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2010 Isle Royale National Park Trip Report
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posted 09-07-2010 10:48 AM ET (US)
Isle Royale 2010 Trip Report
August 27 – September 5, 2010
Isle Royale is a National Park situated in Lake Superior roughly 56 miles NW of Copper Harbor, Michigan, on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and 22 miles NE of Grand Portage, MN. The island park is one of the least often patronized by visitors in the US National Park System. This is due, in part, to the seasonal park operating schedule, and in part to the remote nature of the island.
This year, a fleet of Boston Whaler boats ranging in size from 18 to 30 feet descended on the park from both Copper Harbor and Grand Portage for a brief rendezvous to enjoy good times, good fellowship, great food and amazing scenery.
Here is a report of this trip, from my perspective. All times are Eastern Daylight Savings Time, as the park is one of the Northernmost and Easternmost locations in the Eastern Time Zone in the United States.
Friday, August 27
Shortly after I get underway, I hear from Dave and Kathy Hart, who are planning to go on the trip with their new boat. The bad news is that Dave encountered a shoal while he was shaking down the new boat and took it out of commission for the season. I inquire if he thinks he could bring his other boat on the trip, but he’s spent the past week moving electronics to the new boat, and can’t make the transition back in time. The Harts are sitting this one out.
At 10:25 PM, I make a stop at St. Ignace, Michigan, just across the Mackinac Bridge, for fuel and dinner. I do a gut check on my alertness, as the run across Michigan’s upper peninsula is long and lonely at night. Onward.
Saturday, August 28
At 2:45 AM, I’m in Baraga, Michigan, and make a welcome stop for “cheap” gas at the Indian reservation just outside of town. I take a moment to relax and reorient myself for the remainder of the journey.
At 4:15 AM, I roll into the parking lot at the Copper Harbor State Dock – a very nice facility that is about 10 years old. I noticed on the final few miles that there were leaves on the road – the trees already think that fall is on the way. The chill in the air confirms this feeling. I quickly make camp in my cuddy, while on the hard to catch a few hours of sleep. As I unzip my dry bag with my sheet, blanket and pillow, I discover disaster! Apparently I didn’t pull these items from the bag after the last trip – they’ve sat, damp, inside a dry bag for three weeks. The pillow is covered in mildew – completely unusable. The sheet has mildew, but may be usable after being washed, and the blanket has a musty odor, but is not showing any signs of mildew. I throw the whole bag out of the cuddy and pull my backup sleeping bag (usually too warm for summer outings) and make do for the night.
By 7:30 AM, I’m back up and preparing to wash my sheet and blanket in a 5 gallon bucket. The day is breezy, clear and sunny – and the sunshine helps to quickly dry my freshly scrubbed sheet and blanket. While those items dry out, I prepare the boat for launch.
As a consequence to the very loaded state of my boat, I have to back the trailer so far into the water that my rear wheel hubs are just touching the water. Finally, the buoyancy overcomes the additional weight and I am successfully floating on Lake Superior!
I spend some time on leisurely chores, take a shower and generally enjoy what is turning into a beautiful day, while I wait for Jim and Pat to arrive. Unfortunately for me, I expect them sooner rather than later, and I skip lunch, thinking that I’d enjoy some lunch with them when they arrive.
They roll into town at 2:00 PM. My stomach growls. They prepare the boats for launch. Shortly after they’ve launched, we go for a quick swim in the lake to cool off. Kevin arrives with is 180 Dauntless in tow around 5. I’m happy to see him because it means we get to go to dinner! We launch his boat and get him situated on the dock and head to Harbor Haus for Dinner.
The 45 minute wait at the bar turns into a 15 minute wait, and we are seated. I enjoy the special of the evening: planked whitefish wrapped in bacon (EVERYTHING is better with bacon!) with wild rice pilaf and steamed vegetables. I’m so hungry, I can’t tell if it’s my hunger or if it really is the best prepared whitefish I’ve ever had. Of one thing I am certain. It tasted great and didn’t last long on my plate.
After dinner, we make a diversion to the general store for some last minute supplies, including fly swatters for the boats – the little buggers are everywhere.
Back at the dock, we relax and settle in for the night.
Sunday, August 29.
I’m up early, have my last real shower for the week (ugh!) and am trying to decide if I really want to tow a dingy all the way to Isle Royale. I end up deciding no – and Pat helps me deflate the dingy and throw it in the back of the truck.
The day is sunny, clear and breezy. We leave Copper Harbor at 10 AM and arrive at Isle Royale around 2 hours and 45 minutes later to building seas that are approaching a steep 3-5’ status. Soon enough, we round the point and run down the Rock Harbor Channel. Kevin and I tie up at Raspberry Island for some lunch, while Pat, Jim and Chris check in at the ranger station.
Soon enough, they join us at Raspberry and we enjoy a leisurely lunch and walk on the guided nature trail. At some point, I lost a lens cap for one of my camera lenses. I retrace my path, but it’s gone.
Around 4:00 we depart Raspberry Island for Chippewa Harbor, making the run down Rock Harbor channel in front of Mott Island and through the channel into the open lake. The lake has a remnant swell of 2-3 feet, but it is rolling, and not at all choppy, so it is an easy run.
When we arrive, we discover Craig and Bill in Craig’s 30’ Defiance at the dock, along with a park ranger. We’re informed that there are two other boats using the dock tonight, and we decide to form two rafts – Pat rafts off Craig’s Defiance, and Kevin and I raft off of JimH, who is snugged to the dock.
We enjoy dinner on the grill – Chicken and corn on the cob with rice – and then enjoy the sunset and a bit of alcohol and the backwood’s finest cigars.
Monday, August 30
We go for a brief hike to the old schoolhouse – the only building that remains standing from this once busy logging and fishing camp area.
We leave Chippewa Harbor and it is hot and windy – it’s a real pleasure to be out on the cool waters of Lake Superior. There is a 3’ remnant swell from yesterday and we run out to Menagerie Island to take photos of the Isle Royale light.
After photos, we run in to Malone Bay to take advantage of the sheltered waters as we run down the island to the dock at Hay Bay.
At Hay Bay we make a quick lunch (burgers!) and then go for a very brief swim (water temp is in the mid 50’s) and a hike along the shoreline.
It is very warm. We end up wading in the shallows to stay cool, soaking my hiking boots in the process, but it’s worth it. We find artifacts of an old fishing camp, some old dock cribs, and a clearing in the woods. We also find some interesting moose bones. Generally, we poke around and enjoy the warm weather and beautiful day – but we’re getting tired – fortunately, Craig comes to the rescue in his dingy, and Bill, Pat and I get a free ride back to the dock.
Around 5:00 PM, Dave Pendleton arrives aboard TAMPICO, a 23’ Conquest IO. The dock is full, with CONTINUOUSWAVE rafted to DEFIANCE on the NE side, and INVICTUS and ADEQUATE on the SE side, with HOME ASIDE and TAMPICO rafted to INVICTUS. Somebody breaks out the beer and appetizers, and we enjoy cheese and crackers and all kinds of smoked meats and treats on the crowded dock.
Tuesday, August 31
We’ll have to keep an eye on the weather. Unfortunately, it’s time to start looking for exit windows.
