The Perfect Mast Raising (Almost) – 7/31/16

First of All -

  • First time with the mast up since leaving Lake Champlain
  • First time having to wait for 4 lock cycles before being able to lock through
  • First day cruising on the Georgian Bay
  • First time with no more locks ahead

Namely Speaking-

  • Turning Rock
  • Big Dog Channel
  • Beausoleil Island

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 16; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,100
  • Hours Underway: 4 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NE
  • Daily High Temperature: 76
  • Water Temperature: 74

DSCF5955I’ve raised the mast on this boat more than 50 times and I’ve yet to experience the perfect mast raising. Something always goes wrong. A line is out of position, I forget to attach the windex, something goes wrong with the flag halyard, the roller furler is facing backwards, something always gets in the way of a perfect rigging. It remains my goal, and I figure that, by now, I’ve made every mistake that it’s possible to make, and sooner or later I’ll do a perfect mast raising and rigging operation. I came really close today, and still it turned into a mess. Things start out fine, with Sandy doing a laundry, which frees me to move easily about the boat, taking my time and thinking each operation out. I’m careful to avoid each of the mistakes of the past, and things are going well. The moment of truth arrives when I begin cranking the winch and raising the mast. I get it almost all the way up and gaze upward, doing one last visual check. I spot the swagedDSCF5959 thimble atop one of the shrouds, twisted where it connects to the mast. Not a big problem. I slack the mast raising line and untwist the fitting, then finish raising the mast and securing the pin in the forestay. The rig is now up and secure. However, when I go to disconnect the mast raising pole, which bolts to the hinged mast step, I see a new problem. I failed to plug the running light/anchor light wire into its socket on the cabin roof. And wouldn’t you know, the loose plug fitting managed to find its way beneath the hinged mast step, where it’s gotten mashed. And on top of that, it’s pressing against the bolt which holds the mast raising pole in position. I manage to free the bolt, and figure I’ll deal with the wire and fitting later. Right now, I’m focused on getting off the dock and through the last lock of our entire Great Loop cruise. It’s hard to believe that, after passing nearly 150 locks we have just one more to go. It turns out to be the most difficult lock of all.

We know we’re in for it when we round the corner and the lock comes into view. Boats are stacked up like cordwood. Every foot of wall is occuppied by parked boats, waiting their turn to go through. Several other large cruisers are loitering in the bay, trying to keep out of each other’s way while waiting for a place on the wall. It doesn’t help that this is the smallest lock on the entire system, and it’s manually operated to boot. Each lock cycle takes nearly 1/2 hour, and we watch 3 full lockings before it’s our turn. We’re so relieved to finally be able to move into the lock. As I’m wrapping my line around the cable, one of the green shirted Parks Canada lock hands walks up, gazes up at our mast, then looks down at me and asks how high the rig is. I tell him about 35 feet. He says the fixed bridge just 200 meters below the lock has just 30 feet of clearance. Swell. I’d asked DSCF5960a couple of boaters at the last lock above Port Severn about bridges, and was told that there was just a swing bridge below Port Severn, and it opens on demand. I also asked around at the marina and got the same report. And the Canadian charts don’t list bridge clearance heights for this location. On this basis I figured I’d be fine raising the mast at the marina dock, however, now I realize this isn’t the case. Well, at least we’re finally getting through the lock. Once we clear the chamber I head for the gray wall just outside and tie up. Then the circus begins. Off comes the solar panel. Off comes the dodger. I drag the mast raising pole out from below and try to reinstall it at theDSCF5961 mast step. That darned mast light socket is in the way. After a good deal of prying I finally get the bolt into position. Then I reinstall the baby stays, rig the mast raising pole lines, tension the back stay, unpin the forestay, and begin lowering the mast. It doesn’t need to come all the way down, just enough to enable us to clear the bridge. I lower it as far as I can with the boom still connected, hoping to avoid taking it off too. I step off the boat and examine the angle of the mast, and then look down to the bridge. I don’t think I’m low enough yet, so I disconnect the boom and lower some more. And all this is being done in a fish bowl, with scores of curious tourists watching the show. When all is set and we’re finally ready to go, the lock gates open and I have to wait for the exiting boats to clear the lock, and a new batch of boats enter. Now we can go. We slowly make our way down to the bridge and idle under. The top of my VHF antenna clears the underside of the bridge with at least 12 inches to spare. I give the wheel to Sandy while I prepare to reraise the mast while underway. Before I can get the mast up a big power boat roars on in. I wave to him, trying to signal him to cut his speed and kill his wake. No luck. He ignores my arm waving and plows on by, giving me a scowl as he passes. Sandy turns into his wake and we bounce, but with no damage. I hurry to finish raising and pinning the mast before we get waked again.

