What killed Norm Cash and almost got us? Beaver Island.
Eventually we get to Bay Harbor by way of Charlevoix.
|Date:||Saturday, July 7, 2001|
|Weather:||Fair but a second cold front approaching|
|Winds:||SW 25 and steady all morning|
|Waves:||1-footers rolling across harbor; imagine much more on lake.|
|Location:||Lying Beaver Island Marina|
After a very short night's sleep, we are up and awake. The marina bathrooms are not too clean, and the showers look quite suspicious. Forget showering. It's blowing like stink at the moment so we won't be working up much of a sweat.
For breakfast we visit a shoreside bakery and deli, which also functions as a self-serve restaurant. We have some good coffee, eggs, and pastry, fortifying ourselves for the day ahead. In mid-morning the winds seem to abate ever so slightly and haul a little to the northwest, but it is mainly an illusion. It is blowing like mad here in the harbor; we can only imagine what it is like on the lake.
Our reasoning on the winds is based on this observation. The wind is from the SW. We are at the NE tip of the island, hence sheltered from the wind. If it is blowing in here, it must be raging on the lake, much too strong for conditions suitable for our small boats.
We spend most of the morning away from the boats, which are still rocking in the beam seas of the marina. In the late morning a boat comes into the harbor and ties up at the marina. Once they've settled into their slip, I interrogate them on the conditions out on the lake. Their story is they've just come over from Harbor Springs, and the conditions were not too bad, although the waves did build up as they were approaching the island. They've come in a rather large and capable power boat, in the 40-foot-plus range, so perhaps they are not the best source for an opinion on conditions.
Another boat comes into the harbor and also comes to our docks. They tell a similar story. The crossing was not too rough, with the worst waves close to the island. It's a trend!
1200 Walk to municipal marina The Whaler RAGE for sale for $3500 The weather forecast. No radio reception at dock. Bad internet land based forecast at our Marina. MAFOR coded forecast at other Marina. The ferry schedule Back to the boats
By noon, I am getting quite anxious to leave. We try to get a weather forecast on the radio, but reception is terrible. We are ringed by the encircling shore of the harbor, and no weather transmission can be received at the dock on our boat radios.
A visit to the marina office discovers a posted weather forecast, but it is a download from an internet site, cute with graphics but short on information and really intended for land dwellers--no mention of waves or winds on the Lake.
We embark on a walk to the municipal marina to check their information. They have a tall radio mast, so certainly better reception is available and hence more weather information.
The municipal marina is located on the southwestern side of the harbor, and when we reach it, an amazing thing happens: there is hardly a breeze over there! It is uncanny how much calmer things are just a half mile away from where we are rocking and rolling. They have a MAFOR coded forecast, which speaks of better conditions coming; they just aren't quite here yet. Then another front will approach in 24 hours. Boy, these low pressure systems keep blowing through.
1300 Much windier at our anchorage. LHG skeptical about leaving. Wants to wait for the weather to moderate as forecasted. Others walk to lighthouse. Wind drops slightly, then builds again. Weather fair and sunny, but clouds coming from SW.
When we return to the Marina, we discover it is still blowing a storm over here. No let up in sight. A party strikes out on foot to visit a lighthouse on the point about a mile away. I defer from making this trip and hang around the docks, keeping an eye on the weather. I am getting harbor bound, and I don't want to stay here for a repeat performance of the terrible sleepless night we just had. To add to our misery the Dockmistress starts to hint about either leaving or paying for more dockage.
By my eye the winds have abated, and I formulate a plan. I don't want to miss a window of fair weather. Things looks worse in the southwest, more clouds and darker clouds coming. Has our brief interval of lower winds and sunshine passed us?
The others return from the walk to the lighthouse. We caucus on departing. Our senior advisor, LHG, thinks it best to wait it out, wait for the lower winds to arrive as forecasted. The others seem content with that, but I am mutinous. I want out of here!
1400 Move to gas dock Add 24 gallons at $2.65/gal = $63.60 Gas dock is very poorly protected. Lying to open harbor and banging on the dock. Fender slips out. Ouch, some gelcoat left on the dock. Self service on the gasoline.