We depart Hay Bay with a long run planned to Windigo. Because of the wind and waves, we skip Fisherman’s Home (always leave something for next time!) and beat it upwind in 2-4’ seas. This is an excellent shakedown opportunity for INVICTUS and the 25’ Outrage hull handles the slop very well, with no water in the boat, and no broaching. The group stops at “the Head” – a protrusion of land at the SW corner of the island – to wait for Kevin to catch up before running toward Windigo.
DEFIANCE and INVICTUS divert to Rock of Ages light for some photos, before entering the harbor and joining the group at the new boaters association docks at Windigo.
At a very windy Windigo, we meet up with John Raby and his dad, Jack, aboard the HOLLY MARIE - a 1992 23’ Walkaround with WhalerDrive (actually, a Saltshaker Marine bracket). The combination of the bow pulpit and the WhalerDrive extension make this boat closer to 27’ long - but the DEFIANCE still dwarfs it.
At Windigo, we resupply ice and other provisions. We also notice that the DAHLFIN II is lying along the AMERICA dock. Jack is up at the camp store talking to Bonnie Dahl and her husband – and he has no idea who they are!
JimH and Pat stop for some fuel and are unpleasantly surprised to find that gas at Windigo is STILL $5.38 a gallon. When they checked in at Rock Harbor on Sunday, gas was $4.60/gallon – so this is unpleasant news! I was considering adding fuel at Windigo, but given this information, I skip fuel and plan to refuel at Rock Harbor before returning to Copper Harbor.
The strong wind continues to funnel into the harbor at Windigo and the docks are feeling quite crowded. By late afternoon, I can stand it no longer – I need to get out. I fire the engines and head on out. I run up the coast in 4’ following seas on diminishing wind to Pickett Bay in Todd Harbor. I anchor out, take care of boat chores, do some reading, cook brauts on the stove and relax. As the sun sets, I settle in with cigar in hand to watch he stars come out. The wind dies down and the temperature drops – and soon, I’m snoozing beneath the bow hatch in my cuddy, looking up at stars and feeling the cool lake breeze funnel into the cabin. This is one of the best nights of sleep I’ll have on the island.
Wednesday, September 1
I wait as long as I can stand before hoisting anchor and leaving Todd Harbor. I look SW down the island and can’t see anyone coming. Humph. Well, I decide to motor slowly toward McCargoe Cove. Just at that moment, I receive a weak hail on the radio – and soon, I’m in the company of HOME ASIDE, CONTINUOUS WAVE and HOLLY MARIE. I learn the story about the departure of the others, and we move on to lunch at Birch Island, near the mouth of McCargoe Cove.
After lunch, we run to the base of the cove for the dock at McCargoe, and enjoy an afternoon hike to the Minong Mine, where for 10 years in the late 1800’s a commercial mining operation was extracting copper from the island. The mining company later went bankrupt, and the artifacts, along with two very prominent mine shafts are open for exploration, along with prehistoric pit mines that the natives used long before Caucasians came here.
We return to the dock for dinner. Just as Pat breaks out the Shrimp appetizers, we see two boats approaching down the cove. One turns out to be Hal Watkins and his wife, Margaret in his new-to-him Eastport 205.
Room is made at the dock, and dinners progress.
After dinner, Pat spots a Moose cow and calf at the end of the dock. We spend about an hour in the fading light documenting the discovery with our cameras and later turn in for the night after a few cigars and long conversations about how to manage the incoming forecast weather. The consensus is that we’d like to be around Blake Point and in Tobin Harbor or Rock Harbor by late afternoon, before things get really dicey. I want to stop at Crystal Cove in the morning and then run to Passage Island, and so tentative plans are made – to be modified based on winds and waves.
Thursday, September 2
Weather forecast – Waves building to 2 meters in early PM, diminishing to 1 meter Friday Morning with wind change, and then building to 3 meters Friday afternoon in Canadian waters, up to 12 to 17’ seas in US waters of W. Lake Superior.
Looks like we’re going home on Monday.
We depart McCargoe at 10:30 AM with intentions to visit Crystal Cove – but the rain begins and the wind causes us to reconsider. We decide to compromise – Passage Island only – and for lunch and a brief hike.
We arrive after a lively crossing and quickly gear up to hike to the lighthouse. After the hike, we return to have a “standing cold lunch” aboard our individual boats as we prepared to get out of the area.
The run back to Tobin Harbor is fine, but the seas are running 3-6’…it’s a nice run. We arrive at the Tobin Harbor seaplane docks just as the rain begins and we snug up our boats to the finger piers with some extra lines and fenders in anticipation of the big blow.
The rain continues throughout the afternoon – and we make an executive decision to have some creature comforts – and meet up for dinner at the Lodge at Rock Harbor. Afterwards, we start a small fire in the fireplace at the lounge and download photos to my laptop.
A brief smoke on the dock is all we need before it’s time to turn in for the night.
Friday, September 3
We awake to wind at 30 knots from the NW, and plan to move to Rock Harbor for the day – but as soon as we get the engines started, it starts to rain and doesn’t let up the entire day. Jim and Chris have made it underway and continue to Rock Harbor. We decide to stay put for the day. The rain was nearly constant, the wind gusted to 40 – 45 knots, trees fell down on the paths and the air was bitingly cold. We sat in Pat’s boat with the heater on just to stay warm and enjoy each other’s company. The wind is wicked. It’s whipping up sheets of water straight off the lake surface like a strong wind across a snowy field. It’s also sending a rain of forest duff and leaf litter on the boats in Rock Harbor. Later, we learn that it raised the water levels in Copper Harbor by more than 4 feet, and caused a two day power outage on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The entire trip home on Sunday will reveal evidence of the thrashing this system wrought on communities throughout Michigan, including downstate.
In the late afternoon, we return to the hiker’s lounge, which was empty, and start a fire. Soon, we decide to have dinner at the snack bar – and we get there at 6:30 to find it very crowded. We split up into several groups and share tables with other island residents. The ISLE ROYALE QUEEN ferry is stranded here for the day – so there are a lot of people in the area – hikers trying to get home, day-trippers who are stuck out here, etc. Everyone makes the best of the situation and we enjoy a nice meal with Jesse, a Hiker from Chicago who was on his first visit to Isle Royale.
Later, we return to the lounge and the fire in the fireplace and enjoy some fine liquor and a slide presentation of the trip so far. It’s (fairly) warm, comfortable and good to spend the time with friends.
Saturday, September 4
The wind is diminished enough to return to the dock by working the throttles, and we stop to contemplate the situation.
I check all the normal things – Hydraulic fluid – fine. No leaks anywhere. I fear that I’ve broken something at the helm. We decide to reach out to park staff, and I walk to the ranger station to inquire about assistance.
After a short radio conversation, the mechanic at Mott Island indicates he’s willing to take a look shortly after lunch, if I can get the boat to him.
We have a few moments back at the dock, and the Islanders who have homes/cottages on the island are taking advantage of the weather break to come in for supplies. We meet up with an islander who has a 16’7” Whaler that he claims was the “schoolbus” in the TV production “GENTLE BEN” and was used to shoot a lot of the scenes in “FLIPPER”. Very cool.
HOLLY MARIE takes INVICTUS under tow to go see Thor – the Sultan of Snap-On. After a VERY cold tow, it takes Thor 30 seconds to formulate a hypothesis as to what is wrong and another 2 minutes to get the tools he thinks he needs….and then five more minutes to fix the problem: I’d lost air pressure in the helm pump of my Hynautics steering.
