Sunday, October 9, 2016

he said...she said chronicles chapter 4

 Josh asked Ann if she wanted to shower or sleep first. He should have known how dumb that question was. She wanted something to eat! They quickly tidied up the boat and laid out what needed to be dried. 

Ann suggested Chinese food and there was a place a few blocks into town. A call revealed that they were closed for the weekend though, so they went with the alternate, local flair.

The Lighthouse restaurant provided abundant servings and they ate until they were almost sick. They were too full to enjoy the attached bowling alley, so they headed back to the dock to get cleaned up and take care of some laundry.

In town they walked past the local theater that was showing The remake of "Pete's Dragon". It had been a while since they'd had date night at the movies, so after doing laundry, getting cleaned up and still stuffed from the late lunch, they walked back up to the theater and paid their $6 each for their tickets. It was very relaxing.

That night they slept like the dead.

There were no alarms set and when Josh woke, he saw that Ann had been up reading for a while. She was trying not to disturb him, although a dump truck would have had a hard timing doing that.

They got ready to get underway once more. Ann made a quick run into town for a few groceries. With the help of the harbor master and a few friendly locals, they cast off again. The next mission was to take down Lake Huron.

The afternoon went smooth and quiet, the heavy weather that had battered the lake while they were tucked in nice and snug in the harbor had died down and left some wonderful conditions.

Everything went smooth until at about 7:30, when a freighter decided to make its turn south directly through Interlude. Josh's quick reactions and the better late than never reactions of the freighter's crew avoided a major catastrophe. Although the laptop will never be the same and will need to be replaced soon.

That night was restless for both Ann and Josh. They were both on high alert for anyone else who might get too close. New protocols dictated contacting every passing ship to confirm they were aware of the little guys out on the water.

The air lightened overnight and motor-sailing was the name of the game. Morning brought a fresh breeze out of the East. They would need this wind to get them to the south end of Lake Huron before tonight when the big wind and waves were scheduled to arrive.

They could duck into Lexington, but if they did that, they would be stuck there until at least Saturday.

The goal was to aim for making the mouth of the St. Clair River Wednesday night to give them an early start to run the river on Thursday.

Navigating the mouth of a new river, at night, with light rain falling--now there's a bad idea. Proper preparation helped though. Josh had studied the charts and knew what to expect. He briefed Ann on what they would be doing. They monitored the commercial traffic through the Vessel Traffic System radio and the AIS and when they were clear, they made their run.

The St. Clair River is known for its strong current. It is the singular point where Lakes Michigan and Huron drain into Lake Erie. Over the course of about 90 miles, the water drops about 8 feet. The mouth of the St. Clair is the tightest section and therefore has the fastest currents. As Ann drove under the Blue Water Bridges, Josh noted 10.1 knots Speed Over Ground (SOG).

But for Ann's sharp lookout, they'd have missed the mouth of the Black River and their stop for the night, the Port Huron Yacht Club.


She still couldn't suppress the surprise she felt upon pulling into an almost deserted marina. To her the season of sailing had just begun and in a way it had. They had put interlude in so late and they would be carrying on for the foreseeable months ahead so she was sad to see the boats being pulled to wait for months before seeing the waters of the Great Lakes again.

Rogers city was a quaint town with all the charm you'd expect. The main drag was just a short walk from the little marina and hosted a grocery store, a few local restaurants, some banks, a tiny movie theater and plenty of historic buildings. They pulled into a slip, paid in the office and struck out on foot to get the lay of the land. Before they'd made it out of the marina parking lot, one of the marina workers stopped them to see if they were in need of a ride. He was a pleasant man who seemed happy to help. They declined, knowing the town was more than walkable and needing to stretch their legs anyway. The wind cut through their sweatshirts as they made their way past a laundromat, florist, and funeral home. Lunch, late as it was by that time, was the first order of business. They found themselves at The Lighthouse. The food was okay but plentiful, the table full with a variety of goodies to fill their bellies. Ann checked her email while Josh checked the weather.

Once they were amply stuffed, they walked to the store to pick up a few things and wandered a bit, peeking in a few store windows and stepping into the renowned local meat market to check the selection of famous smoked meats.

Ann pulled her hood up against the wind as they trudged back under a graying sky. They gathered the laundry and bathing supplies and walked toward the main building. The laundry was put on and showers were taken. The warmth of the water was a welcome reprieve. Ann had been dealing with a pulled muscle in her back since a few rough waves before Mackinaw had jolted her around the cabin below overnight. She'd been on her way up he companionway and had been jerked sideways into the galley and had bruised her cheek on the overhead cabinets and pulled something in the middle of her back. Ever since then, moving her neck a certain direction pulled in a not so nice way.

