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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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Hole In the Wall to Toledo Beach Marina
Cloudy, raining, muggy86 degrees
08/22/2007, La Salle, MI

The Detroit River Light in the Fog/drizzle

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What a nice peaceful night. No rocking - we stayed in one position all night with the Detroit River Current. Got up at 6:30am made coffee and breakfast.

The engine started up with no problem and we were off down the river system again at 8:30 am - following the buoys and dodging a couple of freighters. One really kicked up a wake so that we had spray over the bow even though we were way over to the side...

It was really misty out so I questioned as to whether we should turn on the radar or not... Self I said: If you have to ask or think about it then DO IT... so I did, then we put on our rain slickers and life jackets since it was getting really rocky and foggy. We lost a couple of buoys in the fog but the GPS put us back on track. Most of the day was spent in rain, or fog or haze, with choppy, shallow seas but when I could see the sister's outline (The Detroit Edison Smoke stacks) near Sterling State Park I caught the scent of home.

I was worried, as we got closer to the marina because the chart said some places were 5 and 6 feet and we've been pulling close to 6 feet this trip with our provisions and water tanks full. I couldn't find the range markers (only one) but did line up to 290 degrees true to come in (300 on our compass). It was still to hazy to see much until we were almost at the mouth of the marina. The 290 heading was good though and it looked like they dredged the heading because it consistently read between 7-9 feet all the way along that course even though the sides per the chart read 4 and 1 foot. I was a nervous wreck - coming into our new home for the first time. They had a pretty good map of the marina, and I knew where our berth was and this was probably the best docking I've ever done, with nobody to see me do it (it figures doesn't it?). Laced in tight by 2:30 pm.

Unloaded our gear and packed up the truck, checked in at the main office and departed for home around 3:45 pm... sleep tight little humming bird - torn sails, uncertain electrical, but a refrigerator that's kick-ass...

Home again, home again, jiggity jig... Tomorrow, we need to pick up my car from Tower Marine - a goodbye to Saugatuck.

End of Chapter 1?

Black River to Hole in the Wall
Hazey, warm
08/21/2007, Black River (Port Huron) to Hole in the Wall (Detroit River off Grosse Isle)

Hello Detroit!!! The Ambassador Bridge and Detroit in the background :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I must admit, I'm angry... What was up with Customs yesterday? We did what they told us to do, and then, when we did it, they told us we were illegal by doing that... Frigging pisses me off that they told us to do that and then belittled us and made us feel like criminals... I feel like I should hang out here today and vent to someone there...

What a night - the bumpers on the seawall at Desmond's Marine kept squeaking all night, and the Lights on the sign were shining brightly through the windows, even with the curtains pulled. I think I was awake, more than not. Then this morning over coffee, Wayne found the email response to a request that I'd written to the Customs Office requesting information on the I68 form and it specifically says I DON'T need it... in black and white. I wish I knew the names of those people that were so sadistic at the customs office at the Blue Water Bridge... I'd like to put a reprimand or something in their folder so they don't get away with bullying people. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with that. I have a feeling it was the supervisor...

Well, after we cast off we went through the St. Clair River and made pretty good time - whenever I checked the GPS we were going anywhere from 7.1 to 7.9 knots running with the currents (wow and with no sails up) while running at our normal 2500rpms. So we gained better than a knot of speed. We stayed in the channel system with the freighters. Passed by several chemical companies on both sides (Dow on the Canadian side). Saw several old salty freighters dumping their ballast water in the river - to be able to pick up their loads. Bothered me a little, I thought they weren't allowed to do that anymore but guess they can. I couldn't believe the number of huge houses all along our travels here - big bucks along the river system. There were a lot of fishermen with the same boats all along the rivers. All of them were 2 guys to a boat (the same type/color of boat too), all standing while fishing, and their boats always seemed to be facing us until we passed... Hmmmmm... should I report the federal agents to the federal agents?

One freighter we saw in Lake St Clair was from Russia. He was moving for bear and really kicking up a wake. We saw him bearing down on us and moved out of the shipping lane (we'd been following it on the edge) just in time because his wake generated 5 ft waves with mighty turbulence.

It was really bittersweet to pass by a lot of the places I'd known in previous years. While a lot of the area is industrial and dirty, a lot of it is where I called home growing up - as did Wayne. I'm not sure how he felt passing by Detroit, the Ambassador Bridge, Bell Isle, Bob-Lo, Zug Island, Wyandotte, etc... but wow some old memories came flooding back of lives gone by... He reminisced abit about dates on Bob-Lo, Belle Isle but I couldn't really vocalize any - just thought and felt them as I took pictures along the way. I'm glad we passed by here. In some ways it's like saying goodbye to the past and recognizing some of the things that made me who I am today. An acknowledgement almost.


