Archive for August, 2008

Drummond Island, Experience the Rock

August 27, 2008

There is a story told on Drummond Island that after God made the world, he had a pebble left over and he dropped it in the Great Lakes and named it Drummond Island (if you have zoom on your photo viewer you can read the whole story).  Drummond Island has a population of about 1,000 people; they have a grocery store, a dry goods store, a Laundromat, a hardware / lumber store and an ice cream store.  One of everything, but only one.  All these stores are where the roads come together, and they call it the four corners.

There are several restaurants, most of which take turns opening during the day, there are, after all, only so many customers.  The people are absolutely great, and friendly to a point, but I will tell you the story of walking in a thunderstorm, with the rain just teeming down, and four cars drove by me, only one thought of slowing down, and only for a moment, and then he sped up as well.  Good thing I didn’t have too far to go, and this was in the marina compound (our boat is about ¼ mile from the marina proper.

So we have been living in a treehouse, with a ladder leading us up to our boat.  As this is a resort area, like Cavendish or Grand Bend, the few cottages and motels are booked solid through Labor Day, so we either live on the boat, or set up a tent.  We chose the boat.

Once the insurance company committed to pay for the repairs, and work started, they upgraded our stairs from the ladder, so it just feels like a top floor apartment, although while sitting in the straps of the travel lift and gently swaying, it feels still like a treehouse.

Repairs are going well, the new tiller and rudder have been ordered, I am watching and learning about fiberglass repair, when I get home, I may even take a course in it for interest.  I can’t believe the product I used to waste when I did small fiberglass jobs.  I was worried that I would not have a working centerboard when this is finished (a lot of Morgan’s have had their centerboard glassed in), but it turns out it can be fixed properly and safely and leave the board in and working.  We appreciate that when sailing in beam seas, heavy weather, and into the wind.

For now, we are making the most of where we are (there are worse places to be stuck for 5 weeks), we take the dingy fishing, MBA is reading a lot, we have our folding chairs set up in the backyard, and we have been meeting lots of Loopers as they come through.  Everyone clears customs at Drummond.  We are rebedding our stanchions, installing new midship cleats, running new wiring to our running lights, and building a cradle for the mast at Chicago (we have still not decided whether we are shipping or carrying, but I want to be ready).

Kerry Scott, a friend of ours had business in Sault St. Marie, so came over and spent the day with us, and did some touring of Drummond Island.

Oh yea, there is at least one boat a day goes on the rocks here, another sailboat went on yesterday in exactly the same spot we did.  He had a 5’ draft, so didn’t get on as far as we did and didn’t do quite as much damage.  There is a man with a cottage on an island that sits there with his VHF and calls boats that are about to go on the rocks and warns them away.  Notice the picture of the “Rock” buoys that are in the shed instead of on the rocks.  I wonder why?

I can’t believe the insurance companies don’t pay someone to maintain the rock buoys and channel markers properly and better.  Oh well, my lesson is learned, and I won’t be moving 1 foot without knowing exactly where I am going, exactly where I am, and have it plotted on both the chartplotter and computer, and have everything running.

I received an email from “Sandpiper”, a large catamaran that is presently in Peoria, Illinois, and they went aground twice in one day going into and out of the marina there (second time they had an employee aboard that knew the channel), so our fun is not over yet.  At least its just mud there, I just upgraded my towing insurance.

Love to all
Joe & MBA

A Waiting Week

August 18, 2008

It has been over a week, and we are in a waiting mode (still).

Most of the other Loopers we have met on the trip have come and gone from Drummond, most of them in two groups.  We went to dinner with both groups, said our goodbyes (everyone hopes temporarily, and we’ll meet again at Joe Wheeler State Park in Tennessee).  There was lots of reminiscing about all the boats that have gone on the rocks (there were 4 others than sank the week we went down), and most of the Loopers have had to stop for a few days to pull their props to replace or repair.  So far, to the best of our knowledge, we are the only ones losing several weeks.

To Sandpiper (Ann and Rob), Mojo (Rick & Randy), Highlander (Charles & Jeannette), Grettatude (David and Gretta), Grace Full (Leslie & Flint), Bella Luna (Diane & Lewis), Grape Escape (Terry & Jan), PrimeTime (Gary & Patricia), Paradigm (Jeff & Emily) and Adamant I (Pat & Lynn, the Canadians), we hope to see you all on the way.

