By way of introduction, this was supposed to have been a trip to Door County and Green Bay, Wisconsin. However, the weather conditions at the beginning of the trip prevented us from getting there. If we decide to try this again, we will put the boat, on its trailer, on the Badger (a ferry) to Manitowoc, Wisconsin and have it launched there.
June 30th, Wednesday. Perry left today for Mackinaw City with the boat behind the truck. Last Friday he had the yard lift it out of the water, set it on the trailer and take the mast down and lay it on top of the boat. It was a big job tying everything down and getting things in order to go, but even though the process takes about three days, it is much quicker than sailing it up by himself alone. Fifty miles per day is about all you can reasonably do and it is about 300 miles by water. Allowing one day for bad weather, that is a week. The trip north went well and he made it in seven hours including stopping for a good break and eating some bad food at a TA truckstop. It had cooled off a lot compared to last week and he did not need to run the AC in the truck. But the cool weather came with a strong NW wind that occasionally buffeted him around a bit. This rig, some 50 feet long and 12 feet high (the boat) is quite sensitive to strong wind. Wind is what one wants for sailing, not trailering.
He arrived in Mackinaw City at 7:00 p.m. sharp and by midnight had the wraps off the mast, things all in order and was in bed in the boat.
Meanwhile, back in Grosse Pointe, Marilynn finished a hard day’s work and then bought out the grocery store. Even though she closed the place down a bit later than she or they intended, they were careful to separate the perishables from the non-, and helped her load the latter into the trunk and the former into the back seat, where they could easily be transported into the fridge or freezer, as appropriate. Even the milk gets frozen, and with luck, it takes 3 days to thaw, helping to keep the cooler cold. Only cube ice available at most Michigan marinas; is not very useful as it does not last even 36 hours.
July 1st. Thursday, our wedding anniversary. Perry woke up at seven and talked to the foreman at Shepler’s Marine. They had a bunch of boats to launch, but figured they would be able to get the Baltika in the water at about noon. At 12:30 Perry backed the trailer under the 60-ton Travellift and by 12:48 Shepler’s had hoisted it off the trailer, set it in the water, raised the mast with their crane and clipped the shrouds down so he could move it to the Mackinaw City Marina. He then drove over there, occupied a boat slip and started adjusting the tension on the shrouds and stays (those steel cables that hold the mast up), and putting the sails on. About ten, he collapsed in bed and left things in a mess on the deck. Back in Grosse Pointe, Marilynn worked until after 7, finishing the last details, while the non-perishables reposed in her trunk. The dogs (two fosters and our Hailey) had left home around mid-day, for their vacation at Scott Pardon’s. Scott sometimes takes Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society Dogs while their foster parents are out of town, and agreed to take our Hailey in addition.
July 2nd. Perry spent the day getting the boat in order, and finishing adjustments. One of the big adjustments was finishing the addition of Lazy Jacks, which are a bunch of thin lines connecting the mast and the boom that catch the sail when it is lowered, preventing it from sprawling all over the cockpit and the people in it. The main sail, which was new this year, was a bit bigger and lots heavier than the old one, and much more difficult to handle. It actually became a safety issue. Lazy Jacks are available commercially, but the size intended for our boat would not work. Besides it cost about $500. So Perry built one for about $150. It went through the design-build process starting from the first day of sailing with the new sail. A 1/8 scale model is in our computer room, and the parts were waiting and ready. However, they could not be installed until the mast was removed again, which had to wait until the trip. Some lines were attached back in Grosse Pointe, but the rest now awaited.
By evening, the Lazy Jacks were in, the beds were made, and things looked superficially organized. Then Marilynn arrived from Grosse Pointe in her car with personal effects, a trunk full of groceries, the midsized cooler full of perishables, most of which were frozen, eliminating the need for ice, and Perry’s afterthoughts. The drive up started much later than planned and was delayed by road construction and heavy traffic, taking about 2 hours longer than normal. After hustling the perishables into the big cooler in the boat, we went out for dinner at the Chippewa Room, our favorite restaurant in Mackinaw City. After all, Thursday had been our anniversary. Three of the previous 4 years have been celebrated there. This is the start of year 28.
