Friday I worked while Melanie, Mary and Mike walked around and explored Mackinaw City. Later in the day, Mary and Steve came to visit. They are our dock neighbors from home and they live in Ann Arbor. We enjoyed hanging out with them and that evening went to dinner with them at a very interesting place. It had a log cabin feel to it and it was obvious the owners were hunters; it was filled with taxidermy from all parts of the world.
We walked around after dinner and window shopped before returning to the boat for an early night. We were up bright and early and ready to tackle Mackinac island. We caught the 9:00 am ferry which takes a slightly longer route and talks a bit about the history of the island and the bridge. It was good that we arrived early, it wasn’t too crowded but that would change later in the day. We disembarked and exited the ferry terminal to a horse drawn wagon standing right in front of us. Windsor started barking, he has never seen horses and probably thought they were really big dogs! The island has no mechanical vehicles, only horse drawn carriages and bicycles, so it changes the whole balance of the island. They have 1 doctor and 5 veterinarians living on the island!
We walked up to the Grand hotel and then followed the route the tourist wagons take around through the state park to the fort and then walked back and forth along the main Street. We had a very interesting day seeing the sights and just people watching. In case you did not know, the movie “Somewhere In Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed here using the hotel as a backdrop. There were a few spots on the island marked as places where scenes were filmed. The pictures below are from one of those stores. And, if you like chick-flicks, this is a must see!
We stopped for a bite to eat at an outdoor patio in the back of one of the hotels and then returned to the ferry for the quick trip home. We were exhausted from all of the walking and pretty much just sat and did nothing for a few hours before taking the dog for a short walk. Right when we did that a parade of Corvettes passed by. There was a Corvette meetup in town that weekend and there must have been 200 or more cars in the parade. We watched that and then headed back to the boat for the night.
Sunday morning came with sunshine and promising winds. The forecast was for southerly winds which were favorable, so we filled up the water tanks, unhooked the electric and headed out into the lake. We started off sailing with a reefed jib and full mainsail and even with that we were making six to seven knots! It was a great sailing day.
The wind fizzled later in the day and then clocked to the southeast which made our destination directly into the wind!. With 10 miles to go the wind piped up from the New direction and soon we were galloping over waves to our destination. When we arrived we tried to drop anchor and picked up so many weeds that the anchor would not bite into the lake bed. We tried twice then decided to leave the harbor and anchor behind the break wall in the shelter of and out of the waves. I dropped the anchor into clear sand in about 8 ft of water and it bit in immediately,and Melanie headed below to cook us a quick dinner while we relaxed from the crazy ride.
We lowered the dinghy after finishing our dinner and rode into shore to walk the dog on the beach. It was like being at the ocean, hard to believe that it is a fresh water lake. Around sunset we headed back to the boat and closed up for the night. We were expecting storms so we prepared for them but all we got was a light drizzle later in the evening.
Next morning we raised anchor and turned for Presque Isle. The wind was out of the South between 15 and 20 knots but because we were relatively close to shore, there weren’t very many large waves so we moved very fast. 34 miles later we arrived before 2:30 having started after 9:00 a.m. . Melanie said she saw 8 knots a few times on the speedometer! That is pretty fast for our boat. We spent most of the morning over 6 so while it was quite a bouncy ride for me down below, at 2:30 I was sitting upright and safely at anchor in Presque Isle.
After work I lowered the dinghy and went over to pick up Mike and Mary for dinner. We had decided to make this a two day stay as the weather forecast called for bad winds the following day. Melanie made a delicious hot meal of chicken with a lemon sauce over noodles – it always feels good to warm your belly after a good sail. We dropped Mary and Mike off after dinner and went ashore to a small park to walk the dog. There was not much there so we headed over to the rocky shore at the entrance of the bay. It was remote and beautiful. We enjoyed the sights until the flies started biting, then hopped into the dinghy and headed back to the boat for the night. We were prepared the next day to wait the weather out, but while sitting in the cockpit enjoying breakfast, a fellow sailor from Sandusky sailed by – Island Dancer – he said the wind was great and we should leave now. I tried to start working and to my surprise, I could not get an internet connection. The previous day was great, yet nothing today. So that, along with the “forecast” from Bruce led to us raising anchor and heading towards Harrisville.
The first half of the trip was fine and within a few miles, I had reception again as we were close to Alpena. The second half of the trip was not so nice. Crossing Thunder Bay the wind piped up to over 30 knots and while we were moving fast, waves were crashing over the boat and working below was like trying to sit in a dryer and work while its on the spin cycle! I was down on the floor as low as I could go while the boat was getting flung about mercilessly. Melanie put up a clear shower curtain to help keep the wind and water out of the cockpit and that was quite effective for her. I was down below, getting flung about but nevertheless dry. There were squalls rolling through the area, but thankfully they passed either behind or ahead of us and we did not get rained on.
After a long hard day we arrived in Harrisville, all beat up and thankful for the shelter and calm of the harbor. Melanie made a quick Spaghetti and egg dinner which we wolfed down and then she made it clear that ice cream was in order for dessert. After her long day at the helm, I couldn’t say no🙂 We dropped the dinghy and headed into shore where we ran into a little concert in the park! Open mike night. We stopped to listen to some music; I had looked at the store times on line and it said they closed at 10pm, so we had plenty of time.
An older lady came over to pet Windsor and we started chatting and in the course of the conversation, ice cream came up. “No”, she said, “I think the store closes at 8pm”. It was 8:10. “Let me ask the owner” she said. She walked over to a young couple and started talking to them. She motioned for us to come over – she was taking to the store owner who said it was closed, but after hearing our story of the windy day on the water she drove us to the store and served us herself! We got our ice cream after all and sat outside in the fading light stuffing our faces. I LOVE small towns! We strolled back and as we arrived at the marina, the impromptu concert was packing up – the lady we had spoken to, along with a friend were the only two people left. We spoke to her for quite a while , thanking her for doing what she did. Then back to the boat and off to bed. The boat never moved all night.
We woke to brilliant sunshine and clear skies. After checking the forecast we took the puppy ashore for his walk and headed out into Lake Huron, destination Tawas. As usual, the predicted North West wind (highly favorable to our direction of travel) was actually a South West wind – almost directly where we were headed! I guess weather forecasting is the only job you can have where you can be wrong 100% of the time and still get paid! We set sail, motoring as well to keep up our speed. The wind was blowing from the shore so the waves were small and the ride was relatively smooth. As we approached Tawas point, the wind switched to the North West and nice rolling 5 footers came roaring out of the bay, smashing into the waves blowing up the lake, turning the area we were in to a large washing machine. We fought and struggled the last 3 miles to port – taking almost 2 hours to go those three miles into the pounding waves before we arrived at the harbor where we tied up without incident.
After a delicious dinner we went ashore and walked the town. Next day Melanie, Mike and Mary explored the town while I worked and after work I joined them and we went out to dinner at a restaurant in the hotel right next to the marina. Next day, we gassed up, pumped out and departed for Port Austin. The wind direction was such that waves were pounding us as we left and that lasted for about a third of the trip. Once we had crossed about half way over Saginaw Bay, the wind moderated and the waves decreased and the trip was a little smoother. We arrived at weedy Port Austin in the early afternoon and once finished with work, I met the others at “The Bank 1884”, a local bank building converted to a dining establishment. We enjoyed a nice fish dinner and a celebratory glass of Champagne for my birthday.
Saturday saw a farmers market in town, so we wandered around buying fruit and veggies and enjoying the sunshine. Early in the afternoon we dropped the dinghy and rode over to Turnip Rock. The ride was over shallow water and the motor hit bottom a few times, but we made it safely there without damaging the propeller. Once there we pulled the dinghy up on a small beach at the bottom of a cave cliff and spent some time admiring the view.
Being a weather hound, I noticed that high clouds were starting to cover the sky in the North and moving towards us, indicating that thunderstorms were on the way. The cliff obscured views of the Northern and Western skies, so we decided to head back and we were right, a line of thunderstorms was headed our way. We motored back to the harbor, avoiding the numerous shallow spots on the way back. We raised the dinghy back into the davits and then Melanie went below and made dinner; pork chops, salad and sweet potatoes.
We stayed in Port Austin an extra day because the waves out on the lake the next day were eight to ten feet! It was cloudy and gray but no rain. We walked around and found that there was an art festival in town so we went to that and wandered around and found some wonderful clothes for Melanie to buy. We headed back to the boat where we met up with Mike and Mary for breakfast and then took them back over to the festival. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and it helped to pass away the day. Besides, getting away from the lake and the furious winds made us a lot warmer.
We were up early and left around 9:00 the following day. Although the winds had died down a lot the seas we’re still quite angry and we had a rough but short ride to Harbor Beach where we anchored behind the break wall. Melanie made a wonderful recipe for dinner, cheesy chard. I went over to pick up Mike and Mary for dinner and ended up swimming. Normally when Melanie climbs out of the dinghy, she takes the line and ties it to the boat. Mike and Mary climbed out of the boat and I stepped out, forgetting that Melanie was not in the dinghy and had not tied it to the boat! I turned around and watched our dinghy drifting quickly away from the boat! I tore off my sweatshirt and without thinking dived in to retrieve it.
After retrieving the dinghy and changing out of my wet clothes, we wolfed down dinner and went to shore to look for ice cream, forgetting that it was Labor Day and everything was closed! We returned to the boats and after a short night of TV, fell into bed. We awoke at 6:30 the following morning to a glorious blue sky. We planned to make Port Huron which was 55 miles away and that required an early start if we were to make it before sundown. We headed out after pulling up the anchor and finding it absolutely covered in Weeds. It took me a good 15 minutes to clean it off before it was light enough for me to raise and stow for travel. My workout for the day.
We motor sailed the entire way, the sun gave way to clouds and then after a few hours the skies cleared and we warmed up. The wind gradually decreased and switched so that it became more northerly as opposed to northeasterly. We arrived around 5:00 and scooted into the river doing close to 10 knots! There is quite a strong current and it really pushed the boat along. We tied up at Port Huron yacht club without incident and after I finished work we headed out for a dinner, our last dinner ashore before home. We found a wings and beer place to enjoy dinner and then began our search for ice cream – we had been denied the day before and this day wasn’t much better. We arrived at the store 20 minutes AFTER they closed. No more Michigan Pothole…..
An early night was in order because we had 70 miles to go the next day. We cast off right around 7 am and motored out into the river bathed in glorious sunshine and zero wind. The current pushed us at a steady 7 to 8 knots and by noon we were entering Lake Saint Clair. The wind never showed up – there were short promises of help from the wind, so we kept the sails out, but most of the time we were dependent on the river current to speed us along.
We entered the Detroit River and motored down to the spot we had anchored on the first night and dropped anchor. After dinner, we decided to head into shore. A passing boat told us there was a nice restaurant at the marina right next to where we anchored. We had no idea there was even a marina there! We headed in on the dinghy and found a huge marina hidden behind the houses lining the shore. We ordered lunch for the following day and enjoyed a drink while we waited for our food.
September 8 was the last day of the trip. Glorious sunshine once again woke us up and we raised anchor in a calm, windless river, heading into the shipping channel and turning South towards Lake Erie. Mike once again had an engine overheating problem; weeds blocking the water intake. We dropped anchor outside the channel and tried to unblock it to no avail.
We raised anchor and decided to motor slowly enough to not overheat the engine. After an hour of that, we realized that it would take ten to twelve hours to make it home so we gave them our hose blaster and he jury rigged a hose to the kitchen faucet and was able to blow the obstruction out using their galley faucet.
That said we were on our way again at normal speeds and after a long day of motoring across a calm lake, our islands came into view and we arrived safely home at our dock. A celebration at our local favorite restaurant finished off our adventure. 1140 miles later we were back at home port and talking about our next adventure; this one was in the books!
I forgot to mention, when we were entering Traverse Bay yesterday, we encountered a family of swans out in the middle of the bay about 4 miles from shore. Quite a beautiful sight to see – seven swans a swimming!
