08/01/2011, Port Sanilac Harbor, Michigan
We have hopped from Rogers' City to Alpena to AuSauble/Oscoda and have landed in a beautiful little harbor - Port Sanilac Harbor in Michigan. We have found that every experience along the way -good and challenging are always impacted by the people who surround us. Through this passage we have encountered some of the kindest, most generous, and helpful people we have ever met ... and needed!
Maybury RFD -
In Rogers' City we found that simplicity ruled - the name of the city is in common with most of their shops - Mark's Motors, Glen's Groceries, Hanks' Homewares etc. It appeared to be a "Maybury" type of town. The harbor master jumped on her bicycle and quickly rode down the docks at breakneck speed so she could meet us at our slip to help handle lines. We are always grateful and as Wiley says "so is our insurance company " when we have help coming into a harbor.
Alpena harbor has two navigatable entrances -and is a little confusing when entering - red and green buoys all over the place. (For those non-sailors the Red Buoy should be on your starboard (right) upon entering the harbor and on your port (left) when leaving. One entrance in Alpena is for large ships and the other for the marina. We finally figured it out and once in the marina we had our choice of dockage - and picked out a slip that was easy to navigate in strong winds. It appears that boating for pleasure has been diminished by the economy which selfishly for us is a good thing! A fellow sailor suggested a great restaurant that had a Master Chef - The Cellar - it was amazing and it overlooked the river. It is a gem in this small town. We stopped by to listen to a concert - a lot of "blue hairs" and the music was heartfelt. The music was marked by "the enthusiasm of the musicians rather than by technical virtuosity" (Wiley's phrase) as they played such classic works as a medley of TV comedy themes (Happy Days, Bewitched, and etc.)- My son Sean responded upon hearing this - well "have you started playing BINGO yet?" This retirement thing is making me more sensitive to the "old people" jokes. On the way out of the harbor - I added another tally to the "I told you so..." list- (tip:when these tallies are even they can be great for lasting marriage). The large ship the Integrity - a ship about three blocks long, was leaving through the second entrance and our vessel's line of sight was not varying as we left through the marina entrance - it was constant. This is a sign that ships are on a collision course. As I mentioned this to Captain Wiley - a couple of times- he grunted but proceeded in the same direction. I finally said - STAND DOWN - which he did and the large ship - The Integrity went by us. The captained radioed - a "Thank You" to the sailboat captain.
On we went anticipating a longer stay at the next harbor - AuSauble/ Oscoda. The marina guide offered a place in the middle of two towns. Obviously, we thought twice the offerings - let's go. When we pulled into AuSauble/Oscoda we hunted for the harbor entrance and there wasn't one. The guide we had was already, outdated. We found that there was only a private marina available which is where we pulled in thinking it was a gas dock. This is where we met some of the most generous people ever - Larry Brennan, Mike Szewczyki, and Lou. Larry offered us his extra slip - free of charge. Mike got on our boat to help us navigate their shallow harbor and brought us to Larry's slip. Larry was there waiting to help with lines. There was only 6 inches between the boats - so it was a little like "threading the needle". However, with their help we were in. Then Larry gave us a large fan to cool us down, bottled water, a key to their yacht club, a ride to a local BBQ restaurant (smoked meatloaf - who knew), offered to drive us to a gas station for diesel fuel if we needed it and assistance when leaving. We were amazed by the generosity, kindness, and thoroughly enjoyed our conversations about family and sailing. Larry kept saying - "Hey, I just treat people the way I would want to be treated." We left Larry with a bottle of wine from our stash - which appears to be quickly diminishing. We just can't figure out were it is all going. Slips at this little marina that once cost thousands of dollars are being sold for $500.00 - a mansion that had a huge beachfront on Lake Huron that originally cost more than a million dollars sold for $310,000. Many stores were closed in town. We are seeing more and more evidence that the economy has especially hit hard on the eastern shores of Michigan. After our barbecue dinner we couldn't resist some ice cream. After eating so much Wiley demanded that we run and work off some of the calories (a Trojan Gift - ice cream and surprise there is a consequence!). So we ran to see the Paul Bunyan statue up over a hill in 85 degree plus high humidity heat (not that I am complaining), that was originally written by an author from the Detroit Press. The statue was, as you can see in the photos, less than overwhelming.
