A illustrated narrative of our 2010 trip to Isle Royale National Park in Western Lake Superior; photographs by the author and his companions; detailed accounts of boat movement and of expenses for fuel, docking, dining, and travel.
|Friday, August 27, 2010
|Fair, hot, and not a cloud in the sky
|Beverly Hills, Michigan
|434 miles by highway
More than any trip in recent years, this 12-day vacation to Isle Royale National Park has required careful preparation. I have been working on our 22-foot cuddy-cabin outboard-powered Boston Whaler boat, CONTINUOUSWAVE, its tandem-axle trailer, and the 1995 GMC Suburban that pulls it on the higway, while Chris has been managing the cruising gear, food, and supplies. We've been cruising with this boat for five years, but there is no end to refinements of its gear. About two weeks before the trip, final preparations for the boat are completed. The boat received:
Attention was then focused on the car and trailer. Thanks to a casual remark from a colleague at work who noticed something odd about a tire on my truck, I found one tire almost at the point of failure and the other three with substantial tread wear. Because this particular style of tire was no longer made, I ultimately ended up purchasing four new Michelin light truck radial tires. The truck then spent a day at the service shop, initially for an inspection of its suspension and steering components. When they proved to be in fine shape, I had the air-conditioner serviced—a week and $1,100 later the A/C was restored to working order.
I picked up CONTINUOUSWAVE from its storage location on Wednesday, in order to have it at home for two nights to be loaded with gear. On the drive home I noticed the trailer brakes were chattering worse than ever, and later found one of the trailer tires very close to breaking down from road damage. Back to the tire shop! I bought one new trailer tire, and put the spare into service, taking off the two worst tires. I also spent an evening adjusting the drum brake clearance to eliminate the brake chatter, a tedious process with the boat still on the trailer.
While I was focused on preparing the boat, Chris had been carefully assembling all of the gear and food we would need. Unlike all previous trips, we would be carrying our own provisions on this cruise for a week of remote cruising. We added a new propane grill and an extra cooler to our normal cruising equipment. Chris also planned our meals and purchased a great deal of frozen foods, including some premium frozen foods from Omaha Steaks.
On our day of departure, the final loading of the boat is a project in itself. Although we start early at the task, we are not able to get underway until 10:45 a.m., a rather late start for us. The weather is beautiful, with clear skies and very warm temperatures. We enjoy the air-conditioner working properly for the first time in several years as the temperature reaches over 90-degrees.
We arrive at the Straits of Mackinac about 4 p.m. This milestone is usually near the end of most of our trips, but, because of the great distance to Copper Harbor, we are not even half-way there. After a short rest stop at the Welcome Center, we continue West on highway US-2 along the northern coast of Lake Michigan. Strong southerly winds rock the truck and boat trailer, and we see big waves crashing ashore. At Blaney Park we stop for gasoline, buy some Leinenkugal Original (beer)—in Michigan sold only in the Upper Peninsula—then turn north and into the interior of the Seney National Wildlife Preserve. After several more hours on lonely two-lane highways, we stop for the night at the Marquette Motor Lodge, actually just outside of Marquette in Harvey. We have supper at the adjacent restaurant, its last customer just before the 9 p.m. closing arrives.
After settling into the motel room, about 10:20 p.m. I step out to check on something in the truck. I look up into the dark and crystal clear sky and see the International Space Station blazing across in a very high pass. I think of this as good omen for the trip.
|Saturday, August 28, 2010
|Fair and very warm
|Copper Harbor, Michigan
|151 miles by highway
The weather could not be more agreeable, although the strength of these southerly winds is a concern. There is no sign of rain, just fair weather and clear skies.
By cellular telephone we arrange a rendezvous with Pat Henahan, a fellow Boston Whaler boat owner who will be our companion on this cruise. Yesterday he also towed his 22-footer HOMEASIDE from southeast Michigan and stayed with some friends north of Marquette last night. We meet at the marina in downtown, then head West on the highway. On the outskirts we stop at Lawry's Pastie Shop to buy some dry ice. They cut a sheet to fit perfectly into our frozen foods cooler. By 10 a.m. we are back on the road.
We miss the cheap gasoline sold by the Indian-run station in Baraga where the price is $2.58/gallon. We drive on, passing through Houghton, crossing the canal bridge, and into Hancock. Here we stop at a supermarket perched on the side of a big hill for some last minute provisioning by Pat. The terrain of the Keweenaw Peninsula is quite hilly, and when towing a large boat you have to be careful where you pull off the road.
About ten miles north in Laurium we find a BP gas station on fairly level ground with plenty of room for boat trailers, and stop to buy fuel for the boat. There is also a nice grocery store there, too. They are the last chance for major highway gas or big grocery store on the trip to Copper Harbor. The gas station has plenty of room to maneuver with a boat trailer. I add 43-gallons to the boat, bringing the tank level to 3/4-FULL. I leave some room in the tank, as I anticipate more hilly terrain ahead on the final leg of the drive.
The drive north from Laurium is beautiful. The two-lane road passes through a heavily wooded stretch of curving hills for about ten miles where the trees arch over the highway and enclose it in a tunnel of green. The road has no shoulder, and it is hard to keep the trailer wheels on the pavement without cheating across the center line into the oncoming lane. We finally arrive in Copper Harbor, descending a long grade from the highway down to the water level about 1:30 p.m. The trailer brakes are hot (140°F), so I give them a few minutes to cool off before backing into the cold (58°F) water of Lake Superior. While we loiter at the ramp, we are surprised to find our other cruising companion, Dave, has already arrived and launched his 25-foot boat, INVICTUS. We had not expected him until late tonight, but he drove all last night and arrived at 4:30 this morning.
The water level of Lake Superior is only at chart datum, a low water condition which makes the launch ramp about two-feet shallower than normal. We are able to launch our boat without difficulty, but we are mindful of not backing in too far and running off end of the paved ramp. We move the boat to the seawall of the marina, where we use a ladder to climb out to the dock. Like many marinas with fixed docks in the Great Lakes, the dock height here has been set to accommodate much higher water level than we have this summer (and much larger boats).
Around 5 p.m. another cruising companion, Kevin, arrives with his 18-footer, ADEQUATE. Our initial group is now complete. We have four boats in the water, ready to cross to Isle Royale tomorrow. Around 7 p.m. we drive to dinner together at HARBOR HAUS restaurant. The food is excellent. The weather is so hot, still 90-degrees, that it is actually nice to get indoors and enjoy air-conditioning. This is something of a rarity for extreme northern Michigan, even in late August.
After dinner the winds decrease and Lake Superior looks serene. We talk of making a run for Isle Royale, although I do not think anyone seriously wants to start off this late in the day. We take a short cruise around the harbor just to enjoy the wonderful evening and beautiful setting of Copper Harbor.
One of the benefits of cruising with other boats is the sheer number of photographs taken by the group, made even greater now by the digital camera. To illustrate this cruise I have borrowed heavily from my cruising mates Dave, Pat, John, and Kevin, who often took photographs at times I forgot to record, or from angles better than mine. A notation in the caption gives credit for each photograph. If no one is cited, your author was the photographer.
After two days and 600-miles on the road, CONTINUOUSWAVE finally hits the cold fresh water of Lake Superior. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
At the dock in Copper Harbor, the cockpit of our boat is mostly taken up with three coolers. One is for dry storage, used for clothing and gear. The smaller cooler holds dry ice and frozen food. The third cooler contains our other food, drinks, and plenty of ice. To reach the boat from the dock a ladder is necessary. Water levels on Lake Superior are near historic low levels.
Dave has INVICTUS loaded with with gear, including a small inflatable boat. Just before departing he decided to leave it behind. He's also carrying a 24-gallon on-deck fuel tank to supplement his boat's internal fuel tanks, as well as a few Jerry cans.
Kevin has added extensive canvas to ADEQUATE, an otherwise open boat with low gunwales. The high docks are an obstacle to getting off board.
Dave had enough energy to hike a mile around the harbor to get this nice view from the other side. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
|Sunday, August 29, 2010
|Southerly at 15 to 20
|Two to three-footers offshore
|Copper Harbor State Marina
|47° 28.31' N; 087° 54.06' W
|Rock Harbor, Isle Royale, Michigan, thence on to Chippewa Harbor
|75 miles by boat
Note that the geographic positions are hyperlinks (which will open a Google Earth map in a separate window) and can be used to locate the precise position of each day's departure.
Every morning I typically listen for ten minutes or so to the VHF Marine Band radio to get the Canadian marine forecast which is issued at 3 a.m. daily. From my notes, I will try to replicate as closely as possible the actual broadcasts.
Marine Forecast issued by Environment Canada at 3 a.m. Sunday Western Lake Superior Winds southwest at 10-knots increasing to 15-knots early this morning, then backing to south-southwest at 15-knots after noon, increasing to south-southwest 20-knots by mid-day, and diminishing to 15-knots on Monday Wave height 1-meter Extended Marine Forecast Tuesday: winds southeast 20-knots Wednesday: winds southwest 15-knots becoming light Thursday: winds light Lake Superior water level is 0.02-meter below chart datum Technical synopsis: At 3 a.m. today a stationary HIGH 1024 mBar over Pennsylvania By 3 a.m. Monday a LOW 1000 mBar over North Dakota
I am awake at 6:40 a.m., before sunrise. The weather is fair, clear, and breezy. The wind came up overnight and is now more southerly. I enjoy a long warm shower at the marina bath facility. It will be the last one for a few days. I make coffee with a nifty propane heater called a Jet-Boil. We have shore power but we did not bring our electric coffee pot. There is too much gear on this boat already.
