Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fairway to Heaven

I have a group of friends that I have gone on a golf trip with each year since 1986. We have been going to the Brainerd, Minnesota area each year and played the Madden's courses, the Pines courses, the Preserve, Deacon's Lodge and several others through the years. In fact, we played the Pines the first year it opened and we've played Deacon's Lodge every year since it opened.

I consider Deacon's Lodge my personal home course. There is nothing in the golf world better than the twilight scramble with these friends at Deacon's. I have a mural of the 17th green on my basement wall.

In 2000, we went to Ireland with our wives. We played golf five times while on the Emerald Isle. It was a lifetime experience that left us with some wonderful memories that we often rehash.

For the past several years, we've been talking about another trip abroad. We discussed Scotland in 2015 and informally planned to make that junket. But circumstances didn't come together to make that trip a reality. So a trip to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, a complex of four links courses and a par-3 golf course, located just north of Bandon, Oregon, in the southwest part of the state, became the consolation prize.

Needless to say, one could do much worse than this resort that has been described as "the last great meeting of sand and sea on American soil". Six of us made plans in May to make this journey to the west coast to experience the golf nirvana that is Bandon Dunes.

Our cast of characters included:

Tom Helland: Turk is a high school classmate and lifelong friend (over 50 years). We grew up two blocks from each other. He was our travel agent for this trip (which ain't easy for this crew!).

Mike Casey: Mike too, is a high school classmate and lifelong friend (again over 50 years). We grew up three blocks apart. Mike, Tom and I have been playing golf together for almost fifty years!

Emmet Kenney: Emo is a friend from our days at Creighton University where we were fraternity brothers. Emo is a friend of over 35 years. Emo is also a Final Four trip traveler with me each year.

Pat Goetzinger: Goet is my attorney and a friend for over 30 years. He was a USD college friend of Mike and Turk's. Our friendship really began with the Cahoona trips back in the mid-eighties. We share a passion for good whiskey and fine cigars.

Bob Milligan: Bob is a friend of Mike's. I did not know Bob before our Oregon trip. I think Emo was the only other one who previously knew Bob. We found Bob to have a sharp wit and quick laugh. He was a great addition to the group.

In the days leading up to the trip, Tom had a detached retina which forced him to forgo the flight to Oregon in favor of a road trip! The plane trip presented some risks that were not acceptable.

I had a scare of my own with a little "cardio event" one week prior to our junket but the doctor gave me the green light to go golfing upon my discharge. He told me to "listen to my body" (which told me to go on the trip!!).

Day 1 - Travel

So on Sunday, August 16, we all made our way to the "Beaver State" for our golf retreat. Turk had set out in his truck early the prior day. Everyone's flight went well and we met at the Eugene, OR airport just as Turk came into the baggage claim area. We grabbed a quick lunch while we waited for Mike's arrival.

Emo looking good despite a early wake up call!
It was a full day journey for all. Emo got up at 4:45 local time (which was 2:45 PDT). We arrived at the airport at noon and after lunch and a trip to the liquor store, we left Eugene about 2:00 pm. A few nature breaks later we rolled in to Bandon Dunes around 4:30 PDT.

We unpacked and headed to the practice facility. Mother Nature was showing off when we got to the practice facility. The wind was blowing 25-30 mph out of the north. It was unbelievable. We didn't last long on the practice range. It didn't seem like real effective practice when you had to cock your body into the wind as you addressed the ball. We learned then and there that you got what Mother Nature gave you at Bandon Dunes!

Goet leans in to a gust on the practice range
We went to McKee's Pub for dinner. It was pub grub served in fine fashion. The Cahoonas sampled some of the heartier selections including the braised lamb stew and roast chicken pot pie. They didn't get cheated on the beer and wine either!

Braised Lamb Stew
Roast Chicken Pot Pie

Grilled Charleston Rock Fish
(From left) Goet, Emo, Casey, Turk, me and Milligan at McKee's Pub
After dinner, a short Cahoona "session" was in order back at the the quarters. We caught the highlights from Jason Day's PGA victory earlier in the day. But mostly, we did what we do well, highlight the problems facing the world today and offer our best solutions. Of course this is all bathed in top shelf wine, scotch and whiskey (except for the heart patient who vowed to be on his best behavior!).

