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spinnaker mishaps

Oh, Chute!

It was a blustery day on the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix for the annual Ironworks Regatta. Sailing from Boyne City to East Jordan brought the boats with their spinnakers across the lake in front of our house around 3:00 pm. With the nice northerly wind at our backs, we decided to join them. We hadn't raised our spinnaker in almost two seasons, but what the heck, we got it out of the garage and gave it a try.

There was some debate between my dad and I about how exactly we should rig the sail. We own a beautiful symmetrical spinnaker custom-made for us by Yager Sails & Canvas in Spokane, WA. A Christmas gift for my dad from my brothers and I, its panels are yellow, green, and red, the colors of the Lithuanian flag. Traditionally we have sailed the spinnaker in pretty much the same style that my family does anything else: We bought it, hoisted it up, and figured the rest out later. My dad pointed the boat down-lake to run with the wind and cut the motor while I grabbed the sail bag and crawled up to the bow. I pulled the sail out of the bag (up to this point it had never occurred to any of us that there is a correct way to pack a spinnaker to guarantee it will deploy without getting tangled). Since we don't have a spinnaker pole, one way we've tried to rig it is by tying a short line to one of the clews like a tackline and tying the other end to the pulpit rail, with both sheets tied to the other clew. (Yes, we were trying to make an asymmetrical spinnaker out of a symmetrical spinnaker.) However, I decided to raise the sail before tying that little line on, or even passing the sheets back to my dad at the tiller. I just attached the halyard and hoisted the sail into the heavens. Panic ensued. Let's call this, Launch Number One.

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first solo sailing

First Solo Sail

It is a luxury for most people to quit their job and spend a summer on the lake reading, writing, painting, and of course, honing their sailing skills. Indeed, I count myself among those people—but that is exactly what I'm doing this summer.

It was a calm afternoon when I arrived at my family's cottage on Lake Charlevoix in Northern Michigan. Without any wind to tempt me towards the water, I spent the time unpacking and setting up my workspace. The next morning was equally calm, and so after fixing a hearty Sunday breakfast, I sat myself down in front of the computer, anxious to start crossing things off my To Do list.

It wasn't long before the American flags that line the shore up and down the lake stood erect in a brisk breeze, drawing my gaze away from the computer and out the windows toward the little Victoria 18 tied to a buoy just beyond the drop-off.

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mushrooming Lithuania

Grybaujame*

My favorite word in Lithuanian, grybauti, means “to go mushrooming.” In English, the meaning is simple and to the point, but in Lithuanian, the sentiment of the word is much more poetic. I didn't fully understand it until recently, when some friends put me in a pair of rubber boots, handed me a basket and a knife, and drove to a “secret spot” some 20km outside of Vilnius on a cold, damp morning.

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A community art project on Užupio Independence Day

Artists, Angels & Alcoholics: Escape for a Day to Užupis

In Lithuanian, the word užupis means “beyond the river,” though the Vilnelė River, which divides Užupis from the Vilnius Old Town, is more of a winding creek. In 1997, a group of bohemian artists and writers declared the neighborhood independent and founded the People’s Republic of Užupis. Independence Day is April 1st, and a sign marking the entrance to the district features four distinct symbols including a smiley face and the Mona Lisa warning you of “art ahead.”

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Vytautas Landsbergis Epp Group

Reflections on Kovo 11-ąją

March 11, 2010 (Kovo 11-ąją), celebrates the 20th anniversary of modern-day, independent Lithuania; though it was nearly three and a half tumultuous years before the last Soviet troops retreated to Moscow. On this day I reflect on my first trip to Lithuania, and all the things I could not have done if it were not for those brave men and women who stood up to the Supreme Soviet and declared their independence.

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christchurch

Queen Charlotte’s Artistic Awakening

There are ducks in New Zealand that mate for life. I don't remember their name. The female has a white head, and the male a black one and we first saw them while kayaking in Milford Sound. In Christchurch, they stroll through the Botanic Gardens in pairs, resting in the sun on the banks of the Avon River.

Christchurch has been accused of being "too English"... but that is precisely what I like about it. A European city of turn-of-the-century stone buildings with cozy sidewalk cafes and quaint English punts taking tourists along the river, situated on the shore of the South Pacific and protected on the west by the Southern Alps.

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blu as bro whakapapa new zealand

It’s Blue As, Bro!

I spent the 2009 Southern Hemisphere winter coaching young ski racers at Turoa Ski Area on the south side of Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand.

Mt. Ruapehu is famous for its crazy, nasty weather and I got a taste of it last Friday. At the base of the ski area, it was raining, but at the top of the first lift, it was snowing with visibility limited to about fifty meters. We'd already missed two days that week due to bad weather, so we had to take what we could get. At least it wasn't windy.

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Sunset on the Baltic Sea

Iki Pasimatymo, Lietuva!*

After more than five years of living, working, and enjoying life in Vilnius, it is time for me to move on. By the time this magazine goes to press, I’ll already be in New Zealand, where I will spend the “summer” coaching a local ski club. I do intend to return next winter to Lithuania to coach the Kalnų Ereliai ski team and hopefully to resume writing this column, but for the moment, it’s time for this little lietuvaitė to pack her bags and learn to speak Kiwi.

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marijonas mikutavicius

Trys Milijonai*

Since much of my winter is spent out of Lithuania, I spend spring getting in touch with friends and catching up on all the activities I’ve missed.

As long as I can remember, on April 1st the weather is always warm and what better way to start the spring than by celebrating Užupio Independence Day. On the bridge, we were greeted by “immigration agents” dressed in white jumpsuits and 3D glasses waiting to stamp our passports. Yes, that’s right, you can get an authentic Užupis visa, good for a one day visit! The atmosphere was festive on the patio of Užupio Kavinė where residents and visitors mingled with plastic cups of “imported” Švyturys. Live music went on long into the evening. We clutched our beers and sang along with the rag-tag group of “jazz” musicians playing Lucky Man.

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Welcome to the Užupio Res Publika! Don't forget your passport!

Užupis Independence Day

It's not an April Fool's joke: Residents of the tiny Republic of Užupis, which lays just beyond the River Vilnelė, take their Independence Day very seriously. It all starts with the border patrol on the Užupis Bridge. Dressed in white jumpsuits and 3D glasses, "immigration agents" wait to stamp your passport. Yes, that's right, you can get an authentic Užupis visa, good for a one day visit!

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