DSCF5962While underway I put the boat back together, and we begin weaving our way along the Small Boat Channel on the Georgian Bay. They say there are only 2 kinds of boaters on Georgian Bay. Those who have hit rocks and those who are going to. We hope we’ll start a new third category, those who never hit rocks. It’s not going to be easy, since the channel is lined with smooth, rounded granite rocks, just barely breaking the water surface. The route is well marked with red and green buoys, but it’s still easy to drift out of the channel. We reach our destination, Frying Pan Bay in the Beausoleil Island National Park, without mishap. I’m worried when we enter the bay, since it appears to be filled with large motor yachts. Most are anchored and stern tied to shore. Many are rafted up, including one impressive group of 7 boats, all rafte together. Off to the right I spot a dock and, amazingly, there appears to be an open space. I circle near and some guys on the dock wave us in, saying the water is plenty deep. We turn in to the dock and pass lines to the guys waiting there. We can’t believe our good fortune to get a place on a dock in the middle of this busy 3 day weekend. The folks here are very friendly, and we enjoy visiting with them, until it begins to rain. Not a problem, though, since with our mast now up we can once again use our cockpit enclosure. Hopefully, our days to come here on Georgian Bay will pose fewer problems. At a minimum, there will be no more lock delays, and the only bridge I know about for sure is the Mackinaw Bridge, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to pass beneath the Big Mac Bridge without any problems.

Fish Dinner at Henrys – 8/1/16

First of All -

  • First day of August
  • First time picking blueberries
  • First view of the open waters of Georgian Bay
  • First time motor sailing since leaving Lake Champlain

Namely Speaking-

  • Muskoka Landing Channel
  • Hangdog Island
  • The Sow and The Pig (two small islands)
  • Starvation Bay
  • Sans Souci

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 26; Sail: Motor sailed 1 hour
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,126
  • Hours Underway: 4
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.65
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NNW
  • Daily High Temperature: 77
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF5964We’re tired from yesterday’s exertions, and get an easy start on the day. After breakfast we go for an hour long walk on the loop trail which takes off from Frying Pan Bay. The trail is called the Fairy Trail, and it leads us around Fairy Lake, with nice views of Honeymoon Bay and Goblin Lake along the way. We keep a sharp watch out for two of the island’s more notorious residents, the black bear and the massagua rattlesnake, but neither make an appearance. We find a few small blueberries along the trail, but they’re not particularly good,DSCF5969 probably because it’s been so dry this summer. The walk does get a little spooky at one point, while we’re crossing through a dark and shady woods, when the repeated wail of a loon drifts in from somewhere out on the water. We cast off around 11am, and reconnect with the Small Craft Route. This well marked course winds between small islands and barely covered granite reefs. The pink rocks and ochre colored lichens on them make for a colorful landscape. The boat traffic is still heavy, but as we proceed up Georgian Bay, the number of boats we encounter seems to lessen. This region is known as the 30,000 Islands, but one sign proclaims that it could easily be referred to as the 100,000 Islands, claiming that it’s the largest freshwater archipeligo in the world. That’s a tall claim but, who knows, it could well be true.

As we proceed, we get our first look at the open waters of Georgian Bay. To the southwest we have a watery horizon, and if we could see far enough beyond that horizon, we would be looking at the State of Michigan. We’re getting closer every day to where we started off, just over 11 months ago. Around 3pm we approach Frying Pan Island, where the famous Henry’s Restaurant is located. Henrys is noted for itsDSCF5985 fresh fish dinners, and even though it’s early, I radio to see about a slip and dinner. We’re told that they’re fully booked for overnight slips, but we can put in for dinner. There is a good anchorage not far away where we can spend the night. We head for the dock, tie up, and go for a short walk to kill a little time before sitting down to an early dinner. The good smells activate our appetites and 4:30 we’re diving in to a great fish dinner. Sandy orders pan fried walleye, and I have the battered walleye. They call it pickeral up here. They also have Georgian Bay shrimp on the menu, which seems odd, since Georgian Bay is freshwater. I ask about this, and learn that Georgian Bay shrimp are really smelt. I wonder what their hamburgers really are. In any event, our dinners are excellent. As we’re walking back toward the boat a guy approaches us and asks if I’m the MacGregor owner. I wonder if I have some lettering stenciled on my forehead. I answer in the affirmative, and he introduces himself as the owner of Henrys. He asks us how we liked our dinners, and then says he has a spot for us to tie up for the night, if we’re still interested. He walks over to the spot with us, and along the way I ask him about the famous people he’s served over the years. He mentions Jimmy Buffet, Goldie Hawn, and Kenny G, to list a few. Jimmy Buffet was particularly memorable, since he piloted his own float plane here. We figure that if this place is good enough for Jimmy Buffet, it’s good enough for us. We’ll stay the night. Later on we may dinghy over to the marina just around the corner for some ice cream.

