Last day of June, 2013 Finally, we are on the move. When we are in port for too many days we tend to allow clutter to accumulate. That can’t be tolerated on a
sailboat. Objects have a tendency to fly across the cabin if they aren’t secured in their rightful place. Boat designers have put raised edges on shelves and cabinets to prevent things from rolling, flying and springing all over the joint, but if too much stuff is
anywhere, it will fly once we are underway. We sat on the dock in Port Sanilac too long and that’s why I got up early this morning to tidy anything
that could go flying around because we accumulate stuff when we sit too long. This is usually my job. Now there are the female boaters out
there that get all high and mighty about “pink jobs” (tasks that normally fall on the female shoulders) and “blue jobs” (those jobs that men traditionally take on). These women go all ape-shit crazy about misogynistic roles and claim that a woman on a boat should be able to take apart the engine and put it back together
again, blindfolded, in raging seas and if she can’t do that she has no business being on a dinghy in a wading pool. Yeah, well, this girl can’t do
that, nor would I ever have the opportunity to prove that I can’t. What I do have is a nice list of people who I can call and hire to do that chore
if for some reason Jim is rendered speechless and couldn’t talk me through dismantling the engine and putting it back together. Whatever, I don't mind being the
person responsible for keeping the boat de-cluttered and tidy, but if I could just get the cats to pick up their toys. But I digress.
Things fly on a sailboat and somebody has to make certain that before we are underway that our soap bottles and coke cans don’t become dangerous projectiles. Even the cats have learned that their little bodies can be flung at a force beyond their strength from one bulkhead to the next. As soon as we start warming up the engine, they each head to their battle stations. Buddy goes to the top of my closet, Annabelle sprawls out on a step of the curved ladder and Mia hunkers down under the table in the main salon. Then, knowing that they are safe, they fall asleep. If they discover that the conditions are calm, they’ll emerge from their comfort zones and do what cats do. But mostly they will nap in their spots until we anchor or dock and the shutting off of the engine signals that it’s time for Fancy Feast.
We’re on our way to Port Huron this morning. It was brisk yesterday even though the sun was shinning, so I made up a beef stew and let it simmer on the stove for a few hours. It warmed us up. This morning, our last day on Lake Huron, is already proving to be warmer than yesterday. We should be going under the Blue Water Bridge into the St. Clair River and spending the night in Port Huron.
Later today: We're on a wall in the Black River in Desmond Marina. This place makes the Chain of Lakes in Illinois look like a retirement home. We've seen some interesting boating today since we're positioned right in front of the draw brigde that the tender will open on demand on a Sunday. It's Sunday. This place is crazy with boats of all sizes and shapes with captains of all degrees of bravery/foolishness. Although the picture of Jim above looks like he was having a heck of a time in the St. Clair, it wasn't all that dramatic. There is a strong current and a lot of boat traffic, but it's not overwhelming. Tomorrow morning we will heading down the St. Clair River to Lake St. Clair where we will stay for a couple of days to get the packages we had shipped to my sister's and spend some time with family.
June 28: We're waiting out instable weather patterns here in Port Sanilac, Michigan and for a shipment from the water maker people that is being sent to my sister's address. We're a bit concerned about getting a slip further south over the holiday week, too, but since it's going to be a miserable day here we will have some time to make phone calls and wander to the local IGA and restock our frig. I'm hoping that the advertised farmer's market will have some nice strawberries and other produce for us to freshen up our supplies.
The highlight of our day yesterday was a visit from my brother and my Mom. Mom had only seen Somewhere in pictures and it was fun to be able to show her how we wil be living the next couple of years. I love that my Mom is not only interested in how I manage to cook in a small galley, but also is curious about the advanced electronic systems that aid in navigation and weather prediction. My Mom's not only a great cook, but a techie. We had a great visit.
Bruce, Jim, Mom and I wandered over to the local restaurant that overlooks the marina. If you find yourself in Port Sanilac visit the resaturant Uri's. They have an amazing dessert called a Mackinac Island Cream Puff. Get it, but share it. It's huge and amazingly delicious. The cream part of the puff is actually ice cream and it's covered in caramel and chocolate and too good to even describe.