We headed into shore at Suttons Bay the next morning so that Melanie, Mary and Mike could catch the bus to Traverse City to visit doctors and chiropractors. Mary had some sort of infection and Melanie needed a chiropractor. I stayed and worked and watched over the boats. The wind came up during the day and Windsor and I bounced around quite a bit at anchor as the waves built to 2 to 3 ft, but both boats’ anchors held. A big relief since I would have had to reposition and reset the anchor myself and it’s a two-man job.
I came ashore after work and picked them up at 6:00 when the bus dropped them off at the local library. We had a light dinner and finished it off with ice cream before heading back to the boat for the night. The next day was more of the same. Melanie was feeling much better and had free range of motion and best of all, no more pain! We headed into shore around lunch time so we could go to a market that sells local and Michigan only produce and products. That and then a trip to the grocery store along with me working was pretty much it for the day.
Around the dinner hour, a Zodiac dinghy came by and it ended up being a couple with the exact same boat as us. They had anchored in front of us while we were down below and came over to chat. We ended up going into shore to meet them at a micro brewery for a few appetizers and some great conversation before coming back to the boat and hitting the pillow hard. Its always nice to swap stories with fellow sailors.
Thursday we headed into the marina early in the day and spent one night there. Mary, Mike and Melanie took off into Suttons Bay to explore all the stores and take in the sights. I took a lunch break and met them at an outdoor patio for a wonderful salad and quesadilla combo we split. After work I grilled some fish and we enjoyed a light dinner before heading into town to top the meal off with a dessert, ice cream of course! I will say, we have eaten a LOT of ice cream on this trip – mostly “Michigan Pot Hole” but we are not gaining any weight – perhaps its all the exercise we get boating 🙂
Friday morning we left Suttons Bay and made our way towards Traverse City. There were five marinas in the area and we had called all five with no luck, there were no empty slips for us for the weekend. We decided we would anchor out and enjoy the weekend anyway. We motored out of Suttons Bay and turned South toward Traverse City. During the course of the day the wind came up and gradually increased, slowing our speed to under four knots. It was directly from ahead and we wanted to make good time so we were under motor.
Someone at Suttons Bay told us that there was a wall in the harbor where you could tie up but it was first come first served and no reservations. As we approached the city, dark clouds began to gather on the horizon and soon we could see a big storm brewing and barreling towards us. Looking at the radar on our phones we saw that it was moving from Southwest to Northeast so we moved over to the west side of the bay hoping it would pass South of us. For once we got lucky. A few raindrops was all we encountered; the anger and the brunt of the storm passed to our South and the skies cleared. We motored in to the harbor and found three open spots on the wall, we had a place to tie up! We docked, tying up against the wall and then Melanie made us breakfast for dinner; sausage, eggs and pancakes. It was delicious!
After stuffing ourselves we took off into the heart of the downtown area and found the Cherry Republic store. Their headquarters are in Traverse City and we have been dying to visit that store for a long time, having ordered through their catalog for many years. It was a fabulous store, we ended up buying way too much and there were plenty of samples to try which we thoroughly enjoyed. Chocolate covered cherries were definitely a favorite. We waddled back to the boat and found a casual clothing shop on the way with very reasonable prices. Melanie found herself a great hooded t-shirt and for me other T-shirt with a map of the Great lakes, a nice addition to the sailing wardrobe.
Saturday there was an art fair in the Park right next to where we were docked; we had front row seats! We strolled around admiring the craftsmanship of the various artists, one of whom was a 17 year old young lady who had just published her first book, a novel directed at young teenagers. We were very impressed and spoke to her and her parents for quite a while. There were live bands playing music all day long, oldies and goodies we thoroughly enjoyed. The music was just loud enough to be able to hear at the boat, but not too loud to be obnoxious. I did a little bit of maintenance on the sail handling systems and then we relaxed for the rest of the day while we ran a few loads of laundry. Melanie, our gourmet chef made Chicken Alfredo for dinner and we finished that off with a walk through the bustling town for ice cream.
Sunday morning we woke to a cloudy sky, dropped our lines and headed over to the fuel dock to top off the tank before leaving the comfort of the marina and heading back out into the bay. There was a brisk wind building out of the direction we needed to go (always seems that way) but being Sunday, we decided we would sail and give our hard working motor a break for the day. We made good progress up the bay, passing near a sailboat race – they all had black sails – and dodging other sailboats out relishing in the breezy conditions. Traverse City faded into the haze and as the day wore on, the clouds dissipated and gave way to a crystal clear sky over the bay. In the late afternoon we neared the top of Mission Point and turned East to round the corner for the quick trip down to the bay.
It was a full day, we anchored in about 30 ft of water off a public beach and Melanie made dinner which we took over to our friend’s boat to share. We watched the sun sink slowly behind the island before returning to our boat for bed. After an hour of TV we went topside to admire the starry night. With no light pollution, being on a boat in the middle of the water is a GREAT place for some intense stargazing.
Monday morning we woke to a Mill pond, but the wind gradually filled in so that by the time we left the Anchorage after my weekly status meeting, we had a good sailing breeze. We headed out and sailed up towards Northport on the Western tip of Traverse Bay. We made good solid progress but in the early afternoon the wind started to get a little squirrely, shifting this way and that, trying to prevent us from reaching our destination. Finally with about 2 miles to go, in frustration we started the motor, dropped the sails and motored in. We dropped anchor in about 30 ft of water and I could see it on the bottom!
It never ceases to amaze me how clear the water is in these 2 lakes. We ate a light dinner, then dropped the dinghy and headed into shore. Mary and Mike got a dock for the night so they were already there; we tied up to their boat and went ashore to hang out for a while. Then, off to the grocery store for ice and a few necessities and we headed back to the boat and dropped into bed. Each night before turning in, we have made it a habit to look up and watch the starry night for a few minutes. We were greeted this night with a line of satellites passing through our field of vision almost directly above our heads. There must have been about 40 of them in a perfect straight line, all evenly spaced. I have seen videos of this but never actually witnessed it until now. Apparently, it’s part of the Starlink satellite Network. It was quite amazing. We followed that up with two meteors in quick succession before turning in for the night.
We were greeted the next morning with another beautiful cloudless sky. The water was calm, like a mirror, calm enough to use as a mirror to shave! After Mary and Mike left their dock we raised our anchor and motored out into Traverse Bay, making sure we obeyed all of the navigation marks, as they marked dangerous, shallow water. We turned towards Charlevoix with nary a breeze in sight. The trip to Charlevoix was uneventful. It was calm and we ended up motoring the entire way; the sails did nothing to help us.
There is a drawbridge that we had to wait for and pass under before entering into Round Lake which is in the heart of the town. We passed through the bridge and once in the lake, we saw numerous mansions, high-end condos and huge boats around the edge of the small body of water. We anchored in about 30 feet of water outside of the channel and enjoyed the rest of the day. After work we headed into shore and ate outside at a small pub, enjoying a great dinner of Whitefish and chips. We walked around and looked at the shops and the sights. Right in front of the docks is an outdoor auditorium, and that evening we were treated to a brass band concert and they played many favorites, mostly marching band music, what a treat!
We fell into bed and woke the next morning to sunny skies. During the night the wind changed direction and we were now facing the opposite way. I worked while Melanie, Mike and Mary went into shore and toured the shops and museums. After work I joined them at a small taco bar for some fish tacos and they took me afterwards to show me what is called the mushroom House. A famous local architect designed and built a number of houses in a small neighborhood. After our walk we went back to the boat because there were storms in the area and I did not want us to get caught out in the weather with the possibility of the boat’s anchor dragging. We got spritzed on but that was about it; the weather held off and we slept well. There was a day dock where you could bring in your boat for free and run some errands, so first thing in the morning we went in and got ice, head cleaner and some boat soap. Then we shoved off and waited for the bridge to lift so we could pass through and motor out into lake Michigan. Our next stop was Sturgeon Bay. Winds were very light so motoring was the word of the day.
We entered a cloudy, gloomy looking lake with high and low gray clouds covering the skies. Things looked a little foreboding and they were. Gentle rain began to fall after about 2 hours and gradually increased in intensity, then the wind picked up and the waves started to build. Working down below became quite a challenge, the boat was rocking through about 40 degrees which meant I could only type with one hand when it rolled to the right because I had to hold on with the other! Poor Melanie was stuck driving while I worked and she got soaking wet, even after we put up a few clear shower curtains to try and block the rain and wind.
Eventually in mid-afternoon, the rain stopped. I stood watch for a few minutes so Melanie could go below and change into dry clothes and warm up. Looking at the weather and the forecast for the night, we decided it was probably worthwhile to try and head on straight to Mackinaw City. I called the marina and they did have a spot so the decision was made to head there instead of our Anchorage, which if the wind came from the predicted direction, would have been a very unpleasant night of rolling and rocking and possible anchor dragging – not fun in the middle of the night. Clouds thinned out and the sun made a weak appearance, the wind changed in our favor so that we were able to make an easy six knots. The wind from behind and the waves from behind made the ride got a lot smoother!
We were able to arrive at the marina by 7:30 and thankfully, beside a short 10 to 15 minute drizzle, we had no more rain and the sun even peeked out. We were safely tied up when the sun set and were greeted with colorful clouds and a confirmation of our decision when the wind switched to the northwest and picked up in strength to 15 – 20 mph. Our anchor spot would have been miserable had we not decided to come straight to Mackinaw City. After we tied up, we wandered around looking at stores just to get off the boat and stretch our legs and give the dog a bit of a break. Then we found a place for a quick bite to eat before returning back to the boat to turn in for the night.
Next morning we were blessed with blue skies and temps in the upper 50s! Who would guess that in the middle of summer we’d have to wear jackets to stay warm. We filled the water tanks, ate breakfast and prepped the boat for departure. There was a gentle breeze, unfortunately out of the exact direction we were headed. We sucked down a good cup of coffee, filled up our water tanks and then shoved off.
Melanie was dressed like it was winter. I set up shop down below and worked and was cozy warm because I took the engine cover off so it would heat the cabin. A little loud but well worth it! We zigzagged up the coast of Michigan (because we cannot sail directly into the wind) using the motor to help propel us along and made steady progress until we passed around the northern tip of Thunder Bay. Late in the afternoon we rounded the point and set a course for Presque Isle. There were many sailboats, trawlers and other vessels on the water; more than we have seen in a while. We also saw another boat from Sandusky headed south! It’s been amazing how many people we have met that are sailing up here that are from either Cleveland, Sandusky or Gibraltar which is over near Grosse Isle, Detroit. The wind slowly died during the afternoon but stayed strong enough to give us good forward movement along with the engine. The waves did decrease and this allowed us to go a little faster.
We pulled into Presque Isle Bay around 8:45pm just in time to drop the anchor and watch the sun set. Glorious colors from reds to pale purple painted the sky. We watched the show for a while before sneaking below for a cup of hot tea and then a glorious warm bed where we slept hard. I was wakened by the sun streaming down through the hatch and into our V-berth in the front – blinding light woke me from a pleasant dream and off we went.
Coffee, then breakfast and we raised our anchor out of the crystal clear water and motored out into Lake Huron, raising the sails and setting course for Hammond Bay, some 30 odd miles away. There was a gentle breeze from the South West, so we took advantage of that, setting our sails for only the 2nd time this trip WITHOUT the motor. Blissful quiet as we slipped along around 5 to 6 knots – actually faster than we can motor – and relished in the beauty of the day. A few hours in, the wind pooped and we started the motor to continue to make decent time. We wanted to reach our destination before sunset; its always awkward going into an unfamiliar place to anchor in the dark.
Then the wind switched to the north West, directly where we were heading and piped up to 20 to 25 knots! This led to the waves gradually building until they started to break over the boat and with 8 miles to go, we decided that it was not worth the slow, painful slog. We could fight the weather and take 4 hours to go 8 Miles OR look at the charts and find a place behind us to take shelter. We found a marina at Rogers City that was behind us about 8 Miles, so we turned and with the waves and wind now pushing us, our four hour slog became a calm, quick hour and a half. We pulled into the marina, tied up and unwound after being beaten up just a little.
