How we spent our summer vacation, part 3

August 18, 2012: Final cruise highlights of the season

Once our guests had gone (See: Summer vacation, part 1) and our boating buddies had also left (See: Summer vacation, part 2), Jerry and I were left alone for another week or so of independent cruising. We did more walking and reading together than we’d had time for previously. We spent several peaceful nights at anchor. We did more exploring on shore and on the water. I walked a couple of trails I’ve never walked before. And yes, we finally focused on maintenance projects we had been ignoring, such as what do do with that clanging spinnaker halyard.

You don’t mind a tapping spinnaker halyard until its chatter keeps you up at night.

We had two long and excellent sailing days in perfect weather. We had one close encounter (of the non-stressful kind) with a 1,003-foot laker . . . the sort of encounter that makes one appreciate AIS technology. One night we were able to attend a very nice potluck at Roys Point Marina, our home marina (where we own a slip but haven’t been based for more than five years).

One of the highlights had to be our sighting of the pretty ketch named Manitou all dressed up in her party clothes. As we met her near the marina where a friend keeps his yawl, we thought we were seeing Steve Lien and his lovely yawl, named with a nod to the Minneapolis area attraction: the Mall of America. His boat is the Yawl of America. As Steve singlehands his boat most of the time, we were amazed to see the main, jib, and mizzen sails swiftly doused for much more colorful replacements: a matching spinnaker and mizzen staysail. She was all dressed up for the dance and looked gorgeous.

We’ll send our photos to owners Bob and Katherine Jensen.

As we neared taking photos, we learned this was not the Yawl of America after all, but a ketch we’d never seen before, one with three crewmembers aboard to do the busy work required to lower three sails and raise two new ones. Her owners, Bob and Katherine Jensen, and a friend did a nice job of making it all look easy as she ghosted along in light wind.

They must have had a great ride as they floated down the West Channel for more than an hour under spinnaker and mizzen staysail.

Our time aboard ended all too soon. In fact, it ended two days earlier than we expected because some heavy weather and big winds were predicted. (We are also very grateful for the weather information available through WxWorx, the satellite weather service operated by Sirius Radio.) Rather than be late to arrive home, we took our opportunity before that weather was upon us and sailed toward Superior, Wisconsin, where Mystic will be hauled out for the winter at Barker’s Island Marina. That last passage is always a long one (between 8 and 12 hours) and — call us crazy — we prefer to do it whenever we can in settled conditions.

That last day was one of our memorable sailing days. So the month-long cruise ended on a high note. The predicted heavy weather did arrive in great force later that night and blew like crazy all the next day as we were emptying the boat and loading the car for our trip back home. We considered it our good fortune to be tied up at the dock following another just-in-time arrival.

The real boat show is walking the docks

We spent more time than usual in marinas in the early part of this year’s cruise. We’re hoping to reverse the ratio of marina nights to anchorages now that our guests have gone. But there’s much to be said for time spent in port.

The good old boats (and a few new ones) — just in Bayfield’s Port Superior and Pike’s Bay alone — are an impressive sight.

Dock walking, for example, is about as good as it gets in Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands. Until we visited Annapolis, in fact, we’d never seen a greater concentration of good old boats. We can’t help ourselves when walking docks. We want to identify every sailboat we see.

It becomes a challenge we can’t ignore. Cove stripes help. Little designer flourishes and specific identifying marks help, such as the taffrail on the Bayfields or the wishbone cat rig on the Nonsuches. Manufacturers’ plates help. Bold lettering helps (our thanks to all manufacturers who do that!). Logos help. Sometimes the mainsail cover provides clues.

Since our C&C 30 has an identifiable C&C cove stripe that it shares with every other C&C (and even, unfortunately, with the Vikings designed by C&C), we knew there was something to this cove stripe thing and concentrated our efforts on those. I started taking photos of the cove stripes as the bow and at the stern of as many good old boats as I could find. Then I posted those images — http://www.goodoldboat.com/resources_for_sailors/boat_identifiers — and other sailors chimed in sending photos of their boats’ cove stripes and helping to identify those we posted as “unknowns.”

It’s been fun. I always meant to add more as a part of our relentless dock walking, but haven’t had access to as many docks with boats until spending time this summer once again in Bayfield, Wisconsin. We’ll post our additions later this fall and hope to hear once more from other sailors who can identify the “unknowns” and post further rare or hard-to-find sailboats we’ve missed.

If we ever complete our “collection” of boat identifiers, as we call them on our website, we’ll still enjoy walking the docks with our printed out “code book” in hand. Seeing the modifications people have made and the designer variations that are possible from sailboat to sailboat is a delightful way to spend an afternoon ashore. We attend the real boat show, as far as we’re concerned, every time we walk the docks.

How we spent our summer vacation, part 2

August 9, 2012: Cruise highlights of the last few days

We’ve had some great sailing weather for the past several days! In addition, an extensive serenade by sandhill cranes in Madeline Island’s Big Bay has got to be the highlight for me. But I’ve also gloried in the wonder of loon calls and fishing boats trailing veils of seagulls.

If we can’t feed the wildlife, we joke, what is it that gulls know about fishing boats?

I’ve walked the squeaky sands of Julian Bay on Stockton Island. (Most call them the singing sands.) I’ve appreciated a lighthouse or two. It seems I’ll never tire of good sailing days, beach walks, fishing boats swarmed with gulls, lighthouses, and loons.

She’s a big girl for a small town like Bayfield, Wisconsin.

We were also thrilled by the arrival of the big cruising ship, Yorktown, at the tiny town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, and had a chance to fly our spinnaker for several hours one day, the longest we’ve ever had that sail out of the bag. So we’ve experienced wonderful events on several levels during phase two of our cruise.

Mystic flies her chute. Photo by Tom or Sandy Wells.

 

Buddy boating

The significant part of this report is that we spent five days sailing in companionship with friends. As loners who’ve never done this sort of thing before, we’re pleased to report that they’re still friends. Tom and Sandy Wells joined us from Saturday through Wednesday, chartering a Tartan 34 named Loon. Before we got underway as a parade of two boats, we spent an evening in the shelter of Rocky Island with Michael and Patty Facius, who were sailing their C&C 30, Callisto, over the weekend.

Michael Facius, Tom Wells, Jerry Powlas, Patty Facius, Sandy Wells, Karen Larson. Photo by Tom Wells.

As a newbie to buddy boating, I offer my preliminary postulations (nothing more than observations really).

1. You’re never alone.

This is good news some of the time. It’s also bad news some of the time. All things in boating come with advantages and disadvantages. Part of this is in the attitude.

2. You’re always racing.

Don’t deny it: whenever two boats are going in the same direction . . . The good news is that this lets you compare your boat’s ability to point and make improvements in sail trim.

3. The more buddies you have, the more complicated decision-making becomes.

Let’s face it: as captains of their own vessels, all sailors are leaders. This will create differences of opinions on just about any subject. The larger the number of sailors present and the wider range of opinions expressed, the more likely that nothing at all will be accomplished. (We got along famously as a foursome, but I can foresee the problems if we had been 6 or 8 or, Lord help us, 10.)

4. It is not necessary to sail within sight of each other compensating your speed to accommodate all sailboats involved.

See Corollary Number 2. You’ll all wind up at the agreed-upon anchorage in the end. Probably.

5. Someone will have whatever it is you’re missing aboard.

This is handy. Two heads are better than one and so on. Supplies, parts, and knowledge abound when there are more involved. If you absolutely need a lime in order to make Dark and Stormies, someone will have it aboard!

6. Many meals will be potluck affairs.

A community meal can make short work of whatever fresh foods must be eaten up soon.

7. You’ll learn some things about your own boat and other people’s boats as well.

Spending time in companionship with and aboard other boats gives you a much better idea of their advantages and disadvantages than you’ll ever have by walking the docks or looking at boats at anchor. See Corollary Number 1.

8. You may be encouraged to push the envelope.

Because there are others around who do things differently, you may be compelled to try some foods, activities, or sailing styles that you wouldn’t otherwise try.

9.  You’ll share some wonderful cruising memories (and possibly frightening experiences) together.

Having experiences in common draws people together. It contributes to bonding in ways that you might not expect.

Conclusion (just my two cents’ worth): good time was had by all.

A first look at sailing

Having friends aboard added spice to our summer cruise this year. As they were relatively new to sailing, we were interested in and sometimes amused by their observations of the boat and reactions to the activities and vocabulary peculiar to our favorite hobby.

We’ve been sailing in the same general area on the same boat for about 20 years and our senses are no longer attuned to those things unique to living aboard a cruising sailboat.

We knew we’d have to teach them about lines going clockwise around the winches and the difference between our good old winches and the newer self-tailing ones. We were sure to include a few basic knots to know such as the cleat hitch and the way to make up the docklines and tails of the halyards.

We tried to deal as best we could with meaningless nautical terms such as handrail and toerail, vang and spreader, why a line is called a sheet (a sail looks a lot more like a sheet, doesn’t it?), and the plethora of names for the many ropes, depending upon their uses. We overlooked the times that fenders were referred to as bumpers. We encouraged them to take the wheel whenever conditions were stable. This, we learned, brought the largest smiles to the faces of our female guests.

We were unprepared for some of the questions before our friends arrived aboard such as, “Does your boat have a bathroom?” (This is an honest question, remember that many boats do not!) Another meant humorously from one who enjoys reading the popular nautical fiction based on days of yore: “Don’t you have to get up very early in order to sail out with the tide?”

A few other standard questions from landsmen include, “Do you sometimes sail out of sight of land and, if so, how do you sleep out there? Shouldn’t you be anchored or tied to a dock when it’s dark out?

I hadn’t thought of the wonders of a gimbaled stove until one of the women watched ours swinging back and forth and asked, “Is your stove OK?”

My only regret is that we couldn’t take our friends out farther and longer to places where you see more loons and might even see eagles, sandhill cranes, otters, moose, or caribou. In addition to the wonderful rocky scenery that is everywhere on Lake Superior, those are the sights that add exclamation points to our cruising and to our lives overall.

Still, I hope they experienced enough to know that sailing is something everyone can do if they want and something well worth doing. We’re always happy to welcome new sailors to the fleet.

The Monday Sail

When Sailrite began building sails once again (rather than selling just kits for home assembly), we ordered two jibs for our brand-new roller furler. These sails were excellent in every way . . . except for one minor detail in the smaller one.

That sail, a 115 percent, was delivered with windows and telltales as requested, but it appeared to have reached its final assembly on a Friday or a Monday . . . because the green telltales were on the port side and the red to starboard. We hear tales of automobiles and other products assembled just after a worker’s weekend festivities or in anticipation of them with some attention to detail lacking.

A telltale is a simple thing

Another friend, a sailmaker, has told us time and time again that the color of telltale should not matter. Any leftover spinnaker cloth should do no matter whether it’s teal, orange, or purple. We agree in principle. But if the telltales are red and green shouldn’t they be located on the appropriate side?

We joked about the reversed telltales last year during the first season with our new furler and we got used to their idiosyncrasies. Besides, we used the larger jib (a 155 percent) for most of that year’s cruise.

Jerry makes a minor adjustment: red on the port side!

This year, we’d forgotten all about the reversed telltales and got the giggles all over again when flying that sail. Then we spread it out on a yacht club lawn and put our own replacements on. Once we had the sail spread out flat we realized how easy it would be to confuse the sides of the sail and accidentally reverse the telltales. It was a simple mistake to make and a simple mistake to fix.

In every other way this jib was perfect as delivered. And now that we have the green telltales to starboard and red ones to port, it’s absolutely perfect, even if it was — perhaps — a Monday sail.

Karen does her part too

New girl in town!

The town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, is somewhat dwarfed by her newest visitor: the Great Lakes cruise ship, the Yorktown. At 257 feet long and 68 feet wide with an 8-foot draft, she makes the local excursion boats and Madeline Island ferries look small.

Which is larger: Bayfield, Wisconsin, or her guest, the Yorktown?

The nearby sailboats are infinitesimal. The entire town is fact, is dwarfed by her presence.

Those are sailboat masts there in the background . . .

According to her website — http://www.greatlakescruising.com/yorktown/ — she carries 138 guests in 68 exterior cabins. We figure the interior cabins (how many might that be?) carry the crew.

Apparently she also carries a lot of fuel and a lot of holding tank capacity (no discharge on the Great Lakes, remember). So we weren’t surprised to see a fuel truck at the dock filling her up side-by-side with a sewage truck emptying her out. But how many times did each have to make the trip down to the dock to finish the job, we wonder.

The little tiny trucks are part of the effort to empty some tanks and fill others!

How we spent our summer vacation, part 1

Monday, July 30, 2012

Overnight it poured with big gusts and occasional rumbles and flashes for emphasis. This morning the wind built and switched, built and switched again. After watching the building whitecaps and reading NOAA’s plain-language weather report we had some serious doubts about what the rest of the day would bring. Thinking we should be prudent (as there are no all-weather anchorages in the Apostle Islands), we took a vote of all those aboard Mystic (that would be just the two of us) and decided to remain in a marina for another day. That would give us time for phone calls, Internet connections, posting this blog entry, a trip to town, and blah, blah, blah.

You know the drill: we waffled, rationalized, and justified our somewhat cowardly behavior. Then as soon as we’d paid for another night in the marina, the wind died down and the sky cleared. It’s one of the many themes of our cruising life.

From Superior, Wisconsin, at the bottom of the sock around the corner to the Apostles.

Let me start at the beginning. This is the year of the comfortable cruise, the civilized cruise, the social cruise. Jerry and I are spending a month doing nothing more challenging than cruising the islands we called our hour home cruising grounds for at least 10 years: the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin, near Bayfield. It’s a beautiful area and we know it well (except for those little surprise changes that have occurred in our absence). While the Apostles present plenty of wind and weather challenges, they don’t require any long passages or overnight sailing of us and we don’t have to provision for weeks at a time to sail here. Very civilized indeed.

Since we’re not out “wilderness cruising” on the far side of the lake, we invited a few family members and friends to come up to Bayfield to see what this sailing life is all about. There are marinas here for meeting and dropping off crew and hotels so they don’t have to sleep in our cramped V-berth. There are restaurants and grocery stores. This is clearly the civilized side of cruising. But as for the social side, we weren’t sure anyone who said they’d like to come sail with us would be able to clear their calendars and make the commitment. Many hear the bugle but few volunteer. Imagine our surprise when they all said yes and made it happen.

Jerry knows that ship behind us is faster than Mystic.

