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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