The First Leg is Complete
12 July 2009 | Buffalo, Erie Basin Marina
Bob/ Beautiful, Crystal Clear but cool
Our transit through the lakes of Michigan and Huron was totally windless. Hard to believe an area as large as the lakes and surrounding land masses could be so totally without wind. Our sailboat was turned into a power boat for hour after hour, some 90 plus hours. In the middle of Sunday night the engine quit on us just outside Grand Traverse Bay in Lake Michigan due to what turned out to be an severe blockage in the fuel pickup tube. This was discovered by the mechanic at Irish Boat Shop who had the necessary equipment to put a vacuum on the tank that could draw no fuel. An easy fix to cut off the damaged part of the tube and I was relieved that the fuel lines, filters and engine were working so well. He also tested the output of our altenator and the status of our battery banks; all in great shape and with the pickup tube fixed we were off again leaving Lake Michigan for Lake Huron.
The water surface of Lake Huron was as a mirror; not a single ripple or wave. The moon was full and it's reflection was an unbroken line from the eye to the horizon, quite unique in my boating experiences that such a large body of water could be so perfectly still. Thank goodness for our electronic autopilot; set it and forget it and go about our business. It steered without complaint.
Lake Huron terminates in the south in the St. Clair River; arriving at about 03:00 on Friday, we followed a 600 foot ship into the river with a two plus knot favorable current. By sun up we were well into the river and powered into the thickest fog bank I've seen, literally zero visibility. With Alice standing next to the mast as lookout and me watching the radar superimposed over the electronic chart we proceeded through without incident finding all the buoys; good practice for the waters of the maritimes and New England.
Powering through Detroit was a visual picture of stark contrasts. Beautiful skysrapers like the GM building next to dead and decaying warehouses and steel processing mills. So much American history contained within the walls of those rusting mill buildings. Depressing to see such a massive enterprise now idle.
Once leaving the Detroit River we entered the far western end of Lake Erie a little east of Toledo. It was a gray day with wind from the east and wanting to conserve fuel we started sailing. We sailed until 23:00 Friday night before we passed through the Pelee Passage and offically entered Lake Erie. The sailing was uneventful until Saturday afternoon when the forecasted thunderstorms finally arrived, and arrived they did with gusto. Lightening everywhere, so close above us that the sound of it tearing through the air was instantaineous after the bolt. I could feel the awesome power of each bolt while both Alice and prayed that the lighting was cloud to cloud and not cloud to us. Then came the rains and the winds, quickly to about 40 knots and torrential rains, enough to totaly flatten the waves and the wind was strong enough to create a frothing affect on the sruface. We had prepared by furling the jib completely and the main about half. So we turned and ran with the wind during the worst of it. It lasted almost two hours and since we were in the middle of the lake we had plenty of sea room to play with. After the storms passed the wind settled back to 20 - 25 knots for some really terrific sailing, on Lucky Bird saw 10 + knots and we were flying for a heavy cruising boat. I can just picture our J/105 with full crew, asymectrical spinnaker doing 15 + but that was then and this is now.
We sailed into Buffalo Harbor around 05:00 Sunday morning completing the first leg of our passage out of the lakes. Our tracking feature is now working so I'll be about to post our locations as we proceed. We'll take a couple of days for projects having just had a marvelous visit with my brother's family. Then we're off again for the Welland Canal and Lake Ontario.
All is well with the Smithies, Lucky Bird has proven just how seaworthy boat she is and we have now completed much of our shakedown.