July 3-5, More Mackinaw City. We were too exhausted to get up Saturday until 10. Several wagon loads of food and supplies went from car to boat. Finally, we got all of it into place in the various storage bins and drawers. Then Perry repaired some damage to the teak on the cap rail. Why it was damaged will be explained in the next paragraph. It was a baking hot day and neither of us wanted to do much more than that. Coffee was followed by ice cream down on Central Avenue, and then we went to the Mackinaw Outfitters to do a little shopping. We traditionally go there and buy a few new things for the trip, probably as some type of reward for virtue for having gotten ourselves, the boat, and all the groceries and gear to the same spot 300 miles north of our house. Even if we had wanted to leave, northern Lake Michigan was experiencing an adverse weather pattern: 4-6 foot waves (no joke in a 27-foot boat), and 35 mph winds with higher gusts in squalls, accompanied by occasional fog and rain. The few inveterate sailors (or fools) who sailed through it looked rather battered when they arrived.
The Fourth of July was another baking hot, humid day. Perry installed the new bronze cleat for the jib sheet (rope) torn off a week before when the end of the line accidentally trailed overboard and wrapped around the propeller shaft, which sheared of the bolts holding the cleat to the cap-rail of the boat. (This all happened while he and his friend John Carter were on the lake practicing pulling up to buoys so John could get the hang of approaching and stopping in front of mooring buoys.) The cleat was unavailable in bronze in Detroit and had to be ordered from Rhode Island. It came to Grosse Pointe, and Marilynn brought it with her. Anyway, the cleat job was done in the afternoon with the temperature in the 90s. The cleat was through-bolted on the cap-rail on the starboard side of the boat. Perry had to crawl into an oven-like tunnel in the boat to put the nuts on the bottom of the new bolts (which required two trips to the local marine store (of course it was open on the Fourth: this is the sailing capitol of central US) to buy the right size. The first guess was too short.) Marilynn sat in the sun holding the stainless steel bolts to keep them from turning. The 4.5-inch-long, seventy-dollar piece of beautifully polished bronze was finally in place, starting its transition to greenish. Of course, the stainless bolts will have to be replaced later with bronze through-bolts to prevent electrolysis. The trouble with being a boat owner is that everywhere you look there is something you should be doing – something like having a house.
After a shower and dinner, we sat in the boat and watched a storm gather in the west. It was the night of the big fireworks display and it looked threatening. Just as they started shooting up a few rockets we had a misty shower of fine raindrops and then it quit. The bank of clouds moved northward and the display was spared. It was a spectacular production considering that we were in a small town in far northern Michigan – perhaps it was regionally sponsored, but nonetheless it was a real bang-up affair – no pun intended.
We had hoped to head for Beaver Island on the 5th, but decided to call if off because the undesirable weather conditions continued. A conveyor belt of storms came up through Wisconsin and out over the lake, although only the edges of them were hitting the Mackinac Straits area. Besides, thus far it has not really been a vacation: just a lot of work getting here, launching and loading the boat, installing the cleat, and hundreds of other little tasks. So today we decided to dedicate some time to ourselves and it was a good choice. We slept very late, lingered over breakfast and our morning coffee, and had ice cream for desert. We did laundry, ate, and slept again.
Thus far, we had remain stalled out 500 feet from where we had launched the boat, and on Tuesday, the adverse weather continued on Lake Michigan. So, we decided to go up to Hessel. We love to go there anyway to soak up the ambiance of the Les Cheneaux Islands. We have friends who live in their boats every summer in the Hessel Marina, and Harbormaster Gail expects us to arrive and stop for a visit. We sailed north to Mackinac Island en route to Hessel, but ran short of breeze about the time we approached the Round Island Light. Down came the sails, on came the motor and we putted the rest of the way to Hessel.
Wednesday was a quiet day in Hessel, our home town when we are on the water away from home. Gail lent us her car and we were able to drive over to the store in Cedarville and pick up some groceries. Perry bought a miniature charcoal grill and some briquettes.