As it happens, we are stuck on Beaver Island and without a chart, rendering independent navigation on our part somewhat trecherous. However, I have a solution for that: at 2:30 p.m. the ferry will depart the dock bound for Charlevoix. I intend to be at sea and ready to follow in her wake if conditions are suitable. I inform my mates of this new plan, a mutiny of sorts.
We probably have enough fuel to make it back, but to be prudent, we move the boat over to the fuel dock (as it were) and pump our tank back to full. This costs a usurous $2.65-per-gallon, by far the most expensive gasoline I have ever purchased. To top it off, the unprotected fuel dock has a strong surge and we bang some gelcoat off the hullsides when a fender slips out from between our hull and the well-worn timber.
1415 We go out into the lake. Conditions very gentle compared to harbor! Calling on radio. Raise BACKLASH. Advise we are leaving at 2:30 p.m. Will follow the ferry back to Charlevoix. Steve joins. LHG and LCG to follow. 1430 Standing off entrance to St. James harbor awaiting ferry departure
Gassed up and ready to go, we motor out of St. James harbor and into Lake Michigan, expecting to find conditions that match the 20-knot breeze we've been sitting in since early this morning. Instead we find the lake comparatively calm, and the breeze down to almost nothing.
"We must have been sitting in the vortex of a wind tunnel back there at that dock," I say to Chris. "There's way more breeze on that north shore of the harbor than there is out here."
I relay my findings to the others by Marine Radiotelephone. The conditions are very moderate, and the trip across will not be too rough at all. We are going, we'll rendezvous later on the mainland.
1445 We go south with ferry in lee of Beaver Island. Even into open lake the waves are moderate. Wind is shifting to the NW from SW. On plane most of the way at 22 mph. Judging our cross track error from distance off ferry track. Ferry about mile behind us. 1545 We meet the outbound ferry Emerald Isle dead ahead. We must be right on the track. Hold CC 165-degrees to Charlevoix.
By mid-crossing Steve and Caroline on BACKLASH have caught up with us and pass ahead. The run is not as easy as our gentle ride out was yesterday, but it is tolerable. We can stay on plane most of the time, although sequences of larger waves force us to slow down and drop back to displacement mode in stretches. In the whole 27 miles of open water, we really only take one big jolt coming off a wave. Both Chris and I agree, an hour to two of this is better than another sleepless night on Beaver Island!
1645 Arrive Charlevoix. Hail dockmaster on Channel 09. No room at their dock. No room elsewhere, either. Big festival/carnival in Charlevoix tonight, docks full. 1700 Standing off Charlevoix in Lake Michigan WHALE LURE and T/T WHALE LURE arrive. LHG has moved to T/T WHALE LURE LCG brought WHALE LURE over. We have a gam with the four boats. On to Bay Harbor we decide. LHG had made reservations there, but we were worried about getting too far east to get back to Northport tomorrow. Turns out to be an easy run down there. Very calm conditions around Charlevoix. Lake flat calm
We arrive off Charlevoix about two hours later, having made an average speed on about 14 MPH in the crossing. On this side of the lake the water is calm, practically dead flat calm. The lull in the winds has arrived, at least it has arrived here. No telling what it is doing on Beaver Island, but I suspect it might still be blowing.
Unfortunately, there is no room at the inn (or dock), as the town is having some holiday festival this evening and every inch of wharf and dockage is filled, as are the close-by marinas in Lake Charlevoix. We had made tentative plans and LHG had put his credit card down to hold reservations at Bay Harbor, a very fancy-schmancy resort and private harbor up the coast about ten miles, but we had been holding that in reserve to see if we could land something in Charlevoix. It looks like the reservations at Bay Harbor are turning out to be a very smart move.
Some of our group have stayed at Bay Harbor before and liked the place, while I sense that some others have been there and not enjoyed it. In either case, we have little option left; it's on to Bay Harbor.
1715 Arrive Bay Harbor. Ostentatious, but glad to have a place to stay tonight.
|Marina:||Bay Harbor Marina|
|Mooring:||Along floating Tee-dock at end of pier. Rate $1.75/foot, 30-foot minimum rate = $52.50|
|Dock height:||Deck height at dock: 2 feet with built in fendering|
|Bathroom:||7-8 Individual bathrooms with mirrors, large sink and vanity, toilets and showers|
|Showers:||2-person size showers, good nozzles|
It feels great to be tied up at a dock where the boat is not rolling through 30-degree all the time. We all head for the showers, making up for the ones we missed this morning in the less than sparkling clean facility on Beaver Island. The Bay Harbor shower and baths are quite luxurous, as they should be for the price, but even they have a little water on the floor and by this late in the day could use a bit of sprucing up. Well, so could we, I guess.
