Back Home in Southport Marina
27 August 2019
Robert & Alice Smith
We left Southport Marina in early September 2017, planning a two your journey to the Western Caribbean. After traveling some 10,700 miles we are now back in our slip on "E" dock.
We spent close to year in the Western Caribbean touring and waiting out the hurricane season. Then we sailed across the Caribbean Sea to again experience the Windward and Leeward Islands with our favorite Antigua; quite a trip.
All alone Alice was consistent and persistent in her desire to be back by September 3 or 4. We had also decided to join two Ocean Cruising Club rallies, Chesapeake Bay and Southern New England. Participating in these was important for the camaraderie and friendships with cruisers we'd met from England, New Zealand, Sweden, Netherlands, Canada, the US and Australia. We also were blessed by a visit from our daughter Diane and her four boys. Seven or so days cruising with three adults and four boys was one of many highlights of our time on LB.
When Di left, it was July 11th and Kenosha, WI was a long way away. All-the-while in my mind was Alice's desire to be back. So I started pushing us. With only two planned stops, New York City and to visit my brother's family in Buffalo we were going every day. Some days only 30 miles, some over one hundred, stopping though when we were tired or the weather wasn't right.
We tend to do more night time sailing. We are comfortable with our rotation schedule and we can cover more miles. We left Buffalo on August 11th and arrived in Southport at 2300 August 25th. Our last sail was from Ludington, MI to Kenosha, just over 100 miles with a weather window pushing us to be in safely before midnight on the 25th. After that the wind was forecast to build out of the SE to almost gale force, not our cup of tea. Fortunately for us, the winds were forecast to be easterly fairly constant throughout our planned passage. We set off around 0730 from Ludington and had one of our better sails right up until we were just passing Racine. The winds turned SE and started building. With some 7 or 8 miles to go we rolled the jib and power sailed with a reefed main. By the time we reached the Southport breakwater it was blowing pretty hard. Alice being the sailor she is went out of the enclosure and rolled up our main while LB rock and rolled in the building 3 to 5 waves. We maneuvered through the breakwaters, and I circled LB while Alice prepared the fenders and dock lines, not so easy do to the winds and tight quarters inside the marina, but after a few circles we were tied up at the gas dock, we had achieved Alice's, and my, goal of being home before September 4th.
Lucky Bird is quite the boat. She served us so well for all though 10,000 plus miles and afforded us so many cruising experiences that will be with us forever.
It may be interesting to see how we transition from life on the water to land based living. I'm sure our friends and family will contribute to making it a quick adjustment. I'm a sailor at heart and will surely miss the challenges of long term cruising. It's truly been a marvelous experience and I am thankful for Alice as my cruising partner and LB as our home away from home.
I encourage all you sailors and boaters who may have a yearning to explore, do cast off and head out there. You will be rewarded beyond your expectations for doing so.
Mackinaw City, Three Lakes Down One To Go
21 August 2019 | Straits Marina, Mackinaw City
Robert & Alice Smith | Waiting for a Break
I say three lakes because we sailed across Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron. St. Clair was a power boat trip of some 20 or so miles.
So here we are in Mackinaw City having left Buffalo some eight days ago. The sail across Erie was notable only in that we hobbie-horsed for some 24 hours sailing as best we could westerly winds. You know tacking back and forth. We finally called it a night when we rounded Pelee Island hoping to find a safe anchorage. It was late at night or actually very early in the morning and the wind was blowing 15 to 20. We came around the island to anchor behind the breakwater only to find that the direction was parallel to the line of the breakwater. No safety at all. So we powered out into the bay and dropped the hook in two to three foot waves and 25 feet of water. It turned out to be not too bad a night.
The next day was up the Detroit River against a two or three knot current. I found a possible anchorage behind a river barrier and we drooped the hook for the night. Peaceful sleeping but then.... Time to pull up the anchor. Oh crap, weeds galore. I mean weeds that took me more than 30 minutes to clear from the chain and then the anchor. Wow!!
Our next anchorage was just before entering Lake St. Clair, then powering across the lake to a spot sort of open to the south west and guess what, yup it started blowing from the south west. Wind against the river current of 2 knots so we sat broadside for most of the night. We were safe and tired so no problemo.
Next day onward up the river to Port Huron and then the Lake. The Lake was calm, after clearing the last bridge we sailed out onto Lake Huron at an incredible three knots. So what, we had planned plenty of time for this passage so we relaxed and enjoyed the sunset and calm waters.
We made it to a Harbor of Refuge for the night having covered almost 80 nms. We pulled in after midnight, found a spot and dropped the hook. Ah so peaceful. sleep!!
