Sailing Stories, Part 3

I have already shared Sailing Stories from our first summer living aboard, and from the first leg of last summer’s journey.  Today, I’m sharing the posts from our under-the-bridge cruise.  This part of the summer involved a lot of learning, and quite a few adventures.  Enjoy!

Tentative Plan
You know how plans go. But we were still making them!

The Dinghy Project
She was rough, but I huge improvement over the inflatable that we used the previous summer.

Leaving Thunder Bay, A Beautiful Anchorage, a Small Craft Advisory, and PISH
The first change to our plans, and it ended up being lovely.

Sight Seeing!
Since we were stuck, we decided to see what we could see.

Quiet Journey to Rogers City
Finally, a quiet run, with no engine failure!

Rogers City
Exploring the favorite port town of Rob’s childhood.

Long Run to Bois Blanc
This is where we were, a year ago today. Beautiful pictures.

Under the Bridge
It’s a right of passage, for sailors on the Lakes.

Arrival at Beaver Island
In another change of plans, we visit our friends on the island.

A Great Off-the-Grid House
Our friends’ very fun tiny house. This family (plus a new addition!) are now living on Beaver Island full time.

Back to the Mainland
Our journey to Lake Charlevoix.

Taking Advantage of a Good Wind
Another change of plans, leads us to Grand Traverse Bay.

On the Hook in Cherryland
The Cherry Festival was going on, and the harbor master laughed at me, when I asked if they had any slips available.

A Bit of Luxury
An extremely posh marina in Elk Rapids.

Decisions, Decisions
We chose a destination (although it ended up not being our destination, in the end). And, what to do next summer? North Channel or Loop? It’s laughable to read, because it goes to show exactly how futile making plans can be.

Cathead Bay
The most beautiful anchorage ever.

Lessons Learned
What we learned, so far, in our cruising.

Fun in Fishtown
An unusual stop.

Lessons en Route to Manitou
Time to remember to take nature seriously. Spoiler: we made it back…

Beating the Heat
How we deal with summer’s heat, with no air conditioning. (P.S. We’re going to have a/c when we move to Houston!)

Enjoy reading!  There will be a part 4, eventually.  Part 5 will be written after we move to Houston.

Sailboat -

Also, don’t forget that there is still time to help Abby, for my $1 a month challenge!

Sailing Stories, Part 2

All right, I gave you the first installment of sailing stories two days ago, when I told you about our first summer on Moonraker.  Today I will share with you posts from our second summer living aboard and cruising.  There are so many posts from that summer, that I will just share the first leg of our journey, today.  This will take you up to and through our stay in Thunder Bay, during the end of May, and through most of June.  In my next installment, I will begin with our decision to leave Thunder Bay a week early.

Off the Grid Tuesday: Solar Panel
A short post about the best upgrade we could have, for anchoring out.

Like a Dream
It was a rough year at work–moreso than I let on, in my blog. But, still, I adapted, and the previous summer’s adventures didn’t quite seem real.

Trust Me, It’s Real
Pictures from our trip back to Moonraker.

I Shall Not Pass This Way Again
Little did I know, how true that would be.

Crazy Work Weekend
Pictures from a very hardcore weekend, pre-launch.

End of the Pre-Season
Ready for launch!

Safety First!
How we keep from residing in Davy Jone’s locker…

Birthday Party, First Adventure, and a Victory
A very fun day with our friends! And another run aground…

Bethany and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Technicalities, and car troubles.

The Day We Almost Went to Tawas
The first equipment failure, of many.

Some Pictures from Yesterday
It WAS a great sailing day!

Repair Day!
I wasn’t going up in the Bosun’s chair again. So we hired that out.

Why We Aren’t in Tawas Yet
This time, it was the weather.

The Tale of the Possessed Stove
The first crazy fire in the boat.

Our Ascent into Complete Randomness (We’re Out of Bay City)
Thank goodness for the crazy wind, that happened to be on our side, during the engine failures…

Rob vs. the Atomic 4
His first attempt to conquer it.

