Archive for September, 2008

On the Rivers

September 28, 2008

The aggravation of handling the mast in Chicago instead of going around the city turned out to be worth it completely.  Wednesday, after having a good rest from loading the mast on the truck and visiting the city, we drove our boat through the city of Chicago.  We went under about 50 bridges and were right next to the Trump towers.  All the high-rises, and they have water taxis on the river, people take a water taxi to go to work.  Absolutely fascinating!

We are now gone from the city life, and are travelling down the rivers, just like Tom Sawyer.  (Of course, he did it in a raft without GPS and laptop).  After travelling about 40 miles just short of the Lockport Lock, the river was closed (no advance warning) right in a main industrial area, at a barge staging and repair area.  These huge barges are tied together, up to 10 of them, and one towboat pushes them along the river.  We were forced to turn around and go back until we could find an area to tie off, and there was nothing we could find, so after we got by the chemical loading and the fuel tanker area, I saw a series of carbon barges on the side, I tied off to one of those.  Now everything on and around the boat is black!

After a couple hours, the river opened and we were off, turns out it was the Army Corps of Engineers working on the electrical fences on the river to keep the Asian Carp from getting north.  Big signs saying no anchoring, no mooring, and no body contact with the water.  Wonder what it’s doing to our electronics?  After we arrived at Lockport Lock, there was a tow going north, then another tow heading south that we would be able to lock with if they were not carrying chemicals, which it turns out they were, so we requested and were given permission to stay tied up for the night.  We’ll head out in the morning; hopefully the lock will be slower then.

We went to 3 Rivers Yacht Club at about Mile Marker 271 and had a wonderful time.  Due to the high waters on the River still, we stayed an extra day.  We used our new folding bicycles to tour around a bit, and had a party at the yacht club.  They awarded us a 3 Rivers Yacht Club burgee.  It was a really fun place to be.

The pictures are of the Chicago area we motored through, Mary Beth on her new bike, the navigation buoys on the river (they have moved and sometimes it is difficult to tell which side of the buoys to be on, lots are on the bank as well), a sign from the Illinois River Lock, and a party at 3 Rivers.  It has been a great week, and the barges are incredible.  We’ve seen 10 barges tied together being pushed by one towboat.  Apparently they get even more in the Mississippi.  Can’t wait.

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

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Chi town, the windy City

September 20, 2008

As we approached the Chicago skyline, I expected that we would just fly, this being the windy city and all.  When the wind died, and we had to motor the final way, MBA read to me from the cruising guide that its not named “The Windy City” because of the wind, but because of all the hot air the politicians blew in the 1800’s.  I wonder how much has changed?

We had a wonderful time in Grand Haven, in spite of 3 days of hard rain.  My cousin that I used to visit all the time in Farmington Hills, MI, now lives on the coast of Lake Michigan, and came to visit with us, and take us for a tour of the area.  We went to the State Park Visitors center, which had amazing accounts of the sand, and the sand dunes.  How they were formed, the vegetation on them, and how they all interact with the animals and nature.

We then had dinner in one of the local restaurants, and it was delicious, but mostly it was the visit with a relative that made this stop the most enjoyable.  Thanks Eugene!!

From Grand Haven we went to Saugatuck to anchor, then to Benton Harbor (stayed in St. Joseph) for a couple days to wait for a nice weather window to cross Lake Michigan.  The window came Friday, with South Winds 10-20 knots, so we should be able to sail across.  They were calling for 5 – 7 foot waves, which could make the ride somewhat uncomfortable (MBA is getting annoyed at removing the mattress every night to dry it out, guess my rebedding leaves something to be desired), but the 7 footers never came, so we just had a wonderful sail.

About 20 miles out we saw the Chicago Skyline, I felt it must be an illusion, or reflection because we were so far out, but it was not.  What we saw was the top half of the skyline, as we got closer, we saw more and more of the lower skyline.  Breathtaking for sure!

The weather is finally warmer now, it was 77 Friday, and calling for 81 Saturday, so there were hundreds of boats in the harbors coming into Chicago.  It was nothing like any of the large cities we have been in so far, and I am expecting a fun (and incredibly expensive) visit.  MBA has made the decision to have the mast shipped by truck from Chicago to Mobile, AL (I was no part of this decision; I made a cradle to carry the mast while in Drummond, remember?)  I think she did that on purpose to help destroy my budget numbers!

Our hopes to visit the old Abby (the ferry that used to run PEI and was sold to the Columbia Yacht Club for their clubhouse) were dashed; they will not let us visit nor stop there.  That was a disappointment; we had been looking forward to that stop and some visiting.  C’est la vie, I guess the boating community is changing.

Our plans are to drop our sails Saturday, unstep the mast Sunday, the truck has been arranged to pick it up Tuesday, then we will spend a night in downtown Chicago at the wall, where I can visit the fountain, then it will be motoring down the rivers.  Just like Huckleberry Finn.

The pictures on this posting are of my cousin Eugene and I, and Mary Beth, and one of the two of us together (we don’t get enough of these), and the Chicago skyline.

Love to everyone,

Joe & MaryBeth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”
soon to be mastless in Chicago

Back on the Water

September 13, 2008

We left Drummond Island with low expectations for weather and wind, and we were not disappointed.  Friday we motored to Detour Harbor, a run of about 10 miles.  It was just to make sure everything was working as it should, and the weather was supposed to be good on Saturday to cross the top of Lake Huron, headed for Mackinac City.
It was cold and dreary, and about 15 miles short of our destination; there was a big black area on the radar that wasn’t supposed to be there.  It was a thunderstorm, and we motored through it, so we had the opportunity to see if our stanchion re-bedding did the trick and stopped the leaks.  It appeared that it did.

