typewriter fontare reproduced verbatim from a contemporaneous log kept during the trip; the remainder is written from memory.)
Vessel........Voyager III Crew..........Jim, Chris, Jay, C.C. Duration......7 days Dates.........July 22-29, 1989 Destinations..Clapperton Island Harbour, Hotham Island, Little Detroit, Otter Island, Long Point Cove, Blind River
We leave the beautiful shores of Lake Lauzon and the warm hospitality of Aunt Lolly and Uncle Fran at about 9:30 a.m. and head east to Little Current, following Highway 17 along the northern shore of Lake Huron. The swing bridge connecting Manitoulin Island with the mainland opens on the hour for ten minutes to allow boat traffic to pass through. We need to time our arrival to miss this interruption in highway traffic flow. It takes about one hour and fortyfive minutes to drive to Little Current, so we arrive just after the bridge opening at 11:00 a.m.
Once on the island our first priority is to find Voyager III. The previous charterer, Dick Marks, had planned on leaving her on the Government Dock in town, but our drive past does not locate our sloop. The dock is very busy, with boats rafted two deep in places. So on to Spider Bay Marina we go, and there we indeed do find Voyager III moored. It looks like an S-2 9.2A rendezvous as, in addition to Voyager III, Serenity and another S-2 are moored next to one another on the floating docks. It is a very hot and sunny day, with just a trace of breeze stirring. The dock is full of activity with the Discovery Charter Fleet coming and going, and many other private yachts entering and leaving the harbor. Unfortunately, Voyager III is moored at the end of the pier, making the carry from the car the longest possible! After dozens of trips the car begins to empty and the boat begins to fill. Soon we'll be ready to sail westward on the building breeze.
In the middle of all the provisioning I grab a look at the Great Lakes Cruising Club information on our proposed destination, Sturgeon Cove. I find a recent note to the effect that the government has discontinued the range that marks the entrance to the cove. So we revise our plans and make Clapperton Harbour our destination for today. After two "last trips" downtown (one for worms and one bread) we are ready to leave at about 1:30 p.m., or 1330 "military time" as Jay calls it. We motor westward.
1330 Spider Island Little Current Marina Hobbs Time 0963.6 TC 295 From J60 to U2 V 7w MC 302 Dev 6w CC 308 1350 TC 270 Westward from J60 Var 7w MC 277 Dev 4w CC 281
1410 TC 261 to J66 at James Foote Patch Var 8w MC 269 Dev 4w CC 273 Motoring at 275° 1500 TC 266 at J66 to JD4 Kittiwake Rock Var 8w MC 274 Dev 4w CC 278 1530 Close reaching at 6.0 to 6.5 knots. Very nice day. Sun, breeze, small waves. Lots of power boats. Almost forgot worms in L/C. Had to go back. Then back again for more bread.
1620 At Kittiwake Rock buoy TC 297 to pass south of The Ridge and Meredith Rock Var 9w MC 306 Dev 6w CC 312 TC 000 to JN 1 off Beverly Island Var 9w MC 009 Dev 6w CC 015 1720 Anchored in Clapperton Island Harbour. Wx is beautiful! Water is unbelievably warm! Fire started in charcoal grill. We are lying in 16 feet of very clear water. Dx sailed today is 16.5 nm. Chris has a sore throat. May flies have hatched, but they are much more prevalent in the Clapperton Channel.
0720 Wx forecast, valid until 5 a.m. Monday: Lake Huron and North Channel Winds light and variable, mist, fog NW to SE ridge over Lake Superior to Toronto. Water is 0.55 meter above chart datum ( 1.6 feet or 1 ft, 8 inches) JN 1 to JD 6 JD 6 to JD 14 TC 235 TC 275 Var 9 w Var 9 w MC 244 MC 284 dev 2 w dev 5 w CC 246 CC 289 Steer 290 motoring JD14 to Benjamin Islands TC 012 Var 9 w MC 021 dev 4 w CC 025 NOTE steer 020 for first 2.0 nm to give wide berth to reef 1250 Gull Rock bearing Clapperton Island bearing MB 329 MB 038 var -9w var -9w TB 320 TB 029 CC 035 CC 020 dev 1 w dev 2w MC 034 MC 018 Var 9w V 9w TC 025 TC 009 DX 16.5 (K/L)4.2 @ JD 14
Shortly afterwards we pass the lovely Benjamin Islands and venture up the channel where we put Serenity on the shoals of Phantom Rock in 1987. However, the water level is lower, and the rock, charted as having 2 feet of exposure at chart datum, is clearly visible, protruding about 6 inches out of the 90 foot depths of the channel. We sail safely past it, giving it wide birth to starboard. This is a psychological barrier, as is marks the limit of our westward progress two years earlier. Now past this limit, we are venturing into entirely new waters. This increases our anxiety, but, having passed safely around Phantom Rock, our confidence is growing.
