Captain's Log

May 29, 2014

Hola Amigos,

Quick overnight in Straits State Marina, Mackinaw city.  The folks that staff this location are always so pleasant and accommodating.  It is adjacent to the older, admittedly quainter City Marina, but always seems to have vacancies, and is very modern.  Facilities are supported by a small “farm” of wind generators onsite-very cool.  Unfortunately, the state of Michigan has instituted a new fee structure which has not resulted in lower costs to boaters.  The other marina in the area, Mackinac Island State Harbor is gorgeous, but reservations are usually necessary during busy summer months.  Of course, a little shopping was in order-a stop for a smoked herring, and to Shepler’s marine supply for a boat doodad.  Next day, the trip to Presque Isle harbor was uneventful.  Flat seas, and 50 degree, sunny weather made the 8 hour trip an absolute pleasure.  The past few days have taken us through a massive hatch of the “dammit” bugs.  They are the size of mosquitoes, but don’t bite.  Instead, they stick all over the boat by the hundreds of thousands, turning the white hull and decks black, and fill the air in dense clouds, making breathing an exercise in protein inhalation. Presque Isle is the only natural harbor on the west shore of Lake Huron.  There is a marina there, but too small for the Big Girl.  We opted to stay on Alizann rather than dropping the tender in the water for our traditional sippy sippy at cocktail time.  Filets off the grill, and fresh Michigan asparagus were washed down with a little red pop.  Anchor up at O’dark-thirty, crossing the lake today.  Pea souper.  Can’t see the water over the bow.  Oh well, fire the radar up honey, we’re goin’ across.  Twenty minutes out, the AIS chirps.  Upbound and downbound freighters will cross our path within minutes of us.  A quick chat with both captains assures them that we are not interested in a close quarters situation in reduced visibility either.  We’ll hold to the west for 20 minutes while they pass.  They’re gone and we didn’t get a glimpse of either-I love this flippin’ technology stuff.  Pea soup for the next 10 hours until Otto (our autopilot) puts us on Cove Island light, an Imperial design tower, by prolific lighthouse builder John Brown in 1858.  The village of Tobermory provided our next safe harbor, and a beautiful little town it is.  Tied to the wall in downtown(?) gave us a constant stream of nice folks to chat with.  We met up with 3 guys on a boat that was tied to a wall behind the Coast Guard surf boat.  Seems that they had an engine failure last night in the middle of Georgian Bay, which is sometimes referred to as the sixth Great Lake.  After several hours, the Coast Guard went out to find them, and eventually tow them here, depositing the boat on the dock.  Fortunately, one of the crew on the pleasure boat was a mechanic, and after overnighting a fuel pump, our new crazy Canadian friends were off again.  Around 8 AM, we heard the loudspeaker of the Chi-Cheemaun(Big Canoe in Ojibway), a car ferry that makes the 30 mile, 1:45  trip from Tobermory  to South Baymouth, 2- 4 times a day! The Big Canoe is the largest car ferry in Ontario.  It is 365 ft long and can carry 143 cars and 638 people. Take a peek at the map of the area and you will see why it is busy. LOOONG way around Georgian Bay by car.  After a brunch of whitefish(healthy) and poutine(not) at Craigie’s,  we decided that we oughta’ take a little hike, so out to the Bruce trail for a couple hour stroll in the woods along the lake.  Note:  Poutine(poo-teen)- a decidedly Canadian concoction of French fries and gravy, covered with cheese curds-a DELICIOUS, high cal fuel for those hoary Canadian nights.  Bruce Trail-the longest trail in southern Ontario, traversing along the Niagara escarpment from the falls to Tobermory.  Thursday saw us take a short hop to Wingfield Harbor, on Cabot Head.  This all-weather anchorage is the former location of the Meneray family commercial fishery, and a floating sawmill, all long gone.  What remains is a great little anchorage, with a trail to the Cabot Head light which has been restored by volunteers, The Friends of Cabot Head.  Suzanne and I toured the lighthouse/museum, imagining what it must have been like living here in the late 1800’s.  During that period, the house was accessible only by boat or cart path, and sat in the middle of absolute desolation provided by the logging industry’s clear-cutting the entire Bruce peninsula.  64 degree temperatures put us into bathing suits on our trusty little craft.  On my hands and knees, scrubbin’ off the carcasses of the #@&!! Bugs (at least I got some sun).  A couple of hours of scrubbin’ later, I got my reward-sips on the tender while circumnavigating our solitary anchorage and snappin’ a few shots of the GARGANTUA-a wooden freighter burned and scuttled on shore early in the last century.  Long trip tomorrow, so traditional summer dinner on the grill tonight.  MDO’s secret burger recipe coupled with corn on the cob and tater tots.  I AM a cheap date!