The god of Gear refuses to take money, but we do offer a Labatt in sacrifice to his excellent mechanical skills.
On to Rock Harbor under my own power, we stop for fuel and have a quick sandwich. Then it’s on to Edisen Fishery – which is closed for the season (!) – we walk to the lighthouse and get lots of great photos.
Back at the dock, we meet Rolf Petersen, the naturalist who has been doing moose/wolf studies for decades on the island. He convinces us to take a very concealed path from the fishery to his little cabin in the woods. Along the way, he’s placed little tags that identifies flora and signs of fauna – very interesting tidbits, including some wolf scat with moose hair in it - but what takes the cake is the display of hundreds of Moose bones at his cabin. In the backyard, there must be 150 moose skulls with antlers – and another 150 skulls of cow moose. It is very interesting, and worth the extra hike!
Back on the boats, we make our way on a very calm lake to Chippewa Harbor for the night. The dock is full, so the group makes it’s way to the inner harbor where we anchor out as a raft for the night. John breaks out his Magma grill and we enjoy steak, pork tenderloin, redskin potatoes, shrimp and other gastronomic delights aboard the boats.
It is a cold, starry night, and soon, it’s time to sleep!
Sunday, September 5
We say our goodbyes and hit the water on a nice plane through remnant swells and building chop the 52 mile run back to Copper Harbor.
At Copper Harbor, we load the boats, grab a quick shower and prepare for the long drive ahead. We pull out from the harbor at around 3:30 PM, and stop in Baraga for gas. About an hour past Munising, we all end up at the same rest area – and take the time to get a charcoal grill going for some dinner. We’re in St. Ignace at 11, and I arrived home at 3:00 AM.
Another successful trip!
Post Script –
Aboriginal peoples are often much more in tune with the environments in which they live. “Westerners” like us tend to attempt to conquer our environments rather than seek a more level existence with nature. We tunnel under rivers, dam streams, shield ourselves from rain and other elements and level mountains – all to make our lives more convenient. Isle Royale is a place where “White boys” like us have opportunity to experience – and be humbled by – the power of the environment. The island has very little that could be described as “settlement” - it remains wild, untamed and pure.
Additionally, the Ojibwa people who earlier settled in this area were keenly intelligent. What they lacked in technology, they more than made up for in a deep understanding of what it means to live alongside such a equally malicious and benevolent body of water as Lake Superior.
One of the legends of these people – and particularly those who lived on the Easternmost portion of the lake – is that of the Mishipizheu, a shape shifting, in-dwelling and transformative creature/manitou that controls the waters of the Great Lakes, and Lake Superior in particular. It is an underwater manitou – at the same time a horned serpent and an underwater lion. Jesuit Claude-Jean Allouez, wrote about it in 1667 when he noted that the aboriginals made sacrifices to this manitou to calm the deadly waters and bring sturgeon. Bishop Baraga defined it as a lion…and the Ojibwa believed that this was the spirit that brought them the copper that the region is famous for.
And, getting to my point, the Mishipizheu is what causes enormous winds on the water. The Ojibwa saw Mishipizheu in the sudden squalls of the lake. If you asked an Ojibwa, Mishipizheu is what brought down the Fitz. Mishipizheu is what causes children to drown in fierce undertows and rip currents in the cold waters and high surf of the lake. Mishipizheu IS Lake Superior.
This past week, we certainly bore witness to the power and ferocity of the lake. Wise captains seek shelter when the water turns angry as it did on Friday. The Isle Royale Queen ferry canceled service, as did the Voyageur IV…and the larger RANGER delayed her journey from Houghton.
And bundled up under the protection of a cuddy cabin, snug in a sleeping bag knit hat, you could hear the creature seeking its prey. The cold fingers of the wind prying at the hatches, and the viciousness of a sudden gust of 50 MPH wind trying to free the boat from it’s lines and mash it against the shore. To be out on the lake in conditions like that would be close to one of my worst nightmares – with 40 degree air temperature and a howling wind, hypothermia is a quick and deadly risk. Just tending to dock lines caused my fingers to numb.
I will also say that despite having a (very ugly but functional) windshield for my boat, there is really no replacement for full canvas enclosures. On this trip, I sorely missed the Mills Weather System canvas from my 18. Despite some significant improvement and restoration projects I have planned, canvas protection has moved much higher on my list of spending priorities for the boat. The wood can wait – as can some of the other things. The canvas system really can’t wait.
It was an early storm, and a bit more fierce than normal. I can only imagine what light keepers dealt with in the late season out on Menagerie and Passage Islands back in the day. I was glad we sought shelter – and I was glad we found space at the dock in Tobin Harbor – it offered us a rare comfort of electricity, heated buildings and warm prepared food – some things that are generally in short supply on the island.
The islander we spoke with on Saturday morning said it was the worst storm he’s seen in the “summer season” in 65 years – he said it felt like October instead of early September. I guess fall is closing in early this year!
posted 09-07-2010 11:08 AM ET (US)
Forgot to mention - gas at Rock Harbor was lowered to $3.87 during the week, so the fuel on the island was about $.20 more expensive than it was at the dock in Copper Harbor!
posted 09-07-2010 02:06 PM ET (US)
Here is a slideshow of my photo's from the trip, enjoy.
posted 09-07-2010 02:07 PM ET (US)
The most perilous portion of a visit to Isle Royale National Park is the crossing from Copper Harbor, a jump of 57-miles of open water. We were fortunate that the weather fit very well with our trip plans. Here are the marine forecasts from Enivronment Canada for the two days we made the jump over and back.
On SUNDAY, heading northwest to the island:
Western Lake Superior:
Wave height 1-meter
Winds Southwest 10-knots increasing to 15-knots early this morning, then backing to South 15-knots around noon and increasing to 20-knots mid-day. Decreasing to 15-knots around midnight.
On the following SUNDAY, heading southeast to Copper Harbor:
Western Lake Superior:
Wave height 1-meter or less
Winds Northwest 15-knots backing to West 15-knots after noon and decreasing to variable 10-knots by evening, then increasing to Northeast 15-knots by Monday morning, and Northeast 25-knots by Monday afternoon.
We had mainly a following sea on both runs with some cross waves or swell. We were able to maintain plane and run at about 22 to 28 MPH in these conditions. For the 22-foot and 25-foot boats the runs were not particularly rough, but for a smaller boat the conditions were probably a bit more demanding.
posted 09-07-2010 02:27 PM ET (US)
Here’s a quick trip report from the prospective of the smallest boat to make the trip – a Dauntless 180. Having the smallest boat on the trip, I believe that I spent more time worrying about the weather and the wind/wave forecast than the others did.
My worrying began in the days leading up to our planned departure date of Sunday August 29. The forecast called for a good breeze from the south or southeast, with waves predicted in the 1 to 3 foot range, with the winds shifting in the afternoon and the waves calming to 0 to 2 feet. The forecast for Monday and Tuesday weren’t any better, so it looked like we would be departing from Copper Harbor on Sunday afternoon. I was a little bit worried about the possibility of a two and half hour ride through 3 foot waves, but I was excited about visiting Isle Royale, and I mistakenly believed that once we got to the island the waters surrounding the island would be somewhat calmer than the open seas of Lake Superior.