 

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Going Outside on Georgian Bay – 8/2/16

First of All -

  • First time cruising on the open waters of Georgian Bay
  • First time motor sailing with main and jib since I can’t remember when
  • First time anchoring since way back on the Ottawa River
  • First birds: ruby throated hummingbird, Napoleon’s gull

Namely Speaking-

  • Good Cheer Island
  • Waubuno Channel
  • Palestine Island
  • Shawanaga Inlet
  • Pointe au Baril
  • Hangdog Inlet
  • Byng Inlet
  • Bustard Islands

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 71; Sail: Motor sailed with main and jib for 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,197
  • Hours Underway: 11
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.65
  • Wind Speed: 12; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 74

DSCF5995This is a day just made for traveling, and we have some long miles to make. Dead calm at 6am when I cast off and motor out into the channel. The sun is just rising, lighting the world up with those magnificent low angle rays. We weave our way between islands large and small, taking great care to stay between the red and green markers. In some places, we have no more than 10 feet between the sides of our hull and the buoys. About half way into our run we’re forced to head out into open water, since the close in waters are just too chokedDSCF5998 with rocks and islets to afford clear passage in sheltered water. This is a good day to be outside, though, with just a light breeze ruffling the water surface. Once I make the turn to the northwest, we gain enough angle on the wind to warrant raising sails. I set both main and jib, and the light wind moves us along at 3.5 to 4 mph. If we were just out playing, that would be more than enough speed, however, we still have nearly 20 miles to go and it would turn dark before we reached an anchorage at that speed. In these rocky waters that’s a very bad idea. I run the engine at just over 2000 rpm, and our speed increases to around 6 mph.

I’m grateful for the wind’s boost, since I need to maximize my fuel efficiency. I last bought gas at Orillia, and fuel docks are very scarce in these parts. Where they do exist, they are well off the main routes, and often require a lengthy detour. I’m wanting to avoid any extra cruising time, if at all possible. I filled the port side tank with gas from my portable gas cans last evening, so I started the day with 2 full 12 gallon main tanks. Ten miles short of our anchorage I check the gas level and see the last half gallon sloshing around in the bottom of the tank. I switch tanks on the run, and do a quick calculation of just how far it is to Killarney. I’ll need to cover about 40 miles on that last tank. It will be a bit closer than I like, but if I go easy on the throttle tomorrow, that tank should be good for about 70 miles. I expect to get to Killarney with 4 or 5 gallons still in the tank.

DSCF6005As the miles pass by, I regularly switch to new charts. I’m using strip charts which are folded accordian style, for this part of the trip. They come in chart packs which I bought second hand from a couple who had just completed their loop cruise. Out on the open waters I’m using a large area chart which covers the entire Georgian Bay, however, as I near our destination, the anchorage at Bustard Islands, I look for the detailed accordian chart from chart pack 2204. To my surprise, 2 of the 4 charts in that packet are missing. I failed to notice this before we left home. So, I’m left to navigate using the large area chart along with the electronic chart in my Garmin GPS. It’s sufficient, but I sure miss having my detailed paper chart, which allows me to look ahead at a glance, without having to push buttons and scroll around.

Shortly before 5pm we finally reach our destination. It’s a beautiful anchorage, and half a dozen boats are already riding quietly at anchor. I cruise around, looking for the best available remaining spot. The anchor hooks well on the first try. We’re both hungry, so I fire up the barbque and grill hamburger patties. I’m pleased with our progress today. I’ll go for another early departure in the morning, which should put us into Killarney close to noon. We need to fuel up there, and if we get there in time, we’ll hit the fish and chips place for lunch. We’ll also find a grocery and buy a few apples and a few other items we’re low on. I don’t plan on spending the night there, so long as we have a few good hours of cruising time still available. There are some lovely anchorages nearby, and it would be nice to anchor out somewhere near the start of the North Channel.

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Foul Way to Start the Day – 8/3/16

First of All -

  • First fouled anchor
  • First self serve fuel dock
  • First grocery store with its own boat dock

Namely Speaking-

  • Scarecrow Island
  • French River
  • Killarney
  • Little La Cloche Island
  • North Channel
  • Little Current

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 57; Sail: Motor sailed 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,254
  • Hours Underway: 9 1/2
  • Fuel: 31.5 gallons; 5.7mph; $170
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.69
  • Wind Speed: 12 ; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF6027The plan is to get another early start, and I’ve got the engine started by 6am. However, when I go forward to raise the anchor, the plan falls apart. I start pulling, and when I get to the start of the chain, I can’t break it loose, no matter how hard I pull. I put the engine in gear and try to push against the direction that it set last evening, but no luck. I next try motoring in a circle, but that doesn’t work either. Then I run the rode back to the winch and try pulling with winch power, but it’s just stuck hard. My last attempt involves lowering my gaff hook with a line, with the handle looped around the anchor chain, in the hope that the gaff hook will snag the anchor’s roll bar. It’s a real longDSCF6028 shot, and long shots rarely pay off. The anchor is probably fouled on a rock. It’s 20 feet down, and that’s beyond my diving capabilities. I’ve run out of options, so out comes the knife, and I donate anchor and chain to the Georgian Bay. For the balance of the trip I’ll be relying on my Fortress anchor, which I carry as a backup. It’s already rigged on the bow, with its own chain, so we should be ok unless I encounter another nasty rock.