Hasta Luego…….

Addendum:  If you don’t want preachin’ stop here.  Got 2 (NOT GOOD) calls within 12 hours this weekend.  First call-a friend was in an auto/motorcycle accident hours before.  His wife and daughter were on their way to the hospital that he was airlifted to with the intention of removing his life support.  Second call-one of our closest pals was involved in an auto accident the night before.  Eight broken ribs, fractured sternum, and a punctured lung.  He will live, but won’t be laffin’ for awhile.  Further affirmation of the “DO IT NOW” theme.  …..tick, tick, tick.   

P.S. Hopefully, we'll have the utility to add pictures to the log up and running soon.

May 25, 2014

Wow!  Hard to believe that we’re finally on our way.  We have a beautiful day to depart Charlevoix, Michigan.  Temperature at 1000 is 65 degrees, skies are sunny, and the glass is rising.  Out on Lake Michigan, the seas are less than one foot, and the air temperature is 47 degrees.  Water temperature is 35 degrees, but we’re not planning on a swim today.  Instead, we be smilin’ in our toasty pilothouse.  We’ll cover some familiar territory today, up the west coast of Michigan, with a planned overnight in Mackinaw city.  From there, we’ll veer south from our usual summer course to head down the east coast of Michigan to Presque Isle, before jumping across Lake Huron to Tobermory, Ontario on Tuesday.  Weather and seas look very promising for those runs.

It’s been quite a winter.  One of the coldest and snowiest(?) in recent history.  Besides moving a shitton (lots) of snow from the driveway with my trusty John Deere all-wheel drive tractor, MDO (my darlin’ One, the Admiral, Suzanne) and I spent a lot of hours sprucing our plus-sized girl up for The Life.  If you have a dream, pursue it.  Don’t make excuses about why you can’t, do it now.  Tick, Tick, Tick.  But I digress.  The girl got her bottom painted, as well as 5 coats of varnish on her brightwork.  100 or so hours (but who’s counting?) of wheeling, polishing and waxing, and she’s feelin’ like a natural woman.  Some woodworking projects by MJT (yours truly)  will make her galley a lot more user friendly  We made some additions that will make her feel a lot more sure of herself on the big water too.  She got a brand new, P.C. based navigation system (Rose Point), and a secondary radar (Koden) to back up her primary (Furuno) systems.  Positive engine room ventilation will help her digest her fuel more efficiently on cooler air.  Some other cool (I think) modifications, but we’ll talk later.  The constant supervision, cool heads, and strong hands of the boys at Boat Works of Charlevoix helped make it all happen.  Alas, or Friday departure date was not meant to be.  After I moved one of the 3 computers onboard, I got the Blue Screen of Death on the monitor.  Not just the usual BSOD, but one replete with an olive branch and a white dove.  Repair disc-no joy.  2 hours on the interweb, lotsa forums-still no soap.  #@!&***.  Call to the Computer Center, Inc., in East Jordan, Michigan.  No easy fix available over the phone.  Yes, we’re super busy, maybe get to it next week.  Extra Benjamins will move us to the front of the line (those pesky dead presidents do come in handy sometimes).  2 hours later the emergency room calls with the verdict-hard drive cacked.  No, they don’t have one, but can disassemble an external and use that- Ca-ching$!  After 31 hours, 2 terabytes of files are loaded.  Reboot.  Voila!  Back to hacienda.  Moral of the story:  Don’t ever start a voyage on Friday-REAL bad luck.  Positive side, we were still at home, and could fix it.  We got to go out to dinner with our good buds from Scottsdale, Andy and Jody (who will meet us in 3 weeks for a few days of rappin’ and libations on the St. Lawrence Seaway).  Also gave us a chance to further spruce up la casa for our friends Dick and Jan ( yes, we do have fun with Dick and Jan) who will use the joint as theirs while we are gone.