Based on the recommendation of a fellow sailor, we took a walk and found a restaurant called “Up North 23” and had dinner there. It had a beautiful view of the angry lake. The next day while I worked, Melanie, Mike and Mary walked around town, going to museums and shops and enjoying a full day while the wind took its anger out on the lake. That evening was the final super moon of the year, called a Sturgeon Moon. Around 9:00 p.m. it rose above the horizon, a buttery yellow ball that was just beautiful. Despite my efforts I was unable to get a decent picture of it. We fell into bed soon thereafter while the wind blew itself out during the night.
We left Rogers City on a dying breeze in the morning and as the day progressed it got hotter and the wind disappeared completely. We entered our anchorage point at Cheboygan Bay right around the dinner hour after an uneventful day, dropped anchor and lowered the dinghy and headed into shore to see what we could find. Cheboygan is actually a small port on a river, so it was bustling with activity. We found a nice dog friendly restaurant and ate dinner before heading back to the boat to enjoy the sunset.
Saturday morning Melanie had a very sore hip. She had either thrown out her SI joint or pulled a muscle and we needed to see a chiropractor. We raised the anchor and motored into the river. The drawbridge opened and we found a dock close to where we had eaten the previous evening. Two chiropractors that advertised as open were however closed so we disappointingly walked back to the boat, passing by a farmers market on the way. We stopped, browsed and bought a few fresh veggies and then headed back to the boat, untied and headed out through the drawbridge again into Lake Huron. To our left side the two towers of the Mackinac bridge appeared on the horizon 12 miles away. We waited for Mary and Mike to raise their anchor and join us, then headed off towards the looming bridge.
As we got closer, Mackinac Island slowly came into view with its historic Grand hotel showing as a fat white stripe across the middle of the island. Clouds peppered the sky hiding the sun, making it raw and chilly. The bridge rose out of the water, getting higher and higher as we passed Bois Blanc Island to our right.
The wind came and died number of times and it gradually became overcast. Around 2:30 p.m. we passed under the bridge and entered Lake Michigan. We have now sailed Southern Cross in four out of the five Great lakes. Only Lake Superior remains. The wind continued its downward spiral, slowly fading away as the clouds covered the sky. We arrived around 3:45 at Trailhead Bay on the other side of the peninsula from Mackinaw city. We dropped anchor in 17 ft of water and I watched the anchor hit the sand! The water is very very clear! Not quite used to it, Lake Erie is so shallow it’s always brown from the mud and sand that gets stirred up by the waves and the freighters’ propellers. We rarely see clear water there.
After we dropped the anchor, I lowered the dingy and went to pick up Mary and Mike, practicing my rowing skills. Melanie made a delicious dinner of bangers, mash and sauerkraut along with a tomato and cucumber salad. We finished the day with this delicious dinner before falling into bed. The night was calm and serene. The boat barely moved on the flat waters. I woke the next morning with the sun streaming in the window and went up to survey the land. The water was calm and so clear that you could see rocks and stones on the bottom! 17 ft! I don’t think I have ever anchored in fresh water this clear before. After a delicious breakfast we hauled anchor and tried to sail.
The morning breezes were very light and we started off moving only around 1-2 knots, not a good speed when you need to make 30 miles before sunset. But, as the day progressed it gradually increased until we were doing almost three knots which was palatable for a while at least. It’s just nice to not hear the engine and hear the water gently lapping against the hull as we pass through it. Our persistence paid off though, and by 11 AM we were doing between 5 and 6 knots with a good 10-15 knot breeze pushing us along with the waves. We sailed the entire distance to Beaver Island and only turned the motor on to take the sails down and come into the harbor. Now that’s how a day’s sailing should be!
We docked the boat, took Windsor for a walk and then went to the local grocery store. It was closed but we had a nice walk along the shore of the crescent shaped harbor. We came back and bought a breakfast burrito at a local mini mart and enjoyed a good meal before heading back to the boat. We dropped Windsor off for a nap and borrowed the marina bikes to take a bike ride, riding around the harbor to the point where the lighthouse was located.
Beautiful homes, museums and a very picturesque view greeted us. Around sunset we returned, closed up for the night and hit the hay.
It was quite chilly when we woke up the next morning. We had a lot to do. Mary, one of our companion travelers had some sort of infection so we needed to get to a doctor. The closest one that could write a prescription was on the mainland at Sutton’s Bay, a small offshoot of Traverse Bay. It was a long distance and we had a late start. Leaving the dock, pumping out the holding tank and getting on our way took a while and there was no wind to boot.
We set the sails in the hope that they would help us and motored out of the harbor. Eventually in the late afternoon we entered Traverse Bay and the wind came up a little and helped us toward our destination. We arrived around 8:00 p.m. with daylight still helping us find our anchor spot. The last half hour of the journey, Melanie made a light dinner for us which we then took over to our companion boat. We enjoyed some food and fellowship before collapsing into bed, exhausted after a long day.
The sail from Port Huron was quiet and fast as the wind pushed us gently towards our destination. The sun peeked out weakly from behind a thickening layer of cloud. During the late afternoon we could see storm clouds ahead of us with heavy rain pelting the land and waters ahead of us. The way the clouds were moving made us think that we could dodge the rain, but with only 3 miles to go to our intended anchorage the weather broke loose, turning towards us, and began pounding us into oblivion. Wind, waves and rain lashed the boat for at least an hour. The rain was coming so hard it stung and made it hard to see, so we turned our backs to the weather but the wind was pushing us away from our destination. After the first wave of wind and rain passed, we decided to bite the bullet and head straight into the weather, enduring three more waves of binding wind and rain until finally it calmed down and we were able to enter the harbor safely and drop anchor. We closed up and came down to survey the damage below. All the window seals had leaked and we were soaked and cold so changing into dry clothes and some hot tea and food in the belly was in order.
We went to bed early, exhausted from the cold wind and rain. The next morning we awoke to low clouds and no wind, so we fired up the motor, raised the anchor and departed. There was a lot of mud and weeds on the anchor, so it was quite difficult to lift. Once secured we headed out of the harbor and up the coast to our next stop, Harbor Beach. Without wind we ended up motoring all day, arriving early in the afternoon. We dropped anchor just inside the break wall in about 15 feet of water. After work, we took a boat ride in the dinghy to shore. It was a quaint little town with a few shops, a small grocery store and a diner. We stocked up on some items before ordering a pizza which we ate at the picnic tables on the beach. It’s nice to be able to get off the boat. The sun peeked out later in the day as the clouds receded to the South and we were blessed with a glorious sunset. I awoke around 3:00 a.m. and was witness to a cloudless sky peppered with stars. I spent a few minutes looking at the amazing sight before heading back to bed.
Friday morning was sunny but again, no wind. After a cup of coffee and a light breakfast we raised anchor and started motoring towards Port Austin. The lake was calm, but being a Friday there were many people out getting an early start to the weekend which made working down below rather interesting. The boat bounced quite a bit over the waves made by passing vessels.
We were headed to Turnip Rock, but could not really get close enough with our deep keel to see it clearly. So we headed around the Port Austin reef light and into the harbor. That was an adventure! There were weeds and grass up to the surface of the water and we almost had to plow our way through, at full throttle going about a half mile an hour. We were able to make it through, but had a ton of weeds wrapped around both the rudder, the keel and the propeller. A little bit of back and forward with the gear shifter to shake it off and we were able to safely dock.
Melanie made a wonderful dinner of Jambalaya and after eating, we found a good ice cream store where we enjoyed a scoop before heading back to the boat. We spent a few hours watching TV while we did laundry and then fell into bed. Saturday was clear but very humid and there was almost a misty fog covering the water. We walked into town and went to the weekly Farmers market before taking showers and preparing for departure. Mike had another block in his water intake, so we had to return to dock and blow it out. Once that was accomplished we left without issue. The lake was flat and calm, almost no wind. We were headed to Harrisville. It was a lot cooler and more comfortable out on the water but we had to motor the entire trip.
At some point the wind did come up enough for us to set some sail to help our speed, but without the motor, we were only doing 2 knots. We arrived in Harrisville around 7:00 p.m. and it took three tries to get safely anchored. The weeds in the harbor were terrible! First time I dropped the anchor and Melanie started to back up the boat it just dragged along the bottom picking up weeds and branches which I almost did not have the strength to lift and clean. I got it up to the water line and then had to use a boat hook to get the weeds and the mud off. It must have weighed 100 pounds! Second attempt, same results, so we called the harbor Master and he told us where to drop where the weeds were not as bad. Third time we hit paydirt and were safely anchored. Melanie made salmon burgers and a delicious salad for dinner and we chatted until dark before falling into bed exhausted.
In the morning we took Windsor into shore to potty and spoke to a couple of locals that were taking their powerboat out of the water. We had a nice chat, and then returned to the boat to raise the anchor and head into the gas dock to fill up with diesel. Apparently this is the only Marina for about 100 miles in either direction that has a working diesel pump! Then we were on our way, once again on calm waters which sadly required the motor. So we set the course and were on our way to our next stop. 7 miles out of port, the bracket holding the alternator to the engine broke in two places. I hastily shut down the engine and there we were, dead in the water. After a quick discussion we decided to head back to Harrisville, so we hoisted our sails and sailed back to the entrance of the harbor where our friends who were following behind on their own boat towed us in.
We dropped anchor and I began working on the problem; disassembling the alternator and removing it from the broken bracket. During this time, the wind switched 180 and started blowing quite hard, about 20 mph. I looked up and saw that the docks were rather close. I looked at the anchor alarm and sure enough, distance from our anchor point was steadily increasing. Then the alarm went off – we had to think quickly – there was no way for me to reset the anchor in this wind; we HAD to get a dock.
I radioed the dockmaster and explained our problem and then set up for a rather unconventional docking. We let the anchor drag far enough so I had enough anchor line on the boat to allow me to let out line and control our docking. Gently we guided the boat into a slip with help from many people on shore. Thankfully no damage and we provided great entertainment for the dock patrons. Once tied up we went ashore to pay for the night and Melanie started talking to a gentleman on shore who was bringing dinner to his daughter who worked at the marina. He turned out to be Mayor Jeff Gehring and at once he jumped on the phone and started calling around to find someone who could fabricate the part for us.
A few hours later we had a newly fabricated alternator bracket in hand. Jeff would not take payment from us. The kindness and helpfulness of the people at the marina as well as Mayor Jeff was overwhelming! We rewarded ourselves with a trip to the local ice-cream shop for a treat to top off the day. God REALLY took care of us. Next day was a day of miserable, rainy weather, so we paid for another night and I worked, while Melanie cleaned dirt and debris from our leaky windows and then used silicone grease to help seal them, which did the trick! No more leaks!
A large sailboat called Island Dancer had pulled in the previous evening and it was someone we knew from Sandusky! I had traveled with them 6 years ago through the Canadian maritimes to deliver a boat to Boston. I sailed as far as Prince Edward Island and then returned home, but it gave me experience as to what to expect when we took our own journey starting in 2017. We spent the evening chatting about our adventures and catching up on each other’s lives. It was an unexpected surprise and really great to see them. Before we realized it, it was almost midnight and we had chatted the night away! We went back to our boat and fell asleep to the sounds of train whistles as three or four trains passed through town in quick succession.
The day before is always chaos. Melanie ran around all afternoon buying our food and supplies and preparing for our trip. Thursday evening we went to a fundraiser dinner and then came home and made our final pre-departure checks. Friday morning she ran the last few errands and then we dropped the dock lines and left. First stop was the gas dock and a fill up and pump out. While refueling we spilled diesel; it’s always a problem because of the shape of the fuel filler hose. This time though was the worst yet – almost 2 cups spilled into the cockpit, so after MANY paper towels and much mopping up we headed out to the lake to begin our adventure.
We were headed North West to Detroit and the wind was blowing from the North West, so it looked to be a long afternoon of motoring. The wind was light so we motored the entire way. It gradually backed slightly to the West so we were able to unroll our head sails to help us move along a little faster. We scooted along nicely at 5 knots under sail and motor. The islands slowly fell behind and the towers of the power plants in Detroit and Toledo took shape on the horizon. Windmills to the North in Canada spoiled the beautiful skyline. As the afternoon wore on, the wind came up and eventually it was too rough for me to work so I came up to help Melanie steer the boat.
