Log of sv 'French Connection'

15 August 2012
11 August 2012 | Sarnia
10 August 2012
08 August 2012
07 August 2012 | Pt Elgin
03 August 2012
31 July 2012 | Beardrop
30 July 2012
24 July 2012 | Presque Isle, Michigan
22 July 2012 | Harrisville
21 July 2012 | Harbor Beach
21 July 2012 | Sarnia, Ontario
19 July 2012 | Sarnia, Ontario
16 July 2012 | Harsens Island, Michigan
16 July 2012 | Middle Bass & Grosse Isle
28 June 2012 | Catawba Island
31 July 2009 | Catawba Island

Back Home Again

15 August 2012
Tony & Kat
We’re back home – the trip down the St Clair river and Lake St Clair were non events. We went from Sarnia to Winsor just over 6 hrs and stayed at the Lakeview Marina. While not my favorite place, it does serve as a better stopping point than the Grosse Point Yacht Club. We had a wonderful dinner aboard ‘Richard Sharpe’, toasted the end of the journey and reaffirmed our plans for Lake Ontario for next year. We really enjoyed traveling with the Paul and Geri and look forward to other trips.

The following morning we split off, with ‘Richard Sharpe’ leaving about an hour ahead of us – they have a 2.5 hr drive back to Columbus so I can’t blame them for an early departure. Once in the Detroit river we had a favorable current which never went below 1.5 kts. Although we did prefer the current under the BW bridge in Sarnia which pushed us over 11 kts. Lake Erie greeted us with calm waters and light winds – we did try to motor sail most of the way, but the wind on the nose didn’t help. In spite of that we made it in about 7 hrs. While a robust sail would have been nice, we just wanted to get home quickly

In the dock and the toughest part of the journey begins – unpacking, cleaning and stowing away stuff we don’t need until the next long cruise – figure it’ll take us a couple of days at least + add on cleaning and laundry. On the bright side when we got home, the lawn was cut and the house completely dusted (thank you Alex)!

One last entry to go - our reflections on the trip, especially did well – do betters.

Last Days on Huron

11 August 2012 | Sarnia
Tony & Kat
Yesterday - our second day at Bayfield turned nice and sunny so we were able to take in the shops without rain gear and umbrellas. Good thing because we didn't bring umbrellas on the trip.

The good news: both galleries had nothing that intrigued us. Martin did have one Fiona Hoop painting but it was similar to the one over our fireplace. Phew - no dent in the wallet today! Even better, it was so nice that we were able to sit outside for dinner at the Black Dog. The food was awesome - they have really stepped it up in town.

Today it's the last leg of Lake Huron. We had rollers left over from the NNE winds - about 3 footers but they reminded me more of ocean rollers rather than something we'd see on the Great Lakes: widely spaced and no whitecaps. Pretty nice ride! We motor sailed most of the way, again just to balance out the boat and keep the rollers from pushing us back and forth. The wind, finally was as forecast - light and variable.

As we got closer to Sarnia we saw rain clouds both on Sirius Weather and the horizon so we quickly took down the main, buttoned everything down and put on rain gear. FYI - we were doing over 11 Kts under the bridge at cruise rpm. As soon as we passed the buoy to get into Bridgeview, the skies let loose and it poured - I felt bad for the dock hands but then they were properly remunerated. Nice early day we got in at 2:00 and have a bit of time before adult beverages and dinner at Paddy's. Tomorrow will be a little longer since it's 61 miles to Windsor - but then the current will help us.

Great ride to Bayfield

10 August 2012
The night before: I was disappointed that the bagpiper played at the bottom of the lighthouse instead of at the top, regardless, he was very good and an appropriate way to watch the sunset. Maybe Jim S. can arrange the same at CIC?

With the forecast getting crummy, we decided to ‘book it’ out of Kincardine early yesterday, so both boats were on the lake by 7:30. We had following seas and a beam reach all the way to Bayfield. Reaching at 7.8-8 kts. we made it in record time of 5 hours, just in time for the rain to start.

Given the forecast we are going to stay an extra night – also just to step back and relax a bit. Good thing I had reservations, we had docks but boats calling in after us were turned away. Guess everyone was trying to get off the lake.

We tried a new place last night DaVinci’s and had a great meal. Both DaVinci’s and the Black Dog were filled last night – Red Pump was empty, hmmm a statement by the locals? Tonight we have a rez at the Black Dog – but the forecast is rain all day so we’ll have to eat inside :-(.

Almost time to go shopping at our favorite art galleries. Think I’ll leave my wallet on the boat!

The downward stretch

08 August 2012
Tony & Kat
Sitting in Kincardine today - we came to the sad realization that our trip is almost over. The only thing left in this harbor is a potluck dinner on our boat tonight while we listen to the bagpiper at the lighthouse piping the sun down.

Then it's on to Bayfield - a special place for us - yes, Michael, we did already reserve docks at the Bluewater Marina for 14' wide sailboats ;-). Everything after that - Sarnia then probably Windsor is just a stop on the way home.

We have had a fabulous time with our friends Paul and Geri on 'Richard Sharpe'. And at lunch at Bruce's in town, we did decide on next year's trip - Lake Ontario (Eva and Michael are you game for that trip?). There will be lots of planning for that one including preparation for the Welland Canal to Lake Ontario.

Weather today? Light from the Northwest with rollers left over from last night - forecast was 10 N/NE - let's not go there, we're done with weather predictions!

Slogging through Georgian Bay

07 August 2012 | Pt Elgin
Tony & Kat
Little Current gave us a great send-off with a wonderful fireworks display - in 20+kts of wind no less. In the morning both boats left Little Current docks in an excellent manner. If only the other boaters were up they would have applauded! Down past Strawberry Lighthouse we started sailing and were able to keep the sails full until Cape Smith where the winds turned west on us and started blowing.

We know that Georgian Bay has a bad reputation but holy bucking broncos - it picked up to 20+ true on the nose with 5-6' waves and a regularly spaced rogue wave breaking over the dodger. Felt like a car wash in a convertible! Of course 'Environment Canada' blew that forecast - they must use the same prediction model as NWS.