Thursday was another quiet day in Hessel: more coffee, ice cream at the store, and a few naps and a lot of reading. Chris Crafts with chrome and mahogany come and go in the harbor and it is like a rollback of the clock. Life is like a slow day on Golden Pond with Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. We feel more rested, vacation is real, and we are once again living humans, not neurotic automatons spinning in every smaller circles. Birds circle overhead and we see almost everything except the (progressively uncommon) common loon. Since they winter on the Gulf Coast, many of the remainder are not expected to survive winter in the oil spill.
Another Chris Craft started and left the harbor. People who live on the islands outside of Hessel and Cedarville drive them to the village for supplies and to pick up friends and family. We also left Hessel today to head for Lake Michigan. The weather pattern has changed and we can go safely. A lovely 25-mile sail, including tacking, brought us to St. Ignace about six. St. Ignace is small town at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge, directly across from Mackinaw City, with a splendid, new marina. We had a great meal of whitefish at the Marina Grill across the street, immediately after tying up and paying our docking fee. We were back less than 5 miles from where we started.
July 9-11. St. Ignace to Beaver Island. We left St. Ignace about ten and headed for Beaver Island, which lies 38 miles west southwest from the Mackinaw Bridge. Coming out of St. Ignace, we first had to go south to clear the reef jutting out from the town to the southeast. Only then could turn west and head for the center of the bridge. It was at least a six-mile trip. Finally, under the bridge we turned straight west, only to be greeted by a head wind and building swells. It was to be a day of motoring. About three in the afternoon we approached the old abandoned lighthouse on Waugoshance Point and took some good pictures of it as we cleared it to port and headed southwest. This historic lighthouse has been replaced by another one at the north end of Gray’s Reef Channel, a dredged north-south cut through the Gray’s Reef area designed for the large commercial shipping. We do not draw enough water to have to worry. Clearing the lighthouse around its northwest side, we found that we were always in at least 17 feet of water, according to our depth sounder which is accurate to a few inches unless bottom plants fool it. Even so, it is always spooky when one goes through an area that is no longer advised as the “official” route for navigation. Anyway, we eased through with careful attention to the depth sounder while Marilynn snapped away with her digital camera. The rest of the afternoon until about seven was spent angling first southwest and then a bit northwest again to approach Beaver Island. It was a long trip and we were tired of motoring – first into head seas in the Mackinaw Strait and then almost calm glassy water from Gray’s Reef to Beaver.
Beaver Island sits out in Lake Michigan, about 30 miles from the nearest mainland. The earliest group of major settlers were Mormons who went there after Joseph Smith was murdered (while Brigham Young lead the rest of the group to Utah). The leader got himself declared King of Beaver Island and was elected to the Michigan legislature. He became progressively more megalomaniacal. Eventually he was murdered by some of his own followers who were arrested by the commander of a naval ship that “just happened” to be in town. They were transported to Mackinaw City, where a mob released them. The rest either gave up being Mormons or joined the group in Utah. The next group to arrive was Irish, who had been tossed off their land leases in Ireland, with less than a day’s notice, when the property changed hands. Many of the current residents are direct descendants of that group. So the island is very Irish themed, and the major ferry is called the Emerald Isle.
July 11th. Beaver Island to Petoskey. It was predicted that we would have a southwest wind from 15 to 20 mph. Because Petoskey is on a compass heading of 137 degrees, that would make the sail a beam reach (wind coming perpendicular to the boat), a fast sail. When we got out on the lake and cleared the adjacent land, the wind seemed to be much more from the south, making the 38 mile crossing a beat. All day we had to sail with the boat’s nose pointed up into the wind as tightly as possible. In spite of that we made good time and kept up a speed of almost 6 mph as we diagonally punched through an endless procession of 2 -3 foot waves. Occasionally, spray broke over the bow and landed on the deck and inside the boat the noise was similar to plowing through sand and gravel. The sky was a brilliant blue and Little Traverse Bay came into view slowly. We docked in Petoskey after a stunning seven-hour sail with all canvas up. When we arrived in Petoskey, we called Katya and wished her a happy birthday. She is 25 today and it does not seem possible. Fourteen years ago this summer she was the little 11-year-old girl in the children’s camp in Karelia -- the cute little whippersnapper who went to the clinic to negotiate some blankets from the doctor so we could use them for a party on the beach at the Gulf of Finland. Present were Katya, Lisa, Vika, and Perry. We ate smoked chicken, various treats, had soft drinks, and went for a walk on the jetty.