The first day or two of sailing always takes its toll; you need a few days to get back into the swing of sailing and navigating among shoals and dangers.
1530 We are at anchor in the western end of Hotham Island/Oak Point in 21 feet with 90 feet of rode. Hot sun has made it necessary to rig out the bimini. A large "FOR SALE" sign adorns Gillmor Pt of Frechette Island. Great bird sounds in Oak Bay - loons trill... whippoorwills whip, whip, whipper... Big fish are rumored.
0930 A very cool dew filled night. This morning it is again misty and foggy. I fish with two big worms, then I give the pole to Cat, but she leaves it unattended. When I come back there is a monster bass on it, but it is not well hooked and I lose him. A few minutes later, though, I get to catch him or his twin brother again. Whoa, what a big fish. By far the largest one we've seen at such close range! It is really too big to even fillet with my small knife, so I let him go. We'll catch some more later, I hope... Hobbs time 0968.1 Total time on engine so far 4.5 hours Miles so far = 33 nm Sailed Range to Little Detroit (Entering) TC 286.5 v 9w MC 295.5 d 4w CC 299.5 Course observed was 300 . This verifies deviation of 4w for MC 295 (Leaving Little Detroit) TC 315 v 9w MC 324 dev 4w CC 328 Course observed was more like 330 Lake Huron is 0.55 meters above chart datum. Forecast: Small Craft Warnings due to thunderstorms, Kincardine to Tobermory. For Lake Huron: WInds light and variable becoming SW @ 10 knots this evening Fog and mist patches; evening thunderstorms. MAFOR 14503 Nearshore Marine forecast: Winds light and variable becoming SW @ 10 knots, hazy, waves 0.5 meters or less.
After a nervous maiden transit of Little Detroit, where the government has created a small boat passage by blasting away the rocky bottom for a depth of 16 feet and a width of 75 feet, we enter the Whalesback Channel area for the first time. We tack our way westward along the northern shore of Aird Island, heading for the shallow anchoring grounds at the western end of the Otter Islands. The bay is practically deserted, and the only boat in sight is just pulling up her anchor and leaving as we arrive. We take over her position in the center of the bay, and soon we are securely anchored in about 12 feet of water. The water here is a curious yellow color. Hauling up a bucket, it looks like iced tea! The kids swim in it and their legs look strangely dark in the brownish water. Later an expedition ashore reveals a small cove on the northern shore of the island. We also inspect the beaver house just to our north. On the huge rock ledge sloping down to the water we find two large iron mooring rings, the relics of some abandoned commercial anchorage or mooring. Perhaps they were used to contain log floats for timbering or sawmills.
Before anyone else is awake, I am up early and I watch a mist filled bay great the sunrise. While I am soaking up the morning's grandeur, there is a sudden noise in the brush ashore, a few hundred feet to my north. The tall grass sways and moves with something passing through it. Is it a bear? No, it turns out to be a beaver, dragging a very large tree branch through the brush. He has chewed it off a tree somewhere ashore, and is dragging it down to the water. Once in the water, he heads for his house, where beaver and tree branch disappear under water. Amazing!
After breakfast we retrieve our anchor and ghost eastward under sail, trying out the new whisker pole with the 150% roller-furling genoa. It whisks us along at 2-3 knots in the light westerly blowing up the sheltered bay. Then it is around the corner at Passage and Brown Islands and out into some more wind, unfortunately coming straight out of the southwest. We hold it close hauled on port tack, making TC 296 .