The genny came in but we kept a twisted main out to balance the boat. Eight hours later, much to our relief, we were behind Flower Pot Island to drop the main and tidy up the boat before heading into Little Tub.

Fuel, Pump-out and a little monetary persuasion and we scored two spaces on the wall in town. Nice! We were too tired and it was late so we opted for dinner at the Crows Nest (Michael, it has been remodeled). One observation: this boat really handles rough Great Lakes weather well. With the wind/waves the boat was perfectly balanced and required very little effort to steer. Note to Tobermory: Even Detour and Pt Elgin have free wireless get with the program!

Forecast for tomorrow? From the West 15 lightening to 10 early afternoon. Waves 1 meter down to ½ meter by early afternoon.

Tobermory to Pt. Elgin: In the morning the weather was calm all the way through the Cape Hurd Channel, and then it gradually picked up. The wind went south because of course we were headed south. The waves picked up as well. We put up a full main again, more for balance than additional speed although we did get another 1/2 kt. as we started bashing into the waves. Sooo much for that forecast, it was 15 true all day 4' waves with an occasional one breaking over the bow and dodger.

All in all wasn't a bad day and certainly better (and shorter) than the day before. So now we're in Pt. Elgin relaxing - with reservations already made for tomorrow at Kincardine which will be a relatively short trip. I'm sure there will be a lot of reflections about this trip. A couple that standout for me: I like the beauty and pristine environment in the North Channel, but I like exploring new towns and interacting with the other cruisers even more. Heck we even liked Cheboygan (too strong of a comment?).

With that we're starting to talk about next year's trip - Lake Michigan? Lake Superior? Lake Ontario/Thousand Island region? Who knows where but what we do know is that we're having fun and want to continue cruising!

Another day in Little Current

05 August 2012
Tony and Kat
Photo: Parade float

The weather is panning out as forecast with high winds building continuously this morning. We’re sitting in the cockpit watching the best spectator sport around: other people docking. So far all of the boats docking or leaving have some form of a gelcoat souvenir from the Little Current docks. The most recent was a young couple on a 40’ Legend after two attempts they made it in. Having a bunch of old time sailors on the dock telling him what to do didn’t help his ego.

The problem today is the counterintuitive nature of the conditions. We have strong westerlies and the flags are standing on end pointing off the dock. The current on the other hand is pushing the boats into the dock. So this character aims his boat towards the dock thinking the wind is going to push him off – not! Crunch! I often wonder why captains think more power is the best way to approach a dock – maybe too many episodes of the TV series ‘Tool Time’? Just remember one day your reverse gear won’t work. Hopefully we fair better tomorrow.

The parade was fun with some very interesting floats. At the parade we ended up running into friends we met a couple of years ago – Tom and Brenda on 'Traveller' a B473. Brenda told us an interesting story about being woken up at 1:30 to the sound of voices in her dingy. As soon as the couple heard her they both jumped into the water sans clothes which were neatly piled up on the dock. Another interesting chapter from the book ‘Mating Habits of Sailors’?

Afternoon wind update it is now blowing consistently 25 with gusts to 35 at the dock. The forecast is to begin calming down (to 15) after the cold front passes through. Hopefully everything settles down tonight otherwise we're pinned in at Little Current. Our friends on 'Island Sol' left Harrisville this morning headed to Harbor Beach – I hope they got through Saginaw Bay before the winds really hit. Even then anchoring in 15+ in HB won't be a picnic.

Rename this town Big Current

04 August 2012
Tony and Kat
Photo: Check out the current!

Getting into Little Current was interesting with a wild current, high winds and a dock that was too shallow for us. Some quick engine work along with the bow thruster and we avoided some gelcoat pain. The next dock worked out a lot better and again we were able to get 'Richard Sharpe' along side of us. Great lunch at the Anchor Inn - nothing has changed in this town either.

Our original plans were to go from Little Current to Killarney, and then Tobermory. As we pulled into Little Current the forecast became very iffy for the trip south. We decided to skip Killarney and head straight to Tobermory and wait out for the bad weather (25-30 kts South/Southwest) for the next two days. However, when I called both Big Tub and Little Tub, docks were full. The harbormaster at Little Tub said they could accommodate us but we would be rafted off. Ok life is full of compromises - so we decided to leave Little Current at 6:45 this morning to catch the 7:00 bridge opening. Kat even suggested we go at 5:45 (am) but we decided 6:45 would still get us into Tobermory at a decent time.

At 5:45 I picked up the forecast which showed Georgian Bay getting ugly earlier, combined with winds paralleling the river current and no shot at a dock our decision was made - stay at Little Current for the next two days and wait out both the weather and the holiday traffic (Monday is a holiday in Canada).

So we're in Little Current enjoying the Haweater Festival; music, street performers, car show and fireworks. In between those activities a little boat maintenance - reorganizing the lazarettes, etc. Hah a miracle! The step stool that was purportedly lost in Cheboygan miraculously appeared in the starboard lazarette. So now we have two since we picked one up in Gore Bay (p.s. M dockers ask Geri about the run on step stools).

Hopefully the Huron weather improves quickly, more to come on Little Current.

Shaken not Stirred

03 August 2012
Tony & Kat
Photo of the four of us on FC at Eagle Island

That title seems more appropriate for the last post as well as this one. Since Beardrop and the squall, we've had great times and reflections. On the latter the four of us came up with a 'did well/do better' list when faced with the same predicament - part of which we deployed at our next anchorage. Weather like that certainly binds people together.

From Beardrop we headed over to Gore Bay for two days at the marina. Nice facilities and nothing has changed much here. Typical housekeeping issues were completed - boat washing, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. We had a great dinner at 'Inn on the Bay' and the little grill north of the marina still serves great food - just be sure to order 'unsweetened tea', their regular tea is mixed with lemonade. Even though the daily treks have been short after leaving Mackinac Island, it was nice to take a couple of days to veg out.