We finally met another boat from Canada doing the Loop.  They just left Midland about 2 weeks ago, so they are just getting started.

The insurance company was not happy with the estimate received for the boat repairs, so they are sending their own appraiser out on Monday (Aug 18)  so they say.  That will make it 10 days sitting here, just waiting.  If we can get the authorization to start, all will not be lost.  Catalina Yachts in Florida have purchased the Morgan molds, and have the mold to make the new rudder.  The fiberglass folks figure 2 weeks to do repairs, so it could all come together yet.  If we can get approval this week, allowing two more weeks for repairs, we could be in the water after the first week in September, and to Chicago before October.  No decision yet.

So this week is just waiting, hoping, and wishing!  The weather has been beautiful, there is nothing to do here but rest and relax, soak up sun, and drink cheap American booze!

The pictures are of MaryBeth sitting in our new backyard (behind the boat that is behind the shed), a picture of the beach where we are staying, the facility, and a picture she took of me on a walk.

Love to all,

Joe & Mary Beth
S/V Pot ‘O’ Gold


August 11, 2008

The week started out in Little Current, enjoying the company of other Loopers, spending a night in the Little Current Towndocks, having an enjoyable time.

A Tall Ship with several students aboard came in, see them up the mast in the photo.  They took turns as Skipper, and when they barked orders, you could hear them plain.  AAAARRRRR Matey, that’s the way to run a vessel!

We anchored in Vidal Bay, a large storm was brewing and we didn’t want to be on the water when it hit.  The anchorage was not the most pleasant, but there were few areas with ground that would hold an anchor, so it kept us safe.  Friday morning, we were up and sailed into Drummond for border clearance, ALMOST.

Now the bad news.  Upon entry into Drummond Island, we had a shipwreck on the rocks.  Happened friday, had to be pulled off the rocks, then rescued by the Coast Guard.  They were able to save our vessel by attaching an additional gasoline pump to the bilge, and attaching their vessel to ours to tow us to the nearest marina (Drummond Island Yacht Haven), as our rudder was broken so we had no helm control.

Mary Beth and I are both safe, although she is a little banged up from being tossed around the cabin when they pulled to boat off the rocks, the boat turned on her side.  (I was in the dingy, taking the rope to the tow)

The boat is now on land, standing on racks, and the damage is considerable.  The bottom of the full keel is split and torn, with large holes (only on the bottom), from fore to aft, the largest of the holes at the stern.  The centerboard still works, but seems very loose and sloppy, and will have to be taken apart and the hold for the centerboard will need to be rebuilt.  The rudder is split, and the rudder shaft (inside the rudder) and the main rudder shaft (attaching the rudder to the boat) and probably the rudder shaft in the boat are all bent, split, and unuseable.  The tiller (2″ of layered, laminated wood) is completely split in two.

Other than that, there are just several scratches and dings.

We have notified the insurance, pictures have been taken, and an appraiser is on his way for monday.  From there we will decide what is to happen, and will keep everyone posted.

What happened?  This is an extremely rocky area, as has been the Georgian Bay and North Channel area, so it is required to be very, very attentive and know exactly where you are at all times.  I will not try to make excuses, simply explain what happened, the fault is of course, all mine.

There are two methods of entering Drummond, one is longer and deep water all the way, I chose to take the narrow channel.  This is one of the areas on this trip that does not have the charts for my Garmin Chartplotter.
I had paper charts, and marked and navigated as I was trained, and have done this entire trip.  Upon rounding a corner, and seeing a red buoy (the buoys are reversed here, as we are headed downstream) I kept the red buoy to port and headed towards the next green buoy.  When we checked the number on the red buoy, it was not the number we expected it to be, and so were confused.  I continued heading towards the next green buoy, keeping it to starboard, and when we could see the number on the buoy, it to was a different number than I expected, and was not on the chart at all.  While I was looking at the chart, the boat bumped bottom, and within seconds we were in about 18 inches of water riding over rocks.  I notified the Coast Guard to stand by, we were going to try and get off ourselves, we both stood on the side to try and heel the boat, and it did, but not enough apparently.  We thought we were moving (could see the rocks move on the bottom) so we continued to try.  After a time, we saw the same bottom, and realized we were just moving in a circle, which is when I put out a distress call.