We decided we weren't going to make it to Toledo Beach today. By the time we reached a place called "Hole in the Wall", we still had better than 25 miles to go and there was no way we could make that before dark and neither wanted to put into a strange marina in shallow water in the dark, so we circled and circled and looked for somewhere to anchor. Stressful because of all the shallow water here - 3-4 ft with a few areas of 12-15 thrown in. The areas we can anchor are all in the open so if there's any weather - it could be problematic. The winds died down nicely and at anchor, the currents are keeping us in the same spot even though the winds (3 knots) are off our beam. This is a new concept to me - in anchoring we usually are lined up with the wind in order to back the anchor and lock her into the mud - here we align with the current. Looking at Sugar Island (?) - it didn't move as I revved the engine to 1500 rpms. I'd say we're anchored pretty solidly (oh oh?).

Made Steaks, cheddar/bacon potatoes and tomato/cucumber wedges for dinner. I was really hungry - but the steaks were incredible. Tobermory may not have a good restaurant but I'd go shopping there again at the grocery store (Big Tub) for steaks or produce in a heartbeat!

A few power/speed boats came by this evening to rock us but this is probably the quietest anchorage we've been at (I know, I know, it's because it's not really an anchorage). Almost forgot to mention - we saw this very pretty green/tan sailboat ahead of us on the Detroit River and had been admiring it for the longest time. When we caught up to it - it turned out to be Saudades - Toronto from John Island Harbor He hailed us on the VHF - Hey, didn't we anchor next to you in the North Channel (?) and to ask us where we were putting in for the night. We told him we were going to anchor in a place called hole in the wall or try and make our marina. He asked where Hole in the Wall was. I said I wasn't sure, somewhere up ahead of us, we'd never been there. Needless to say, he was going the same direction - but we told him we'd already cleared customs at the Blue Water (and would never do that again) so couldn't anchor near him on the Canadian Side of the river. He hadn't cleared into customs here yet and sympathized about the customs office at Blue Water Bridge and said he wouldn't clear there either, and wished us well with a "hope to see you in the North Channel again". He went towards Duffy's on the left cut, we turned into Hole in the Wall on the right cut. We saw him come back out and then go back in again too so he settled in somewhere there on the Canadian side...

Bayfield to Port Huron
Cloudy, raining, cold…
08/20/2007, Desmonds Marine, Black River

Monday, Customs office where we got buzzed in at the 10th Street Entrance. Welcome home...

Left Bayfield around 8:30 after taking a shower (smallest shower stalls I've seen but very nice facilities). It was cloudy and drizzly when we left, but the water was pretty calm. The forecast called for showers and winds E to SE building in the afternoon to 15-20 knots and 1-2 meter seas.

At 51 miles and 6knots per mile we figured "no problem". We'll be in before the seas grow. After 2 miles out it was obvious we were in for some chop. The winds were already 10-15 and we were almost running with the waves in the morning as the fetch built. So we had a bumpy ride in 6-7 ft seas with 20-knot winds, but we were clipping along from 7.0-7.9 knots, which was pretty good for us. Things were jumping around down in the cabin and one time when I looked the mustard was on the floor from the overhead cabinet (need to get a latch system for next year's trip). I ended up wedging a baggy between the sliding doors to keep them closed before I had a total mess on my hands.

It was to choppy to make breakfast and Wayne needed to hang on to the helm, so we had crackers for breakfast and later in the day I made some hot water for ramen noodle soup to keep us warm. It was cold and wet... Making hot water in a rolling cabin was not real fun but the warm soup was good. I'll have to remember to bring a broth next time.

We missed the channel a couple times watching the waves and a freighter coming in behind us. A pilot boat came out to meet him (an orange zodiac contraption). We weren't sure whether to go to Sarnia and stay in Canada first to check in or to try and find the customs office at the Blue Water Bridge so once we found the channel I pulled out my cell phone to see if it would work. It did!

I called customs around 3:30pm and was on hold for what seemed like forever, then it started ringing again and someone picked up. I asked what the procedures were for coming back into the states. He asked me where I was and what I was coming in on, then if I had an I-68 or nexus card. I told him we were coming in through Port Huron under the Blue Water bridge but wasn't sure where to go, since it looked like customs was inland - we were on a boat, and no I didn't have a 68 or nexus. He asked if we had access to a car, and I said no, but we had a dingy and he said what's that? I told him it's a little boat in case our boat sank (sarcasm on my part). He told me to go to Desmond's Marine, call when I get there and to "STAY ON THE BOAT, someone will come there to inspect you". I said okay, but didn't know where Desmond's Marine was and he said go up the Black River, it's there. I said okay.

After I hung up, I got out the Ports Book, the GLCC sheets and the chart page I was using to get us into Port Huron to see if I could find Desmond's but couldn't. After searching, I figured I'd scroll down the GPS looking to see if it was listed under their marines but it wasn't but did find another phone number for the coast guard station there and called. They were terrific in helping me to picture where and how to get to Desmond's. Ya gotta love the Coast Guard! My hats off to them for everything they do. They truly work under dangerous conditions to help others in peril and I think that they're really under appreciated. I never really did until my North Carolina field trip when I learned about their history - shame on me...