Most of the time we're either sailing or motor sailing - we've sailed more this time than on any previous trips so that has been a nice plus.

From Gore Bay we headed over to Eagle Island for an overnight anchorage. We decided on Eagle since everyone was talking about how packed the Benjamins were. And after all, both have trees and lots of granite. However, we were all a little apprehensive about anchoring, but the old saying: 'if you fall off a horse......' applies to anchoring also. Soooo we'd better start anchoring soon.

The weather was pretty interesting as it continued to build all morning 10+ true to about 18+ from the south/southwest - again a good decision on Eagle. Since we were going across the NC we had the fetch with big quartering rollers slightly less than comfortable ride but we all faired well. Finally into Eagle it was a little calmer but still blowing 15 true. I was surprised to see 6 boats in there already and again we were a little apprehensive anchoring. When it's blowing out of the southwest, Eagle reminds me of the Bight at Norman in the BVI's with its venturi effect. But no problem our anchors held in that wonderful NC mud/clay. What was disappointing; the lack of wildflowers in bloom and no blueberries - guess we're about three weeks late. On the other hand we saw a spectacular rise of an orange full moon over the trees while being serenaded by a couple of loons. Does it get any better that that?

From Eagle we were off to Little Current and the beginning of the southern trek. We were able to have a great sail most of the way with 10-12 kt winds out of the northeast - however, it was downright cold (recollections of the guys trip on Lake Huron) I even had gloves on (no Mark I didn't have the quilt out).

While I was navigating, Kat went down below to make espresso with whipped cream - how decadent! Once we got into Little Current off came the fall clothes and back into short sleeves and shorts.

We're now watching the weather closely since the extended forecast for Georgian Bay is pretty crummy for Sunday/Monday 25+ out of the south - yuk! We may pass on Killarney and go directly to Tobermory tomorrow.

Huh Ho!!!

31 July 2012 | Beardrop
Tony & Kat
Not sure what to call this update - holy s..t, wtf, midnight at the horror show??? Yes the picture is of FC's midship's cleat - but more on that to later.

We had a nice motor sail most of the way to Beardrop. They had a few boats when we got there - but more kept coming until we had 22. A very nice dinner was prepared by the 'Richard Sharpe's' Admiral and Captain, but we decided to cut out early since a "narrow band" of showers was on its way. Vixen needed to get on shore one last time before we buttoned up the boat. Around 10:00 instead of showers we had a major squall blow through that lasted almost 2 hours. It was a surreal event with lightening strikes everywhere, winds gusting in excess of 50 (60?) for most of the storm.

Several boats began dragging their anchors. One 40+ ft powerboat had dragged its anchor about ¼ mi. Every time the sky lit up it was moving further back (that's where the screaming was coming from). They had passed the Beardrop cut and were headed towards the rocks when another powerboat threw lines and started hauling them back. Picture 22 boats in a washing machine. The (big) powerboat ahead of us started dragging but had the foresight to start its engines and then set another anchor when he saw that he was bearing down on us. Both we and 'Richard Sharpe' stayed put. Thank you Lewmar + 100' chain in mud!

On the other hand two boats around us broke free. One in particular had dragged his anchor a 100 yards but instead of laying out more rode and another anchor, he starts the engine to power through and of course the high winds push him sideways and his anchor roller first into the powerboat ahead of us (they just had the boat completely redone). So now after that crash he starts bearing down on us stern first - but he is still parallel to us. So if it doesn't work the first time what do you do - try again. Come on guy a 30' sailboat powering into 50+ winds what do you expect?

Kat happened to come up into the cockpit just as he attempted this second insane try and again the wind turned him - but this time into us. His anchor roller hit our midship cleat straight on, snapped it and the cap rail. Fortunately we were not hurt, the boat has no structural damage that we can see and gelcoat damage is minimal. Hmmm should I call Jack M. at Marina South and tell him to start spending his bonus money???

The storm stopped just as abruptly and the harbor became a dead calm. We heard of several boats damaged - one got hit twice on each side by the same boat. The boat ahead of us has a nice hole 3' up from the waterline. But again no lives lost and everyone appeared to be floating.

The morning was very calm especially when the three of us met over coffee. The good news is that he admitted fault and didn't 'skip town' AND we have a witness to him plowing into us.

Now it's onto Gore Bay once we get the anchors up. ?? How does nature tightly compress clay/mud into every link of the 100' chain?

Overdue Updates!!

30 July 2012
Tony & Kat

It’s been several days since an update – all due to lack of wireless - but so much to report on. We had a pretty uneventful run from Cheboygan to St. Ignace, motor sailing most of the way. We held off leaving because of fog, and while it burned off and visibility improved to about 5 miles, it was still overcast and pretty chilly. For those who haven’t been there, St. Ignace has a great marina, very deep, very well protected, along with a friendly staff. It was a short run - taking about 2.5 hours, but one has to be vigilant because of the commercial traffic. FYI the ferry boats (and there are plenty of them coming from everywhere) are not using AIS transponders.
On the way to St Ignace, Kat suggested I call Michigan Rez to see if there were cancellations for the next night and we lucked out scoring two docks for the following night.

A quick ferry boat ride from St. Ignace later that afternoon and we got to scope out Mackinac before we docked there the following day. The 3-4 block area by the ferry docks reminds me of any resort town – Key West, Charlotte-Amalie, etc. However once you get out of the ‘downtown’ area the landscape and nature trails are awesome. The next day we docked there and it was very interesting! The harbor does have a significant surge (15 kt east winds didn’t help) and the low water presented problems getting off of the boats. Both of our boats had the only docks without ladders to climb up (about 4’) to the docks. Hmmm maybe we can use the step stool (we use on floating docks to step up to the boat) on the boat to step up onto the dock? Not! Apparently we left that one in Cheboygan for someone else to use.

I got to bike around the entire island while Vixen kept Kat company in the cockpit. Dinner at the Grand Hotel was marginal – they’ve outlived their reputation. Hah - but the bread and the pastry at Marc’s was superb. Next time a small bistro on the east side of the island for dinner!