Day 2 - Bandon Dunes Golf Course and the Punch Bowl Putting Course

Our first day of golf found us on the tees at the Bandon Dunes course, the first course and namesake of the resort. We were two threesomes and we had a caddie in each group.

Rich was the caddie in my group. He looped for Turk and me while Goet took on Bandon Dunes by himself (with an assist here and there from Rich!).

Rich is a big strapping guy that we decided reminded us of Sam Elliot. He's about 6'4" and a hulk of a man who looks like you could hang a couple more golf bags on his frame. He guides steelhead trout fisherman during the fishing season. An avid hunter, he loves life and is a "salt of the earth" guy.

In the other group, Patrick caddied for Mike and Emo while Bob hoofed it on his own. Patrick the caddie is a laid back guy. He is a former Dakota Tour golfer who played some tourneys in "God's Country" (South Dakota). He is a free spirit who has has a lotta "use to be's" and suggested that he might still be searching for his "calling".

As advertised, the Bandon Dunes course is a spectacular layout with views that are distracting. We had 65 degree weather with a north wind that continued to build after our 10 am tee time into the afternoon. It was blowing 20-25 by the end of the round but we didn't see anything like the prior evening on the range.

I was able to put a string of five consecutive pars on the card just before and after the turn. Unfortunately, I bookended it with a few bogies and doubles. Goet and Casey carded birdies and Goet was the medalist. Scores be damned, it was a great day of golf.

With my group: Caddie Rich, Goet and Turk
After discussing our round over a couple of beers, we made our way to the Punch Bowl, the resort's 18 hole putting course. The Punch Bowl was the perfect way to quench the Cahoonas thirst for scramble golf without another 7 miles of walking.  The bonus was cocktail service on the course. In a "turd in the punch bowl" moment, Goet got  a good draw and had Emo carry him to a victory on the 18-hole putting course.

Goet looks on as Emo strokes a putt at the Punch Bowl
We returned to our rooms to clean up before dinner at the Gallery. Emo was in charge of ordering wine and hit the bullseye with a magnum bottle of Cabernet (which brought the obligatory needling from the Cahoonas).

After dinner, the Cahoonas made their way to the inner sanctum of the Bandon Dunes Resort to the Bunker Bar which featured scotch, whiskey, port wine and stogies. The centerpiece of the bar was a pool table, where Goet and Turk almost got into a rumble. What?

The Bunker Bar is one of those places that just makes men want to piss in every corner and mark their turf. The boys experienced a group like that. While you'll never meet two more diplomatic guys, Turk and Goet met their match. There was never the threat of a rumble or even an argument, but the other group were assholes! The Chicago boy (Milligan) was pushing their button at every opportunity.

Editor's note: I did not witness this incident as I was a good cardio patient and had retired for the evening! Perhaps there was some embellishment but I can only report what I heard.

Day 3 - Pacific Dunes and Bandon Preserve

We woke on Tuesday to find we had a beautiful forecast- 70 degrees and 10-12 mph wind. Anytime the wind is under 20 mph is cause for celebration here. I played with Goet and Casey on Pacific Dunes. Rich caddied for Casey and me.

With Casey and Goet at Pacific Dunes

Patrick had to chase down Casey from about 100 yards on the second hole to deliver sand wedge that he discovered he had put in Emo's bag at the end of the previous day. We were all proud of Emo for recognizing that it was not his sand wedge. Word is that it took Patrick a couple holes to recover from the 200 yard sprint!

Patrick later told Emo that he found himself some places he'd never been during the round. But it was alright because they were all very scenic!

Casey takes dead aim

Goet adds a little "body english"

Goet looks on as Casey throws a dart
Casey had birdie on Pacific Dunes which helped him be the medalist for the day. That earned him a pairing with Turk and Emo for the three man scramble at Bandon Preserve.

Goet would suggest than he made three birdies by himself at the Preserve. As Emo says, Goet puts the "I" in "teamwork". Milligan and I were so lucky to ride Goet's magic carpet. What a ride!!!

Goet did hit a marvelous shot on hole eleven. He skulled it off the box and it sliced off the backstop on the right side of the green. It rolled down the hill at the hole and settled inside a foot away. Fortunately for Goet, Milligan was there to make a putt! The magic carpet carried us to a resounding 5 shot victory.
Waiting to tee off at Bandon Preserve
Goet will also claim to have birdied hole fourteen, but the record will show that there are only thirteen holes on the Preserve. Our starter told us that designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw set out to design a par 3 course with 12 holes in the tradition of some of golf's oldest and greatest courses. But they found a spot for another hole so they added it, making it a baker's dozen and thus, the unorthodox number of holes on the Preserve.