Our boat is stored each winter at Barker’s Island Marina in Superior, Wisconsin, a sister city to Duluth, Minnesota, both of which are a long way away from Bayfield by water. Our first visitors found a time to sail with us before we’d even delivered the boat from Superior to Bayfield. We spent a long and very hot day cruising at the very bottom of the lake and up the St. Louis River seeing lighthouses, large ships (up close!), swing bridges, lift bridges, and wind of every intensity and sailplans from upwind and well heeled to downwind and sweltering.

The following weekend Jerry and I left Superior at the crack of dawn on Friday and arrived at the northwest corner of the Apostles (the top of Sand Island) eight hours later after motoring practically all the way. The wind was light and behind us. We turned on the iron genny and made 5 knots instead of sweltering at 1 or 2 knots for an unbearably long and hot overnight passage.

Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands, a wonderful place to call home.

But once in the Apostles, we were facing the wind and it was increasing. We have had many great sails around the islands since that day and have no regrets about shortening the trip to get here by our supposed lack of purity. Besides, the next visitors were due to arrive on Sunday and we didn’t want to leave them standing on the dock with duffle bags in hand wondering what part of the instructions they hadn’t understood. We were able to anchor out that first evening in Frog Bay near Red Cliff on our way into Bayfield for groceries and boat cleaning.

Neighbors Brian and Molly Baker take to the idea of cruising.

These next two visitors were our next-door neighbors. They’ve always been curious about this sailing obsession of ours. Over the period of a day and a half, we had a chance to show them some light-air spinnaker sailing, some heavy-air upwind sailing to the telltales, kayaking, anchoring, and the glory and many moods of the Apostle Islands.

After we dropped them off at the Bayfield dock for their trip home, we had a terrific sail northeast to Stockton Island for a night on the hook (perhaps I should say hooks, since we always use two). The following morning brought a series of rain storms and a wind change that put us on a lee shore. It was time to move on and the rain stopped conveniently in time for that to happen without foul weather gear.

We headed to town to do our laundry and fill up, pump out, clean up, and so forth before the next visitors were due to arrive. We were beginning to understand the world of those who run captained charter operations: clean up, welcome guests, sail around, clean up. Repeat.

Jess and Chris Adickes in a quiet moment between tacks.

Our third group of visitors were Jerry’s daughter and her husband. She grew up to the tune of “ready about” and “helm’s alee” while pulling the jibsheets for Jerry on his Flying Scot during his “career” as a three-day a week racer. But it’s been a while. And Mystic is no Flying Scot. Jess’ husband, Chris, wanted to pull every rope, wind every winch, tie every knot, and experience every aspect of this thing we call sailing. We think the Apostles pretty much made that possible before those two left us yesterday.

In the end we believe that of the six people we had aboard, three men and three women, all six left our boat with smiles on their faces and a better idea about cruising under sail. We had fun. They had fun.

There will be no more visitors sailing aboard with us this summer. That ends phase one of our cruise. Next we’ll try buddy boating with two sailing couples and members of our Good Old Boat crew. One will be here next weekend for their usual weekend afloat aboard their C&C 30. The other couple, who live in Missouri, will be here chartering a Tartan 34. We’ve never buddy boated before. That will take us into phase two. That report will follow.

First we’re going out into the islands for a couple of days to hang on the hook . . . just as soon as we tear ourselves away from this lovely marina with showers and Internet connection.

 

Homeless

Mystic will be homeless again this summer. This will be the third year in a row that she’s been homeless. Although we own a slip in the Apostles, we have sub-leased it to friends for more than five years. That hasn’t been a problem in the past as we wandered far and wide, starting with our two seasons in Lake Huron’s North Channel and three seasons in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior. But Mystic wasn’t homeless during those travels. We had a home base in Blind River, Ontario, on the North Channel and a slip in Thunder Bay as well.

Two years ago, however, we boarded our boat and spent three months aboard. We didn’t need a home port because we circumnavigated the big lake and at the end of the season took our boat home to her winter quarters in Superior, Wisconsin, for haulout. That was the first season our boat experienced homelessness. We liked that plan so much we did it again the following summer, although just for a month that time. (We noticed that if you’re aboard for three months nothing else at home gets done during those summer months. We thought we’d perhaps embraced the idea of cruising a bit too fondly since we still have a business to run and a home to maintain and another boat to refit.)

This year’s cruise will once again be a month in duration with the focus on the Apostle Islands near Bayfield, Wisconsin. This is the first time that our homelessness is particularly noteworthy. There are many marinas in the Apostles. Some offer access to a grocery store. Some have access to a Laundromat. Some have good WiFi. Some offer a good place for meeting guests (and there will be several of those this summer). One has the greatest showers on the entire lake. Our own slip is occupied by our friends’ boat so Mystic is not exactly welcome there.

So once again our boat will be homeless this summer even though she’s in her home cruising grounds for the first time in years. We’ll be inhabiting transient slips in various marinas as the needs for groceries or clean clothes or WiFi or company connections or shelter from a significant storm arise and we’ll be hanging from a hook when none of those conditions apply.

Are we homeless or are we fancy free? It’s really just a matter of perspective.

 

Common Sense from a PFD Poster Child

When Gill North America sent out a release promoting a new life jacket design and suggesting that these jackets be reviewed by members of the media, I “heard the call.” If anyone is a model-citizen/PFD wearer, I’m it! Over the years, Jerry and I have laughingly called ourselves “PFD poster children.” We always wear life jackets on our boat. We just do. They’re so much part of us that sometimes we forget to take them off when wandering the docks.

All these bells and whistles have found a new home in my new life jacket from Gill.

At first glance, the bright red front-zip PFD must be said to be attractive, built of good quality materials, and very well designed.

Most important to me was whether it could easily hold my gear. Since we always wear our life jackets, we have adapted them to carry a little collection of safety equipment about the boat with us. This new jacket, for example, now has in its zippered pockets a flare, a whistle (the world’s loudest by the manufacturer’s claim), a signal mirror, a flashlight, my Boye knife, and a strobe. It even has an inside D-ring, presumably for car keys although parts of my safety collection are now anchored to this ring instead. If I were a dinghy sailor, that ring would be perfect for my keys. But as a cruiser, I figure the last thing I would need (for several reasons) if I were to fall overboard would be my set of electronic car keys!

You’ve gotta admit that it’s a fistful of noise-making and light-producing and rope-cutting gizmos!

The only adaptation I had to make was the attachment of a harness that will be used with a tether and could be used for hauling my hyperthermic body out of the lake if I accidentally fall in. I sewed a couple of loops of nylon webbing to the sides and transferred all gear and allegiances to my new life jacket.

Gill says this type III USCG-approved vest is styled to coordinate with the full Gill dinghy and technical clothing range. You would want to match, I suppose. But what really interested me was whether I could wear this jacket all day long onboard and still call it comfortable at day’s end. Would it fit well? I wore it for a whole day aboard on what was possibly the hottest day of the year on Lake Superior during the heat wave of July. It passed the wear-ability test.

Now there’s just one more test a life jacket should pass. Will it float? I wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice in the interests of science. Let’s just say that if it is rated as a type III PFD, surely it will float me in the water. A type III PFD is categorized as a “flotation aid,” just one level up from at throwable device (type IV). If that’s not enough to make you think, the labeling, written by lawyers no doubt, states: “This is a Front Zip Type III PFD designed to support a conscious person in the water in an upright position. It is not a guaranteed Lifesaver.”

That just about covers it: God and PFDs help those who help themselves. Your job is a) to refrain from falling in, b) to stay conscious if at all possible if you do fall in (the shock of hitting Lake Superior will almost certainly assist in rendering an unconscious person conscious), and c) to start making all the noise and light signals within your capabilities so those on the boat can locate and come back for you.

All things said, it is a good thing to wear a life jacket to keep the odds on your side. And the new PFDs by Gill pass all my tests.

The 4-step routine

 

Jerry Powlas works at turning his C&C into a SAILboat

There’s a dance sailors do each spring in the Northland, where boats are hauled out for the winter. It has to do with “hauling them back in” in spring.

Step 1 — It’s a boat!

You journey to the boatyard where your baby has spent the winter. The first visit has to do with getting the tarp off. It may also include replacing the stanchions and lifelines that were removed (lest the trap, heavy with snow, remove them for you). Or it may include re-stepping the mast and re-rigging for those boats stored with the mast down. While you’re making these trips to the boatyard, you’ll also undo all those things you did to winterize the engine. You may replace or touch up the bottom paint. You’ll include all those projects large and small that must be done while she’s on the stands or resting in her cradle. It’s still a hassle when a tool does a double backflip and goes overboard . . . but not nearly as devastating as it can be once the boat’s launched. After being under wraps between October and April, the boat deck is a filthy mess. But the priority is the launch. Get her floating. It’s a boat!

Step 2 — It’s a boat afloat!

She’s launched. Project time continues. Cleaning inside and out. Sails are reinstalled and protected with sailcovers. Time make the cabin liveable with bedding, towels, and so on. Fill the water tanks. Bring the basic provisions aboard. This time aboard is just fine. It’s enough to know that you are on a boat floating in the water. It moves with your weight and with the wind. It’s a boat afloat!

Step 3 — It’s a waterbed!

Once the boat has water in the water tanks, it can be pronounced habitable. You can cook, eat, and sleep. The boat may not have gone anywhere yet, but it rocks in its slip. And it can rock you to sleep. It’s a great big waterbed — the best there is.

Step 4 — It’s a SAILboat!

Worry about any overlooked maintenance and projects in the fall. The season’s short. Go sailing! It’s a SAILboat!

Since when do you need a PFD to pedal a bicycle?

Cautionary note: This blog has very little to do with boats. (Although it does involve water!) Boats will come later this summer. Jerry’s busily working to launch Mystic as I type this. She’ll be splashed in a day or two. Hooray!

The summer of 2012 has been dedicated to work on Sunflower, our backyard project boat. We’d like to end the speculation about when what we thought was going to be a two-year refit will finally end. It started, as near as we can recall, in the winter of 2003 when we dragged our Mega 30 home in a raging snowstorm. Two years have come and gone . . . several times since then. In an effort to get that boat on the water and sailing while we still care, Jerry has become possessed.

As a result, Sunflower, the trailerable C&C Mega 30 we have yet to sail, is getting a lot more attention this year than Mystic, the C&C 30 we sail on Lake Superior. So we’ve spent more time on land than on the water so far this summer. A one-month cruise in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior is all we’ll be allowing ourselves this summer. While Jerry toils endlessly on our project boat (and I help sometimes), I’ve spent part of my time circumnavigating small local lakes . . . on my bicycle.

One spot on the trails has frequently been closed to bikers and walkers over the years while our city parks people dig around with large equipment in what apparently is a series of vain attempts to cause the marshy area near the trail to drain. They could be counted on to go back at it every year or two until last year when they hauled away all the heavy equipment and posted signs at both ends of the section of trail in question: TRAIL SUBJECT TO FLOODING.

Every time I see these signs, they bring a smile to my face. I believe the last act of the parks department was to post something to the effect that, even though they couldn’t fix it, they at least felt they should warn those using the trail about the problem. Over the years, I have seen this low area accumulate a fairly sizeable puddle. In the spring it can be 6 or 8 inches deep, something I can coast right through without getting my shoes wet. So I haven’t taken the warning about flooding very seriously. Until this year.

A couple of weeks later on a MUCH drier day. Karen attempting to look grumpy but it’s hard to do on such a glorious day.

This year’s spring rains came in torrents. Rivers were running at full speed. Lakes filled up. The marshlands never had it so good. And the low section where the puddle forms on my favorite trail was no exception, I have learned. I knew there would be a puddle again. The signs were there to remind me, of course. I lined up the bike pedals to keep my feet dry and prepared to coast through. Except that this time the puddle was about half a football field long and up to mid-thigh in depth. Naturally, one can’t coast through this much water. Nor can one pedal through it. This I now know for certain. A large body of water breaks a lot of momentum, sort of like pedaling through molasses. I had a good laugh at my naivety and told myself I had entered a short marathon: bike a few miles, swim a mile, walk your bike through a pool for a mile . . .

So, as I was already committed and soaked through and through, I walked the bike to the other end of the deep puddle where it was once again posted:

. All that had changed in the interim is that this time they’d made a believer out of me.

I do wonder, however, how soon inflatable PFDs will become required bicycling equipment?

Later: I would add to this note that there was a delay of a couple of weeks before I returned to that section of trail. We have lots of bike trails where we live and I chose drier ones. By the time I got back armed with a camera to document my soggy ride, all that remained were the signs and a very small puddle teeming with wiggly polliwogs. Soon those that make it through the vulnerable tadpole stage will become frogs. At all stages these frogs will attract stalking birds and other forms of wildlife to the bog. And the birds and wildlife, in turn, attract me (and many others) to this wonderful corner of paradise not far from home.

All that was left of the flooded trail was a puddle swarming with polliwogs

Home again — recap

Silver Bay, Wednesday, August 31
The fog in Silver Bay continued all day. Mystic was on A Dock but we usually couldn’t see anything of C Dock. Many times we couldn’t see the marina office. From there, we certainly couldn’t locate Mystic. It was a good day for showers, email, and boat projects.

Mystic's out there to the right in this photo

Ah yes! There she is at the far end!

Knife River, Friday, September 2
We didn’t get away from Silver Bay until this morning. The thick fog hung around for several days. Everything was wet. The boat dripped inside and out. It’s nice that Silver Bay has laundry facilities so we could wash and dry the towels we’d been using to mop up the condensation that ran continuously.

Yesterday was a “make and mend” day in which we did chores (such as laundry) and took marina manager Jeremy Kasapidis and his wife, Jody, to dinner at a new restaurant called Camp 61. (That is . . . we invited them to dinner but they had to drive us there!)

Finally a thunderstorm passed overhead last night and into the morning, blowing away the oppressive fog and the excessive humidity just in time for all those who would show up for Labor Day Weekend. The big swells that had been on the lake had damped out also.

The Silver Bay entrance buoys we were looking for upon arrival

They looked more like this for three days

Mystic does her best sailing on a smooth lake. Jerry was hoping for some spinnaker weather, but we had good plain sail weather instead. The wind on the lake may have been steady, but we got hot and cold shots of varying intensity off the low mountains along the shore. There were whitecaps in the gusty sections of water, even though the fetch was never more than a few football fields. We had the mainsail reefed most of the way and rolled the jib in and out as needed. Sometimes we were moving along at 3 knots, but most of the time Mystic picked up her skirts and flew at 6 and even 7 knots over a fairly smooth sea. We had a ball, sailing all 30 miles to Knife River with one hand on the main sheet for the gusts.