July 12th. Monday. Petoskey. Marilynn decided to call Lisa and invite her to come up and join us for a few days because she has had no vacation for a very long time. Moreover, at this point we are not planning to go to Wisconsin, so we have more time to stay on the Lake Michigan side. Luckily, Lisa had four consecutive days off and drove up almost immediately with Bentley. They arrived about 10 p.m. and settled down for the night. It was to be Bentley’s first experience yachting. Initially, he was a bit nervous and timid about being in the boat, but soon adjusted to it.
July 13th. Tuesday. Petoskey. Marilynn and Lisa were up fairly early and we had breakfast. Then we went out for lunch at an expresso, soup and sandwich place. Bentley had been installed in the front cabin while we were gone, but he had been shown the route behind the cooler and through the starboard quarter berth into the back cabin, where he had slept with Lisa the night before. We came back from lunch to find him curled up on the cot she had slept on, seemingly comfortable and happy, although quite lacking in good ventilation. Being a warm-weather dog, Bentley probably found the back cabin with quite luxurious, despite its stuffiness. After lunch, Marilynn, Lisa, and Bentley left for Charlevoix to catch the ferry to Beaver Island.
Perry stayed behind and spent the day resting, catching up with his reading of Master and Commander and resting. He has had bad back problems lately and needs a day now and then during which he does very little, takes some pain pills, and rests.
Meanwhile, after a smooth and delightful ferry ride to Beaver Island, Lisa, Marilynn, and Bentley moved into a beachfront room in the only pet friendly motel on the island. Bentley went for a jog on the beach and then retired to the motel room while Marilynn and Lisa went for what was advertised as a quarter or maybe half mile walk to what was said to be the island’s best restaurant. It turned out to be significantly longer: probably a mile and a half. The meal was adequate, and the surprise hit turned out to be the fried string beans: sort of tempura-like, and quite unusual. They provided us with a free trip back to the marina. The unfortunate side effect of this trip was the loss of Marilynn’s Yosemite hat, acquired at least 10 years ago.
July 14th. Wednesday. Perry sailed the boat over to Charlevoix while Marilynn and Lisa and Bentley were on Beaver Island. It was a slow sail with very little wind, but he finally made the 16 mile trip in about seven hours. At times he was totally stalled out and did some reading and worked on perfecting the rigging of the boat. Charlevoix is a gorgeous little Harbor on Round Lake. There is a channel in from the lake and boaters must wait for the drawbridge which is raised on the half-hour and the hour, or when some commercial shipping comes through. Then they proceed through and enter Round Lake. If you do not have reservations in the marina, you must anchor in the lake and wait your turn. Luckily, Perry already had reservations for two nights and had no problems. The lake and marina are surrounded by fairly steep hills and the downtown is literally across the street from the marina. Charlevoix is a favorite stopping point for huge power boats and for the see-and-be-seen crowd, yet everybody is so happy and pleasant. It is impossible to distinguish most of the ultra-wealth from those in smaller boats as they move about the marina and town – as it should be.
Meanwhile, on Beaver Island, Marilynn read, while Lisa fried herself to an unhealthy shade of red (Marilynn tried!!). She and Bentley had the beach to themselves and played on it all day, except for meal breaks when Bentley sat in the motel room and M and Lisa tried out all the other island restaurants. Bentley learned to swim (documented on video), and found that, even in the water, he cannot catch the ducks. This was definitely a good thing because a full grown mallard looks to be about the same size as a Bentley. Late in the afternoon it clouded up, and sprinkled a couple of times. This was a warning of a significant approaching storm system. The wave frequency on Lake Michigan is about 4 seconds. From that, using the correct formula, one can calculate the average depth. Overnight, the wind howled and the waves thundered into shore every 4 seconds. We finally shut the windows which diminished the roar, as well as the ventilation.
