2019 July BWGLCC Lake Michigan and Green Bay Cruise

Accounts of trips taken in Boston Whaler boats; organization of rendezvous for Boston Whaler boats
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Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula

2019 July BWGLCC Lake Michigan and Green Bay Cruise

Postby jimh » Mon Jun 07, 2021 7:37 am

I'll briefly re-cap the Boston Whaler Great Lakes Cruising Club's July 2019 cruise in Lake Michigan and Green Bay.

The rendezvous point for the 2019 Summer Cruise was in northern Lake Michigan at the Fayette State Historical Park docks, part of the State Park there, with the fleet to meet there on Sunday, July 21, 2019.

A pre-rendezvous point for boats trailering to the area was on Saturday, July 20, 2019, at the public marina at Escanaba, Michigan, where the boats could be launched after lengthy highway travel and prepared for a short jump of about 25-miles over to Fayette.

Two or three boats coming from Michigan gave some thought to making a lengthy open water crossing of Lake Michigan to get to Fayette, but ultimately only LUCKY TWO, a 25 WALKAROUND that actually had no trailer, decided to make the run from their home port of Cheboygan, Michigan.

For CONTINUOUSWAVE, some thought was given to running across to Fayette from departure at Leland, Michigan. The winds had been unusually calm on Lake Michigan in the several days prior to July 20, but ultimately we decided to haul the boat on the trailer to Escanaba on Saturday morning.

Fig. 1. On Wednesday, July 17, four days before the scheduled rendezvous at Fayette, I used the application WINDY to predict the winds on Lake Michigan for Sunday, July 21, 2019. As seen above, very low, four-knot winds were predicted, which made a crossing from Leland directly to Fayette something to consider. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and images are by the author.

The long highway drive was uneventful except for the weather. We departed Northport in fair weather, and we were towing the boat without the cover (so as to reduce wear on the cover from the high-speed travel). Several hours later while heading west in the upper peninsula on highway US-2, we could see ahead there was a very significant storm front approaching. We stopped briefly in Manistique to put on the boat cover. As we resumed our westing, we encountered heavy rainfall.

Fortunately the front blew through the area in about an hour, and when we arrived in Escanaba the rain was much lighter. As usual, we had pulled the boat on the highway without much fuel aboard to reduce the towed weight. A retail gasoline station with a nice hard canopy over the pumps gave us a place to ready the boat for launching without having to stand in the rain; we also bought some highway fuel, although not very much as it was a blended gasoline-ethanol fuel. From there we proceeded to the marina and thence to the boat launch ramp. The ramp is located across the anchorage from the marina and docks, and about a one-mile-long perimeter road connects them.

At the boat launch we found the ramp and parking area had many tree branches obstructing passage, and he had to drag them out of the way to position the boat in the launch preparation area. By now the rain had stopped completely. Without much difficulty we launched the boat. Rather than leave the truck and trailer in the launch area, we had pre-arranged with the marina to park them in the marina parking area. Chris drove the trailer back to the marina while I drove the boat across the anchorage to a pre-assigned slip.

Already at the marina were David and Kathy aboard MANIC MOMENT, who trailered from their summer place near Barbeau, Michigan, in the upper peninsula, and Hal and Margaret on their 255 CONQUEST named SUMMERSONG that they brought over by trailer and highway from Ludington on Lake Michigan on the Michigan coast after completing the deal to buy the boat there. This would be their shakedown cruise.

Fig. 2. By Saturday afternoon three boats were launched at at their slip at the public marina at Escanaba. In foreground, CONTINUOUSWAVE, MANIC MOMENT behind, SUMMERSONG at back. Note the sunshine and fair weather, just following the storm front passing through a few hours earlier.