Home in Maple Grove, Minnesota, Sunday, September 4
We had a relaxing afternoon in Knife River on Friday and headed out on our last passage early Saturday morning. The weather indicated that we should be off the lake by early afternoon. Since it’s only a three-hour trip from Knife River, Minnesota, to Superior, Wisconsin, we figured we’d make it with no trouble. The weather outlook promised Jerry a much-hoped-for spinnaker run all the way. But it was not to be.

We motored in a flat calm on a glassy sea all the way to Barker’s Island Marina. The weather wizards may have been wrong about the light wind from the northeast (perfect for that spinnaker run), but they were right about getting off the lake by early afternoon. We emptied Mystic into a succession of dock carts and washed off her deck in fairly unsettled weather: threatening clouds, scattered rain, and some rather heavy rain. Once you’re on land, you don’t worry about the weather as much, but we would have been looking over our shoulders anxiously if we’d still been out there watching those clouds roll in.

It’s always good to get home although the transitions between cruising life and home life are a bit rough. Next weekend we’ll take one last sail with friends Chris and Veronica and Maggie Polston. We’re looking forward to that (weather permitting). Maybe Jerry will get his last spinnaker run of the season yet. We have our fingers crossed. Then it will be time to put Mystic away and turn our thoughts to packing the truck with everything necessary to fill a boat show booth in Annapolis.

All in all, we traveled approximately 608 miles during the month of August on Mystic. We learned some new things about ourselves and our cruising preferences. We talked about how we’d incorporate our Mega 30 (Sunflower) into our future sailing while continuing to sail Lake Superior on Mystic as well. We had some great times with good people all around the lake. Some were old friends and we made some new friends too. We learned how to use our new equipment. I made peace with the windlass. We both appreciated every minute with the new roller furler and sheet winches. Fog was one of the themes for this year’s cruise. Another theme was great sailing weather. We had many wonderful sailing days on this trip and enjoyed every minute.

From Rossport, Ontario, to the Minnesota North Shore

Estimated mileage
47 Superior to Silver Bay
46 Silver Bay to Grand Marais
38 Grand Marais to Susie Island
17 Susie Island to Thompson Island
19 Thompson Island to Thunder Bay
24 Thunder Bay to Sawyer Bay
50 Sawyer Bay to Otter Cove
34 Otter Cove to Morn Harbor
11 Morn Harbor to Rossport
22 Rossport to Slate Islands
17 Slate Islands to McKellar Harbor
41 McKellar Harbor to Old Man’s Pocket
5 Old Man’s Pocket to Rossport
25 Rossport to CPR Slip
20 CPR Slip to Root Bay
60 Root Bay to Susie Island
38 Susie Island to Grand Marais
46 Grand Marais to Silver Bay
30 Silver Bay to Knife River
18 Knife River to Superior

608 miles

The North Shore leads Mystic home to Superior, Wisconsin

A commentary on some of the things I thought I didn’t want aboard

by Jerry Powlas

When we bought our boat, she came equipped with non-self-tailing winches and hanked-on headsails. And she lacked a windlass. For most of the 20 years we owned her, I found this arrangement completely satisfactory. Like many sailors, we tended to sail Mystic on weekends and for one longer vacation a year. The long vacations were two and maybe occasionally three weeks. All the sailing was coastal cruising on Lake Superior and in Lake Huron’s North Channel.

Last summer we finally had the magazine staffed well enough to be gone for longer than three weeks. We got away for 12 wonderful weeks last summer and sailed counter-clockwise around Lake Superior. In spite of having three months, we didn’t see the whole lake, but we saw a lot of it. Somewhere into those 12 weeks, I began to rethink things. Based on that longer cruise, I spent part of the winter and too much of the spring refitting Mystic with a windlass, large self-tailing winches, and roller furling. What follows are my first impressions after cruising with these upgrades for four weeks this summer.

Once we had a process, Karen made peace with the new windlass

Electric windlass
The windlass is very nice. At first, Karen was afraid of the thing and I did not discourage this. I’ve heard too many stories about people getting hurt with windlasses. I took over some of the anchor duties to see if I could develop a procedure for anchoring that would give us the versatility we enjoyed when we handled our anchors without a windlass. After a few weeks we got used to “the monster,” as Karen called it. Now we have a satisfactory routine. We set and recover two anchors using the same windlass, and I like the way it all works. Does everybody need an windlass? No. I think putting one on a 30-foot boat is pushing the limits of the boat’s abilities to carry added weight forward. A lot of people tried to talk me into all-chain rode. I’m glad I did not add that weight to the bow.

We appreciated the roller furler from the start

Roller furling
I suspect this might be the most common upgrade found on good old sailboats. We used to carry four headsails: 170, 150, 110, and a storm jib. The 150 and 110 had foot reefing. Now we carry two: a 150, and a 110, both designed from scratch to be used on a furler. Many people carry only one headsail, the one on the furler. After four weeks using the furler, I don’t quarrel with that. The furler took some getting used to, but we like it. I had hoped we would sail more if we had less time invested in setting and dousing sail. This proved to be the case.

Is the boat as fast with a furler? I doubt it. Both new sails set well and perform well, but sails for a furler are high-cut and so lack that extra area you get from a deck-sweeper. Still, the convenience they offer is a performance factor in a strange way. I think we sailed more and motored less this summer because setting sail was easier. We spent a lot of time in heavy air with both sails and they did well. The boat was fast enough for a cruising couple and, even when the sails were furled way too much to have good sail shape, she pointed pretty high and had good speed. As good as the hanks? No, but I will probably never go back to hanks on Mystic. The Mega 30 we are working on does not have a furler. I took it off. Will I put it back? Probably not.

We were underwhelmed by the original non-self-tailing winches

The 30s didn't get it but these 46s did

Self-tailing winches
I added self tailing winches the previous year. We went from #22s to #30s and I thought we would be in fat city with that added mechanical advantage. The self-tailing feature was nice, but I don’t think the #30s were any easier to crank than the old #22 non-self-tailers. This year I changed the #30s for #46s. Now, finally, we have easier cranking. For the first time since we have owned the boat, Karen can crank in the biggest jib by herself. That change was well worth it. My advice is to go bigger than you think will be the minimum if you’re adding self-mailers. The self-tailing feature is very nice. It is also more sensitive to the diameter and type of line. We changed jib sheets mid-cruise with vastly improved results. Our old sheets were a bit too large for the clutches on the winches.

The pressure washer is a hit with Karen

Pressure washer
I bought Karen a small pressure washer for Christmas . . . put it right under the tree. I think she had some doubts about that at the time but it turns out she loves the thing. Next year I may put in a washdown pump to supply the pressure washer at anchor. Right now we can only use the pressure washer in marinas where city water is available. With the pressure washer, we can clean up the deck better and much faster. It’s lightweight and easy to stow. This has become a real favorite in Karen’s opinion.

August 25 to 31 — Fogged in

It’s been nearly a week since we last had WiFi access. Mystic is on her way home to Superior, Wisconsin. We’re waiting out some very dense fog and glad for a chance to slow down for a day. We’ve been pushing southwest at a fast clip.

Mystic in Old Man's Pocket near Rossport, Ontario

CPR Slip, later on Thursday, August 25
There’s a mental checklist we go through when leaving a dock. It goes something like this:

Heading to sea
• Convert electric stove to alcohol stove
• Remove the trash
• Set up computer and boot nav and weather software
• Stow all loose gear
• Turn on instruments (depth, speed, compass)
• Secure all lockers
• Put on sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats
• Pull shorepower
• Put life jackets on
• Single up lines
• Start and check the engine
• Don’t leave Karen on the dock (Jerry worries unnecessarily about this one. He hasn’t left me stranded yet.)
• Stow lines and fenders
• Choice: raise sails or tea time

Today we raised sails first. An eagle flew by as sailed away from Rossport. It seemed to be a good omen.

Nothing predicted by the weathermen on either side of the border came to pass today. We were to have north and northwesterly winds that gradually diminished over the day. We were to have 1- to 1 1/2-meter seas that would gradually subside. Instead we saw some west followed by a gradually building southwest wind that was quite blustery (20 knots or more) by the time we’d gone the 39 nautical miles from Rossport to CPR Slip. It was mostly upwind with seas forward of the beam that started out small enough (a foot or so) but had soon organized into a stately procession of 3-footers with a few 4-footers for variety. It wasn’t as unpleasant as the rolling seas that caused us to divert to the Slate Islands a week ago, but it was cold out there. We were glad we’d changed to the smaller headsail in port and had it partially furled along with two reefs in the main before the trip was over.

Peregrine had left Rossport before us and was at CPR Slip when we arrived. Fortunately, there was one last dock for us. A number of Red Rock and Nipigon boaters are here. This is their special spot.

Root Bay, Friday, August 26
We awoke to gentle rain this morning. But it soon cleared and — in spite of our earlier plan to stay put all day Friday due to anticipated unsettled weather — we decided to get a few more miles toward home under our keel. As soon as we got out from the lovely all-round protection of CPR Slip, we realized that we had probably overplayed that hand. It was somewhat foggy, had begun to rain gently again, and we could see whitecaps out on the main lake. Committed already, we sallied forth under power.

The light fog stayed with us for the first hour or so until we ran into a patch of open water with large leftover seas and light wind. Then the fog cleared and the beam seas (from the southwest of course) bounced us around for an hour or two sometimes adding insult to injury by raining in addition to the spray we were taking over the bow.

That was followed by a brief period of very strong winds, dark clouds, heavier rain, lightning, and thunder. Eventually we reached the protection of the Loon Harbor area and tossed a coin: should we go to Otter Cove to the north or Root Bay to the west? Root Bay won because, although it was a bit farther, the darker clouds (and more lightning) seemed to be over Otter Cove. Besides, getting to Root Bay added a few more miles in the right direction.

Although we were feeling a bit abused, we had made our choices (not too wisely, as it had turned out) and had to live with them. Just before we reached the protected area, we were soothed a bit by the soaring of an eagle overhead while being bounced about, blown at, and frightened by the lightening . . .

This has been a good cruise for eagles, loons, and caribou. I haven’t mentioned every eagle we’ve spotted and loons are common enough to acknowledge without a mention. We haven’t seen any beaver, otters, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, white pelicans (or even very many cormorants that hang out with the pelicans), moose, porcupines, or other possible furry and feathered critters. The six caribou, of course, got more than just a polite mention.

By the time we reached Root Bay, the dark patch of threatening sky over Otter Cove to the north of us and another patch to the south of us had both moved on leaving us in sunshine. Lovely! Windy, but lovely.

We showered. I baked an experimental dessert with some of my many blueberries. Then we ate it at teatime hot from the oven. We did some reading. At dinnertime we fried the moose sausage from Dave and Debbie. It was excellent with fried veggies and more than we could eat at one go. We’re already looking forward to the leftovers.

Last night I noticed the profusion of stars beyond the hatch and decided it was time to get out and appreciate the heavens once more. When we started out nearly four weeks ago, there was a full moon (too bright) and city lights in several marinas along the way followed by many cloudy nights. Last night the stars were ALL up there (too many for a beginner like me!) I enjoyed the Milky Way and decided to try again in the early dark or impending dawn when just the best and brightest will show up. I figured I’d get up around 0300 or 0400 and look for my buddy Orion.

That led to a decision to — weather permitting — get underway at first light tomorrow. The weather should improve then. We should have waited today. We knew we should have waited today. But we didn’t wait today. Tomorrow is the day we should have waited for. I’ll check the weather next. If nothing has changed, we’ll be sure to make the most of tomorrow’s weather.

Leaving Susie Island, near Grand Portage, Minnesota

Susie Island, Saturday, August 27
I was up at 0415 to have a look at the stars. It couldn’t have worked out better. It was clear and not too cold so I could be somewhat comfortable in the cockpit for 30 minutes or so. The dawn was just beginning, making it easier to find the best and brightest stars. It was so calm that each star was reflected in the water around Mystic. I found Orion immediately, along with Taurus and the Pleiades, then Cassiopeia, Draco, and more.

The dawn that followed silhouetted the surrounding trees with gorgeous pink and gold pastels accented with a tiny sliver of a moon. Jerry was busy below turning the sleeping accommodations into a boat with a galley and navigation suite. As it wasn’t yet bright enough to navigate out of the bay, we had breakfast before getting underway at 0600. We’re a bit sensitive about navigation around Root Bay after having gone aground there a few years ago when the Lake Superior was abnormally low. We now call that spot Mystic Shoal, although the honor really should go to Callisto. Unbeknownst to us, Michael and Patty Facius discovered the same shoal a week before we did.

The first low-angle rays of the sun brushed the rocks and trees with a golden glow and for the first hour or two there were loons everywhere: singles, pairs, and in groups. There is a definite nip in the air now. The loons know it. We won’t be complaining about heat anymore on this trip. Fall is coming.

The calm morning caused us to motor for the first several hours before the sun heated the atmosphere up enough to create some wind. Then what wind there was came from dead ahead: southwest. This was in spite of the fact that the weather guys promised us north and west northwest winds. They say gentlemen never sail to weather and we motored along for several hours without shame in our tall-masted powerboat before finding enough wind to sail. To keep ourselves entertained during the long hours under power, we began reading the Nathaniel Drinkwater series by Richard Woodman. It is absolutely excellent so far.

The last several hours offered glorious sailing weather, however, with fairly flat seas and just the right wind (and it was fairly steady wind at that!) to move Mystic along smartly, although tacking upwind all the way. Without knocking ourselves out, we moved our little floating family about 60 miles toward home in 12 hours. We are now officially back in the USA.

If you can appreciate good rocks, Lake Superior offers GREAT scenery!

Grand Marais, Monday morning, August 29
Jerry had a great birthday yesterday. We woke up at Susie Island and motored in a flat calm all the way to Grand Marais. The sky and sea were beautiful and ever-changing, so we enjoyed the ride. It’s getting cold here in the north country. It’s hard to believe that we complained about the excessive heat when we were here and heading north not quite a month ago.

We arrived in Grand Marais early enough in the day to call customs. An agent came to the boat right away and cleared us quickly. The other thing Jerry had wanted to accomplish for his birthday was to visit the city liquor store since we were about out of wine and absolutely out of scotch. (What kind of a birthday is that without any scotch? This was an essential mission!)

We headed off toward town with backpacks. Halfway there, Jerry pulled up short with the realization that it was Sunday and Minnesota liquor stores aren’t open on Sundays. He was ready to go back to the boat immediately. I talked him into taking a walk with me at least. So we walked past the liquor store (just in case!), which was indeed really and truly closed. That led to a discussion about whether you can buy booze on Sundays in restaurants and bars. I voted yes. Jerry was pretty sure you couldn’t. (Goes to show how often we eat out near home. How long have we lived in Minnesota? Shouldn’t we know this stuff by now?)