Goet skulls one to within a foot

It looks like he threw a dart (we know better!)
Between Pacific Dunes and the Preserve, I logged over ten miles and my feet felt it! I could have used a foot massage! It felt real good to sit down to a glass of wine in the room at the end of the day.

Turk lays a smooth stroke on his ball

I have the Cahoonas' complete attention
We had a wonderful dinner over at Trails End in the Bandon Trails Clubhouse. The vista at dusk offered a spectacular view of the 18th green at Bandon Trails, dunes that roll to the sea and a half dozen blacktail deer. The view was punctuated by the sound (and power) of the Pacific surf hammering the coast. Outstanding!

Blacktail deer silhouette over Bandon Trails #18

Bandon Trails clubhouse

A short "session" followed but the Cahoonas were tired. After a bit nodding off without spilling their drinks, the boys made their way toward their pillows.

Day Four - Old Macdonald and the Punch Bowl

The report on Old Macdonald was that there was more than 250,000 square feet of putting surface which translates to the largest greens in America. When you putt like me, that ain't good news!

We got a calm(!) foggy day for our final golf day at the resort. With a late morning tee time, we expected the fog to burn off and the wind to pick up. But it didn't burn off all day - in fact, it got a bit thicker.

It gave a surreal feeling about the golf - like playing in a cloud. Perhaps St. Peter would be sitting by the 18th green!

Turk, Goet and Casey at Old Macdonald
We decided Rich and Patrick the caddies, were ying and yang. Both are great guys. Rich was the kind of guy I sell a new truck to and Patrick is the the kind of guy that Turk sells a craft beer to!

I played with Emo and Milligan. Rich looped for Emo and me while Bob went solo. I three putted the first four greens and generally did not play the first several holes very well. I got it together later and even carded my only birdie of the week.

Emo's golf lessons seemed to pay dividends on this round. When they heard he was coming to Bandon Dunes, his wife and youngest son went to work on getting him in (golf) shape for the trip. Diane (his wife) set him up with golf lessons and his son drug him out on the course a few times.

Milligan's misses were always in the fairway. Like a good lawyer, he stayed out of trouble and actually played better than he scored.

In the other group, Casey and Goet lit it up. The word is that there were three or four birdies between them. They shot low eighties and were both strutting around the clubhouse after their round.

From left: Me, Turk, Goet, Caddie Rich, Casey, Milligan and Emo
Before more putting at the Punch Bowl, we sat down for some beers and light lunch. Goet decided to teach Hannah, our server, how to mix a "Skirt Chaser", some libation that fueled Goet through the summer at Arrowhead. Hannah is memorized and tells Goet what a wonderful barkeep he is. The Cahoonas collectively roll their eyes. This on top of his hot round of golf cause us to suggest to Hannah that she is starting the fire and will leave it for us put it out!!

Next is eighteen (or more) holes of putting and cocktails at the Punch Bowl. First the boys broke out the winter gear. It was misting and cold - great weather for Irish coffee! Milligan was the trend setter and the Cahoonas followed like lemmings! The putting scramble was great fun and a perfect way to put and exclamation point on the golfing part of our trip.

Emo ready to drain a long one as the Cahoonas look on at the Punch Bowl

With Milligan and Casey after a little Irish coffee

Our final dinner of the trip was at the Pacific Grill which was back at the clubhouse for the Pacific Dunes and Punch Bowl. Seafood and wine was a perfect compliment to our discussion of three days at this golf nirvana. We had a great dinner and a lot of laughs.

Emo displays dessert at the Pacific Grill
A short "session" followed but after three nights, we had solved most of the world's problems. It's a lot of work and we were tired!

Day 5 - Travel

Perhaps part of the magic of Bandon Dunes is the journey involved. But that magic is lost on the way home. For me, it began with a 2 1/2 hour drive from Bandon beginning about 9:00 am local time. We arrived in Eugene about noon for a 1:00 pm flight to Salt Lake City.