With the forecast looking acceptable-if-not-optimal, I departed my home in White Lake, Michigan at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday August 28. The drive through lower Michigan, a trip I’ve made hundreds of times, is rather mundane. But after four hours I reached the Mackinac Bridge. The bridge spans approximately 5 miles and its driving surface is approximately 130 above the the waters of the Mackinac Straits. It was a beautiful, sunny day with great visibility, and the views of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and both peninsulas of Michigan were stunning.
Once in the Upper Peninsula, the beautiful scenery continued as I motored west along US-2 on the northern shore of Lake Michigan. After a while I turned and headed north and then west for a spell, through the pine and spruce forests of the U.P., and I was soon on the south shore of Lake Superior. More beautiful scenery followed as I passed through Munising, Marquette, and the Keweenaw Peninsula. At about 5:00 p.m., I arrived at Copper Harbor where we would be spending the first night on our boats.
After getting my boat in the water, it was off to the Harbor Haus for dinner. The restaurant offered a great view of Copper Harbor, and the food was excellent. When we were through with dinner, we went to the General Store, and as Dave pointed out, we all bought flyswatters. The flies were swarming at the Copper Harbor State Dock, and in the short time it took me to unload my gear from the car to the boat, about 30 flies had invaded my car. For the rest of the week the flies weren’t too bad, but it sure was nice having that flyswatter.
Here’s a picture of my boat tied to the dock at Copper Harbor: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ CopperHarbor.jpg The dock was about four feet higher than the rear deck of my boat, but the dock ladder made getting in and out of the boat easy.
On Sunday morning I awoke at about sunrise. The night had been fairly windy, and my boat squeaking against the fenders had made for a fitful night’s sleep. The wind and wave forecast held, with a strong breeze early and calming seas predicted for the afternoon. It appeared that we would be leaving the marina sometime in the afternoon, so Dave and I took a hike around the north shore of Copper Harbor and out to the Lake Superior shore.
Dave on the shore of Lake Superior: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ LakeSuperiorShoreline.jpg
When we returned from our short hike, we were met by Jim H who made a somewhat cryptic statement to the following effect: “It looks like the waves are going to calm down later in the afternoon. I think we should get going now.” I was all for waiting for calmer waters, but within a few minutes we were on our boats and headed out of the harbor with the wind still whipping pretty good. In this picture of us leaving the harbor, you can see the flag on Jim’s boat standing straight out: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ LeavingforIsleRoyale.jpg
The 50+ mile ride across Lake Superior was a bit lumpy, but I was still excited about the trip, so I pressed on. The sky was clear and blue, the sun was out, and it was a nice day. I snapped this picture during the crossing, when we were out of sight of land: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ LakeSuperior.jpg
When we finally arrived at the Isle Royale National Park, Dave and I proceeded to Raspberry Island, a small island near the northeast portion of the main island. We tied our boats up at the dock and had a quick lunch. In the meantime, Jim and Chris and Pat had gone to Rock Harbor to check in at the ranger station. (Dave and I had checked in via the internet prior to arriving at the park.) A short while later Jim and Pat arrived at Raspberry Island and tied up at the dock. http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ RaspberryIsland.jpg
After lunch, I split from the group and took a hike around Raspberry Island. There is a self-guided tour with signs explaining the different eco-systems on the island and providing information about the flora and fauna. There’s a short side leg to the tour which takes you out to the inhospitable and rocky Lake Superior shore of the island, which is vastly different from the protected, forested Rock Harbor side of the island. http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ RaspberryIslandShore.jpg After taking a similar hike with the rest of the group, Dave relaxed on the dock, enjoying the view. http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ DaveontheDock.jpg
From Raspberry Island, we proceeded next to Chippewa Harbor, along the southern shore of the main island. Here’s a couple of shots I took as we passed through Rock Harbor, near Mott Island: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ JimandChrisRockHarbor.jpg
When we arrived at Chippewa Harbor, we were met by Craig and Bill who had made the crossing a couple of days earlier on Craig’s aluminum Defiance 30, a very impressive boat. Some other boaters were also staying at the Chippewa Harbor dock, and we were a little worried that they might be unhappy about four more boats joining them. Our worries were soon allayed, however, when the boaters returned to the dock and had no objections to our flotilla. In fact, one of the boaters was a very friendly gentleman who was an officer in the Isle Royale Boaters Association. He gave us some tips about dealing with the park rangers, and shared some information about the efforts of the Association to improve the park for boaters, including new docks and a pavilion which had recently been installed at Windigo, on the southwest end of the island.
The weather forecast for Sunday evening called for a 40-50% chance of showers and thunderstorms, but no rain materialized. Rather, it was a pleasant evening with a clear sky. The air temperature was warm, and the water temperature was a refreshing 60 degrees when I took my first swim of the trip. As the night approached, we ate dinner, had a few cocktails, and eventually hit the rack. Sunset at Chippewa Harbor: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ ChippewaHarbor.jpg
On the morning of Monday August 30, I awoke to the sound of distant thunder. I recently had a canvas enclosure made for my boat, and the fabricator had told me that the seams and stitching would leak the first few times it was rained on. I was not looking forward to any kind of rain storm, but as long as it happened during the day, all of my gear would be packed away in dry bags, and it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Nevertheless, for each of the first three days, the forecast called for the same 40-50% chance of showers or thunderstorms every evening.
The continual chance of rain only added to my stress regarding the wind and wave forecasts. After waking up on Monday, I checked the NOAA forecast for Isle Royale and learned that a stiff breeze and 1 to 3 foot waves were expected for the rest of the day, with similar or slightly worse conditions predicted for Tuesday. Our plan was to travel to Hay Bay, with a quick run out to the Isle Royale lighthouse on the way. I decided to opt out of the lighthouse run, and instead headed directly for Hay Bay, a run of approximately 16 miles which again turned out to be quite a lumpy ride. I was glad to get to the dock and get off of my boat for the rest of the day.
Shortly after the rest of the group arrived at Hay Bay, we were joined by Dave Pendleton, who had crossed to the island from Grand Portage, Minnesota. Dave complained a little about the choppy ride, and warned us not to believe anybody if they told us that a 23 Conquest was made for big water. After eating dinner on the dock, we sat around for some stargazing and cocktails. Using my binoculars I was able to see some the moons of Jupiter. Although the forecast had again called for a good chance of rain, none materialized. The group tied up at Hay Bay: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ HayBay.jpg
On Tuesday, August 31, we awoke with plans to proceed to Windigo. The forecast again called for 1 to 3 foot waves, with seas increasing later in the day. The run to Windigo is approximately 30 miles, and the group had tentatively planned to stop at Fisherman’s Home cove part way through the trip. Leaving Hay Bay: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ LeavingHayBay.jpg When we got out of Siskiwit Bay and onto Lake Superior, however, it was apparent that the seas were running a little bigger than 1 to 3 feet, so we decided to skip Fisherman’s Home. The run to Windigo took well over two hours, with me and my 18 foot boat bringing up the rear. There had been some talk about possibly proceeding further than Windigo on Tuesday, but by the time we got to Windigo, everybody was content to stay there (well, almost everybody).
