JULY 2004 A NEW BEGINNING
July 1 was a special day, not because it was Brian’s birthday, but because we officially moved aboard that evening on our return from North Carolina. Wiring the windlass battery to the charging system and completing the wind generator wiring were our first priorities. We also bought a new 10’ 4” Achilles inflatable dingy with an air floor that packs down really nicely into only one bag that lashes in front of the mast. Made three trips back to Judy’s house to bring the rest of the gear aboard and finally stow. We also had the Salvation Army come on July 3 to take all the stuff we did not sell in the yard sales. They hauled away eight cartons of clothes and a lot of other household goods. Really made us realize how much ‘junk’ we accumulate in our lives, and how much of it we really need!
The ‘arrrgh’ option caught us again two days later. This time it was the motor burning out on the pressure water system. The big plus is that the replacement is both smaller and quieter than the original.
As we loaded the boat, we watched the waterline sink lower and lower to a point where we have no boot stripe on the starboard side and are right down to the stripe on the port side. Still have some balancing to do.
And finally, on July 14 we slipped the lines at 0630 and departed. Not without some small drama before. Judy went to the facilities and walked the dogs while Brian was getting the yacht ready. She tied them to a fire hydrant while she was inside. When she got out, the dogs were not there and she assumed Brian had got them back on board. Not the case the dogs had got free and were on their regular morning constitutional walk. They were leashed together so at least we had them together. No harm done. Must have been quite a sight….Max-Harvey pulling Lilly! They were caught on a bush and very happy to be rescued.
Trip across the lake was a great ride. Forecast was 15 20 knots NW. Accurate for the direction but we saw winds up to 30 knots. Put one reef in after one hour, then did the rest of the trip with the wind vane steering the whole way. Decided to call the wind vane James after James Cook, the British navigator that first charted New Zealand. Arrived off White Lake entrance at 1700 and tied up at the municipal marina. Decided to stay two nights to give us a break, as we seem to have been running in all directions since May. Got Michigan fishing licenses and caught sunfish, crappie and perch. Not a lot of meat but enough for an appetizer.
Our next leg was to Pentwater. Uneventful except for early fog for the first few hours and next to no wind right on the nose. The best attraction of Pentwater is several protected anchorages so finally our new anchor system was put to the test. Spent a really pleasant night there. Also tested out the new dingy, using it to ferry the dogs ashore for a walk. Judy tried the rod out again in the morning and caught two flathead catfish that became supper that night.
Friday morning we left Pentwater with the objective of Portage Lake. Forecast was for north winds 10-15 knots. All was well until we rounded Big Sable Point and ran into more than 25 knots of wind on the nose and 4 6 foot swells. After four hours of pounding into this we decided to stop short at Manistee and finished up tied to the wall on the river. After we tidied up, we took a walk uptown to find a really nice quaint Victorian collection of buildings and a beautiful riverwalk. Since we were feeling fairly beat up after hand steering the whole way we decided to declare Sunday a rest day.
Next stop was Frankfort, another small town on the east side of Lake Michigan. All these towns have municipal marinas that are very reasonably priced and within easy walking distance of downtown. Frankfort brought back memories of a brief stop over in 2001 delivering Sailor Bandido back after the Mackinac Race. Than on to Leland, a really quaint town that once was a fishing village and still retains the old buildings. The marina here is very small but the staff is very creative. We ended up rafted off the end of a dock, which worked well, except for one obnoxious power boater who insisted that he was leaving at 0700 and made sure that we and one other yacht were up early to move out of his way. That night we went into Leland and celebrated Judy’s birthday at a local tavern.
Left Leland at 0800 on Wednesday and had a great sail up to Charlevoix. No space at the marina so we anchored out in Round Lake next to Bliss. Bliss was next to us on the hard at Racine Riverside for the winter, so quite a coincidence to end up in Charlevoix next to each other. Charlevoix was celebrating Venetian Days, a week long summer celebration. We were anchored just off the band shell and were treated in the evening to a performance by Herman and the Hermits talk about nostalgia time! They are still very talented and witty. They started their set by announcing that they had been playing Michigan towns where their original records have not been released yet. The concert finished up with the entire crowd on shore and the anchored sailboat inhabitants singing “I’m Henry the Eighth I Am”. With the new moon reflecting on the water and a multitude of voices from everywhere it left us with an unexpected and pleasurable memory which reminds us of why we are doing this. Amazing what you come upon when you least expect it.
Our next leg was planned for Beaver Island. However two hours after leaving Charlevoix the predicted westerly had still not arrived, so rather than make Beaver Island we decided to go for Gray’s Reef Passage and Mackinac Island. Wind was out of the north east making most of the trip a beat but we could lay the passage entrance on a single leg. Then it got interesting! Wind speed kept building until we had to put a reef in the main. Then about two miles before Gray’s Reef we wrapped about one third of the jib. Even with that we were still getting better that 7 knots much of the time. After Gray’s Reef we had a broad reach down to Mackinac that had us at 8 knots often and 9.4 knots once. Averaged 6 knots for the whole trip. Mackinac Island Marina was full so we put into Mackinaw City. We had to make some repairs after this leg to the main traveled and the jib. The traveler adjusting blocks pulled out. Whoever put them in either did not do a good job of securing the bolts, or the treads had worn over the years. Finished up relocating the blocks to where I could fasten into wood for a more secure fitting. The jib split a seam on the leech line cover where it had rubbed on the upper spreader. Dropped the jib onto the deck, got out the Sailrite machine and in about ten minutes had the repair made, so the Sailrite machine is getting some use. Also found that we had lost the bow light somewhere along the way, probably in White Lake when the dock attendant pulled the bow in too tight. Nearest West Marine is in Petoskey and no public transport for the 35 miles. Called West Marine and ordered the part and found that the store manager is a South African and after a short discussion about the five years Brian lived in South Africa, he offered to run the light up to us.
