It’s not often that I feel homesick for the Windy City.
I am very lucky to live in an outdoors(wo)man’s paradise; in a little apartment nestled in a lush green valley, that’s cradled by tremendous 12 and 13,000 foot peaks. Heck, my humble abode even boasts a bubbling creek in the backyard and I often eat breakfast on my deck with the hummingbirds, as they zip in for a taste of the sweet nectar in my cheery red hummingbird feeder. On my “weekends”, I hike 14ers, hang out at the lake, and venture through the woods for a glimpse at the wonders of Summit County’s mammoth rock walls and brightly colored wildflowers.
But this particular week always pulls at my heartstrings and makes this homegrown midwesterner second guess her decision to move away from the great city of Chicago. You see, it’s Mac Week. The start of the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac, a 333 mile (289.4 nautical miles) regatta starting at the Chicago Yacht Club and finishing in the confluence of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron off of Mackinac Island, Michigan.
For freshwater sailors, the Mac Race is the pinnacle of their year. Crews spend the majority of the spring and early summer training for this 333 mile dash up through the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan. A dash that can be as quick as 24 hours and take as long as 80.
In our family, the legacy of the Mac Race began with my Dad, well actually with Blair Vedder. An avid sailor, Blair taught my dad to live and breathe the ever-changing winds of Lake Michigan, to be enamored by the cold fronts and summer storms that roll in off of the temperamental lake, and how to read the sails and the rocking and rolling of a hull like the fluidity and rhythm of his own body.
The Mac is a test of patience, a challenge of the wits, and the best adventure a boat lover can experience. The race is highlighted by moments of adrenaline fueled drives to survive; where the excitement that’s pumping through your veins is all that’s keeping you alert and moving lightening quick on a deck that’s pitching and bucking like a bronco stung by a bee. There are other moments (sometimes days) of extreme quiet where you crave a bit of movement in the air. Just enough to see the speedometer reach 0.01 knots and if you hit 1.00 knots, a round of cheers ring through the quiet air from your fellow crew members and the boats drifting around you. The race is punctuated by the scent of pines trees wafting through the air as you make your way down the Straits, the feeling of elation as you cross under the Mac Bridge, breakfast with the sunrise, and dinner with the sunset.
Sailing and boats have been part of my life since I was just a few weeks old. I’ve spent nearly every summer enjoying the cool spray of Lake Michigan on my sun-warmed skin. I’ve fallen asleep to the soothing rocking of Slapshot as she settled comfortably into the deep waters of Lake Michigan with her shrouds singing a calming lullaby as they rang against the mast. And I’ve completed the Mac Race three times. And while I love the cool summer air and scent of the Earth as I hike through Mother Nature’s masterpiece, my summers on Lake Michigan are never far from my heart.
Fair seas and following winds to all the 2014 Mac racers out there. To the crew of Slapshot, I have a brown drink on order for your finish.
Track Slapshot’s progress here! Boat name Slapshot 124