July 15th. Wednesday. Perry is waiting for Marilynn, Lisa and Bentley to return on the ferry from Beaver Island. It should be here about 2:00 p.m. It has been a pleasant morning and Perry finally found a barber shop where he could get a haircut. Upscale ports like this too often have only styling salons, a total waste of time and money on his dwindling supply of turf. Last night we had a good rain and it was very windy towards morning. The boat moved around a lot and jolted quite a bit as it impacted against the fender holding it stern area off the wooden dock, but it was still a restful night. Charlevoix is a gorgeous harbor on a small inland lake. The entrance is through a channel from Lake Michigan and boaters must wait for the drawbridge to open when coming into Round Lake – assuming they have clearance problems. It is always exciting to pull up in front of the drawbridge very slowly and see it raising as you approach. The harbor has a nice marina adjacent to the main street of Charlevoix. It is a see-and-be-seen place with huge yachts in the marina. Two of them were in the 100-foot-plus class and had occupants who came strutting ashore in unusual outfits – evening gowns, spiked high heels, leisure suits, or whatever they considered appropriate for the occasion. One of the super-yachts was sporting the Bahamian flag and was named the Cracker Bay.
Meanwhile, out on Beaver Island, the rain stopped, and Marilynn, Lisa, and Bentley went to breakfast. By eating outside, we were able to stay together. Then, it was time to board the ferry. The trip back was somewhat unpleasant. The weather forecast apparently called for 6 foot waves. Marilynn thought that most were about 4 feet, but numerous people on the trip got sick. Marilynn and Bentley were fine, but Lisa developed a roaring headache. When we landed in Charlevoix, there was Perry, waiting for us. Almost as soon as we landed the sun came out, and Lisa was substantially cured of motion sickness, although not of her sunburn. Lunch took place in a restaurant known to Lisa from a previous trip: on the second floor with views of sunlit leaves. Then Lisa and Bentley returned to Detroit (she is working tomorrow), while Perry and Marilynn did almost nothing except drink lemonade/beer with the people from the only boat in the marina shorter than we are. Because we are relatively short, with a shallow draft, we ended up next to the park, as did they, so it was easy to find each other. There is perpetual music, either canned or live, in the park. It is supposed to cut off at 11, but it is 9:45, and the Beatle imitation group, complete with authentic costume and hair styles, has finished. It is still light and a bit noisy, but there is hope that with darkness will come peace to recharge us for relocating tomorrow.
July 16th. Charlevoix to Northport. Lisa and Marilynn arrived in Charlevoix yesterday and, after lunch, Lisa and Bentley drove home to Grosse Pointe. Today, we set off for Northport, a small town on the Leelanau Peninsula. This peninsula defines the western edge of Grand Traverse Bay. For some unknown reason we wanted to get down into this huge bay and look around a bit. Moreover, we had been at Northport years ago and found it to be a delightful little village.
We left about nine and headed out through the drawbridge and canal into the lake. It was already pretty rough when we got onto the water in front of Charlevoix, but we put up sails and went for it. Getting to Northport was no small trick. The wind (no longer breeze) was from the southwest, exactly where we wanted to go to reach the upper end of the Leelanau Peninsula and Northport. First, we did a tack out into the lake on about 300 degrees (west northwest) for seven miles. Then we tacked south for a few hours, then west again for a few hours, and then south again. The idea was to work our way southwest by making zig-zags west and south. All went quite well except for the fact that with increasing wind velocity, the seas were building and almost everything was over three feet, sometimes hitting five or six. We had both our jib and main reefed down and the boat handled well, sailing with aplomb at around five mph into such seas. The down side was the extreme roughness of the ride. If the passengers think it is rough, imagine what it must be for the boat. Frequently we quartered into waves that were mountainous and water sprayed up over the boat upon impact. The dodger stopped a lot of it, but we were often soaked. Fortunately, it was a very sunny, hot day and our clothing dried off almost instantly, otherwise we would have had to wear the traditional foul-weather gear or perish from the hypothermia. We hand-sailed the first half of the trip, but then put on the wind-steering device. Why we did not do that from the start we will never know – perhaps we just like the feel of the tiller in our hands as we crash into huge mountains of water. The Monitor steering device runs the tiller based on a vane that stands up and senses the boat’s direction of movement and the wind direction. Late in the afternoon, after a punishing sail for ourselves and the boat, we were four miles northeast from the first buoy that leads mariners into Northport. Instead of doing two more tacks, we decided that we had proven our point and called it a victory. We took down our sails and motored in with the rationalization that we eventually would have to pull the sails down anyway. It was a good decision, except that we then had to motor straight into the waves. It was a horrendous ride and our boat plunged forward into the maelstrom at 4 mph, once again providing free showers every few minutes, but we were heading straight for our target and in one hour we were at the first of three buoys that led straight westward into the harbor and kept us safe from shoals.