DeTour Village was our next stop – relatively short motor sail day. Quaint ‘village’ but it did have decent docks and facilities. For those headed there, they’re closing Sept. 5 to completely redo the marina. This is definitely a stop for next year. We got there on Saturday just in time for the ‘art’ festival and chicken roast. They also had band playing that night (FYI St Ignace also had one at the docks). This was just a stop to get us into the North Channel and it served its purpose very well. Originally we were going to take the Southerly route and go through False DeTour Passage, but Paul recommended we take a more scenic route through the Islands to the North. So ‘Richard Sharpe’ was the lead boat through a very serpentine route and he did a very nice job.

Meldrum Bay hasn’t changed much, but then there isn’t much to change. The docks are new but in the exact configuration and location as the old ones. The electrical is still on land - 30’s and 15’s only and plan to bring a few cords since the harbor has not been dredged and the closest you can get to the electrical is 75-100’. No water and no pump-out but a new building which houses nice bathroom/shower/laundry facilities. And as usual the Inn did a wonderful job on dinner. Sharon was very accommodating and found us an outside table on a very crowded Sunday night.

The last several days have been relatively short 5-6 hours – it’s kind of nice getting in around 2:00 and relaxing before the next day’s journey. Now it’s off to Beardrop – we catch up with another update in Little Current.

So close to Mackinac Island!

26 July 2012
Photo: The three of us at Presque Isle

For those of us that took the all day weather seminar this past April, we're taking advantage of all the different weather scenarios on this trip to rewrite weather definitions, for instance: If you see the following from the National Weather Service and/or NOAA...

Light and variable with a potential for rain in the mid afternoon. They really mean hold onto your hats because it'll be blowing like stink and you'll get rain mid morning. I guess in fairness to them it was mid afternoon somewhere in the world....but really light and variable??

We actually had a pretty nice sail from Presque Isle to Cheboygan. We motor sailed part way, then sailed, then rolled everything up in anticipation of the storms...then under Genny alone...7.5-8 kts. Good thing we got underway early (7) because just after we docked the rain turned into a downpour. Still not too bad - just under 7 hours.

So now it's just 'Richard Sharp' and 'French Connection'. 'Island Sol' headed up to Drummond Island to meet up with their friends staying on the Island. There is a possibility we may meet up with them as they're doing the same stops in the North Channel and down the east side of Lake Huron. We had a great time with them and look forward to that rendezvous.

For those wondering, Paul and Geri are doing well and really broadening their sailing experiences - we're having a great time with them as well.
Tomorrow is the much anticipated trek to Mackinac Island. Predictably the marina is booked solid for the foreseeable future...well maybe some openings mid September, so we have reservations at St Ignace. The ferry to Mackinac is next door to the marina so we're good to go!

On to Presque Isle

24 July 2012 | Presque Isle, Michigan
Tony & Kat
Photo: Old Presque Isle Light

The weather gods favored us with outstanding wind/waves. We motor sailed to Thunder Bay Light then headsails were unrolled as we went northwest to Presque Isle. We were able to sail to within 6 miles of our destination before the winds got really fluky - alternating between 4 and 17 kts. 'Island Sol' got even more 'weird' winds as they changed direction 90 degrees multiple times and built to 25 kts. In the end we all got in safe and with plenty of time to relax.

Presque Isle is a favorite destination of ours with clear water (15+ ft visibility) and scenic splendor. In past years we have been 'waylaid' here for several days as we've waited out the weather. We did the same this trip taking an extra day just to chill out after three long days of travel. This will work in our favor as the weather is expected to remain Northwest until Wednesday. The marina is awesome with a great crew, clean facilities, and nature trails all around.

We spent Tuesday relaxing, taking in the scenery (Vixen went wading in the lake), and doing minor maintenance/housekeeping. So far no major problems with the boat, although the anchor washdown pump isn't building pressure - no blockage in the lines so it has the be the pump diaphragm - frustrating since I installed it this spring for the express purpose of using it in the North Channel - oh well back to buckets for washing down the anchor! On the last part of the trip, the radar stopped working..hmm...no data from the radardome...the old standby worked - shutting it down and turning it back on. Shame it doesn't have a 'CTL ALT DEL' button! Typical boat issues.

The weather has been spectacular with temps in the mid 70's and very dry - certainly beats 90's and high humidity back home. Tomorrow it's off to Cheboygan, but in the meantime, it's drinks++ on 'Island Sol'

Harrisville or Bust

22 July 2012 | Harrisville
Tony & Kat

Picture of Vixen at the ‘helm’; Note to oneself bring extra cushioned seat next year so that I don’t have to sit on the hard teak seats!

This is the part of the trip we all dread since it’s long, generally hot and Saginaw Bay is very unpredictable. A strong southwesterly and it would be a pretty rough ride for 8 hours. But like the day before we had light southerlies that eventually grew into more moderate winds with following seas. Shaved at least a half hour off the trip - oh but the bugs.

We have soooo many flies/bugs that our boats almost turned black! That’s the disadvantage of light winds – but I’d still rather have that weather with flies then high winds on the nose and large seas (guys remember our 2010 trip?). Kat was able to stay down below for much of the trip; cleaning up, making lunch, etc. Vixen of course insisted on keeping her company.

Nowhere was the low water depth more apparent than coming into Harrisville. The water is pretty thin coming into the harbor (one of our boats hit bottom) and the fuel dock looks like its sitting on stilts. According to the harbormaster, Lake Huron is down 16” over last year.

As soon as all of us docked, out came the hoses and scrub brushes – we wrapped up just in time for cocktails…hmmm there is a pattern here! Had a passable dinner in town – definitely a ‘don’t go back there’ restaurant. Tomorrow we’re off to Presque Ille. Kat and I are having a great time – and all three of us are in boat mode.