After a 2 hour flight and a 90 minute layover in Salt Lake City, we boarded the first flight on which I flew over my final destination, a 2 1/2/ flight from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis, After another hour on the ground in Minneapolis, I again flew over my final destination on an hour and a half flight to Rapid City. I arrived at 10:30 local time in Rapid and after claiming luggage, I set off on a 2 1/2 hour drive home. I arrived home about 2:30 am, about 14 1/2 hours after I departed Bandon Dunes.


I did not include photos of the golf course here. You could spend a more time than it takes to play eighteen at Bandon Dunes looking at incredible photos of this marvelous piece of landscape. If fact, I encourage you to do just that. But they will not do it justice.

One of the ironic anecdotes of the week came from our caddie Rich who told us that he had never seen a puffin (the bird on the Bandon Dunes logo above) there.

I bought a copy of the book Dream Golf by Stephen Goodwin when I made my obligatory trip through the pro shop on our final day there. It’s a wonderful book about the site selection for and the building of Bandon Dunes. I found it to be a great resource to more fully appreciate this little slice of golf heaven.

As I reflect on my 92 hours at this golf resort, I realize how lucky I am to make the trip to this golf bucket list destination. But more significantly, I am blessed to have such great friends with whom I am able to share such a journey. Cheers boys!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

August 2015 SDADA Column

You may have heard that I had a bit of a health setback this past month. If you’re interested in the details, you can read about it here.

If you were around Myron at any meeting last year, you heard his story about his heart screening and how he discovered his heart blockage. He encouraged everyone to get the screening done.

I had the best of intentions. Though I remember having conflicts on a couple of the days the screening truck was in town, I did have the phone book out one day before I was interrupted by something urgent (like a car appraisal or something comparable).
I was lucky. I tempted fate and the grim reaper took a swing. Apparently the creator has some work left for me to do!

So let me encourage you to do two things. First, get the screening done. I, like Myron, was in pretty darn good physical condition and took care of myself. But we all exist in a rather stressful industry. Stress is a significant risk factor that most car dealers are exposed to.
Secondly,  EVERY day is a gift. We should not take it for granted and we should enjoy it and make the most of it.

47-10: Fair Credit and Consumer Competition Wins a Round   

On one side of the arena is the Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act (H.R. 1737 for short.) This is where NADA and its allies stand, working hard to preserve dealer-assisted financing.

This grassroots battle started at the steps of the Capitol. And members of Congress have listened to the earnest call from NADA, industry partners, and franchised dealers everywhere. The U.S. House Financial Services Committee responded by passing a bill that would rescind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's flawed auto finance guidance; a guidance that threatens to eliminate a customer's ability to get a discount in the showroom.

H.R. 1737, introduced this April by Reps. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), passed in committee by an overwhelming 47-10 vote last month. This vote represents countless hours of hard work and dedication, dozens of meetings and phone calls between the industry and Congress, and an ingrained commitment to do what's best for consumers nationwide.

On the other side of the arena stands the CFPB.

Since 2013, the CFPB has led a crusade to alter the auto finance market in a way that would make it less competitive and more costly for consumers. For the past two years, the CFPB has pressured auto lenders to eliminate a dealer's discretion to discount auto financing for customers. It's 2015 and NADA has shown empirically that the CFPB's policy will harm car buyers because it eliminates the competition that brings lower rates for customers. Taking away a customer's right to find the best loan possible, or the right to negotiate, or the right to find a better deal, is not what Washington should be doing.

NADA and its members are clear that we also support the nation's fair lending laws and the commitment of federal agencies to ensure fairness. But the CFPB's plays are misguided and its policies are wrong.

The progress of H.R. 1737 demonstrates our elected officials understand this important dynamic and are willing to halt the CFPB's harmful actions on a supremely successful market. The bill places some necessary safeguards on the agency, including:

  • Giving notice and a public comment period before issuing a future auto guidance;
  • Making critical information public, such as data and methodologies;
  • Consulting with the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and the Board of governors of the Federal Reserve System; and
  • Studying the costs and impacts on consumers for any future auto guidance.
  • Most importantly, H.R. 1737 will help ensure that any future regulation is based on accurate analysis that truly acts on the best interests of consumers. 

As the bill now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration, NADA salutes Reps. Guinta and Perlmutter for their efforts on behalf of our industry and our customers. We greatly appreciate their bipartisan leadership and steadfast commitment to fairness and competition.