July 16th, evening. We are safely tied up in Northport Marina after eight hours of wave bashing. The boat exterior looked great after the beating it took delivering us here. After securing our lines and fenders, we had to go below and sort out the debris. We had forgotten to secure the silverware and utensil drawer and it fell out en route, spilling its contents on the cabin floor. Perry, on one of his trips below, had already picked it up and put it in the forepeak bunk and scooped up its contents and tossed them there along side it. Light items from our galley that have never been loose before were strewn about. Things like a box of oatmeal, the bread and the burger buns littered the cabin. The back cabin was a mess, with lines, toolboxes, and Perry’s clothing – both clean and dirty -- rolled into a huge ball. Things back there looked like they had been in a tumble dryer for the day. Luckily, nothing was broken, just messed up.
This evening we went out for dinner at Stub’s Bar and Grill and had some excellent food. We had not been there for about 15 years. Marilynn finally found a good piece of prime rib and Perry had a pasta dish with beef pieces, a wonderful assortment of vegetables, and a tasty sauce that we still cannot characterize. We went to bed exhausted and felt safe. Although the day had not been truly dangerous, it is always good to be in the harbor when it is over. Being alone on Lake Michigan in a small, although very competent, boat for a long day in high winds and huge seas leaves you in amazement when it is over.
While I (Perry) went to sleep, I kept thinking about when I had to go forward and secure the coils of docking line that were lying behind the bowsprit. With the boat heeled over to 35 degrees while climbing up the front of a six-foot wave, there was a danger they would slide off and trail behind us. That, in itself, would not be a problem, but it would become a disaster if we had to start the engine not knowing a line was trailing and wrapped it around our propeller shaft. I had to carefully go forward along the uphill, windward side and then securely lie down on the foredeck with my feet braced on items that would support me. Only then could I coil the docking lines and tie them to the cleats they should have been on when we left the harbor. Meanwhile, Marilynn was at the helm, driving the boat through the water as though nothing was changed. She knew that I knew that falling off was not an option. Whenever we came off the top of a five-foot wave, the bow would plunge down into the next one with the bowsprit nearly going under. The impact would make a slamming noise and five or ten gallons of water would splash onto the foredeck and stop when it hit my horizontal body and then run off the downhill side of the boat as quickly as it had arrived. Meanwhile I just had to keep tying and coiling and get the job done. It felt good to slither back into the cockpit. Being in you berth, covered by a light blanket, was much easier duty.
July 17th. Being in Northport was a true vacation. The place has a lovely little downtown and is very quiet, unlike Charlevoix, with all its music, children screaming in the fountain at the marina office, and general hubbub.
July 18th. Back to Charlevoix. After two nights in Northport, we decided to get back to Charlevoix, even though Venetian Days are now in full swing. It was necessary to start from there to get back to Mackinaw City. A straight shot from Northport would make the trip a miserably long day. Moreover, Grays Reef lies 18 miles west from Mackinaw City, and it is best to go through that area before the afternoon thunderstorms build. There would be no hope of getting into the marina in Charlevoix, but that was perhaps better anyway because anchoring out would keep us away from the noise. We left Northport early and motored to Charlevoix on flat, glass-like water – the true antithesis of the trip over. About five we pulled into the channel and went through the open bridge and anchored in Round Lake. It was peaceful and pleasant, and from the lake we would get a much better view of the harbor and houses on the hills around us. We pumped up the dinghy and Marilynn rowed ashore for ice while Perry cleaned up after dinner. We slept the sleep of the righteous with 100 feet of chain and 50 feet of rope connecting us to our anchor, which was in about 45 feet of water. Having that much chain on your anchor before the rope starts helps keep the anchor from dragging.
