Wednesday, October 5, 2016

he said...she said chronicles chapter 3

The next morning they slept in. The boy was staying with his grandparents while they tried to get the boat to New York. The only good part about him being away was that there was the opportunity to sleep in and the knowledge that he wasn't having to suffer through the bad days. 

The wind and waves were still sloppy when they checked in the morning, but the forecast showed that there would still be a nice window that afternoon to take off. 

Ann went for a run and Josh got a few more things stowed that had been taken out to dry. She returned and they showered before they wandered back into town and grabbed some coffee and a bite to eat. 

Back at the boat they prepared to get underway once more. They slipped the dock lines and departed without fanfare. The waves were still rolling pretty high as they dodged fishing boats leaving the harbor. The winds had shifted though and this time Josh made clear his intentions to head east. 

Ann offered to take the first watch. Josh knew she was feeling green, but figured she thought it'd be better on deck for a while, so he went below and finished his book. The coffee earlier want going to let him rest yet. 

The wind, once again, conspired to foil the easterly path. "I've been trying to head up as much as I can" Ann said when Josh came on deck to relieve her. The wind forecasted out of the East was shifting north and heading them. It was getting pretty light to top that, so they used the iron auxiliary to supplement their speed. The light air did allow the waves to subside though. 

The wind was gradually building and moving back to the East, lifting the boat into a North- Northeast course. It wasn't as easterly a course as Josh wanted, but taking would have them going south of East, so it would have to do. 

The sunset over Wisconsin and had a tint of red too it. Josh hoped it would bring the sailor's delight. 

As he settles into his watch, he eased the throttle and the sails kept them moving along at a good enough clip, so he decided to secure the engine and coast along under sail. 

They had reefed before Ann went off watch in anticipation of building wind over night. Josh was not anxious to make the same mistake twice. He knew they could make more speed through the relatively flat waters with full sail, but didn't want to end up overpowered while Ann was on watch later that night. 

She got up once to use the head, but otherwise appeared to be getting some good rest. The gentle motion tonight should make for great sleeping. Josh hoped it would hold for a while. If they could keep this course and speed they'd be to the upper peninsula by late Sunday afternoon. That's not the way the weather works though. 

It was stable for now. The dying breeze left calm seas. The Automatic Identification System (AIS) showed a large bulk carrier off port quarter. Josh tried hailing them using the Digital Select Calling (DSC) feature of the radio, but had no luck. He had yet to have someone respond to the direct call. Still, it was a comfort to have the ship's name, position, speed and heading beamed directly to your hands. The fact that it handled calculating the closest point of approach and time to the closest point of approach just made Josh lazy. No need to make up a maneuvering board and do the math. It was also nice not having to burn the power that RADAR would eat up. 

Shortly after 1 AM, Ann was on watch by herself. Josh had already been up once to help shorten sail. A light appeared on the horizon. It looked like a small orange/ white triangle. Ann kept an eye on it and it appeared to be getting bigger rather quick. She opened the laptop and started studying the charts. She saw nothing that could be an aid to navigation anywhere in the vicinity. It seemed to be getting closer, bigger too fast to be another boat out here. She decided to watch it for a few more minutes before waking Josh. Then it became clear, as the triangle grew into the tip of a crescent, that for minute, Ann had been afraid of running into the moon. She recounted this to him sheepishly as he took over watch at 2 am. 

The building seas made for an uncomfortable ride. Josh knew that if they could get close enough to the Michigan coast, the waves would be much smaller and more manageable.he set his course due East. By the time Ann came on watch at 6, they were still about 10 miles from relief. Josh had started the engine to help plow through some of the worst waves. 

Ann, not looking like she was too excited to be vertical, took the watch like a trooper and listened while Josh explained his plan. He then went below and collapsed. A couple of hours later, he heard Ann shut down the engine and noticed that the motion had calmed. She had brought them into the lee of Michigan and was headed due north towards the Manitou Passage on a beam reach. 

That morning's watch went very smooth for Josh. He unfurled the jib and soon was surfing down waves. The impeller recorder 8.1 knots through the water while the chart plotter showed 7.6 knots speed over ground. It was as fast as he'd seen Interlude move. 

Josh stayed south of the shipping channel as they passed the Manitou Islands. Had there been more time, he would have suggested a stop, but between it being so late in the season, and the ideal conditions for making distance, he decided it was best to keep moving. 

A beautiful day of sailing in the protected lee of Michigan was going to capped off with another night of building seas and winds. Passing Cat Head Point, the waters to the east opened up and the longer fetch allowed the swells to grow. The winds had been building and were predicted to continue that way into the darkness. 

Interlude was chugging along at 7+ knots as though she didn't want another night of this either. Josh had the evening watch and got tucked in with the reef still in the main, and the jib half furled. The course was set for the Grey's Reef channel. Once through there, it would be a couple of green cans to starboard then the Mackinaw bridge. That would signal the transition from the home waters of Lake Michigan to the conquest Lake Huron. 