On the Way to Harbor Beach

21 July 2012 | Harbor Beach
Tony & Kat
The photo is of Richard Sharp going under the Blue Water bridge.

The forecast is light and out of the south - perfect for this trip. We left at 7:30, encountered a relatively mild 3.5 kt. current along the shoreline. We had a light southerly breeze for the 8 hr trip to Harbor Beach. This is my least favorite harbor since it's shallow and there's nothing in town. This year it continued to meet my expectations as we anchored by the lighthouse with about 15 other boats.

Vixen did surprisingly well especially as she patiently waited for me to launch the dingy for the 20 min ride into the 'doggy park'. The only issue was someone forgot to tell me I have to put gas in the outboard! No sweat - a quick call to Mike on 'Island Sol' which joined up with us at HB and I got bailed out. Two more trips to the 'doggy park' that night...hmmm I think Vixen likes dingy rides and is toying with me.

Grosse Point Sailing Club had this as a stopping point for their 'Cocktail Race Cruise' so as I mentioned we had lots of company. By the way a good winter seminar for the club might be 'anchoring for racers' - yikes how many times do you have to reset the anchor - especially in mud! Clue - start with something more substantial then a 10 lb danforth for a 40' boat.
All three of our boats set our anchors the first time and we stayed secure even in moderate winds that evening.

Groundhog Day Sarnia

21 July 2012 | Sarnia, Ontario
As predicted it’s another day as we wait out the weather. The sun came up after a dreary 18 hrs of rain and fog. But today the winds piped up to 17+ out of the North/Northwest which means a pretty uncomfortable go for a run to Harbor Beach. Forecast for next three days is pretty light and mostly out of the south so it should be a nice ride to Harbor Beach and then the following day to Harrisville.

Last night drinks and appetizers again with a fabulous Cabernet from our cellar; Regusci (Stags Leap) 2002 – sorry Alex and Michael! Dinner at Paddy Flaherty’s and this morning a nice surprise – Blueberry pancakes and eggs on Richard Sharpe.

Got a little maintenance done: tightened the steering cables, topped off the air in the dingy, housekeeping in the cabin, etc. and then onto a fabulous Italian restaurant called Salvatore’s in Port Edward. Louie, the owner came to table to describe the dinner (no menu – just what he decides) which came family style. I noticed everyone else had ‘doggy bags’ but us. FYI the homemade Tiramisu here is fabulous. Having a great time and eating well.

Stuck in Sarnia

19 July 2012 | Sarnia, Ontario
Tony and Kat
Thunderstorms to the north delayed our departure from the Old Club by about an hour. Once it looked like the weather was moving on we cast off and had a reasonably nice ride up the St Clair River. Overcast with occasional rain sure beat the 95+ high humidity conditions for the past several days. For most of the trip we were averaging a 1.7+ knot current with and occasional 2 kts. The trip took six hours and we were able to get in just after three o’clock. Lots of freighter traffic heading north – mostly empty ore boats.

During the ride up the wheel/rudder was pulling a bit to one side and felt like we had captured more seaweed on the way up. Soooo over the side again at Sarnia with knife in hand but no weeds this time on either the prop shaft or rudder ….strange. Let’s hope this is the last time for this exercise as the water is getting progressively colder as we head north. At the same time the joker valve gave out I just replaced the valve in May (thanks Jabsco) you boaters will understand…hope it’s the last time on the trip for this replacement as well

The day ended on a warm and sunny note and with cocktails and appetizers with Paul and Geri on our boat. The last weather check before going to bed looked a bit iffy for anchoring Friday night with a forecast of 15-20 kts with 6-8 footers from the North/Northeast – we may be here an extra night!

Thursday morning 5:30 am - WOW the weather really turned ugly in the middle of the night! The picture of our radar screen shows just how bad it got. We’re the little boat symbol in the lower center of the picture. The wind forecast has stayed the same so…at least an extra night here!

Relaxing at the 'Old Club'

16 July 2012 | Harsens Island, Michigan
We had a very pleasant ride up the Detroit River. While not prearranged, The Grosse Isle contingent, ourselves included, met up with the Bablo group in the Upbound Channel (6 sailboats). It’s nice to know that the electronics are working well – as we were getting ship information via my AIS system. For those non boaters, AIS is a visual display that receives information from commercial ship traffic and pinpoints it on the chartplotter/radar display. Like air traffic controllers see the aircraft location, type, speed, etc. we can see the same info for commercial traffic. As I advised our small fleet of sailboats of a particular tanker (Victorious) headed upbound, they heard their ship’s name and called out to us. Nice to know everyone on the bridge of that ship was alert.

Lake St Clair, was a beautiful turquoise color, calm and serene - we forgot what a beautiful lake this is. A light breeze allowed us to motor sail all the way to the ‘Old Club’ on Harsen’s Island. The club is nestled between the south channel of the St Clair river and a wildlife refuge and from the water looks like a classic New England fishing village

Our Vice Commodore arranged to have all of the sailboats on the newly renovated wall - great job Dave!

A couple of days to rest and we’re off to Lake Huron via the St Clair river where the real adventure begins.

Life is an adventure

16 July 2012 | Middle Bass & Grosse Isle
We’ve started our trip with the Club race to Middle Bass Island. This race always seems to be a drifter as was the case this year as well. After an hour and forty minutes we had only reached Mouse Island – a couple of miles away so we decided to pull out. Glad we did as it didn’t get any better. Down come the sails and we motored to MBI. Nice relaxing lunch and watched as the rest of the fleet pulled in 3 hours later. Life is too short for ‘drifters’. At the awards ceremony I got a ‘non-participation’ trophy – what’s with that Mark?? On our way to dinner we ran into Dale and Pat, old friends from Mentor Harbor – 90 miles away. Small world.

On Sunday we had the most fantastic sail all the way to the Detroit River with winds on the beam between 14-16kts. While we were hailing Bablo, our destination for the evening, other friends of ours from Mentor heard us on the radio – but they were already in Windsor, four hours north of us. Did I mention small world?

The good news – we made it to Boblo Island in 4.5 hours. The bad news – it was filled with seaweed (lakeweed?). So after 3 attempts we decide to abandon this destination and on to another port. Uh oh something doesn’t seem quite right with the rudder and engine – more to come later.