July 19th. Morning in Charlevoix. We planned to stay yet another night, so we had a nice day in the boat. Perry rowed ashore for his shower and exercise and we spent the day reading and relaxing. Evening came and there were billions of stars overhead and lights on the shore almost illuminated out boat.
July 20th. Charlevoix to Mackinaw City. We missed the 7:30 bridge opening, but left at 8:00 a.m. for Mackinaw City. The trip is 54 miles, a long day in a boat that cannot guarantee speeds much over 5 mph under a lot of circumstances. The wind was supposed to be from the west, but was not. Instead, it was slightly northwest, extremely soft, and did not give us enough power to travel by sail alone. Yet, it built up a good train of waves that kept us rolling a lot as we motored northward. When the breeze was over 5 mph we put up the jib and “motorsailed” north towards Grays Reef. As long as the sail stays full, the boat gets a bit of extra boost and having some sail up keeps you from rolling so much. It was a clean, cloudless, cool day and the water was almost cobalt blue. About 1:00 p.m. we had passed to the east side of Isle au Gallets Light and could see the Grays Reef Light, the Abandoned Lighthouse, and the White Shoal Light, a range light at the north end of the Grays Reef channel. It was an awesome display of lighthouses on a seemingly endless expanse of water, although we were only about five miles west of Waugoshance Point and about fifteen miles south of the Upper Peninsula. By then, the wind and waves were building and we did not want to go past the Abandoned Lighthouse, the shortcut back to Mackinaw City. It is an area of shoals, although we did not find any water less than 17 feet deep on the way past it coming into Lake Michigan. But, such shoals normally get very rough in big waves and it would have been a very unstable, rolling ride while running straight with them. Here is the determining fact: if ratio of the height of the waves to the depth of the water is less than about 1:7 to 1:10, waves get really steep. That happens in the Nantucket Shoals off Nantucket, Massachusetts and the shoals off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The water is often deep enough that smaller boats will not go aground, but the waves are so steep that they capsize and sink.
Having decided to be prudent sailors, we opted to go north through the official Gray’s Reef cut. As we were heading north northwest to get up to the bottom of the cut, we saw a freighter coming from the south, obviously headed for the same place we were passing through. Marilynn suggested that we cut back a couple miles per hour to guarantee that he would get there first, and then we could follow him and not have to get out of the way as he came north while we were in the channel. Having a freighter pass you while in a 3000-foot-wide channel is no big deal, but we still felt better having him ahead of us. It would be what they now call a “no-brainer” because we could just follow him through. It worked out perfectly and a bit short of the White Shoals Light at the north end of the channel, we swung east, jibed our headsail over to the starboard tack and headed for the Mackinac Bridge and Mackinaw City. Notice the difference in spelling. This is because the English and the French passed the northern Michigan area back and forth very often from about 1600 to 1800. Most of these trades were not amicable.
While sailing east through the Mackinac Straits, the wind shifted to the southwest and so did the seas, a bunch of 3-foot rollers coming in from Wisconsin. We let out all the jib, left the mainsail furled and activated the windsteering device. A beautiful afternoon rolled by, along with the rollers, and our Monitor kept us on a 90-degree track straight to the bridge. Marilynn sat in the cabin and read and Perry hung out most of the time in the cockpit watching the scenery float by while the tiller was under steering control. When we were less than ten miles from the bridge, the afternoon sun was fairly low in the west and the 500-foot pillars turned a gorgeous creamy white. The metal, painted green, was also quite radiant. All of this was set off against a backdrop of dark blue waves and a deep blue sky in the east resulting from an afternoon thunderstorm. Parallel to us, north and inland a bit from the shore of the Upper Peninsula, a thunderstorm with huge vertical build-up floated east. Lightning strikes were coming down from it and occasionally one could hear very soft thunder. It might have been twenty miles away. During all this spectacular scenery, Larry Taddie called on the cell phone from Salt Lake City. Perry had a long chat with him about this and that and described the scene in great detail.
