Tag Archives: ariel

Report: Beaver Island Rendezvous



There could be no greater testimony to the high caliber of Cape Dory owners than a loosely planned event – hosted by a couple of newbies, no less – turning out to be a great time. And such was the case for the Lake Michigan rendezvous held Aug. 2-6 at St. James Harbor, Beaver Island, the relaxed island atmosphere and its natural beauty providing the perfect backdrop. Even without a carefully planned schedule, tours, or activities, there was plenty of good conversation, a congenial spirit, and a lot of enthusiasm for the event – and even excited talk about planning one for next year.

Thanks in large part to the efforts of Cathy Monaghan and Great Lakes Fleet Captain Ed Haley, who regularly posted registration reminders to the CD Board, 10 people registered for the event and four boats made the trip. Now this number might be small in comparison to some of our other fleets, but as our Dear Mr. Dunn pointed out in a recent issue of Masthead, the vastness of the Great Lakes shoreline tends to complicate things. (Some quick math indicates that the one-way mileage average of the four boats is roughly 160nm)

When Ariel and her crew, Dave and David VanDenburgh, arrived Sunday evening, August 1, we were greeted with a pretty harbor made more attractive by the presence of two Cape Dorys, SISU (CD28) and Spindrift (CD300MS). After anchoring and settling in, we dinghied over to SISU and met Guy Leslie and Jan Jones. Guy is a long-time Cape Dory owner (first a Typhoon Weekender, then a CD25) and the proud new owner of a beautiful CD28, SISU, which he purchased in Holland, MI, in September 2009 and brought to her new port in Traverse City. When he heard about the rendezvous, Guy was eager to meet up with other CD owners and said he “just had to make it.” And make it he did, taking SISU on their first extended trip together. Little did he know he’d have a few more opportunities to “get acquainted” with her as the week progressed. In the true spirit of a rendezvous, however, he found that he had plenty of support as he dealt with tough anchoring conditions and some transmission issues. Much to his credit, Guy remained optimistic and unflappable through it all.

Guy Leslie descending into the engine compartment to ferret out the cause of his transmission woes.
Guy Leslie aboard SISU.

Monday morning dawned rainy and windy, a 15-20 kt southwesterly setting in for much of the week. The gusts proved too much for SISU’s anchor and she began creeping downwind through the anchorage, her anchor fouled with weeds. Once SISU was safely re-anchored, we went ashore to meet Bill and Mary Kay Movalson, new owners of Spindrift, a very clean CD 300 Motorsailer out of Gladstone, MI, just north of Escanaba.

A weedy bottom made for tough anchoring.

Bill and Mary Kay Movalson’s CD 300 Motorsailer, Spindrift

Bill and Mary Kay purchased Spindrift in May and, like Guy, they were excited to hear about the Beaver Island rendezvous. Bill is quite the gadget/innovation guy and has already made a number of upgrades to the boat, including custom dinghy davits and pilothouse doors. Mary Kay is a gracious host and loves the comfortable ride and versatility afforded by the Motorsailer. Bill and Mary Kay had obligations in Mackinac and needed to get an early start in the morning, so the group enjoyed drinks and conversation aboard Spindrift before heading to Shamrock, a local restaurant. Just as we were leaving the dock, Mike Ritenour and Sue arrived aboard La Vida, a CD33. Rit and Sue, exhausted from their 60+ nm trip from Cheboygan (not to mention their earlier travels through Lake Superior and the Soo locks), opted to settle in for the night and anchored in the harbor.

La Vida anchored in St. James Harbor.

The group met in the morning for coffee and breakfast (and yet more great conversation), and then walked over the St. James Boat Shop to check on Bill, a skilled woodworker and old friend of Rit’s. Bill and his apprentice make fine cherry buckets and strip canoes. Sawdust covers the floor of the shop and partially completed boats hang from the ceiling or rest on sawhorses. After taking a bit of joshing from Bill, whose 80-something mind is as sharp as ever, Rit added another cherry bucket memento to his collection.

Old Bill splicing a handle for his cherry bucket.