She finished her shower first and went to check on the laundry and began writing some narrative for the blog. She was hopelessly behind Josh's speedy accounts and knew she should post soon. While Josh came back, collected bathing things and went to take care of a few calls, she sat and waited for the laundry and wrote.

Once the clean clothes were stowed, they debated on how to spend the evening. It had been raining off and on all afternoon and the wifi was spotty at best. They were both sick of reading so they decided to see a movie in town. For $6 apiece, they collected their 3D glasses from the theater attendant, bought some soda and popcorn and found their way to their seats. It was a cool little place. One screen and stage (it was also the local stage theater), plush seating and a very 1950s deco vibe, greeted them as they sat.

The theater darkened and they watched. After "Pete's Dragon" was over, they followed an unfamiliar route back to the marina, enjoying the interesting scenery.

They slept late the next day. Ann awoke first and got dressed. They needed a few things from the store so she walked up to purchase them from the Save-a-lot in town. They had hearty bowls of cereal before heading out again for the next port.

It was pretty calm, with some nice wind to carry them south. The sails were hoisted and off they went.

The passage was mostly uneventful. The 4 hour shifts made the time pass quickly. There was a brief run in with a Canadian freighter that left both Ann and Josh a little shaken, but mostly no worse for the wear. After the incident, Josh insisted they contact each large vessel they saw on the AIS if they would have a close point of approach. It was Ann's first time to hail anyone over the vhf and truthfully, she didn't want to do it. She knew the procedure but was nervous about making a mistake. So, she did what she always did when there was some potential thing to be done that she wanted to avoid--she prayed no ship would cross their path. Ha! It didn't work. Within the first hour, as morning crept over the water, 2 freighters crossed her path. She waited as long as she thought she could, until each was 3 miles away, more than visible on the horizon before summoning her courage. Both times were fine and the second gentleman she spoke to was more than friendly in his response to her. He called her ma'am and told her to have a good day before signing off. It was a success! A few more calls and she was confident in her radio hailing abilities.

Before long it was 10 am and time to sleep. The sleep came easily and then the shift change again shortly after that it seemed. They carried on down to Port Huron, the last port before the St Clair River. As they were making their approach, the wind was howling and the rain began, beating all sides of the cockpit enclosure, trying to breach the canvas to soak them. Both Ann and Josh were above deck as they came closer to the end of their sailing day. Josh had dropped the main sail as the wind had been building through the afternoon and they were motor sailing with just the jib. The shipping channel had ship after ship funneling from Lake Huron down to the river and beyond, making for a stressful trek in the dark for Interlude. The visibility was crap and the rain was holding them captive, dripping here and there. They sailed along the western edge of the channel, staying just clear of the buoys and the large vessels. Eventually, after an hour of watching diligently for each red and green marker, and pulling in the jib (a task made more difficult by Ann's easily distracted brain and a wind that was unrelenting) the river opened up before them, revealing the US/Canadian border and a bridge arching between the two. By now the sky and water were black, lit by the city of Port Huron. The navigational aids were difficult to make out against the various flashing and non-flashing lights of the cityscape. They were, as usual, in unfamiliar territory. This was the beginning of their first River (beyond seeing the mouth of the Root River in Racine) and this baby had some current. As they picked their way south beyond the bridge, they looked for the opening of the Black River, where they'd find their berth for the night. Watching on the chartplotter, it appeared to be a quarter mile away yet. But Josh had spoken to the Port Huron Yacht Club where they'd stay and knew the markings to look for, mainly an open railroad bridge. "Here! Turn here!" He exclaimed. "But it's still a quarter mile down," Ann replied. Still, she's obeyed as he recounted his conversation. It was a good thing she did too. The river current, now nearing 4.5 knots was carrying them briskly down the river. Since she turned early, it carried them right up to the mouth in perfect timing to avoid having to traverse back north. The yacht club was mostly quiet when they made their approach. Once they tied to the pilings Ann began tidying below deck while Josh went to pay. This marina was still full. Mostly racing sail boats with just 2 small power boats, it was a snug marina. The channels to get into the slips were barely wider than Interlude. They were thankful to be tied to an outside wall and not having had to squeeze in. The commodore and his wife popped by to say a quick hello. It was already 11 by then so they downed a quick dinner and then collapsed into sleep.