It’s 7am by the time we actually get going. It’s fairly breezy to start with, and we get caught in a rain shower which wasn’t in the forecast. It doesn’t last too long, and it produces a nice rainbow. We run into the wind for the first 5 miles, but then we turn a bit to the west and gain enough angle to set both main and jib. I’m still motor sailing, but the sails help steady the boat in the rolling seas. As the time progresses, the wind eases and the seas diminish. We reach Killarney around 1:30pm and head for Pitfield General Store. They have a convenient dock, and also sell gas. This is the first gas dock I’ve stopped at where they don’t even come out to the pump. It’s strictly self service: I turn the pump on, haul the hose to the boat, fill the tanks, return the hose, shut the pump off, and then walk up and tell the clerk how much gas I took on. At most fuel docks in Ontario, they insisted that Sandy and I get off the boat, and then the attendant got on board and filled the tanks. Not how they do it in Killarney. I think we set a record here for fueling the boat, picking up some groceries, and buying ice, all in about half an hour. That’s a pit stop any Indy car driver would be proud of.

I’m pushing things a bit, since I’d like to get as far as Little Current today, and we will need to contend with a swing bridge in Little Current which only opens on the hour. Once we get underway I estimate time and distance, and conclude that we’re in good shape to make a 5pm bridge opening. That works out fine, and once we clear the bridge, we make a short run over to the Little Current Town Docks, where we take a slip. We walk up into town for a nice dinner. Afterwards we walk over to the grocery to pick up a few items the little store in Killarney didn’t have in stock. Another long day in the books. I’ll have just enough energy left to hit the showers and review charts for tomorrow’s run. I want to make another fairly long run, since the weather is supposed to be good tomorrow, but not good on Friday. I need to make miles when we can.

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Pushing Hard up the North Channel

First of All -

  • First time listening to and participating in a Cruisers Net
  • First bird: sandhill crane

Namely Speaking-

  • Picnic Island
  • Clapperton Island
  • Gore Bay
  • Barrie Island
  • Vidal Bay
  • Meldrum Bay

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 66; Sail: Motor sailed 4 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,320
  • Hours Underway: 10
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.56
  • Wind Speed: 18; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 73

DSCF6038Not sure how far we’ll get today, but with wind and rain in the forecast for tomorrow, we want to go as far as possible. We’re off the dock by 7:30 on smooth waters. On our way to Gore Bay I hear a call on the radio, announcing the start of the North Channel Cruisers Net at 9am on channel 71. We flip over to 71 so we can listen in. They follow a standard format, with emergency traffic, weather information, news highlights, this day in history items, and call for boats to check in with boat name and location. When they get to our area I call in. It’s a nice way to keep track of people and network with other boats. We decide to head in to Gore Bay, where I’ve been told they have aDSCF6039 good chandlery. I’m hoping they’ll have an anchor and boat hook to replace the items we’ve lost. We arrive at noon and I look over the stuff in the chandlery. They have anchors, but not the Rochna that I’m looking for. They also have boat hooks, but not one that will work for us. We pick up a couple of minor items, and then have lunch at a nice, nearby outdoor place. After lunch we head out again, into an increasingly breezy North Channel. I’d been motor sailing with main and jib before pausing at Gore Bay, but I decide the jib will be enough in this wind. We must pass the mouths of several large bays, with 6 and 9 miles of open water, so I don’t want to be out with too much sail up in a building wind. I steadily shorten the jib, but occasionally we get hit with a strong gust which heels us over beyond the comfort range. I’m watching a sailboat out in the middle of the channel, under full sail and obviously moving very well. They catch up and then pass us by without difficulty. I call ahead to Meldrum Bay Marina to see if they have a spot for us. I estimate we’ll get in around 7am, and after a long run we make it, just 9 minutes later than I’d estimated. On the way down Meldrum Bay I see that sailboat again, and he’s coming all the way into the bay under sail. The wind is really gusty, but he still doing great. I take some long range photos of his boat, hoping we’ll get a chance to talk with him, so I can e’mail the pictures to him.

It’s great getting in to the dock, after such a long day underway. We decide to head over to the Meldrum Bay Inn for dinner. This turns out to be a great decision. They’re very busy and we have no reservation, but they manage to work us in, serving us dinner in their front sitting room. The food is outstanding. We order fresh caught local fish, I the whitefish and Sandy the lake trout. Homemade desserts finish off the meal.