We went into the well-known pizza place and bar, Sven and Ole’s, and were served in the bar. The birthday boy got his scotch and life was good.

Showers and dinner followed with rib eye steaks the butcher in Schreiber had cut for us. They had been highly recommended (and rightly so) by the guys on Peregrine.

Today and tomorrow there is much to be done: groceries, liquor store (of course), laundry, fill the water tanks, spray the mud off the deck, clean the anchor rode, and so forth. Dave Tersteeg (parks manager and a Good Old Boat subscriber) and family will come for dinner tonight. As usual, they found us the moment we arrived in town and gave us the usual royal welcome.

Silver Bay, Tuesday, August 30
We had a marvelous time with Dave, Marcela, and 3-year-old Rio last night. They showed up for dinner with a bottle of wine, blueberry crisp, and a bouquet of flowers from their garden. Flowers? I’m the one who has mocked the boat show boats for having placemats and floral arrangements in the cabins. Who’re they kidding? The wives who, seeing the lovely accommodations, will agree to buy a sailboat, that’s who! The sailors among us know that our boats are not good platforms for placemats and vases of flowers.

Mystic's first-ever bouquet

Mystic has never had flowers onboard before. Not in 20 years. Where are you going to put them? How are you going to keep them safe? And yet . . . when Marcela (a competent sailor herself) showed up with a vase of flowers, I was utterly charmed. Jerry found a way to keep them safe for one very bouncy ride to Silver Bay today. We put them in a cooking pot (well padded with dish towels) and put it on the gimbaled stove.

Traveling with flowers . . .

This morning we were up and ready at the fuel dock at 0800 and on our way toward Silver Bay within a half hour. We agreed not too many hours later that there was no part of today that met our expectations. What we expected was the forecast east wind of 0 to 10 or possibly 5 to 15 knots. East wind when you have to go southwest? Nice! It sounded like a nice, gentle spinnaker run to us. One thing we overlooked was that three boats anchored near the marina at Grand Marais had rocked and rolled all day and all night long. We pitied the folks aboard each time we noticed their masts scribing wide circles in the sky. All three left early this morning. We figured they’d had enough and were glad to go.

The leftover swell outside Grand Marais and on down the sock toward Duluth/Superior is the item we’d overlooked. We did not have a lovely calm sea with 5 or 10 knots of wind. Instead we had light wind and rocking seas. We raised the main and smaller jib to loud protestations from both as they slatted and snapped while bellying and emptying in the swells. There wasn’t enough wind to drive the boat faster than the waves that were racing up astern and pushing past. Sometimes we surfed along with them. Slatting sails is hard on a couple of aurally impaired sailors who hate the static and interruptions of the VHF. After considering the use of a spinnaker instead and getting it ready for launch, we took the other two sails down and motored. Then we could do a better job of keeping up with the following seas and the motion aboard (and the morale) improved.

As the wind picked up, the quality of life in the cockpit decreased. It was cool when we started out but downright cold for most of the trip today. At one point I bundled my freezing feet up in fleece blankets as I read to Jerry to help the miles pass by. He said I looked like I was bundled up in my deck chair on a cruise ship. Not long after that, the steward served hot tea. So perhaps he had it right.

We couldn’t figure out what the weather was going to do today because WxWorx let us down. It appeared to be connecting but it couldn’t get any weather data. The weather looked unsettled and not nearly as lovely as the predicted 0 to 15 knots. As the wind increased and the seas built, as clouds developed and whitecaps broke out, as fog drew in around us . . . we were essentially traveling blind minus our best source of weather information pushed ever onward by a cold and relentless sea.

Then, for the last hour or two of what was a 9-hour trip (45+ nautical miles), we were truly traveling blind. Fog rolled in giving us about a 5-mile visibility, then a couple of boat lengths, and finally (just when we needed it most) about a boat length of visibility. The trouble is that Silver Bay Marina is somewhat new and not yet on our charts. We know approximately how it’s laid out, but this is not a thing for GPS navigation. We had to make the approach with the help of radar, our memories, and our helmsman’s very well-placed caution. We crept around the corner of Pellet Island trying to remember how the breakwater goes, finally spying a bit of land — Yipes! Right there in front of us!— and discovering the red and green entrance buoys at the same time (both on radar and visually).

The wind continues to howl outside the marina now as I type this after dinner, but the fog seems to have abated.

August 23 to 25 — Wild blue yonder

Rossport, Ontario, Tuesday, August 23

We enjoyed a kayak paddle in Old Man’s Pocket after lunch on Monday. Then we checked the Canadian weather forecast, which led us to believe that we should move to Rossport on Monday afternoon, rather than waiting until today to do so, as we had originally planned. The report was full of 30-knot winds. As it turns out, we could have waited another day (although Rossport is so protected from most wind directions it may be fooling us). The really big weather now appears to be coming tonight and tomorrow.

Not to worry. I got some much-needed online time near the WiFi signal at the dock and Jerry got a lot of boat projects done while I caught a ride to the grocery store in Schreiber. I got out for a walkabout in town. We powerwashed the deck. We filled the water tanks. We changed our jib from the 150 to a 110, folded and stuffed the big one in the V-berth, showered, and had some social time with George Hite and Derrick Robarge on Peregrine. Tonight we’ll spend some time with Joe and Cathie and friends of theirs Dave and Debbie Iddison at the Serendipity Inn. Maybe we’ll paddle the kayak tomorrow. I have some nearby destinations in mind.

Rossport, Ontario, Wednesday, August 24

We remain in Rossport tied securely to a dock while some big winds (30 knots with gusts in the 40s) and accompanying seas are said to be just beyond the protection of this bay. As I type this after dinner, I am a believer. Mystic is heeling at the dock, rocked by occasional gusts.

The day began in a gray fog this morning with the barometer hitting a low of 991 before we’d had breakfast. But the sky cleared soon afterward. Debbie Iddison appeared with a small bag of tools Jerry wanted to borrow for a boat project. (What boater, he asks, has a claw hammer aboard? But that’s what he needed for a project involving the sliding door in the head). Once he’d done that job, we walked the tools back to Dave and Debbie’s house and got a grand tour of their enormous garden and greenhouses, complete with a bag of samples (Swiss chard, tomatoes, and cucumber) to take back to the boat. They also gave us some moose sausage for a future dinner. I look forward to that! Without telling us, Dave had gone out fishing early this morning (0530) hoping to catch a salmon for us while we were still in town. One did get away (or is that what every fisherman says?) but he came back instead with a large lake trout that he said he’d filet it and bring over later.

Soon afterward, Joe came over for lunch on Mystic, and then he and I took a quick ride to the next town to the west, Pays Plat, to buy blueberries. I now am well stocked with fruit to go with my morning yogurt. By the afternoon, it was raining off and on so we postponed my kayaking plans and spent time reading.

Then Dave and Debbie came by with the filets (vacuum packed, no less) and stayed for a chat over a couple glasses of wine. They walked home between rain showers while we fried up that lake trout, steamed Swiss chard (very much like spinach, only more colorful), and had a couple of the sweetest little cherry tomatoes for dessert. After having met Dave and Debbie working on their boat last year, we were sorry then that we didn’t get to stay in Rossport long enough to get to know them better. We’re pleased now to say we have made some new friends in Rossport.

Between the guys on Peregrine, docked near us, and the local teams of Joe and Cathie and Dave and Debbie, we sure have had a good time waiting out the bad weather. We won’t be back for a couple of years, we suspect, but Joe and Cathie and Dave and Debbie know we’ll be back.

Rossport, Ontario, Thursday, August 25

The anticipated really big blow came through with a vengeance in the wee hours overnight. Mystic’s fenders rubbed and groaned against the dock and she pitched and rolled a bit through the worst of it. I worried about whether we’d still have four fenders by morning.

This morning is calm in the bay by Rossport, but we hear the waves haven’t settled down yet. We’ll give it a bit more settling time before heading out. We’d like to be somewhere secure by tonight for yet another blow tomorrow. Then things look good for sailing for several days. It appears that we’ll get some blessed northwest winds, rather than the dreaded southwest winds, for at least part of the journey southwest to Superior.

The Rule of Unintended Consequences

by Karen Larson

Was it Jerry’s Rule or mine? Jerry had seen its effects in his manufacturing career: If you tamper with processes, you may very well have unexpected results. I had learned it in my health care career: If you fix ailments with medication, it is likely that the patient will experience side effects. And we’ve both seen it in government: If you regulate one thing, you’re likely to have unexpected consequences in something else.

More recently we’ve realized the application of our Rule of Unintended Consequences to boat management. I wanted, for example, to increase the cushiness of my bunk cushion from the old 3-inch foam to a sturdier 4-inch foam. But that would lead, we realized, to recovering that cushion . . . and every other cushion in the entire boat, 11 cushions in all.

The fabric in our good old boat is original 1976 fabric. It’s not what anyone would choose today but it’s in perfect condition. Could I possibly improve on its durability record with something I purchase today? It’s unlikely. And what of the cost and time involved in recovering the cushions? What of those seatback cushions that are screwed to the bulkheads? How would we get at those?

In the end, we decided that I could instead roll out a 1-inch closed-cell-foam exercise mat on my bunk. It’s a good thing we figured that out in time. As it turns out, there’s no clearance for a 4-inch cushion and who knows what further (and major) interior modifications that would have led to?

As a result of this lesson, almost learned the hard way, we remain wary of the fallout resulting from any “simple” improvement.

August 16 to 22 — Caribou!

At the far corner of the lake. Now to go back home again . . .

Rossport, Ontario, Tuesday, August 16
We’d hoped to stay at anchor one more day in Morn Harbor, but this morning’s weather forecasts (U.S. and Canadian) suggested that a) winds would get heavy (up to 25 knots) and from the southeast (pushing seas right up the channel to Morn Harbor) and b) that it would continue for a day or so. The choices appeared to be to go to Rossport a day ahead of schedule or to stay put in Morn Harbor for a day beyond our normal tolerance for being in one place. We went with the day ahead of schedule idea and headed for Rossport about 9 miles away.

In their forecasts, Environment Canada and NOAA both overlooked the lovely and thick as pea soup fog we experienced again this morning. Granted, it wasn’t everywhere. But it was in a lot of places. Shouldn’t it at least get a mention?

Battle Island Light in the fog

We did the usual city things in Rossport and had just settled down with a book in the cockpit when Joe Kutcher stopped by with an invitation we couldn’t refuse: dinner with him, wife Cathie Smith, and her mom Helen tomorrow. Showers and a run to the grocery store were also part of the deal. We’re looking forward to tomorrow already for two reasons —it’s also our 20th wedding anniversary. We started celebrating early today with steak for dinner tonight. But you can never celebrate these things too much so we’ll happily celebrate again tomorrow too.

Pikes Bay, Slate Islands, Thursday, August 18
Joe and Cathie, who are cruisers and therefore understand the limitations of cruisers, offered the use of Joe’s truck to get groceries in Schreiber followed by dinner at their house. But as long as we were there, they suggested, we might as well take showers and do our laundry too. Such is the kindness of good friends and fellow cruisers! We’ve known Joe and Cathie for around 10 years. We met and spent time together at CPR Slip not too far from Rossport.

We had a wonderful evening and terrific meal with them. We had never been to their home because we never gave them enough notice before when we blew into town. But this time we connected while a vigorous wind blew all day Wednesday (the sort that discourages most sailors). Our time with them was a great way to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

This morning we thought the weather had improved enough to sail again. Things looked very mild in Rossport and the weather predictions matched. We thought we’d head toward one of the anchorages we haven’t seen on the mainland beyond the Slate Islands. The Slates have always drawn us like a magnet and I wanted to see what else we’d been missing in the neighborhood.

Once we left the protection of the Schreiber Channel, we learned how nicely protected Rossport really is. We were looking at southwest seas that had begun somewhere near Duluth. It’s quite a fetch! The wind may not have been above the 15 knots that was predicted, but the seas were large, powerful, and on the beam. They were mostly 3- and 4-footers with the occasional 5- and 6-footer in there for good measure. The large ones came in groups of two or three, so they could get a pretty good roll going before the next and milder group caught up with us. After about a half hour of heart-stopping rolls, we decided — once again — to go to the Slates instead of an unknown anchorage on the shore for four reasons: they’re closer (only about a 20-mile passage instead of a 35-mile passage), they’re better protected, we knew what awaited us there, and the ride would be somewhat less stressful since the angle to the seas would be improved with the change of course.

OK, so the Slate Islands magnet did it again. But perhaps it was meant to be. Getting the anchors down in our favorite spot was a comfort. After a very late lunch (Who could balance a plate in those rolls — Jerry seldom took his hands off the wheel!), we sat in the cockpit reading while hoping to see some caribou and had our best caribou spotting day ever. We saw four!

Daddy Caribou

First a female came down to drink then wandered the shore to another spot in the bushes and disappeared up the trail. Then a family of three — I’m not making this up — Daddy Caribou, Mommy Caribou, and Baby Caribou showed up at the same arrival spot the previous female had used. Perhaps there’s a caribou path there? They were a bit spooked by our presence and the male followed the path of the previous female, while the female and the youngster turned back the way they’d come. It was very exciting.

Mommy Caribou and Baby Caribou

We waited for the female and youngster to get the nerve to come back down to the shore, but while waiting for them we noticed another sailboat coming into the anchorage. This is not unusual. In fact it is unusual to be here alone as we were (especially when it’s blowing like stink) since Pikes Bay is a fine storm hole. But the new arrivals happened to be special friends of Michael and Patty Facius, who’d told us to keep an eye out for Mark and Mary Hittner on Baggywrinkle. And there they were! We had looked for them when we were in the North Channel years ago and never connected. I expect to get together tomorrow since the weather on the lake is supposed to be worse. (Today was the supposed good day for being on the lake. Instead we even had little whitecaps here in Pikes Bay as the wind force grew over the afternoon.) It looks very much like we could be here for a day or two and may once again miss out on the unvisited anchorages along the shore as the weather is not expected to moderate any time soon.

As I was typing this, we heard some splashing noises like the noise made by a loon taking off. We raced to the windows to see what was going on. A female and a young caribou were running along the opposite shore. Their hooves were clattering in the rocks and they were splashing water as they ran. Make today’s caribou count six. That’s an all-time record for us.

Pikes Bay, Slate Islands, Friday, August 19
Today was a laid-back paddling day. We paddled our kayak over to Mark and Mary’s Chrysler 26 this morning for a tour and then went for an excursion cruise around the island after lunch. The wind has done just about everything today from mild to blustery and it has come from nearly every direction. The sky went through amazing half-hour changes too.