After an afternoon of great conversation, a lovely visit, and amazing food, we are plotting our next move. Port Sanilac is a very pretty little town and worth the visit. I plan on taking a hike down to the lighthouse and checking out what else the little town has to offer.
June 26th We’re leaving Harrisville, Michigan in flat seas and sunshine. Our stay was nice. We met Laura and Scott aboard Ruff Life and socialized with them to the point that my morning run on Tuesday was not even worth logging. We did use our time in port to spiffy up our living areas, do some laundry and fix the aggravating, sticky hatch board .
Harrisville statistics aren’t impressive. The town has a population of less than 500. The marina entrance, although well marked, is shallow and precarious. As we left this morning, we were a mile off shore and still only had 15 feet of water under our keel. But Harrisville is quaint and the marina is nicely maintained. We were able to glean more information from fellow boaters about what to expect as we go further south. We talked to an obvious “Glass Half Full” sailor who said that we’d have our pick of marinas all through the Detroit area and that the lake levels are pre-drought stage. Somewhere, in all the advice we receive, the reality lies between the pessimists that tell us that we are to face long hauls finding depth and slips and the eternal optimists that believe that the depth issues are “just a cycle”.
Laura, Scott, Jim and I wandered out for lunch in the town of Harrisville on Tuesday afternoon after we had all finished our boat chores. The streets were fairly empty of people. Notably, there were no children. I surmised that school may still be in session, but we searched out the local bar and grill and found that a quarter of the population of Harrisville was sitting behind the doors of the local watering hole. Our waitress was very friendly, but getting slammed with tables to serve. The bartender was busy too; unreasonably busy for a Tuesday afternoon at 2:00. She had a striking resemblance to Dyan Cannon. I’m struggling right now with crazy, sailor girl hair and I couldn’t help but be a bit envious of her lovely locks. When she finally got a lull in drink slinging, she took the time to break out a tooth brush and go to work on her behind the bar dental hygiene. I had already ordered a fish sandwich from our enthusiastically busy waitress, but I was wondering if the bartender is concerned about her teeth what are the cooks doing in the kitchen? But seeing that a large percentage of the population of Harrisville wasn’t falling down from food poisoning, that it was probably safe to eat the food. We weren’t disappointed. My sandwich was great. Jim’s smelt basket was delicious and the enormous onion rings were greasy and fantastic.
We had one small thunderstorm cell pass over us in the afternoon and our early evening entertainment came from watching several boats enter the marina and dock at the same time. There were a couple of near bumper-boat games being played. The marina is small and the low water levels make for little wiggle room. I made a sage and mushroom soup for a low-key dinner on board and we called it a day after plotting out the rest of the week’s adventures. A long day’s trip to Port Sanilac is what we decided upon with the option of anchoring at Harbor Beach if conditions were poor. We decided to follow Ruff Life into Port Sanilac. More to follow on this port after we have some time to reconnoiter.
June 24th It’s Monday morning, the finest Monday morning! Finally, the wind is perfect for a pleasant sail from Presque Isle to a port which we have never been. We’re headed to Harrisville, Michigan. Although, I grew up in Mid-Michigan, I have never heard of Harrisville. The cats are enjoying the sail too. Buddy is off of the top of my closet in the state room. He’s jumping around from port hole to port hole to watch the water rush by. Mia is wandering around and talking to herself. She does this at home too. She finally settled in at the nav station where she can watch the chart plotter and observe the progress we’re making under sail. Annabelle is sitting on her favorite fleece jacket and giving me her kitty slow blink of approval. All is well.
We ended up leaving Mackinac Island Saturday afternoon once the fog lifted a bit. We headed for Duncan Bay which is on the northern tip of the lower peninsula of Michigan. The water depths were quite shallow inside the bay, but we crept in slowly to Duncan Bay Boat Club following the advice given to us by another boater who owns a slip at the club. It was a nice layover. The clubhouse pool and facilities are top notch and the solitude of the small marina surrounded by lovely cabins and willow trees was a nice change of pace from the party atmosphere of Mackinac Island. I breaded some fish we had in the freezer and made a rice dish with veggies and we had a pleasant dinner on board. On my short two mile run in the morning I found that the closest town, Cheboygan, was a bit of a hike from the marina. Without a car, a dinner out would have been a rather lengthy walk.