Seaweed Monster - A Nightmare Harbor
Our next stop had us crossing the notorious (for bad weather and shipwrecks) Saginaw Bay to Port Austin. Upon arriving we allowed another sailboat to lead us into the harbor - I thought that we would benefit from their expertise (This is an "I told you so ... on Wiley's list). The boat leading had a 6+ keel and went aground right in front of us - Wiley tried to maneuver around him and we ended up in the harbor seaweed. It was wrapped around the prop and we weren't moving. Upon the advice of the harbor master I dropped our anchor. This began a serious of unfortunate events... Wiley diving into the swamp harbor to untangle the prop - he came up out of the water with a mound of seaweed on top of his head - in his snorkel - and entangling his body. This weed seemed to have taken on a life like something out of a horror show. Wiley swam lines to the piers to tie us off so that we could maneuver the boat - and clear the intake on the engine - which Wiley did - while I continued to fend off the boat from metal pilings. Unfortunately, Wiley cut his ankle on one of these pilings and when returning to the boat we had a little pool of his blood on the deck. Wiley and I took Dimples the Dinghy and rowed over to the anchor - Wiley pulled it up and we rowed it out and dropped it again to kedge off of the pilings. We thought we could pull up on the anchor - start the engine and get out of all of the weed. Wiley jumped off the boat and swam over to talk to the harbor master about navigating out of this mess - the harbor master had gone home- leaving 2 young college students in charge. They had little information but told Wiley that we "should be able" to go across to the gas dock. Meanwhile, back at the boat a group of other sailors were chatting with me about our predicament - and added that our boat Les Miserable was well-named. A power boat came in and the owners were quite upset that we were blocking their slip - after explaining our situation they offered help should we need it. And, as you could predict we did. We attempted to motor across the harbor -Wiley lifting the anchor and Merry at the helm and were once again entangled by the swamp monster. The anchor when pulled up had 3 feet of weed on it and the stinky weed was entangled in the anchor chain. The entire deck of the boat was covered in weed and mud. The power boat owner, Mark, kindly brought his boat to our rescue and towed us to the gas dock. While at the dock Wiley once again cleared our prop and cleaned out the intake by diving under the boat. At this point, he was eager to "get the H... out of here" and wanted to go out and anchor outside of the harbor. However, upon looking at the horizon it appeared that we were the target of a storm. So, I suggested we wait out the thunderstorm as I began a scheme to just stay at the dock for the night. As Wiley worked on cleaning all the weed out of the engine raw water cooling system (the engine water strainer had so much weed in it that it looked like the inside of a Subway Sandwich Veggie Wrap- Wiley's description) I focused with him on all of the things we could do to check on the engine- hoping to pass enough time that it would be dark and his interest in anchoring in the dark would negate that possibility. We added oil, checked and added transmission fluid, and filled the coolant. Finally, a young dockhand came by and said he had talked to the harbor master - Gary- and they were giving us permission to stay the night for free - and provided us with keys to the shower. Of course, the storm did come during the night with strong Northerly winds which smacked the boat over and over into the large fender we had secured to protect the boat from a big piling on the dock. (Does that count as another I told you so?) At last - with 3 hours of sleep - we arose to get out of the harbor. After the rain ended we left and were both cheering once we maneuvered pass the swamp monster and out of the harbor.
We had a lot of wind on our sail to Saginaw Harbor and Wiley reefed the main (shortened sail) so we were not heeling as much or had too much weather helm. When we arrived in Saginaw the same sailors that were concerned about our predicament in Austin overheard our conversation with the harbor master as we approached and were seeking information about the weed issue in their harbor. The fellow sailors shared our story and when coming in this delightful refuge they gave provided us with slip #1 - a sixty foot slip and hands to help with lines. We caught up with these fellow sailors at dinner and breakfast this morning and they offered us a place to stay on on way down the Detroit River. I am sitting at a picnic table tapped into wi-fi looking out at the lake as I write this. There are white caps on the lake and a northerly cool wind is picking up. Today it is good just sitting looking out at the lake, helping other sailors dock their boats, and take care of life's necessities. I learned that Ferson Creek School is holding their SIP(school improvement planning )day today and want them to know that I am "sipping" as well. We missed our Saturday afternoon Bordeaux because of the swamp monster and arrived too late on Sunday, so today maybe a Bordeaux day or we may try the Pineapple Colado.
07/26/2011, Straits of Mackinac
We left the dock at Beaver Island Marina at 0645 on July 25, and cleared the harbor sailing southwest to clear all the shoals, and then steered north under sail for Grays Reef Passage; it was cool, with seas of 1-2 feet. The lighthouse at Gray's Reef is one of humanity's most forlorn- looking objects; Merry got a picture of it as we passed. One of the boats in the Mac came to grief here, and was abandoned, but we don't see the wreck. Unlike that sailboat, we safely navigate the infamous passage and then turn due east for the run to Mackinaw Bridge. We can see the bridge from 18 miles away. "Running" is the point of sail wherein the wind is behind the boat pushing it. Since we do not have a "whisker pole" or a spinnaker this is not usually a good point of sail for us but on this day we found ourselves doing an incredible 6.2 knots. At 1300 we pass under the bridge with all colors flying including a huge American flag that once flew over the U.S. Capitol. Although we did this once before with the kids in 1993 it is still a huge thrill. However, unlike 1993 we are not able to get a slip at the harbor at Mackinaw Island so we go into Mackinaw City. Ever since we left our home port we have been sailing in the wrong direction - north! Our charts seem to show that the Bahamas are in fact to the east and south after clearing the bridge for the very first time we turn SOUTH. After 300 miles in the wrong direction our passage under the giant bridge marks the start of going in the right direction.