The wind came up to over 20 knots which was quite a rough ride, our forecast of one foot waves was actually three to four footers with spray blowing over the boat. We were a little concerned that our Anchorage would not be suitable. We slogged on into the heavy wind and eventually the tower marking the entrance to the river came into view. We turned in at the tower and started motoring up the Livingston Channel towards our anchorage and as we did, the wind died and we ended up anchored in about 10 ft of water near Sugar Island with the river current gently holding us in place. It was a beautiful sunny evening, calm and quiet.
We woke up the next morning to a sunny day with not a cloud in the sky, and after breakfast and a good cup of coffee, we hauled up our anchor, along with about a half ton of sea grass and mud! We fired up the motor and headed over to the Livingston channel for the long haul up to Lake Saint Clair. Shortly after entering the channel, a huge tanker passed close by, it was rather intimidating. I guess we will have to get used to that. We stayed close to the West edge where there was less current, which allowed us to go slightly faster, 4.5 knots instead of 2.
Beautiful, expensive homes lined both sides of the river. We made slow progress with the current trying to push us backwards. At one point our depth went quickly from 30 down to 7 ft and we caught huge chunks of weed and grass on our rudder and propeller. We turned quickly into the channel and once there, I had to reverse, then forward, and reverse a few times to “shake” off the debris. We made slow progress northward and by noon we could see the buildings of downtown Detroit and were within sight of the bridge that crosses the river over to Windsor.
We reached the mouth of the Detroit River and entered lake St Clair around 2:30 p.m. . Just in time, a large tanker was bearing down on us as we exited and turned a quick left to go north up the west coast of the lake toward our anchorage. We anchored near Grosse Pointe Farms in an area where there were many boats anchored and enjoying the day. Melanie made a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs with salad while we watched as the boats gradually departed until just three were left. We ate dinner with our friends, chatted a while and then I rowed them back to their boat and returned to ours, hoisted the dinghy back up and secured it for travel. A quick hour of TV and then we collapsed in bed for the night.
The evening was rather rough and wavy but in the morning we awoke to a dead calm lake. We raised anchor around 8:00 a.m. and started motoring across the lake toward the entrance of the St Clair River. About halfway across our friend’s boat had engine trouble so we switched off the engine and simply sailed slowly on the gently developing breeze. It was a sunny day with wispy high clouds passing gently by. We started motoring again once we entered one of the St Clair River tributaries, passing by homes and marinas. Then Mike’s engine alarm went off. They dropped anchor in the river just out of the channel and we motored around them while he tried to fix the issue to no avail.
So we decided that we would head up the river to get reservations at a marina, and they would call a towboat and meet us there. We had been radioing the marina without answer most of the morning. Suddenly a voice over the radio said that they heard us call and they heard the marina answer, but of course, I could not hear the marina. Their radio was apparently not powerful enough. He relayed our requests for a dock to them and then provided us with a phone number so we could call and make arrangements for us and the crippled boat.
We arrived at the marina and got ourselves settled in just in time to help Mike and his wife arrive. Melanie made a delicious dinner for us and our new friend Tim, who had helped us to get our reservations set up. Then a quick walk to the grocery store for supplies and a well needed stop at the local ice cream store. We collapsed into bed and slept hard, seems like we do that every day while traveling. Due to a bad weather forecast, we decided to make our stay 2 days long to recoup, fix Mikes engine issue and avoid the bad weather. It turned out that a quick blast of water down the radiator hose cleared a huge chunk of weeds that was clogging the water intake, hence the overheating issue. Its always wonderful to have a cheap fix like that!
It was good that we spent two days at Algonac. The wind howled and storms blew through the areas that we would have been motoring through so we dodged a bullet. Next morning we were on the road by 8:30 and made making the slow slog up the river. The current in the St Clair River was much stronger beyond Algonac as it was a single wide river instead of three tributaries. At times our speed dropped to less than 2 miles per hour. It was cloudy and the wind was blowing right in our faces so we were unable to use the sails to help us at all. Beautiful homes lined both sides of the river for miles. The odd tanker came flying by us downriver and as the day wore on the skies cleared and the sun finally peeped out. We started off the morning with Melanie heavily dressed – wearing two jackets – as the wind was very cold. I however was cozy and warm below as the engine heats the living area of the boat. Around 4:30 we pulled into Port Huron yacht club, tied up without mishap and then Melanie cooked dinner for us. We finished off the day by taking a walk around the immediate downtown area and wouldn’t you know it – we found a great ice cream shop to “sample”; the Michigan Pothole flavor is rapidly becoming my favorite fix for my extreme chocolate lover palate. After that we took a quick shower and then off to bed for an early start.
The wind woke me up in the morning. Howling through the rigging and making a low moaning sound indicating at least 20 mph winds. We watched a club member preparing for a sail and I was sure that the boat was a familiar design; one I had seen in South Africa as a child. I asked the skipper as they passed us by. “Its a 30 Square Meter” he said. I was right! Sleek fast boats, they caught my eye as they would sail gracefully by.
After a quick discussion we turned Mike’s boat around at the dock by hand and helped him to cast off. His boat is not very maneuverable as it has a full length keel. We left without mishap and headed out into the river and over to the Canadian side where the current is not as strong. Actually, with the wind helping us we made quick work of the remaining mile and a half and finally entered lake Huron. With the wind from behind we were able to turn our motor off for the first time and sail. Glorious quiet for me at the computer! We can actually sail faster than we can motor. Our next stop was Port Sanilac. We delayed departure until about 10 as there were huge storms rolling through that area and I wanted them to clear out before we took off. But that is another story…
WOW, it has been a loooong time since the last post! I recently read through all our previous posts while trying to get through the quarantine and it made me anxious for a new adventure.
Since returning from our trip Melanie and I have been pretty busy moving. Moving off the boat back to Columbus, moving into and rehabbing a house, moving in with friends, moving into an apartment – it seems like life right now is nothing but a series of moves!
We moved up to the boat in early May 2020, living on her and prepping for the summer. Things were a lot slower due to Covid, but by the end of June, we were ready for our first sail of the year. It was a beautiful sunny day with 5 to 10 knot light NE winds, calm waves and oh so clear lake waters! Under full sail, we headed over to the North bay of Kelleys Island to visit with Shannon, Melanie’s daughter, Sean and their kids. We dropped anchor after an uneventful sail, hopped in the dinghy and went to shore where we spent time with the family on the campground beach.
Some time during the afternoon, we took Yuli and Shay on a dinghy ride, they were both dying to go since its been a while since they were last on the boat. We motored over to the boat and sat and ate some of Yuli’s chocolate birthday cake before hopping back into the tender and returning to the beach. Shay got to steer the dinghy and got the hang of it quite quickly – he loved it and went on and on about it when we returned to the beach. After they packed up to head back to the campsite for dinner, we returned to the boat and set sail, taking a slow, lazy ride home. About half way between the island and the shore, the wind petered out completely and the last 3 miles were given to the iron genny to motor us safely home.
Early the next week, Shannon and Sean went home, so we picked up Yuli and Shay from the ferry boat and took them with us for a few days while mom and dad went home to work. We set sail over to Put-In-Bay. Melanie cooked up some Jambalaya on the way and we enjoyed a gentle sail and yummy food.
We watched a beautiful sun set on the way and picked up a mooring ball in the harbor around 9:45pm. It was a beautiful evening. The kids watched Netflix while we sat up in the cockpit and enjoyed the view. The next day I worked while the kids ran all over the island with Melanie. Dinner that evening was Salmon cooked on the grill. We left the next day for home port on a promising wind, sailed around Ballast Island, and turned towards home. The wind dropped a bit after rounding the island, but we had a nice sail back until we fired up the motor about 3 miles from home after the wind finally quit for good.
Powell Family Reunion – Kelleys, July 2020
The following day we pIcked up Adam, Sarah and the kids and motored over to Portside marina on Kelleys Island where we dropped off Adam and Sarah. Julian & Luke motored with us around to the North side of Kelleys where we dropped anchor. Luke jumped off and swam. Then we took the dinghy in to shore and spent day at the beach. Aaron and Jenny had rented a house on the South side of the island, so at dinner time we all headed over there to cook and eat dinner. Then Melanie and I babysat all the kids while the adult went out. We got back to boat around 11 and slept. The wind came up about 2AM from the North East and it got pretty choppy but the anchor held. It was an unpleasant night of bouncing about in the waves. In the morning we motored over to the south side of island and anchored off of Seaway marina near the public beach. We spent day there and then had dinner at the house before watching the fireworks at Cedar Point, Lakeside and other spots on the mainland. It was a great evening, and upon returning to the boat we slept like babies – it was very calm.
We headed into shore the next morning to help clean up the rental house and hung around until they checked out. Then we motored over to campground on the North side of Kelleys and went to the beach with everyone. We took a trip into town for lunch, then came back and relaxed at the campsite before going back to boat. They went kayaking and stopped over for a bit before heading to shore. We hauled anchor and sailed home with help from a GREAT WIND. We watched the sun set over the island and enjoyed a beautiful 10 knot breeze while sailing home.
Monday and Tuesday were spent working. Tuesday evening we watched thunderstorms form over Detroit and witnessed an hours-long lightning show but the promise of rain never materialized. We went to bed hot and sweaty even after showering.
Wednesday, Randy and Leslie came with the girls and after a few drinks and a light lunch they headed out to the beach to swim while I finished work.
Thursday we made our way over to the island and were the only boat on the mooring balls! We swam and relaxed, before heading into shore to unwind. It was a VERY hot day, but the canopy of trees in the park helped to cool things to a manageable level. We took the kids to the playground, then off to a treat of Tofts ice cream, and then it was to the museum where we watched the movie on the battle of Lake Erie and then helped them get their ranger badges. After a long day on shore we went back to the boat, made dinner and then after a long evening went off to a well deserved sleep.
Next morning we woke to a nice Southerly breeze. We took everyone ashore, showered, walked the dogs and then took off for Kelleys. It was a great sail and we were there in less than an hour! After dropping anchor we headed into shore, took a quick tour of the Glacial Grooves and then went to the beach to cool off. I was concerned about a line of storms moving through the midwest, so after looking at radar on someone else’s phone (mine had no signal, common on Kelleys if you have service with ATT) we decided to head back to beat the storms. That of course never works. We started off with a great wind and once around the North shore of Kelleys, aimed straight for our home port and were making great way at over 5 knots.
The skies darkened and when the first hint of rain appeared over Marblehead, the wind died and then backed 45 degrees, so we were aiming at Mouse Island instead of home port. I started the engine and we doused the sails just in time to be hit by our first rain squall along with 25-30 knot winds. The rain came in a white wall from East Harbor and soon we were drenched, although after 5 minutes or so the rain passed and we scurried on to the harbor entrance. We entered our harbor as the dark clouds loomed closer, a report on the VHF from one boater indicated that 2 jetskis were stuck out on the lake – one towing the other – and the boater was unable to assist due to the need for him to get his boat to safety. Emergency requests for help began popping up on the radio, and just before making the turn at the end of the channel the full force of the storm hit us. Heavy pelting rain and strong wind gusts pounded the boat as we turned East down the tree lined channel. Ahead of us lay the stone wall and the marshes of East Harbor. As we approached the turn South, the water came into view and it was apparent that the trees were sheltering us quite well from the full fury of the wind.
White caps scurried across the surface of the small bay as the rain began to get harder. We rounded the corner and then the full force of nature hit us. Shrieking winds over 50 mph grabbed the boat and tried to push it over to the left side of the channel and onto the rocky shore. The rain felt like small stones being thrown in our face. All guests and dogs were below. White caps were being blown off the tops of the waves, and along with the rain, became deadly weapons in the hands of mother nature. I had to close my eyes and turn my head to one side, looking out of only my left eye because the rain hitting my face made it painful to look into the wind and to open my right eye. I kept a diligent look at our speed and heading as we motored slowly to our next channel marks. It was becoming apparent that the wind was winning the battle of position and I was unable to keep the boat on the safe side of the channel – the wind was simply too strong.