After a few frantic calls – no dockage anywhere (hydroplane racing in Detroit), a quick call to our Vice Commodore, who was organizing this trip, and he got us into Grosse Ile YC. That’s where I dove down with knife in hand to cut away the seaweed from the prop shaft and rudder post – major problem averted! But wait – there’s more. As all of us started plugging into the power grid we’re blowing breakers (and they couldn’t find the breakers), by the way, who puts 15 amp outlets on docks anymore??? The club responded by getting one of the members to string 100+ ft of 30 amp cord to each of our power lines so we could have air conditioning . We finished up the day with a wonderful dinner with all of the couples from the other CIC boats docked there. Tomorrow - it's up the Detroit River to the 'Old Club' on Harsens Island on the northern end of Lake St. Clair

Getting Ready Again

28 June 2012 | Catawba Island
Tony & Kat
Two weeks from Saturday and it's the North Channel again. This time we're headed up without our experienced leaders - the O'Mara's. However, we're confident that between their input and Great Lakes Cruising Guides we'll do just fine. We have our dock mates - Paul and Geri on "Richard Sharpe". Mike and Tracy on "Island Sol" may be joining us as well. . While both are newbies to the North Channel, they are experienced sailors and we'll have a great time.

Stay tuned for the 'kick-off' on July 14th. In the meantime enjoy the picture of FC from the last club race with both Alex and Kim trimming the main (Kat was driving and Tony was on the genoa winches)

Back home again

31 July 2009 | Catawba Island
Most everyone knows that we're back home. We had an uneventful trip down the St Clair river, moving along with an average 2 kt. downstream current - warm temps, blue skies and little traffic.

Once we hit Lake St Clair, the wind picked up a little (not enough to sail) but the lake remained relatively smooth. We were staying at Lakeview Marina and because they have a small fuel dock, we ended up circling outside by Peche Island for about 20 min. waiting for a spot to open up. Once docked on the short wall directly across from the fuel dock, I was amused by a couple of boaters on a Go Fast boat with a long improvised fishing net - apparently looking for a fuel cap in the 'drink'. Hmmm does this happen often? ;-)

Time to split up: next morning Adagio and Resolution left at six and headed to Put-In-Bay. Since we wanted to be home in time for Kat to attend a shower, we decided to head for home at CIC. So we slept in until 6:30 - but by 6:50 lines were cast off and we picked up the Detroit River current - about 1 - 1.5kt avg. Conditions were the same as the day before, blue skies, calm water and mild temps.

We did see a bit more traffic, but most, not all, of the AIS alerts were from ships that were stationary. The one that wasn't is a 1000' ft. ore carrier called the John Barker. For a while it looked like she was going to pass us by Fighting Island, no such luck. Just as we entered the Livingston Channel, we look back and saw it turning by the mid channel mark. Kat was elated because her shift at the helm was ending and she wouldn't have to deal with it. As it entered this part of the downstream channel it literally looked like there was minimal room on either side (AIS data showed her to be 113 ft wide). So as I took over the helm, I was looking for potential 'escape routes' and the one to Belle Isle made the most sense. Luckily for us, the Barker's speed closely matched ours - she was doing 10.9 kt's compared to our 10.5. We were out of the channel and into the lake by #34 red can before she passed us.

Lake Erie, was relatively calm as well, with a northwest wind, we tried sailing, but the waves and minimal wind created an effective way to flog the main - so down it went. One benefit of the wind was that it did create some wave action that helped us along by about .5 kt. As we entered CIC we were greeted at the fuel dock by our friends the McLaughlins.

Great to be home!

The beginning of the end

29 July 2009 | Sarnia
We had a weather delay this morning, we were planning on leaving at 7:00 but since there was a band of heavy rain - including at the dock the consensus was to postpone departure until 8:30. At 8:00, although still raining, French Connection decided to leave with the other boats following a half hour later.

We had a wonderful sail for two thirds of this 7 hour trip - we kept the connector between the dodger and bimini in place to keep the rain out. We lucked out since we found out later that the wind had died behind us - both Adagio and Resolution had to motor. Kat navigated us under the Blue Water bridge and was pleasantly surprised by the 4 kt. favorable current.

This was an uneventful trip except for the rowboat with a couple and their infant that decided to anchor in the middle of the channel fifty feet in front of us. What are these people thinking?? After I appropriately chastised them we continued into Sarnia Bay Marina.

This is a sad point in the trip, passing under the Blue Water bridge is the equivalent to having a wonderful vacation and being at the airport ready to head home - you're not quite home but you know the vacation is over. Tomorrow it's down the St. Clair river to Windsor.

Bayfield Day 2

28 July 2009
This little town is truly the highlight of our trip and is made even better with our friends being there. We had a leisurely day, with Vixen getting plenty of exercise walking up the hill into town.

Did I mention galleries? This is where we bought the paintings that now decorate both French Connection and our home. So with our 'art consultant', Ava and her consort Michael, off we went to Turner and then Martin galleries. Turner is where we bought the McKnight paintings so we had high hopes we could find something for the fireplace. Alas nothing that really stood out for the fireplace, although we did see a wonderful abstract that could go on another wall, we were just about ready to buy it when the clerk found out they made a mistake on the price (by $900). That sealed the no-deal so off to lunch and then the Martin gallery.

By the way if you're in Bayfield, you have to have lunch at the Black Dog, awesome and they have a bakery there as well. Anyway back to the Martin gallery, where all four of us spotted a painting that we instantly agreed on. It's a wonderful encaustic oil abstract done by Fiona Hoop, a pseudonym for two Toronto artists. A little negotiating and the deal is done - now how to get it home since its 36x42. The sensible approach was to have them ship it - so they priced it out with insurance, duty, etc. the price was $600. I don't think so. Back to the boat to measure the companionway - it looked like it was going to fit so we had them wrap it and deliver it. With a little grease (just kidding) it fit through the companionway.