When cruising from port to port, we have a general rule we try to follow: be ready to leave the dock and get the day underway by 10 a.m. Dave and I have cruised together a lot, and we generally follow this rule. Cruising with more than one or two other boats can become a problem of organization. Getting everyone ready to leave a harbor can take hours. Instead of negotiating a time each day, we just set the departure time every day to be ten o'clock. This keeps the early risers from getting frustrated at sitting around waiting, and it gives the late sleepers enough time to get going. If someone is not ready at ten, we don't take off without them. And we don't leave at the stroke of the hour. But the ten o'clock rule works well enough to generally result in all the boats actually being underway toward the next destination by 11 o'clock.
The ten o'clock rule also means that we can run the boats for at least an hour or two before we stop for lunch, and we'll be eating lunch around 1 p.m. It also gives us plenty of time to take a diversion along the way, if we find an interesting place to stop and explore. Correlated with the ten o'clock rule is the 4 o'clock rule.
The four o'clock rule is a corollary to the ten o'clock rule: we try to arrive at our destination by 4 p.m. This leads to a number of advantages. The primary advantage is arriving at your destination in time to get dock space, which is often scarce at marinas in the peak of summer. Also, since we seldom indulge in any alcoholic drinks when underway, a 4 p.m. arrival is perfectly timed with the sun dipping below the yard arm. We can drink a beer, relax in the cockpit, take a break, and enjoy the cruise. Additionally, a 4 p.m. arrival permits doing some scouting around the new location. You can find the best restaurant, locate points of interest, make all the arrangements with the harbormaster for docking, and take on fuel if needed. (We generally always prefer to take on fuel when arriving at a port. Often in the morning a line forms for the fuel dock, and it can take a while to get fuel in the morning at a busy marina or harbor.) Dinner is usually planned for 7 p.m., so there is plenty of time to freshen up. But most important of all, arriving by 4 p.m. generally avoids the worst wind and wave conditions. It's my experience that the seas and winds generally increase during the afternoon. Planning on an arrival in the mid-afternoon can often avoid the worst of the day's sea conditions. Of course, that is not always true—the weather can be quite variable—but as a general rule in summertime fair weather, the wind often builds to a peak in the late afternoon.
About 9:30 a.m., having made a prior arrangement with the harbor master who is also the gas dock attendant in this one-man operation, we move the boat over to the fuel dock and take on more gasoline, paying $3.85/gallon. I can only add 13.7-gallons before the vent hose begins to spit fuel. I am reasonably assured we have a full-tank of fuel, which I calculate at 70-gallons. (The tank actual capacity is supposed to be 77-gallons, but I prefer to be conservative in my estimate of useable fuel.) I set my fuel management gauge to 70-gallons. It will count down the remaining fuel based on data from the engine about flow rate. This should give me an accurate report of fuel remaining. A mechanical fuel tank level gauge also serves as a second opinion about fuel level. It now reads above "F."
The weather forecast looks good to me. The marina and harbor are set at the base of a rather large hill, and are located at the tip of a 50-mile peninsula. These factors combine to create rather high winds locally, but I expect that offshore we will find conditions better. In conversation with a local boater at the dock, I reveal our destination: Isle Royale. He responds by saying, "You won't realize how big the waves are until you are three-quarters of the way there." In this case, we will be going with the waves, and that makes us able to tolerate large waves.
After some discussion about possibly postponing departure until later in the day, we get underway. We are motoring out of the marina toward the deep water exit channel to Lake Superior by 10:15 a.m. There was a bit of dissent among our group at leaving now, based on the possible realization of lower wind and wave conditions later in the day. In this regard my thinking is somewhat limited. Waiting enables three possible outcomes, and two are not attractive. The winds could decrease, increase, or stay the same. Waiting for a decrease in wind can be risky. There is no assurance it will come, and indeed the opposite can occur. Waiting also delays the whole day's time table. If you start later, you arrive later, and everything else is shifted to later in the day. If conditions permit leaving at ten o'clock, and the forecast is not calling for a dramatic change, I am inclined to go. Or, at least, get out of the harbor and see what the conditions are really like. If after waiting around the winds increase, your day is made more miserable. If they happen to decrease, well, good call, but don't count on it all the time.
From Copper Harbor, Isle Royale lies about 60 miles to the north-northwest. This crossing of the open water of Lake Superior has been on our minds for weeks. With small boats, we will need favorable wind and sea conditions. Today we are fortunate. While the wind is blowing with enough strength to create significant waves, they'll be heading in our direction. We have seas of two- to three-feet, but they are a following sea. At 10:40 a.m. we push the throttle forward, get the boat on plane, and steer 330-degrees for Isle Royale's northern end.
Lake Superior is treating us very kindly. We are able to maintain a comfortable speed in the 25 to 27-MPH range. This will give us excellent fuel economy as well as a speedy crossing. We run about ten miles offshore, then stop for a radio check with the other boats to be sure everyone is doing well. All boats report things are okay, and we resume the crossing. We make a few more stops to allow the boats to regroup along the way, and we are soon closing with the coast of Isle Royale about two and half hours after our departure. This is quite exciting! We have put the longest open-water leg of the trip safely behind us, and there have been no problems.
Around 1 p.m. we arrive at Rock Harbor, where we go ashore to visit the Ranger Station and pick up our pre-paid, pre-registered, park camping permit. The park charges a $4 per person per day use fee. Our eight day stay with two people will cost $64. This includes use of the docks. We also check with the fuel dock attendant to inquire about the price of gasoline. We are pleased to learn that a recent re-supply of fresh gasoline has occurred, and the price has dropped to $4.60-per-gallon from its previous $5.38-per-gallon. I mistakenly assume that at Washington Harbor, the only other gas dock on the island, the fuel will be similarly priced, and I defer purchasing more gasoline. The motor only burned 22.8-gallons on the crossing, and I figure that we have 47.2-gallons remaining. This should be plenty to get to Washignton Harbor, where we plan to refuel. We are also in a bit of a hurry to join our other mates who pre-printed their own camp permits from the Park Service website and have gone directly to Raspberry Island, where they are having lunch. We make our visit to Rock Harbor brief, and we soon depart for Raspberry Island ourselves.
At Raspberry Island the dock is small and to accommodate four boats we have to raft two abreast. After a quick lunch, we take a hike, touring the island on its marked and annotated nature trail. We spend a long time on the eastern or outer shore of the island, staring out into Lake Superior. There is no sign of the Keweenaw Peninsula from where we have come, and only an enormous expanse of dark blue Lake Superior lies before us as we stand on the rocky shore. In this way we begin to appreciate the distance we have come and the isolation of Isle Royale.
Around 4 p.m. we cast off and head southwest for Chippewa Harbor. This takes us down the protected waters of Rock Harbor, past Mott Island—the Park Service Headquarters which provides housing for park personnel and is generally off-limits for visitors—through Middle Island Passage, and back to the open water of Lake Superior. Contrary to my prediction, the later afternoon wind has died down and the waves rolling in from the South are only one-footers and broadly spaced. (Perhaps we could have waited to come across, but then we would have missed the two hours we spent on Raspberry Island!) We run at planing speed down the southeast coast of Isle Royale to Chippewa Harbor's entrance, about 15 miles total from the dock at Rock Harbor.
After entering the inner harbor, we find the 80-foot long dock is already quite full. At one end is the largest Boston Whaler boat we've ever seen, a 30-foot aluminum-hull DEFIANCE model with Craig and Bill aboard, two more cruising mates for our group. There are also lines and fenders left from two other boats who will be returning. We raft three-abreast off the dock and Pat rafts off the DEFIANCE. In all there will be seven boats here tonight!
With our boating done for the day, we relax and enjoy a few cold beers. A Park Ranger boat approaches the dock. It's one of the fancy (and rather expensive) new S.A.F.E. boat hulls and is powered by a pair of Honda outboards. The boat ties up at the dock and its two U.S. Park Rangers come ashore. At first their visit seems quite casual and friendly, but then they get down to business: they want to see everyone's camp permits. I am rather glad we visited the Ranger office to get a permit earlier today. Satisfied that we all are fully accredited park visitors, the Rangers cast off and head for home. Following their departure, we have an interesting discussion with one of the boaters from the other group at the dock. He is a veteran of many visits to Isle Royale and a retired State Police officer, and he has a few things to say about the general demeanor of the Park Rangers and their practice of wearing 9-mm automatic pistols while on patrol here. I sense there has been some history between him and some previous Rangers on duty here, and later in his anecdotes he confirms this.
Meal preparations begin in earnest. Everyone has brought their own provisions, which range from simple to quite elaborate. Chris serves us salmon fillet grilled on a cedar plank, quite a fancy meal for a dock in the wilderness. After dinner and after sunset, we enjoy a lot of good conversation, a few more drinks, and some of the guys break out cigars. The weather continues to cooperate, with no rain, the wind gone calm, and not even any mosquitoes to spoil the party.