We were all awaiting the arrival of the HOLLY MARIE and crew from Minnesota—via highway, of course. They pulled into the parking lot a hour or two later, and told an amazing story. Traveling east from Minnesota, the HOLLEY MARIE and crew were overtaken by the big storm front, and since both the storm and the boat were heading east, stayed in the storm much longer than we did. To everyone's amazement, the boat was struck by lightning while on the trailer and on the highway. The truck was fine, but was electrical damage to the boat, the engine, and the trailer. After about an hour of investigation, a determination was made: there was no chance to fix any of the damage so the boat could be launched for the cruise. A quick solution was proposed: John, Holly, and Emmarie would join Hal and Margaret on SUMMERSONG. Arrangements were made with the marina to leave the HOLLEY MARIE on the trailer in the marina parking lot.

On Sunday morning, July 21, 2019, we added more fuel, getting pure REC 90 gasoline at the marina fuel dock. About 11 a.m. our three-boat fleet set out for Fayette from Escanaba. The wind had switched to the East with the passage of the front, creating some head seas for us. However, for LUCKY TWO coming from Cheboygan, there would be a mostly following sea.

MANIC MOMENT, SUMMERSONG, and CONTINUOUSWAVE arrived at Fayette about 1 p.m., and found plenty of dock space available. We had made a formal reservation and received a slip assignment, but the slip numbers were not visible from seaward; we just took an open slip. Curiously, there was another Boston Whaler boat already there; a 170 MONTAUK that had launched at a nearby ramp, and was just on a day cruise.

About 3 p.m. LUCKY TWO with Don and Elsa aboard came around the corner and entered the Snail Shell Harbor inlet, having made a very nice 137-miles run from Cheboygan. They left at 9:35 a.m. and arrive at 2:57 p.m. dock-to-dock, making the run time five hours and 22-minutes for an average speed of 25.5-MPH. That is excellent cruising speed.

And about 6 p.m. OUTRE arrived with Bob and Sam, coming over from Escanaba. The fleet was now together:

    MANIC MOMENT, 23 WALKAROUND notched transom, Twin 150-HP, David and Kathy
    SUMMERSONG, 255 CONQUEST, twin 225-HP, Hal and Margaret, John and Holly, and Emmarie
    CONTINUOUSWAVE, REVENGE 22 Walk-Through Whaler Drive, Single 225-HP, Chris and Jim
    LUCKY TWO, 25 WALKAROUND Whaler Drive, twin 250-HP, Don and Elsa
    OUTRE, OUTRAGE 22 notched transom, 300-HP, Bob and Sam
The wind had shifted to the Northwest, and of all directions, the harbor offers the least protection from that quadrant. There was no enthusiasm for cooking on the docks with the wind, so we elected to get our evening meal from Sherry's Port Bar & Family Restaurant, a local place about a mile away. Considering the location--in the middle of nowhere in the Upper Peninsula--the food was not bad; that is to say it wasn't quite worth a Michelin Star, but for the location, and the time--late on a Sunday evening--we were glad to have a place were 13 people could have a meal together.

On Monday, July 22, we enjoyed very fair weather and much less wind. In the morning all crews explored the many original buildings, furnaces, and facilities of this pig iron smelter that flourished after the Civil War for a brief period between 1867 to 1881. The location offered all the necessary ingredients for making pig iron:
  • an excellent harbor so iron ore could be brought in by ship from close-by mines in the upper peninsula
  • plenty of surround forrest with hardwood for building and turning into charcoal for the furnaces
  • limestone on site for adding to the iron furnances
Fortunately, they left many cedar trees standing, and some are 1,400-years old. They also build their structures with wood and stone that have survived about 150-years or rugged northern Great Lakes weather.

After lunch at the docks, we departed for Wisconsin, heading south across Lake Michigan in very small seas, running on plane for 25-miles. We took a small detour to inspect the harbor on the south side of St. Martin Island, but found the dock there was filled with birds and visual and olfactory evidence of birds, and a large sign notified potential visitors that the island was a wildlife refuge and to stay off. The shallow bay looked like it would make a good anchorage to shelter from winds from Northeast through North to Northwest.

In the early afternoon we arrived at Wisconsin's Rock Island and approached the small harbor there. To our very good fortune the harbor was empty, and there was space for all five boats. We had to tie up in a limited amount of space in order to maintain access for the Park Ranger's boat and the larger ferry boat that brings visitors. We spent a very nice afternoon exploring, and had a cook-out dinner on some picnic tables nearby.