And with the resounding vote of 47-10, NADA appreciates our industry allies who have stood with us in this arena to protect the right of consumers to find the best credit possible.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It…)

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson called Honda Finance’s settlement with federal regulators for alleged discrimination in auto lending a “win-win-win”.

Some thoughts on how car dealers can keep regulators at bay.

Cyber thieves see car dealers as great targets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Broken Hearted

It was a typical Friday afternoon in August at Harry K Chevrolet-Buick. I was in the showroom considering the prospect for a couple cars deals that afternoon and whether or not the wind would lend itself to an opportunity to go sailing that evening. Our son, Alex, was coming home for the weekend so we were looking forward to some sailing, perhaps some kayaking, perhaps some smoked mammal flesh and a generally fun weekend.

As I stood in the showroom, I had a feeling like I had eaten something but could not completely swallow it; like it was lodged in the bottom of my esophagus. I was a little lightheaded which I attributed to the fact that I had pretty much skipped breakfast and had only eaten a couple pieces of cheese for lunch.

The light headed feeling was not uncommon if I ate a late lunch. A morning bicycle ride would often tap me out but a few carbs would always snap me right out of it. I had gone on a 15-mile bicycle ride that morning so I thought my blood sugar might be a bit low. With that in mind, I headed to the vending machine for the quick fix of a Planters Peanut Bar.

When the peanut bar didn't have the intended effect, I started to think that perhaps I was dehydrated. I always take a gallon cooler of water to work and drink it through the day and I decided that I hadn't hit the water hard enough yet that day. I took a couple of long pulls on the water and waited for it to work its magic.

But it didn't. My sales manager was in my office and I told him I didn't really feel well. He offered an aspirin. Though I never considered it to be a real possibility, I thought that an aspirin would be a good idea in case I was having some kind of heart issue. He got me one and I took it immediately.

Shortly thereafter, I felt really lightheaded; I thought I was going to the floor for a moment. I was sweaty and my color was not good (so I was told). By now, my wife, Judy, was in my office and I told her that I needed to go to the hospital. She said she would start the car and get it cooled off. I told her not to bother, I needed to get to the hospital.

While on the way to the hospital, my lightheadedness subsided somewhat. I still felt some discomfort in my chest but it felt better as well. But I knew something was wrong.

Within five minutes of arriving at Sanford Chamberlain Hospital, I was hooked up to the EKG and five minutes later, I was diagnosed as being in the process of a heart attack.

Me, a fifty four year old man in excellent health having a heart attack? No way! The look on Judy's face when they said this was complete disbelief. Many mornings in the colder months start with me on my trainer and Judy on the treadmill with Fox News on the TV for 35-45 minutes.

I am a healthy guy. I ride my bicycle 4-5 times a week - if not outside then on my trainer in the basement. I lift weights twice a week. I golf, kayak, hunt and am very active.

We try to eat right. Though we travel some and dine out one or twice a week in the summer, our diet is pretty good. I'm probably 10-12 pounds over my ideal weight but I am conscious of that and am always striving to get there. I don't eat a perfect healthy diet but, again, I am conscious of my diet and try to eat well.

I have a few cocktails on the weekend and a glass of wine with dinner once a week but there are some who would suggest that wine works in the favor of my heart. I would consider myself healthier than most and quite active for my age.

So to say that I was surprised when I had a heart attack on August 7, 2015 at work would be more than an understatement and none of the statements above meant anything as I lay in the hospital at that moment.

Working in my favor was the fact that we were at the hospital within 30 minutes of my initial symptoms. Within minutes they were on the phone with the cardiology folks in Sioux Falls. They gave me some nitroglycerin and injected tPA clot buster. They summoned the airplane from Sioux Falls.

Let me just say right here that I received first class, professional care from everyone at Sanford Chamberlain Hospital. I feel extremely fortunate that those folks were there. Kala Shepherd, CNP, was absolutely terrific. She made great decisions and was in touch with the cardiology department in Sioux Falls immediately.

The King Air fixed wing aircraft from Sioux Falls arrived about 60-75 minutes after the initial diagnosis of "cardio event". I took an ambulance ride to the airport where they loaded me into the Sanford Hospital aircraft. We were on the ground in Sioux Falls forty five minutes later.