Copper Harbor to Rock Harbor Lodge MILES = 59.9 HOURS = 2.83 GALS = 22.8 MPG = 2.63 GPH = 8.06 MPH = 21.2 average Rock Harbor Lodge to Raspberry Island and on to Chippewa Harbor MILES = 15 (approximate)
The marina at Copper Harbor lies below a rather large hill, and even early in the morning there was a breeze coming down from it. This morning will be our day of departure for Isle Royale.
About ten o'clock we are underway, departing Copper Harbor and heading out into Lake Superior.
About 11-miles offshore, we stop to regroup. The waves are moderate and going our way. The tall headland of the Keweenaw peninsula would remain visible for a great portion of the crossing to Isle Royale. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
Rock Harbor Lodge on Isle Royale. The harbor is behind these buildings and well protected. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
At Raspberry Island we take our lunch break. Isle Royale is in the background. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
Your author and Chris on the shoreline of Raspberry Island. Hundreds of miles of Lake Superior to the east lies behind us. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
The black rocks of Raspberry Island's outer shore are swept clean in storms. Nothing grows until you get about 25-feet above the lake level.
Pat Henahan looks seaward from Raspberry Island.
We hike around Raspberry Island's self-guided nature trails. Photo by Pat Henahan
After departing Raspberry Island in the late afternoon, we cruised down Rock Harbor's protected water to the southwest, heading for Chippewa Harbor. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
CONTINUOUSWAVE in Rock Harbor on plane. Photo by Kevin Albus.
Exiting Rock Harbor to Lake Superior, we pass by the Rock Harbor Lighthouse. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
We approach the dock at Chippewa Harbor in the late afternoon. Photo by Kevin Albus.
At Chippewa Harbor dock we find the largest classic Boston Whaler boat hull we've ever seen—a DEFIANCE 30 recently converted from law enforcement service. Owner Craig points to a possible spot to raft up. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
Dock space is scarce at Chippewa Harbor. We have to raft three abreast on the dock face, and two abreast off the end of the pier. Another boat is out fishing, but left his fenders at the dock (foreground) to reserve his space. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
The air temperature is above 90° F, but the water temperature is barely 50°F. Kevin is the only member of our party to take a swim today. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
Although we are in a wilderness area, we eat rather well. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
After dinner we enjoy, appropriately, after dinner drinks and a marvelously warm summer evening. There is nothing like a plastic cup and the outdoors to enhance the taste of good whiskey. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
|Monday, August 30, 2010
|Southwest at 15
|Chippewa Harbor, Isle Royale
|48° 1.7' N; 088° 39.0' W
|Hay Bay, Isle Royale
|22-miles by boat
Marine Forecast issued by Environment Canada Western Lake Superior: Strong wind warning today. Wind south 15, decreasing to southwest 10 around noon, then increasing to south 15 in the evening and veering Southwest. Increasing to southwest 20 Tuesday afternoon. Extended Marine Forecast for Lake Superior: Wednesday winds West 15 diminishing to light in the morning Thursday winds light becoming southwest 15 Friday wind northwest 20. Technical Synopsis: At 0300 Today a quasi-stationary HIGH 1025 mBar in Pennsylvania At 0300 Today a 1002 mBar LOW over South Dakota By 0300 Tuesday a 997 mBar LOW south of Lake Winnipeg
We depart the dock at Chippewa Harbor and explore further into its back waters for a half-hour or so. In the late morning, we depart the harbor and head into Lake Superior, which is now kicking up some head seas from the southwest. We head offshore to visit Menagerie Island and Isle Royale Lighthouse. There are some big seas running and we linger only long enough for everyone to get a good picture. Next we head back inshore for Malone Bay, which offers a bit of protection and calmer seas. We continue our progress to the southwest, entering Hay Bay, where we have good shelter at its small dock. With five boats in our fleet, we again have to raft two-abreast to fit the limited space. We are the only boats visiting here today.
Our pace is more relaxed, and we are done with our boating by lunchtime. The weather is unseasonably warm, and high temperature records are about to be set today. After a late lunch everyone takes off on various hikes and explorations of the shoreline and island interior. After walking for an hour, the 90-degree heat makes a swim in Lake Superior a possibility. Kevin manages to dive in. I try wading in slowly, but I can tolerate the 58-degree water for only a few seconds of immersion.
Late in the afternoon a sixth boat arrives, TAMPICO, bringing Dave from Minnesota aboard. We have another elaborate dinner on the dock. Chris's menu this evening is lamb chops, eggplant, mashed potatoes and red wine. We're eating better on this trip than any other!
The night sky is clear and filled with stars. We use binoculars to observe the moons of Jupiter. The International Space Station is agin seen easily, its transit so bright you can't help but notice it.
Chippewa Harbor to Hay Bay via Menagerie Island MILES = 22 (approximate)
Dave is awake early enough to see the sunrise over Lake Superior. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
Our small fleet of Boston Whaler boats underway in Chippewa Harbor back water. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
Dave underway leaving Chippewa Harbor. The utility of the Isinglass windshield would be called into question later in the trip.
Approaching Menagerie Island from seaward. Photograph by Pat Henahan.
The Isle Royale Lighthouse is located on Menagerie Island, about three miles offshore from the main island. Its construction began in 1875. At one time the light keeper, his wife, and their twelve children lived here, giving rise to apocryphal stories that they were the source of the island's name.
Dave maneuvers INVICTUS into view of our camera.
At Hay Bay's short dock we raft off DEFIANCE, creating this interesting size comparison between our boats. After seeing this, we began to wonder if it were not time for us to get a larger boat. Photograph by Kevin Albus.
Our Boston Whaler fleet at the dock, Hay Bay, a few moments before TAMPICO arrives. A couple of other boats have come into the bay and approached the dock, but I think the Whaler argosy has scared them off. We have the place to ourselves, although, frankly, there is not much to do at Hay Bay. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
Compare the gunwale height of my boat (hand rail at lower left) with the DEFIANCE. In the background the guys relax on the dock.
Jim, Dave, Craig, Pat, and Bill engage in late afternoon dock talk with appropriate rations. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
|Tuesday, August 31, 2010
|Cooler and overcast
|Southwest at 15
|Hay Bay, Isle Royale
|47° 56.034' N; 088° 56.42' W
|Washington Harbor, Isle Royale
|30-miles by boat
Marine Forecast issued by Environment Canada Western Lake Superior Strong Wind Warning In Effect Winds south 15 to 20-knots, veering to southwest 20-knots early evening, then decreasing to west 15-knots around midnight. Showers and thunderstorms ending around midnight Extended marine forecast: Thursday wind southwest 15-knots Friday wind west 25-knots veering to north 30-knots Saturday wind northwest 25-knots Technical synopsis: At 0300 today a quasi-stationary HIGH 1024 mBar near Pennsylvania At 0300 today a cold front from Lake Winnipeg to Nebraska By 0300 Wednesday a LOW 998 mBar over northeast Manitoba Wave height 1-meter
In the early morning the skies are cloudy, there is a threat of light rain, and the wind is up from the West with enough strength to make our stern ensign flag stand out straight from its staff. The temperature has dropped noticeably overnight. There is a heavy dew on the boat, and I need my warm jacket to be on deck.
We depart Hay Bay at 10 a.m. and proceed to exit Siskiwit Bay via a buoyed channel through the shoals. We are again in open water of Lake Superior, and for the first time in the trip we have to go upwind against two- to three-foot waves. The seas are too large to handle comfortably at our usual planing speed, and we are forced to run with the boat on an inefficient trim, making about 16 to 18-MPH against the head seas. Both our comfort and fuel economy decrease.
The six boats in our fleet become strung out over several miles, as each boat is running at a different speed due to the head seas. I try several different attitudes and angles to the waves, but nothing is very effective. It is just a rough ride upwind this morning for about an hour. Finally we reach "The Head," a broad headland on the southwest end of Isle Royale, where we can turn 45-degrees to the right and get the waves on our beam. The group loiters there for ten minutes to allow the trailing boats to catch up. Next we have a five mile run along the coast in beam seas, a much easier ride. Finally we turn hard right and run with the waves into Grace Harbor on the approach to Washignton Harbor. The following wind and seas are a welcome change.
From offshore it is six miles inland to reach the protection of Washington Harbor, and the wind follows us into the narrow recess. As we reach the docks, the wind is really blowing, up to 25-knots or more as it funnels in from the Lake, and the wind blown chop in the protected harbor is up to one-foot in height. I head for the fuel dock, which is outside of the protection of the lee of the large main dock. Approaching the fuel dock is tricky due to the strong wind and wave action, which sets us hard against the tall dock face. We land with a thud, but no damage to the rub rail of our boat.
Once at the dock we are greeted by John, whom we mistake for the fuel dock attendant. Actually, he's another Boston Whaler cruiser come to join our fleet, and we are pleased to meet him for the first time. As soon as we can, we warp our boat around the end of the pier to get it out of the wind and waves. Pat approaches the dock face in his boat, and we help to make him fast to the pier. We're both ready to take on some gasoline.