Overnight the wind picked up and by early Tuesday morning, July 23, it was blowing with some force from the North-Northwest. Due to the high water level, the concrete piers which were protecting us from the open lake were only a few inches above the lake level. As the seas built up with the wind, waves were washing right over the ten-foot-wide pier, splashing against the hulls of the boats, and draining into the harbor.

Other than the strong winds, the weather was fair and clear. We enjoyed a fine morning on the island. The park rest rooms are about 100-yards from the dock. I was walking over to visit the facility, and ran into John, waiting under a tree. John commented, "A guy went in there about 15-minutes ago, but he hasn't come out." My needs were getting a bit urgent, so I went ahead to investigate what was causing the delay.

As I approached the door to the Men's room, I could see the problem: the tail end of a snake, about three feet long was projecting from under the door to the outhouse. The snake was apparently stuck under the door.

I hailed the guy inside. He replied with some desperation, “I am stuck in here and there’s a big snake trying to get in under the door.”

[To be continued]

Posts: 9352
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula

Re: 2019 July BWGLCC Lake Michigan and Green Bay Cruise

Postby jimh » Thu Jun 10, 2021 9:01 am

While the fellow stuck in the outhouse was getting rather desperate to get out, my interest in getting in was similarly increasing. I called John to come over and see the situation first-hand. We developed a solution: I would approach the door at the opening side, and John would approach the door at the hinged side. Then I would grab the door handle and fling open the door, and immediate turn and run away. John would grab the door and hold it open momentarily, awaiting the snake to decide what he would do, then also flee.

Fortunately, this worked out well for all four of us. The snake abandoned all interest in proceeding farther into the outhouse, and immediately reversed course and slithered away at an impressive speed.

I watched safely from twenty feet away, and as the snake became invisible in the tall grass, I thought of the phrase "a snake in the grass" with a new understanding of that metaphor.

John was at a safe distance as well.

The poor guy in the outhouse expressed his thanks for releasing him from his serpentine captor.

We never did get any notion of the type of snake--other than "big" snake. This was no little critter.

With the morning crisis resolved, we resumed our idle life of cruising and turned our attention back to maritime matters.

The high seas from the Northwest were still rolling over the pier and cascading into the harbor, but all the boats had weathered the night without harm. The remnant seas on the lee side of the pier imparted only the slightest rocking to the boats, and the noise of the water splashing off the pier into the calm water was really the only nuisance. As the morning wore on, however, several new threats arose. Large pieces of driftwood were sometimes being carried by the wave motion and flung onto the pier. You could see them approaching and then standby for them to land on the pier and be caught before hitting a boat.

The seas were not particularly friendly for an immediate departure, and since we had only a short run to go that day, we delayed leaving in hope that the wind might calm down and ease the waves we would have to encounter on our next leg.

Another problem arose: on SUMMERSONG a very nice stainless steel low-profile grill had been left on the pier overnight. This morning it was nowhere to be seen. The most reasonable deduction: the seas had washed it off the pier and into the harbor, and the grill was suspected to sitting on the bottom perhaps six feet below. With the wind pushing SUMMERSONG off the dock, there was just enough gap between the hull and the pier for the grill to fall into the water. Unfortunately, that side of the boat was in a deep shadow, and we could not see the grill in the water in the morning.

About local noon, the sun angle became perfectly aligned, and pushing SUMMERSONG away from the pier as far as it would go revealed the chrome-plated grill sitting on the bottom. Some very deft word with a boat hook retrieved the grill, and we considered this a nice victory of man over nature.

After lunch at the dock the waves had definitely subsided, and we got underway. Our destination was the marina at Sister Bay, about 26-miles farther south. After making slow progress directly upwind for about 1.5-miles, we could turn west and clear the northwest point of Washington Island, then head south to Sister Bay with seas on our starboard stern quarter, an easy ride.