While flying to Sioux Falls though, my symptoms started to subside. I no longer felt the discomfort in my chest and was no longer light headed. I figured when I got to Sioux Falls that I would probably have a few tests, a lecture on lifestyle changes, and then have to wait for Judy (who decided to drive with Sarah) to take me home.

I was transferred into an ambulance at the airport. The trip to the hospital was complete with lights and sirens. I told the ambulance guys that I'd probably come to Sioux Falls more often if I could avoid traffic and SF drivers like that all the time.

When I arrived, they were waiting for me in the cath lab like a pack of hyenas with bibs on and forks in both hands! They went right to work on me and in what seemed like 20-30 minutes, they inserted a stent in my right coronary artery (which was 95%) blocked and put a intra-aortic baloon pump in my heart. No other major arteries were blocked.

The stent went in through my right wrist and the pump went in through my right femoral artery. They inserted the pump because my blood pressure was low. They also informed me that the clot buster drug administered in Chamberlain was unsuccessful.

I was in a cardiac care room shortly thereafter. It was about 6:45 pm. My first symptoms occurred shortly after 2:00 pm. It was an unbelievable, life changing sequence of events that happened in less than five hours.

The next 26 hours were miserable as I had to lie flat on my back because of the pump in my heart. Not only could I not sleep on my back, but the pump in my heart gave me a weird sensation that distracted my sleep. It was like my stomach was continuously gurgling. By Saturday morning, I was exhausted.

Saturday mid-morning, the nurses brought in a fan and rolled me on my side (slightly) and I was able to sleep for a couple hours. I felt a lot better after that.

They took the pump out about 2:00 pm on Saturday. Because they perforate the femoral artery to insert the pump, it is important to ensure that the artery does not bleed. To do this, pressure has to be applied to the wound; a lot of pressure. The device they used for this has a strap that goes around the waist and can apply as much pressure directly to the wound as needed. I received a good amount of pressure for a couple hours and by the time they changed to a lesser pressure device, I was in pain.

About 8:00 pm on Saturday evening, I was able to get up and walk around (after the catheter came out - YIKES!!!). That is the point at which I started feeling better. I went for a walk around the hall a few times. I slept well Saturday evening.

On Sunday I was very active. I walked 2 miles in the hall. I think I looked like a caged lion to the nursing staff. I don't think it was a common occurrence for the cardio patients to be that active. The underlying strength of my heart proved to be a real advantage throughout this entire ordeal.

I had many calls and visits from friends on Sunday. I was reminded how fortunate I am to have a wonderful wife, two great daughters and two great sons. Judy and I are so lucky to have so many wonderful friends both far and near!

I knew I would get discharged on Monday. So after seeing the cardio rehab specialist, the customer service rep, the doctor's CNP, the doctor and what seemed like a dozen others, I got to leave at about 1:30 pm on Monday.

I had plans to take a golf trip (annual trip with friends) the following week and had been "taking the temperature" of each person I saw whether they thought that was still possible. Everyone I had asked thought I would be able to go but when the doctor told me I just needed to "listen to my body" if I went, I was elated.

So what's next? The cardio rehab lady suggested that my greatest risk factors were stress and family history. My Dad had a quadruple bypass in 1988 and had numerous stents put in after that. I always attributed his condition to his poor management of diabetes and complete lack of exercise. Apparently he had some genes working against him that are now working against me.

We all have stress and we all handle it in different ways. Having 40 employees and three businesses might add a bit more stress to my life than some others, but I need to learn to deal with it better. I will be focused on doing that.

But what I learned (was reminded of!) most directly is that EVERY day is a gift. We should not take it for granted and we should enjoy it and make the most of it.

So the next time you see me, remind me of that! And I will probably remind you right back!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Learning the Ropes

Learning the Ropes - this expression alludes to sailors learning the rigging so as to handle a sailing vessel's ropes. It was being used figuratively by the late 1800s. 

My first experience with sailing was in college with a fraternity brother who took me to Branched Oak State Recreation Area in east central Nebraska the summer of 1981. I was attending summer school at Creighton University in Omaha and we made the hour-long trip north of Malcolm, Nebraska (northwest of Lincoln) in Lancaster County many times.

We sailed on a 16 foot Hobie catamaran, known as a Hobie 16. The Hobie is a beachcat or a class of catamaran ("cat") sailboat intended to be able to run up onto the beach. We spent many Sunday afternoons doing just that at Branched Oak Lake.