1700 Best dock assignment of all. Lying on the end of main dock, adjacent to 105-foot Broward yacht
|Weather:||Fair, sunny, nice sunset coming|
|Waves:||Big lake is calm|
|Location:||Lying Bay Harbor Marina along end of main dock|
Just as the afternoon begins to wind down, we are able to relax and enjoy our view. It is terrific, the sky a hazy shade of red as the sun begins to go down and some wispy clouds form in the west. We have a great location, our boats tied along the end of the very long T-dock.
The expression on our faces indicates the pleasure we are experiencing by being at a dock where the boat is not rolling 30-degrees. This is the floating main dock at Bay Harbor, secured by long anchor chains to the floor of an old stone quarry about 72-feet down. By connecting the quarry to Lake Michigan with a small channel, a wonderful harbor and lakeside real estate development was created. [Technical note: Chris's feet rest on our dry cockpit locker; the smaller blue coolers hold iced food and beverages.]
Photo Credit: LCG
I don't know if we got this spot because the marina likes us, or because it doesn't like us. Maybe they put us out here to keep our little (relatively) outboard boats hidden from the view of the shoreside dock gawkers who like to admire the fleet of gleaming white yachts moored here. Or maybe they figured this was a good spot for us, where all four boats could stay together and not tie up but one dock space or slip. In either case, it is fine with us. We are just enjoying the view, with a bluff of beautiful condominiums behind us, a series of mega-homes along the shore in front of us, our protected marina/lake to relax in, and a wonderful view of Lake Michigan and the sunset on our horizon. It does not get much better than this.
Apparently the anticipated cold front has finally blown through and been replaced with fair weather and a new high pressure system. If we had known for sure when this would have occured we could have stayed at Beaver Island and come directly here in perhaps very calm seas and winds. Of course, we'd just be arriving now, and instead we have had a couple of hours at the dock to unwind and relax.
And on the other hand, it might still be blowing like stink on Beaver Island, who knows for sure? It is good to be here and not there!
We are having pre-cocktail hour and then cocktail hour, sitting in our deck chairs at the end of the pier with a billion dollar view of Lake Michigan and the reddening sky as the sun sinks in the west. It is a nice way to end the day.
2000 My back showing signs of onset of muscle spasm. Retreat to the boat to take a 600 Mg MOTRIN before it gets worse. Change out of deck shoes, too. Too much walking for flat soled shoes. Chris--style conscious--bugs me why didn't I bring the other boat shoes she just bought me!
|Location:||Bay Harbor Resort, Charlevoix, Michigan|
|Setting:||Overlooking harbor and lake|
|Ambience:||Newer trendy upscale|
|Meal:||Veal, Tuna, potoato, vegetables; salad|
|Price:||$35 and up; food was delicious but pricey.|
We are sitting just twenty miles north of the 45th parallel of latitude, almost precisely halfway between equator and north pole. In reference to this, the main restaurant of the resort complex is so-named. We head off for a late dinner. The restaurant is a little more upscale than our usual dining. The tip will cost as much as most of our normal meals. We get a nice second floor table overlooking the habor, a very nice waitress, and we have an excellent evening. [Chris has asked me to emphasize the extremely high quality of the food; probably the best meal we've ever had.]
After a short night's sleep, a long day cruising, and an excellent meal, we were all enjoying ourselves at our last dinner together on this cruise.
Photo Credit: LCG
2030 Great dinner at Lattitude (45-degrees) begins. MOTRIN has back under control, with help from 16-oz. ale. 2300 Closing down the restaurant again! All these late dinners! 0000 Good sleep at the docks. The bottom is 72 feet below us. All floating piers. Long anchor chains and cables. Formerly a stone quarry, now flooded and cut into the lake.
The six-day narrative continues in Day Six.
Copyright © 2001 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!
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Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared June 2002.