We’ll take a day off tomorrow, and let the weather pass. We’ve been moving hard for the last 3 days, with nearly 200 miles logged in that period. It will feel good to ease up and relax a bit, before continuing on. We’ll cross the border back into the US with our next move, after being in Canada since June 17.

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Waiting on Weather at Meldrum Bay – 8/5/16

First of All -

  • First time since leaving Lake Michigan that we’ve been held up by wind while on fresh water (and Lake Michigan is just around the corner once again)

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: NA – Layover Day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,320
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: 7.5 gallons; $40
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 20; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 73

DSCF6058The predicted early morning rain hits at 6am. I hurry out and set up the cockpit enclosure (just too tired last night to do it before retiring), and then crawl back into the sleeping bag for 40 more winks. When we finally do get up I’m second guessing yesterday’s decision to lay over today. It’s a beautiful morning, and quite calm out on Meldrum Bay. I’m thinking that we very well could have made our move to Drummond Island today. Those thoughts are quickly put to rest around 11am when a small sailboat makes its way into the harbour and docks at the marina. The couple on board report having made a very rough passage across the North Channel. An hour or two later a largeDSCF6064 sailboat, which had been in the marina last night and had departed earlier in the morning, returns to the dock. The captain says they’d tried going out and had turned back. Just too rough out there, he says. So, the decision to lay over is looking better all the time.

It’s a warm day, and the breeze which is causing such rough conditions out in North Channel is quite welcome here. We go for an afternoon walk over to a small museum just up the road. It’s located in a historic fishing net shed. The great grandson of the fisherman who built it greets us as we walk in. One of the most remarkable artifacts we find inside are two large timbers which were discovered on a nearby beach more than 50 years ago. They’ve been heavily researched, and while it’s not 100% certain, the consensus of opinion is that they came from the wreck of La Salle’s ship Le Griffon, which sank in this area in 1679.

Together with the couple who came in this morning, we consult weather forecasts to try and decide whether we can move in the morning. It looks like conditions will be ok in the morning, but the wind is really supposed to pipe up by 2pm. We figure that if we get an early enough start we should be able to make Drummond Island by noon. We decide to go, provided that the forecast holds. DSCF6060 We’ll check again before turning in tonight.

We fix dinner on the boat, but just can’t resist heading back over to the Meldrum Bay Inn for another go at their fabulous desserts. Tonight we try their bumbleberry pie, which is served ala mode. The plate is sprinkled with cinnamon, and the combination is excellent. Our table is out on the balcony, and while waiting for our pie I try taking pictures of the hummingbirds which are visiting feeders which hang from the eaves. Diners at 2 other tables notice what I’m doing and soon they too are snapping photos with their cell phone cameras. We’re entertained by a musician with a guitar who is playing and singing ballads. Both his voice and the lyrics, which I presume are his own, are filled with feeling. We will take fond memories of Meldrum Bay when we leave.

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Retreat – 8/6/16

First of All -

  • First time turning around and returning to port due to wind and waves

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 8; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,328
  • Hours Underway: 1 1/2
  • Fuel: 7.5 gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 15-20; Wind Direction: WNW
  • Daily High Temperature: 78
  • Water Temperature: 73

DSCF6082I’m up at 5am and the boat is prepped and ready to go by 5:30. Just starting to get color on the eastern horizon. A light breeze ruffles the water just outside the breakwater. It’s hard to tell what it will be like at the mouth of the bay. I walk over and confer with Larry and Elaine, confirming their intention to also head for Drummond this morning. I head out with Shamrock following close behind. I’m going slightly faster, and I begin to open up a little distance between our two boats. About halfway out of the bay we start picking up the swell, 1 to 2 feet at first, but quickly increasing to 3 feet. Further out I can see lots of whitecaps, and the wind speed strengthens as we near theDSCF6084 first point which defines the bay. We’re rising and falling into the closely spaced troughs, and as the wave height steepens to 4 feet, occasionally higher, we start to pound. I call Larry on the VHF, who is trailing by 1/4 mile, telling him I’m thinking this isn’t a good idea. He wants to go just a bit further before deciding to turn back. I’m hoping when I clear the point that the wind, blowing right toward the island, may create a bit of a cushion effect, however it just seems to be getting stronger, the waves growing higher. There’s no way I want to do this for the next 6 hours. The forecast predicts a lessening of wind speed in the forenoon, however, even stronger winds by early afternoon. With these rough seas I can’t make the speed I will need to reach Drummond Island by noon. It’s just not going to happen today, so I pick my spot and hang a “U” turn. Running with these high seas is no picnic, with the boat constantly trying to slew around with the push of trailing seas. Larry heads out for a bit longer, but ends up drawing the same conclusion that I have, and he follows us back into Meldrum Bay. We tie up back at our slips, disappointed that we couldn’t make the trip to Drummond today, but comfortable with our decision to backtrack.