Getting gasoline turns out to be a project. The fuel dock is staffed by the camp store proprietress, and the store is about a quarter-mile away. We have to hike up to the store to notify her we need fuel. She has to temporarily lock-up the store and come down to the dock to sell us the fuel. She also gives us the bad news—the price here is still $5.40-per-gallon and the fuel is still from a delivery in 2008. However, she assures us that the fuel has been carefully checked and tested. It contains no water and the octane is still good.
We have arrived at Washington Harbor with only 21-gallons remaining. Since we are planning on circumnavigating the island, the trip back to Rock Harbor—the only other fuel dock—will be at least 60 miles. We also want to make several side trips along the way. It seems prudent to not skimp on fuel. We take on 30-gallons, bringing the tank level up to 51-gallons remaining. Now we hike back uphill a quarter mile to the store to pay.
Once finished with fueling, we head for the recently added floating docks nestled behind the long main pier which provides some protection. These lovely new docks were just installed this Spring by the Isle Royale Boaters Association. They make a wonderful addition to the facilities at Washington Harbor. Without them we'd have room for only one or two boats. By the time we reach the floating docks, the other six boats in the fleet have already filled all the slips, and we have to make another tricky docking. After a couple of tries, we manage to back stern first along the upwind side of the first floating dock, where there is about 15-feet of dock space for our 30-foot long boat. The crosswind pins us to the dock, and we use triple fenders to hold us off.
At sea we tend to coordinate our boat movements, but on land, and particularly when at a location with some facilities and attractions, each boat crew tends to go its own way. Soon everyone splits off into small groups, exploring the shore facilities, the docks, the ranger station, and various trails into the island interior.
Even late into the afternoon the wind is blowing quite strongly across the docks, which I think amplifies concern about the latest weather forecast: American weather radio is now talking about extraordinary conditions on Friday, with wave height forecasts of 17-foot seas and gale force winds from the N=northwest. This becomes the main topic of discussion among us.
The group has now reached its largest size, seven boats, and ten people. Perhaps a quick accounting is in order. Our boats and people are:
DEFIANCE 30 Defiance Craig and Bill Wisconsin INVICTUS 25 Outrage Cuddy Dave W. Michigan HOLLY MARIE 23 Walkaround John and Jack Minnesota TAMPICO 23 Conquest Dave Minnesota CONTINUOUSWAVE 22 Revenge WD Jim and Chris S.E. Michigan HOMEASIDE 22 Revenge Pat S.E. Michigan ADEQUATE 18 Dauntless Kevin S.E. Michigan
Among the group, all boats have come over from Copper Harbor except for TAMPICO and HOLLY MARIE, who have come from Grand Portage, Minnesota. Each crew is on a slightly different time table for their vacation. These factors all combine to cause the weather forecast to affect each boat and crew differently. The force binding us together—our shared interest in Boston Whaler boats—won't be sufficient to hold the group together against the onslaught of a forecast for high winds and rainy weather
Due to the size of DEFIANCE and its trailer, Craig and Bill have to get back to Copper Harbor, haul the boat, get on the road, and get back home before Friday evening. Highway regulations prohibit towing of an over-wide load on holiday weekends. They decide that tomorrow, Wednesday, will be a good day to head back. The weather will be good for a crossing to Copper Harbor. If they continue around the island with us, they'd have to push very hard to get back in time.
Kevin, whose 18-footer ADEQUATE is the smallest boat in our group, and who has been having the roughest ride in the seas conditions we've experienced so far, decides that he will go back with Craig and Bill. He's been worried about the 17-foot waves in the forecast, as well as rain. I also suspect that today's run of 30-miles into big head seas has left him more weary than those of us on larger boats.
Dave (from Minnesota) wants to get back before Friday, and he also decides to cut his trip short. If he continues farther he'll have a long run back to Grand Portage by himself and may face lousy weather in a day or two. He will be heading back to Minnesota tomorrow, too.
Our great cruising companion Dave (from Michigan) decides he has had enough of Washington Harbor already! He's not waiting for tomorrow to leave, and he takes off in the late afternoon to explore more of Isle Royale by himself. Dave's thinking was that the stop at Washington Harbor would only be for fuel and supplies. He sees now the fleet has tucked in for the day and looks unlikely to move. We had some very brief discussion about departing Washington Harbor for one of the nearby campsites with docks, but that plan found no other takers. There is so much going on at the dock that I actually do not notice Dave has left until very late in the afternoon.
We take a two-mile hike on a self-guided nature trail, then relax on the boat. One added attraction at Washington Harbor is the presence of DAHLFIN II with owner Bonnie Dahl aboard. She is the author of the definitive cruising guide to Lake Superior. We have a copy aboard, as does almost everyone in our group. We see Ms. Dahl return from a visit to shore, but she looks a bit tired, and we decline to impose on her as she goes aboard and heads immediately below.
For dinner Chris sets another splendid table: chicken kabobs, grilled peppers, and rice, washed down with some cold beers. The sun sets with a nice red sky, indicating fair weather tomorrow, and the wind finally blows itself out. We seem to have fallen out of the communications loop. Most of the boat crews have gone to attend a lecture at 7 p.m. given by a Park naturalist. We just relax and enjoy the view. The park facilities have nice bathrooms and showers. The showers are operated by $6-tokens—you hike up the hill to buy them. By 10 p.m. we are ready to turn in. Coming back from the showers our flashlight burns out. It is so dark that we literally cannot see the trail. Fortunately another camper comes along and guides us back to the docks. However, once on the dock it is again so dark that I can barely see the boat. I nearly fall into the lake before I get back aboard.
Hay Bay to Washington Harbor MILES = 37 (approximate) Rock Harbor to Washington Harbor Leg Totals MILES = 67.1 GALLONS = 26.2 MPG = 2.56 (lower due to rough seas)
Clouds, wind, and the threat of rain replace our fair weather this morning at Hay Bay. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
Strong winds from the West make our stern ensign snap on this brisk cool morning at the dock.
TAMPICO overtakes INVICTUS in head seas along the southwest shore of Isle Royale. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
The Head, at the southwest end of Isle Royale, is seen here in two- to three-foot seas. Photo by Pat Henahan.
It is a rough ride upwind for everyone, but not quite as rough on the big DEFIANCE 30-footer. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
Weary from rough seas, we decide not to join Dave on a run over to Rock of Ages Lighthouse. There are several shoals surrounding the light, and one must be careful when approaching. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
It is with great relief we turn downwind and begin an easy run into Grace Harbor. The weather has also improved, as the clouds are blown off to the east and the sun is out.
We follow TAMPICO into Grace Harbor on the way to Washington Harbor at Isle Royale's southwest end.
This Park Service 31-foot Bertram maneuvers smartly in a narrow space at the main dock at Washington Harbor. Behind her is the yacht DAHLFIN II. Photo by Dave Buckalew.
After tieing to the dock, we are pleased to find the 23-foot Boston Whaler HOLLY MARIE has come to join us with father and son crew Jack and John aboard. In the background the island ferry VOYAGEUR II prepares to sail from the main dock with paying passengers. Photograph by Pat Henahan.
Our fleet of six boats fills the newly built floating docks at Washington Harbor. Not here: INVICTUS, gone cruising solo for the day. The fuel dock is in the background. Photograph by John Raby.
A group shot at the dock at Washington Harbor. Front row: Jack, Pat, Jim, Kevin, Dave, Bill. Back row: John, Craig. Missing: Dave, Chris. Photograph via John Raby.
We take an afternoon hike into the interior of Isle Royale. Chris shows the trail interpretive literature as we begin to cross a bog.
The West wind finally blows out and a wonderful red sky appears at sunset. Photograph by John Raby.
|Wednesday, September 1, 2010
|Fair, Sunny, and Warm
|Southwest at 10
|Washington Harbor, Isle Royale
|47° 54.73' N; 089° 9.47' W
|McCargoe Cove, Isle Royale
|33.5-miles by boat
Marine Forecast issued by Environment Canada at 1030 Western Lake Superior Wave height 1-meter or less Winds northwest 15-knots backing to southwest 15-knots this afternoon and decreasing to light late tonight Thursday wind east 15-knots by afternoon. Rain and thunderstorms. Extended marine forecast: Friday wind northwest 20-knots increasing to north 35-knots in the afternoon Saturday wind north 30-knots Sunday wind northwest 15-knots Technical synopsis At 1030 today a quasi-stationary ridge on a NE-SW line over Pennsylvania At 1030 today a cold front NE-SW in eastern Lake Superior By 1030 Thursday a cold front NE-SW in western Lake Erie At 1030 today a HIGH 1016 mBar located over Minnesota By 1030 Thursday a HIGH 1016 mBar located over southern Hudson Bay By 1030 Thursday a deepening LOW 1002 mBar located over southern Manitoba
Upon departing the dock this morning we come to the realization that Dave and INVICTUS are not nearby at another dock among the offshore island as we thought, but rather nowhere to be found. This puts me into a bit of a quandary, as I do not like to leave port without all boats accounted for. The three homeward bound boats depart toward their destinations in Michigan (to the south) and Minnesota (to the west), leaving HOMEASIDE (Pat) and HOLLY MARIE (John and Jack) with us.