We stopped at Mackinac Island (about 5 miles short of Mackinac City, and its pronounced Mackinaw), where there is the famous Fort Mackinac.

On July 18, 1812 (some accounts say July 17) British forces attacked the fort after the US declared war and invaded upper and lower Canada, and after firing only one shot, US forces surrendered.  They mounted a force in 1814 to try and retake the fort, and this attack failed as well.

In 1815 Mackinac Island was given back to the US under treaty.  We watched the cannon fire display, and when they found out we were Canadian, they wanted to know the location of our vessel.  We declined to tell them.

Nowhere in the fort could I find the account of what happened.  The soldier stationed there did, however, let me hold his gun for a picture. (That was before he knew I was Canadian).

We were told in the cruising guides that we would not be able to get transient boat space on the island, and would have to take a ferry ride from Mackinac City to tour the island.  Whether because we are moving late, or because the boating is down this year, we had no problem getting a slip.  Mackinac Island is a very touristy place, where they sell a lot of t-shirts, sweats, and fudge.  There are no motorized vehicles allowed, so taxis are by horse and carriage, and renting bicycles is a huge business.

From Mackinac we went to Charlevoix, finally putting us in Lake Michigan.  The wind was on our nose in the Straits of Mackinac, after we turned south we were able to sail.  It stayed cold, with rainstorms all around us, when we saw a funnel cloud forming.  I was able to get a picture of it, when I called the coast guard to give them the location; they simply said they were aware of the situation, before I even gave them the location.  They must have been very busy, is the only explanation I can think of.

We entered Charlevoix Marina, the first port of refuge on Lake Michigan heading south, and it is wonderful.  Very small entrance leading to a small lake, where we chose to rent a slip ($1.15 per foot), brand new marina, power, washrooms, shower, and right in town.  Very protected, and it turned out to be a good thing.  Huge thunderstorm with a lot of wind and rain last night, the stanchions are not as waterproof as I had hoped.  Oh well, they have washers and dryers here as well.

Michigan is very boater friendly, with their harbors of refuge, at a low price, every twenty miles, with services and supplies.  Everything closes after Labor Day, however, and we are being offered two for one at every stop until Manistee, they have had a slow year here as well as everyone else.

We have been able to sail a lot of Lake Michigan so far, although Thursday was a short day due to head on winds, high waves, and a lot of slogging.  Friday and Saturday’s weather looks better.  We are looking forward to getting to Grand Haven and spending a couple days resting, and visiting with Cousin Eugene.

The trip south on Lake Michigan was like moving backwards from the fall to the summer.  After we came by Manistee the air started getting warm again, the flies were out, and we had our first real sail in fog.  We were socked in, so we hooked up our radar and it performed like a champion.  We could see boats, and their courses, and even the occasional bird showed up.  We had a long day Friday, and reached Muskegon, about 10 miles short of Grand Haven.  We anchored for the night in Lake Muskegon, amongst hundreds of boats salmon fishing.

There was a call to the Coast Guard, telling the CG that they were lost, and couldn’t find their way home.  This is after dark, and the fog was so thick you couldn’t see the front of the boat.  CG was asking them what they could see around them, nothing but fog is the answer.  Towboat US had to go out and find them.

The story for Lake Michigan is storms (we missed most of them, but could see them), sand dunes (we are proud of ours in Cavendish, they have 300 miles of them on the coast) and salmon fishing.  Going into Manistee and Muskegon was what downtown Chicago must be like on Labor Day weekend.  The channel is just full of boats going 2 knots, with the occasional person roaring through at 20 knots.

We are in Grand Haven, where it’s warm again, and like summer, and the marinas are full.  We’ll sit here a couple days, meet with my cousin Eugene, and keep an eye on Ike.  Hopefully, Chicago soon!!

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

Good news at last!

September 4, 2008

We arrived on Drummond Island Aug. 8, 2008 and when we walked behind the travel lift taking the boat to the warehouse we walked behind it, and MBA compared our mood to a funeral procession.  Well look at her smile walking behind the travel lift today, Sept. 4 as we head back to the water.

We have a new FossFoam rudder installed, we have a new IdaSailor tiller installed, we have new pins installed in a reconditioned centerboard, and we have a new bottom on our keel that is thicker and stronger than ever.

We have the newest and latest and greatest NOAA charts downloaded for our laptop computer, complete with Fugawi software and GPS.  We have the new (2008.5) Garmin charts for our chart plotter.  We have laid out courses and plotted them on our paper charts.  We have moved an anchor to the stern.  I am determined to do everything I can to prevent ever going on the rocks again.  It was a terrible, horrible experience.

This experience was made easier to bear with the folks at Drummond Island Yacht Haven.  The USCG (sector Soo) was wonderful people.  US Customs at Drummond was friendly, helpful, and did their job while maintaining sensitivity to our position.

And then there is the Yacht Haven itself, Denny, Carl (who either did or arranged to have done all the work).  They kept me updated daily with what was happening, showed me good fishing spots (although I never did catch a pickerel), and together they made sure the job was done with professionalism, on budget, and mostly, on time for us to continue our trip.  They are an amazing group of folks that made us feel welcome, almost part of the facility for our month here.

To all of Drummond Island, THANK YOU.

We are now in the water, and will be headed out Friday.  Check our blog for our position; I will be running SPOT again daily.  We will not be spending a lot of time in Michigan, as was our original plan; we will be heading directly to Grand Haven for a visit with my cousin Gene May, then to Chicago as quickly as possible.  After dropping the mast in Chicago, we will again slow down for the rivers, and are hoping to be at Joe Wheeler National Park in Alabama for Oct 20, where there is a Looper seminar covering the rest of our trip.

Love to All,
Joe & MaryBeth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold” once again floating