Motoring….

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.

Pointing out the islands

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.

Motoring under the bridge 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.

Motoring up the Saint Clair River on Sunday Morning

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 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. A quick shower and then off to bed.

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…

The captain at the wheel

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