1005 Passing between Brown Is. and Passage Is. CC 310 d 5w MC 305 V 9w TC 296 After a long haul on port, we tack over to starboard and head south across the bay. MB 206 (toVD2) MB 350 Curran Rock var 9w var 9w TB 197 TB 341 1200 Whalesback Channel, Berrypicker Rock. Jack Leverance Sailing School sails by: 2 GPYC boats, 55' and 45'. From Turtle Rock hold 270 1240 Abeam Turtle Rock TC 270 Var 9w MC 279 Dev 3w CC 282 Motoring at CC 285. 1 nm to Chapman Reef To Knight Point TC 302 Var 9w MC 311 Dev 5w CC 316 Motoring at 320
We follow the cruising guide directions into Long Point Cove, first staying well to the SW of the shoals west from Long Point, which we see clearly in the sparkling blue waters, and giving wide berth to Drew Island's shoal, which we never do see. Then we spot Navy Is. and turn in as we are abeam, and we motor carefully along the shore until Long Point Cove opens up for us. It is a popular anchorage, with at least ten boats there already. It is not deep, as once inside we carry only about 7-8 feet over a mud bottom with plenty of vegetation. As everyone seems to do when entering a new harbor, we head towards a group of boats already anchored, taking security in their choice of where to anchor instead of venturing out on our own! We snuggle in among a bristol-condition Tartan 40, a Tartan 37, and a CS36, set the anchor, and enjoy a beautiful day! It is fabulous! The sun is bright and strong, the water cool and clear, and the boat secure and sheltered. The entire crew dives in for a swim and then some beer! (Kids had soda!) The boom tent is rigged. It is a necessity today!
As we approached Long Point Cove, I had been warning the kids that unlike the generally empty harbors we had been staying it, this one would be filled with boats and boaters, looking to enjoy the tranquility of the beautiful surroundings, without the cries and screams of children! So it was with some irony that we watch the approach of an large ketch, about 55 feet-overall, bearing the emblem of the Sea Scout Troop of Flint Michigan and 21 young boys and girls. After they back down on their anchor about 50 yards west of us, I tell the kids that they are "saved"; no one will be able to hear their screams and yells over the din of 21 teenaged-boys and girls anchored just a few feet away! Jay and Cat can make a racket with virtual impunity from scorn by the rest of the harbor. In just moments the festivities aboard the ketch begin; two hours of jumping off the bow pulpit or swinging out on the spinnaker halyard and diving into the 8 foot depths ensue.
Cat and I set out on an adventure ashore. We row the Metzler inflatable to the rocky shore of the cove, and hike a short distance to the outside edge of the harbor, from where a considerable clamor is rising with scout activity. The scouts have lead us to a dandy find: a beautiful natural rock ledge from which to dive into the depths of the North Channel. Watching scout after scout going in from five, ten, even fifteen feet up the rocks, seems evidence enough that the water under the steep ledge is deep enough to be safe. We beat a quick return to the boat to pass on this new knowledge to Chris and Jay.
Lake Huron 0.54 ("decimal five four") meters above datum. The radio carries a warning of " 20 mm live gunnery " in area R4305 - 47 45'N, 90 05'W ; to 47 45'N, 89 28'N ; to 46 55'N,89 28'W; to 46 55'N,90 05'W. Lake Superior: SCW due to Thunderstorms until midnight. North Channel: SCW; winds SW 10-15 Thunderstorms in the afternoon. Hazy, waves 0.5 meter or less. MAFOR CODE at 11 a.m. : 11503, 13513, 19949, 14513
We decide that since Long Point Cove is the perfect place to ride out the afternoon thunderstorms, and since we see no point in leaving such a wonderful spot so soon after arriving, that we will just stay put today and enjoy ourselves and our vacation. The attraction of "the jumping rock" is irresistible; Cat and Jay will go there hourly if allowed! Chris and I enjoy snorkling around the boat, and we find one, two, three or more big smallmouth bass just swimming under the boat. Since we have enough food for dinner we declare fishing for these bass "unfair" and neglect to hook any. We do try our luck down in the south end of the cove, but as it is at the hottest part of the day, the fishing is unproductive.
To BASSETT IS. TC 243 var 7w MC 250 dev 2w CC 252 MAFOR at 7 AM for Georgian Bay and Huron West 13513 19959 11719 11710 13720 Cold Front over eastern Lake Superior at 5 AM moving to lie SE of Lake Ontario and Erie by midnight. Hg 30.30 at 5 AM...over Western Manitoba moving East to lie just west of Superior 8 AM Lake Huron and Georgian Bay Very warm, moist, unstable air mass covers the area and conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms.
Taking into account the forecast, we decide that sailing to Bassett/Turnbull Island is not the best idea we've ever had. If we do go, we'll probably find a much less secure anchorage to weather out the severe thunderstorms. Where we are is just about perfection-on-earth, so why give it up for something not as good, just for the sake of moving? We decide to stay for an unprecedented third day in Long Point Cove! A very lazy day ensues.