So…We’re about to round the abandoned lighthouse at Waugoshance Point.  The breeze has picked up, 15 knots out of the S.W., and the waves are piling up as the water shoals up to 16 feet or so.  Air temperature is 46 degrees, and MDO is fast asleep on the back porch, which is a balmy 72 degrees.  Mackinaw bridge is in sight, although 15 miles away.  We’ll be under it in 2 hours, such is Life at 8 knots.  …..Later

We woke up to grey skies and rain. The weather service was calling for winds and seas to increase as the day went on. We decided that we should de

part early and head for Battle Island. Battle Island gets its name from the skirmish in 1885 between troops and the Ojibwe. The Battle Island light is perched on a high bluff of 118 feet. Battle Island light was built in 1877 and its last lighthouse keeper resided until the 1991. Seas were building but as we rounded the point to make our way into Battle Island harbor, it was calm. The small harbor was empty.  The mooring balls stated in Bonnie Dahl’s Cruising guide were not present. There was the stripped out hull of a runabout on shore and a dock with lines. No sign of any activity. We dropped anchor and waited for the rain to stop before going ashore to explore. Once ashore, there was an old tractor that appeared to be in working order. The dirt track we followed toward the lighthouse had tire tracks. There was evidence of man in the woods, an lichen covered Chevy truck, and various drums and metal pieces. The lighthouse keeper’s residence looked as though they just walk out and locked the door. Old Electrolux vacuum, box tv, kitchen utensils hanging on the walls, etc. The house appeared to be a duplex. The lighthouse area was spectacular in that it was situated on a tall craggy, bluff looking West through East over Lake Superior. The west waves were crashing below. Definitely, worth the stop.  Back at the boat we decided that we would continue on 5 miles north and spend the night in the village of Rossport. Since this will be the last town that is close to us we decided to gas up , White Star, the tender. We use the tender constantly when at anchor. We splash White Star in the water first thing after the anchor is set.