When we arrived at Windigo, we found the very nice, new floating docks which had been paid for by the Isle Royale Boaters Association. Docked at Windigo: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ Windigo.jpg We also found John Raby and his father Jack on John’s Walk-Around 23. After getting settled in and getting some ice for the coolers, I decided to join John and his father on a hike to the Grace Creek Overlook, a hike of 1.8 miles in each direction with an approximately 300 foot rise in elevation. A short way into the hike we came across an interesting artifact that somebody had left in the woods: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ OptimaxHat.jpg We eventually made our way up to the overlook, where we were rewarded with a terrific view of island and of Lake Superior off in the distance: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ GraceCreekOverlook.jpg
When we returned to the dock at Windigo, the wind was still howling, and we were surprised to learn that Dave Buckalew had left to find somewhere else to spend the night. After a quick shower, and a bite to eat, I then joined most of the group for a short presentation by one of the rangers at the Windigo Visitor Center regarding the research being conducted on the island. Later in the evening we proceeded to the Washington Creek campground where a female moose and its two calves had been regularly spotted in recent weeks. We didn’t see any moose, but we did see a fox on the hunt.
The following morning, Wednesday, September 1, I started the day by listening to the NOAA forecast. The forecast called for 0 to 2 foot seas on Wednesday, 1 to 3 foot seas on Thursday morning, 3 to 5 foot seas on Thursday evening, and gales on Friday with seas building to 17 feet. The dock was abuzz with talk of the weather. Craig and Bill had already decided to leave the island on Craig’s 30 foot Defiance on Wednesday, and I had to decide whether I wanted to follow them back to Copper Harbor or continue on with the group. If I continued on with the group, I could make the run back to Copper Harbor alone on Thursday morning, or stick it out the whole way with the whole group.
The group’s plan was to continue on to McCargoe Cove on Wednesday, and to get around the northeast point of the main island by Thursday. That would mean a run of about 36 miles for Wednesday, and another 25 miles or so on Thursday. The ride on Thursday would be lumpy for sure, and there was no forecast yet regarding the waves for Saturday or Sunday, although gale conditions were expected for Saturday. Rain was also certainly in the forecast.
I decided early Wednesday morning that I would follow Craig and Bill back to Copper Harbor. When I made my decision, it was as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I no longer had to worry about rain, about pounding through Lake Superior for several more hours each day, or about the possibility of being stuck on the island for a few extra days. Here’s a picture I took of Jim and Pat shortly after making my decision: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ PatandJim.jpg . As you can see, they didn’t appear to be nearly as concerned about the weather as I had been.
After making my decision to leave early, I took down most of my canvas for the run home: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ ReadytoRun2.jpg . In a short while we were underway. The seas were calm in Washington Harbor and Grace Harbor on the way out of Windigo, and I was able to snap a few pictures of Craig’s Defiance underway. http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ LeavingGraceHarbor1.jpg
After about an hour of nearly calm seas, the waves on Lake Superior began to increase in size. While the first 25 miles of the trip back to Copper Harbor had been a delight, the last 50 miles were increasingly rough, with the waves increasing to about 2 to 4 feet. Once again, I was taking a pounding, but I was glad to be going home. This freighter, I’m sure, had no problem with the seas that were beating me half to death: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ JohnGMunson.jpg I tried following in Craig’s wake, but to no avail. It was too difficult to stay on plane while staying close to Craig and staying in his wake. http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ DefianceApproachingCopperHarbor.jpg
We got back to Copper Harbor at about 3 p.m. and loaded the boats on the trailer. This side-by-side shot helps to illustrate why I had an uncomfortable ride while Craig had no problem with the 2 to 4 foot seas: http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t329/kalbus/Isle%20Royale%202010/ SizeComparison.jpg . By 5 p.m. I was on the road and headed home.
Looking back, I enjoyed my time on Isle Royale, but not my time on the boat. The island was truly spectacular – rugged and beautiful. When I go back I’ll either need a bigger boat or better sea conditions. I’m also now nearly convinced that I should add trim tabs to my boat (assuming I decide to keep my current boat when I buy a bigger boat).
posted 09-07-2010 03:22 PM ET (US)
I found your next boat:
Seriously though - some trim tabs and going back to the Canvas King to ensure your canvas no longer leaking water should go a long way.
That said, I think we've definitely proven that the Dauntless was indeed designed to be a bay boat - and it does it very well. I don't recall having the same level of frustration in my 18' Outrage, but that was considerably narrower in beam and had a deeper deadrise at the transom.
...and trim tabs.
posted 09-07-2010 03:58 PM ET (US)
The leaking canvas was not a big concern. That will supposedly eventually take care of itself. It just added to the stress I was already under. I literally got a headache from the pounding on two legs of the trip.
The trim tab question is a tricky one. Do I put more money into a boat that I may soon get rid of? Also, trim tabs will get in the way of my transom tie-down straps, and my trailer doesn't offer any alternative anchor points for the tie-downs. And the trim tabs will also possibly interfere with my swim ladder. I'll be thinking this one over during the winter.
posted 09-07-2010 08:42 PM ET (US)
[A sidebar discussion has been deleted from this thread about the 2010 Isle Royale National Park Trip.]
posted 09-07-2010 09:01 PM ET (US)
I don't really have a trip report per sé, it's more of a post mortem. I made a lot of really stupid mistakes leading up to and during this trip. You'd think this was the first time I'd done this sort of thing.
Mistake #1: I forgot to get a prescription filled on Friday and did not remember until my pharmacy was closed. This delayed me until 1100 Saturday.
Mistake #2: I didn't see the point in heading to Grand Portage Saturday afternoon. At the time it didn't make sense to arrive early that evening since I wasn't going to cross in the dark, even with RADAR.
Mistake #3: Discovering upon arrival in Grand Portage early Sunday afternoon that I had left my raingear and a few other items on the table at home.
Mistake #4: Disconnecting the boat and making the 70 mile roundtrip drive to Grand Marais, MN to buy raingear and other items.
Mistake #5: Buying gasoline in the Grand Portage Marina when I could have used the Trading Post 500 yards away and saved ~.50 cents a gallon.
Mistake #6: Repeating mistake #2 and not crossing Sunday afternoon; opting instead for Monday AM.
When I finally did make the crossing the fog at Grand Portage was thick as I've ever seen. It cleared about a mile offshore, and it was already windy. The crossing was bumpy and unfortunately the waves were at a less-than-optimal angle for my hull and running 2-3 feet. In a head or following sea, the 23 CONQUEST is a good hull. In a quartering sea, it feels like cannonballs are bouncing off the hull. Combine that with a 6-second wave period and you get lots of pounding and the deck dropping out from under you occasionally.
When I entered the Washington Harbor area, I proceeded to check out the Grace Island dock to see if it was occupied (it wasn't). I passed over a 3' foot shoal in the process, scaring the living carp out of myself as the depth alarm sounded and I looked over the side. Lake Superior water is crystal clear and when you see rocks the size of Smart Cars 3' underneath you, it's hard to describe the feeling.
I left Washington harbor to continue the long, unprotected run to Siskiwit Bay. As I was entering the Houghton Point Passage, I was able to raise Kevin (on Defiance's radio) and determine the group was in Hay Bay where I joined them.
Dave and Kevin sum up the next 24 hours nicely so I won't repeat that here.