The western half of Lake Superior this morning had gale warnings with 35-knot winds and hail, but none of that made it to this side of the lake. The possibility made believers of us, however, and we decided that it would be a bad day to venture forth to McKellar Harbor. We’ll save that for tomorrow, weather permitting.

Tonight Mark and Mary will join us for dinner on Mystic. It’s not often that Mystic is the big boat (and therefore the hosting boat) in a get together. Mark and Mary are amused that there are times — when trailersailers get together — that theirs is the big boat. And so goes the pecking order . . .

McKellar Harbor, Saturday, August 20
This morning’s forecast by Environment Canada called for 24 hours of winds at 0 to 10 knots. False. We believed this, even though it was already blowing a bit in Pikes Bay first thing this morning, a condition that should have provided a clue. We left the Slates and, flying just the jib, sailed a lovely downwind romp to McKellar Harbor in a wind of at least 15 knots and following seas of 3 to 5 feet. The 12-mile passage went quickly, and we were settled in time for lunch. McKellar offers several anchorages so we scouted around a bit before choosing our favorite. We’re totally alone here. In fact, we haven’t seen anyone all day since saying goodbye to the Hittners in Pikes Bay and passing one fishing boat on the way out of the Slates.

We had time today for a great kayak exploration of this new spot but chose to do boat projects, read, and shower instead because the wind increased all day and was blowing too much to make paddling pleasant. We’ll try again in the morning when things are generally quiet. The rest of the forecast said we’d see northwest winds for part of the day. False again. The prevailing southwesterlies prevailed all day.

This makes us realize that we have been very lucky to have so many downwind sailing days on this cruise (even a few spinnaker runs) but we’re about to pay the piper. Sometimes on this lake it seems that we sail a beat no matter which way we’re going, but we know in our hearts that anytime we make it to the northeastern corner of this lake, it will be a fight getting home. I just measured it out with dividers. As the crow flies, we’re about 230 miles from Superior, Wisconsin. All of those miles are southwest miles. The biggest blows and most of the wind will be on the nose. Therefore, in order to get home, there will be some times that we’ll wait for the winds to die down as the sun sets. Then we’ll put on some miles by motoring overnight. Although it’s not very pure, that strategy has worked for us in the past making some long passages more comfortable than they might otherwise have been.

Battle Island Light in the sunshine

Old Man’s Pocket, Sunday, August 21
When we awoke to a light rain this morning, we decided this was not a day for a kayak excursion after all and — since we expected the wind to be light — chose instead to put behind us a few of those 230 miles we have to go. But I wasn’t ready to return to civilization yet. We still have food and other essentials. So we headed for one of the many anchorages near Rossport. We might have stayed at one of several unexplored anchorages on the shoreline along the way, but these are generally open to southwest wind and so most are too iffy in the weather we’re having right now. Perhaps that’s why we never get a chance to explore them. More on the weather in a minute.

Once we had the anchors pulled out, the sky had cleared and I wondered why we were leaving a great kayaking area behind. But it seemed to be for the best after all. Here we were worrying about 230 miles of wind on the nose, but as we left the McKellar area, we had northeast wind pushing us along downwind. Northeast? That direction hasn’t been mentioned on any of the weather forecasts in two weeks. Not once! So there we were having another perfectly lovely sail and thinking that we lead charmed lives for having chosen that morning to sail rather than paddle.

We were soon disabused of our “charmed life” theory, however. That downwind sail was a ruse. After an hour or so, just when we were getting a bit too complacent, the wind went light and variable as it shifted to the forecast southwest. Time to motor for a while. Then, once it got established, the wind really blew from the southwest and we had some great upwind sailing. But not for long. Then it was shifty and gusty, giving us a bit of every direction and wind speed, sometimes as much as 20 knots’ worth. Of course, nothing of the kind was predicted.

All in all, we went just over 40 nautical miles, leaving McKellar Harbor around 1030 this morning and arriving at Old Man’s Pocket in time for dinner around 1730. I estimated this morning that we have travelled approximately 366 miles so far (in about two weeks), including the miles made today.

In today’s shifting and uncertain weather we zigged, we zagged. We furled, we unfurled. We went upwind, we went downwind (all on the same course). It was clear and sunny, it was cloudy. It drizzled in the morning and then fiercer looking rain clouds materialized this afternoon. I was certain that some of those clouds had our names on them, but we never had to get the foul weather gear out. Wait a minute! Maybe we do lead charmed lives after all!

A short rant about Standard Horizon follows. Our depth sounder and knot log were made by Standard Horizon in the not-too-distant past. They were purchased within the last 10 years or so following a lightning strike that ruined their predecessors. I’ve complained publicly before about the audacity of the company to cease making the little covers that protect the instrument faces from UV when those little covers are easily lost, broken, and damaged by UV. But they don’t support their earlier products. That is rant number one.

Today, when Jerry got out my hairdryer to dry the perpetually fogged up depth sounder display, I got out my soapbox for rant number two. When the instruments were new, Jerry called the company several times to complain that the depth sounder case is not sealed properly and fogs up inside, making the display unreadable. He even mailed the depth sounder back to them for repair or replacement. We received a replacement that leaked just as badly as the first, indicating a quality problem (that they won’t acknowledge). We took photos of the fogged display. No dice. They have basically told us that this is not their fault and not their problem. Fact is, on this cold lake their depth sounder case (that is not sealed well) fogs up regularly. It may work fine in a laboratory but neither of our units have worked properly. These people are not listening to their customers. End of rant.

Cruise charts — Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

As we’re writing this from Rossport, Ontario, well into week two of our cruise, it’s time to show the charts.

Read this one clockwise, starting at our home base: Barker’s Island Marina in Superior, Wisconsin, and heading up the Minnesota North Shore.

Up the Minnesota North Shore from Superior, Wisconsin, toward Thunder Bay, Ontario

Then off we went into “wilderness cruising” mode: Sawyer Bay across from Thunder Bay, around the Sleeping Giant to Otter Cove, beyond to Morn Harbor and finally to Rossport, Ontario.

Skipping east across the northern shore of the greatest of the Great Lakes . . .

August 13 to16 — Of fog, loons, and great sailing days

Sawyer Bay, Saturday, August 13
With groceries aboard, ourselves showered, laundry done, and the boat pumped out and fueled up, we headed back out this morning. Our destination was to be Sawyer Bay almost 15 miles across Thunder Bay. But it was a gorgeous sail on a gorgeous day and pretty soon I was making noises about making some long passages toward the far corner of the lake, near the Slate Islands (the section that we didn’t get to inspect well last year when we realized we were running out of time). I voted for a day’s crossing to Edward Island, approximately 40 miles away.

Thunder Bay's Sleeping Giant and a passing freighter

We have tremendous respect for the Thunder Bay sailors. These folks are among the best in the world. The bay of Thunder Bay is about 15 miles wide and a bit more than 20 miles long. It is the most unpredictable body of water we’ve ever seen. Nothing else comes close. The steep rock bluffs of the Sleeping Giant’s feet are 640 feet high and some of the peaks of the Giant’s body are 1,800 feet. That’s the western side of this bay. The southern and eastern sides have more high bluffs, the sprawling city of Thunder Bay (formerly the twin cities of Port Arthur and Fort William), and the wide and hot prairie beyond to the west. This combination of influences is able to kick up the wildest of weather.

The state of the weather from one side of the bay is never the same. Sometimes there’s nothing going on in the center and wind blowing madly in opposite directions on both shores. Sometimes it’s calm near land and blowing like stink in the middle. We never know what sail plan will work or when we’ll lose the wind or see more than we can handle. Yet the Thunder Bay sailors go out several times a week to race around in whatever the bay has concocted for them and everyone here must face the unpredictable conditions of the bay anytime they want to cruise anywhere else (or return home). Our hats are off to them.

The first week of our cruise has been a shakedown cruise in every sense. I feel sometimes as if what we’re really doing here is sailing or motoring the Engineering Department (that’d be Jerry) from port to port. Today was no different. About the time we got to the part of Thunder Bay that was blowing like stink (it was at the foot of the Sleeping Giant this time), Jerry noticed that the alternator wasn’t charging. He began the basic research by checking belts and so forth. Then, as I made lunch below, he contemplated his options. I was really bouncing around in the galley and was relieved to hear that he wanted to make a short day of it in order to troubleshoot the problem and return to Thunder Bay for parts if needed. So we went back to Plan A and picked up a mooring in Sawyer Bay.

After digging in two cockpit lockers and under the galley sink, Jerry found a bad connection, moved a fuse to a new slot, and we were back in business. Neither one of us wanted to go back to Thunder Bay, but it is a much better source of parts than Rossport, the next pocket of civilization to the east.

So the alternator is alternating again. Power to the people. It sure is nice traveling with the Engineering Department aboard. We’ll be off once more in the morning headed east in search of loons, moose, and caribou. In the meantime, Sawyer Bay is a beautiful place to spend a day. There are four more sailboats in here and one trawler. There’s room for lots of boats in this bay.

Otter Cove, Sunday, August 14
Today we motored, we flew the spinnaker, we sailed wing and wing, and we rolled the jib in and out several times. We also dropped the anchors with the windlass (second time for that). While doing all that, we moved about 45 miles in an easterly direction. Mystic wore all her outfits and we did too: sweats and jackets in the morning and we were too hot in our shorts in the middle of the afternoon on a downwind run with the spinnaker.

Evening in Otter Cove

I should mention that our GPS navigation is reliable once again. We had a spare GPS receiver aboard that’s working without a glitch. The problem that caused the other unit to drop out appears to be in one of the cables leading between it and the computer. We’ll go cockpit diving soon to retrieve that unit (that runs from near the galley table through a bulkhead and the length of the port cockpit locker aft to the transom).

Otter Cove is a favorite anchorage. It was made more special by a loon serenade this evening. The loons may not have viewed it as a serenade, however. Jerry saw an eagle fly by . . . inspiring the chorus of nervous loon calls. We enjoyed the performance just the same. (Before we left the next day, we saw several more eagles in Otter Cove.) There are two boats in here with us: a sailboat and a powerboat.

Morn Harbor, Monday, August 15
It was extremely foggy when we awoke in Otter Cove. We were amazed that neither the Environment Canada broadcast nor the NOAA plain language forecast mentioned fog. Environment Canada loves to predict “mist and fog patches,” an expression that makes us laugh when the fog patches are as prevalent as they were today. We can hardly see a boat length ahead of the bow and laugh about the day’s “mist.”

Leaving Otter Cove and heading into "fog and mist patches"

Our second time anchoring has “initiated” the anchors and rodes. Everything in Otter Cove came up covered in thick black clay mud. The beautiful white 8-brait rodes will never be quite the same. In addition to bringing up a lot of mud, we also managed to capture a large log with lots of spiky branches. The two anchor rodes were entwined around this log. We spent a half hour or so doing what might be described as mud wrestling: releasing loops and twists of rode as the log slowly rolled and shifted its weight sometimes in a helpful way and sometimes in not so helpful ways.

We thought we’d use the power washer to clean the muddy deck up after the fight, but learned that it only works with city water pressure. It doesn’t have a pump to pick up water from the lake in which we’re floating. Apparently there’s an accessory that will make it work aboard after a mud bath such as Mystic had today. We could use a couple of baths too. We’ll slow down our mad rush east and get showers and downtime tomorrow. We felt we should just keep moving while the weather was good. Now that we’re close to Rossport, here in Morn Harbor, we’re ready for a couple more days at anchor before we need a pumpout and supplies again.

Leaving the fog behind as we head for Morn Harbor

Today we traveled approximately 25 more miles east from Otter Cove to Morn Harbor. The first several hours this morning were in dense fog. There was very little wind throughout the day. NOAA and Environment Canada both called for “light and variable” winds and that pretty much describes it. We motored or motorsailed all day. It was not one of those lovely sailing days we’ve been raving about.

Fog: Jerry's at the wheel, Karen keeps an eye on the radar and navigation.

We did drop into Woodbine Harbor on our way here, thinking that we might anchor there instead. But we had trouble finding a depth that felt right for anchoring. It’s fairly deep in there. There was a sailboat in the back where it shallows a bit, so we decided to move on. We were glad to see two or three loon chicks thriving in there.

On this vacation we’ve been seeing “faces” everywhere: in the rocks, in the clouds, and even in the trees. They’re humans, Picasso-like abstracts in some cases but sometimes pretty realistic. We’ve also seen elephants, camels, trolls, dragons, and frogs.

August 9 to 12 — And the windlass works too!

Grand Marais Marina, Tuesday, August 9
It blew much of the night. This morning the barometer was stuck at 998. But there was nothing in the forecast that would have kept us from moving our traveling show one more notch to the north . . .

. . . except that our main water tank, filling from the forward tank, overflowed and soaked a couple of charts (that live below my bunk and on top of the water tank). Turns out we have seals or ports leaking on both tanks (after 35 years they both failed simultaneously?). Then the computer GPS terminal had more connection problems (and there’s a RadioShack near here). Besides, the big 60-footer was still in front of the service dock. What’s worse, Jerry was nearly out of scotch.

Grand Marais, Minnesota, is a wonderful little town

We figured it’s not bad to spend another day in paradise. In the late morning and into the afternoon, when the winds really picked up with big gusts and the boats on the moorings were rocking and rolling in the other end of the harbor, we were glad to have postponed departure for a day. Instead, we figured, “Why not do the laundry, have lunch in one of the nice restaurants here, pick up a few more groceries, and enjoy the company of the other cruisers?” We did that and had a great laid-back day.

While at the Laundromat, I met a couple of women (sisters) whose family has been coming to the same rental cabin in Grand Marais since their father was in grade school, 40-some years ago. One sister was particularly interested when she learned we were in town on a sailboat. When we met the whole gang again at the restaurant at lunchtime, I invited them to come down to see our sailboat. An hour or so later the sisters’ husbands and the oldest daughter (Eva) showed up. So Eva (around 5), her dad (Mark), and Uncle Kevin had a tour of Mystic. It’s interesting to hear the questions non-sailors ask about cruising. The fact that we can keep on going overnight never ceases to amaze the uninitiated.

By then the big boat had left the fuel dock. Four Winds got over there and back to their slip in very gusty conditions and Mystic did likewise although it was a bit dicey for both.

Susie Island is closer to 35 miles from here, rather than the 45 we had in mind. And it looks as if the weather will cooperate tomorrow. As I write this log after dinner, the barometer is up to 1002 and rising rapidly. The gusts are moderating.