After 2 days in Loon Harbour, we were itching to get moving on to explore the next harbor. Woke up to fog so thick we were unable to see our anchor ball 100 ft away.  The way out of Loon has no tricky points, but after that we had to navigate through some waters that it would be nice to see.  The radar works great in the fog but is a bit disconcerting when the charts do not line up with the radar imagine. We waited a few hours and the ceiling lifted enough to see the water and the shores of the numerous islands that we would snake through. We spoke to Day Dreams and Waterford who were anchored in Otter Cove and contemplating departing.  We left and less than an hour later the fog descended.  Visiblity was less than a quarter of a mile, but we were committed. We snaked through the passage and lamented on the fact that we were unable to see the beautiful scenery. We were keeping our fingers crossed that once we were closer to land the fog would lift once again.  The entrance into Otter Cove could be tough in the fog as the navigation is based on line of site through a narrows. It is doable but prone to anxious moments when using only radar and the depth finder. The fog cooperated and we successfully transited the narrows into a beautiful harbor with high wooded bluffs surrounding all sides.  Day Dreams and Waterford decided not to leave as a Grand Banks “Ceildih of Washburn, WI ( that was anchored in the Eastern slot at Loon Harbour) has recently arrived an reported thick fog in the lake. As there were 3 boats in the inner cove, we decided to anchor in the East end of the bay in 20 ft of water. We beat the rain. They decided to stay as their next destinations was Woodbine Harbour which is 4 hours away.  Lucky us, they stayed.  We had a nice 2 hour cocktail party aboard Day Dreams catching up and celebrating Gary’s 64 th birthday.  The morning of the 7th we woke up to clouds and 54 degrees. But… we did see clearing to the west. It had the potential to be a beautiful day. Day Dreams, Waterford and Ceildih departed.  We were all alone and the sun was coming out.  We decided to relocate Alizann into the inner harbor, hoping to see the Mythical Moose!! At the end of the harbor is a stream that’s shores are lined with tasty moose grasses All settled in the harbor, tender down, time to take a hike to the waterfall. Up the stream White Star went. We could hear the falls. A short walk and you were at the base of the falls. Boy, was the water flowing over the falls. Not surprising since we have had much rain in the past month. We stopped an took many pictures and decided to continue on the adventurous hike which led to a large lake. The hike was varied in terrain. Climbing over logs, walking through water, climbing up rocks.  The trail was well marked by orange tags and many of the trees that blocked the trail had been cut away. Who are these people who clear these trails in the middle of nowhere? The hike was very pretty. Many mosses, mushrooms, lichens and moose tracks and scat! Needless to say, “It was Wet.” We arrived at the lake which was approximately 3 miles long. More moose tracks! Back at the boat we decided to take advantage of the sunny skies and above 50 degree weather and lay on the boat deck and read. It was beautiful. All alone in the anchorage? How lucky. Of course late in the day, a small sailboat arrived but was determined to be a lone and anchored in the outer harbor out of site. We loaded up White Star for our evening cocktail cruise/fishing trip. We fished but no luck. It was clouding over and getting late so we decided to explore the stream in the large bay looking for “What Else?” MOOSE! No luck, maybe tonight. Stayed up searching the shore for wildlife and listening to the song of the Loons.

Woke up today with beautiful sunshine, up anchor and on our way to Woodbine harbor 28 nm away. The course that Captain Marty laid in was a pretty weave past LaMB Island, Fluor and Agate Islands. Sheer cliffs many shoals on both sides. Lamb Island looked like Marina Cay in the BVI’s from far away. Many red roof buildings.  Lamb island was a favorite stop for boaters prior to the 1980’s. Boaters would stop and chat with the lighthouse keeper and his wife. In the early 80’s Ontario automated most of the lighthouses. According to Archie of Archie’s Fish Charters in Thunder Bay, Ontario was going to let the buildings at the lighthouses decay. Private individuals have decided that these building need to be maintained and or restored for history. The group wants the Ontario government to designate them as historical landmarks and assist in helping with the maintenance. They are going out to the buildings and repairing them. Some are living on the islands and maintaining the houses. Woodbine Harbour is surrounded by tall towering bluffs covered in a mix of hardwoods and conifers. We rounded the corner and to our surprise we were the only one in this popular anchorage. We were greeted by the resident Loons. We spent the first part of the day exploring the Moose area looking for a trail that went to Kenny Lake. We located the trail but could only travel 1/8 mile in. We surmise that few, if any have traversed the trail this year. We aborted our hike in the bush and decided to cruise the anchorage and explore the shores.  On the northwest shore of the harbor there was a primitive campsite with a picnic table. This was not noted in Bonnie Dahl or GLCC.  As we were eating a lovely dinner of steak, baked potatoes and salad, Marty noticed some excited baitfish and then a large fish jump. He suited up with his gear and went off to fish. Mart’s trip was very productive. He caught a 24 inch Brook Trout. Once again with his favorite lure, The Fat Free Guppy. The weather was calling for rain and high winds, seas building 3-5.  We expected a possible rocky night. This did occur.  The evening was dead calm.