It's the 35-knot north wind forecast for Friday (see above) that sent everyone in a tizzy. We're planning on riding that out in a safe shelter like Rock Harbor, so we are not overly concerned about it for today's run. In fact, the weather today is perfect—the finest weather of the whole trip. The skies are beautifully clear, the temperature is still wonderfully warm, and the wind is down to a gentle breeze from the West. We are going to run along the northern shore of Isle Royale, in the lee of the winds, and the seas are very calm. Before getting on plane I contact the Ranger station on the radio, and I leave a message for Dave or other Boston Whaler boaters looking for us. We'll be at McCargoe Cove today and tonight.
The run to McCargoe Cove is wonderful. We cruise along at 32-MPH, turning 4,200-RPM, and making 2.7-MPG. We skim across the beautiful blue water of Superior, passing the packet boat VOYAGEUR II, which ferries passengers from campsite to campsite. To our Starboard we have the pristine wilderness of Isle Royale, and to Port we can see the hilly coastline of the Canadian shore about 25-miles away. The two other boats are a few miles ahead, and only the bubble trail of their wake disturbs the water surface. These are perfect conditions for a fast passage in a small boat.
About 25 miles up the northern coast of Isle Royale, as we reach Todd Harbor, we make radio contact with INVICTUS. A moment later we have Dave in sight. He has spent the night in a cove in Todd Harbor. I am much happier to have Dave back in the fleet. We continue on to the entrance to McCargoe Cove, where two buoys guide us through the ledges and shoals. We stop for lunch at Birch Island. The short dock there requires that we raft the boats two abreast.
The stop at Birch Island allows us to wait for the VOYAGEUR II to arrive and visit the main dock at McCargoe Cove. Throughout the park there are regulations about reserved times at certain docks to provide access for the park service boats to visit. Around 2:45 p.m. we see VOYAGEUR II leave the cove, which means the dock is now clear for our arrival. We slowly cruise the two miles down to the end of McCargoe Cove, admiring a few eagles soaring in the clear blue above, and looking in amazement at the SONAR echoes from large fish in the deep blue below.
At McCargoe Cove there is a long dock, and our four boats fill up the available space. For our shore activity we plan to visit the Minong Mines, located about a half-mile inland. (Minong is the Ojibwe name for Isle Royale and means "the good place.") We have a pleasant hike through the shaddy woods and along the hilly ridge, arriving at the mine site. The Indian natives discovered this close-to-the-surface vein of copper long ago, and in the 1880's it was commercially mined for a short time. There are two excavations, one vertical and one more horizontal. The more youthful and agile of our our group descend the vertical shaft. We walk around to the horizontal shaft. There is not much headroom in the mine, and one has to walk stooped over. I overestimate the clearance and hit my head. Ouch—a rock ceiling has no give. I have whacked my noggin on an outcrop of immovable stone. It hurts.
Chris and I walk back to the boat, ahead of the rest, where I medicate with a couple of Ibuprofen tablets and a cold beer—or two. I have a small laceration atop my head, and it bleeds a bit, but otherwise I am okay. Some ice water from the cooler washes off the blood and helps deaden the pain.
The view from the high dock is wonderful. We set up our chairs and grills, and have a relaxed cocktail hour with hors d'oeuvres contributed by all. We are in a remote and very quiet cove and all by ourselves. There are a few campers staying in lean-to cabins ashore, but they're several hundred yards away and mostly non-intrusive to our wilderness setting. Pat digs into his cooler and produces a huge plate of peeled shrimp with delicious cocktail sauce. This is the life! By dinner time we are all stuffed. Tonight's entrees are modest. We grill the remaining Chicken Kabobs along with some cherry tomatoes and rice. Another excellent meal.
During dinner another Boston Whaler comes slowly down the cove, and we are joined by Hal and Margaret. They've come across today from Grand Portage to Washington Harbor in their new 20-foot Boston Whaler EASTPORT, and they got word from the Park Ranger station about our whereabouts.
After dinner comes an unscheduled main attraction: nearby a moose walks out of the woods with her calf, and the two of them begin grazing on tree branches. We quietly walk over to observe. The smaller calf moose is spooked and takes off into the woods, but Mama-moose pays no attention to us. She spends the next ten hours grazing. Even at 3 a.m. I can hear the sound of branches being torn off and eaten.
A heavy dew begins to fall, a sign of cooler weather. We have been enjoying unusually warm weather on this trip, almost 90-degrees every day, brought to us by the strong southerly winds and the stationary HIGH pressure system. That is about to end.
Washington Harbor to McCargoe Cove MILES = 33.5 GALS = 12.3 MPG = 2.72
After meeting up with the missing INVICTUS, HOLLY MARIE gets back on plane and heads for McCargoe Cove. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
CONTINUOUSWAVE enters McCargoe Cove from Lake Superior. The red buoy is one of a very few aids to navigation we saw. Water clarity here is outstanding, and on a sunny day like this all shoals are clearly visible. Photograph by Pat Henahan.
We stop for lunch at Birch Island.
The departure of VOYAGEUR II from the cove is our signal to proceed to the dock there.
Our destination is just two miles down the way in McCargoe Cove. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
The long dock at McCargoe Cove accommodates our four boats without rafting. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
About the time we made the dock in McCargoe Cove, DEFIANCE was hauling out. The big Boston Whaler pushes the limit of "trailerable boat." Photograph by Kevin Albus.
We are on the trail to the Minong Mine, about one-half mile from the dock. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
The cautionary advice on this sign would prove to be prophetic.
The park service has a wooden guard rail around the entrance to the vertical mine shaft. Don't lean on it too hard.
The more brave among us descend into the shaft entrance of a second mine. Photograph by Pat Henahan.
Chris exits the mine via the horizontal shaft. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
Failure to keep my head down in the mine resulted in this minor head laceration. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
After applying the proper medication, I was feeling no pain from my head wound. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
Just in time to join us for dinner, Hal and Margaret arrive in their new EASTPORT. Pat lends a hand rafting up. In the background several hikers come down to the shore to get water. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
A perfectly quiet evening at the dock in McCargoe Cove.
Our after-dinner activity: moose watching at McCargoe Cove.
The moose, about 100-feet way, seems much less excited about seeing us than we are about seeing her.
Dusk at the dock in McCargoe Cove. We are back to a five-boat fleet.
|Thursday, September 2, 2010
|Overcast with unusual clouds, cooler
|Southwest and southeast at 15
|McCargoe Cove, Isle Royale
|48° 5.23' N; 088° 42.49' W
|Passage Island thence to Tobin Harbor, Isle Royale
|27.4-miles by boat
I missed the morning forecast, but here is last evening's:
Marine Forecast issued by Environment Canada at 1830 Wednesday Western Lake Superior Wind southwest 15-knots decreasing to light by late evening Wednesday, then backing to southeast 15 by noon Thursday, and veering to northwest 20-knots Thursday evening. Showers Thursday afternoon. Risk of thunderstorms. Extended marine forecast Friday northwest winds 15-knots increasing to northwest 35-knots after noon (Gale Force!) Saturday north winds at 30-knots Sunday northwest wind at 15-knots Technical synopsis At 1830 Wednesday quasi-stationary Cold Front NE to SW over Lake Huron At 1830 Wednesday dissipating HIGH 1014 mBar over Wisconsin At 1830 Wednesday a LOW 1003 mBar located over southern Saskatchewan By 1830 Thursday a deepening LOW 1000 mBar over Lake of the Woods
We depart McCargoe Cove dock around 10:30 a.m., and by 11 a.m. we are out to Lake Superior. The weather is much cooler today, and the sky is filled with strangely shaped low gray clouds. The water is a dark gray, and shoals are impossible to see. We proceed to Passage Island, entering a cove on the south shore of the island through a narrow entrance, relying completely on the advice from Bonnie Dahl's book to guide us. We tie to a dock at an old boat house on the West side of the cove, rafting two and three abreast. Then we hike inland about a mile to the southwest end of the island where the Passage Island Light still shines from a masonry tower built in 1881. We explore the lighthouse grounds; all the buildings are locked and carry stern warnings not to enter. Then we hike back to the cove and have lunch—tuna from a can with a bagel.
While we have been away, the wind—as forecasted—has come up from the southeast, and there are breakers in the entrance channel. I am in a hurry to depart before the waves get too big. Once lunch is finished we break up the rafts and head out to sea. The waves are rolling in from the southeast and bouncing off the steep shoreline of the island. From the narrow entrance to about a half-mile offshore the wave conditions are miserable. It is like boating in a blender. We push through the mixed seas as fast as we can.
Once away from Passage Island, we run in the three-foot cross seas back to Isle Royale. We enter the long, narrow, and well protected confines of Tobin Harbor. Just as we reach calm water, a heavy rain shower begins. On small islets at the eastern end of the inlet there are a few cottages, apparently not part of the National Park. These cottages remain in private hands from a lease agreement made decades ago with their owners. The rustic cottages are in an original state, as no improvements are allowed.
At Tobin Harbor we fortunately find the boat docks almost empty, and all five boats can easily take refuge, each in their own slip. Another long dock here is reserved for use by sea planes, which fly in park visitors who have a more extravagant travel budget than those coming by boat. Soon after we arrive, a small seaplane lands and comes to the dock with new Park visitors and picks up a few departing campers.