Then the engine alarm came on – it was overheating! I had to reduce throttle which meant we were being pushed to the rocky side of the channel even faster. Melanie and I both prayed – Lord, please get us to our dock safely – I kept repeating this and realized we were not going to make it back to the dock. Certain destruction awaited us on the rocky left side of the channel. In my mind a small voice said “turn around”. I swung the wheel hard to the left and the wind pushed the nose of the boat sharply around. 18000 pounds of boat felt liberated suddenly from the push against the weather. We made the turn and were able to get back to the safe side of the channel with the wind and rain now pummeling our backs. Melanie put up the umbrella and the turquoise foul weather jackets mysteriously appeared from the hatchway. We put the jackets on, now both shivering from the cold rain and wind that continued to pummel us. White streaks of rain driven wind lashed us as we headed back toward the shelter of the tree lined part of the channel. Visibility was less than 100 yards. 2 fishing boats came motoring hurriedly by and looked at us a little surprised, probably wondering why we were headed OUT into the storm. We rounded the corner into the shelter of the tree lined channel, and while the rain still pelted us unrelentingly, the wind blowing the boat around dropped dramatically, and I was able to motor the boat safely up to the part of the channel that took us out to the open lake. Thankfully – due to the engine running at lower RPM, the alarm went off which was a HUGE relief.
More boats came rushing by in search of safety, we turned NE into the final part pf the channel and another round of wind hit the boat and lashed it with blinding clouds of rain, this time pushing us out into the lake. With the wind at our backs I was now able to see and maneuver the boat safely to the windward side of the channel and I was able to hold that position without the struggle we experienced when heading in. We got the umbrella behind us to block the wind and the rain and were eventually dumped unceremoniously out into the lake where I turned and aimed for Mouse Island so I could stay close to the windward shore and avoid the larger waves that would develop as one moved away from the shore.
Wind and rain pelted us for what seemed an eternity, then suddenly the island became visible, the shore and channel entrance became visible, and the white wall of water passed us by and the storm was over. Within 5 minutes the wind was dead calm. We motored back into the harbor and tied up to the dock without issue, there was not a breath of wind. Ugly dark clouds now behind us raced up the lake searching for more victims to devour.
Long Hot Summer…
We had been having issues with the gear shifter, and after some troubleshooting determined that the actual problem was the shifter, not the cable or the transmission. After researching, we found an Edson dealer and $500 later, with a little sweat we had a new shifter installed and we were ready to try her out.
Our next adventure took us for a quick trip over to Put-In-Bay. It was a strong SW wind, and we mad good time getting there. Storms strolled through our Marina while we dropped anchor day at the monument. We were treated to a glorious lightning show from the safety of our anchorage.
We headed back the next morning to pick up Matthew and Victoria who came up to visit. it rained all day Saturday. Sunday the weather forecast was not much better but we decided to try and sail anyway. We left the harbor and went for a sail towards Marblehead and then headed back. The wind was very strong, we saw gusts of 40 knots with steady winds around 25 to 30 knots. The sail to Marblehead was nice, but turning for home had us headed into the wind and the chop and it was quite a struggle for us to motor into the wind back to port. We made a Flawless docking despite the wind so all was well.
Buffalo – Aug 2020
Our next journey got started with a bang. While backing out of our slip, we got a dock line tangled and almost hit our neighbor despite the docks being almost twice the width of last year. Thank goodness for that! We sailed over toward Sandusky Bay to rendezvous with Mary and Mike off Cedar Point and set sail towards Buffalo, our intended destination for our summer trip. We adjusted our sails so that we could keep pace with each other. We took off, broad reaching towards Cleveland with the tailwind around 15 knots, and just like always, the wind took a sharp uptick around sunset. While attempting to reef the main, the reefing line for the clew snapped and so we had to struggle to maneuver the boat into the wind to get the main taken down. Once stowed we set the 2 jibs and headed up towards Ashtabula, our first stop.
Winds were still quite strong and the Weather Channel kept talking about water spouts. They were east of us, moving away from us, so we never saw them. The skies looked threatening but overhead it was crystal clear. Even with just a third of the Yankee set we were still doing almost 6 knots! The waves were supposed to be two to four feet, but we saw quite a few 6 Footers and a few broke into the cockpit and soaked us. The wind was now hitting us on the beam at it made for a very uncomfortable ride with a lot of rolling along wit the noise of the waves smacking the side of the hull.
As it got dark we lost visual sight of the waves and Melanie went and down to go to bed. It was almost impossible to sleep in the cabin. It would be calm for a short while and then a set of waves would come through and thoroughly rock the boat. Some broke against the hull and drenched me in the cockpit.. it was not the most pleasant of evening watches. The boat bounced around in the short chop of the lake. As it got darker, we came abreast of Cleveland and under those scudding gray clouds, we could see the lights of the downtown area. Quite a pretty sight at night. Jupiter rose in the eastern sky followed by Saturn, and they shone above Cleveland quite brightly. They almost looked like aircraft taking off from Cleveland Hopkins Airport.
The wind bopped around all night – it would die down a little and the chop would quieten down a bit and then it would pipe back up and the waves would get ugly. Our wind generator moaned under the strain of the wind gusts. The green and red navigation lights led the way into the night towards a cloudy, rainy sky in the east. The weather was moving in the same direction as we were so we luckily avoided getting drenched. As the night wore on, the wind abated and soon we were sailing under full sail, making our way slowly toward Ashtabula.
Jupiter and Saturn kept us company for a while until hiding behind a cloud bank above the Eastern suburbs of Cleveland. Promises of light picked above the row of storm clouds to the east and soon the Moon came into full view. A beautiful full moon shone it’s Golden light across the water. The waves slowly subsided and the wind moderated, making it almost a pleasant sail, the clouds glowed with the light of the city and our two boats sailed on with the moon’s golden path of light following our boats and Illuminating the way. Smoke clouds glided across the face of the moon, lit up like silver in the sky. Lights flashed on the shore helping to guide us on our journey. The waves still tried to throw us around, but they were definitely calming down and making the passage a little easier. The wind gradually dropped as we moved up past the lights of East Cleveland. The moon played hide and seek, kicking in and out of clouds as we sailed on through the night. The skies cleared but there were still some clouds cutting across The dark night sky, obscuring it in every once in awhile.
Melanie came up for her watch and I tried to sleep. I laid there all night listening to Mary and Melanie chat with each other over the radio, and while the wind did drop, the waves continued their relentless assault on the boat, knocking it around and making life rather unpleasant. The sun finally showed itself, and I took the helm so Melanie could nap for a few hours before I started work. We made it in to Ashtabula around noon and dropped anchor in the harbor near the breakwall. It was dead calm. Bald eagles were flying around and made for a great nature show. I worked until happy hour and then we picked up Mary and MIke and bought them over to our boat for a relaxing dinner, drinks and some route planning. After taking them back we watched a Netflix episode and then went to bed. It was an early night and we slept well.
We were awoken the next morning by a powerboat wake as they rudely blasted through the harbor on their way to the lake. After a light breakfast and some coffee, we hauled anchor and put up all sail, headed to our next destination, Erie. The wind was light from the SE and we sailed parallel to the coast for a few hours making good headway until around 10am, when the wind began its predicted switch to the NE. This meant that it was directly on the nose and around 1pm, we decided to start the motor, drop sails and head directly to the destination so we arrived by sunset instead of tomorrow morning. The wind gradually increased and slowed our forward progress down, from 5 knots down to 2.5, so even though our motor was set to drive us 5, we made slow, arduous progress. Around 10:30pm we were finally making the last approaches to the mouth of the harbor when our companion boat ran out of fuel! We waited with them, sailing back and forth for 2 hours while chatting on the radio until the towboat arrived and whisked them quickly off to the safety of the harbor at 7-8 knots while we chugged slowly behind at 4.5 – arriving an hour later in a picturesque anchorage filled with boats. We found a spot, dropped anchor and went straight to bed, exhausted from the long day! By the time we woke up, well rested from our journey, they had all taken off and we were alone, with a light NE wind cooling the boat.
After a hot breakfast and a good cup of coffee, we took the dinghy into shore and helped Mike & Mary get their boat into a dock. They wanted the luxury of shore power to get all their toys charged up, and it allowed us to gain access to the showers on shore, a nice luxury. Once back to the boat I knuckled down to work for a while.
After a hot breakfast and a good cup of coffee, we took the dinghy into shore and helped Mike & Mary get their boat into a dock. They wanted the luxury of shore power to get all their toys charged up, and it allowed us to gain access to the showers on shore a nice luxury. Once back to the boat I knuckled down to work for a while.
Mike & Mary’s cat jumped ship when they arrived at the dock the previous evening, and we spent a good deal of time looking for her; putting up notices and searching, all in vain. Then, later that evening while taking our showers she came back thankfully. After dinner on the boat and a little socializing we went to bed. We were up and on our way early the next morning with not a breath of wind. It was a beautiful day and the wind, although it did finally make an appearance late in the day was not quite enough for us to sail. It was a long day of motor sailing with just a little bit of wind for us to put out the jib and get about a half knot of extra speed.
We arrived in Dunkirk at a picturesque Anchorage similar to Ashtabula and dropped anchor. There were some boat clubs and restaurants in the small harbor, so we lowered the dinghy and went ashore to find a place to eat. We ended up sitting outside for dinner and socialized with the locals while enjoying a few drinks before returning back to the boats exhausted. During the night the wind shifted from the north to the South and in the morning, it looked as though we would have a nice lazy sail over to Buffalo with winds around 8 knots. Then we tried to haul the anchor up. What fun! The rode and the anchor were absolutely covered in pounds and pounds of weeds. To make matters worse once I got the anchor up to water level, I found an old 8ft log caught in the shank. It took a little while to get the anchor cleaned and stowed and then I motored over to Mike and Mary and helped them do the same.
Then we were off and out into the lake. It was a glorious day, about a 10 knot breeze from the south which put us on a beam to broad reach. Conditions deteriorated quickly. A beautiful sunny day hid the fact that the wind spped was slowly creeping up until we were flirting with 30 knots and 8 foot breaking waves!
It was quite a white knuckled ride, the auto pilot could not handle the following seas, so for all but one hour of the trip, we had to hand steer until we squirted into the protected bay behind the breakwall that protects Buffalo from Lake Erie’s anger. The coast guard came out to take a look at us and make sure we were OK, thankfully with the wind from behind it was a ride punctuated with surfing down waves at greater than hull speed with very little heeling, so it was not too unpleasant.
We tied up carefully in the Bay next to Wlikeson Pointe park and then went ashore where we enjoyed a happy hour at the little concession stand there. After walking Windsor, we came back to the boat and fell into bed exhausted. No one got up until after 8; Mike & Mary got up around 10:30, and after breakfast on the boat we took a walk around looking at the park and then strolled over to First Buffalo where we met up with Kathy. She had been an immense help to us on our journey home 2 years ago and was once again very helpful in getting us set up with a dock for Mike & Mary. We untied their boat from the wall and then headed over to the State marina where we tied up before enjoying happy hour and heading out for dinner at the restaurant in the marina building. We met a few interesting people and dogs along the way, but before long it was close to sunset and we had to pack it in and take our dinghy back to the boat before darkness set in.
After unwinding with some Netflix, we slept and awoke to a howling breeze – just like Sunday, with huge waves crashing over the breakwall – I am REALLY glad we were not out in that! The trees offered us some shelter from the blow and the water close to the boat, while a little wavy, did not have breakers, although heading into shore at various times during the day, we did get soaked. Melanie did laundry and did some grocery shopping while I attended a work meeting. Then we went ashore for a happy hour at the park – cider along with some BBQ pork sliders – yummy! We topped off the day with some Netflix and thankfully during the night the wind abated. After our morning ritual, we headed off to take the boat into the same Marina where Mary and Mike were staying. After tying up we took a road trip into Buffalo and along the river to Niagara falls.
It was a perfect day, not too hot and humid, but pleasantly warm. We walked around admiring the beautiful views of the falls before heading up to North Tonawanda – the Erie canal entrance – for some dinner and then heading back to the boat.
We left Buffalo early the next morning on no breeze – motoring until after noon waiting for something to appear. Wind came up and soon we were able to unfurl sails and sail between 5 and 6 knots with a following sea – making it a pretty rolly ride. We scooted into Dunkirk and dropped anchor behind the breakwall, but with a NE wind there was not much shelter – we had 2 footers bouncing us around until about 2am before things calmed down. We dinghied into town the next morning and did a small bit of grocery shopping before we headed back to the boat where Melanie made dinner and we watched a gorgeous Ohio Lake Erie sunset.