We had the most wonderful evening starting out with drinks and appetizers (better than dinner) on Michael and Ava's boat followed by a leisurely walk into town to the ice cream shop followed by a a sunset walk along the beach - it doesn't get any better than this. Tomorrow off to Sarnia.

Small world… continued

27 July 2009 | Bayfield
Blue skies, moderate wind and waves led to one our more delightful sails on this trip. Unfortunately it was the shortest leg - only 2 hours. Once we got out of the sloppiness in the channel, we were able to raise both sails and off we went . Bayfield, albeit small, is one our favorite towns in Canada. The 'downtown' is only about three blocks long but filled with quaint shops and galleries.

As we walked down the docks to head into town, I spotted a familiar looking Beneteau - as I thought, it was our 345 (pictured above) that we sold 12 years ago to Bob and Carol from Royal Oak, Mi. and of course we got a chance to catch up with them - it was nice to hear that they still love the boat. It was one of our favorites - especially since we have many fond memories of family vacations on it. Also next to us at the dock is a powerboat and as we got to talking to them, turns out they are good friends of Jake and Emily (Kerm and Lynne we'll get their names for you). Small world indeed!

Tonight we're hosting cocktails (wine and wonderful appetizers) then off to the Red Pump, one of the nicest restaurants on Lake Huron.

Cheers

Sometimes best not to plan

26 July 2009 | Goderich, Ontario
At our 7;30 Captains meeting, we decided to proceed forward on our 6 hr trip to Bayfield. The weather didn't look too threatening, although the winds would be right on the nose building to 10-15, with an early afternoon change to the west. As we left Kincardine, we found the waves to be west southwest and with the wind on the nose. Of course the Michigan Lake Huron forecast said 1-3ft waves, but then you have to add in the 'fetch' created by waves traveling over 50 miles (from Pt Huron) before they hit us. Needless to say we had a very sloppy ride.

Apparently we didn't plan this trip too well, since on the way up the wind and waves were blowing out of the north, on the trip down they are blowing from the south - go figure.

Anyway with a band of thundershowers (again) approaching and after four hours of the lumpy sailing, we decided to tuck into Goderich, where we'll stay until tomorrow morning - then onto Bayfield. As I'm writing this and looking at the satellite weather, another line of thunderstorms just came up from Ann Arbor northeast to Presque Isle. This stuff just doesn't quit.

Had a phone call from Ken last night and got the info on the Dry Creek Vineyards race yesterday. Mark congratulations on your first place finish - I know it's well deserved. I also heard that the word on the street is that Gary's Christmas came early with a number of orders for new sails - hmmm is North Sails a public traded company? Wish we were there to give Gil some competition for his excellent second place finish.

Hope to see everyone soon.

Cheers

Kincardine

25 July 2009
Nice to have a layover day after a long trip. As mentioned in the previous blog, Kat started out the day cooking blueberry pancakes for the other crews, however, they also contributed with bacon, orange juice, syrup, etc. A nice beginning to a lazy day. We walked into town to pick up a couple of items - the weather was definitely lousy over the water with thunderstorms, wind, etc. it looked like it might rain in town and well but we decided to go for it anyway. Once into town the storms moved inland and we ended up having to wait out the downpours.

Once back on board, the long overdue bath for Vixen was even more critical as she got soaked in one of the downpours.

Tomorrow, weather permitting we're off to Bayfield, one our favorite Canadian towns.

Cheers


Two days at Tobermory - time to head back

24 July 2009 | Tobermory
This was part of the journey I was not especially looking forward to for a number of reasons. First it officially puts closure on the North Channel part of the trip, since this is the gateway to Lake Huron (or vice versa depending on the itinerary). It is also the longest part of the trip for us - an estimated 9-10 hours in open Lake Huron waters. Lastly, this entry into Lake Huron is known for its treacherous reefs.

Anyway after two days in a very protected 'Little Tub' harbor it is time to move on. We were up pretty early - Vixen had her 'walk ' at 5:00a.m. and by 6, we had helped cast off Chuck and Gale, on Resolution 2. We were next with help from Michael and Ava, so off we go, hoping that the weather reports were right and that mother nature had decided to abide by them.

Typically our watches are one hour on/off on French Connection, since we were all up early, I took and extended watch of 6 - 8:30. Partly to give Kat some additional rest, part to get a good sense for what the lake was going to offer up in terms of weather and sea conditions. The report called for light and variable winds - clocking to the southwest later in the afternoon (right on the nose for us) and gradually building throughout the day.

Fortunately, our trip through the reefs of the Cape Herd channel was relatively calm, since it's critical to visually follow the buoys (chartplotters are nice, but we don't solely rely upon them in critical or dangerous areas).

Once we entered Lake Huron I was able to unfurl the genoa and do some motor sailing. The weather became very challenging, while the winds were building from the northwest we were getting waves from the southwest, areas of rain (thank god for the dodger and bimini) and an extended area of pretty dense fog. Not the picturesque fog you see in photographs, but the stuff you drive through while wondering who else is out there.

Typically with radar you can pick up decent size boats, but it's the small fishing boats that you can't see. Plowing through the water at 8.5 kts - our 22,000 lbs of boat would easily take out a 16 ft fishing boat.

I set the radar at 48 mi range and closely watched for traffic and monitored the rain, which was a green blob on all three sides. Fortunately there was very little traffic on the Lake - I spotted two boats on radar and another two southbound. I wished these large cruisers had identified themselves since they gave us almost a mile of room while passing. It was a very thoughtful thing to do, more often than not they come close enough that their waves wreak havoc on sailboats.

We did have a visitor on board, about halfway through our trip, miles away from land, a small bird landed on deck, proceeded to walk up and down the sides of the boat, pecking away at the dead bugs
After about a half hour, it flew away, but still circled the boat as if saying I'm small but I can still go faster than you.