With our late start, our arrival at Sister Bay was delayed until late in the afternoon, perhaps about three or four o'clock by the time all the boats were moored at their assigned slips.

The marina at Sister Bay has been greatly expanded since my last visit then perhaps 15-years earlier, and there are now perhaps almost 75 slips available. However, most of then are seasonally rented, leaving a much smaller number available for transient boaters like us. Four of our five boats had slip reservations, and we were nicely accommodated in adjacent slips near the boat launching ramp. The marina found a fifth slip for the other boat, snuggled among some very large yachts on a dock nearby.

Because we anticipated difficulty in getting a slip at Sister Bay marina in the middle of prime boating season in July, we were quite intent on keeping our schedule to be there the day of our slip reservation. Thus about a month earlier I had contacted old friend LHG to inform him of our planned arrival, as he spends his summers nearby. Larry Sr. was there waiting for the fleet to come in, and we had a very nice reunion. We had not seen each for many years, as our boating paths had not aligned for over a decade. LCG, Larry Jr. was also there, and, again, it was great to see him, too.

A great deal of dock-talking and boat-hopping went on, and a dinner reservation was made. We had a lovely evening at a big table of boaters at a local restaurant adjacent to the marina. Then we settled in for the night, snug in the marina harbor on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.

Posts: 9352
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula

Re: 2019 July BWGLCC Lake Michigan and Green Bay Cruise

Postby jimh » Mon Jun 14, 2021 8:37 am

On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, we awoke to a cool morning with the boats covered in dew. I moved CONTINUOUSWAVE over to the fuel dock at the commercial marina adjacent to the Sister Bay public marina, and took on some additional fuel.

Our destination today was a run out to Chambers Island, a large private island in the middle of Green Bay, where we would rendezvous with our cruising mates Craig and Karen, who were hosting our fleet for an afternoon cook-out at their place. We had a wonderful day on Chambers Island. As often happens in Summer, a line of thunderstorms blew in from the Northwest in the late afternoon, bringing high winds and rain. After a delicious dinner--eaten indoors--we reluctantly departed for the return trip to Sister Bay marina, under very overcast skies and some disturbed seas.

On Thursday, July 25, 2019, we had planned to continue the cruise of Green Bay southward to Menominee, Michigan, but the weather forecast changed our plans. NOAA predicted (correctly, as it turned out) that on Friday afternoon the winds would build from the South to about 30-knots. If we continued onward to the South on Thursday, we'd be heading back to our launching point in Escanaba on Friday in substantial wind and waves, albeit perhaps a following sea, and be making a 53-mile run up the coastline.

After discussion among the boat captains and their crews, the decision was made to head back northward today, in what were perfectly calm seas before the storm set in on Friday. First we had to make a dog-leg back to Chambers Island in order to pick up John, Holly, and Emmarie, who had stayed overnight there. Then to add a point of interest to this leg, we diverted to Cedar River, Michigan, on the way north to investigate the recently built State of Michigan harbor of refuge and marina there.This gave us about a 55-mile run back to Escanaba under beautiful blue skies and in calm seas.

We arrived at Escanaba in mid-afternoon and took slips for the night. Then we made arrangements to use the local boat club's patio and gas-fired grill, where we later cooked up a very nice evening meal as our last-night GLBWCC 2019 cruise dinner.

On Friday, July 26, 2019, the winds were still light in the morning, but by noon the were starting to blow stronger from the South. Perhaps if we had been in Menominee and got an early start, we could have made a pleasant run up to Escanaba that morning, but open-lake boating when 30-knot winds are predicted is not something to take lightly, and we were generally satisfied that our decision to avoid the risk had been prudent.

With a long drive home and stormy weather coming in, we hauled CONTINUOUSWAVE onto the trailer around Noon, and began highway travel preparations. Although the cruise was cut short one day by the high winds we thoroughly enjoyed the trip. We bid adieu to our boating mates, and got on the road. Highway travel back to Northport was uneventful.

Without a trailer, LUCKY TWO was stuck in port at Escanaba for several days, eventually getting back to her home port of Cheboygan, Michigan about a week later.