I decided to sleep a little longer than the other folks Wednesday morning. When I did get up, Pat gave me the bad news as only a cop can. For a half-hour I debated the merits of continuing the trip. I wasn't so much concerned about the impending gale. I knew we could find a place to hide; Dave and I had done it before (in Tobin Harbor, actually). I was more concerned about the temperature and the rain. Mostly the rain.
My boat doesn't have weather canvas. I only have a cockpit cover which I put up at night to keep the cockpit dry. Operating my boat in a cold rain is an exercise in misery. Even though I felt it necessary to buy raingear before I left, it was still an unappealing prospect in high winds. I had also told myself before the trip started, If I couldn't get off the island by Sunday, I would abort (or cancel) the trip. The captain of the M/V Voyager II told John R. that it would take three days for the predicted waves to lie down. (I'll let the others decide if he was correct.)
Already frustrated with other issues, I threw in the towel.
While I might still have been miserable in the cold and rain, this was probably mistake #7.
I arrived at Grand Portage Marina after a bumpy sprint. I ran 26-28 MPH and since I was running nearly perpendicular to the waves the ride was more like a mechanical bull; not unpleasant, just tiring. I was a also a little apprehensive during this run because I was completely alone out there. The only other boat I saw was the MV Wenonah a mile or so from the island, heading to Windigo. (The Wenonah throws a huge wake by the way.)
After my arrival, Hal Watkins showed up while I was unloading the boat into the truck. We talked for a while, pulled my boat and after securing my Zodiac, I was on off to the Trading Post to buy diesel for the truck and get on my way.
Being a Wednesday, my drive home was traffic-free and I made it home in seven hours without stopping and averaged nearly 14MPG.
The trip wasn't a total loss, however. I was able to spend two nights on the island. Several new "techniques" I used to load the truck, boat and dinghy made life a lot easier than on previous trips. I actually spent a pleasant Sunday night in the Grand Portage Marina parking lot (after the bugs). I set my dinner up on the tailgate and listened to a terrific radio show on WTIP out of Grand Marais, MN.
posted 09-07-2010 09:20 PM ET (US)
I neglected to add, I met some great new Whaler folk, as well...
posted 09-07-2010 09:42 PM ET (US)
Well we have not officially ended the trip.
The wrong truck parts came up from Duluth, so the Holly Marie is still stranded on the North Shore. My mother drove up yesterday and she and my father are sitting out the truck repair.
I got home last night.
It was one hell of a good trip so I can not complain.
posted 09-08-2010 08:26 AM ET (US)
Again, re the open water crossings, I have the times and distances as follows:
COPPER HARBOR to IRNP
IRNP to COPPER HARBOR
This data comes from my chart plotter trail, so it is quite accurate.
Before we departed from Copper Harbor, I had a brief conversation with one of the local boaters. When he learned we were crossing to Isle Royale, he said, "You won't realize how big the waves are until you are three-quarters of the way there."
This turned out to be rather accurate, as on each crossing the worst sea conditions were in the last one-quarter of the passage.
posted 09-08-2010 09:00 AM ET (US)
For "Eastport" the numbers are in...
198.6 miles averaged 3.75 mpg
53 gallons of fuel and 1.15 gallons of oil used according to smartcraft gauges
Again, we spent more $ on boarding our dog and vet services than boating...go figure.
Hal, Waseca, MN
posted 09-08-2010 09:41 AM ET (US)
One thing that I forgot to mention in my report above is that the only thing I forgot to bring with me on the trip was my laptop computer. I’m not sure about Copper Harbor or Rock Harbor, but Windigo had a free wi-fi connection available.
If I had my laptop available, I likely would have been less anxious about the wind and wave forecasts. The “offshore” forecasts available online extend out for five days. However, the NOAA wave forecasts available over the radio only extend out for three days. When I made my decision to leave the island on Wednesday, it was based largely on the three day forecast. (The Windigo Visitor Center had a printed five day forecast posted, but it did not include wave height predictions for the last two days.) If I had known that the forecast called for a good chance of a decent window for returning to the mainland on Sunday or Monday, I might have stayed on the island.
One other thing I would note is that for the crossings between Copper Harbor and Isle Royale there were really three separate forecasts which needed to be considered. First, there is a forecast available for the waters within five nautical miles of the mainland. See: http://weather.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/fmtbltn.pl?file=forecasts/marine/ near_shore/ls/lsz244.txt . Second, there is a forecast available for the waters more than five nautical miles from the mainland for the area including Isle Royale. See: http://weather.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/fmtbltn.pl?file=forecasts/marine/ great_lakes/ls/lsz263.txt . And third, you can get a “point forecast” for the waters anywhere in between Copper Harbor and Isle Royale. See, e.g.: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=47.838970656475645&lon=-88. 27789306640625&site=mqt&smap=1&unit=0&lg=en&FcstType=text .
In the days leading up to the trip, I noticed that the waves predicted in this third “point forecast” were often substantially larger than the waves predicted in the other two forecasts. In real life, it was also apparent that the waves out in the middle of Lake Superior did not necessarily match the waves which were forecast for the waters near Copper Harbor or near Isle Royale.
My fuel usage numbers for the trip were as follows:
Miles traveled: 202
I spent a great deal of time traveling at minimum planing speed, and my mileage clearly suffered as a result.
Finally, a note about prop ventilation. About a month ago I raised my engine another hole. It is now three holes from the bottom. On the run from Hay Bay to Windigo, as I was plugging along in three-foot waves at minimum planing speed with my engine trimmed down all the way, I decided to play with the trim to see if I could find a more comfortable setting. As soon as I moved the engine out even slightly the prop would lose traction and the RPMs would begin to increase. This was the first time I have experienced a venting prop while running in a straight line. (I raised the engine prior to the Frankfort to Sturgeon Bay trip and had no problem with ventilation on that trip, even though we experienced one to two foot choppy seas.) Since I don’t plan to do a lot of boating in three foot seas, I think I will keep the engine height where it is currently set.
posted 09-08-2010 10:51 AM ET (US)
Thanks for efforting these extensive trip reports, guys. I really enjoy following along using a combination of Google Maps and NOAA nautical charts. The former is getting better at identifying specifics, such as bays and islands, but the NOAA chart covers these in far better detail.
posted 09-08-2010 11:01 AM ET (US)
Here's a link to a nice map for following the trip reports: http://www.nps.gov/pwr/customcf/apps/maps/showmap.cfm?alphacode=isro& parkname=Isle%20Royale%20National%20Park
posted 09-08-2010 11:19 AM ET (US)
...and this one shows locations of docks, etc.
posted 09-08-2010 06:10 PM ET (US)
The Holly Marie is safe in the driveway. So our trip is finally over.
A weld broke on the right fender of my first load trailer.
So I guess bad things do happen in threes.
I will get some pictures up soon
posted 09-08-2010 09:27 PM ET (US)
Re the decision to leave Copper Harbor and the weather forecast. My feeling is that it is generally better to start early than to start late, and in most cases the winds tend to build in the afternoon. I like to be where I am going by 4 p.m., as I find that by 4 p.m. the waves have usually built up to greater height than any time during the day.