The next morning there were decent winds but to sail we had to head out into the main body of the lake and then jybe back. Lots of sailing to make so few miles up the track, but that's sailing. So we continued on; out, then back across Saginaw Bay toward Thunder Bay. Around 1600, I was on watch and could see a shelf cloud heading in our direction. To be cautions I called for a double reef for the main and jib. It slowed us but then it hit. IMG, 35 plus wind driven waves with the white caps being blown off the tops. Time to get rib rolled up, yup as you can imagine that was not easy but these old fogies got it done. It passed and we were back sailing north.
Then later that evening somewhere around 0200 another frontal burst of energy hit us. This time we were ready for the 35 plus knots but unfortunately it was on our nose. I decided to hove too, that is slow the boat essentially letting us set still in the water as the wind blew us sideways as we decided what to do next. After an hour I decided to head back to Thunder Island off of Alpena and find a safe anchorage to wait out the blow. We debated, we talked, we wondered what was best for us and LB. Sitting out in the lake with waves building was more than I wanted to expose us to so I decided to turn back and sail toward Thunder Island. Go move BoB!!
An hour and half later we were powering into a small bay where we could drop the hook and relax. 0500 and we were safe and asleep!!
Let me take a moment of your reading time to talk about weather changes on these lakes. Looking off into the distance you can see dark clouds. A look at the radar and there is pretty heavy rain up ahead. Then a shelf cloud begins to form. This is a very particular cloud formation signaling strong down drafts. The clouds go from gray to darker gray and then almost purple. This thing coming at us has a lot of energy and we know from experience it's going to get a little dicey. So we prepare, we talk to each other about what happens when. My Alice is far more cautious than me and I listen to her as she starts to worry. We are reefed, we can get rid of the jib easily and can turn and run if we have to. All lines are secured, the enclosure is closed up tight, I'm ready with the engine and we continue on. Then BAM!! Again another of these burst of energy. I timed it. Less than 15 minutes and it was gone. I'm glad we were out in the lake where we were safe. No shoreline, no reefs, just open water.
Erie Basin Marina, Buffalo
11 August 2019
Robert & Alice Smith
The Erie Canal passage is past tense and we are so glad to be done with the hours and hours of running under engine. Close to 400 miles and eight and half days.
The first portion of the canal is essentially the Mohawk River with locks and dams to keep the water depth at around 12 feet. Most of the time it was much deeper but on those few, thankfully, instances where it dropped to less than 8 we were just truck'in along. When it dropped below 8 we slowed LB just in case we bottomed out. We need 6' 1/2". It takes twenty locks to reach the highest elevation of the first section. Then it's down for two or three and then back up to the level of Lake Erie. The middle section is a combination of rivers and man-made canal cuts, fewer locks and it went smoothly.
As we had read about the third section we became a little anxious. The guides warned us that the bridges in this section had clearance heights of just 15 feet. I had carefully measured the clearance required to safely pass our AIS antenna, 15.5 feet. The guide also said that water levels many vary making the 15 foot clearance questionable. Here's my favorite situational descriptive word, ARG!!
So I climbed our stern arch with the Admiral pushing on my a** while I unscrewed the AIS antenna and angled it so its clearance became a little over 14 feet. We cleared all the bridges and locks of the first two sections and as we approached the first bridge of the third with a charted clearance of 15 feet we slowed LB to a stop. What-tha-heck, it was 16 feet or more, no problemo. The same for the next bridge and the next. So, after passing the first few we were able to determine bridge height clearance as we approached. It turned out the books and charts where all wrong.
Let me offer a comment about the friendliness and hospitality of the towns along the way. We spent eight nights in the canal and anchored only one. Each town where we chose to stop offered free docking, electricity for a very reasonable cost, water, showers and lots of local restaurants. After a long day on the canal, knowing there would be a safe and comfortable place to spend the night really made the passage more tolerable.
36 locks including the Black Rock Canal lock in Buffalo. This being our second canal crossing I'd say the Smithies are pretty lock proficient, dont'cha say?
So here we are tied up in the Eire Basin Marina. LB is almost back together and we've visited with my brother's family. We'll share a dinner with them this evening and then tomorrow start heading west on the Lakes. Getting closer to Kenosha and our home in Addison.
The chart plotter odometer is reading 8,500 nautical miles since leaving Kenosha back in September 2017. LB has treated us so well and we've treated her well in return. It's a fair trade and as I've said before we are blessed.
Understanding the word SLOG
06 August 2019 | Village of Brockport
Robert & Alice Smith | A rain squall came through this afternoon and we couldn't see either side of the canal
Yup, plodding along, working at keeping LB safe in the locks, some 35 or so, holding our breaths when the depth drops to 7.9 feet, passing under bridges that the chart says have 15 foot clearances, but here we are in the Village of Brockport getting ever closer to Buffalo. The villages along the canal have really done a great job providing safe places for cruisers such as us to tie up for the evening. They offer a free docking, charge minimal for water, electricity, laundry and wifi.