Harrisville Engine Test
Did it make it?

Return to the Dragon’s Fangs
The sky turned dark as we entered the Bay, and I began to shake, ever so slightly…

Cottage Sweet Cottage
We’ve arrived at our summer getaway!

Control, Worries, and Quieting the Disquiet
This was really the beginning of the journey I’m currently on.

Rethinking the Plans
Plans are silly, on sailboats. I just didn’t realize that, at this time.

I hope you enjoy reading these! I’ll give you a few days, before I share more from that summer!

Kids Sailing Clip Art

Don’t forget, there is still time to join me in my $1 a month challenge.  A bunch of $1’s is all it takes to make a difference!

Under the Bridge

I am writing this, during a storm, at anchor in Lake Charlevoix. We are, finally, back in (reliable) cell phone range. We’re going to be here for the next few days, while I take Beanie into Midland for her therapy and we get the topping lift fixed.

So, during that time, I’ll tell you the story of how we got here. If you remember, when you last heard from me, we were in Mackinaw City. (I know many of you are not from Michigan–do look up Mackinaw City and Mackinaw Island!) They are the tourist capitals of Michigan, located by the Mackinaw Bridge, which connects the upper and lower peninsulas. That bridge of the topic of today’s story.

One of the Mackinaw Island ferries shared the marina with us. We saw them coming and going all day.

The retired, and well-known icebreaker “Mackinaw,” now on the hard.

The Bridge. Last summer, we set out to go under that bridge, into Lake Michigan. This year, we intended to actually make it. This is a major rite of passage for sailors on the Lakes.

We saw the “Alpena,” a very well-known, old freighter from Thunder Bay, going under the Bridge.

There was a very neat-looking abandoned light house on the other side of the Straits.

White Shoal light.

A stiff, westerly wind was forecast, so going directly to Beaver Island would have been difficult. We planned to sail to Charlevoix instead, where we would hang out for a week. Our friends who summer on Beaver Island keep a car there, and they are letting us use it to get into Midland for Beanie’s therapy appointment. After the appointment, we would return to Beaver Island to visit them.

When we reached our course change, however, there was absolutely no wind. So we decided to motor to Beaver. We anchored out in St. James bay and had a great time. I’ll share some of our adventures with you tomorrow!

Long Run to Bois Blanc

There were high winds forecast on Friday, so we left Rogers City at 6:00 a.m. Our hope was to make Hammond Bay before the worst of it came up, then head to Mackinaw. We saw our last sunrise over the water (as we have arrived in the Straits, which I will get to later…).

The whole way, the wind was calm. There were 1-2 foot rollers–nothing to worry about. We passed the light at 9 mile point.

Rob repaired our new skipper, which we inherited from his family. Meet “Otto VonHelm”…

We saw a rare sight in this day and age–a tugboat with a string of barges.

We arrived in Hammond Bay around noon. It was getting a little bumpy, but was manageable. The wind was coming from just the right direction for us to make McRae Bay, on the North side of Bois Blanc Island (pronounced “Bob-low”). We have wanted to anchor out there, because it’s supposed to be beautiful.

Between Bois Blanc and the mainland, there are a lot of shoals (and shipwrecks). So there are random lighthouses, in the middle of the water.

Midway to the back of the island, the wind suddenly picked up to what we later learned was over 20 mph. We dropped the sail, but the boat was still healing to the side. We decided that it was not safe to anchor in this, so we came about and anchored in Bois Blanc’s marina.

Bois Blanc is a really neat island, with 45 full-time residents. They have a two-room schoolhouse, a convenience store/breakfast restaurant, and a bar. We spent three nights, stuck here, on our honeymoon. During that time, we really got to know the residents, and one couple even let us use their shower! Sheriff Whipple is their harbormaster and sheriff, and we were disappointed that we got there after he left on the ferry, as he is always an interesting person to talk to. Last night, the island was desolate, except for people coming and going on the ferry.