The Hobie 16 that I learned to sail on
We would trapeze out over the side of the craft, bouncing our butts off the water for a while before typically getting launched across the cat when a gust of wind hit us just right (or wrong!). It was great fun for a 21 year-old college student!

That summer launched my love for sailing. Though it would be another 15 years before I had any kind of sailing craft of my own, that passion was kindling deep inside me.

My first sailboat was a Snark Sunflower 3,3 model (Length 11 feet, Beam 3' 6", Weight 65 lbs.). Our kids were young then. Though it was a small craft, there was room for one of them to sail with me. Most of my sailing with this boat was done in the marina, though I did venture out onto the lake when alone and with light winds. We had a lot of fun with the Sunflower.

My next sailing craft was a 2003 Escape Play Cat Catamaran 16'. This boat coordinated with the Krawdaddy era. So we would pull the Play Cat behind our pontoon boat, then once anchored, we would sail around the lake near the pontoon. We had this boat for seven years and had lots of fun with it.

Dad and me on the Escape Play Cat
After selling the Krawdaddy in July of 2008, I knew that I wanted a sailboat. I began looking for one in August of 2008, using several websites. I learned about sailboats and the models that might work for our use. I also found several sites that offered boats for sale.

I don't know how many boats I looked at on sites like eBay, and I literally looked at thousands of boats September through January. As I looked at these boats, I continued to narrow the list of boats that would work.

At one point, I thought I wanted a Hunter 23.5. I even printed out a sales brochure and the owners manual to look them over. But I was not convinced the water ballast system was right for our use. I looked at other “trailer sailors” including McGregor, C&C, and Catalina among others.

I was also looking for a boat that hadn't been in salt water as I knew the salt water was much harsher on the boat than fresh water. This brought the search more toward the Midwest, which would make chasing the boat down once I bought it much easier.

In mid-February 2009, I came across a listing for a 2001 West Wight Potter 19. I had read some positive things about the WWP19 and so I started searching for more of them. I finally came across the listing for this boat on I printed out the sales brochure and owners manual to study. Finally, I called the owner of the boat.

Charlie Harrett was very helpful and friendly in my initial contact with him. Charlie had owned the boat for about four years. He had gotten into racing and wanted a faster boat. I could tell as we spoke, that he really liked this boat and had enjoyed sailing it. On February 19, 2009, we agreed on a price and we had a new boat (the second happiest day of our lives??).

I listed the boat on, an online service that matches shippers with freight. I had used it a couple of times with auction vehicles.

Soon I had a dozen shippers wanting to pull the boat to South Dakota from Louisville, KY. I was tied up with meetings for two consecutive weeks before I was able to make arrangements with a shipper.

The Blewjay as it arrived
As soon as I bought the boat, I started thinking about a name for her. I always thought part of the appeal of the Krawdaddy was that the name fit so well and was so reflective of the boat.

I began compiling potential names for our new sail boat. I searched the web for sites that specialize in boat names. I used a phrase site and a rhyme site to get additional ideas. We ran the list of potential names past the entire family to get their input. Blewjay (a play on the wind and our beloved Creighton Bluejays) finally won out over Mast Transit, Gustbuster and Windjammer.

The boat finally arrived from Louisville to Chamberlain on March 13, 2009. The gentleman who pulled it was from northwest Arkansas. He told me that it pulled down the road very nicely.

I learned that West Wight Potter owners were a very passionate lot. I found a dozen different sites and forums dedicated to WWP sail boats. On these sites, I found a few modifications I was interested in making to our new boat.

I also decided to review some sailing books. Though I had been told many times that if I could sail a sixteen foot catamaran, that I would have no problem with a nineteen foot sailboat, I wanted to be a proficient sailor. I ordered a couple of books on the fundamentals of sailing.

The Blewjay on the cover of the 2012 Chamberlain-Oacoma Travel Guide

Shortly after purchasing Blewjay, I suggested to Judy that we take sailing lessons while in Seattle for our NADA summer board meeting. She agreed and so I began a search for a company that could offer Judy, Sarah and I a short intense Keelboat Certification course.

Sailing lessons
After correspondence with several companies, we struck an agreement with Rob at Sailing Express in Everett, WA. Rob agreed to get us all certified and let us use a boat for a day when it was all over.