We only had to anchor once due to crowding at the place we chose to stop. Anchoring in the canal is'nt like dropping the hook in the islands. Here the depth shoals quickly and there is always a little current to consider. So we turn off the channel and slowly, very slowly work our way toward shore attempting to keep inside a channel marker. We have no anchor light so I have one of those collapsible led lights that I leave on illuminating the cockpit.
The lock are the most stressful part of the trip. Alice and I are getting pretty good at selecting a set of ropes and slowly angling LB toward the lock wall to reach and secure us to the ropes. Alice is on the bow and grabs the first rope as I try and maneuver LB to time it so we stop just in time that she can pass me the rope and then go forward and try and snag the second one.
Somehow we lost the boat hook in one of the locks so my imaginative Admiral wife started using her umbrella to snag the ropes. She is really cool. That's since been replaced with a really neat boat hook that extends to almost 10 feet. No more worries about catching the lines. But we now check for the boat hook before we leave each lock, LOL!!
There is very little traffic on the canal which is good for us. We've seen only a couple of boats going west and one or two going east. Maybe it's the time of the year, maybe we're early but we're thankful.
A couple of more days before we arrive at the marina where we will re-step LB's mast and then.... we are once again a sail boat, hurray!! Hopefully weather will permit several overnight sails to help us keep to our target schedule of being in Kenosha in early September. We'll see
All Set To Go
30 July 2019
Robert & Alice Smith
Here's LB Tuesday July 30th just waiting for us to fire up her engine and head north up the Hudson to Troy. We expect to be there in the early afternoon with help from the current flowing along with us. We're waiting until around 10:00 to try and get the maximum boost.
We'll spend the night at the canal entrance and then tomorrow our almost final journey begins.
We've Been Busy
27 July 2019
Robert & Alice Smith
Once LB was back in the water in Wickford we sailed to Newport where we hooked up with OCC members for the Southern New England Rally.
Sailing here brings back so many memories of the times back in the 70's and 80's when we chased America's Cup races, raced our own boats on the bay, bought two boats a C&C 35 and a new Beneteau First 42 for racing, cruised all the islands, Nova Scotia, and Maine.
Having met our OCC friends, we sailed from Newport To Bristol, RI to celebrate the 4th and watch the oldest 4th of July parade in America; it went on and on and on. Next to Cutty Hunk, then New Bedford, back to Newport then Wickford to pick up our daughter Diane and her four boys.
I bought an inflatable paddle board for the boys and it was a super hit. We sailed back to Newport and the boys fished and played on the board. Then it was off to Block Island. I wanted to take the boys to the ocean for body surfing. The first day there were huge waves crashing on the beach. I thought the kids might be intimidated but no way, they loved it. After threes days of swimming, an island tour by car, we were ready to move on so off to Mystic and the Mystic Aquarium.
Di had figured to head back around the 20th so after two days in Mystic we left in really thick fog and headed back to Wickford. It was a terrific visit and we adults kept the four boys going constantly.
I'm sure most of you can relate to the feelings of sadness we shared when Diane drove out of the marina heading back to Wheaton, Alice and I were along again on LB and now we would focus our planning on the trip back to Kenosha.
I know this sounds like a broken record, but... we sailed back to Newport to our favorite, and free mooring to do our planning. The next day we sailed to Point Judith Harbor of Refuge for the night. Next was Duck Island along the Connecticut shoreline. Across Long Island Sound to Port Jefferson where we experienced another one of those severe late afternoon thundershowers. 35 kts and rain so heavy we couldn't see the boats on moorings right next to us.
All along Alice wanted to meet her life long friend who lives in the Brooklyn. We thought this would also be a good opportunity to visit Ground Zero of the 911 terrorist attack. We sailed to City Island, stayed on a mooring at the yacht club, took the bus and subway to the World Trade Center and the 911 Museum. A trip to the top of 1WTC for the awesome views and to try and soak in the the incredible building our country has created in response to that devastating terror attack. Then to the reflecting pools and the museum. For us it was a roller-coaster of emotions. We felt the highs of being so proud of our country for building such an incredible memorial and then the museum! So much thought and effort dedicated to preserving the events, the sights, sounds, the pictures of the people whose lives were lost.
For us 911 is no longer that event we followed on the news. Seeing the two inch steel beams bent and torn apart; seeing the pictures of the people, looking at the actual foundations of the two towers embedded in the bed rock makes it all so real and we are thankful we made the effort.
So now we are at the Hop-On-Nose marina south of Albany and Troy where LB's mast gets stepped and laid across the deck. This is in preparation for our upcoming trek across New York via the Erie Canal.
Our chart plotter says we've traveled 8,230 nm since leaving Kenosha back in September 2017. We've got a few more to go before making our landing back at Southport Marina, hopefully in very early September.