After the boat is tied up we have breakfast and then I take a nap. Sandy spends much of the day taking advantage of the good internet signal at the marina office, working on the computer. I go for an afternoon walk and, while strolling down the road, I check my phone for messages. I see a text from my sister, who is down with my folks in LA. She reports that dad is not doing well, and it sounds like I need to start rethinking our cruising plans. I need to figure out a way to get home in time to be with dad and give support to mom. It’s not clear just how quickly I’ll need to move, but it’s feeling more and more like I’m going to need to pull up short. On the walk back to the marina I consider options. I need two good weather cruising days, one to get to Drummond Island where we’ll clear US Customs, and another to get across the Straits of Mackinaw and back to Michigan’s Lower Penninsula. Once I get to Mackinac DSCF6087City I have options. If the news from home starts to improve, I can push on by water as fast as safety allows, perhaps covering the 238 water miles in 4 or 5 good weather cruising days. The risk there is that wind will most likely impose delays. Another option is to rent a car and drive down to Grand Haven, retrieve the truck and trailer, and start driving south. My new friend Larry has most generously offered to ride with me in the rental car, so it can be driven back to the rental agency. I can either leave the truck, boat and trailer in Grand Haven with my friend while I fly to LA or, if it looks like I can afford the extra time, spend 5 days on the road trailering the boat back to Washington. It’s tough to be in this situation when I’m needed at the folks’ home. Hopefully, things will sort out in the next few days, but right now, everything seems uncertain, including the weather. Tomorrow looks doable, but then so did today.

Sandy and I talk this all over while on an after dinner stroll. It’s a lovely evening, with low light causing the trees and fields to glow. We see a pair of deer feeding in a field and, while walking back, I look over my shoulder at the long country lane we’ve been walking along. It’s kind of like life, a long route and you just can’t quite see what’s around the far bend.

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Back in the USA – 8/7/16

First of All -

  • First hiccup from the engine since the electrical problems down in North Carolina
  • First time back in the USA since June 17 (except for 1 day in July, at Boldt Castle, New York)
  • First time the auto pilot has quit
  • First time calling the Coast Guard about a sailboat washed up on the rocks

Namely Speaking-

  • Mississaugi Channel
  • Cockburn Island (pronounced Coburn, as in James Coburn)
  • False DeTour Passage
  • Drummond Island
  • Detour

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 56; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,376
  • Hours Underway: 9 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 12; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 76
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF6090We’ve decided to leave a bit later than yesterday. It blew most of the night and is still in the process of settling down. It’s supposed to calm down in the middle of the day. I don’t want to leave too late, though, since we have a good distance to cover, and we need to allow for clearing US Customs at Drummond Island. You never know when that process might result in delays. Also, there’s a good chance it could get breezy in the afternoon, and I’d like to get in before things have a chance of getting rough again. I reach down and turn the ignition key, like I’ve done hundreds of times before on this trip. The engine fires and catches, like usual, however, after a couple of moments, it dies. That’s very unusual. I go to restart and it struggles to catch. I finally get it to fire and I lift the idle arm, which revs it upDSCF6092 enough to keep it running. We shift into reverse and get off the dock, but this seems like an ominous development on this, the second to last planned cruising day of the trip. I suspect that the spark plugs are in need of replacement. At least, I hope that’s all it is.

The inner bay waters are ruffled by the wind, but as we near the bay’s mouth I can clearly see “elephants on the horizon”. The tops of sizeable waves are silhouetted against the horizon, and whitecaps are scattered across the surface of the North Channel. It’s going to be a rough start. Right away, though, I can tell that it’s not nearly as bad as yesterday. We plough, bounce, and occasionally pound our way through the oncoming seas. I snap a couple pictures of our friends’ boat, Shamrock, as it struggles against the waves. I get one shot of her being lifted by a wave, with nearly half of her hull suspended in the air. After we pass Mississaugi Channel, though, the whitecaps begin to diminish. Our ride starts to improve, and we begin making better speed. By the time we near Drummond Island and the boundary between the US and Canada we’re cruising right along in just a light chop. Shortly after crossing the boundary I raise our DSCF6093yellow quarantine flag, and we near Chippiwa Point, which is the turning point toward Drummond Yacht Haven, which is where we’ll clear Customs. Before gaining the point, however, I sight a sailboat close to shore. At first I figure it’s just anchored there, but things just don’t look right. In the binoculars I can see the jib partially unfurled, and the mainsail hanging loosely from the boom. The boat is heeled slightly to port, and is not moving. She’s aground. We don’t see any crew on board or on the beach. A bass boat cruises close by, and then moves off. On the basis of all the gear still on the boat, it can’t have been there very long.