We ran into fellow boaters we have met from previous summer cruises. They had all sorts of advice for us on out further travels south. I had to laugh, though. They don’t realize how much of an over planner Jim can be. He spent many hours this winter contemplating and preparing for every scenario that we might encounter. We said goodbye to our friends and Duncan Bay and motored in foggy, cold and damp conditions to Presque Isle, Michigan. We were cussing out the weatherman who said that it would be a hot, muggy day. Northern Lake Huron didn’t get the memo. We were in jackets and jeans and under blankets and the only other boats we saw were freighters.
We had to watch our depth very closely again as we maneuvered into Presque Isle Marina. The Governor of Michigan approved for dredging at many Michigan marinas, but after talking to the harbormaster at Presque Isle, we found that he had, “gone out on a fishing boat and measured the depths with a stick” and decided that dredging wouldn’t be necessary.
We’ve talked to a lot of fellow boaters from the area and they can’t give us much information about the marinas south of our current position (Presque Isle). I have to admit that even being from Michigan myself, that as a kid I didn’t spend much time on this side of the state. It’s a shame. It has a lot to offer in terms of beautiful and serene areas, but it’s remote and not heavily populated.
As I write this we are having a pleasant sail with three digits of depth under our keel and on to an area unknown to us. Hopefully, they will have enough water in Harrisville for us.
June 22nd FOG
We watched four people onboard a small sail boat without radar, a radar reflector, or donning life jackets depart Mackinac Island marina this morning. We poked our heads out of the hatch this morning and knew we weren’t going to be going anywhere for awhile. The fog was so thick we couldn’t see the Round Lake light or the marker for the entrance to the marina. We shook our heads in disbelief at the two couples that braved to poke their noses out in these conditions. Granted, we were thankful that sometime during the night, the east winds that were making us jerk back and forth in our slip against our lines had diminished. But even with radar and a lot of experience with fog we knew that we were going to stick it out another day. Even the ferryboats are making constant security calls over the radio to announce their positions to each other. Visibility is nil. It was a relief to see that the four people on board the little sailboat weren’t out over a half an hour before they returned back to their slip. We helped them tie back up on the pier. Apparently, they have to be someplace at 2:00 this afternoon. That’s the thing about sailing: You can’t expect to be anywhere at a certain time. It just doesn’t work that way. Conditions will always get in the way of a deadline.
We sail when we can, motor when we have to and sit it out if the weather isn’t cooperating. Nobody is going to give out awards for being foolish and we’re of the mindset that if we can make life a little less stressful, we do. We’re watching our weather radar and seeing that there are some more brightly colored storms marching their way across Lake Michigan again. It’s that time of year and we expected that this would be the case. We were hoping to be docking in Presque Isle this afternoon, but that will have to be the plan for tomorrow.
JUNE 21 We left Charlevoix in time to catch the 7:00 bridge opening. Little did I know that Jim was timing how long it took us to get ourselves free from the pier and on our way. Three minutes may be a record, but I’ve never timed the process, so I guess I’ll report it as a milestone. Jim seemed to be impressed, anyway.
Lake Michigan was much calmer today. The lake was so flat that I was able to make sushi for lunch while we were underway and Jim stayed on watch as he picked our way through Gray’s Reef. Gray’s Reef is a passage between the Straits of Mackinaw and Southern Lake Michigan. It’s about an eight mile area of shallow water with shoals. Some portions of the rocky bottom almost protrude above the water’s surface. It’s well marked, though, and with the aid of charts it’s not as dangerous as it was for ships in the 1880s prior to lights being constructed to mark the shoals.
When we turned the corner to head under the Mighty Mac the winds picked up and we were able to sail a portion of the day. The cats were as glad as we were to hear the engines shut down. Jim got a nap in after we ate all the sushi I made.
We arrived on Mackinac Island early in the afternoon and let the cats have their time in the cockpit to enjoy some fresh air and check out the horses and watch the tourists bicycle around. Mackinac Island is a beautiful island with a lot to offer for a vacation. We had dinner at the Pink Pony last night and both of our white fish dinners were absolutely delicious. We’re staying here today to wait out a storm that is marching across the Lake from Wisconsin and to rest a bit.