One side note: the Grand Marais Marina is generally a fishing boat sort of place although cruising sailors do show up. We had a good laugh over one of the fishing boats named Swedish Hooker. That one is Jerry’s favorite Grand Marais boat name. I chose Far Superior, as my favorite.

Susie Island, Thursday, August 11
What an incredible day of sailing we had yesterday! The gusty weather of the previous day remained, but the gusts were sustained and predictable, rather than rapid blasts. We scooted along at speeds in the high 6- and low 7-knot range in the gusts of perhaps 25 knots and then settled back into speeds in the mid-3s in the lulls of 5 to 7 knots. We were sailing a screaming reach with the full main and the brand-new furling 150 that gave a wonderful account of itself.

It was so cold in the gusts that, at least part of the time, we wore gloves and had the hoods of our sweatshirts pulled up tight. We weren’t complaining. We still remember the day of the blistering sun and hellish heat.

As we left Grand Marais, another boat pulled out and soon passed us, heading as it turned out to Susie Island too. It was a C&C 40 named Njord and, although we gave the race what we could, Mystic was no match for Njord’s longer waterline. Jerry’s first observation was that size really does matter. She didn’t just sail off over the horizon, however, we kept her in our sights for hours. But we never came close to catching her, although there were moments of glory — when she had the lulls and we had the gusts —that we gained lost ground. Jerry’s second astute observation was that you can be philosophical when trounced by a C&C 40. Later we paddled our kayak over to chat with owner Brian and crew Lenny at Susie Island and Brian responded to my opening comment of “Nice race” with “Oh, were we racing?” But we knew he knew.

Thunder Bay friends Brian and Joanne Novak were also in here on Cinnamon Girl, and they came over after dinner for some wine and conversation. We usually see them at least once when we’re up this way.

The second big event of the day (along with having a terrific sail) is that we anchored with the new windlass and two anchors for the first time. I feel like a new trainee all over again aboard Mystic, the furler is complicated and strange and the windlass is terrifying. But I’ll soon get the hang of it. Both worked beautifully yesterday.

This morning is still and gray. We’ll take it easy and mosey over to Thompson Island later this morning. We’re in cruising mode now: no long distances to cover from one place to the next.

Thompson Island is a great storm hole and social hotspot for Thunder Bay sailors

 

Thanks to Kevin Peters, of International Falls, for both of the photos of Thompson Island during our stay.

Thompson Island, Thursday, August 11
Our anchors came up with nary a problem. Nice.

Then it was another great sailing day. Two in a row! It started light but, once we had the batteries recharged, we rolled out the jenny (see how easily this “new language” comes to me now) and sailed downwind to Thompson Island on jib alone as the winds grew to a respectable force of 15 or so knots. We expected this Thunder Bay boaters gathering place to be fairly quiet on a weekday, but that’s not true in August, apparently. There were four Americans from International Falls, Minnesota, with an O’Day 23 and an Aloha 27 that they’d launched at the Thunder Bay Yacht Club and two Americans on a powerboat. There were just two couples representing the Thunder Bay gang on a powerboat and another Aloha. And there were the two on Mystic. Biting flies chased us inside for a while, but we’ll venture back out this evening to share a glass of wine with any who are willing.

Thunder Bay, Ontario, where all the sailors are above average

Thunder Bay, Friday, August 12
We left Thompson Island early expecting some bad weather in the mid-morning. It didn’t materialize, but it sure looks like it will storm yet this evening. We had time to find our new slip, walk to town for groceries, pump out, and fuel up. Once these BIG clouds have headed east, we’ll head that direction too (but more slowly).

The wilderness part of our adventure will begin in the morning.

August 6 to 8 — Flew the new jib (however briefly)

This post (from Grand Marais, Minnesota) picks up where we left off in Silver Bay and includes the next 45-mile hop to Grand Marais.

Silver Bay Marina, Saturday, August 6
A foghorn runs continuously in Silver Bay. We’re not sure why. It’s far enough away from the pleasure boat marina that it’s not a problem, in fact it may even add to the nautical ambience around here. It must be doing something worthwhile at the commercial docks nearby. When it’s not foggy, however, we’re not sure what sort of statement it’s making.

We’re still doing the basic boat jobs that everyone else did after launching their boats in May or June. I cleaned the cabin sole, for example. But we also won a couple of significant battles that will make this cruise better. Jerry fixed the misbehaving 12-volt computer charging connection. The plug couldn’t seem to make a reliable connection. That had gotten bad and worse last year. Yesterday we occasionally charged the computer with the inverter and normal AC power, but this morning — knowing there was nothing left to lose — Jerry shaved a bit off the plug, and voila! Success. The reason this is important is that our Mac laptop runs our navigation and our weather software.

We’re also struggling on this cruise to shift Mystic’s load aft. The poor girl has a terrible burden well forward now with her new furler, bow rollers, anchors, and windlass. So we spent some time at Barker’s trying to redistribute weight aft. We filled the cockpit lockers but then the mooring gear and other things we need in there was no longer accessible. Not good. Part of our frustration yesterday morning before leaving Barker’s had to do with this dilemma. Jerry reluctantly took three heavy bags back to the V-berth.

Today, I had another plan: move two heavy immersion suits (two of the three bags that we don’t really need in the bow) to the aftermost part of the port cockpit locker . . . WAY back there against the transom. This could cause problems with the steering gear, however, if the bags were to shift around in heavy seas. So Jerry crawled into the space we refer to as his “aft stateroom” and created a hanging system to secure the bags from the bottom side of the hull-to-deck fasteners. We won! Two bags are within sight if we ever need them but no longer adding weight to the bow.

Next Jerry spliced some line in order to create a way to secure the new bow anchors in those aforementioned heavy seas. Meanwhile, I finally got some online time so I could check email and post our blog.

Finally it was time for showers. Silver Bay Marina gets credit for having the second nicest showers on the lake. (Only Pikes Bay has better ones.)

I’ll check the weather next. It rained most of the day but we’re hoping for a good day tomorrow. We’d like to go another 45 miles to Grand Marais. There aren’t any anchorages on this side of the lake. Either you go from town to town (spaced about 45-miles apart) or you bite the bullet and travel day and night. We don’t feel confident about doing an overnighter right now with all the floating debris in the water. It reminds us of cruising in the San Juans near Seattle.

Odds are that we’ll be on our way tomorrow and this was a nice place to take a timeout on a rainy day. All’s well with the world.

Grand Marais Marina, Sunday, August 7
We left Silver Bay at 0900 motoring out into a cool gray lake pulsing with leftover seas. These are the sort of seas that inspire music: swish, swish, swish! with a certain tempo punctuated with a cymbal crash as each wave breaks and the boat scends into the trough. These were mini-versions of that musical rhythm . . . more like shh, shh, shh punctuated with a pair of maracas or finger cymbals. For the next nine or more hours we had a moving deck under our feet but it was not that herky-jerky motion we sometimes experience. This was the predictable motion of smooth leftover seas. Surprisingly, it did not diminish as the day went along even though there was no wind or weather to keep it going.

The new jib's a thing of beauty!

No wind meant that we motored 45 miles up the coast. There was a brief spell of maybe 45 minutes when we raised the main and rolled out the brand-new furler . . . a very brief sail in a long day on the lake. It gave us a chance to at least try the roller furler in gentle conditions. I have been a bit intimidated by all the new gear, the furler and windlass in particular. I don’t understand how the furler works yet and was interested in seeing how we’ll roll it out and back up again. (I know everyone else lives with furling jibs, but I’m a newbie!) We have yet to figure out our roles in the process, how much tension to keep when furling, and much more. I expect a month of cruising will train us . . . assuming, of course, that we occasionally have some wind. As for the windlass, that too will come in good time. I know we’ll be anchoring plenty once we get up into the islands in Ontario.

After all the work to install the jib, Jerry is the very picture of a happy camper.

Today the time in the cockpit was mercifully cool. It was so beastly two days ago that I was pouring buckets of icy lake water over myself to beat the heat. Then last night we wore sweats and ran the heater. Today it was very pleasant, even delightful, on the water. When you’re dealing with a large body of water that stays around 40 or 50 degrees all summer, much depends on which way the wind blows and how hard it blows. If it comes from over the land, it may be very hot. The opposite is true if it instead passes over our vast blue air conditioner.

Jerry turned on the radar briefly today and observed that it says we have 651 hours on the radar since we bought it close to 20 years ago. That seems like a lot of hours, particularly since we use the radar primarily for overnight sailing and in fog . . . only a fraction of the total time we’re aboard. We speculate that it’s not in use even 10 percent of the time we’re aboard. We both realized that if the radar has 651 hours on it, the two of us have a whole lot more boating hours on us. Jerry’s calculations suggest that we may have spent more than 6,510 hours aboard Mystic and underway. That’s 271 24-hour days in our short sailing season. Well, it’s a guess anyway.

August 4 to 5, 2011 — Off we go!

 Barker’s Island Marina, Thursday, August 4

Our summer was late in coming this year. We’ve written about it and bellyached about it in our blog and in our newsletter and to our friends. So I’ll be brief. Last summer’s cruise convinced us that roller furling and an electric windlass would be nice. So Jerry spent until late July working in the boatyard to give Mystic’s bow a makeover . . . along with some other projects such as installing a serpentine drive for the alternator.

By the first of August, we were ready for and badly in need of a vacation. We packed for sun and wind and bugs as well as for heat and cold and rain. We were ready to go and arrived at Barker’s Island Marina on Wednesday the 3rd. There was still much to be done. We had to get the kayak reunited with the boat, clean the decks, fill the water tanks, figure out why the shaft log was dripping too much, rewire the new bow light Jerry had just installed, rig up the pressure washer, put the reefs in the main, tighten the rig, check this, fix that, get groceries, move all aboard and stow it, get fuel, pump out, and run our lists. After her spring refit, Mystic is a bit down in the bow. Jerry tried to move as much as possible from the V-berth to the cockpit lockers to improve her trim. All of these jobs in very hot weather, the sort that really takes the spunk out of you. Middle of the afternoon yesterday and today we just quit and took showers. That greatly improves one’s frame of mind.

Yesterday afternoon Larry on Key of Sea, an Ericson 32 on F Dock, dropped by with a bottle of wine and three glasses. We had taken him out to lunch at Perkins two or three years ago and he wanted to say thanks. A friend of his, Mary, was on a powerboat across the dock from us, and she joined us. She had a brand-new (10-week-old) springer spaniel named Mickey (as in the famous mouse). We (at least some of us) went to bed with a bit too much wine buzzing in our heads.

This morning we paddled the kayak to Mystic and loaded it aboard. It went downhill from there. Jerry discovered that a couple of the screws at the top of the water tank in the bow were leaking the topmost inch or so of water back into the bilge. I had trouble getting AIS to work. (The AIS and GPS settings are notoriously fussy.) Our Bad Boy WiFi booster didn’t work —it kept blowing fuses — and the new Airfiber network they set up at Barker’s is difficult to set up so I wasn’t able to get online.

We said the heck with it and motored over to the fuel dock to get fueled and pumped. We’ll leave in the morning. I think we need to go sailing. It’s gotta be cooler out there.

Silver Bay Marina, Friday, August 5

We got away from Barker’s this morning at 0830 after one last flail with the overpacked cockpit lockers that had to be emptied for some reason and the GPS that wasn’t working (now that we REALLY needed it) due to a loose connection. It was already hot and we were already bothered. But even though we left port on a Friday, we were happy to be out there on the boat and somehow managed to avoid the bad luck that goes with leaving port on Friday.

It was hot and sticky out there and the water for miles north of Duluth-Superior was muddy brown with enough floating debris (including a few large logs) to keep a sailor vigilant.

Potted palm? Lake Superior Buoy Number 45028

While out there watching for logs, trees, and floating debris, we saw the area weather buoy for the first time, as hard as that is to believe. We’ve been up and down this coast dozens of times. There were branches of trees sticking up here and there, but this apparition appeared from a distance to be a potted palm. Jerry had to maneuver closer to investigate. It looked strange from any distance.

Measuring wind speed and direction, temperature, and more . . .

After an hour of motoring, we decided there was enough wind to carry a spinnaker. We flew the spinnaker for four or more hours, drifting along at about 3 knots without any relief from the sun; there wasn’t a corner of shade anywhere on that boat. Eventually I put up the Banner Bay Hoodie over the companionway (a poor man’s dodger), which gave us enough shade for a person and a half. We couldn’t put up the cockpit awning because it relies on the boom, and the boom was busy being important to the flying of the mainsail.

That got old after a while, so when the wind dropped a bit, we gave it up and decided to motor with the cockpit awning providing shade. It’s a long way to Sliver Bay at 3 knots, and we decided to move along at closer to 6 knots in order to arrive there while it was still light.

Storm clouds: they never look as menacing in a photo

Not long after we took in the spinnaker and fired up the iron genny, we noticed a cloud formation to the northwest. Perhaps it had been lurking behind the spinnaker. Or perhaps coincidentally it had just then grown to a significant size. Now that we had the engine going, we could use more computer power, so we had a look at WxWorx. Yipes! It warned of a severe storm — right over THERE — with 3.6 inches of rain per hour, hail up to 1.5 inches, moving southwest at a speed of 17 miles per hour, and 5 miles in width. That gave us something to contemplate! We headed farther east.

But 15 minutes later the weather showed it as separating into two cells with both moving east at about 17 miles per hour. We decided that, at our slow speed, we could resume our heading toward Silver Bay. By the time we got there, that cell would have moved on by north of us. The only trouble is that there were several more to the west of it so maybe the cell terrorizing Virginia, Minnesota, would meet up with us in Silver Bay. It would be a gamble either way.

Passing by: it went south, we went north

About that time, for whatever reason, WxWorx stopped updating the radar picture. Then it stopped updating the rest of the information. “Weak signal” it said. We never knew what caused this failure and we never got another view of what was going on with that cell or the ones that were stacked up waiting to attack farther to the west. From our perspective, the cell appeared to head southwest again. It appeared to be headed off by the cold lake. We encountered some lightning and thunder and finally a bit of rain as we arrived in Silver Bay. But the good news was that it cooled off!

We arrived here around 1900, tied up, and had dinner. It’s good to be here.

The summer that started In August

by Jerry Powlas
When we bought our beloved boat, Mystic, nearly 20 years ago, she had non-self-tailing winches, hanked-on headsails, and an anchoring system without a windlass. For all the intervening years we kept her just like that, not wanting any of that stuff. Well, almost. At the beginning of last season I added a self-tailing halyard winch and two self-tailing genoa winches. These upgrades were limited successes. The halyard winch on the foredeck grabbed the genoa sheets and foiled most tacks until we learned to set the inboard end of the whisker pole on the mast to help the sheets over the winch.