A hiking trail leads to Rock Harbor, a ten minute walk across the small ridge of the narrow peninsula. At Rock Harbor we have access to bathrooms, showers, stores, the Ranger station, two restaurants, more docks, and fuel.
A light rain continues and the temperature drops, dampening and chilling our enthusiasm for cooking dinner at the dock. We all agree to treat ourselves to a meal at the Rock Harbor Lodge main restaurant dining room. There we enjoy a group dinner, warm and dry, at a long table in the cozy restaurant. Curiously, here in a rustic and remote island in the upper Midwest, our waitresses are two young girls from Japan who barely speak English. We make our dinner selections known by a lot of pointing at the menu. These summer jobs, and many others like them on the island, are filled by student-contractors, and often attract young people from overseas who want to visit America for the summer.
MILES = 27.4 GALS = 9.9 MPG = 2.77
In transiting the shoals outside McCargoe Cove today, the red and green buoys are very welcome aids on this cloudy and overcast morning. Without direct sunlight from high overhead, the shoal water is much more difficult—almost impossible—to see.
In addition to the missing sun and much cooler temperature, the change in weather also brings these very odd low-altitude lenticular cloud formations.
Pat has HOMEASIDE running on plane as we head northeast through the Amygdaloid Channel.
HOLLY MARIE runs in rough seas past Passage Island Light. The wind has stripped siding from the outbuilding. The angle of the solar panel array reveals the anticipated low sun angle here at 48-degrees North latitude. The dark rocks show the level of regular wave action. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
Dave maneuvers INVICTUS to tie-up to the dock at this old boat house in the cove on the southeast shore of Passage Island. From here a nice trail leads overland to the lighthouse. Photograph by John Raby.
From a high spot on Passage Island we get this wonderful view of the Canadian shoreline of Lake Superior near Thunder Bay, about 20 miles away. The profile of a giant in repose (head at right) is often attributed to this formation.
Our first view of the Canadian shoreline to the northwest. Upon seeing it we have the natural reaction: let's go there next.
Margaret, Hal, Chris, Dave, John, Jack, and Pat pause for this group photo on our hike across Passage Island from the cove to the lighthouse. I have taken this from the trail above them, which disguises their height above the water—about 100-feet from this lookout.
Chris and I on the narrow path to Passage Island Light. After being on the boat all morning, the hike invigorates Chris. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
Passage Island Lighthouse was build in 1881 to guide ships throught the three and a half mile gap between the island and the northeast tip of Isle Royale. The helipad was a more recent addition.
To lift supplies from lake level to the lighthouse, an inclined railway was constructed. It also makes a nice ramp to descend back to the lake. Having fought hard to gain this elevation above the lake, we decline to give it up and remain at the upper level.
The inclined railway terminates near this small pier. A supply barge could enter this cove and offload materials for the lighthouse. Dave and company survey the cove as a possible small boat landing site.
The inclined railway leads to this turntable. We presume the shed houses a winch used to raise and lower the small railroad cart. The other track leads to the lighthouse.
Once raised to the turntable, the cart was rotated onto this track and pushed to the lighthouse. In all, it is a rather crafty system of loading supplies from the lake to the light.
The fine craftsmanship of the stone masons who built this tower in 1881 can still be appreciated. The sign on the door contains a warning about the fog horn diaphone sound pressure level, should it be activated.
Hiking back across the island takes us through a low-lying micro-climate where the trees are covered with moss. This seems out of place for a remote island in northern Lake Superior.
We return for lunch on our boats, tied alongside the old boat house pier.
Some prior visitors fashioned these steel wire rope mooring bights. They seem securely anchored into the building structure, although we do not investigate further.
The other three boats raft across the face of the boat house dock and use more conventional tie-up's. The steep walls of the cove make for excellent protection from the wind.
As the wind increased from the southeast, the entrance to the small cove began to build with breaking waves. We will not linger long after lunch. We leave the cove and return directly to Isle Royale and Tobin Harbor.
CONTINUOUSWAVE entering Tobin Harbor just before the rain starts. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
Dave on INVICTUS. As we motor slowly into the protection of Tobin Harbor, a light rain begins, the first of our trip. On the small island in the background is one of a few private cottages in the park, still available to their original owners or descendants under a long-term lease agreement.
Pat on HOMEASIDE. With his camper canvas, Pat has the most cockpit area under weather protection.
Jack on HOLLY MARIE. He will wear this orange Mustang jacket or float coat for the remainder of the trip. We all envy its combination of warmth, floatation, and weather protection.
Hal and Margaret on EASTPORT. The factory weather canvas comes in very handy on this initial cruise with their new boat.
By late afternoon we have all five boats made fast to the docks at Tobin Harbor. A seaplane arrives to ferry a few select passengers off the island before the gale arrives. Note that my boat is moored stern-in. I was planning ahead for a quick exit! Photograph by Pat Henahan.
The combination of his large canvas enclosure and a propane heater makes Pat's boat the gathering spot at Tobin Harbor. Jack, John, and Dave warm up. Pat's excellent varnish work also shows well here. Photograph by Pat Henahan.
Dave hikes over to the Ranger Station at Rock Harbor and memorializes the weather forecast. Tomorrow's weather will live up to the predictions. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
By late afternoon Thursday the weather has deteriorated, and we are glad to be in Tobin Harbor for the evening. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
|Friday, September 3, 2010
|Cold, cloudy, very windy
|Light, but about to increase
|Tobin Harbor, Isle Royale
|48° 8.88' N; 088° 29.15' W
|Rock Harbor, Isle Royale
|9.5-miles by boat
Marine Forecast issed by Environment Canada at 0300 Friday: Western Lake Superior GALE WARNING Winds variable at 10-knots early this morning, increasing to west 15 to 20-knots, then increasing to north 40-knots at noon. A few showers. Risk of thunderstorms. Extended Marine Forecast Sunday winds northwest 25-knots decreasing to light late in the day. Monday winds light. Tuesday wind west 15-knots. Wave height 1-meter building to 3-meters, subsiding to 2-meters after wind shift, and subsiding to 1-meter Saturday evening Technical Synopsis At 0300 Friday a deepening LOW 999 mBar over central Lake Superior By 0300 Saturday a LOW 993 mBar near Whitefish Bay By 0300 Saturday a trough from Lake Superior to Ohio
With the winds forecast to build to gale force, we're starting earlier than usual. We depart Tobin Harbor at 9:50 a.m., heading slowly for Rock Harbor. The wind is light from the West and we are in the lee of the island, so seas are very calm. A light rain is falling and there is fog; visibility is about 0.25-miles. Tobin Harbor will be sheltered from the gale, but Rock Harbor will be an even better shelter, as it is on the south side of the island and the boat harbor almost completely encircled by land. We leave our cruising mates, who plan to follow soon.
At Rock Harbor we find the fuel dock occupied by a large sailboat which has just arrived a few minutes earlier after an all-night passage across Lake Superior from the Canadian north shore. We tie up at an adjacent slip and wait for the sailors to clear the fuel dock. They've been out cruising for a week or more, and they're taking on diesel fuel, replenishing their fresh water tanks, and pumping out their holding tanks. It takes them a while.
About 11 a.m. the sailboat is ready to depart the fuel dock, but there are complications. Due to a 7-foot draft and the low water level, there is not enough water at most of the docks for this big boat. After some careful sounding with a long pole, the skipper decides the deepest dock is the one our boat is presently tied to. We agree to swap places.
We move to the fuel dock and take on 25-gallons of gasoline, now reduced in price to $3.90/gallon. When done we quickly move over to another slip and carefully make the boat fast to the pier. The wind is beginning to increase noticeably, blowing off the fog. Curiously, no one else has arrived from Tobin Harbor. We give the fleet a call on the radio to learn where they are.
With the arrival of heavy rain showers and further reduced visibility, the other four boats have decided to remain at the sea plane docks in Tobin Harbor and to ride out the storm there. CONTINUOUSWAVE will be spending the day here in Rock Harbor alone.
Later in the morning the 100-foot ISLE ROYALE QUEEN IV ferry arrives from Copper Harbor. The captain decides to weather the gale here, and the return trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula is cancelled. Quite a few campers are now stranded on Isle Royale for the night.
We have lunch aboard, under our canvas in the cockpit. A hot cup of soup, humus, and crackers make a good meal today. We discover that some of our clothes are wet due to a leak in a cooler we were using as a storage locker on deck. A few strips of duct tape re-seals the cooler. We gather all the damp clean clothes and make a run over to the pavilion, where there is an electric clothes dryer. One $2 cycle in the dryer gives us warm and dry clothes. While the clothes spin in the dryer, we take a $6 hot shower to warm up. There is not much to do today. The wind is really blowing and there are intermittent showers. We read books and listen to the weather radio some more.