I took some time this morning to cook up some chicken and make chicken salad to keep in the frig for quick sandwiches or wraps while we’re sailing tomorrow. The weather reports for Lake Huron this upcoming few days are calling for scattered thunderstorms all week. I don’t like cooking when it’s rolly conditions. It’s not impossible, just uncomfortable. I like to be prepared.
It’s overcast and the cats are napping while the boat rocks in the slip. I’m contemplating either going for a run or cuddling in with the cats and letting the boat rock me to sleep. I think the nap may win. Since we’re headed to areas that we have never sailed we will also take this down time to scope out marinas/anchorages in Lake Huron as we head south.
June 19th: I haven’t updated our blog the past few days. I’m sorry for that, but we haven’t been to places that are new to us yet. Plus, Lake Michigan has been showing her cruel side and we’ve had some exhausting days on the water.
We’ve been told by ocean going sailors that if we can handle the Great Lakes that we can handle anything that the Atlantic tries to toss at us. Lake Michigan seems to have been trying to prove that to us the past few days. Our first day started out rather calm as we left Racine, but by afternoon we were hit with building waves and stormy conditions. By the time we could see land again after crossing the lake, we were in eight foot waves and trying to outrun an impending thunderstorm. We made into Ludington, Michigan without any issues other than a cat with sea-sickness who should have had her meds before the waves hit the 4 foot mark.
When we left Ludington we were actually able to use our sails for bit. That’s the point. We’re a SAIL boat and we dread having to go under power. The smell of diesel and the vibrations of the engine are a terrible annoyance, but when the wind doesn’t cooperate there isn’t much else to do but turn the key and submit to burning fuel. We had fickle seas and the washer machine effect of a lake that was trying to settle itself down after a wicked day of storms. The water was churned up and very dark. We didn’t even see the log that we ended up hitting. There was no damage, but it was a fearsome noise. Overall, it wasn’t a pleasant day to be on the water, but we arrived at Jacobson Marina in Frankfurt ready for a few laps in the pool and a dip in the hot tub. Once we were relaxed and had dinner onboard the cats had their time above deck to bird watch and wander around.
We really don’t like to spend the money on marinas when we can anchor, but tonight we arrived in Charlevoix and got a slip for the evening because there is a nice grocery store in walking distance from the marina. We have taken care of the few things we needed, let the cats have their time to wander the cockpit and now we’re settling in for the evening. It was a pleasant day on the lake, finally. We sailed a good part of the trip and after a really big dinner and we’re planning tomorrow’s leg to Mackinac Island.
Tomorrow’s conditions are supposed to be the same as today which means that we will be sailing through the Straights of Mackinac. We are looking ahead a few days and starting to plan where we will be staying once we are moving our way down Lake Huron on the eastern side of Michigan. My reports will most likely be more detailed once we get to those places we have never been. Til then…..
We've been transient slip holders at Reefpoint Marina in Racine, WI for the past 35 days. In that time we have been able to meet with friends and family, day sail, and take several trips down the pier with loads and loads of supplies for the next couple of years. Last night, we made that last haul with dock carts. Which is a good thing, because poor Somewhere is reaching max capacity and, due to a faux pas in dock cart etiquette, Jim has managed to provoke a grumpy man on the next pier.
Racine is a really friendly place, though, despite grumpy guy who is most likely from Illinois (sarcasm, folks. No offense intended). We are going to miss the amazing kringles from O&H Bakery and the extraordinary offering of tapas at Olde Madrid. For my friends that are not from the area, if you find yourself in the area, you MUST visit those two businesses and throw your diets out the window. There is fun shopping in downtown Racine as well. I love browsing the funky lines at Dimples and the toys and clothes at Natural Babies. The Racine Art Museum is an interesting destination too. We love day sailing to Wind Point where the land juts out into Lake Michigan and it's rightfully named since the wind always picks up and gets a bit fickle and forces us to make sail adjustments.
We will miss the food and art of Racine, but we've got some exploring to do in areas we've never sailed. We'll be throwing off the lines sometime within the next couple of days to do just that. Stay tuned!