What are the chances that our leisurely planned short sail from Charlevoix to Beaver Island (32 miles) can turn ...Edmondson's odds are pretty high! After yesterday's adventures in Charlevoix - (hmmm Wiley dunked the sailing dinghy Dimples and had to be rescued by another boater in a Zodiac, he put the inflatable dinghy dogs on the dinghy (no more dunking the dinghy) put the motor on and upon leaving the Charlevoix dock - missed getting into the boat and fell into the water, and during his training run managed to fall on both knees - poor guy!) Of course, it doesn't help that his wife is either laughing or lecturing or both.
Very little wind on our way over and then when we arrive to dock - gusts 25+ from the wrong direction SE - pushing us into the slip. Merry somehow manages to find the only yellow jacket in the vicinity and it stings the palm of her left hand just prior to an exciting docking experience. Anchoring is looking more and more attractive. Obviously, as we sit writing this we have arrived and with little damage - just one cleat that bit the dust during the docking maneuver and a swollen palm.
This Michigan island was once a kingdom in 1850 - yes, they had a self appointed King - a mormon named James Jesse Strang. Hence St. James Harbor, however, 2 of his followers were not so great at following and murdered him. The murderers were found to be heroes. After the mormons ruled then many Irish families - (fishermen) took over the island. So no doubt we will be going to the Shamrock Restaurant for some spirits. There are around 600 people who live here year round. It is very quiet and slow paced.
We are planning to stay for a minimum of 2 nights - and will rent bikes tomorrow to ride around this small island.
07/20/2011, Charlevoix, Michigan
Left the fog behind in Leland and motor sailed to Charlevoix. Waited for the bridge to open at 6:30 and came in and anchored. Wiley and I were doing our strength training on deck when I heard Wiley's name called. We were surprised by seeing Jim Doyle on a Mac boat. Wiley rowed over and we learned that another strong storm maybe on the way -pulled the anchor and tied up at the gas dock. An "unstory" -thank goodness. However, we hear frightening stories from Jim and Greg about what was like to be out during the storm and also learn that another friend had his boat T-Boned during the race and is in Charlevoix for repairs. We return to anchoring in the morning and are enjoying Charlevoix's festival -lots of live music in the evenings, street vendors, etc. There is a little restaurant in the middle of Charlevois - A Girl A Boy and a Girl - we dinghy over for some smoothies. Dimples goes out for some fun sailing on lake Charlevoix. Tomorrow we hope to leave for Beaver Island -the bridge opens on the half hour.
Five boats from the Mac race limped into the Leland harbor around 4 am which is where we spent the night. Wiley had spent the late afternoon pouting because he wanted us to anchor at South Manitou Island. After consulting radar on mu Ipad I refused and seeing the five boats that came into Leland - 1 dismasted, 1 with a broken boom, 2 with torn sails....and learning that 2 sailors died during the storm - well, we were relieved that we made the choice we did.
Wiley loves it when I am right...so we even spent another day in lovely Leland - swimming at the North beach, eating, visiting with boat neighbors, taking care of provisioning, laundry and joyfully living life while reminding ourselves that we need to listen to Mother Nature. We will be off to Charlevoix or Petoskey tomorrow. We are concerned about our friends who sailed in the Mac race and are eager to learn of their safe arrival at Mackinaw Island.
I thought that Merry and I had a clear understanding that we would sail from Frankfort to an open anchorage at South Manitou Island, after a stop at the huge Sleeping Bear Dune. The first part came off. We passed the famous lighthouse at Point Betsie. The wind was out of the south at 14 mph, and the waves 3 feet or so, as we reached the great dune. We anchored, putting our new 37 lb Bruce anchor down, even though we had never used it before, and since our boat has no windlass, I was not sure that we would ever get it up again. The water temp was 74, and I was able to use mask and fins to see that the anchor was entirely buried in the sand. I convinced Merry that it was so rough, that we should wear our wetsuits when I rowed us ashore in Dimples, our 8 ft dingy. We were able to run the dingy ashore through the surf without too much of a problem. We walked down the beach and found a trail that led up into the dunes. The dunes were full of unique and beautiful wild flowers; we took pictures which we hope to post. We finally got to the high point where we could look down at our little boat. We made our way back down to the beach to discover that the wind and waves increased. We attempted to launch or dinghy but it took waves over the bow resulting in 4 inches of water in it. Merry shouted for me to get in and start rowing. We kept getting thrown into the beach. Merry gave a mighty push on the transom, and did a nose dive into the dinghy her posterior pointed to the sky and her face in the floorboard. We finally got to our boat and were able to set sail.