Marine Forecast issed by Environment Canada at 1330 Friday Western Lake Superior GALE WARNING Winds variable at 20-knots increasing to north at 40-knots, decreasing to north at 30-knots late tonight, then backing to west at 25-knots early Saturday. Showers. Risk of thunderstorms. MAFOR 12923 19929 12853 11856 12846 15736 Wave height 3-meters, decreasing to 2-meters late, then decreasing to 1-meter early Saturday. Technical synopsis at 1330 At 1330 today a LOW 992 mBar over northeast Lake Superior By 1330 Saturday a LOW 993 mBar over Green Bay At 1330 today a trough on a line from Lake Nippissing to Lake Erie By 1330 Saturday a north-south ridge over North Dakota
About 4 p.m. all boat crews reconvene at the Hiker's Lounge, a nice room with a wonderful view of the south shore. We make a fire in a big stone fireplace and exchange digital pictures between cameras and computers. At 6:30 p.m. we move over to the snack bar grill. It is packed with campers, as everyone wants to get out of the cold, the wind, and the rain. There are a few empty seats at the crowded tables, and rather than wait, everyone just sits down with people already eating, making new, impromptu friends. We have greasy cheeseburgers with grilled onions, lettuce, and tomato on grilled sourdough bread and french fries—very tasty!
After dinner we return to the lodge room, stoke the fire with some more logs, and watch a slide show on Dave's computer of all the trip pictures so far. The group breaks up around ten o'clock. We return to our boat. Through the night the wind continues to blow steadily from the north, and the temperature drops into the 40's. We ride very comfortably at the dock in Rock Harbor with almost no motion on the boat. There is no problem sleeping through this storm. In Tobin Harbor to the north, there is more wind and waves, but everyone manages to stay warm, augmented somewhat by Pat's propane heater.
MILES = 9.9 GALS = 1.43 MPG = 6.6
I am sorry to say that I do not have any photographs of the 17-foot waves that developed during the gale. We spent most of the day securely tied to the dock.
With a gale blowing outside, we found a nice warm shelter at the Hiker's Lounge, part of the facilities at Rock Harbor Lodge.
We take turns sitting close to the fireplace. Photograph by John Raby.
Tobin Harbor provided good protection from the the northwest gale-force winds, although some wind and waves do turn the corner and blow into the deep inlet. The empty slip between HOLLY MARIE and EASTPORT is where we were moored this morning. We left before the rain and wind hit around 10:30 a.m. Photograph by John Raby.
Hal and Margaret lean into the wind, with a bit of exaggeration. Photograph by Dave Buckalew
Looking south from the deck of the Rock Harbor Lodge, the winds form whitecaps just a few hundred feet off the shore. Photograph by John Raby.
At the peak of the gale you can clearly see the wind gusts in the forming waves. As these waves travel south the 60-miles to the Keweenaw Peninsula, they will grow in height to over 15-feet. Photograph by Dave Buckalew
Pat and Jack take a cocktail break at the Lodge Grill during the afternoon of the gale. No one wanted to cook out, so we ended up having dinner there, too. Photograph by John Raby.
|Saturday, September 4, 2010
|Still very cold but no rain
|One-foot or less
|Rock Harbor, Isle Royale
|48° 8.76' N; 088° 29.14' W
|Chippewa Harbor, Isle Royale
|17-miles by boat
Marine Forecast Issued by Environment Canada Western Lake Superior STRONG WIND WARNING Wind northwest at 30-knots, diminishing to 20-knots this evening, then backing to West at 20-knots near noon Sunday, and backing to southwest 20-knots Sunday evening. A few showers ending early evening. In MAFOR 11746 14736 11730 15720 11720 12520 Technical synopsis At 0300 this morning a LOW 993 mBar located northwest of Green Bay By 0300 Sunday a LOW 987 mBar located over northern Quebec. At 0300 this morning a Ridge located north-to-south over North Dakota By 0300 Sunday a Ridge located north-to-south over Missouri. Extended Marine Forecast Monday light West wind increasing to south 20-knots late in the day. Tuesday winds south 20-knots increasing to west 30-knots. Wednesday winds west 30-knots diminishing to northwest 15-knots. Marine forecast Eastern Lake Superior Waves height 5-meters (!)
I sleep-in until 8:45 a.m., finally awakening to a cold morning. The rain has stopped, but the wind is still strong enough to sway the tree tops on shore. However, the center of the storm has passed and is now well to the east of us.
We make radio contact with Dave on INVICTUS over in Tobin Harbor. Everyone weathered the storm without too much discomfort, but there is now a huge problem: the hydraulic steering has malfunctioned on INVICTUS. There is normal resistance in the actuator ram, but the steering wheel at the helm just spins easily without applying any force to the outboard motor tillers. We try to brainstorm the cause and the cure. I am afraid the hydraulic pump at the steering wheel is shot, and repairs will be difficult. Dave makes contact with the Ranger Station at Mott Island. They have a mechanic there who may be able to help. John and Jack on HOLLY MARIE take INVICTUS in tow with Pat and Dave onboard, and proceed slowly toward Mott Island.
At Mott Island a small miracle takes place. It just so happens that the hydraulic steering on INVICTUS is of the precise same type and vintage as used on many of the older Park Service Bertram boats, and their long-time mechanic, a fellow named Thor, is extremely familiar with the gear. He immediately (correctly) diagnoses the problem: loss of air pressure from a unusual and hidden reserve air tank. (I suspect that the 50-degree temperature drop and 992-mBar atmospheric pressures may have contributed to the failure of the air tank to hold pressure.) With pressurized air from a portable tank, Thor re-pressurizes the helm pump on Dave's boat, which restores the steering gear to normal working condition. This is an amazing outcome! Dave's problem is cured in literally a few moments, and—best of all—there is no charge!
After the miracle on Mott Island, everyone returns to Rock Harbor, where we relax at the docks and have a late lunch. Hal and Margaret on EASTPORT depart for a slow cruise of Rock Harbor's calm water to the southwest, heading for Moskey Basin, and we agree to meet them later at Edisen Fishery. After re-calculating my fuel supply, I decide that a few gallons extra couldn't hurt. Instead of moving the boat back to the fuel dock, I borrow a five-gallon jerry can from Dave to store the fuel until later. When everyone is again ready for sea, we depart, cruising slowly down the protected water of Rock Harbor to visit Edisen Fishery.
We arrive at Edisen Fishery about 4 p.m. The dock there is exposed to the fresh breeze from the West, and there are some small waves coming in. The sky is very overcast and gray, and it is difficult to read the depth from the color of the water. CONTINUOUSWAVE is first to approach the dock, and we discover some rather shoal water as we maneuver. Fortunately, no damage occurs. We are lucky—it is so easy to become complacent about navigation. We've been cruising Isle Royale for a week, and we momentarily forgot to be prudent about coming close to shore. Just because there is a dock on shore does not automatically guarantee there will be deep water surrounding it in every direction.
The Edisen Fishery is locked up. We have arrived too late in the season for the Park to have a guide stationed there to provide a tour. However, we make a short hike over to the Rock Harbor Lighthouse, which is still open. We climb to the top of the 1850's stone tower and enjoy a nice view of Lake Superior. The weather becomes very cooperative, and the sun returns to enhance our view. Just as we hike back to the dock, we happen to meet Michigan Technological University Professor Rolfe Petersen and his wife, who for several decades have been spending their summers here on Isle Royale studying the interaction of the wolf and moose populations. They're about to cast off in their small boat for another destination, but they invite us all to visit their field research headquarters and see the moose exhibits there. We hike about a quarter-mile to the southwest through the woods along a very narrow trail, arriving at the Bangsund Cottage. There we find all sorts of interesting displays, including a presentation of about 150 moose skulls with antlers attached. It is actually a bit spooky, and gives me the feeling of being in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
After hiking back to the dock, we are rejoined by EASTPORT, and our fleet of five boats heads back to open water to run over to Chippewa Harbor for the night. On the big lake the seas are delightfully small. I push the throttle to maximum, and we fly over Lake Superior's deep water at almost 43-MPH. We reach our destination rather late in the afternoon, and find the dock face filled with two 35-foot cruisers that have come over from Copper Harbor for the holiday weekend. After a brief caucus via radio to discuss alternative destinations, we decide to stay here, but we'll go to anchor in the inner harbor, about a mile further inland.
In the farthest recess of the deep inlet we form a raft of five boats with three anchors set. The wind drops to nothing. The overcast sky clears. The sun begins its slow descent to the Western horizon. The center boat in the raft, HOLLY MARIE, deploys a propane grill from its bow railing, and we have an extended dinner party, accumulating appetizers from all the boats and slowly grilling the last of our food for the main courses. Chris digs out two beautiful steaks from the cooler and I toss them on a common grill. It is a bit late by the time we cut into them—about 9 p.m.—but we can't remember a better meal. Far from any electric lights, and with the moon not rising until very late, the sky is filled with stars. The International Space Station makes another beautiful transit overhead. It is a terrific evening—cruising at its best.
MILES = 15.5 (approximate)
The lodge building and Hiker's Lounge where we stayed warm and dry during the day of the storm. Photograph by John Raby.
CONTINUOUSWAVE after the gale—a storm of unusual strength for this time of year. The closeness to the north shore gives us great shelter. Our most risk was perhaps our canvas coming loose in the wind or a tree falling. Over fifteen trees did come down in the vicinity of the Lodge during the storm.
John rigs this crafty towing bridle from the stern cleats of HOLLY MARIE and takes INVICTUS in tow to Mott Island from Tobin Harbor. Photograph by John Raby.
The Park Service's boat mechanic Thor investigates the problem with the hydraulic steering on INVICTUS. Photograph by John Raby.
Re-pressurizing an air reservoir restores the hydraulic steering to operation. Dave's delight is evident from his smile. Photograph by John Raby.