Help was very professional and quick, a towboat came from Drummond and pulled us off (this took several tries, he was about to give up and call a larger boat when he gave it “one more try” and she came).  By this time, the Coast Guard was already there to watch proceedings, and make sure we were not leaking fuel nor oil into the water.

When the boat was off the rocks, Mary Beth checked the bilge (I was still in the dingy) and the pump was on, and the bilge still filling with water.  She would be under in minutes.  The Coast Guard very quickly moved alongside and waited for me to regain access to the boat. (I rowed fast!).  When I determined there was nothing I could do, they attached themselves alongside, took out their gasoline powered water pump, and started pumping water.  They attached their inflatable boat (large one, they had 5 crew aboard) to ours, and took us to Drummond Island Yacht Haven, where they had the boat lift ready for us, and took the boat out of the water.

Mary Beth hugged each coast guard member.  We thanked them, and then had to clear customs.  Another Looper had been following our distress, and had the customs officer aboard their boat when we arrived, and we went over to their boat to do the paperwork.

Both Customs, and the Coast Guard were incredibly helpful and friendly, as was (and still is) the staff at Drummond Island Yacht Haven.  They have all made this terrible experience a little easier to bear.

At this point, we are unsure what this means for our trip.  The appraiser, and fiberglass folks will be here monday, and hopefully we can determine our course then.

Joe & Mary Beth
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

What a week this has been!

August 4, 2008

We went to the Loopers seminar in Penetanguishene on Monday, and then Tuesday was a stormy day, so we waited until Wednesday to leave Midland.  That also gave my knee a chance to heal better, we met the folks from GraceFull on Wednesday, and she’s a nurse, so gave me some advice on treating my knee (a LOT of Advil and ice packs).  I twisted my knee while shopping (actually carrying enough groceries and beer for an army home, fortunately, after stepping my mast).

We left Midland under motor power, and made the decision to sail Georgian Bay instead of motoring the small craft channel.  We were open to Lake Huron for a stretch, but decided the fact that we should be able to sail was worth it.  And it was.

It felt wonderful to have both sails flying full, no motor running, and MB complaining about how far we were heeling over.

We followed the west coast of Georgian Bay, so instead of the granite rock formations, we were delighted with Limestone Cliffs.  It was very reminiscent of the Gaspe Peninsula, with the high cliffs, although we didn’t see any homes built on top of the cliffs here.

We anchored out all week, and good anchorages are few and far between on this side.  The one we were at Saturday night had 17 boats in it, 12 sail and 5 motor, and we were awoke in the middle of the night with a large bang, when another sailboat dragged anchor and hit us.  No damage done, he moved his boat, and we had a restless night the rest of the night.  Tonight we stopped shy of Little Current, and tried to anchor with 2 different anchors in 4 different spots.  I guess there is a reason we are all alone in these bays, the ground is covered with rocks, and the bottom must be a solid rock, I can’t get the anchors to grab.  Finally, on the West side of Badgley Island, there is an indent in 22 feet of water the anchor seemed to hold.  I hope it does.  Tomorrow we’ll be off to Little Current for supplies, then the North Channel, then Michigan and the big Lake.

I had to include a picture of an Island that is covered with Canada Yew (Ground Hemlock, this is the plant that I worked with for 10 years that was harvested across Canada to make Paclitaxel).  The plant grows on this island so high, that the only way to harvest the tops is in the winter, they walk with snowshoes to get the tops.  It must be because of the rock in the ground, the plants grow up instead of roots.  What a sight to behold!  If only the drug wasn’t all being made in China and the Czech Republic now.

The water is so clear in Georgian Bay (and over 500 feet deep) that I would not be afraid to drink it (with Aquatabs and my Brita Filter, of course).  In 20 feet of water you can see the bottom clearly.  We have been swimming, taking our dingy over to meet neighbors, fishing, and enjoying the beautiful sunsets.

Love to All,
Joe & Mary Beth
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”