The harbor at Copper Harbor is at the end of a substantial peninsula and also in the shadow of a rather tall hill. With a breeze from the southwest, the wind was naturally being pushed up and around the peninsula. The big hill was also probably creating some downdraft with the wind coming over the hill and falling into the harbor. I suspect that the wind speed was probably higher in the harbor than it was a mile offshore. I have learned that you can sit all day in the harbor in a breeze only to discover that the harbor is a windier place than the open water, and this is especially so when the harbor is at the end of long stretch of land over which the wind is blowing.
The forecast called for wind to increase during the day. The wind was also forecast to back to South. This was a bit of trade-off. I'd rather have the wind from the South to give more of a following sea, but on the other hand I'd rather not have it increase to 20-knots from 15-knots.
Once on the island, the best sea conditions for running occurred the day that three boats departed for the mainland. After spending a very windy day and night at Windigo, we had a wonderful 30-mile run along the north shore in a very flat sea.
The only day on the island when weather played a major role was on Friday. By about noon the winds increased to Gale Force and movement in a boat, small or large, was not advisable. We spent the afternoon tied to the dock. If you spend eight days outdoors at just about any time of the year, you can get one of those days with a bit of inclement weather, so I don't think there is too much basis to say the weather was bad for us. As I already said, we were fortunate that on the two days of the big crossing jumps we had very fair skies and winds and waves going in our direction. That was a blessing.
posted 09-09-2010 10:13 AM ET (US)
Here is what the waves on Lake Michigan looked like last week on Friday down at Saugatuck: http://blogs.woodtv.com/files/2010/09/Lake-Michigan-waves.jpg
I swear, sometimes I wonder how those piers stay intact with all of that hydraulic pressure!
posted 09-09-2010 01:51 PM ET (US)
I believe I heard a news story that someone was washed off one of those Lake Michigan piers during that blow, and he is presumed drowned.
I also heard anecdotal reports that on central Lake Superior at Stannard Rock lighthouse the wind was clocked at over 70-MPH. At Copper Harbor the harbormaster said the water level there rose several feet during the storm, as all of those huge waves pushed water into the southern part of Lake Superior.
Actually, of all the places to be during that storm, sitting in a very snug harbor on Isle Royale was possibly one of the best. We had really no trouble sleeping through the night, and other than the chill of 40-knot winds combined with 40-degree temperatures and rain, it was not an unpleasant experience. I have had far worse nights on the boat in other places and times.
posted 09-09-2010 02:15 PM ET (US)
The Stannard Rock Weather Station measured a gust of 31.4 meters/second (about 71.3 MPH) on 9/3 at 10:00 PM and the average windspeed for that hour was about 66 MPH. Wind direction was 320 degrees (NW). cf: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/data/realtime2/STDM4.txt
Around the same time, the Passage Island weather station (much closer to our location) measured a gust to 58.8 MPH from the North (350 degrees) on that same night. However, the continuous winds were a more modest 41 MPH. cf: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/data/realtime2/PILM4.cwind
Sub hurricane force, but definitely a decent blow.
posted 09-09-2010 02:41 PM ET (US)
Here are Hal and Margaret Watkins trying to stand up to the wind on the dock in Tobin Harbor:
Conversely, here is Rock Harbor on our arrival (in front of Mott Island Park headquarters): http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=31709452&l=f5af832990& id=1383963684
posted 09-09-2010 03:34 PM ET (US)
Regarding the man swept off the pier at Ludington on Monday, it appears that they may have found him.
I believe that most, if not all, navigation structures along Lake Michigan carry a warning that indicates that the structure was not designed for safe pedestrian access.
Unfortunately, this is often accompanied by the conflicting image of hand rails and sometimes even wheelchair accessible ramps to the pier structure itself.
Great Lakes piers have an appearance of solid, monolithic poured cement structures (as contrasted with ocean piers that are often wood decked and very clearly supported by, well, piers!), however, these cement surfaces are supported very similarly - they are essentially very strong cement docks that are supported from underneath by pilings. This structure makes them excellent locations for fish, but it also makes them deadly when individuals are swept off the structure, because they can often become caught underneath in the strong currents and turbulent waters.
posted 09-09-2010 07:08 PM ET (US)
I finally had a chance to go out and pull the trip data off the GPS.
189 miles traveled
Max speed 40.1 MPH
Average speed 13.6 MPH
Moving time 13 hours 55 minutes
Unfortunately I will not have any fuel info until I fill the fuel tank next spring.
posted 09-11-2010 10:11 AM ET (US)
A little postmortem on the fuel on the trip:
As mentioned (at length) in the planning thread, the fuel being sold at IRNP was expensive and thought to be at least a year old, perhaps two. When we arrived at Rock Harbor, we found the fuel dock there had received new gasoline a few weeks earlier, resulting in a drop in price to $4.60 from $5.40. The new gasoline was presumably blended with some of the two-year-old gasoline, adding considerable freshness to the fuel. I incorrectly made the assumption that the same conditions would exist at Windigo, the other fuel dock on the island, and not wishing to delay the exploration of the remote archipelago for even ten minutes to go to the fuel dock, I bypassed fueling at Rock Harbor. We immediately left on our trip around the island, with 47.2-gallons remaining in our fuel tank.
When we arrived at Windigo 60-miles and two days later, we went right to the fuel dock to take on more gasoline. We had burned 22.8-gallons getting there (for a 2.63-MPG average), and we were down to about 21-gallons on board. Since we planned to return to Rock Harbor--the only other fuel dock on the island--via the long way around, a passage of at least 60-miles, adding fuel at Windigo became mandatory.
The fuel dock at Windigo is apparently not a very high-volume operation. To get fuel we had to walk up to the store--quite a little hike from the dock--and ask the store's proprietor to sell us some fuel. She, in turn, had to lock up and temporarily close the store, and hike down to the fuel dock to pump the fuel. When finished, we all had to hike up to the store to arrange for payment. I suppose this has taught boaters with experience in visiting IRNP to prefer fueling at Rock Harbor, where the fuel dock, the attendant, and the cash register are all within ten feet of each other, not a quarter-mile apart. Also, boaters arriving at Windigo typically have crossed from Grand Portage, a much shorter distance than the jump from Copper Harbor to Rock Harbor, and they likely arrive at Windigo with higher fuel tank levels. All of these factors contributed perhaps to a slower rate of sales of the expensive fuel. I can't fault the concessionaire, because, as someone said, if you buy 10,000 gallons of gasoline at a high price you cannot afford to just drop the price by $1.50 to get rid of it. Of course, the high price probably further retarded the sale of gasoline at Windigo, and when we got there they were still slowly selling off their two-year-old fuel at the 2008 price of $5.40-per-gallon. The store proprietress gave us reassurance that the fuel had been carefully inspected and tested, and although two years old it was found to be free of water and to meet octane standards. Even though we had little choice and were going to buy some anyways, those presentations gave us relief that we were not about to put bad gasoline in our tank. We added 30-gallons, giving us about 51-gallons in the tank at departure from Windigo.