Dave gets underway from the Rock Harbor dock after the repair. What a great feeling to have INVICTUS running again! Photograph by John Raby.
In the late afternoon the fleet visits Edisen Fishery. My engine is tilted up to inspect for damage from briefly touching the bottom on the way to the dock. Fortunately, all is fine.
The sun very obligingly appears and provides the wonderful lighting for this picture; this is the Rock Harbor Lighthouse, first illuminated in 1856.
The lighthouse tower is open, and we climb to the gallery for this view. The last of the foul weather is heading east over Lake Superior.
If there is a dangerous place to climb or stand, Dave will find it. Photograph by John Raby.
Dave's high perch and telephoto lens got this long shot of the 165-foot RANGER III as it departed for Houghton, Michigan, from Rock Harbor. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
By chance we bumped into Professor Rolfe Petersen (left), who has been camping on Isle Royale and studying its wolf and moose populations for several decades. Note our appropriate summer boating dress. Photograph by John Raby.
Visitors to Bangsund Cottage are guided by this map.
Our introduction to the MOOSEum.
This collection of about 150 Moose antlers seemed almost macabre.
With no room at the dock, we motor deeper into Chippewa Harbor to find an anchorage. Photograph by John Raby.
Jack handles the anchor on HOLLY MARIE. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
After a long day of boating and hiking, we raft up for the evening and break out the hors d'oeuvres.
Amazingly, Pat produces more shrimp to supplement the nuts, chips, salsa, cheese and crackers. Our coolers still have cold beer, too. Photograph by John Raby.
John has rigged a Magma grill to the bow pulpit of HOLLY MARIE. Pat tends to his steak.
Pat removes his enormously thick steak from the grill. Pat's boat won first place for best food onboard. Photograph by John Raby.
INVICTUS, CONTINUOUSWAVE, and EASTPORT on a late summer evening. Photograph by John Raby.
Our view to the south as the sun began to lower—spectacular lighting! Photograph by John Raby.
|Sunday, September 5, 2010
|Southwest at 15
|Chippewa Harbor, Isle Royale
|46° 1.06' N; 088° 40.51' W
|Copper Harbor, Michigan
|55-miles by boat
Marine Forecast from Environment Canada issued at 0300 Sunday Western Lake Superior Wave height 1-meter or less Wind northwest 15-knots backing to west 15-knots this afternoon, then diminishing to variable 10-knots this evening. Wind increasing to northeast 15-knots Monday morning, then increasing to northeast 25-knots Monday afternoon. Extended Marine Forecast Tuesday wind east 20-knots increasing to northeast 30-knots in the morning. Wednesday windnorthwest 20-knots. Thursday wind north 15-knots. Technical synopsis: At 0300 today a quasi-stationary LOW 987 mBar over James Bay At 0300 today a RIDGE northeast-to-southwest located over Minnesota By 0300 Monday a RIDGE north-to-south over the eastern United States By 0300 Monday a LOW 995 mBar located over Nebraska
This morning we awake to a crystal clear sky and a cold sunrise in a cove with glass-calm water. A very heavy dew has fallen. We have plans to have a lengthy and elaborate group breakfast while still rafted up, but about 9 a.m. the wind comes up, and we decide it will be better to get underway, before the wind and waves build up. Dave helps me add the last five gallons of gasoline to my tank, and I return his jerry can. We break up the raft, and slowly depart Chippewa Harbor. CONTINUOUSWAVE, INVICTUS, and HOMEASIDE will be heading southeast to Copper Harbor. HOLLY MARIE and EASTPORT will stay behind and continue their circumnavigation of Isle Royale, heading back to Washington Harbor. Around 10 a.m. we are setting out into open water.
The seas are a mixture of remnant two- to three-foot swells from the north and building waves from the west-northwest. All three boats are able to run on plane at 23 to 28-MPH, and we stay in close sight of each other. About five miles out from the Keweenaw Peninsula, we see a big freighter steaming Westward, directly into the seas. He is taking spray 20-feet high to his railings. I am glad we are again going mostly downwind and with the seas.
We reach the entrance of Copper Harbor just about noon. Strangely, as Dave idles back on INVICTUS, one engine dies and will not restart. This is the first engine malfunction on any of our boats during the trip. Fortunately, it happens only a mile from the end of our adventure. He continues on one engine and goes directly to the launch ramp.
Due to the fast crossing at optimum fuel efficiency, we have arrived with plenty of fuel; about 30.5-gallons remain. We could have bought less fuel on Isle Royale, but it was comfortable to make the crossing with plenty of reserve in the tank. The boating portion of our vacation has ended, with 263.4-miles on the log.
On land, it is another warm and sunny day. While Dave and Pat haul their boats, I take a few minutes to check over my trailer. I jack up each tire, spin it to check the brake clearance, and make some more adjustments. It is much easier to work on the brake adjustors when the boat is not on the trailer. By 3 p.m. we have hauled all the boats and made them ready for the road trip home. Although for the first several hundred miles we will all be traveling the same route, we agree that it is not necessary to maintain a formation or caravan. We'll all go at our own pace. I tend to drive a bit more slowly than my mates.
Once out of the hilly terrain of the Keweenaw, we stop for fuel in Baraga at the Indian gas station. The price has risen to $2.62-per-gallon. We add 28-gallons to the truck—$75 worth.
Around 7:45 p.m. we pull off at a highway rest stop in the Seney National Wildlife area, and we are pleasantly surprised to find both Dave and Pat have also stopped there. The roadside park has a nice charcoal grill, and we have an impromptu dinner together, grilling up some hot dogs and sausages we have leftover. We relax for about an hour, and get back on the highway around 8:50 p.m., just as darkness falls.
Everyone wants to leave Michigan's Upper Peninsula tonight because tomorrow is Labor Day. On Labor Day the Mackinac Bridge has its annual bridge walk, and vehicle traffic backs up for miles. To avoid that delay, we are driving late into the evening to cross the bridge and reach the Lower Peninsula.
Just before 11 p.m. we cross the Mackinac Bridge. I don't recall any prior crossings at night. The view from the center of the five-mile span is wonderful. We see the lights of several ships approaching.
After crossing the bridge, we begin to discuss where we might stop for the night. Mackinaw City is a tourist destination, and motels are expensive and tend to be full. We have enough gas to continue, so we drive on. About 11:50 p.m. we arrive at Gaylord, 60-miles south, where we stop for gas and some coffee. I have caught my second wind, and I don't feel like stopping now.
Chippewa Harbor to Copper Harbor MILES = 55 by boat Copper Harbor to Gaylord MILES = 372 by car
The morning comes clear and cool—very cool as you can see by all the dew and condensation on the boats and their canvas. Photograph by John Raby.
CONTINUOUSWAVE un-rafts from INVICTUS, whose engines are warming up. Chris fends off at the stern while I haul in the anchor. Photograph by John Raby.
Even deep in Chippewa Harbor's protection, the breeze is strong from the west-northwest by mid-morning. We decide to get underway without further delay.
HOLLY MARIE looks great in the morning sun, as we enjoy a slow exit from a terrific anchorage.
HOMEASIDE heading for home in new building wind waves and remnant old swell, leftover from the gale two days ago. Photograph by Dave Buckalew.
|Monday, September 6, 2010
|45° 1.63' N; 084° 41.69' W
|Beverly Hills, Michigan
|216-miles by car
Just at midnight we get back on the highway. Traffic is very light. We can cruise along at 55-MPH without being passed continually by an endless procession of other cars and trucks in a big hurry. It's a pleasant summer night, no rain, no wind, and we continue on.
At some point we traverse an equilibrium where we are close enough to our home that staying at a motel would be a senseless extravagance. We press on, driving more slowly—about 45 to 50-MPH—and stopping to stretch and refresh at almost every rest area, typically about once an hour. In this manner we continue to almost 5 a.m., until we pull into our own driveway, the end of one long day of boating (60-miles) and one very long night of driving (588-miles).
We sleep in our own bed for the first time in ten days. It has been a long trip, we're tired, and it is good to be home a day early.
The total of miles run, engine hours, and fuel used are shown below, along with an accounting of some expenses for the trip.
MILES HOURS GALS MPG GPH MPH TOTAL 263.4 15.5 99.5 AVERAGE 2.65 6.40 17
Gasoline LOCATION GALS PRICE COST Laurium 43.0 $2.79 $119.97 Copper Harbor 13.7 3.85 52.64 Washington Hbr 30.0 5.40 162.00 Rock Harbor 30.0 3.90 117.00 ------------------------------------ TOTALS 116.7 $451.61 AVERAGES $3.87 Oil LOCATION GALS PRICE COST Lockeman's 2.0 $30 $60 TOTAL (Gasoline and Oil) $511.61
Launch $ 0 Copper Harbor 33 Isle Royale 64 TOTAL $97.00
Harvey, COUNTRY CAFE $20 Copper Harbor, HARBOR HAUS 60 Rock Harbor, Dining Room 70 Rock Harbor, Grill 25 TOTAL $175
1,200-miles at approximately 11-MPG = 109-gallons 109-gallons at approximately $2.80 Gas = $305 Tolls = 14 TOTAL = $319
Copyright © 2010 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!
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Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared December 2010.