned two boats previous to the 28 – a CD Typhoon and then a CD 25 – I finally learned the value and necessity of reefing the main. While temperatures were comfortable, having the dodger was added protection and the boat handled the trip as if to say “no problem!” I have read many similar comments regarding the stiff sailing abilities of these fine craft and am proud to be among that group.

Rounding the marker at Stony Point, the wind shifted to the southwest which prompted our decision to drop sails and motor the rest of the way. Our original plan was to spend a couple nights at anchor, but we realized that this wind direction would be better managed tied up in a slip at the municipal marina. We hailed the harbor master on the VHF and were assigned a transient slip. One word of caution for future reference: request assistance upon arrival as the slip number assigned was actually on the opposite side we were told. Having a young man at the slip not only marked the correct location, but he was helpful in making a more successful landing!

Suttons Bay Municipal Marina
Suttons Bay Municipal Marina. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

The marina offers restrooms with showers, and water and electricity at the slip. Being centrally located in this popular tourist town, the marina offers easy access to many fine restaurants, most within an easy walk. There’s a movie theater, shopping, and a nice, well-stocked grocery store nearby to provide all your needs. Whether transportation is provided by the local bus system or other means, several wineries offer tasting rooms, adding to shoreside things to do.

After spending two relaxing nights, it was time to head back to Traverse City. As we departed the marina and headed out to the bay, the beautiful tall ship Inland Seas was out with another group. This organization’s mission is to help people of all ages experience the science and spirit of the Great Lakes. The group offers both shipboard and onshore programs.

Our conditions heading back to town were similar, and again we were under reefed main with winds out of the northwest. With this wind direction, the trip was made easy by not having to tack or jibe – as was our experience two days before.


As for destinations on your sailing itinerary, Suttons Bay is not to be missed and is situated between two other fine ports: Northport and Traverse City.

Self-Steering Without an Autopilot

By David VanDenburgh Sr.

We were a week out of Hawaii heading for San Francisco and both our autopilot and our backup autopilot had packed it in. We tried a fix but upon opening the case found the gears ground to powder. It looked like someone would need to steer all the way home (about three or four weeks). I figured this would be the perfect time to see if I could make Pygmalion (a Westsail 32) steer herself.

When the wind is forward of the beam, self-steering is not too hard to achieve (at least not in a full-keel cruising boat – those of you with fin-keeled flat-bottom modified racers are on your own!). To accomplish it, you have to understand the forces involved.

First, put the boat on course and hold her there. Then tinker with sheets until the helm is well balanced – just a touch of weather helm. The principle here is to move the center of effort and the center of resistance very close to one another, with the center of effort just slightly aft of the center of resistance. The center of effort is moved aft by easing headsails and hardening the mainsail (on a sloop or cutter) and/or the mizzen (on a ketch or yawl). Conversely, the center of effort is moved forward by hardening the headsails and easing the main (and/or mizzen). (There’s not much you can do to move the center of resistance unless you want to move stores around and rebalance your boat.)

If the wind were steady in force and direction, all you would need is a light bungee cord to hold the tiller or wheel against the slight tendency of the boat to head up, but of course the wind is not steady. Puffs will cause the boat to heel which will cause her to want to head up (stretching the bungee cord). Lulls will let her stand up which will cause her to want to head down (as the bungee cord pulls the tiller up). Fortunately you can take advantage of your boat’s reaction to heeling.

What you want to do is translate the extra tension on a sail created by a puff into a force that pulls the tiller/wheel in a direction that will head the boat downwind a little to resist the tendency to round up. Conversely, you want to translate the reduced tension on a sail during a lull into a force that turns the tiller/wheel in a direction that will head the boat upwind a little to resist the tendency to head off.

There are a number of ways to do this, but the easiest way is to tie a line into a headsail sheet with a rolling hitch (or taut line hitch) and bring it to the tiller (through a block or two) so that increased tension in that line will pull the tiller up and resist the tendency of the boat to head up. This force will probably need to be balanced with a bungee cord pulling in the opposite direction. In a puff, the boat heels and wants to round up into the wind, but the increased pressure on the sail pulls harder on the sheet and therefore on the self-steerer line tied into the sheet, which pulls the tiller up and resists the tendency to round up into the wind. When the puff eases, the bungee cord pulls the tiller down, heading the boat a bit off the wind. It takes tinkering to get it right.

Using this rig, we were able to get Pygmalion to steer herself for hundreds of miles at a time, setting us free from the tiller and reducing fatigue.

Sailing Downwind with Twin Headsails

Sailing downwind in light wind (say 3-8kts) can be a little frustrating, especially if there’s any sea left over from earlier winds and your sail inventory doesn’t include light-air or downwind sails. In those conditions, the mainsail typically slats back and forth as the boat rolls about, and the jib collapses and fills, often blanketed by the main. Dropping the main and sailing under jib alone quiets things and saves wear on the rig, but a modestly-sized headsail doesn’t provide the area needed to move the boat adequately – as is the case on the cutter-rigged Cape Dory 36 with a Yankee jib.

A great solution for gaining a bit more speed without the expense of a spinnaker, and without too much fuss, is to hoist two headsails. In our case, we pole our Yankee jib on one side and sheet the drifter off the end of the boom on the other side. Since the Yankee is on the furler, the drifter is set flying (or loose), attached only at the head, tack and clew. If you don’t have a drifter, the same configuration with a genoa and jib would work.

Here is a short video of the twin headsail configuration we use aboard Ariel, a Cape Dory 36.

SISU, Cape Dory 28


Guy Leslie is no stranger to Cape Dorys. He learned to sail in a Typhoon on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., and then moved on to a CD25 that he sailed on the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay. The CD25 made a short trip over land when Guy moved to Traverse City and West Bay, where she spent 23 years in Guy’s care. As much as Guy liked his CD25, he said that he has “realized a dream in purchasing the 28″. SISU, Finnish for “dogged determination”, has already made an extended trip to Beaver Island during her first season. Guy hopes to continue cruising Lake Michigan and beyond.

Second Wind, CD Typhoon


A brief message from Jim Trandel, owner of Second Wind.

“This is a picture of my 1983 CD Typhoon Weekender moored at Monroe Harbor in Chicago. I’m retired and spending most of my free time on the “Second Wind” my first sailboat. The Second Wind is from Vermont – Lake Champlain. She was not sailed much according to the three previous owners and was kept in pristine condition. Even her cushions are in excellent condition and the original sails are still crisp and stain-free. It was a great find and worthy of the 34 hour trek to get her to Chicago. I have replaced the running rigging and plan to replace the standing rigging and seacocks when she is on the hard this Winter.”