After some exploring and stocking up on groceries, the group migrated to La Vida for drinks and conversation. Rit gave a tour of La Vida, which is absolutely decked out with gear, while Sue listened graciously. For those who don’t know, La Vida was a victim of hurricane Hugo and rescued by Rit, who has put some 60,000 miles under her keel since then. To say that she is equipped is an understatement. By Rit’s own account, even the Coast Guard during a courtesy inspection finally gave up trying to find fault when they realized they weren’t in the presence of your typical Weekend Warrior. Rit’s good nature and wonderful companion, combined with his considerable experience, made the time aboard La Vida a real privilege.

l-r: Michael “Rit” Ritenour, Guy Leslie, Sue

Two members came in by ferry: Kevin LeMans and Great Lakes Fleet Captain Ed Haley. Kevin had originally planned to sail Raconteur, his CD30, but crew plans fell through and he ended up camping on the island with his family and joining the group for breakfast. We hope to meet Raconteur in person at the next rendezvous! Ed Haley traveled and then traveled some more to make an appearance, and we are grateful for his dedication. After completing a 500-mile bike ride through Iowa with his son, Ed drove to Charlevoix and caught the ferry to Beaver Island, arriving just in time to sort out some transmission issues on SISU. Not surprisingly, Ed once owned a CD28, so his experience came in handy.

Dinner with the crew the night before departure.

Friday morning brought with it a shift in wind, giving everyone a fair wind home. We said our goodbyes over breakfast, courtesy of the GLF, and set a course for home. Rit, Sue and La Vida set out through Gray’s Reef Passage and on to Mackinac; Ariel headed south for South Manitou Island (and St. Joseph); and Ed and Guy messed about with SISU before Ed took the ferry back to Charlevoix. Despite his earlier transmission troubles, Guy made it home safely to Traverse City without a glitch.

Rit and Ed Haley say goodbye.

Although the newbies might like to take credit for a successful rendezvous, there’s no doubt that it was due to the unequaled character of your typical Cape Dory owner. After all, great boats pick great people. Perhaps there will be more great boats and great people next year?! We’ll keep you posted.

Ariel in early morning sunlight, departure day.

Destination: St. James Harbor, Beaver Island

Ariel anchored in St. James Harbor, Beaver Island.

One of the great things about sailing Lake Michigan is that it’s easy to feel like you’ve really gotten away from it all. With a harbor dotting the eastern shoreline every 40nm or so, it’s easy to slip away for a weekend and enjoy a tranquil anchorage and some new sights. Beaver Island, located at the northern end of Lake Michigan, is a great cruising destination and one that really is away from it all. If you like anchoring out and prefer staying aboard reading, relaxing, and enjoying the sights from the deck of your boat, Beaver Island is the perfect spot. (If you like people, fine restaurants, and lots to do, check out Charlevoix’s Round Lake, where you can anchor on short scope, surrounded by other boats, and watch the parade of boats watch you.)

The following report provides basic information about St. James Harbor and is not intended to be used for navigational purposes.

The approach to St. James Harbor is from the ESE and presents no obstacles. (The northern end of Lake Michigan presents far more navigational obstacles than the southern end; sailors unfamiliar with the area should consult their charts carefully.) Once inside the harbor, there is significant shoaling to the south and southwest, and some thin water to the north. The ferry dock (Emerald Isle ferry from Charlevoix) and municipal marina, located in the NW portion of the harbor, provide a good landmark to steer for. Although the local marina offers transient slips, St. James Harbor provides good holding and shelter, making anchoring preferable*, especially if you have a dinghy to go ashore.

*Anchoring is especially preferable thanks to the harbormaster at the Municipal Marina who, apparently, has little affection or patience for visitors to his island.

Buoys in the inner harbor mark a channel to the northern part of the harbor. There is ***good holding in a sandy bottom with moderate depths. Our preference was to nose into the shallower water at the southern end of the inner harbor to reduce rode length. We anchored in about 10-12 feet of water and set out 70′ of rode for a scope of 7:1. ***Our experience during the rendezvous of 2010 indicates that holding can be marginal. An abundance of weeds resulted in two members dragging their anchors or having difficulty setting. Be sure to back on your anchor to ensure that it is well dug in.***

The island is not especially dinghy friendly, but we discovered that the folks at Beaver Island Marina, at the north end of the harbor, are happy to let sailors use their beach for coming ashore.

Local sights ashore include a historical society and museum, with much attention given to King Strang and the island’s Irish heritage. There are a few local eateries. A store located near the Beaver Island Marina provided easy dinghy access. I understand that there is some great hiking and camping on the island, but we didn’t look into that.

Without a doubt, the best part of Beaver Island is the harbor. The solitude, the wooded shoreline, the sounds of a pulpwood tug, and the absence of other boats make St. James Harbor a peaceful getaway.