About 5:30 p.m. we passed under the Mackinac Bridge, still on windsteering. We got a few, hopefully great, shots of the bridge as we quietly slid under it. Marilynn was lying on the foredeck with her feet braced against the bow pulpit, shooting upwards as we passed directly under it. Hopefully we will have some good shots of the occasion. Going under the Mackinac Bridge in any boat is a truly awesome experience, especially in your very own little craft. The suspension pillars are exactly 552 feet above the water and reach bottom 210 feet below the surface. The roadway supported by cables is 7400 feet long and 200 feet above the water at mid-span. Vertical clearance under the middle is 155 feet. In contrast, the Baltika is 27 feet long on deck, 8 feet wide, and needs 39 feet of bridge clearance.
As soon as we passed under the bridge, we deactivated the windsteering and sailed to the Mackinaw City Marina and put in for the night.
July 22nd. Mackinaw City to Hessel. Although the trip is essentially over, we still have a few days to hang out in the area and wait until the boat is hauled out on Monday and Marilynn drives home. We decided to go back up to Hessel and relax for a few days. One can relax in Mackinaw City too, but it is more scenic here in Hessel. We left about noon and motored to Hessel in a glassy calm, arriving about four hours later. We treated ourselves to a dinner out at the Hessel Inn. Perry had excellent baby-back ribs and Marilynn had a mushroom burger. Before dinner, we invited a couple over for beer and wine. They are here from Ohio in their Bolger-designed boat and have two seemingly very nice children. Things like this happen in Hessel. It is a small harbor, there is not much to do, and people notice each other and reach out a lot more than in other places. And the place casts a mystical spell on your sensibilities.
July 23rd. It is another quiet day in Hessel, our home town on the water. Last night we had a noisy wind followed by rain that lasted until eight in the morning. When we arose and crawled from the boat, it was still misting and the water and sky blended together with essentially no horizon. The pine-covered islands in Hessel Bay seemed to float in the mist and one could smell their aroma. Now, as I write at 6:11 p. m. the clouds are clearing and there is a cool, strong, northwest wind blowing through our rigging. A high pressure cell is moving in and tonight might even be chilly – good sleeping weather in the coniferous north unless the rigging rattles and clanks too much.
July 24th. Back in Mackinaw City. It was an uneventful trip from Hessel on a cloudy day. As we approached Mackinac Island, the breeze came up and we put up our sails for the rest of the trip. Coming across the strait from the island to the city, if one may call it that, it began to rain.
July 25th. We spent most of the afternoon unloading things from the boat and carrying them to the car and truck so Perry can get the boat loaded in the morning and leave. It was pretty hot and by four we were essentially finished with all sails down and bagged and 90% of the stuff out of the boat. Marilynn left for Grosse Pointe and arrived there exactly five hours later.
July 26th. Perry rose to a cell phone alarm at six sharp and moved the boat over to the Shepler dock. The guys appeared for work at seven and within fifteen minutes we were taking down the mast. By eight, they and their 70-ton Travelift had the little 4-ton boat securely sitting on the trailer. At 12:15, Perry drove out of Mackinaw City, having tied the boat down, unloaded more final things, taken a shower, had breakfast, and filled up with diesel fuel. The 1983 F-250 did an illustrious job towing its 11,000-pound load back to St. Clair Shores, the place where we launch and store our boat during the winter. Towing the boat is no big problem. It rides smoothly on the trailer with almost no swaying or unusual bouncing. On open freeway, it travels along nicely at about 63 mph. One could certainly drive faster on the flat areas or coming down slopes, but tires get hot at high speeds and a blow-out could be bad news. Then, things get dicey while approaching the Detroit metro area. The freeway degenerates to groves and bumps, motorists, oblivious to your weight and speed, merge with reckless abandon, and the driving becomes a very intense task. The last 50 miles of the trip becomes far more dangerous and demanding than huge waves, shrieking winds, or navigating in the rain.
Deliverance is pulling into Calven’s little Island Harbor Boatyard, unhooking the trailer, and driving down Lakeshore Boulevard to 850 Lakeland, Grosse Pointe City.