The ditchbag arrived this week via UPS. Jim and I went through all the gadgets contained inside and then ohhed and ahhed at the contents of the next box that arrived like the geeks we are. Jim had been patiently awaiting the spring sale offerings of a major marine supplier to order the rest of the items on our list. Crotch straps, rescue rope, emergency cone plug, valve kit...The UPS delivery man has gotten his workout coming to our house this winter. All the safety items and new toys we need for our adventure have been ordered and delivered and we plan on taking advantage of this morning's pleasant temperatures and sunshine to visit the boatyard and get to work on stowing our new items on Somewhere.
We've scanned all the forums, ordered books, analyzed charts, constructed the water maker....it's happening! Five years in the planning and talking and the day is almost upon us. Once we splash we will head to our temporary slip in Wisconsin, re-acclimate the cats to boat life, pack our gear, and get ready to head out on our voyage that will take us through the St. Lawrence Seaway, then south to the Caribbean.
I sometimes wonder if friends and family thought this was all just bucket list talk the past five years that we have been planning this expedition. I'm often left confused by some reactions we have received. The most often asked question is, "What about your house?" Well, it's a house and I suspect that it will still be standing when we come back in a few years. We toyed with the idea of selling it and everything in it, but honestly, I do need to have a homebase to come back to. This is where I raised my children and spent the past 20 years of my life. It's on Lake Michigan, and when the day comes that I can no longer sail I want to be able to look out my bedroom window and see the blue (sometimes gray, sometimes brown) water and walk the beautiful lakefront and enjoy the lake from land. The housesitter will take good care of it while we're gone.
The next question does tug at my heartstrings. It has to do with our kids and grandkids. Of course we will miss them. We plan that they will visit us at different locales and of course there is Skype. We aren't falling off the face of the earth, just exploring it and we would love to share those explorations with our kids. But more importantly, I could sit at home and knit sweaters for my grandkids that they will never wear, or I can be the mom and grandma that is living her dream. I would think that my kids and grandkids will be proud to say that their parents/grandparents are confident sailors and are out on an adventure. Our decision to cruise is a choice and the implication that it's a selfish choice is far from our intention. There comes a time in everyone's life when they must make a choice as to what makes them happy and feel relevant and alive. This is our choice.
The next question has made me laugh, made me re-think my pat answer of, "No", and do a lot of honest soul searching. It's about fear. The question is often posed as, "Aren't you scared?" or the question is presented as all the possible dangers and threats to life and limb with gruesome outcomes. I've fielded questions about weather and hurricanes and pirates and broken masts and drowning and going overboard, sharks, bad people with guns, and poisonous fish (the list is endless),....I was beginning to think that many of my friends and family have watched too many movies or are just too fatalistic and negative. But honestly, I am scared. To a degree. Let me explain.
Fear is just vulnerability. We've all felt vulnerable at one time or another. The emotion can cause some of us to crawl into a shell like a turtle and retreat into what we know that will keep us safe and free of criticism or harm. Or we can embrace our vulnerability and trust our skills, learn along the way, and take the risk or not take the risk. The simple act of writing this blog makes me vulnerable to critics and naysayers. There are people that will analyze the pictures of our boat underway and claim we don't know what we're doing because the sail isn't as trim as it should be at the moment the photograph was taken. There are people that will be quick to see that a word is spelled wrong and note an error in grammar. There are people who will be critical of our choices to be prudent when we don't trust the weather or an anchorage or make us feel lesser sailors for feeling too vulnerable and taking precautions.
Will there be bad weather and heavy seas? You can count on it. Will there be bad experiences with fish or people? Most likely. Will there come a time when we doubt our skills and heat of the moment decisions? Absolutely. But there is no certainly without risk. There is no joy without first facing fear. Will there be sunny days and cocktails, meeting pleasant people and learning new languages and cultures? Yep. Will there be days when the wind is right and miles to go and not a glitch is even considered? Absolutely. So, my answer to the question of, "Aren't you scared?" is Yes. Yes I'm scared. I'd be stupid not to be. We are vulnerable to the weather, our skills, other people, but I'm not scared enough to stay home. I can't imagine not experiencing what lies before us due to a case of vulnerability.