You enter the harbor mouth at Erie and discover you are on a large lake with the city and various marinas to port. The lake water was a brownish green and if you looked over the transom you couldn't see much of our rudder under water because of the lack of water clarity. It was neat to pass the monument where Commodores Perry's squadron was built during the war of 1812. To get into the marina we stayed at we actually had to pass under the pedestrian walkway of the Sheraton Hotel. It always looks like the mast is going to hit the top of any bridge you go under - so we held our breath as we cleared through. There were some work boats tied up in the marina with no one aboard but only 2 other pleasure boats. We shared a very large empty dock with one of these boats. The water in the harbor was green, slimy, and smelly. We tied up and locked the boat. We went into downtown Erie at about 5pm and there were hardly any people around. Lots of the stores were closed - and we mean forever. The city was preparing for Erie days - but it was surprisingly empty of people. After dinner at a restaurant with terrible service (it wouldn't last a month in Chicago!) we returned to our boat. The harbor had two chain-link perimeter fences. In order to get to or leave our boat we had to use a key to open a creaking gate - it sounded like something from a crypt. Our boat was right near one of the fences and after it was dark we had a sorted variety of odd people standing by the fence and looking at us. Merry announced that she was going to the marina building to do laundry and Wiley objected noting that it was beyond the defensive perimeter. Wiley claimed that the individuals standing by the fence staring at us were Zombies: the "undead" looking to feast upon our flesh - ignoring this acute observation Merry said she would be fine because there was no one around the marina building - just then a rather odd middle aged man appeared precisely there and Merry said, "Oh, except for that one weird guy." The result was that Wiley provided an escort service and stood there while she did the laundry. The "undead" never appeared in sufficient numbers to push the chain link fence down so the night ended happily. We left early in the morning to fuel at Perry's Landing Marina and rather than stay a second night in Erie got on our way to Dunkirk, NY.
We motor sailed to Mentor, Ohio and are currently secure at a lovely dock at the Mentor Yacht Club. Yesterday, the Cleveland to Mentor Race ended at the club and it was fabulous seeing all of the beautiful spinnakers as they came in for the finish. We are enjoying the good life - a wonderful dinner at the "club", swimming in their pool - or in the lake (Wiley's preference!), finding 2 great bottles of '05 Bordeaux wine, and chatting with fellow sailors. Once again, we have found that everyone is very kind and we received offers for transportation. We fortunately, found a wonderful lady who provided us with a ride back from the Chandlery. We really appreciated this as we continue to outfit our boat for the Erie Canal - 2 - 100 foot lines for the locks, another boat hook, an electrical adapter, etc. Today we are relaxing at the yacht club while Wiley works on writing his play "Voices of the Middle Passage" and I take advantage of time on WiFi.
We left Put N Bay - smashing through 4-5 foot waves with gusts of wind of 20 mph and feeling a bit queasy, that is until we could turn to the South Channel and take the waves behind us. We "ran" most all of the way to Vermilion in rolling Lake Erie seas. Lake Erie can be as mean as a "rattlesnake" - which by the way they have - that is rattlesnakes. The waves were steep, close together, and they come up much more quickly than on Lakes Michigan or Huron. The water is green. We entered Vermilion after coming around to the west entrance because of shallow waters. The channel was picture perfect calm and we entered the second channel where we pulled into slip 3E - which turned out to be the slip owned by the couple we met and dined with in Port Sanilac. We have stayed for three nights as we waited for a new port light to arrive at West Marine. The people here have once again been generous and kind. Our boat neighbors Dr. Greg and John have been wonderful. John even loaned us his car so that Wiley could quickly go and pick up some marine hardware. We have had a delightful stay - though we missed going to the famous French Restaurant that overlooks the channel. We are planning to travel to Mentor Harbor next.
Port Huron through the Detroit River onto to Put N Bay - Lake Erie
I absolutely had to file my deceased father's final state and federal tax returns which the lawyer had prepared and my son, Brad - expressed mailed to us in Port Sanilac when they didn't arrive I told the harbor master, "Well, I guess we have to spend another day in this hell hole!" David, the Harbor Master laughed; he knew what a wonderful time we were having - he lives here. We didn't want to leave. Nonetheless, leave we did. There was almost no wind and so Les Miserables was a slow motor boat rather than a sailboat to Port Huron. Our passage was uneventful, but as we entered the St. Clair River at Port Huron we realized we were "finished" with Lake Huron. We put away the charts for Lake Huron and the cruising guides which have joined those for Lake Michigan. Lake Erie will be our 3rd Great Lake! As we approached the Black River, which flows into the St. Clair, we passed the lightship Huron, which is now a museum and a coast guard cutter. After going under two bridges we docked at the municipal museum in Port Huron. Port Huron proved to be another Michigan community that is struggling economically. There were a lot of businesses that were closed and some that were struggling to survive. The place was once an important port and center for commercial fishing, with a lot of industry besides this, which is mostly gone now.
We traveled through Lake St. Clair and arrived in the Detroit River. Thank goodness that we had the charts from our friends - the Doyles - because traveling the rivers requires that you focus on reading the buoy numbers - street signs for boaters - so that we would not go aground.
We saw many large ships along the way and they seemed overwhelming to our little vessel as came up our stern or toward us on the other side of the channel. We spent a lot of our time making sure we were not in their way!
We stayed at the Detroit Yacht Club and were impressed by the Olympic size pool but the rest of club had seen better days. We dined outdoors as indoor dining required a suit jacket and tie for the men.
The current of the Detroit River is about 2 knts, so our boat was challenged as well as the line handler (Merry) when we pulled into the Detroit River and when we left. Unfortunately, we lost our port bow light as we attempted to navigate the current and dock to get diesel fuel. as we left the Detroit Yacht Club - Gregory's is NOT a good place to fuel. Merry began to suffer from "boater's fatigue" - too much time dealing with boating issues - weather, navigating, and line handling.
We navigated the Detroit River and entered into Lake Erie with the focus of reaching the small islands in Lake Erie. We landed in Put N Bay - which is an alcoholic's dream come true. Every other establishment is a bar... and since we arrived in the rain on a Sunday we had no trouble picking up a mooring can - on Friday and Saturdays boats are rafted 4 or 5 deep. We visited the Perry monument for peace (he won the Battle of Lake Erie also known as the Battle of Put N Bay during the War of d1812),- shared some great Mojitos - swam in the warm waters and spent an extra day people watching. Our observations led us to believe that this is a place for very overweight middle aged people who enjoy traveling by golf carts from one bar to another or for the very young - looking for a good party. Live music, lots of alcohol - T-shirt shops, and island fun. We plan on leaving tomorrow - August 9th as we head to Vermillion, Ohio or Cleveland.
We have been delighted with our stay in Port Sanilac - though it was unintentionally longer than we had expected. Everything is convenient here - laundry, groceries, post office, wi-fi, restaurants, chandlery, and a hardware store. The beach is very close so we have enjoyed swimming using our triathlon suits.
We have been waiting for some mail from home and while Brad sent it overnight - it ended up in Flint, Michigan It was serendipitous- the Nina and Pinta arrived and moored right next to our boat. They each shot off a cannon upon their arrival and easily slipped into their dock. It was fun watching them dock with their student crew.
We look forward to our next port of call - Port Huron.
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.