So we flew to Seattle on Friday, June 12, three days prior to our NADA summer board meeting.. We stayed at The Inn at Port Gardner which was right at the marina and was the venue for our lessons.

We spent the first morning in the classroom and we went out on the boat in the afternoon. Judy was the first skipper on the O'Day 24. She had great winds and did a nice job of heeling the boat and really speeding along. By the time I took the helm, the wind was blowing about 20 knots which was way to much wind for our sails and it was about time to quit anyway. I skippered the boat into the marina.

The next morning we made our way back to the chart room for our sailing class. Rob had us in the classroom until 1:00 pm when we took our lunch break. After lunch, we met at the boat where Sarah was the first skipper of the day. We had wonderful sailing conditions for our junket. Everyone had a chance to be captain. At the end of the day, we ran into a pod of gray whales. It was awesome to watch them. We got quite close.

After the whales, we headed into the marina. We returned to the room for an hour of last minute preparation before our certification test. We stayed out so long watching whales that we didn't get to take the test until 8:00 pm. The 130-question test took about 40-45 minutes and was relatively easy after two days of preparation.

We had the boat for the next day. We got going early so we could make the trip to Langley, a quaint little sea village on Whidbey Island. It was about seven miles from Everett. Though the winds were light to none, we had a great day in Puget Sound. We got back to Everett at about 4:15 pm to catch our hour long limo ride to Seattle for our NADA meetings. So after three days in the classroom and the boat, Sarah, Judy and I were all ASA certified.

We had the WWP 19 for two summers and enjoyed it but found that it was too small for more than 4 people (and they had to sit hip to hip). We wanted to be able to take more than two people sailing and decided that we wanted to upgrade a bit.

The Potter had a decent sized cabin (that we did not really use) and that feature cut down on the size of the cockpit (which we wanted more of). So I began to search for sailboats that had large cockpits.

While I looked at many different boats, I kept coming back to the Colgate 26. Among the features that were attractive to me were: very little wood (only wood is the tiller) which means less maintenance; cockpit is self-bailing as are the cockpit seat lockers and there are no ports or vents to possibly leak; a huge cockpit (can take a bigger crew) and high performance yet very stable (didn't want to scare those newbies).

Once I decided on the Colgate 26, I started searching. I found a pair of 2004 models for sale at the Sagamore Resort on Lake George in northeast New York state. The resort had recently been sold and the new management was no longer interested in conducting sailing lessons. Thus, they were selling their five Colgate 26 sailboats. They had two left when I contacted them in December 2010.

Sagamore Resort's remaining Colgate 26 when we picked ours up
After striking a deal with the Sagamore, Alex and I made the trip to New York to get our new boat. He got home from college for holiday break and we left the next day. We made the trip in three (and a half) days. We were lucky with the weather.

Our new boat upon return from New York
We decided that the Blewjay name was just too fitting to let go so we dubbed our new boat the Blewjay Due which was a nod to Alex's previous spring semester spent studying in Florence, Italy. Due is Italian for "two" (and rhymes with Blewjay!).

So we removed the Sagamore signage on our new boat, christened it with Blewjay Due vinyl and prepared it for it's initial splash into its new home, Lake Francis Case, in the spring of 2011.

We have found the Colgate 26 is the perfect boat for our use. There is plenty of room, it is low maintenance and yet it offers all the performance features of a much larger boat. 

Both local marinas are full of pontoon boats which function great on the waters of South Dakota's Missouri River reservoirs.There are not many sailboats in our area. We've never had more than four in our marina at one time. There are currently three. The other sailboat owners are from out of town. Sailing is a bit of a mystery to the locals. 

The first mate prepare to land the Blewjay Due at sunset
We are halfway through our fifth summer with this boat and I am enjoying it more each year. This summer we have had more opportunities to sail and been able to share the experience with more of our friends.

Plenty of room for our crew!

Sailing has become something Judy and I really enjoy doing together and sharing with our friends. Our family has learned to enjoy sailing as they have grown. They are no longer enamored with the PWC's speed and noise and tubing and towables aren't the thrill they used to be.

Nothing beats a steady South Dakota evening breeze, some good tunes and a good ol' South Dakota sunset (unless it's that glass of wine once back in the slip!).

Fair Winds!