Core Sound Cruising
Small Craft Advisor|July - August 2021
Hmmm. I’m in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a nifty camp-cruiser sailboat on a trailer. I have a daughter on a sailing lake in Michigan, and another daughter on Long Island Sound in Connecticut.
Paul Bargren

Road trip!

In August 2019, I hooked up the Core Sound 17 to the trusty four-cylinder 2004 Camry, and off I went.

It wasn’t quite that easy, of course.

There was equipment to buy, plans and repairs to make, food to figure out, charts to download. The CS17 is an open boat, so I needed to contrive shelter. Even though I’d be tripping solo, I relied heavily on my wife’s help and advice.

And then there was the nagging issue of the previous year’s capsize and turtle. Thanks largely to my daughter’s skill, we had recovered, but barely. Was there any chance I could recover from a solo capsize? I’d never been a nervous sailor, but ever since that unplanned half-hour swim, even looking at a video of someone else’s small boat cruise had me yelling, “Don’t heel; don’t go over.” I’d made a number of rigging and safety improvements to the Core Sound over the winter. But could I get my nerve back?

Well, let’s find out.

The first order of business was a test cruise. After some weeks of planning, organizing and dawdling (retirees can do that), I launched on a Sunday evening in August into the north end of Milwaukee’s harbor, which is formed mainly by breakwaters.

The Core Sound 17 is a plywood and epoxy stitch-and-glue cat ketch designed by Graham Byrnes of B&B Yachts in North Carolina. He actually drew it up to perform well in the Everglades Challenge 300-miler in Florida, and it and its progeny have done just that. It is a sweet boat. It sails fast, points pretty well and will plane in a breeze.

The CS17 does have a lot of strings, some 25 control lines by my count. We capsized when one of those strings on the mizzen mast caught the main sprit as we were coming about in a stiff breeze. The mainsail was caught aback and filled rather than flopped onto the new tack. Over we went. Grrr.

The bow on the 17 is a huge watertight stowage area that I’ve always left empty. The stern seat is also a watertight compartment as are the forward seats. There is a neat little cuddy at the front of the cockpit that’s good for stowage but too small for me to crawl under. (Graham says he slept under his.) I filled my cuddy with a waterproof duffel. The cockpit lockers have a lot of storage space, and I used them for plastic bins of food, safety equipment, lines and tools.

I built my CS17, CarrieB, from B&B’s kit over most of four summers when I was still working full time, and I finally launched her in 2016 after I retired.

Now she was on the water in Milwaukee harbor. There was a nice evening westerly, perfect for heading the 5 miles or so south inside the harbor wall to my chosen anchorage. Even though we’d had the boat out several times since the capsize, this was my first solo trip since then. I was nervous, but I let the mainsail spill in puffs and kept the boat upright, and found I was soon enjoying the jaunt in smooth water.

It was maybe an hour’s sail from the public ramp down to the anchorage. I tossed in the anchor about sunset. I put up the new dodger—incredibly cozy—and rigged a tarp to complete the shelter. I fired up the Jetboil for instant dinner, stretched out the sleeping bag and declared the first evening of the trial expedition a success as I rocked to sleep. And imagine the delight of camp-cruising inside the city limits of a major metro area. Success continued the next morning, although without breeze. I started the outboard and motored back. All good, and the road trip was a go.

Shortly after that, on a Wednesday, after five hours’ drive from Milwaukee, I arrived at Spring Lake, Michigan, which is next to Grand Haven, which is next to Lake Michigan itself. Spring Lake is sailable a couple miles east to west and has a sailable arm that extends about three miles north. The lake looks like an impounded reservoir, but it is actually a natural lake that feeds into the Grand River, 2.5 miles north of the river’s outlet into Lake Michigan. Spring Lake is not big water, but the point is that even a small lake can be camp-cruising grounds.

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