Today, the wind was also supposed to be high, so we left for Mackinaw City at 8:00. The 3-hour run was rather uneventful. We did see the Alpena, a freighter that we know well.

Rogers City

We spend a splendid day in port today. Rogers City is VERY “up-North,” and very “sea town.” The town is bicycle-friendly (and the marina has loaners, as well as a courtesy car, if you prefer). They actually have a real grocery store, which was quite welcome, after our days in Presque Isle. It’s an overpriced resort store, but much better than nothing. (We’ll make sure to stock up when we go back to Midland. I miss my Kroger!).

There are two playgrounds within walking distance of the marina, as well as a nice beach. And the best part? There are ALWAYS kids Beanie’s age playing! She has literally spent all day at the park today.

In the evening, on Thursdays, the City Band has a “concert in the park,” at the bandshell by the marina. Tonight they featured Big Band jazz, which we listen to frequently in our house. Jelly Bean wanted to sit in the front row, and she had a great time!

Here are some pictures from today:

So, this is where we are. Tomorrow, we will head to either Hammond Bay or Mackinaw City. Hammond is out of cell range, but I have a post ready to go at 5:00, if that is the case.

Quiet Journey to Rogers City

We’ve been stuck in Presque Isle for 5 nights, while a low pressure system went through.

Today, things were calm again. The wind was light–barely existent–and out of the south.

It was time to go.

We had a non-eventful, windless motor for about 4 hours. It was sunny, pleasantly warm, and smooth. It felt really strange to walk through the cabin, while underway, without needing to hang onto the handles. I even left the iced tea pitcher on the counter for awhile!

There was a bit of fog when we started out.

There were some sails out, but the wind wasn't strong enough to get us to port in timely fashion.

It was finally sunny enough for me to need my hat!

Beanie was our navie.

New Presque Isle light

The gypsum plant in Calcite

Kitty found her favorite spot...

So, here we are! It’s a nice port. Like most state docks, it’s been recently renovated. Most of the docks are floaters, which is nice for a small boat. There’s a lot to do here, so we’ll be spending tomorrow in this slip. Then, we’ll disappear off the radar for a couple of nights (don’t worry–I have posts set up to automatically post!), before re-materializing at Mackinaw Island.

Leaving Thunder Bay, A Beautiful Anchorage, A Small Craft Advisory, and PISH

Yes, we are still alive!

We’re expecting limits to cell phone coverage (our internet access is through our cell phone), but we didn’t expect it to happen so soon. We were able to check in on Facebook and make short phone calls, but our coverage was so spotty that we were not able to upload photos.

So, what have we been up to?

First, we finally did it. Moonraker is no longer in Thunder Bay. It was calm when we left.

Here is Misery Bay, the place where our season ended last summer.

As we got out of the lee of the point, the water became more and more rough. We were beating into the wind, under power, with huge, square, “Thunder Bay waves” coming from all directions. It was drudgery. Remember how foggy it was during our trip last year? Well, this year, we could see the lighthouse clearly, but we couldn’t hold the camera straight in the waves!

Here is marker 13. Go around it (we didn’t last year)…

This is Middle Island light. You can actually rent the keeper’s house and be governor of your own island for a night. We might try this, for a getaway, sometime…

The keeper's house

Once we were out of Thunder Bay, things smoothed out a lot. We still weren’t able to sail, but we did grill hot dogs.

Then, we passed the Stoneport freighter dock…

And, finally, we anchored out in the harbor and were treated to a beautiful sunset.

There weren't any other boats anchored out, but a lot of sailboats were on moorings.

Since we got there late, and had a rough run, we decided to stay there on Saturday, to rest and recover…

Here’s our view, in the daylight…

We cleaned up the boat, relaxed, and rode the dinghy to shore. There, we picked up some provisions at the “boater trap” across from the marina (and its prices seemed low, compared to the price of groceries in Ossineke/Alpena…), and ate dinner at the yacht club’s restaurant. It was nice to enjoy some coffee (I haven’t been able to get grounds that aren’t horribly overpriced, so we have been doing without) and a hot meal. We planned to leave port the next day.