Other then the rain, dense fog, confused (sloppy) waves and wind that eventually built to 12kts on the nose, the 9 hr journey was pretty uneventful. About two hours out of Kincardine, Resolution 2 spotted a break in the overcast skies and by the time we entered the break wall, we had blue skies and warm temps. Vixen did surprisingly well on this trip although we could see her wanting to jump ship as we were entering the harbor. Again kudos to Michael on Adagio for getting us dockage in this popular harbor.

A couple of hours later after a light dinner, we went off with Michael and Ava to see the latest Harry Potter movie.

Tomorrow is a layover day in Kincardine, that starts off with Kat making blueberry (remember Eagle Island?) pancakes for all three boats.

Little Current to Tobermory

22 July 2009
This morning before we departed the AIS alarm went off - a quick visual scan showed nothing - however the screen indicated a 400ft Passenger ship so we thought it was an anomaly - just like when it picked up the derelict ship in the middle of Lake Huron. This time, however, it was right on and it appeared just as we were leaving the docks. Who would have thought that a vessel this size could maneuver the channel and dock in downtown Little Current.

The wind was right on the nose as we began the passage to Tobermory. Listening to the 9:00 am Cruisers Net, we found out they had 40 boats anchored in Haywood Island, this was an alternate destination to Little Current - glad we stayed where we did.

As we passed Badgeley Island and turned right, heading into Georgian Bay, the wind freshened up and we were able to sail. Initially the wind was a little fluky with wind speed in high single digits, but it gradually increased into the mid teens with waves of 2-3 ft. By the time we reached Flower Pot Island, we were moving along at 8.3 kts. and surfing as our course changed to more of a broad reach. Tobermory was a welcome sight especially for Vixen, who was eyeing the grassy area at the fuel dock after the 7 hour journey. The temperature here was a delightfully warm 70's.

Weather continues to be a concern and one of the reasons we left so quickly for Tobermory. There was a huge band of thunderstorms the entire length of Michigan heading our way and we wanted to be in a safe harbor before they hit us. The Sirius weather system on our boat continues to pay for itself as it gives us a visual of what's going on vs. just listening to the weather station on VHF.

Tomorrow we will lay over in Tobermory and get ready to begin the journey down Lake Huron on Thursday.

Cheers

Eagle Island to Little Currrent

21 July 2009
We motored to from Eagle Island for Little Current today and the weather is sunny and warmer than it has been, even so, we're still wearing layers of fleece and gloves, When we arrived in Little Current, the wind and current were working against us so it took a bit of skill getting into the docks. Michael had called ahead to not only get the reservations but also ensure that we were docking bow into the current. Glad we had the bow thruster fixed before we left as it was critical making the final turn into the dock.

After a nice lunch at the stalwart Anchor Inn, everyone left to go shopping at Turners. Thankfully the selection was down from previous years and Kat didn't find anything she was looking for . After cocktails we agreed to get the 8:00 drawbridge and be on our way to Tobermory to get ahead of the weather.

Eagle Island

20 July 2009
Eagle Island has been so serene and picturesque that we decided to stay another night. The only sound we hear are birds and an occasional frog. No loud power boats, no crowds, just nature at it's finest. As we went around the island, we found wild blueberry bushes everywhere - so it'll be blueberry pancakes at some point on the trip. Vixen continues to do well, although she barks every time I start the dingy engine, as well as at the stone markers (more to come on that later) that are placed everywhere. Tomorrow we begin working our way back with the first stop being Little Current.

Hard to imagine we've been here two weeks.

Gore Bay to Eagle Island

18 July 2009
We're in Gore Bay for a couple of days, partly to regroup and part to wait out the weather. While not as big as Little Current, it at least has the amenities we were looking for such as a grocery, hardware, state store, etc. The weather continues to be the primary topic amongst everyone here - the common theme is that the seasons appear to be moving back by a couple of months - since what we're experiencing is more like a late spring. The weather on Saturday was schizophrenic - continuously alternating between sunshine and rain. The forecast appears to get better after Sunday, although we were all amused by the term 'troughiness' in the forecast so we'll see.

One additionally commentary is that the level of boaters is down significantly from previous years in spite of fuel costs being down. There has been plenty of space in the marinas and anchorages. Two nights ago at Long Point there was only one other boat plus our three. We heard that the Benjamin's are virtually vacant - two years ago we couldn't get in because of there were so many boats anchored. Also at Gore Bay, it appears that most of the charter boats at CYC are sitting in the dock.

Vixen has adjusted very well to the boat although we still give her a ¼ Dramamine just to take the edge off. The boat continues to do well, the swim/wet locker leak is fixed. Today, we are off following the 'grand tour master' on Adagio to our next anchorage. Originally we decided to go to South Benjamin Island however, upon entering the anchorage, we found the wind to not be in our favor so off we went to Eagle Island which is very protected on three out of four sides. The trip over from Gore Bay was an absolutely marvelous sail; broad reach, low to mid teens for wind and 3-4 ft waves. These conditions enabled French Connection to do a fair amount of surfing - very exhilarating.

As I writing this, we're anchored in this protected harbor under sunny skies, warmer temps (mid to high sixties) and about 10 kts. of wind. Altogether a very pleasant evening.

Vessel Name: French Connection
Vessel Make/Model: Beneteau 423
Hailing Port: Catawba Island, Ohio
Crew: Tony & Kat
About:
We started sailing 27 years ago on a 17' boat in Chicago. Once we found out small boats and big lakes don't mix we quickly upgraded to a 30' then progressed through 34, 38 and our most recent acquisition is a 42. [...]
French Connection's Photos - (Main)
33 Photos
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Who: Tony & Kat
Port: Catawba Island, Ohio
NAVIGATION HELP Note the links on right sidebar, you'll see a photo gallery. Click on it and you'll see photos from our trips. If you'd like to see a larger image just click on the photo. Also there's a link to our email. Current Position: Click on the map and it'll show FC's current position along with where we've been. At the lower left you'll see a link to Google Earth, free software that will show a satellite photo of the same map. You'll need to download the free Google application first. Also on the side links you'll see Sam and Dan's links plus individual links to all of the blogs we've written up. Cheers Tony & Kat
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