We hauled up a TON of weeds once again the next morning when we departed and left Dunkirk behind, our next stop, Erie. The day shaped up the same way, light weather in the morning with a lot of motoring, until around noon when the wind picked up from the NE and soon we were cruising along at 5-6 knots under jib alone, surfing down waves that were getting larger as we approached Erie. We arrived early due to the help of the wind, and upon entering the bay encountered the largest waves of the day – 7 to 8ft! It made navigating the narrow channel into the bay quite interesting. We motored to our anchor spot and dropped our hook after filling up with diesel. Another evening of good food, drinks and companionship ensued while the wind howled – thankfully the bay was so sheltered that it did not create waves – just a good strong breeze to cool us all down.
We left early the next morning, took the long motor out to our turning point and headed West to Ashtabula. Dead.Calm. Another day of motoring lay ahead. A quick zephyr here and there promised some help, but the motor ended up doing all the work until about 2pm. We rolled back and forth on the leftover waves from the previous day and prayed for wind to appear. When it did, we were suddenly up to 6 knots! I turned the engine off and were still able to make 4-5 knots with just the jib and a nice South breeze. The wind strengthened until it was 20-25 knots and we were scooting along at over 6 knots for long periods of time. With the short distance between us an the shore, the waves were small and we were able to move quickly, arriving almost 2 hours earlier than we predicted. We anchored in the harbor and after unwinding for an hour or so, we motored up the river in the dinghy and tied off to a free dock. We wandered around the area close to the river, it was all historic buildings – well kept and bustling with activity. We ate at Briquettes Smokehouse and enjoyed some of the best ribs we have ever eaten before heading back to the boat for the night. After the traffic laid down we enjoyed a calm, restful sleep.
Wakes woke us up early the next morning, so we were up and moving quite early. We hauled anchor and headed out towards Mentor. The wind was light but helpful – it only gave us about 3 knots of speed so we motor sailed, because there was a chance of storms and we wanted to try and get in before they made their appearance. We made good progress towards Mentor but the radar showed a wicked line of storms marching down the lake towards us. We prepared for the worst – closed all ports, prepared to furl up sails and waited for the white line of swirling rain and whitecaps to march towards us and fling water in our faces. It never happened. The worst of the weather split and went North and South of us, and the arrival of the storm was heralded by a switch of wind direction to the North and gradually increasing rain – no deluging downpour! God was watching over us!
The rain did get quite hard, but the wind was never more than 15 knots, so we left the staysail up to help us make time. The skies gradually brightened, and when the rain passed, the wind suddenly switched to SE, around 15 knots. We unfurled our jib and between the two sails and the engine we were doing 7 knots towards our destination. We ended up arriving safely around 2:30 – far earlier than we had estimated. After docking and cleaning up, we enjoyed a tasty (and REALLY expensive) meal at the yacht club restaurant before retiring to bed for the night. Melanie spent the next day lounging around and relaxing at the pool while I worked, then she cooked up a fabulous meal for the 4 of us to enjoy at evening dinner.
We were up early the next day, our intended goal was home. We stocked up on ice and were off by 7:30, motor sailing towards the islands. There was a gentle breeze to help us on our way, and the scenery passed by quickly. Soon we were moving at over 6 knots, passing Cleveland and Lorain. There were waves coming from 2 directions, our beam and 45 degrees from the bow, so we rolled around uncomfortably until the wind was strong enough to keep the boat heeled enough. This made working below quite uncomfortable, I had to take breaks every half hour or so for fresh air so I did not get queasy. The winds petered out late in the afternoon, and with ZERO help from mother nature we were left motoring at 4.5 knots. That is when the invasion began. Biting flies attacked our boat and the two of us spent 90% of our time hunting and killing flies. The carnage was enormous; dead bodies piled up under the cockpit floorboards; those we killed and who fell and couldn’t be reached to dump over board. Thank goodness for Otto – our auto pilot – he kept us going straight while we slaughtered the invaders. Our marina is about 10 miles beyond Sandusky, so we parted ways with Mary & Mike and headed on our course to home while they pointed towards theirs. We gradually separated until we were almost 5 miles apart – they reached home an hour or so before us, but we were treated to a beautiful Lake Erie Sunset before we turned into our channel and returned safely to the dock. After tying up we realized that many of the flies had invaded the cabin, so we had another swatting spree to get rid of those intruder before collapsing into bed for a good night’s sleep. Our Buffalo adventure was done and in the books, but the memories we made will last for a while!
Our plans were to do some traveling; plans for sailing Lakes Huron and Michigan, but at the last minute we decided not to go as we were having engine heating issues and it looked like Michigan was going to go into quarantine mode again. So we spent the summer sailing around the islands and hanging out with friends, quiet and uneventful.
The highlight of the summer was our new spinnaker. My parents bought us a new spinnaker to replace the one we blew out in the Florida Keys. I had taken it in for repair and it was simply too old; they said it wasn’t worth the expense, and the sail, as old as it was, would probably not hold the new stitches.. We got to choose our design and the colors. Along with the coral/turquoise theme, our sail was a heavier fabric (up to 20 knots) and a star cut of coral, turquoise and yellow. We finally got to fly it in mid July. A typical Nor’Easter blew up and we decided to take the boat out and give it a try. We sailed up around the North side of Kelleys Island and then tacked toward the South East until we were about 10 miles from home port. We bore off downwind and then hoisted and set the colorful sail.
In response the boat leapt forward and our speed increased by a good 2 knots. We sailed for a good hour and a half until we dropped the sail between home port and Mouse Island so we could turn around and head in. It was a great sail, under almost perfect conditions, a good first sail with the new kite. Thank you mom and dad for the wonderful gift!
We also had family and friends come up and visit us, and I was kept busy at work.
We spent Saturday afternoon on shore where Windsor found a playmate, a Golden Doodle who looked like Ellie, and they played hard for about an hour. We took a short walk before showering, watching a few shows and going to bed. It was chilly and numerous quick showers pelted us, so cuddling up and watching some TV was about all we could do. Sunday we did laundry after watching a few sermons, then we walked the park and talked to a few people on shore before walking to the end of the canal where it dumped in to the Niagara River. Then we headed back to the boat where we had dinner and watched some TV.
Monday morning after I had finished work, we walked over to the Carousel Museum and spent a wonderful few hours reliving our childhood and admiring the art of carousel making before coming home and having lunch. Then we cast off and motored out of the Erie Canal into the Niagara River. The current was fairly strong, but we made steady progress up to the Black Rock lock. The lock is at the entrance to the Black Rock canal that runs parallel to the river, but keeps you out of the current which increases quickly from 1 to 2 knots down by the islands to 5 knots or more at the entrance to the Niagara River. We motored up through the canal, underOn the wall at Tonawanda a few bridges and then into the downtown area near Veterans Park where we looked around and then headed to our chosen anchorage which was in the old salt canal a short distance away. We tied up to a concrete wall which was in a sad state of disrepair, but in decent enough condition that we could safely tie up and spend a few days. Thank goodness for LARGE fenders!
The area was very sheltered; there was a brick wall to the West that protected it from Lake Erie, and to the South, the North and the East were the walls of the inlet. The North wall had been converted to a park; there were some wind decorations and other things that we decided to explore later but it looked like it was going to storm so we stayed put and watched Netflix before turning in.
We had called the marina and scheduled our mast to go up on Thursday, but Tuesday we called as the weather was nice and they said they would squeeze us in. We motored over at 10 and spent the next few hours getting the mast up. Once it was stable, we motored back to the wall and spent the afternoon tightening the rigging and getting the sails put on. We had an issue with the mainsail and one of the dutchman lines broke, so I had to fix that. Once we got the mainsail squared away we called it a day, went into shore, took Windsor to the beach and walked around the park. It was a very nicely done area, lots of wildflowers and butterflies, a few slides for small kids and a nice walking path. It was a pleasant surprise.
Wednesday we headed in to shore after I finished with work, and we walked down to the bike ferry, a pontoon boat that goes back and forth from Naval Park to Ferry Park, to allow people to get over to see the wildlife refuge and Wilkeson Point Park where we were tied up. It was only $1 per person each way, so we went over and because we had Windsor, we just explored the outside of the museum where all the memorials are located. They had monuments to everything, Marines, Army, Polish soldiers, Hispanic soldiers, even Gold Star families! It made for a nice walk and once done, we headed down the shoreline to Swannies for some drinks and chicken wings which were very good. We walked back another way searching for ice cream which we found eventually, hidden behind Hatch, a small restaurant complex at the mouth of the Buffalo river.
We enjoyed some good chocolate ice cream before walking to the front to Hatch where there was a small bar. We got a glass of wine and watched the sailboats head out and race on Wednesday evening. There were at least 50! It was a wonderful sight and there was a good wind to boot. We headed home on the ferry and met a couple on a Tartan 37, headed down South to Florida. We had a nice discussion with them and while walking, got to see a doe and her fawn in the nature preserve. They put on a little show for us posing for the camera, they were both so beautiful; God is truly a Great Creator.
Once back on board, Melanie made an Irish coffee for us and we watched the sun set before heading in to bed. Thursday we went to the Naval Museum and walked around the indoor and outdoor exhibits before coming back to the boat to take Windsor for a walk. There was an interesting array of exhibits, including a WWII destroyer and submarine, and a Vietnam era destroyer. We were beat after climbing up and down all the ladders in the ships, moving between floors to see the exhibits.
After work on Friday we walked to the grocery store for supplies, and then took an Uber back to the boat to pack everything away before heading to shore for one last drink at the park and to take Windsor for a walk. Saturday morning after breakfast we headed into the marina, filled up with water, bought some ice and then sailed out into the lake.
The wind was a good 15 to 20 knots, and after hoisting the sails, we sailed out of the harbor on starboard tack, perpendicular to our intended course so we made no progress until we tacked an hour or so later and started Westward. The sailing was good; there was a 2 foot chop with the occasional three to four foot wave, but we made steady progress with glorious sunshine and good winds. A great way to end a sailing adventure. We heard a report from a boat in Fairport on the radio that they had found a capsized aluminum runabout with at least one body floating in the water. The weather wasn’t that bad, but it was a sober reminder that nature takes no prisoners.
The wind dropped during the course of the day to 10 to 15, and by 5:30 pm we had sailed 30 miles with a mere 17 miles of progress toward our destination. It was going to be a looooong ride. After sunset, I took first watch and the wind dropped down to 10 to 12 knots. We were sailing along around 4 knots making good progress Westward. It was not too cold and the sky was clear so there was a beautiful display of stars. The stars were so thick it felt like the sail was slicing through them like a knife; the Milky Way was on display and looked like a line of a cloud across the sky it was so thick and clearly defined.
As we went further down the lake we passed a huge windmill farm on the Canadian side. All the windmills had red lights on top and they all flashed together, so there was about a 10 mile stretch of red lights turning on and off at exactly the same time, quite an unusual sight to see when you’re out in the middle of the lake. Around 1 am, an orange moon crept slowly up behind us out of the lake, quite ghostly looking, and it stayed orange until it was a good deal above the horizon. Melanie came up for her watch and I went back down for the night. By sunrise the next morning we were along the coast of Long Point close to the shoreline, so we tacked and headed back South towards the US shoreline. Our landfall was Erie Pennsylvania, and we sailed in close to shore before tacking away. The wind held up nicely through the morning and the afternoon and we were able to maintain an easy 5 knots. The wind switched later in the day more to the Southwest, which made our tacks across the lake a little less effective in gathering distance.
Around 2:30 p.m., the wind switched and abruptly dropped, leaving us with 2 to 3 ft waves and no wind to move us through them. Our boat speed went from 5 knots down to less than 2 in a matter of minutes and we were hobby horsing and bobbing around like a cork. We tried to get the boat going again, but the waves were too much and we were not able to get our speed back. We struggled with it for a while before finally giving in and turning on the engine and motoring. With the iron genny running, we were able to charge our batteries and make some good headway in a direction straight towards our objective. We were aiming for Kelleys Island, it was an anchorage we were familiar with and we knew that we could shower, do laundry and prepare for our return home there without too much effort. We motored until about 7pm along the shore and then the wind came up a bit giving us about a knot or so more of speed and some cooling relief from the heat, but not enough to turn the loud motor off and just sail alone.