While in Macinaw City we had the most incredible mayfly hatches and would get up in the morning to find them everywhere.
When we left Mackinaw City on Sunday morning we were in for a long day to DeTour with no wind and glassy seas. Made good time and pulled into DeTour with enough time to get ashore and find the ice cream shop. Found that we had arrived too late for the only grocery store so we had dinner ashore. DeTour marked the beginning of the North Channel section of Lake Huron. Next morning we did laundry and stocked up with food for several days then left just before noon for a short run to Harbor Island. This is a beautiful island with a narrow entrance leading to a nearly enclosed bay. We tucked just inside the entrance protected by a small spit of land and anchored in ten feet of water. There were about eight boats in the anchorage for the night. Took a trip around the bay and saw two bald eagles. Later that evening watched a deer browsing along the shoreline. And then later at night we were treated to a display of the Northeren Lights. Next day we lazed around and fished for small mouth bass. Judy got the prize for the most and largest, a 2 ½ lb fish and total of three. Brian got two. There is nothing quite like fresh fish for dinner. We also took the dingy for a trip across to Drummond, about 1 ½ miles across from Harbor Island.
Tuesday morning we left Harbor Island for Meldrum Bay in Canada. Once again no wind but some interesting navigation challenges getting out of Harbor Island and into the main section of the North Channel. In all we had nine waypoints in the GPS with the first seven covering only eight miles. Basically we went around the west side of Harbor Island, dodging reefs and other islands through a winding channel that had about 25 feet of water in it. Got to Meldrum Bay and found that the Canadian Customs had some staff there because of the large number of boats coming through just now. Usually you call into a toll free number and complete the entry formalities over the phone. A very pleasant young woman came aboard and completed all the forms and then did a brief inspection of the boat. We are now free to sail through Canadian waters until the end of August. Meldrum Bay is a very quiet town one hotel and a country store, a few houses and a campground. The marina was long finger docks with other boats inside. We were unable to get the power cord to the boat, so we decided to anchor out in the bay with five other yachts.
We had taken a beating from the sun and heat coming up from Harbor Island so we decided to have an easy morning and leave later in the day for Vidal Bay. This turned out to be a good choice as the wind built during the morning and gave us a great ride for the 9.6 miles to the Vidal Bay anchorage. There were only two other yachts and a trawler in the anchorage, and one left about 1800h. Went ashore to explore with the dogs and found a small stream that appeared to have numbers of trout in the pools. Should have taken the fly rods with us.
The next day we left mid-morning for Gore Bay. Once again the wind built and by noon we were running a close reach between 7 and 8 knots that we carried all the way into the bay at Gore Bay. Gore Bay was planned as a short stop to collect our mail but we finished up staying four days as the mail did not arrive and the weekend was a holiday Monday!
One of the really interesting facets of this lifestyle is the people we meet. While in North Carolina Brian took some cardboard boxes and trash to the local recycling center. An older gentleman was unloading back issues of the Seven Seas Cruising Association Commodore’s Bulletin. As a fellow SSCA member Brian introduced himself. Cliff immediately apologized that he had thrown all his back issues of Cruising World and Ocean Navigator out, but he still had all his east coast charts and transatlantic, England, Scotland and the Mediterranean. Would we like them? So we now have a tremendous extra collection of charts on board. Then while at White Lake, we went into the Booknook and Java Shop that had a wifi connection. Got talking with the owner Debra who sails on Lake Michigan. When she heard of our plans she asked if we had board games aboard. Judy listed them, including Scrabble. “Do we have a Scrabble dictionary?” On hearing we did not, she presented us with one, suitably inscribed.
Saturday morning in Mackinaw City Marina Brian is admiring a fuel and water jug set up on a Beneteau that had just pulled in and started talking with the skipper. They were returning from three years in the Caribbean. When they mentioned that they used to race at Milwaukee he asked if they knew Chris. Not only did they know Chris and Tony well, but Lynn had raced with Chris on the Mac Race from Hell when the owner stayed below and Chris and Lynn had to helm the entire race.
Gore Bay was another chance encounter. Brian was walking along the docks when a bearded gentleman commented “Nice Hat”. Brian replied “Thank you, I do like my Tilley”. “Yes” said the gentleman, “I’m Alex Tilley. I make the hats”. So we both now have Tilley hats autographed by Alex Tilley.
Another aspect of our travels has been the constant interest in Lil’s missing left front leg. Both “guys” have adapted well to sailing. They seem very content whether lounging in the cockpit, sleeping below, or exploring new towns. Lilly always catches someone’s eye as she hops a bit. And we are used to the occasional tri-pod comment. But, both dogs love getting all the attention. Max occasionally becomes Cujo around other male dogs and Lil is territorial about her chew bones, which yes can be buried on a sailboat. You would be surprised where we find them.
Brian & Judy