Chicagoland Messabout - 2005 click here to read or make an observation about this  article
by Rob Rohde-Szudy - Madison, Wisconsin - USA

The internet helps these gatherings evolve very quickly these days.

In August 2005 Mike Sandell was getting ready to launch his Michalak Vector, and mentioned this on the Michalak Yahoo group. Several Chicago area Michalak builders turned up for the event, and I came down from Madison, WI since I had to run an errand in Chicago anyhow. This got us thinking that there were probably enough of us in the Chicago area to warrant having a messabout there. A quick email schedule inquiry gave us our date, which we then posted to the appropriate online forums.

We settled on October 1, 2005 with a rain date of October 8. We got very lucky and had perfect weather on October 1st – not at all common in Chicagoland. But where do you have a messabout in the city? Busse Lake is ideal. It is right off I-290 on Higgins Road; across I-290 from Woodfield Mall. Once you’re at the lake it’s hard to believe there’s a major interstate so close, and its proximity makes it very convenient to get there.

The lake is not large, but it is also not heavily used. Mike pointed out that a large lake is not really necessary. At Rend Lake, for example, most of us sail around a very small area of the lake because we want to stay close enough to see and try out each other’s boats. Having a small lake to ourselves is even better because you never get the big waves that can come up on a bigger lake. And there are no jetski or powerboat wakes, as gas engines are not permitted. In fact you have to remove them from the boat before launching.

It gets better. Launching at Busse woods is free! I was astonished. Normally where there are nice ramps with floating piers, there are also signs telling you to drop some money in the “iron ranger”. Or if they’re free, they’re rutted, muddy ramps with no piers at all. Not so here. Courtesy of the State of Illinois, there are nice ramps with no fee and no hassle. I hereby take back all the nasty things I’ve said about Illinois.

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That said, there’s no camping available, which violates one of the “Michalak Principles of Messabouts”. So for now we’re stuck with a day event. This can work in a city where everyone is within reasonable driving distance of the lake. But if it starts getting bigger and attracting people from further afield or who have powerboats, a change of venue might become necessary. It took only one year for this to happen with the Bill Paxton’s Minnesota Messabout. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, Busse Lake is nice place, and conveniently located. While the lake is small, it packs a lot of interest into its area with deep water and shallows, islands and egrets.

So who was there?

Mike Sandell brought his brand new Michalak Vector Valkyrie. I sailed this thing at the launching party. Very nice! That sail looks a bit small but she moves right along in the slightest breath of wind. My Vector photos from the Autumn Messabout didn’t turn out so well, so here’s one from the launch. As it turned out, the messabout was Mike’s first day of “forced retirement”, since his employer eliminated his position. One more American job gone, but it’s hard to keep a good man down.

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Dave Seaberg from Rockford could only be there for the morning with his tricked out D4 pram. He is also to be credited for many of the photos seen here.

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That jib has roller furling he made form a fishing reel!

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And the whole works rolls like a wheelbarrow on a small wheel in the skeg. Then Dave fits a flipping fitting into the rudder gudgeons and he can flip the boat onto the cartop without scratching it. Dave is a mechanical engineer by trade, and it certainly shows. Take note that the lovely bright finish is on the cheap lauan plywood we’re all so suspicious of. I think Dave should write an article on how he kept it from checking!

Chris Feller is the intrepid soul who’s building a Michalak Blobster. Never content to leave well enough alone, he’s building something else at the same time, but I forget what. They’re not done, so he brought his AF3.

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Steve Hagan brought his CLC sharpie and a sailing kayak, which stayed on the trailer. Check out how he carries it all.

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I got to sail the sharpie and it is a handful. I’m used to being lazy in my schooner with my wife for crew, all the sheets cleated and steering that stays where you leave it. Steve must be a very coordinated guy, because I very nearly capsized it when I jammed a halyard. Here he is in action.

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Note the fancy strip-built decks! Very nice. That big boat weighs under 200 lbs. (By the way, Steve provided most of the photos that Dave didn’t. The ones that look much grainier are mine!)

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Also there was Scott Brennecke with an Arch Davis Sand Dollar. Nice work he did.

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Tom Hamernik is the smart guy in the group. But he was unfortunately out of town. I’m sure he was there in spirit with his Michalak Mixer. Here’s a photo from the Vector launch.

And of course my wife and I brought the two kids, coon hound and Bolger Light Schooner.

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Michael Zenker wasn’t able to bring his Campanoe, which is perhaps the ultimate family boat. It’s a pontoon boat, catamaran and floating tent all rolled into one. It’s not homebuilt, but it is one of only 25 made. He did make an appearance, though, to give me his Toto. At Rend Lake I mentioned to him that I wanted to try one before I built from the plans I have. Instead he gave it to me. What a guy! I guess he found he didn’t use it after he got the Campanoe. I’ll probably be writing about messing with it.

There were a few unexpected guests as well.

Paul Scheuer was there with a rigid version of a Folbot kayak. I’m not sure if or how he knew of the event.

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There was also Wally Foote, who’d built a beautiful Guillemot kayak. He didn’t know about the event and was there by coincidence.

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There was also a fellow there named Ken Ziembicki, with a Compac 16. We were all marveling at how much work he did in the parking lot to get it rigged. He didn’t know about the event, but liked what we were doing and liked the boats. He doesn’t have space to build one for himself, but Chris suggested that it is often quite inexpensive to acquire a used homebuilt boat when one of us builds so many we run out of space. I think he might just wind up doing that eventually.

Here’s the obligatory “beach shot”. Left to Right: Vector, AF3, CLC Sharpie, Light Schooner.

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…and another view, reverse order, but add the Folbot on the far right.

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Sailing in Company

As I mentioned, this always tends to happen at messabouts anyhow. We stay close to see each other’s boats. This tends to create opportunities for photos with more than one boat close together. I submit them here not so much because they are pretty, but for scale. If you know the AF3, it can tell you about the size of the Davis skiff.

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…and then if you know the Davis skiff, it can tell you about the Bolger Light Schooner.

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…which can tell you something about the CLC sharpie.

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…or the schooner can take you back to the AF3.

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Trying Out Boats

Maybe it was the small lake, and maybe it was the personalities of the windy city. But there was more trying out of other people’s boats than is normally seen. I wish this would happen at every messabout, since that is the single best reason to make the trip. Nothing tells you more about a design that getting in it on the water. Better yet, taking the helm. The Chicagoland messabout saw great generosity in this regard. The general feel of the event was, “Hey, you should try my boat!” An ideal learning experience. I only wish we’d had more time so more of us could have tried more boats.

But that’s a good reason to have more messabouts, right? We most likely will be, and we’re currently thinking of doing one each spring and fall, and maybe a mid-summer one as well.


Rob Rohde-Szudy
Madison, WI
robrohdeszudy@netzero.net