We had an almost drama when Melanie went below to make some coffee and because the boat was heeling a bit, the flames from the burner started to partially come out of the burner’s volume control knob on the stove. I put the fire out with water, but then we could not turn the knob to close the burner control so we could open the top and put the cover back on. It took me a good half hour of sleuthing before I figured out how to do it, but that left us with only one working burner and another item on the to-do list for me to fix.
We decided that Melanie would take the first watch and I would do the late night watch. We decided to motor until I came on watch, and then we would turn off the motor and just sail so that Melanie could get some sleep. It was an exquisitely sunny day, the skies were clear but towards sunset it started to cloud up a little. The wind came up a little as well and boosted us towards our goal. Melanie went below and rustled up some dinner for us while we enjoyed our evening glass of wine and the beautiful air.
After sunset she took the first watch and I went below to sleep. With the motor running we were able to make between 5 and 6 knots. Around 1:30 Melanie turned off the motor and I came up for my watch. The winds were 15 to 20 and we were making good progress past Cleveland and out across the bight towards Kelleys Island. However the infamous Lake Erie chop reared its ugly head along with the wind. We started to hobby horse in the larger waves which slowed us considerably, so I turned off the auto pilot and tried to hand steer through it, but without any points of reference – no tell tails or horizon to see – it was difficult to sail a straight course. Our wind indicator was malfunctioning and its internal battery kept running down, so to use it I would have to turn it on to confirm a wind direction and then turn it off and manually steer to the appropriate compass heading.
It was frustrating and slow going during the course of the early morning as we headed west. Right around sunrise the wind suddenly increased quite dramatically from 15 knots up to 20 to 25 knots! I rolled up the staysail and laughed to myself; I had just finished listening to the weather forecast and it called for 5 to 10 knot winds in our area. As usual they were wrong. We were fighting a three to four ft chop which made life below very uncomfortable but we made good time as we continued slogging westward until we reached the eastern side of Point Pelee.
Then we tacked and headed South. Soon we were out of sight of land again, just water surrounding us, with the wind slowly switching to the southwest, turning our track from Huron towards Lorain. Our intention was to sail until we were able to make a tack for Pelee Island, but after bobbing around at under two knots for about 15 minutes I got impatient and we decided to turn on the iron genny.
What a difference it made! We were able to roll up the Yankee and carry the staysail and the mainsail and motor straight towards our destination at a healthy 4.5 knots. That changed our expected arrival time from 10pm to 5pm. As we motored on, the shore line of Pelee Island slowly came into view, followed by Middle Island and then the Kelleys Island shoreline and the all too familiar Perry’s monument on South Bass. We were approaching home. It was hazy and humid, so everything looked somewhat foggy, but unmistakenly familiar.
About 10 miles from Kelleys, the wind switched to the south east and we were able to turn off the motor and sail for a while, but of course as it always does, the wind pooped and so the last 5 miles we motor sailed into the anchorage at Kelleys. 2 miles before our anchorage the wind suddenly came up to 25! There were squalls and thunderstorms forecasted for the evening, so getting in was of premier importance.We scooted in to the anchorage, dropped the hook, lowered the dinghy and headed into shore so Windsor could get some land time. It had been almost 3 days since he had seen real grass.
We anchored at 5:15 and we were safely at rest; 7480 Nautical miles. We left Buffalo with the odometer at 7235 and it was straight line trip of 190 miles; we had done a lot of tacking! After dropping the anchor we went in to shore to take Windsor for a walk and to go to the store next to the campground for some chocolate ice cream. They were out of it! We ended up walking into town on the other side of the island where we ate dinner and then found an ice cream store that had our favorite flavor; caveman chocolate. After a good does of ice cream we walked back, collected our shower things at the boat and went in to shore to take a shower. There were storms coming, and we hastily returned back to the boat after showering, making it just in time; the rain started pelting us just as we were closing up the hatch for the night. We had a huge thunderstorm and it rained for hours, but we didn’t care, we were in bed asleep.
Next morning we awoke to clouds and we could tell there was a little breeze because we could feel it behind the trees. We decided to pull our anchor and sail over to Put-in-Bay so that I could work. We hoisted the main, pulled up the anchor and sailed off towards the Bay. Once around the corner of Kelleys the wind increased to about 15 out of the Southwest. It was a nice flat sail; it was good to be back in home waters. We made short work of the eight miles to Put-in-Bay, and soon we were anchored in front of the monument in our old spot. After a few hours work, we headed to shore to do laundry. The clouds gave way to humid sunshine, and our cool spot on the boat became hot and uncomfortable when on the mainland. It took us a while to find the laundry, tucked away out of sight of all the tourism. We got all the laundry finished and while it was running we visited Wharfside and had a cup of coffee. We talked to Bob and Elena, two of the people we knew that worked there, then went to Hooligans for dinner and walked back to the boat.
I had forgotten a load in the laundry; I thought there were two loads and there were actually 3, so after coming back to the boat I had to head back to shore and dry that load before returning. We spent the next few days unwinding at Middle Bass and Put-In-Bay before heading home on Saturday. On the way we scattered Jezzie’s ashes into the lake and then motored in to the welcoming arms of family and friends at our home dock on Catawba Island. We came to our final stop at 7499 miles.
Our adventure was over, but the memories of this trip will last forever. Thank you to all those friends and family who prayed for our safety every day, especially in harrowing situations. Prayer DOES make a difference. We saw it with our own eyes; storms parting to allow us safe passage, God providing a way for our motor to be repaired when we thought we would have to sell the boat, protection from an hour of continuous lightning, His blessing were numerous. Thank you Lord for allowing us to safely take this awesome adventure and to make it home in one piece. Our Lord is truly a great God!
The Hudson was choppy, rough and very busy. A few miles north of the city the traffic died down substantially and before long we were pretty much the only boat on the river. It was a nice, quiet, smooth journey with a good following current. At first the wind was at our back but by the time we got to the George Washington bridge the wind was dead on the nose. All we could do was motor with the staysail up but we made a good 6 or so knots up the river. The scenery was quite beautiful.
We passed under the Tappan Zee bridge which was under construction. The old steel girder bridge had been replaced with two suspension bridges, one for each lane of traffic. One bridge was finished, one was almost done and the old one was being dismantled. Just north of there in Ossining we anchored for the night. We woke next morning to a glorious cool clear morning, surrounded by hills to the East and cliffs to the West. After breakfast we took a walk into town for some groceries, stopped for a quick cup of coffee and then headed back to the boat to put our groceries away, then hauled anchor and hit the road. The wind was out of the North so once again we motor sailed with the staysail.
Anchored near Ossining
Views on the river
Views on the river
When we reached West Point, we decided to try to go ashore to take in a tour, but were told rather curtly on the radio that it is inaccessible by water. Disappointed, we ended up motoring up until the town of New Hamburg where we anchored in the river for the night. Next morning we caught the favorable current and motored up until we reached Kingston. We arrived around noon, dropped the anchor and waited for favorable current. The wind came up quite a bit, so we decided to sail even though there was a 2 knot current against us. It was slow going, we left Kingston during Peak counter-current, so even though we had a 15 knot following wind and our speed should have been close to 6 knots, we were moving between two and three. It was a pleasant sail, but the 8 mile trip to Saugerties took 4 hours! We eventually arrived and anchored in a very narrow river for the night. We went to shore, walked into town and found a nice restaurant where we had dinner and a few drinks before walking back to the boat.
Commuter train zooming by
Coming up on West Point
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Next morning we made a few phone calls and decided that Catskill was the spot where we would drop the mast. We waited until favorable current around 8 am, then hauled our anchor and headed out towards the Catskills. It was hot, still and very pretty. We made good time because we had a favorable 1.5 knot current. We anchored just north of the Rip Van Winkle bridge and started to take down sails. We figured that would save us a day of docking fees. It was hot. Very hot. Luckily there was a good wind and plenty of shade helped to keep us cool.
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Abandoned castle on the Hudson
Castle on the Hudson
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
Hudson river scenes
After we had the sails down we motored in to the marina, arriving around 4:30 pm. We walked into town and ate at a quaint restaurant that doubled as an ice cream shop. Right as we finished dinner they closed, so we had to wander elsewhere looking for some dessert. Luckily we found a place that was still open and enjoyed some good ice cream before heading back to the boat. It was very very hot and sticky. There was a promise of rain but nothing materialized.
We had tied up next to two boats coming from Quebec and headed south. They were having their masts raised and conveniently enough their equipment matched our purposes to a tee, so after their sticks went up, we took their trusses and with an hour or so of modification we were ready. They lifted our mast out of the hole through the cabin top and lowered it slowly on to the trusses and then we secured it down with straps. It looked a little unsteady, but the guys that were running the lift said that we did a good job and that everything looked fine. It was rather strange to have your mast above your head, it changed the way the boat behaves. It now rocked more quickly, much like a powerboat. It’s going to take a while to get used to the new feeling. After we had the mast fully secured we filled up with diesel, bought ice and then went back to the Rip Van Winkle bridge where we anchored for the night. It was much cooler out there with the wind blowing off the water.
Rip Van Winkle Bridge
Dinghying in to check out the lay of the land
Last night before the mast comes down
Mast down and secured
Our new “view”
We awoke the next morning and around 10 when the current was slack we hauled anchor and were able to take a favorable current all the way to our first lock which was in Troy. The river slowly narrowed to less than a quarter mile; we passed through Albany and then Troy where there was a quick lock to go over a spillway and then a short distance later we pulled into the entrance of the Erie Canal. There were free docks for tie up along with showers and water, so we took full advantage. We met a very nice couple on the way who also tied up and went out to dinner with him. They were from Muskegon in Michigan. After dinner we strolled back to the boat and collapsed exhausted. It was still hot and sticky. Next morning we headed out and ate breakfast at a diner that was very very inexpensive, $2 for eggs and toast! With a huge breakfast and coffee to boot our bill was less than $15, quite a nice surprise in New York where things have been unusually expensive.
We headed to the grocery store and the liquor store and picked up our necessities for the rest of the trip and then headed back. We were glad that we went early in the morning because it got very hot, steamy and uncomfortable. On the way back we passed a cherry tree packed with fruit, so we came back and picked cherries to our hearts content. We picked almost 2 quarts and after being in the hot sun for a while, we took our plunder and returned to the boat.
Lighthouse on the Hudson
Erie Canal entrance
The mule at Waterford
Tied up to the wall
We ended up spending the afternoon watching Netflix with a fan running just to stay cool. After a light dinner we went to bed and woke early the next morning, grabbed a bag of ice and started the motor just as the first lock door was opening. We went through five locks in quick succession, going up about 200 feet and then motored for a while on the Mohawk River which is now part of the Erie Canal system. It was very picturesque, houses and small marinas dotted the sides of the canal, but for the most part it was green and heavily wooded and just absolutely beautiful.
Halfway between locks 6 and 7 our engine alarm came on. We shut down, dropped anchor and started to look for things that could be causing problems. First check was the strainer and although we had been going through relatively clear water, the strainer was quite clogged and looked like it was obstructing the flow of water. There was one big leaf caught in it and that would have been enough to severely restrict the flow. Our solution was to run the box fan blowing air on to the engine, and that cooled it down enough so that we were able to start motoring again after we had cleaned the strainer and put everything back together.
Motoring up the canal near Waterford
Entering a lock
At the top of the lock
In the canal
Old boat used to maintain the canal in days past
Bridge on the canal
We made it up to lock 9, which is the eighth lock in the Erie Canal system and there we stopped for the night. There was a state park as well as an ice cream store, so the dog was happy and so were we. We took a walk to the store, then headed back to the boat and met a lock master named Clay. He was doing some maintenance work after hours and we chatted with him for quite a while before heading back to the boat.