There were problems with the sheet winches too. We took off beautiful stainless-steel Barient 22s and put on nice-looking self-tailing Lewmar 30s. I was looking forward to easier cranking in the tacks. Going from 22 to 30 should have been a mechanical advantage improvement of 36 percent. Actually, there did not seem to be any improvement at all. Maybe it was even worse.

Thus equipped, we did something we had never done before. We spent the summer on our boat circling Lake Superior counter-clockwise. As it happened, we did not stay anywhere very long unless we were storm-bound so we did quite a lot of anchoring and cranking in headsails.

As so often happens, we met up with our friends Ron and Bonnie Dahl. We never arrange to meet, we just meet them out there. You will say the lake is too big for that, but it has happened many times over the years. Ron and Bonnie watched us in action raising anchors (we always use two) and later Bonnie took me aside and explained that we needed to make some upgrades if we meant to spend that much time aboard. I didn’t argue. I cornered Ron and had him explain his foredeck to me. It featured roller furling and an anchor windlass. I understood that we had reached the stage in life where these things might be important to our continued sailing.

Ron and Bonnie have a much larger boat and they prefer all-chain rode. That did not quite fit our situation. We were not about to buy a larger boat and the chain we prefer is a pound per foot. We would have had to have at least 200 feet of rode divided into two sections. I think little Mystic would have stood right on her nose with that much weight forward.

There were other problems. The furler adds weight forward and the extrusion adds weight higher up. When furled, the sail adds to this. The complications began to multiply. The more classic looking boats can add an anchor platform . . . the sort of thing that looks like a diving board or platypus bill sticking out along the bowsprit. If they do it right, the boat actually looks better. I could not picture that sort of thing on my little 30-foot club racer nor could I bring myself to put the anchor weight even farther forward. Worse, I wanted two anchors up there because we always anchor with two anchors.

On and on it went. The design was getting complicated. On a very small piece of deck, I ended up needing to add a roller furler, a very small anchor platform, two anchor rollers, two new cleats, a windlass, and an additional small winch. All in all, that meant 30 fasteners, most going through the balsa core. There were nine backing blocks as well. Where the holes went through the core, the holes had to be drilled oversize, filled with epoxy, and re-drilled.

That sounds like a lot, but it was just the beginning. There was too much deck curvature to ignore. That meant I had to make risers for each component that was curved on the bottom and flat on the top. That came to five very custom-made parts that would fit the curvature of the deck where they were located. The curvature varied on two planes at each location and the deck was not as symmetrical as I might have wished.

In my spare time, I upgraded the engine to a serpentine belt drive for the alternator, replaced the water pump, and took off those large sheet winches — new last year — and put on new ones that were obscenely large. I’m convinced that self-tailing winches need to be much larger than non-self-tailing winches. Add to this that my ability to crank any winch is declining with age. Karen is still young but I’m pushing 70.

Anyway, if most of the stuff that I’ve done works, we will get to sail for almost all of August and a little of September. The Annapolis Boat Show cuts into the end of the season, so we will simply go sailing for those few precious weeks, return, and haul our poor baby out again for the winter.

This year the sailing season started in August.

Whatever happened to Brer Rabbit?

by Karen Larson

I just went back to re-read Uncle Remus’ Tar Baby story. I had recently experienced something similar and wanted to see how Brer Rabbit managed to outwit Brer Fox in the end. The story goes that the fox built a tar baby and set it up beside the road. When the tar baby does not respond to a polite hello from the rabbit as he passes by, one thing leads to another until the rabbit gives the tar baby a sock and then another one and then one with each foot and finally one with his head . . . with all extremities becoming hopelessly stuck in the tar. So there sits the rabbit waiting for the fox to come along and cook him up for dinner.

I wasn’t worried about becoming dinner the other day, but the rest of the story is eerily similar. I was up on the bow of our boat cleaning up the sealant that squished out of every crack between screw, hardware, and all foundations and risers to which they were fastened. As the guy down below tightening those fasteners, Jerry had it worse by far. He had most of his body in the small cavern forward of the V-berth known as an anchor well and was working at odd angles above his head with bifocals that can’t focus at those distances. If you’ve been there, you know the drill. But that’s his story, and this is my story of Brer Rabbit and the tar baby and sealant on the bow.

Sealant cleanup requires the use of many, many paper towels. You use one corner and make a swipe. Some sealant is smeared around. You use another corner for another swipe. It’s getting better, but you’re not quite there yet. Another corner and another swipe until you’re smearing the earliest sealant you removed back on the hardware. Time for another towel. Oops! Careful what you touch as you turn around for the new towel. Careful where you put the used towel. Paper towels have only four corners. I used a lot of paper towels that day. Yipes! Somehow while working on a second screw you manage to swipe too near that first one that WAS all cleaned up until the accidental swipe occurred.

Needless to say, this process goes on for longer than I care to tell the tale and far longer than you care to follow it. Besides, if you’ve been up there on your own bow swiping at sealant before it hardens, you have encountered your own tar baby.

In the story, the outcome is left to the reader to decide. Did the fox eat the rabbit . . . or did the rabbit escape once again? I did get away that evening and instead of being dinner, all I had to do was cook it. When I get back on the boat for our summer cruise, one of the first things I’ll do is go forward to see (now that everything has set up) the outcome of my own battle with the tar baby.

No more bellyaching!

by Karen Larson

Mystic was launched yesterday (July 27) at long last. We checked our calendars and decided, rather spontaneously, to take the month of August to cruise north to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and east from there before heading back to our starting place in Superior, Wisconsin. Jerry’s back at the boatyard doing a few last jobs while I scurry around closing down the house, packing cruising gear and non-perishables, and tidying up or delegating unfinished bits of work.

We think a monthlong cruise adequately compensates us for our boatyard trials and tribulations (perhaps you’ll agree!) so we’ll now cheerfully replace our frowny faces with big smiles. The “summer of our discontent” has ended. We’re sailors once more!

The problem with twin 2-year-olds . . .

by Karen Larson

Jerry (my Good Old Boat co-founder and husband) has a theory about women in government that suddenly seems relevant to life in general and boat projects specifically. The theory itself is based on two hypotheses. The first is that women make better leaders than men do. The second is that mothers of 2-year-olds get the most done.

It is his opinion, first, that women, who he believes are less egotistical and more likely work with others (rather than achieving independent ambitions through use of force), are more likely than men to accomplish good things.

Jerry’s second hypothesis is that mothers of 2-year-olds have their hands full. Very full. Because these challenging little tikes demand constant attention, their mothers have to be able to get everything else in their lives done efficiently, effectively, and very quickly.

Jerry combines these axioms and concludes that only mothers of 2-year-olds should be allowed to serve as U.S. president. It’s a bit of a leap, but it’s Jerry’s proposal. Take it or leave it. Once her children have turned three, any woman’s term in office should expire to be replaced by another young, and very efficient, mother. (Admittedly, there are some issues of timing to be worked out . . . but those are minor details.)

For what it’s worth, that’s his theory about women in government. My interpretation (the short version) of all this philosophizing is that having a very demanding life leads to snappy decision-making. Lately I’ve noticed some extremely snappy decisions being made by my husband and I think I know why: he has not one — but two — all-consuming boat projects. Think of it as having twin 2-year-olds!

As an example of his snappy decision-making, our gas stove died on Friday and by Saturday we had a new one selected and ordered for delivery. This happened in spite of Jerry’s promise that this was going to be my decision and in the face of my argument that I wanted to get some opinions and do some research. I noted that we were in no hurry since we had alternative ways to bake (something that we don’t need to do every day anyway) and the rest of the stove (range top and broiler) was operational.

But before I began checking out brands and getting opinions, we’d been to two local big box stores, and the deed was done. Why so fast? And what happened to this being my decision? I believe it had to do with having too many boats and way too many boat projects. This man doesn’t tolerate slow.

Our blue boat still languishes on the shore of Lake Superior (as the summer passes us by!) while Jerry slaves to add a windlass, bow rollers, roller furling, new winches, and a few more odds and ends of the as-long-as-I’m-in-there-with-tools-and-epoxy variety. Then there’s the yellow boat in our backyard that hasn’t had any attention in a couple of months. Once spring arrived and Mystic (the Lake Superior boat) was uncovered, she began to occupy all of Jerry’s waking and sleeping moments.

The yellow project boat, we thought, back in the ides of December, might just be launched this summer. Those thoughts must have occurred before we remembered all the work he wanted to do on Mystic. Are we delusional? Maybe it will be next year for that yellow one . . . or the year after that. I often explain that we’re into year six of a two-year project with that one. Or is it year seven now?

They say that nothing is as motivated as a man with a bucket on a sinking boat . . . or a mother of 2-year-olds. But what about a man with a short summer and two major boat projects? What I’ve learned is that a guy like that can be accused of (and even forgiven for) some very snappy decision-making.

I look at waves from both sides now*

by Karen Larson

On a recent trip to South Carolina, the constant symphony of the surf on the beach reminded this sailor of something I’d forgotten since my childhood beach walks and shelling journeys: the shore is just as beautiful when viewed from the land as it is when viewed from the sea.

As sailors, although we sometimes think of the nearby shore as a danger to our boats, we find that our boats provide the perfect platform for enjoying the beauty of the land where it touches the sea.

Whether it’s a northern shore in my home waters of Lake Superior or a southern shore, such as a South Carolina beach, I enjoy the view of whatever happens by: pelicans and terns, herons and loons, whales and dolphins, seashells and wave-smoothed stones. And I appreciate the humor and beauty of people interacting in a thousand ways with the shifting boundary between sea and land.

I was reminded on that trip to South Carolina that a walk on a beach is as good for the soul as time spent on the boat observing the shoreline from the watery side.

South Carolina beach walkers

*With all due respect to Joni Mitchell

Too cold to sail but not too cold to work in the boatyard

by Karen Larson

Just last week Jerry and I spent two warm shorts-kind-of-days working to get Mystic moved along toward a launch date. I spent that weekend sewing her mainsail cover and a new cockpit tarp. Jerry was hard at it on the new roller furler and associated tasks.

Warm shorts days in the boatyard

On our return this weekend (Sunday and Monday), the wind was out of the north and blowing over that icebox known as Lake Superior before chilling the residents of Superior, Wisconsin, where Mystic waits patiently on jack stands. The temperature never got over 49 yesterday and, coupled with a brisk wind of at least 25 knots, put a serious dent in our enthusiasm for outdoor projects.

Nevertheless, Jerry put in his time on the bow out in the elements, while I thought of lots of reasons to be down below in the cabin sheltered from the wind at least.

Once the furler was installed and measurements were taken for ordering a couple of new sails from Sailrite, Jerry had what he needed to move ahead with the windlass installation. We like anchoring with two anchors off the bow in a 60-degree V-shape. This, of course, is not the general plan for anchor windlasses. So Mystic’s chief engineer spent much of the winter non-sailing months designing a way that one windlass can handle two anchor rodes.

The plans made in winter arrive at the boat

Using a notebook-sized drawing of our C&C 30, he scaled the plan up to a full-sized bow and mocked it up with a piece of flat plywood. Then he spent a lot of time in the basement working out how each anchor could lead fair through chocks and back to the windlass. We also spent a couple of days splicing 8-brait line to anchor chain. It was a good plan . . . on plywood.

Pass the slip stitch over the knit stitch . . .

Yesterday in the freezing winds, the plywood was united with the boat and the match was not one made in heaven. The scaled-up drawing was about an inch off from the true size of Mystic’s bow (not bad when you think about it, but not good if things can’t really be squished in there as hoped). Also the curvature of her bow was a bit greater than he remembered. Bad news.

He spent the night — while awake and asleep — mentally rearranging the bow hardware and windlass gear. This morning (Monday) I remained in the warm hotel room to do email while he has, no doubt, spent several hours moving things about on the foredeck and pondering. I’ve learned long ago that he’s best left alone during these moments of truth.

Last night we looked out over the marina at the masts of hundreds of boats already launched. It was miserably cold at the docks and no one was about. We comforted ourselves (perhaps justifying our late launch this year) in the knowledge that most of the rest of the sailors weren’t sailing much yet either.

But Jerry summed it up when he said what was on both of our minds: “Still, I’d rather have a boat in the water and not sailing than to have one stuck here ashore.”

Tuesday postscript: There is a happy ending to this saga. The sun did come out on Monday in more ways than one. By the time we left the marina that afternoon (as another storm was said to be blowing in), Jerry had revised the hardware layout to incorporate the real dimensions of the bow. He was back in business again. I imagine he’ll give this project a blow-by-blow description in technical terms once he has figured it out himself. It says right there on the instructions: Easy Installation. So . . . how hard can it be?

Red yardsticks indicate the anchor rode path

Up and up and up . . . and over

by Karen Larson

I mentioned in an earlier blog that a real highlight recently was the day I climbed the rigging on the Barque Elissa (the Texas Tall Ship). It began with a brief fitness test to see whether my arms could haul the weight of my body from one end to the other of a horizontal ladder, the sort you’d see in children’s playgrounds.

Kim, Brian, Karen, and David ready for action

I hadn’t played on one of these ladder contraptions since age 10 or so, but I passed that test and the volunteers at the Texas Seaport Museum brought out all the harnesses and strapped me in. There was no going back. Kim Burns, the volunteer and Good Old Boat subscriber who started this group excursion to the mainmast cap, gloats at left. Next in the lineup is my trainer Brian. I come next in the line, seriously contemplating the height of the main mast from the safety of the shore. It’s about 100 feet. I went just a bit more than halfway up and thought that was a pretty big achievement.
At this point, I thought I was headed for the platform called the fighting top. I didn’t understand that the goal of an “up and over” is to climb about 10 feet beyond that. All those masts . . . all that rigging . . . all those terms . . . I admit to understanding only half of what was said. Were these people speaking English? The final person in this group (at right) is David, another Texas Seaport Museum volunteer. He went up first with Kim’s camera, ostensibly to record my successful climb, but perhaps also to keep records for insurance purposes if the climb was NOT successful?

At the top platform, you'll have to perform a miracle . . .

Brian explained about when I would be climbing without being clipped on (most of the time, actually) and that I would clip on only for the 45-degree angle to get out and around the fighting top. I took it all in and realized that — on our 30-foot boat — we clip on even when we’re on deck (!) in some weather and that I’m a WHOLE lot safer going up Mystic’s mast (50 feet) in a bosun’s chair than this new gig I’d signed on for.

Phttttt!

I’m afraid I expressed my opinion spontaneously. It’s not a pretty picture. But that’s how I was feeling.