Around dinner time a huge system of clouds begins to blow in from the west. Fortunately, it looks like the rain and thunderstorm activity will pass just a few miles north of us, but ahead of the clouds a big wind shift line is approaching. All day long a considerable breeze has been blowing out of the southwest. We have watched several new boats enter the harbor, each making a high speed entrance from white-capped waters of the open bay. And even in the shelter of the cove, the winds have built up steadily to the point that it is difficult to row the dingy against the wind. Now the clouds grow darker and taller and the wind under them stronger; it shifts to the west, where it pours into the cove through the narrow opening. The sun awning flaps in protest, and we quickly stow it away. The wind grows even stronger and several boats start their engines in case they break loose from their anchors. We have swung around about 100 degrees on ours, and I decide to start the diesel--just in case! As the winds peak, hitting perhaps 30 mph of steady blow, the huge weather system eases by just to our north. We watch a dark sky fill with lightning bolts, but hardly a drop of rain falls on us, as we lie now just a few miles south of the edge of the system.
Sailed on the morning for Blind River. We enjoyed a beautiful morning and early afternoon of sailing, with light breezes, but winds strong enough and favorable for us to make our destination almost entirely under sail. The huge burner at the McFadden Mill is visible for many miles away. I sight it before noon! Once safely tied up for the night in Blind River Municipal Marina, we turn our attention to cleaning up the boat. All our gear is unloaded and transported off to Aunt Lolly and Uncle Fran's place. We use their car to do this, as ours is still back in Little Current. Finally, we have cleaned and scrubbed and straightened everything back to ship-shape condition. We are free to retire to Lake Luzon for Friday night's supper.
A call from the next charter party hails us from our dinner. They want to buy some ice before the marina closes, but they won't get there until after 8 p.m. A call to the marina and the dock girl solves the problem and relieves me of making another trip back to town. I just give her the boat combination and she promises to put some ice aboard for us. Back to dinner, uninterrupted. Then back to the marina and meeting the other charterers. They've arrived with a big camper-motor home. We transfer all our gear into it, get a few instructions on how to drive the big thing, and then we are back to Lake Luzon for the evening.
The final leg of the journey back to Little Current begins with poppyseed coffee cake! It's the featured product at the local bakery [1996 Update: The bakery was since put out of business by a "Tim Horton's" franchise]. What a delicacy! Then all into the motor home, and down the road we go for Espanola and the swing bridge to Manitoulin Island. Once back at Spider Bay Marina, we transfer everything into our car, and we are finally set for the journey back to the States. The line for the ferry at South Baymouth is huge! It turns out that the Nindawayma has a problem and can only load about half her usual amount of cars. So we miss the 11:30 sailing and the 1:40 sailing and catch the 3:50 sailing! This puts us behind our schedule so to make up some time we decide to have dinner aboard. This turns out to be a decent idea as it helps pass the trip and saves the time you'd spend eating on the road later. We arrive at Tobermory around 6:00 p.m. Since it takes about five hours to get back to Detroit from there, we barrel non-stop down the coast for Motown. We finally end our long vacation back in Birmingham at 12:30 a.m. About 12:55 a.m. Chris remembers we're out of milk for breakfast tomorrow, so we're out in the car again to find an all-night store.
Vessel........Voyager III Crew..........Jim, Chris Duration......10 days Dates.........August 26-September 4, 1989 Destinations..Meldrum Bay, Clapperton Island Harbour, then across Lake Huron to Presque Isle, Harrisville, Port Austin, Harbor Beach, Port Huron, Chanel Ecarte, Jefferson Beach Marina
We are back in Little Current for a second week, this time to complete our circumnavigation of Lake Huron. The place seems strangely quiet in comparison to that late-July hustle and bustle with which we're more familiar. The government dock is not crowded with boats, and many berths are empty in the marina. With an early start behind us, we take departure at Spider Bay Marina aboard Voyager III, a thirty foot sloop.