North end Lake Michigan
About 27nm NNW of Charlevoix and 37nm from the north end of Traverse Bay, Beaver Island is a good destination for those interested in a weekend getaway.

Beaver Island group
Beaver Island and its surrounding islands – Fox, Garden, Hog, High. Although cruisers can explore the other islands, thin water and exposed anchorages require more caution and planning.

The approach to St. James Harbor.

St. James Harbor
Boats with a shallow draft can cut north into the main harbor. Deeper draft vessels must exercise caution or use the channel.

Photos of Beaver Island’s St. James Harbor


Ariel, CD36

Ariel is a 1979 Cape Dory 36, hull #7, owned and maintained by a father-son team. We bought the boat in 2002 and transported her to St. Joseph from her original home on Cayuga Lake in Upstate New York. Ariel has been in freshwater since her construction (as far as we know) and is well preserved. We have upgraded many of her systems and do our best to keep her in top shape. She is not only attractive, but she’s a joy to sail. She has been to Door County, Wisconsin, Beaver Island, Charlevoix, and most ports along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. Summer 2010 should find her in the North Channel.

You can visit our website HERE where you will find more information about the boat, the crew, and projects.

Spin-Tec roller furling review

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Simplicity and technology need not be at odds with each other. Take the technology of Dacron or fiberglass. Both of those bits of technology have proven simple and yet remarkably durable and efficient, making owning, sailing, and maintaining a boat simpler – and more enjoyable – than ever. Now, if cotton and oakum are your thing, read no further. When roller furling emerged on the market, traditionalists viewed it with skepticism, and for good reason. After all, why complicate things? And early furling systems did have their problems. Not only were they bulky and expensive, but they often jammed at the worst possible moment, leaving skippers to watch helplessly as their headsail flogged itself to pieces or, worse, drew greedy gulps of wind as the boat thundered out of control toward another boat, or a dock, or…. Modern furling units have resolved most of those issues and are much more reliable.

There are a number of roller furling units on the market, a few of which have received excellent reviews and some that have not; some are well-known and others unfamiliar. Finding the right combination of quality without publicity could translate to major savings on a great product. One of those lesser-known but quality units is Spin-Tec. We met Betsy, a Spin-Tec representative, at the Strictly Sail show in Chicago last year where she demonstrated the Triumph 2000 system and discussed with us its features and construction.

We were immediately drawn to the simplicity of the design. Unlike most roller furlers, Spin-Tec furlers do not use ball bearings. Instead, the unit – drum and foil – rides on Delrin bushings. Additionally, the unit does not utilize an upper swivel between the headsail halyard and the head of the sail, meaning that the whole thing rotates as a unit so there are fewer parts to wear out and less likelihood of failure. This design eliminates the weak spot of traditional roller furlers. Upper swivels are not only subject to wear, but they can cause halyard wrap if the headsail halyard is not led to the furler at an appropriate angle. Typically, this involves adding hardware at the masthead to achieve a specified angle between the halyard and the furler. Halyard wrap renders a furling unit inoperable, and potentially at the worst time. Finding a unit that eliminated this problem was a priority.

This design certainly is simpler than many of the units on the market, but it’s not without its complications, most notably the inability to hoist or remove a headsail without going aloft to secure the head to a stainless steel bail that is welded to the upper part of the extrusion, or masthead tube. To address this, Spin-Tec sells a device, a sort of car-assembly, called a halyard accessory that rides on the foil and allows users to change sails from the deck with the aid of the halyard. The unit certainly seems handy, and functioned well in Betsy’s demonstration, but the additional expense of $300 is tough to swallow, especially since we have no need to change the headsail and don’t mind a trip aloft. There is an additional drawback to the halyard accessory: It uses a meathook-shaped piece of stainless steel to hook the bail on the masthead tube, thus securing the head of the jib. Imagining that pointy piece of steel aloft immediately conjured visions of a shredded drifter.

The standard roller furling assembly is still a slick, streamlined unit, and the fact that it came with everything needed for setup was equally attractive. When we looked at comparable units by other manufacturers, the advertised price was only the starting point. And not only were their starting prices higher, but the necessary add-ons meant that we would get a lot less bang for our buck. Like most sailors, we are price-conscious and must spread our boat units as far as possible without compromising quality. Spin-Tec’s quality and pricing meant that we were able to buy two furlers – staysail and jib – for only a little more than the price of one furler by big-name companies like Schaefer (which was second on our list) or Harken.