Next morning we were up bright and early and after picking up some ice, we headed through the first lock, lock 9. It was a gorgeous morning, it had rained a little during the night so it was a bit cool and cloudy and there was not a breath of wind. After we motored out of the lock, we headed across a glassy, mirror like dam back into the canal system. It was lined with trees, bushes, rocks and all sorts of wildlife. We saw Kingbirds, Kingfishers flying around collecting dinner, Grackles, Killdeer, Osprey, Herons and Eagles; it was wonderful to see nature up close like this, so relaxing. After an hour or so, the wind came up a little bit from the West and offered us a cooling breeze.
Lock entrance clogged with fishing boats
Locking up with bass boats.
Views along the canal
Views along the canal
Views along the canal
Views along the canal
Views along the canal
We pulled in at lock 11 because it said there were some historic artifacts to be seen. We walked around aimlessly in the sweltering heat for about an hour before we realized that the artifacts had all been washed away in the flood from a few years back. We got back to the boat, cast off and headed westward. We went through beautiful mountain passes covered in trees of green, it was spectacular. Around 5, we pulled into Canajoharie and tied up at a free dock there. Melanie made a snack for us, and after eating, we headed to shore to explore.
It was very hot, so we really decided to just walk around the park where the dog was and talk to some of the locals. Then we turned in for the night. It was uncomfortably warm, train whistles blew all night long and the roar of I-90 right next to us made it difficult to sleep. Add to that the heat and humidity with no air conditioning and we were very uncomfortable. I slept well, Melanie did not. We awoke bright and early the next morning and went through lock 14 with a tug and continued up the Mohawk River. The river had narrowed quite substantially until it was only perhaps 50 yards wide, trees lined the bank with the odd cornfield poking through in between. We wound our way along the foothills of some mountain range to our North, through the pass towards Buffalo.
Just before we reached Lock 16, we pulled into a small RV campground right on the canal at Saint Johnsville to pick up ice and water. We continued on until we arrived at Lock 17. Just before we hailed the lock the heavens opened and it poured with rain. We were actually thankful, because it was so hot and windless and we were both very overheated. The rain cooled us down quite a bit, washed the boat a little and when it let up we went into the lock. It was an unusual one, the East gate was actually an up and down gate, not the opening doors which most of the other locks had. They lifted the gate, we drove under, then they closed it behind us. It was the largest lock we have been in on the canal so far and the lift was over 40 feet. When the doors opened we left and headed for lock 18 which we passed through without incident and shortly after leaving the lock, we decided to pull over in Herkimer for the night. While trying to tie up to the wall we ran aground – twice! Our poor overworked engine managed to get us off, but we were a little rattled. We ended up tying up in about 8 feet of water right at the very end of the dock, about as far East as you can go without actually leaving, then Melanie made us each a stiff drink.
Tied up at lock 9
Windsor gets a bath
It poured all night long, and didn’t let up until the next morning about 9. After breakfast we decided we would head out to do laundry, so we packed up our stuff, left the boat and decided to visit the gift shop right near where we were tied up. Its a good thing that we did, because 2 minutes after we got inside it started pouring again! It rained and rained and after talking with the staff for a while we decided it was better to just hit the road and do laundry elsewhere. It finally stopped raining around 11 and we were on the road by noon, once again headed west into a somewhat hazy sky due to the humidity and rain. The canal closed around us until it was perhaps only a hundred feet wide as we motored up the tree-lined “road” towards lock 19.
Our next stop was a short two miles up the canal, Ilion. We tied up at a free dock, and took a short walk into town to the Remington Arms Factory Museum. It was a fascinating history on the development and manufacture of Remington rifles and pistols. After the tour we spoke to one of the people that had worked there for quite a while, then walked back to the boat, stopping for an ice cream at Stewart’s and then at Aldi for a few quick necessities. It was 3 p.m. by the time we arrived back at the boat, so we hastily cast off and set out for the next lock which was about 7 miles away.
Keeping the boat off the lock wall in lock 17
Exiting a lock
We passed through the lock without incident, and motored up to lock 20 where we tied up on the wall for the night. Next morning around 7:30 we passed through; the wall was very pitted and with the currents in the lock as they let in the water, it was difficult keeping the boat off the wall. Right after we left the lock we ran aground. They were doing dredging work and the barge that was dredging was anchored across the channel, and as I moved to go around it, we ran aground. They had to straighten themselves out and luckily we were able to motor off and then motor through the area where the barge used to be. There was a lot of debris and a lot of shallow spots that they apparently appear to be working on; many downed trees and rotten, dead stumps litter the canal. It does need some maintenance.
We stopped in Rome, walked to Fort Stanwix, then headed over to Ace Hardware to buy more cooking alcohol. The fort was a recreation, built to the original plans and was quite spectacular. It was rebuilt in 1976 and is by far the best representation of an old Revolutionary War Fort that we have seen. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting it before heading back and casting off, heading Westward once again.
Motoring the canal
New species of bird
The area between lock 20 and lock 21 is a watershed. We were going up in lock 20, and lock 21 was headed down towards Lake Oneida. Fort Stanwix was built to protect the portage between the two from marauding Indians and and thieves. Goods were shipped up the Mohawk River and then carried 6 miles across to Wood Creek where they were loaded on and taken down to Oneida and Westward. The Erie Canal took care of that Portage.
We passed through lock 21 and then a short mile later, lock 22, which dropped us a total of 50 feet. We then motored to Sylvan, a small vacation town located at the entrance to Lake Oneida and there we tied up for the night. We took a walk around the area near the city dock and then bought some takeout food at a small restaurant. We met another boater headed west to Lake Superior; he and his crew came aboard our boat and we chatted a while. Next morning we filled up, pumped out and motored across Lake Oneida to the other side where we spent the night at a small Marina called Ess-Kay. It was very quaint, quiet, clean and well-kept. The owners were very personable and we enjoyed letting Windsor run free and play with their dog. They had a courtesy car which they lent us so we could run a few errands and do laundry. It was a wonderful stay. Next morning we headed out to lock 23 which was a few miles away, off again headed westward.
Candidate for the Darwin awards
An old tug
Low bridge everybody down
Passing through Rochester
Passing through Rochester
Passing through Rochester
We motored down the canal through lock 23 and lock 24 before coming to Cross Lake where we anchored in the southwest corner for the night. This lake is about the size of Alum Creek, although not quite as narrow in the middle. Very scenic with homes all around and not particularly busy. It was a calm, restful night. After breakfast the next morning we hauled anchor and headed west. The distance between lock 24 and 25 is 31 miles and we had done about 8 to get to Cross Lake, so we had a fairly long motor ahead of us before the next lift. It was very picturesque, a carpet of green on each side but there was also a lot of water weed. Hyacinth is starting to choke out the channel. We did see some “mowers” that harvested the stuff, people were driving them around attempting to vacuum it up to keep the waterway clear.
We passed through locks 25 and 26 before pulling over in Clyde. The city dock had water, shore power and a pump out, so it was a good spot to stop and stretch our legs. The town was pretty much closed up, almost too deserted for a Saturday, so we headed back to the boat after walking around and looking at some of the older architecture, took in some Netflix and went to bed. It rained during the night and we slept in, we never left until about 10 a.m. the next morning.
Melanie cooked breakfast while we were on the way, continuing down the green leafy road called The Erie Canal which at this point was only 75 to 100 feet wide. Between locks 28B and lock 29, we passed a barge being pushed by a tug! The river was only 60 to 70 feet wide at that point! It was a little harrowing trying to edge past each other safely and not run aground, but we managed somehow and then continued on our way. Just before lock 29, we stopped under an overpass which was a close walk to a grocery store. Melanie went to pick up a few things while I waited with the boat. Then we were on our way, passing through locks 29 and 30 and tying up to the wall just after lock 30 to explore the park. There was not as much there as we were led to believe; part of the old Canal which is now being used as a spillway, and huge wooden boxes that were used like anchors. There was also a little butterfly park we took a walk in; very cute. I walked into the gas station in town to pick up some ice and there was not much there either. Town was pretty deserted; everything was closed but being a Sunday that was not surprising.
Next morning we left around 10 a.m., motored through locks 32 and 33 and then down the narrow gorge carved into the rock outside of Rochester. In some places the cliffs on either side were 40 foot high. The glare from the clouds caused us to miss spotting a huge tree trunk which we hit at full speed. We were horrified. We threw the boat into neutral, slowed it down and checked for damage. We still had steerage and we did not appear to have any leaks so I think the keel probably spun the log and pushed it out of the way and it did not damage the propeller shaft. We posted a watch on the bow of the boat so that I would have enough time to avoid any in the future. The glare on the water made it very difficult for me to see what was ahead down low.
Medina, NY – train museum
Medina, NY – train museum
Medina, NY – train museum
Medina, NY – train museum
Medina, NY – train museum
Headed towards Lockport
We arrived at Spencerport just before 5pm, ahead of the Glass blowing barge that was touring the canal ports. We registered, then headed into town, a short block away and enjoyed dinner outside at an Irish pub which served some superb food.
The second day in Spencerport we did laundry, and in late afternoon met a couple from New Hampshire that was doing the canal in an 18-foot Hunter! We chatted long into the night with them and had a wonderful evening. Towards bedtime it started raining and it poured all night long, not stopping until 11 in the morning. We took our time, slept in and were generally lazy. When the rain stopped, we headed in for a cup of coffee and then said our goodbyes and cast off. The lift bridge was unusual. Most have towers and the bridge is hoisted up the tower. This one was underground and pushed the bridge up. Very unusual.
We motored until about 6 p.m. and pulled into the canal Port of Medina. We tied up there to a free wall with electric and water, and after an afternoon drink, we walked into town to explore. The town is renowned for its sandstone, and there were many buildings constructed with that material that have been restored and are quite beautiful. We stopped at an Irish Pub, ate dinner and chatted to a few of the patrons before heading back to the boat to watch a little TV and hit the sack. Next morning I did a little bit of work while Melanie relaxed and then we walked into town to the railroad museum. It was the most spectacular collection of railroad related memorabilia that I have ever seen. Quite an amazing display. Then we headed back to the boat, cast off and headed westward to our next Port, Lockport. It was only a 3 hour motor, and after passing through the double locks, 34 and 35, we pulled over at a free wall and tied up for the night. I took a quick trip to a gas station for ice before we settled in to enjoy the evening.
Old lock doors
Original 5 locks at Spencerport
Original 5 locks at Spencerport
Lock door 34
Old canal barge
Grooves in rock where mules pulled the lines
Next morning we took a walk down to the lock district and had a good cup of coffee before heading down to the locks where we poked around. The famous “flight of five” original locks are still there and were converted into a spillway right next to the current working locks. They have all kinds of stuff from pictures of the construction to memorabilia and original equipment from the historic lock period. It was a fascinating tour; we got to watch an interesting phenomenon; a boat going down and one coming up at the same time. Our morning culminated with a hearty late breakfast at a local diner. Then we went ziplining across the Erie canal and celebrated afterwards with some ice cream from a famous local shop. After a full day, we headed back to the boat and relaxed for the evening. Melanie made a yummy chicken stew which we gobbled down before settling in for the night.
We started slowly the next morning, after breakfast we went down to the lock district, had a cup of coffee and went to the farmers market that was open on Saturdays. We bought a few veggies, some cheese and then a bag of ice and headed back to the boat. We did our preliminary checks, started the motor, cast of and headed Westward. After Lockport the canal goes through a man-made gorge. The water is about 15 ft lower than the surrounding land, so it’s like a tunnel on each side of rocks and trees, very scenic. Then the gorge gradually flattened out until we motoring down the Tonawanda river through the suburbs on the outskirts of Buffalo. We arrived around 3pm and tied up at Gateway park near where the river merges with the Niagara River. Our canal adventure was over and now it was time to become a sailboat again and head to our home port.
Bright and early the next morning we were up and on the road again, motoring because there was absolutely no wind. The sea was smooth without even a cat’s paw, so on it was with the iron genny and we motored our way towards Newport. It was beautiful and sunny, some high clouds but it looked to be a nice, warm day. The wind gradually increased, and around 2 hours into the journey we were able to turn off the motor and ended up with a glorious sail to Newport. Winds were 15 to 20 knots and we made quick work of the 45 miles needed to get there, arriving before 4pm and anchoring just south of Goat Island in front of the city.