From Windigo we had a marvelous run along the northern shore of Isle Royale at optimum planing speed, and when we arrive at McCargoe Cove, we had only burned 11.3-gallons to cover the 33.5-miles, for a fuel economy of 2.97-MPG. From Windigo we went out to Passage Island and thence to Tobin Harbor, where we arrived with 28.8-gallons remaining. We were now only a few miles from the fuel dock at Rock Harbor, and remaining fuel was no longer a concern. Instead we had a bit of distraction due to the wind, which was now forecasted to grow to gale force winds the next day. Early the next morning we moved over to Rock Harbor to weather out the storm. Before settling in for the day at the dock, we went to the fuel dock for more gasoline. We were pleasantly surprised that in the week since our last visit the concessionaire had recalculated the fuel price even lower, and was now offering marine-grade no-ethanol premium fuel at a bargain price of $3.90-gallon. Since this would be the last chance for fuel before we made our return crossing, I took on 25-gallons, putting our tank to 52.4-gallons.
After the gale blew through, we resumed our exploration of IRNP, but before departing Rock Harbor I got to thinking about the 57-miles of open water crossing and what sort of fuel economy I might expect. If the conditions were unfavorable, I might have to run slower, and under those conditions the fuel economy could get down to 2-MPG or less. I allotted 30-gallons as the minimum needed to make the crossing. We also had some more exploration of IRNP ahead before departure, and I allotted about 10-gallons for that. With these calculations made, it looked like I could come into Copper Harbor with about 12-gallons in the tank. With only 12-gallons in the tank the fuel gauge would be below 1/4-FULL and in seas there would be some sloshing of fuel. I decided that I did not really want to be in the middle of Lake Superior, look down at the fuel gauge, and see it anywhere below 1/4-FULL at any time. So just before casting off, we bought five more gallons, this time in a Jerry can, to be added later.
As it turned out, our further explorations of IRNP after departing Rock Harbor for the second time were of a somewhat limited distance by water, and then on the run to Copper Harbor we were able to stay on-plane at 25 to 28-MPH, our best fuel economy range. As a result, when we put the boat on the trailer there were still 30.5-gallons in the tank.
The total fuel burn for the trip was 99.5 gallons and 263.4 miles covered, making for an average fuel economy of 2.65-MPG.
We purchased fuel for the trip in four places. Because the drive was 600-miles, and I prefer to not tow the boat on the highway with much gasoline, we departed home with only about 3/8-FULL tank indicated. About 40-miles from Copper Harbor in the town of Laurium, at the last major-brand highway gas station in any sort of developed area, we stopped to top off the boat tank. We bought 43-gallons at $2.789 per gallon. This put the tank up to 7/8-FULL. We drove the last leg to Copper Harbor and launched the boat. Just prior to departing for IRNP, we went to the fuel dock at the marina and put as much gas into the tank as we could, before the vent started burping, adding 13.7-gallons at $3.85 per gallon. As mentioned, we bought 30-gallons at both Windigo and Rock Harbor, at $5.40 and $3.90 respectively. The cost of this blended fuel averages out to
GALS PRICE COST
Our overall fuel economy on the trip averaged out to 2.65-MPG, so thus we can figure our cost to move the boat was about
1-gallon/2.65-Miles x $3.87/1-gallon = $1.46-per-mile
posted 09-12-2010 01:22 PM ET (US)
By the way, the drive from our home to Copper Harbor and back was a total distance of about 1,200-miles. I do not have precise data on the truck fuel consumption, but I generally figure about 11-MPG. That means we burned about 109-gallons in the truck hauling the boat up there and back. Once again we ended up burning more gas on the highway than on the water, even though we put quite a bit of Lake Superior under our keel on this trip.
As for the distance from our home to Copper Harbor, it is probably about as far as you can drive and still be in Michigan. To put it into perspective, if we drove 590-miles in other directions, we could be in
--Bennington, Vermont, or
posted 09-12-2010 02:20 PM ET (US)
I failed to write down my mileage when I last filled my Yukon XL (30 gallon tank)on US2 just north of the Bridge in St. Ignace. But I drove all the way home to Farmington Hills without refilling, drove around Monday on some short hops, then down to Canton on Tuesday before filling up again.
posted 09-12-2010 04:47 PM ET (US)
Jim, Now that you have some data, how does the ETEC compare to your old engine's fuel efficiency?
posted 09-13-2010 09:06 AM ET (US)
Dave--I have found the fuel economy or MPG improved about 50 to 70 percent with the new engine. I have written a couple of articles about it in REFERENCE and PERFORMANCE. See:
I think it is safe to say that for most installations the change to a modern two-cycle or four-cycle motor from a classic two-cycle motor is going to result in an improvement in MPG by a factor of 1.5 to 1.7. In other words, if you used to get about 1.7-MPG average you will improve to 2.5 to 2.9-MPG. If you could average 2-MPG with an old motor, you probably will see over 3-MPG. However, the results vary depending on the duty cycle.
I have written a lot about this in other places, so I would prefer to not clutter up this trip report thread with too much more about improvement in fuel economy of modern motors. I will say, however, that when you buy gasoline for over $5-per-gallon, your appreciation for improved fuel economy is intensified.
posted 09-13-2010 02:34 PM ET (US)
Great photos. Beautiful area.
posted 09-13-2010 09:00 PM ET (US)
One of the more interesting places we visited on our 2010 cruise of Isle Royale was PASSAGE ISLAND. We very carefully entered a beautiful cove on the south shore of the island, made the boats fast to a nice dock, and hiked a mile over the southwest end of the island to the site of the light house.
An interesting aspect of the now automated light is its fog horn. According to information in the LIGHT LIST, there is a fog signal there that can be operated on demand by triggering it via radio. If you transmit on Channel-79 and key your transmitter on-off five consecutive times, the signal should come on. Later, after we left the island, we tried to key-up the fog signal, but I think we were too far away. If the signal came on in response to our transmissions, we never heard it.
posted 09-13-2010 09:17 PM ET (US)
The horn in Bayfield works the same way. There's a large placard mounted on it with instructions.
Every now and again, you'll hear it on a clear day while some joker plays around with it.
posted 09-14-2010 03:46 PM ET (US)
6992Whaler may be the only one who got decent photographs of our Moose sighting, I didn't try because my camera kept going automatically to Flash & I didn't want to startle them with it. Hopefully he'll post his photo's soon
posted 09-16-2010 09:42 AM ET (US)
Alright, now that the dust has settled down, when are we going back? Let's plan the next trip for the end of July rather than the end of August.
posted 09-16-2010 09:59 AM ET (US)
I'm going back July 30-Aug 7 2011.
posted 09-16-2010 11:14 PM ET (US)
Here are some pictures. I should have edited out more.
Pat I did get two good moose pictures, unfortunately the only picture of the calf is out of focus.
posted 09-17-2010 08:18 AM ET (US)
posted 09-19-2010 08:38 AM ET (US)
I have really enjoyed everyone's pictures. Thanks for posting them. I am still working on my pictures and narrative.
posted 01-05-2011 12:34 AM ET (US)
My trip narrative with about 130 pictures and captions:
This will be good armchair reading for Northern boaters this winter.
posted 01-13-2011 01:23 PM ET (US)
Fantastic addition, Jim. I downloaded the whole page so I could read it offline and have been through it a couple times.
posted 01-18-2011 11:25 AM ET (US)
Outstanding accounts of the trip, and great pictures. Thanks for taking the time to share!
posted 01-18-2011 11:40 AM ET (US)
Jim and Dave,
Both of your narratives are excellent. The inclusion of the pictures in Jim's narrative is very nice.
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