1140 Depart L/C Spider Marina Winds E-10 Wx Fair Temp 75F Hobbs Time 1052.6 J62 to J66 James Foote Patch Fl R (Keep well to starboard ) TC 261 Var 9w MC 270 dev 4w CC 274 J66 to JD4 TC 266 var 9w MH 275 dev 4w CH 279 DX = 15.3 1620 @ Clapperton. We are anchored in 14 feet. 1750 WX Wind at Clapperton has shifted to SW 10 from NE 10. MAFOR Lake Superior E - 14310, 11313,19939, 13413,19939 Huron (decoded) 13200 - Next 9 hrs E 0-10 clear 19300 - Occasional SE 0-10 14310 - Next 12 SE 15 11313 - Next 3 hrs SE 15 Mist 19939 - Occasionally variable 25 knots thunderstorms
There are only a few boats in the harbour, and even that is a surprise. We are anchored at some distance from the nearest boat, and after dinner and drinks we take advantage of the mild weather to dive into the still warm waters at sunset for a quick lap around the boat. (I should mention that we are skinny-dipping!)
Cloudy - no fog, light SE winds Notice to Mariners: PICNIC ISLAND Channel numerous planks reported adrift MAFOR :Lake Superior 13413, 12610, 13700 (Plain Language: Winds S 10-15 becomming W 10-15 then NW 10) North Channel: 14310 (12 hrs SE 10-15) 11300 (3hrs SE 10) 12403 (6 hrs S Light Mist) 11600 (3 hrs W fair) Plain Language: Winds SE 10-15 becoming S-10 then West overnight. NEARSHORE MARINE FORECAST for the North Channel: Winds SE 10 veering to S Isolated mist patches until afternoon.
Because of the long distance we have to go today, Chris accedes to my demands that we get an early start! The log notes us underway by 8:00 a.m. It is hazy and foggy, and not too warm. Rain threatens, and finally does appear as a light and lukewarm drizzle. The winds are light, and we are forced to motor, although a brief wind blows up from the south, off the island, and takes the slack out of our sails for a while.
JN 1 to JD6 (At JN 1 at 0809) TC 235 var 9w MH 244 dev 2w CH 246 (Motoring add 5 = hold course 250 by compass) West from JD 14 TC 270 var 9w MH 279 dev 5w CH 284 At JD 14 the K/L was reset to zero. 0847 Fix - Abeam JF14 0900 DR K/L =1.3 0930 DR K/L = 4.3 0945 Raised Sail. Speed 6 knots MB 215 var 9W TB 206 1000 DR K/L=7.3 1030 DR K/L=9.6 MB 138 var 9W TB 129 1030 DR Lat 45 59.6' N, Lo 082 32.7' W Transfer to Chart 2258 1100 DR K/L = 12.8 Lat 45 59.6'N, Lo 082 37.3' W Sailing CH 275 to 280 to allow for leeway. We are on port tack, close reaching to close hauled. 1130 DR K/L = 15.7 (Distance since 1100 = 2.9 nm) 1200 DR K/L =19.2 1237 MB 227 S= 4.0 T=7.5 D=0.5 var 9w TB 218 1245 MB 180 var 9w TB 171 1245 Running Fix (Advanced 1237 LOP to 1245 and got running fix) Depth Sounder shows 160-165 foot depth. 1300 DR T=15 S=5 solves for D=1.25 1400 DR K/L = 29.5 Transfer to Chart 2252 at postion Lat 4559'N, Lo 083 02' W
Now, past lunch, we are well along the way to our destination, Meldrum Bay, about 50 miles west of Little Current along the northern shore of Manitoulin Island. The shoreline features are new to us, and we guess at what must be this bay or that point. On occasion some feature on the chart appears on the corresponding correct position on shore, and we feel reasonably sure of our whereabouts. Finally we turn the corner and head south into Meldrum Bay. It is a rustic town, and in the clear water of its harbor we decide to anchor out, rather than put a line to shore and dock. The water is so clear that in twenty feet we easily can see the anchor rode and chain beneath us! After we secure the boat, we dingy to shore, in search of a hot shower at the hotel. The Meldrum Bay Inn exhibits a classic example of northern woods varnished pine architecture. Their "rental" shower turns out to be across the street, in a spartan concrete building. Its interior illuminated by a single 65 watt bulb, barely creating enough light to read the sign which warns against taking showers longer than 20 minutes on pain of being charged for two! But hot water it contains, and after a day of drizzle and foul weather gear, a warm shower for twenty minutes seems well worth the $2.00 they charge.
1740 WX Lake Huron: SW 10 becoming light tonight. E 10-15 Monday with Mist patches and a chance of Thunderstorms Waves less than 1 meter. A High pressure 30.15 at the Western End of Lake Superior is moving to Quebec by Monday. Nearshore Forecast (1530) North Channel: Winds light and variable, fair, waves less than half meter Monday, winds light and variable becoming East 10-15, mist patches, fair. Total distance sailed today 46.2 nm (!)