Spin-Tec furlers differ from other furlers in their assembly. Rather than rivets to secure foil sections, Spin-Tec includes aluminum channel inserts that are glued in place to join foil sections seamlessly. The theory behind this is that the entire furler is in compression when in use so there is no need for fasteners. This certainly speeds and eases assembly, and seems plenty stout, but only time will tell how well the system will hold up. I should add that the aluminum channel inserts fit snugly within the extrusion, so the glue is mostly redundant and a gap-filler to ensure a snug fit. The unit is also designed to fit over existing fittings, so there is no need to cut or modify the rigging. Simply remove the turnbuckle from the lower swage fitting and begin sliding foil sections toward the upper swage fitting, joining sections as you go.

During assembly, five Delrin bushings are inserted at regular intervals in each foil section to secure the furler to the headstay, ensure smooth operation, and eliminate metal-on-metal contact. Spin-Tec includes a steel rod that is used to push each bushing to its proper location within the foil. This process involved quite a bit of grunting and resulted in a couple of blisters. The instructions suggest that moderate force may be required to push each bushing to its seat – i.e., projections within the extrusion. Either “moderate force” is an understatement or I’m a total wuss. Yes, there were some bushings that went into place with “moderate force,” but that was the exception and not the rule. Most bushings required a fair bit of coaxing, which occasionally involved a few taps with a hammer. The upshot of all that effort is that it’s unlikely the bushings will ever shift out of position.

I completed assembly of both furlers over a two-day period, totaling about six hours. This system is the only system I’ve assembled, so I can’t make any comparisons to other brands. The assembly did catch the attention of the harbor master and a few boat owners. The harbor master commented on the size (diameter) of the foil sections and the lack of rivets, shrugged his shoulders and left. The double-grooved foil, shaped like an airfoil, is elliptical and slightly larger than most.

Adjusting headstay tension once the furler is in place is accomplished easily. The drum assembly of the furler slides over the extrusion and the lower tube, and is secured with six machine screws. Accessing the turnbuckle requires removing the six screws and sliding the drum up the extrusion where it can be locked in place. With the drum out of the way, the turnbuckle is adjusted easily.

The furler’s open-drum design is simplicity itself, and good lead placement results in a smooth, tight coil of line. This is another feature that sets Spin-Tec furlers apart from other brands that use closed or semi-closed drums that can make clearing furling line jams impossible or, at best, frustrating and time consuming. Because the Spin-Tec drum is open, however, some tension needs to be kept on the furling line when the sail is unfurled lest the line work its way off of the drum. Simply cleating the furling line prevents this from happening. We installed a genoa track-mounted jam cleat for each furling line on the starboard side and another, mounted to port, for the staysail outhaul since it’s set on a boom. The kit included four fairleads, which was not enough for Ariel’s length. Betsy from Spin-Tec happily sent us four additional fairleads that I placed in strategic locations to minimize chafe and provide smooth operation of the furling line, 60′ of 7/16″ double-braid nylon that comes with the kit and is easy on the hands.

Rigging the furling unit for the staysail was only slightly more involved than the jib. Beyond the standard assembly and furling line routing, we needed to rig an outhaul that would allow us to maintain the boom-mounted staysail’s self-tending feature. We already had a block on the aft end of the staysail boom for an adjustable outhaul that would redirect the line forward toward the staysail boom pedestal. From there, I added a small block to the staysail gooseneck and routed the outhaul outboard to the rail-mounted block included in the Spin-Tec kit. The staysail outhaul then travels aft through standard fairleads where it terminates at a jam cleat mounted on the genoa track. Unfurling the staysail requires uncleating the line to the furling drum, then hauling in on the outhaul. Furling the staysail is just a reversal of these steps, the staysail boom topping lift keeping the boom under control when the sail is furled. This setup has the added benefit of making it possible to adjust staysail outhaul tension from the cockpit.


We logged several daysails and a two-week cruise last season. The furlers performed flawlessly, saving time and energy, and relieved us from going forward to ready or douse the staysail and jib. The units spin freely and easily thanks to the large diameter of the drums. The system’s quirks, such as they are, don’t cramp our style any. The simplicity of the Spin-Tec design would probably appeal less to sailors who expect to change headsails frequently, but for the cruising crowd it’s a great system: we set the jib and staysail at the beginning of the season, tensioning the luff with a Spectra seizing at the tack, and there they remain until haulout. The absence of the upper swivel also means that we have a free halyard, which we have used for our drifter. (Note: Spin-Tec does offer a furler for race-minded sailors, the R/C 1000)