After making the turn toward Drummond Yacht Haven I make an irritating discovery. The autopilot isn’t working. In fact, it has managed to turn itself completely off. DSCF6094 The control display is completely blank, indicating no power to it. On top of the engine stumble at the start of the morning, this marks a continuation of a disturbing trend. One thing after another is acting up or going wrong. It seemed to start with me losing the boat hook in one of the last locks we went through. More recently, the Scirocco fan, which is installed in the cabin ceiling, and which we heavily rely on for cooling and air circulation in the cabin, decided to quit. Probably a loose wire or switch problem. And now the autopilot has decided it’s had enough. It’s as if the boat is trying to tell us it’s getting very tired, and needs to take a break from this year long voyage.

We tie up to the Customs dock shortly after noon, and a very friendly lady welcomes us back into the US. She asks us the usual questions, records information from our passports and boat registration papers, and we’re set. We have nothing on board which Customs has any issues with. We feared that apples couldn’t be brought in, so on our way in we greedily gobbled up the 4 small apples we still had. We were surprised to learn that apples are not on the prohibited list here in Michigan, which is surprising since Michigan is an apple growing state.

When it’s time to take off again, I’m relieved to hear the engine start right up. We motor 10 more miles, over to DeTour, a small town on the extreme eastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Penninsula. We pull into a slip at the State DNR run marina there. It’s a nice, clean place with very reasonable rates. Once we’re tied up, I send messages out to our sons regarding their grandpa, and I also contact our friend in Grand Haven, letting him know our plans for retrieving the pickup and boat trailer. It seems hard to believe that tomorrow will our final day of cruising on this nearly year long voyage. We’ve become accustomed to life on the water, and we’re sure to go through a transition of sorts to land based living. I can’t help but admit that a very small part of me, the goal oriented part, regrets not being able to cruise the boat back into Grand Haven, where we started out last summer. However, a great big part of me is pulling me to be with mom and dad at this most difficult of times. I’m very anxious to get the boat on its trailer and on the road, bound for our home in Washington, so that I can then make the trip down to Los Angeles. Just as the weather regularly reminds boaters just how insignificant they are when out on the water, events like dad’s illness are reminders that, as much as we like to plan things out, we’re still subject to events and circumstances which defy our ability to plan. There’s meaning and purpose to all of this, and right now, I think that bringing our family together and showing love for each other is a big part of that purpose.

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Tickling Thirteen on the Way to Macinaw City – 8/8/16

First of All -

  • First time doing a sustained run at full throttle and empty ballast
  • First time with no further on water destinations ahead of us, beyond today’s goal

Namely Speaking-

  • Macinac Island
  • Macinaw City

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 45; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,421
  • Hours Underway: 5 hours
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.81
  • Wind Speed: nearly calm; Wind Direction: NA
  • Daily High Temperature: 76
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF6098We’re off early for the final run of our trip. I ease our way out of the marina and head south, toward the open water of western Lake Huron. Just before we leave, a large lake freighter passes down the channel. We must be on the route between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Once out on open waters I turn west. The water is glassy smooth, and I decide that, since we have plenty of gas, it would be a good time for our boat to act like the MacGregor 26X Powersailer she is. I open the ballast valve and air plug, and we power up. As theDSCF6099 bow rises, the ballast water we’ve been hauling around with us ever since leaving Norfolk VA quickly drains out. Soon we’re booming along at full throttle, leaving a spreading wake behind us. On this smooth water, it’s amazing to be able to see our wake stretch out virtually to the eastern horizon. Our speed hits 11.5 mph, and then improves to 12. As we near Macinac Island we start tickling 13, and after we pass by the island, we’re running steadily at 13 mph, a record speed for the trip.

Because of the urgency in our pace, we aren’t able to stop at Macinac Island. We visited there 45 years ago, and I figure the important, scenic stuff like the old fort, grand hotel, and horses and buggies haven’t changed much. So, we don’t feel particularly disappointed in not being able to visit once again. This feeling is reinforced by one change that we do note. A great deal of condo construction has taken place along the waterfront, on the west side of the boat basin. They aren’t particularly distasteful, but they certainly don’t add to the scenic quality either. We also note the steady parade of high speed tour boats hauling tourists out to the island from Macinac City and St. Ignace. I’m certain that tourist volume is way up, compared with 1971. We take lots of pictures of the island and its major structures as we pass by. We also don’t neglect the majestic Big DSCF6100Mac Bridge, which connects Michigan’s Lower and Upper Penninsulas. This great suspension bridge was completed in 1957. Prior to its completion, traffic would stack up for miles and hours, waiting for the ferry during high demand times like summer and the opening of fishing and hunting seasons.