HOW high?

Nonetheless, off we went: David first with the camera. Brian my coach next. The new recruit eying the top from the starting position next. And Kim bringing up the rear.

It's a long way up

From the bottom it looks like a long way up. And from the top it looks like a long way down.

Higher and higher

Onward and upward.

Fueled by adrenaline

The goal gets closer. Three hands for the ship, isn’t it . . . ?

Conscious of every foothold, each hand placement . . .

I’m still smiling.

Are we at Grandma's yet?

Climbing ratlines is not physically taxing, but it may be emotionally challenging.

The challenge is at the fighting top

Well, there is that physical challenge in getting around that platform at the fighting top. Brian talks me through it. You do clip on for that part (a good thing). That little strength test back at the horizontal ladder was all about this moment . . .

A few "what if's" come to mind . . .

What would happen if I were incapable of hauling my weight around and over the platform, I wondered. Would I be able to hold on long enough with my arms? Long enough for what? Tethered or not, how long might I have to do whatever it might take to recover from a misstep? These thoughts (and more) ran through my mind.

Hooray! But we're not there yet, you say?

Success! But when I thought I had achieved my goal and was standing securely and happily on that fighting top, the volunteer crew had one last surprise for me: the real goal, they told me, was to get to the top of the mainmast cap, that white section of mast another 10 feet above . . . and no, you don’t clip on for this one. To succeed, you have to climb up and go over the other side. But don’t forget to take some time at the top to take in the view, they said. That new thought caused some heart pounding.

The view is wonderful . . . and so is my smile

OK. They got me to the real goal. Was the view from there indeed that much better, I wonder? But the smile on my face and the ongoing memories of this big-deal achievement make it all worthwhile.

Kim Burns, one who speaks the language of tall ships, sent a note after the fact to decipher it for me. Her comments on the “up and over”:

Elissa’s specs:
134 years (1877)
LOA/sparred length: 205 feet
LOD: 152 feet
LWL: 141 feet

You did your “up & over” on the main mast (99.9 feet deck to truck)

You started on the windward side, climbed the lower shrouds to the base of the futtock shrouds where you clipped into the safety line. You then angled out 45 degrees up to the top platform — first stop from deck where you unclipped. From the top platform you climbed up the topmast shrouds to where you swung over to the cap and stood to look out. (Roughly 55/60 feet from deck.)

Elissa’s fore and main consist of 3 spars each:
Lower mast (welded steel), topmast (Douglas fir), topgallant mast (Douglas fir)

The top platform is located where the lower mast and topmast double up, called the lower doublings, between the top and cap.

The crosstrees are above the cap, where the topmast and topgallant mast double up (the two Douglas firs). This area is known as the upper doubling where the crosstrees/trestletree assembly platform is located.

Doing “the stork” in the boatyard

by Karen Larson
We took the sewing machine to the boat — rather than taking the boat sewing projects to the sewing machine. That led to a day and a half of standing at the sewing machine with one foot “on the throttle” and the other one supporting my 135 pounds. By the end of the second day I had a lot more pity for the poor storks . . . but we’d custom fitted a new cockpit tarp and mainsail cover. We keep inching our way toward launch . . .

Mystic's outdoor sewing "facility"

The Spring Refit that Ran into Summer

by Jerry Powlas

We have had our boat for 19 years. Over those years she has slowly changed from the boat that the former owner liked and lavished his attentions on to the boat we like and lavish our attentions on. In fact, until last summer, I would have said that we had Mystic pretty well equipped and maintained the way we wanted her. If that were still true, she probably would have been in the water a month ago.

So what changed?

Two things changed. First, we are 19 years older than we were when we bought her, and this results in somewhat diminished strength. Second, last summer we cruised for 12 weeks straight. We launched in the spring, sailed around the lake once counter-clockwise, and then returned to our winter marina and hauled the boat. In the past, I don’t think we ever cruised for more than three weeks at a time. Things that are not important in a three-week cruise become important when spending 12 weeks cruising. So Mystic will get a refit this season that will be extensive enough to bite into our cruising time.

Winch upgrades

We will upgrade our primary winches yet a second time. Last year we upgraded from #22s (non-self-tailing) to #30 self-tailing. I thought that surely going from #22s, to #30s, which is a 36-percent improvement, would be a joy and ease our cranking stress. Wrong.

The #30s did not seem to crank any easier than the #22s. I have a theory that I have not proven yet. I think self-tailing winches of any given theoretical mechanical advantage are harder to crank than non-self-tailing winches of the same theoretical mechanical advantage. So this year, the #30s will be replaced with #46s. I hope that’s enough. Surely we are not losing strength faster than I can change winches.

New water pump and alternator drive

We have had our little Beta Marine 722, 20-hp diesel for 12 years according to my logs. Before we even installed the new engine in the boat, I took off the stock alternator and put on the 100-amp Balmar that was on our old Bukh Pilot 20, a workhorse that had succumbed to age and the high cost of replacement parts.

It was pointed out to me that 100 amps is a little much for one V-belt. I had to keep the belt tension pretty high and with that goes a worry that the water pump bearings will fail prematurely. After 12 years I could feel some play in the water pump bearings so I replaced the pump this spring and will install a serpentine drive belt and sheaves that will allow the belt tension be less while still driving the big alternator.

Major changes on the foredeck

Mystic did not come with a roller furler or anchor windlass. That was fine with me. I did not want either one 19 years ago. When we cruised for three weeks at a time, I still didn’t miss these conveniences. But cruising for 12 weeks dramatically changed my attitude. This year we will add roller furling and an anchor windlass. These are complicated additions, and I’m worried about the weight added so far forward.

Major canvas work

Meanwhile, the awning covering our cockpit at anchor is finally wearing out as is our mainsail cover and the awning we used over the forward part of the boat clearly needed to be bigger than the one we had up there made from an old jib. So we are doing some canvas work as well.

That is the major work list. There is the usual minor stuff — like bottom paint and adjusting the Autoprop and such like.

I hope we get her in before it is time to take her out.

Confessions from a love-struck editor

by Karen Larson

I admit it. I have been having a love affair with tall ships. Despite what its name may imply, Good Old Boat is not about tall ships . . . but I flip over many-masted traditional ships just the same. I have always sighed over the beautiful photos of these classics: their lines and rigging, their romantic ratlines and belaying pins, their figureheads and the cut of their bows, their stern galleries with majestic windows and their gilded nameboards, their square sails and accompanying yards.

The Niagara flies a great BIG American flag. Lovely!

But if we run photos or articles about these wonderful classics in Good Old Boat, we confuse people who think (with some justification) that these forerunners to today’s sailboats are what should be meant by the term “good old boat.” We don’t want to confuse potential readers, so we’ve stopped running photos of historic tall ships and their fiberglass replicas in our magazine.

That doesn’t mean I can’t continue to dream. I’ve read all the books in the Hornblower and Patrick O’Brian series . . . some more than once. And I am as awed as the next guy by the descriptions of ships’ equipment and use of shipboard terms that are absolutely meaningless to sailors today.

I had an opportunity to spend an afternoon aboard the HMCS Oriole in Victoria, British Columbia in 2003. This tall ship serves as a Navy training vessel and a public relations ship. On that day, I had dual interests in participating in any deck work allowed by the crew and in photographing what was going on around me. I had a great time, although I was hampered from doing much deck work by the cameras hanging around my neck.

HMCS Oriole
Rig: Marconi-rigged ketch
Built: 1921
LOA (sparred length): 102 feet
Operated by: the Canadian Navy’s Pacific Maritime Forces
www.navy.forces.gc.ca/oriole/0/0-s_eng.asp

Canadian sailors raise sail

I was able to keep my personal feelings in check, however, until the spring of 2011 when I had a chance to explore the Texas Tall Ship, Elissa, in Galveston. More than explore . . . the ship’s volunteers furled and unfurled a few sails for us, they took us on a tour in the depths of the boat, and they encouraged me to climb the rigging. That last bit, that’s what did it.

This more recent involvement with tall ships used for training and as museum exhibits began in the spring of 2010 when Jerry and I, along with a crowd of tourists, had a chance to visit the brig Niagara on Lake Erie. We had gone to Lake Erie for other reasons but were surprised and delighted by a chance to visit the Niagara while sailing with friends in Ohio’s Put-in-Bay.

Niagara
Rig: 2-masted brig
Built: 1988
Replica of the brig used by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the War of 1812
LOA (sparred length): 198 feet
Operated by: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
www.flagshipniagara.org

Niagara in Put-In-Bay, Ohio, on Lake Erie.

At that point, I was impressed, but not yet smitten. I should have had a lasting memory of that ship . . . when I stood up quickly belowdecks, I nearly knocked myself out on the low overhead! The knot on my head reminded me that it wasn’t easy to be a sailor in days of yore. Perhaps we’ve over romanticized the life they led.

That summer was the year of a tall ships event on the Great Lakes. It was also the summer that Jerry and I spent three months on our C&C 30 cruising Lake Superior. We chose a counterclockwise circumnavigation that coincidentally made it possible for our small boat to cross the paths of two tall ships heading toward Duluth for the big gathering. These were the Bounty and the Europa.

Europa
Rig: Traditional 3-masted barque
Built: 1911
LOA (sparred length) 185 feet
Operated by Rederij Bark Europa B.V.
www.barkeuropa.com

Europa on Lake Superior.

Bounty
Rig: Traditional 3-masted square-rigged ship
Built: 1960
Replica built for the movie Mutiny on the Bounty
LOA (sparred length) 180 feet
Operated by HMS Bounty Organization
www.tallshipbounty.org

HMS Bounty on Lake Superior.

The chance encounter with the Europa was one of the highlights of that summer. It was a once in a lifetime event. Both our sailboat and the Europa were under sail at the time. As the Europa approached in the distance, her mast tops came into view first. This strange object on the horizon didn’t look like anything we’d ever seen before on Lake Superior. We checked the charts for large structures that might be on or near the shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where we were. Nothing. We checked again.

Look closely. The Europa appears on the horizon . . .

But the distances narrowed quickly, since she was approaching from the opposite direction. We knew a tall ship festival was going to be held in Duluth and soon grasped the truth. This was no mirage; we were about to have a close encounter of the sailing kind with a ship from another era. There were no other boats around for miles. This was to be a personal and deeply meaningful encounter.

The barque Europa up close and personal.

With permission of the captain, we approached and sailed around the Europa several times. I shot photos with two cameras from every angle as we circled her. Meanwhile, because we were a small but very sincere audience, they added to the sails they were carrying, and the Europa carries an impressive array of sails (a total of 30 is possible)!

They even put more sails up for us!

We were simultaneously flattered, honored, impressed, thrilled . . . and deeply in love. Who wouldn’t be?

Pretty from bow to stern.

The following spring we headed south to Texas. While we were there, Good Old Boat readers Tim and Kim Burns insisted that we visit the Elissa, their favorite tall ship. A team of dedicated volunteers, including Tim and Kim, donate their time to keep the Elissa maintained, to sail her when she goes out, to train new volunteers, to teach school children and tourists, and much more.

Elissa
Rig: Traditional 3-masted barque
Built: 1877
LOA (sparred length) 205 feet
Operated by the Texas Seaport Museum
www.tsm-elissa.org

The barque Elissa in Galveston Bay.

Kim felt our trip to Texas would be incomplete without seeing the Elissa. That invitation grew to two very enjoyable visits over two days. Kim and Tim showed us the sailing gear, the bunks and galley, the engine, and every stowage locker aboard as we toured belowdecks. On deck, I was mesmerized by the towering masts and rigging. Sometimes I was lost somewhere inside myself as I shot way too many photos while trying to frame pelicans that flew by in the silhouetted rigging of this beautiful ship.

Pelicans and rigging . . .

The next day we had a chance to visit with Texas Seaport Museum Director Jamie White, who offered to demonstrate sail handling, with the help of enthusiastic volunteers. We were honored by the VIP treatment and awed by the volunteers who climbed up the ratlines and crawled out on the yards to raise and lower sails.

Miles and miles of rigging . . .

Then, with their help and some training, I was encouraged to make my first climb to the first level 50 feet above the deck: the mainmast cap. That climb, called an “up and over,” sealed it: I’m hopelessly in love with tall ships. There will be more about the excitement of climbing the ratlines in another blog.

You want me to go WHERE?

Breaking Mooring Lines

by Jerry Powlas

We are doing a little household remodeling and needed to remove some bushes in the front of our house. The major task was to tear out three large bushes, two of which (when pulled out) Karen and I could lift together and one of which we could not lift. We were fortunate that the ground was very soggy following torrential rains.

The contractor had said to put a chain around the bushes, tie it to our truck, and just pull the bushes out. As we didn’t have a chain I was willing to use in that way, we used old mooring lines.

The lines were mostly 5/8″ diameter, double-braid nylon. All of these lines had spent some years in service and been retired mostly because they looked faded. Most had become fairly stiff and hard, as nylon is want to do when it ages. None of these lines had obvious worn spots.

It was an interesting experience. The lines parted about five times as I recall. Snap-back was a problem, even when the bush yielded as well as when the lines broke. I finally resorted to using double lines. This got me a breaking strength high enough to rip out the bushes without having the lines part first.

Knots were a problem. The taught line hitch would not hold under these loads. I think that’s because, as the load got higher, the line diameter got smaller and the turns simply slid along the line. The double sheet bend also failed. The line simply pulled through and the knot untied. Perhaps with more supple line the double sheet bend would have been OK. I settled on bowlines for everything. Once they had experienced stresses this large, the single bowlines were very hard to untie. Once I was using double lines for all the loads, I tied the bowlines with double lines, meaning that a pair of lines followed the same path as a single line normally would follow. This produced knots that held the load and could be untied.

Those single bowlines and some other knots I tried could not be untied, even with a fid. One knot appeared to have welded itself together, meaning that the plastic in the lines (nylon I think) melted and fused with other parts of the knot. More than one knot may have welded itself under load. I did not cut into all of the knots to see why I could not untie them.

The most interesting and unexpected part of the morning’s observations was that NONE OF THE LINES PARTED AT OR NEAR A KNOT. All the breakage occurred in the spans away from the knots. This is contrary to the notion that a knot weakens a line a great deal. The only failures that occurred near a knot were when the knots simply untied themselves the way knots in fine nylon twine do.

Our monster truck (named Scarlet) was able to break these lines pulling on the torque converter just above idle. I only resorted to 4wd and low range when I needed to climb a curb across the street at the same time I was pulling a bush.

We started using an anti-snapback snubber after the first bush streaked across the yard and almost made it to the truck. This safety precaution worked well.

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