Waiting for weather
09 August 2012 | Erieau, Ontario, Lake Erie
We left Harrisville with a promise of a NW which lasted exactly one hour! So we motored for a long while. Finally, a light breeze the last three hours got us to Harbor Beach harbor of refuge after dark. (The marina itself has less than 4.5 feet depth.) The anchorage was good with good holding in 15 feet. We left with the promise of a strong NW which lasted exactly one hour. On comes the engine for the drive to
Lexington, Mi. Advertised as a place you could anchor, Lexington turned out to be a disappointment. We were told about the new shoal and how to get in, but we bumped once anyway. The “Harbor of Refuge” where anchoring is permitted is about the size of a postage stamp and suitable for small power boats in the absence of wind. The docks are fixed, not floating, and lived up to the guarantee of at least 5.5 feet of depth, but not more. Fixed docks with low water means a lot of climbing up and out.
But we did get rested and most of all, set up for a run down to the St. Clair River, really a strait. With the added current of the stream draining L. Huron to the south, we made our intended anchorage by four pm. The anchorage was described to me by a sailor in Marquette Mi sailing a passport 37. He said he has used it routinely for years going and coming to L. Superior. Maybe we did not go far enough in. We did put an anchor down and experienced the wind over current phenomenon where the boat just sits over a pile of chain and does not move. But the place was just too narrow for comfort. Either that or we just lost our nerve. So we abandoned it.
We went on down a mile or so to the (Old) South Channel which was much wider, but had a lot of power boat traffic. We put the anchor down in 35 feet on the south edge and never moved an inch all night. I hate the 35 feet, of course—it’s a lot of chain to haul in. And to top it off, the first time we put the anchor down, toward the south edge of the Channel, we immediately swung onto a 5 foot spot and had to make a quick getaway. As it turned out the waves from the power boat traffic were not bad as we lay parallel to their line of travel due to the 1.5 kt. current. And they all went home by ten o’clock.
Today, we had a light wind that let us sail all the way across L. St. Clair at an average of 4 kts., then into the Detroit River, also a strait, not a river. We tied up in the Milton Municipal Marina, located exactly five blocks from the Ren Cen in central Detroit. Most of the boats here are seasonal rentals. And it is very interesting the mix. From cigarette boats with the “beautiful” people on them to two boats of black men, another with a black woman and her white husband who has not been on the boat now for two years since the baby was born. And is just gleeful about finally getting to spend a night aboard! The handful of sailboats that summer here are off to some sort of regatta.
A couple of hundred yards to the north is an outdoor pavilion where tonight The New Editions, fresh from their success at the Hoody Awards, are initiating their thirty year reunion tour. Basically an R&B group which the young black attendant here called “old school”. At any rate, we get a free concert thrown in for good measure.
We leff the Milton Municipal Marina to set up for entry into Lake Erie, motoring about 20 miles in the river. We had called ahead to Duffy’s Tavern and Motel and verified that at least one slip would have enough water. Upon arrival, we were offered the slip closest to the River. Then we made the stupidest decision we have ever made regarding tying up. We moved in and died up all four corners with spring lines on each side of the boat. We should have noted that there was no wall separating us from the wash from the power boats going up and down the river. Rock and roll. Actually, that aspect worked out OK if occasionally uncomfortable. But that night, a strong SW blew up and pushed huge swells form Lake Erie three miles away, up the river against the current and slammed them into our spot.
The only good thing is that we suffered no damage. But until the wind shifted to west about 2am, we got no sleep and spent a lot of time adding lines and chafe protection. The island across the channel protected us from the swells. Needless to say we wanted out of there, but thunderstorms were showing on the radar until about 11:00 when we finally able to leave. We did not realize just how exhausted the affair had left us.
When one of us says “leave ALL of that island to starboard” and the other one of us says, “do the green buoys belong on the left or the right?” we know it is time to be gentle with the reaction to the other. We are getting tired at this point and will find a few long rest days..
But we did set sail anyway for Pelee Island on a SW. We needed to just get away from Duffy’s. Great sail for three hours despite Lake Erie’s 6 footers until it became clear that the anchorage on the S. end of the island would likely be untenable due to these SW swells and we were just so tired that we wanted none of that. So we changed course to the N of the Island and took a slip in the marina there. The next day after sleeping in we walked a mile to the local bakery and deli for a fabulous breakfast. Had rented bikes brought to us and rode for fifteen miles around the Island including a wine tasting at the local winery which makes a number of really good wines.
Whlle we were on the ground at Pelee Island we completed our most thorough review of the question: “What are we doing and should we be doing it?’ The brainstorming session included such ideas as: haul the boat in Lake St. Clair, sail the North Channel next year, and return to L. Superior the next. I (Jim) was surprised to find this option more comfortable than I would have anticipated. It also included what became a decision: to go on except to turn a three year trip into a four year one and plan better for enjoying sights along the way. We will need to pony up a budget for this new idea as it will cost more money in marinas, etc. In addition we are committed to eliminate long passages as much as possible and the sense of having to push to get along. This led to an identity change: We are no longer adventuring, but—no good word for it yet—sight seeing.
But there are still some long days as the Lake Superior motto-- Forty Miles is Mandatory—has followed us here. The next leg was a 45 mile, 12 hour marathon tacking downwind on a moderate SW at about 4.5 kts. We anchored just at the edge of Rondeaux Bay exactly at the end of the entrance channel. We had a quiet night and moved into the marina this morning. We had hoped to stay for a night, but we may be here for much longer as Iowa is sending us a low pressure center and several days of bad weather.