Then we looked at the forecast. Thunder storms. All day. We stayed anchored out during the day, then went to get showers in the evening. The marina let us tie up at a dock and pay $4 for the three of us to have showers, before returning to our anchorage. The showers were so warm that I actually had to turn the water down, so it was worth every penny.

During the evening, we dragged anchor as the winds picked up, so we moved in closer. The anchor held, but it was not a smooth night. None of us slept well, as we were rocked back and forth (to the point where things were falling off of the counters), and we kept watching to make sure we didn’t drift.

The storm affected the cell phone tower, so we lost service. We weren’t able to check the weather online, or let anyone know we were leaving. It was really rough, as we made our way out of the bay today. But it was manageable. We saw many sailboats leaving, under sail, and we decided to see if it would get any worse. The NOAA channel on our radio told us to expect 20 mph winds, and that there was a small craft advisory. Those last three words were enough to bring us back to the harbor, to the marina this time. There was no way we were spending another night anchored out in this.

So, here we are, in a slip, in Presque Isle. Everything here says “PISH” on it, and it took me awhile to figure it out. It’s “Presque Isle State Harbor.” And PISH seems to have the cheapest laundry I’ve seen at a marina ($1 for each machine). And the PIYC has free wifi, which is how I’m able to reach all of you. So we’ll spend the night here, at a very sheltered dock, then we’ll head to Rogers City tomorrow morning. It’s going to be high winds again, but if we leave early, we should miss the worst of it.

Rethinking the Plans

We had intended to stay here until the end of June.

We love it up here, and we wanted to give the house some much-needed attention. We actually were able to do that–and spend some time with Rob’s dad and play with Beanie on the beach.

We anchored the boat here for two nights last year, without anything happening. The water was too rough for us to comfortably sleep on the boat, and making our way out there in a dinghy was a pain. But the anchors held.

This year we’ve been here for a couple weeks. Rob has to reset the anchors whenever the wind changes. The bouncing caused the topping lift (the rope that holds the boom up, out of the cockpit when the main isn’t up) to break. We can jury rig something up until we get to a marina with a crane, but it’s still a pain.

Tonight is going to be quite windy (but we’re not getting any thunder storms). We decided that we would be able to do more for the boat if we were on board. We have a GPS with a drift alarm, so we could solve problems before they became major. So we’ll be going out there before the wind picks up. We’ll see how messed up the cabin is, do some cleaning, and take a look at our Waterway Guide and charts.

We’ve enjoyed being here, but next year we’ll keep the boat at a slip for a month. We definitely won’t be sinking a mooring here. It”s not sheltered at all.

So, we have to finish the dinghy before we go. We’re looking at leaving on Friday, weather-permitting. Our next port is Presque Isle, which is another 8-hour run, so we need a clear weather radar. We’ll round marker 13 (actually the marker to the outside of marker 12–we aren’t taking any chances!) by Thunder Bay Island. Presque Isle is the port we never made last year, so we’re excited to finally pick up where we left off. Entering and leaving Thunder Bay has never been boring, so be prepared for an adventure on Friday!

It's pretty bouncy out there!

Cottage Sweet Cottage

When we finally went ashore Thursday morning, Beanie immediately began dancing around. She knew where she was!

Jelly Bean made a beeline for the beach (without bothering to put on a bathing suit), rode her big wheel, and found all of the toys in the house, in their usual place.

So, here we are. We’re not sure how long we’ll stay. Before we leave, we have to replace the fuel pump, install the solar panel, fix up the dinghy, and replace the fraying anchor line with a chain.

Return to the Dragon’s Fangs

All right, we’re now back on the grid, at Rob’s family’s cottage on the Devil’s river.

So I will now recount yesterday’s adventure.