It was 4:10 on Monday morning when the giant span of the Mackinac bridge looped directly overhead. Josh was tempted to wake Ann to see it, but she was in the middle of her off-shift sleep and he thought she'd rather have her rest. 

As the sun lit the morning sky from behind a heavy bank of clouds, the rain refused to stop altogether. It would spit and stop and spit and stop. 

Lake Huron must have known of the plans to duck into Rogers City and get some recovery time, so she let loose some of her heavy stuff that morning. Though Hammond Bay isn't huge, it gave enough room for the strong southerlies to build a few waves. 

They would make short work of the distance though, harnessing the building wind to over 7 knots of boat speed with a reefed main and a reefed jib yet still being overpowered. Josh estimated that they were seeing low twenties with gusts into the high twenties. 

Rogers City was just what they needed. A quiet little marina. Decent docks, helpful staff, and friendly people. It was almost exactly 47 hours since they pulled out of Sheboygan.


The morning was unhurried. Ann went for a sunny run north along the lake, following a paved footpath into the hills of the wealthier part of town and past the beach where the blind sailors were racing. Josh did some tidying and organizing while she was gone and when she returned they both showered, dressed and walked along the river to a local coffee spot called weather center cafe. Thy walked back along the same path and prepared to take off. 

As they were pulling out of the mouth of the harbor they skirted some charter fishermen. The waves were 2-3 feet and the wind was blowing. The sails were hoisted and off they went, sailing on a starboard tack north toward the manitou islands. 

Ann stood the first watch, strumming her uke, adjusting the sail trim and adjusting course as they went. The sky was clear and bright and the temperature was comfortable. The day progressed without incident, watches changing every four hours, Josh and Ann exchanging details of what was happening on each watch before retiring below to rest up. 

Around 1 am, Ann noticed a bright white light on the horizon. It was brighter than any of the navigation lights she had encountered thus far. As it grew larger and brighter, she felt a sense of panic rise inside her chest. She consulted the chart plotter and the navigational charts and saw no markings for anything of the sort. They were in the middle of the lake in the middle of the night. What could it possibly be? She stifled the urge to rouse Josh before she knew what it was but still it seemed to be growing out of the horizon, rising out of the inky water. The white light began to take shape. A peak came into view and what looked like a jib sail that was completely illuminated. The rest of the brightness came over the horizon  and Ann could see the bottom of this phantom sail curve around and make the bottom edge of what turned out to be a crescent moon. She had to chuckle at her own panic over colliding with the rising moon. 

Seas began to build and up to this point Ann's stomach had been feeling iffy at best. No trips to empty her stomach had been needed but if things became much worse she wasn't sure how long that would last. Josh remembered they had some seasickness medication and got some for her before the next watch and almost magically and instantly she felt better. The sleep she got was better and she was sharper. 

While her stomach was better, the seas had become unmanageable and the rocking was constant but unrhythmic. When Ann came back on watch at 6, the sun was still an hour away from rising. The gray sky slowly brightening to port was a reminder of hopefully calmer conditions to come. They starboard tack they were on had helped them north but had done little to reach the opposite shore. Josh told Ann his plan to get closer to the Michigan shore to seek some calmer seas and then to carry on north. She did her best to slowly steer closer to the wind to seek the shelter and ease the discomfort the seas were dishing out and by the time Josh came back on watch at 10, they were just a few miles off the coast of Michigan, once again sailing north on a nice beam reach in much smoother waters. The day carried on with little excitement as they made their way toward the Manitou Islands. They planned to go between them and the shores of Michigan. The channel was wide and well marked and the wind cooperated in their task. 

Night soon fell and so did the rain. They closed up the cockpit with the canvas  and only got slightly wet where the continuing rain saturated the top of the bimini to the point it could hold no more and dripped here and there al over the cockpit. The rain was just a piece of the puzzle. This dark night was also the night they would encounter the straits of mackinac. Having yet to navigate at night, Ann was understandably nervous. The rain sluicing down the forward windows coupled with the boat bouncing up and down on the waves made visibility low. The red and green buoys blinking in the distance marked their path. As there was a trail of them, guiding them toward safe passage, it was hard to judge which was closest and which ones followed. Using the charts on the computer and the chartplotter, they picked their way north and then east around the buoys safely toward the mackinaw bridge. 

Once they got through the stickiest portion, it was time for Ann to go off watch and rest up. She would miss sailing under the bridge itself, lit up 155 feet over the north end of Lake Michigan. 

She came back on watch at 6 and was tasked with finding a place to pull in for a night before they carried on. She navigated a few reefs along the south channel route they had taken and then set to work poring over the waterway guide book they had. Ann was nothing if not fastidious. There were a few options on the table but she hoped they could have some wifi so they could check email and FaceTime the babe and do laundry. Rogers City was a good compromise. The town was walkable from the marina and had what they needed. They carried on until around 1 pm when then navigated the winding navigational channel into the tiny marina.