Shortly before noon we enter the Macinac City Municipal Marina boat basin, and take our final slip. After nearly a year on the water, it feels strange and somewhat bittersweet to know that our voyage is coming to its end. Once we’re tied up in our slip, I get our gold Loop flag out and raise it on the halyard. This flag signifies crossing one’s wake on a Loop cruise. Although we haven’t actually made it back to our starting point on the water, I figure that, after 6,421 water miles we’ve earned the right. We will cross our path on the boat trailer, completing our loop, and certainly, the medical and family circumstances count for something. Actually, the technicality of a gold loop flag really don’t amount to the motivation for this undertaking. All the sights, experiences, and people met along the way are the true reward.

I originally figured we’d arrive several hours later, and would just have enough time to round up a rental car. This plan would call for us to drive town to Grand Haven tomorrow, and hopefully drive back here late in the day. Because we’ve arrived so early, we have time to get the rental car and make the drive south today. I opt to do a one way rental, picking the car up at the local airport. We take a taxi out to the airport and then hit the road. We get toDSCF6111 our friends’ house by 5:30 pm, and it’s a joyful reunion. They’ve gotten the truck’s oil changed, and have hitched the truck and boat up for us. We learn that wasps built a nest in the surge brake coupler, resulting in a sting during the hitching process. Hopefully they’re all gone now. I also learn that our friend couldn’t get the trailer lights to come on. I’ll work on that in the morning. Our friend is a local policeman, and in the event that I can’t get them working, he writes me up a warning citation for defective equipment. He says that will get me past any stop by law enforcement here in Michigan. After that, I will be on my own. I hope I can get those darned lights working.

We all go out for dinner together, telling stories and enjoying each other’s company. It’s nice to sleep in a regular bed once again. Tomorrow will be a busy day.

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Last Night on the Water – 8/9/16

First of All -

  • First rebuild of trailer lights on the trip
  • First time towing an empty trailer

Namely Speaking-

  • Grand Rapids
  • Muskegon
  • Big Rapids

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Truck: 240
  • Total Truck Miles Driven to date: 2,691
  • Hours Underway: 5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: NA

DSCF6131Our friend fixes us a great breakfast, and I’m hoping I can quickly get the lights working, so we have time to drive back north and get the boat pulled yet today. Balky trailer lights stand stubbornly in the way of this great plan. When I check, I have a left turn signal, but nothing else. I go to work, cleaning up the posts on the trailer/truck plug fitting, but no joy. I then start testing wires. I have power to the truck outlet, I have power to the flat plug fitting on the trailer, but nothing further aft. I remove the right trailer light unit off, looking for a wire to test back there. I don’t find what I’m looking for, but I do find a great big, swarming ants’ nest. They’ve invaded inside the light housing and they’re not happy. I dump them out as best I can, but this just results in ants all over the grass where I’m trying to kneel. Ant bites reward my efforts from this point forward. Bad ground is the suspect. I disconnect the ground connection bolts, grind down to bright bare metal, and start poking holes in various wires with the sharp end of my test light. I get confusing, mixed, and inconsistent results. I get frustrated in trying to get a good ground, and run down to the local auto parts store where I buy a length of trailer wire. If I can’t get aDSCF6132 ground through the trailer frame, I’ll splice onto the ground wire up at the hitch and run a continuous ground wire back to the right trailer light. Before going to that extreme I give the ground bolts one more try, and this time I get a circuit back at the right turn signal. However, when I try to light up the tail light fixture, no light. I’ve got power there, but the light won’t work. The unit is sealed, so I am at a loss. Perhaps the ants somehow have messed it up. Back to the parts store I go, to buy a new light fixture. They don’t have the rectangular style I have on the boat, so I settle for a round unit. Back at the boat, the ground is no longer good, so I clean up the connections and tighten bolts once more. Finally, I have ground and power and a working turn signal, tail lights, and brake lights. Amazing what a good ground connection can do. Only problem is that it is now past noon, and plans for the day are seriously compromised.

Sandy gets into the rental car and I take the truck’s wheel. We say a final goodbye to our friends, and head off to the Muskegon Regional Airport, where we drop off the rental car and grab a late lunch. Finally, around 2pm we hit the highway, heading north and with empty trailer in tow. It’s a solid 4 hour drive back to Mackinaw City, and we’re tired and hungry when we get there. We have dinner at an Irish Pub, realizing that there’s no way we’ll get the boat onto it’s trailer this evening. We’ll spend one more night afloat in the boat, and use the remaining 2 hours of twilight to begin taking the boat apart and hauling gear out of her and loading into the truck. It’s tiring work, but by 10 pm we have the boat stripped down to bare mast, and all the heavy stuff (bicycles, gas cans, tubs of charts, dinghy, boom, etc., etc., etc., stowed in the truck. Time to turn in.