For those of you who are just joining us this summer, you need to know about our history on Thunder Bay. We encountered our first storm making the same run we made yesterday. A series of rather stupid events led to us being stuck at the marina in Alpena. We finally left, only to run aground by Thunder Bay island. (Here is a slightly more detailed narrative of the same story.) After more stupidity from the marina, who was now doing the repairs, we finally left Thunder Bay Labor Day Weekend, where we motored through weather influenced by a hurricane that had come North.

So, this is where yesterday’s story begins, with us approaching this adversary once again…

A freighter in the distance, as we left Harrisville

The engine had been doing well, for the first two hours, when it started stalling again. We drifted while Rob worked on the fuel lines again. He suspected vapor lock and left the side locker open to vent it. In order to see both the compass and our surroundings, I stood at the tiller, enjoying the rather pleasant weather.

At once, a cold, bone-chilling wind blew over. In the distance, we saw two islands. We were approaching Thunder Bay.

This year, we would go around, rather than between the islands. Most of the islands–and the shorelines–of Thunder Bay are surrounded by boulders. The depths will look good on the chart, but these rocks will come up out of nowhere. Last summer gave us a less cavalier attitude and a greater respect for these rocks that have sunk numerous ships.

Just as we passed the islands, the engine quit again. It was time to change course, so the wind would be to our side. We would sail as we executed the precise navigation that Thunder Bay requires. Rob looked up from his chart and grinned at me.

“Can you hold 300?” he asked.

For a moment, it was an easy, “Christopher Cross” sail, as we call it (referencing the pop song from the ’80’s). I remarked that it was much easier to hold 300 without a broken tiller. We were flying the genoa but not the main.

At once, the wind picked up so that it was hard to maintain the course. After letting out the sail, which didn’t help, Rob decided to switch to the working jib. As soon as the genoa was released, I had no navigational control over the boat, so I could not point it into the wind. He raised the sail, in water that was becoming increasingly rough, with rollers rocking the boat (and making a mess out of the cabin). First, the jib sheets became entangled in the moped (attached to the port side of the boat). When we freed it, the clip that held the line to the sail failed. We were in a crazy wind, hitting rollers to the side, with the jib flopping uselessly ahead of us.

Rob climbed on top again, but he was unable to reach the corner of the sail. I tried to point us into the wind, to no avail. Finally, I tried to engine, which hadn’t been starting. By some miracle it started, and I motored us into the wind, where Rob could attach the clip.

I killed the engine and we sailed well. Rob raised the main, and we were making good time.

Then I saw, dead ahead, trees in the water.

It was Scarecrow Island, completely surrounded by a rocky reef. We needed to pull a tack, to get away from it. In order to be able to tack, we needed to gain enough speed to turn the boat, when we were temporarily out of the wind.

And speed wasn’t happening. The wind died completely.

Through gritted teeth, Rob said, “We’re not running aground!” and started the engine. It ran just long enough to get us a safe distance from the island.

Then, we sailed, making about 2-3 knots, in a barely-there wind. We regretted lowering the genoa. That island was still next to us. I gave it a wide berth.

Our destination, still far away

Alpena, in the distance

Reluctantly, we decided to fly the genoa again. Rob climbed on top, and I could hold the course with the main while he made the switch in light wind. The wind then stopped completely.

Then the magic began…

We sailed in on a perfect beam reach, surpassing hull speed. We came in north of the family property, then sailed downwind, under main only so we would reduce our speed, to the beach, where we set anchor.

Scarecrow Island, off our stern (finally!)

Time to celebrate–we’re in Moonraker’s new home port!

The house


We spent last night at anchor, to make sure they were well set before we came ashore. Now we’re getting settled in at the house. We will spend June here, doing some repairs and upgrades to the boat (like getting a new fuel pump!). Sometime near the end of the month, we will round marker 13 one more time and sail to Presque Isle, then into Lake Michigan.

Also, it is out of respect, not due to superstition that I have changed the name of this post category. The Lakes are not to be defeated, and we won’t presume to say that we will or have already done that.