0830 Departing Meldrum Bay For Mississagi Strait Lt. to Presque Isle Harbor TC 199 var 7w MH 206 dev 0 CH 206 1005 K/L was reset to zero from 9.6 Abeam Mississagi St. Lt. 1100 K/L = 5.1 Speed average 6.1 1130 K/L = 7.5 Speed average 5.3 1200 K/L = 10.1 Speed average 5.3 1130 DR L 45 46.6' N Lo 083 17.2' W 1300 K/L = 16.1 1400 K/L = 22.0 1405 Called M/V ARMCO on Ch 16 and got her position as L 45 33'43" N Lo 83 27'31"W or 45 33.7'N 83 27.5'W New course to Presque Isle TC 182 var 7w MC 189 dev 1e CC 188 and 5 for motoring so make 193 by compass 1500 K/L = 29.2 For average speed last hour of 7.2 ! 1520 Changing to CC 180 TC 175 var 7w MH 182 dev 2e CC 180 1520 K/L =31.6 TC 136 var 7W MH 143 dev 5e CC 138 Sailing Directions: Hold offshore more than 1 mile, carry on for 2 miles after rounding point. The harbor will open up. Entering Harbor on range TC 274 var 7w MH 281 dev 5w CH 286 1700 Anchored in Presque Isle Harbor in lee of the Southeast portion. Estimated distance sailed since 1520 K/L reading = 9.6 nm Estimated total distance sailed 49.2 nm today.
A big storm brews up from the southeast, and we are awakened by the pitching of the boat around 2 a.m. We're riding on the little 13-lb Danforth, but it is well set in the firm sand on the bottom. With the 20+ knot winds coming in from across the lake, Voyager III swings back and forth, sailing on her anchor rode. It is nerve racking. The boat sails first on one tack until the anchor rode forces her up to windward, then she comes about and tries the other tack until running out of room on that side. Back and forth we "sail" on our anchor, but we seem to be holding steady. Eventually, we tire of the anchor watch and go back to bed.
By morning the storm has blown out and we are in calm winds and waters. As we pick up the anchor I can see it lying on the bottom some 15 feet below. The water is very clear in the harbor.
We leave around 0800, and begin our trek down the Michigan coastline. Naviagtion is rather simple now: we just stay offshore in about 30 feet of water, following the shore contour. The waves are decreasing, and a nice breeze fills in from the west, allowing us to sail an easy close reach.
Around late morning we pass a wreck north of Alpena of a large freighter. I think it is the Nordmere, a ship that ran itself aground on a 20-foot shoal in fair weather and hasn't moved since. She is an evil looking black hulk now, with her wrecked superstructure clearly visible above the water. Seeing it gives us the creeps, and we do not close toward it at all, giving it a wide berth instead.
South of Alpena and several miles offshore, I spot a small high-speed boat heading directly towards us. "I bet this will be cops!", I tell Chris. Sure enough, a few minutes later we are hailed by two Sheriff's deputies from some Michigan county, whose boundaries are now extended over water about 50 miles to the international border. Forewarned of their arrival by my chance sighting and my strange premonition, we're ready for them:
"Got any lifejackets aboard?", they ask us as soon as they come alongside.
Reaching down and producing two Type-1 PFD's that I just brought up from the cabin, I say, "Yes, we do."
They are stunned by our quick response. Somewhat dissappointed, the Sheriff's Deputies turn their expensive 22-foot Boston Whaler 'cruiser' around for the five-mile run back to their county's shoreline. They've had a nice ride out so see us, probably the real motivation for their trip.
We have a very easy day of sailing down the coast, and eventually pull into the excellent marina at Harrisville. We set foot on American soil for the first time, so it is necessary to report our re-entry into the country to U.S. Customs.
I telephone the customs officer, and the conversation goes like this:
ME: "Hello, I want to report entry to the U.S. via boat from Canada."
CUSTOMS: "How many aboard and what citizenship?"
ME: "Just two of us, both American citizens."
CUSTOMS: "How long have you been in Canada?"
ME: "Five days."
CUSTOMS: "I suppose you don't have anything to declare, do you?"
ME: "No, nothing to declare."
CUSTOMS: "How long is your boat?"
ME: "Thirty feet."
CUSTOMS: "Do you have a 'use decal'?"
ME: "Ah, no. What's a 'use decal'?"