We found Desmond's just past the bridge that's in the fixed "up" position & tied up and told the people that Customs had directed us there and that we were to wait for someone to come down and inspect us. We asked if they had overnight dockage, since it appeared it would take awhile, and they said yes so we were happy campers to be tied up on home ground again specially after the rough seas. We were actually counting the miles for a while on our speed/distance monitor while we sailed through some crazy waves and wind! I was glad we decided to come directly home instead of putting into Sarnia. My vote initially was for Sarnia after looking at the charts and Ports book. It looked like easier access and I figured we could deal with a customs inspection in the morning. But it was so nice to be on home ground/water... for about 25 minutes, the time it took me to actually talk to someone. I was put on hold again forever, disconnected, then put on hold again, then transferred, then put on hold, then told he was the only one there, and was helping someone else first, would I hold again? What else could I do? I was told to wait there and call and not get off the boat!

Felt bad for the guy who said he was the only one there, and waited some more.

After he or someone got back to me, he told me I had entered the U.S. illegally, because I didn't have an I68 or nexus form. I said, I thought I only needed that if I were a frequent traveler to Canada, and this was my first time doing this to bring our boat around from Lake Michigan to Lake Erie and we'd bought a decal for the boat because we were told we needed that, by Customs on Drummond Island. He said the decal was only a "State" requirement, and asked if we'd stepped foot on Canadian Soil. I said yes, we went up to the North Channel. He said "then you need a I68 or nexus card". "You're here illegally, now be quiet and listen to me". "If you stepped foot on foreign soil, then you returned to the States - illegally". After listening to him tell me how I'd broken Federal Law, and that I was here illegally several times, he told me I'd need to get a cab and come down to the Blue Water Bridge (under it on the 10th street entrance) with all my receipts and passport. I said do I send it with my husband (since he's the captain) and stay on the boat (I was directed to stay on the boat after all) and he said "no, everyone on the boat needs to come to customs for inspection". He took down our passport numbers and names and said one more time "you're here illegally" and "what I'm going to do is write down that you have a "pending inspection" so when you get here, go into the outer doors and ring the buzzer and tell them that you're here for a pending inspection, and they'll tell you which floor to go to and buzz you in". Well I was in tears, thinking I'd broken Federal law coming back into my own country. Then fuming, wondering if Canada would just keep me since my own country didn't want me back. Then wondering if I was going to be arrested once I got down there for coming back "illegally" after doing what I was told to do to begin with!

Feeling humiliated, belittled, and stupid, we went up to the marina office and asked for the phone number of a taxi company, and called City Cab (they were there lickity split) and went down to the Bridge. They buzzed us in and we stood there looking stupid for 20 minutes before someone asked us if we were the bus... We told them no we were from a boat, with a "pending inspection" and he said oh and went out the doors. Finally a woman who'd been laughing with someone on the phone went to a computer terminal and was looking at some stuff, then said whose handling this to someone around the corner? Do I just give them a warning or what? Someone said something about the supervisor. I knew she was talking about us and was right. She went and talked to someone out of sight, came back to the computer, disappeared again, and finally came over to us and said that they were going to let us go with a warning this time... Wayne told her that we thought we only needed the I68 if we were frequent travelers and she said no. Everyone needs them now for boats. I didn't really want for him to argue with her, because they were in the power position, and I just wanted to leave - I felt humiliated enough, which he said is just what they wanted you to feel... The girl in the cab concurred with him and said they were just on a power trip and wanted you to know who was in charge... Like I don't?!?! I felt like whoever I was talking to was on a Napoleon Trip and I was to kowtow to his feet to be allowed back home... imagine how a legal immigrant trying to get in must feel... No wonder they can't stop illegal aliens, they're to busy harassing their own citizens...

Anyhow, after that farcous, we came back to the boat, got fuel and a pumpout and we'd spotted a place on the corner of the lift bridge where we had tied up to and went there for drinks and dinner. I didn't realize how hungry we both were with very little to eat all day. While we were eating, a Coastguard boat pulled up to the marina, close to our boat, and I thought - CUSTOMS! They're taking our boat now!!!

The flag on the back of our boat from my view, looked like someone on our boat... Do I sound paranoid? The waitress asked - do you have anything illegal on your boat??? I said no!!! I should have answered US (but we weren't on the boat now...) I actually thought it was Customs because they had the same blue uniforms on and there was a very short guy like there was back in Customs. I still think it was Customs. What are the odds that the Coastguard has the same short person too? Wet, cold, hungry, and made to feel like criminals... Interesting day. Wayne's angry and keeps saying it's a good thing it was you on the phone... It was, actually... The guy on the power trip probably would have thrown us in jail if Wayne had been on the phone with him. Welcome home... It's 8:20 pm and time for bed...

One of those Aben Days...

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