08 Tobermory, Ontario to Lexington,MI


We were up at first light and 15 minutes later we had backed out around the sailboat behind us and were heading for the harbor entrance in the cold gray of morning. The wind and waves hit at the same time as we cleared into Georgian Bay. The calm of the harbor had masked the open water conditions. Wind was 20 knots over the deck from the northeast with 4-6 foot seas from the same direction. There was westerly cross-wave of 3-5 feet. The northeast big ones got you laid over toward the west so that the westerly wave crashed nicely against the port side covering the bow and cockpit enclosure in white water. It was a nice reminder that I should have run the jack lines on either side of the boat so it would have been easy to attach my safety harness and life line. Instead I went out using one hand for me, and one for the ship. Teeth made the third hand for getting the lines set to raise sails. Once up we went roaring out the Cape Hurd Channel at 8 plus knots on a surfing sleigh ride.

Our great ride lasted until about noon and then the wind began to die and we were left with the big waves and no power from the wind to hold the boat steady as we powered through the waves. We became a motor boat again for the rest of the Lake Huron crossing. It was a bumpy ride.

“The Coast Guard is following us,” Ruth said as she looked over her shoulder. As we watched, the 130-foot buoy tender Sundew (we learned later) launched an inflatable and began to overtake us. We turned on the radio, called and learned that we were being boarded for a Coast Guard inspection. There were 8 people in the inflatable. They came along side and displayed good seamanship as they matched our speed and boarded in the 3-4 foot waves. 4 boarded to conduct the inspection, the other 4 followed in the inflatable.

For the next hour and more we got the full treatment. Not only the safety inspection for required equipment, but a check of compliance with sanitation regarding holding tanks and then while they waited for the computer check to confirm we weren’t wanted, they did a customs inspection. We passed all checks and as they gave us the yellow copy of their boarding report commented that they called it their “good as gold sheet” and that it would make it simpler if the Coast Guard stopped us again. In retrospect, we were delighted that all our spring updating of flares and fire extinguishers kept us from getting a violation. We were also happy that we had taken the time to get the sticker that is required for a boat our size from customs. It kept us from getting in trouble with the Coast Guard.

While the Coast Guard was on board we learned that they were on patrol out in Lake Huron looking for boats crossing and were conducting boarding on all the boats they came across. They also indicated that we were the first boat they had seen in two days. Evidently, not many people cross from Tobermory to Harrisville.

As the Michigan shoreline came into view, I commented that I was looking forward to being back in the States. Ruth laughed and said she had the same feeling. We couldn’t figure out why we both felt that way since Canada just isn’t that much different. For some reason, you always had the feeling that you were a guest in someone else’s country. Interesting reaction.

Harrisville was for us a sentimental visit. During our honeymoon 36 years ago we had made a special trip there to get a toothbrush. The harbor had just been built, and we went to see it. Ever since, we’ve joked that Harrisville was a harbor, a store and not much more. Well, things certainly have changed. Harrisville was very up scale. For us, it had one very important feature. There was a store that had great ice cream and the largest double cone I’ve ever seen. No longer will we joke about Harrisville. It’s a very nice town and on our list as a place we will visit again.

Our relationship with NOAA is much like Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football. NOAA is Lucy, the forecasted wind direction and strength is the football and Ruth and I are Charlie Brown. We take off assuming the NOAA forecasted wind direction would be correct. Many times it’s wrong by as much as 180 degrees. They did it to us again as we left Harrisville. We knew the weather was going to be lousy, it was starting to rain, but we figured it wouldn’t be too bad as we headed south because the forecast was for northwest winds at 20 knots. As we took off, we had south winds at 15 knots and they never changed the whole way to Port Austin. We were a motor boat again and pounded into the waves.

We finally got to use our foul weather gear. As we pulled into Port Austin, we had a major down pour. I suited up with boots, pants and jacket to handle lines while we docked. The harbor was very windy and Ruth did a great job getting us into the slip without problems.

Wind direction changes always seem to come in the early morning. At 4 am the wind finally went to the north at 25 knots. For the Port Austin Harbor, this is a bad direction and we got a terrible surge with the side of the boat starting to hit the side of the dock on the higher wind gusts. Getting up to take care of the boat is now second nature, as natural as getting up to shut a window if the rain is coming in. In the case of the boat, it’s a little more complicated. Lines needed to be tightened because they stretched with the higher wind load. Two lines needed to be added to help relieve the load and assist in holding the boat off. Overall maybe 15 minutes work outside. Then it was back inside, get undressed and back in bed. Now the boat no longer touched the dock, but it was like sleeping in a rocking chair with an irregular rocking motion.

The next night in Harbor Beach, we had a long bad night. Because of the continuing stormy conditions we had come down in, most of the power boaters that were in Harbor Beach stayed there and when we arrived all the slips were taken. We tied up on the outer wall and had a very uncomfortable night because of the boat motion. Hindsight says we should have anchored out. At 4 am we got up and left. Figured we’d enjoy the wind sailing instead of getting bumped around at the dock.

As we sailed along it was evident that we were going to have a great sunrise. Out of curiosity I went down and checked sunrise time on the GPS. Big mistake. Knowing that the sun will rise at 6:32 47 becomes too big of a temptation to keep track of time and see if the sun is on time. Takes a little bit of the edge of anticipation off of seeing the first rays. For the record, my watch indicated the sun was 32 seconds late. Of course my watch could be wrong, or maybe the sun was running a little behind.


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