CUSTOMS: "Every boat, thirty feet or longer, must purchase a Customs Use decal if it re-enters U.S. waters from a foreign country... I suppose I will have to drive down and sell you one..."
ME: "Where are you now?"
CUSTOMS: "Rogers City"
ME: "How much is this decal?"
ME: "Jeez, that's a long drive from Rogers City..."
CUSTOMS: "Yup, probably take me a couple of hours..."
ME: "Wait, I just checked, and my boat is 29-feet 11-inches, not 30-feet."
CUSTOMS: "Oh, good. You're all set. I guess I won't have to drive down there afterall."
ME: "Thanks. Bye."
We consult the Dockmaster for advice on a nice place to eat dinner. We've been cooking aboard for the last three nights since leaving Little Current, and we are ready to get off the boat and have a nice dinner. Conveniently, they have samples of several local restaurants' menus. We pick out a German restaurant, Muhlbachs. It's just up the highway a few miles, and they will send a car down to pick us up.
A short while later, we are surprised to see a vintage 1960 Cadillac limousine pull up to the dock. It's the car from the restaurant! We joke with the driver that we haven't seen a limo like this since President Kennedy was shot!
The food at the restaurant is wonderful, and slowly it dawns on me that I have been here before! My father was once working in this area on a summer-long assignment, and he took my mother and me out to dinner here back in the 1960's. The same family still runs the place and cooks the food. We have a perfect dinner, and then we're driven back to the boat in the old Cadillac.
Safely tied to the dock in the marina, and tired from the long day of sailing, we have a very sound night's sleep.
We're out of stove alcohol fuel, so we take a tour of the town, having breakfast at a donut shop and looking for a store to buy the alcohol. Everyone seems to be out of it. In a gesture of concern that probably can only happen in small towns in the upper Midwest, the clerk from the hardware store tracks us down later to offer some denatured-alcohol paint thinner as a substitute. We are thankful for his courtesy, but we decide--given all the trouble people have had with that stove flaring up--that we better not use anything not labelled "Marine Stove Fuel". We get buy coffee for the thermos for lunch later, and cast off.
We are lucky with the weather again, as the wind is favorable, from the SW, and we enjoy a fast reach across the mouth of Saginaw Bay, heading toward Port Austin. It is a speedy sail, with plenty of bursts up to 7.0 on the knotmeter. A jet fighter plane, an F-18, buzzes us around noon. He sneaks up behind us, as we cannot hear his approach, and flashes by at 500 knots a few hundred feet above our masthead. He is probably warming up for an air-show scheduled the next day near Harrisville.
All day the winds hold, and we continue our fast reach to the southeast. By late afternoon, we have 40 miles or more behind us, and we are entering Port Austin's municipal marina.
Dinner tonight is a few blocks south of the docks, at an excellent restaurant housed in an old bank building. We stroll the main street of Port Austin, wandering our way back to the marina. The breeze has swung all the way around to the NE, the worst direction for this harbor. Port Austin is somewhat famous for its inadequete breakwater--which is being extended and refurbished at this very moment--and the waves from the northeast are sneaking into the marina. They set up a rather uncomfortable roll on the boat. I add a few extra breast lines and winch them tight, but even that will not stop the boat from rolling in its slip. Eventually, I resort to tying off the spare jib halyard to a piling a few slips to windward, and this does dampen the rolling a little. A nightcap from the Drambuie bottle encourages a sound sleep.
By morning, the wind has hauled around to the south-southeast. Departing Port Austin, we resume our coasting down the eastern shoreline of Michigan, but now, for the first time this trip, we are faced with headwinds. The waves really begin to build up, and to add to our misery, we are sailing dead to windward, necessitating a series of tacks. After an hour I make our progress at about 2 knots VMG. That's it for sailing. On comes the motor and we slam right into the waves, bucking our way southward.
This is really a rough way to travel, so we abandon any thoughts of another 50-mile-day. The next harbor is Harbor Beach, and we can't get there fast enough. Several miles behind us, I sight the masts of a larger ketch, heading in our direction. As our little two cyclinder, 18-hp diesel tries to punch our 11,000 pounds of boat through the waves, we watch the larger boat behind slowly gain on us. Eventually, they overtake us, their 50 feet of hull powering to windward much better than ours.
After a few more hours of this rough motoring, we duck behind the long breakwall, which forms the largest enclosed harbor on the Great Lakes. There is a nice new marina there, and it is practically empty. That 50-foot ketch beat us in by an hour! We get the boat secured in a slip, but the view is terrible. We're looking at the business end of the Edison power plant and other industrial development along the mile of so of shoreline within the breakwall. The town is too far away to walk, so we are at the mercy of a local restaurant that will send a car for us.
After consulting with the Dockmaster, we telephone a restaurant and they come by to pick us up. Harbor Beach, the town, looks a little bleak, and the dinner can't match the ones we've had the last two nights. At least the boat is well protected, and we'll get a good night's sleep with no rolling. We walk the docks and have a visit with the ketch from this afternoon. They have a large 6-cyclinder diesel, and it can power them to windward at 6 knots all day. We make a note that our "perfect" boat will have plenty of engine power.
We depart Harbor Beach with calmer winds and waves, proceding southward, again, along the coastline of Michigan. The 30-foot contour is close to shore in spots, giving us some nice scenery to pass the morning away. By early afternoon, we are already snug in the marina at Port Sanillac. It's a very nice spot, with a prepoderance of sailboats in the harbor.
Chris takes an afternoon nap, while I stroll the docks. Soon, I'm aboard a nifty C & C 39. It's hot, and the skipper offers an ice-cold Molson. The distinctive taste of that Canadian beer hits the spot. The skipper is a bachelor in his mid-thirties. He asks me to help him re-arrange the gear aboard. He has to move all the extra gear from the aft cabin to the vee-berth. The reason for this: the girl visiting him this weekend prefers to sleep in the aft cabin; last week's date preferred the vee-berth. The burden of bachelorhood and large boat ownership!
I am up this morning literally before dawn. I have to take some observations of the rising sun for my Navigator Class for the U. S. Power Squadron. The pier is lined with fisherman, hoping for early salmon returning to spawn. Sunrise is glorious--you have to experience one to believe it!
We have a pleasant breakfast in town, hosted by a fellow who moved up here from Detroit. He tells us he'll never go back, and we can easily believe him. Port Sanillac is a very pleasant little town, and it is just far enough away from the city to be "up north."
We shove off for Port Huron, and resume our southward progress. The weather is very warm and the sailing easy. By late afternoon the current sweeps us under the Bluewater Bridge. Unfortunately, every transient berth in the vicinity is filled with Labor Day Weekend boaters, and there is nothing available for us. We decide to continue southward, down the St. Clair River, whose current will speed our progress by 2-3 knots, just as it impeded it on the upward journey.
By early evening we are already down to Algonac, where we turn east into the Chanel Ecarte, a deep passage into the interior of Ontario. A few miles downstream we find another sailboater tied to the dock at a local motel. They invite us to raft along side them, and we accept their kind offer.
We are back in Canadian water, but we haven't gone ashore...officially. Chris does sneak down the road to a fruit stand and buys some fresh vegetables to make a salad for dinner. After eating, we join our raft partners for a drink aboard their 40-footer. We marvel at the accomodations in their cabin. After living aboard for 9 days, our 30-footer is getting a little cramped.
We are back in our home waters. The weather is fair and we have a pleasant sail down the St. Clair Flats Cut-Off. At the top of Lake St. Clair we encounter the worst sea conditions of the trip! It's a mess of huge power boat wakes, all criss-crossed. We bounce around in a sea of standing waves, some of them six-footers.
We make the familiar transit of Lake St. Clair, and arrive at our home port, Jefferson Beach Marina. Our slip has been vacant for ten weeks while Voyager III has been cruising the North Channel. We glide into our familiar berth, finishing the circumnaviation of Lake Huron we began in 1986.
As we make the boat fast and rig for harbor condition, we are surprised to see my parents strolling down the dock! My dad had become a little concerned, and decided to drive over to the marina to what had become of us! Since we had really not planned to arrive here until tomorrow, this is quite a coincidence.
The winds are calm today, making it the perfect setting to take my mom and dad out for a little cruise. We cajole them to come over to the boat again, and settle them into the cockpit. Out into the lake we motor, out to the shipping channel and back, our standard "sail" for non-sailing guests. The only waves are those of boat's wakes. It is an easily afternoon on the water, giving my parents--now in their late seventies--a taste of boating and cruising as we have just experienced.
FInally, our charter is up. We've had a grand trip! We brought the boat home with just the two of us, a trip of some 300 miles or more. We've had many new experiences, and we've handled them all. It has been a terrific cruise.
Copyright © 1996, 1999 by James W. Hebert. All rights reserved.
Page Last modified: January 31, 1999