Cruise 0210, Lake Michigan

Cruise from Manitowoc, WI to Canajoharie, NY, Aug., Sept., 2002.

This is the first leg of the journey, Lake Michigan. Here’s the planned route:
(click on any picture to enlarge).

Tues, 7/30/02. Problem: It was mid-summer and I unexpectedly found myself with free time. The major contract project I was working on was done. My property management work in NYS was caught up. The next item on my to-do list was to revisit my sailboat. It was still out in Manitowoc, WI and was in need of attention. I couldn’t decide whether I should keep or sell it, but figured this was a window of opportunity for action.

But why waste time pondering if I could do both of these options at once? What I mean is, I could put a for-sale sign on it, but enjoy it fully as long as it was in my possession. A plan was hatched: clean it up and complete needed minor repairs, slap a for-sale sign on it, re-launch and check it out, and if seaworthy, cruise it to NYS. Now it was full speed ahead so I could launch this plan before any more summer got behind me.

The above thoughts may look a bit impulsive, but actually I have been preparing for this venture for many years now. I had all the charts and had completed many weekend cruises in the past with this boat and others. In reality I had been ready to go all along. It was just that the projects were end to end, and once started I couldn’t leave them.

On the other hand, this overall trip was orders of magnitude beyond my past experience. But there is an alternative way of looking at it. The cruise I planned was nearly equal to a series of overnighters stung together. Safe harbors were never too far away and there were no prolonged off-shore jaunts.

Whatever the argument, the decision was made and executed in fairly short order, and I have evidence to show it was a success. So here goes:

8/5/02, Mon. Arrived at Manitowoc and begin preparing 26′ S2 Sailboat for cruise to NYS: removed tarps, begin charging batteries, cleaned bilges, overhauled self-tailing sheet winches, prepped engine, installed sails, surveyed launch ramp to see if possible to use it and avoid $120 hoisting fee (looked good).

8/9/02, Fri. Launched boat using ramp. Check-out: Engine overheated and lacked power, cleaned water holding tank, cleaned decks, installed aux cooling pump in cooling water intake line, cured overheating, engine still lacked power.

8/11/02, Sun. Visited with WI friends. Went for short harbor cruise. Engine still lacked power.

8/12/02, Mon. Overhauled and cleaned carburetor. Engine was now running well.

8/13/02, Tues. Sea Trial were run – all checked OK. Repacked boat, shopped and packed groceries, reviewed course plots and filed a float plan, topped off the water storage tank. Said my goodbyes.

8/14/02, Wed. Departed Manitowoc at 7:30 AM (local).

8/11/02. This is at the Manitowoc Marina in WI. Jerry and Kay Weyenburg came to see me off and wish me a bon voyage.

I worked with Jerry at International Paper in Kaukauna WI. He was an E&I (Electrical and Instrumentation) shop manager and I would fill in for him when he was on vacation.

Wed. 8/14/02. This is looking west. The last sighting of the WI shore is still visible on the horizon. Those were exciting moments. It was hard to imagine all the adventures that lay ahead, and I was excited with anticipation. As it turned out, the adventure was way beyond my wildest dreams. The only way to describe it would be to say that it was like a full life-time of adventure all packed into 3 weeks.

Wed, 8/14/02. During the first half of the Lake MI crossing, the wind was almost nill and it got hot in the blazing sun. I was getting too much sun exposure as well. I had a 2×4 on board and some clamps and used these to extend the tiller so I could steer from the hatchway while under the dodger.

Wed. 8/14/02. This is a little beyond the halfway point between WI and MI shores. Note that the wind was coming alive now and I captured this moment where I could still feel like I was in touch with civilization. It was a welcome sight to see this other vessel. This was my first offshore transit and I was feeling particularly desolate, and it was the only other boat I saw out there.

Looking at a map, Lake Michigan doesn’t seem so wide, but when you are totally out of sight of land for a number of hours in a tiny boat, it can seem very large indeed. To compound things, the wind continued to increase as the afternoon wore on. By the time I neared the MI shore it was dark, the wind was howling and the waves were about 6 to 8 feet. Not that alone, but the breakwater I had to get through (Arcadia, MI) was like a little keyhole. I had the thread this needle while sailing alone without running aground. What a beast these inland seas can be without even trying.

Sat. 8/17/02, This is actually Frankfort which is about 10 miles north of Arcadia. I anchored in Arcadia for two days. I had made it without mishap, but I was physically and mentally whipped and had to rest the next day. The wind was still howling too, so it was a good opportunity to hide in safe harbor, recover and lick my wounds. During a call home, my sister Bonnie’s friend Jay offered to come and help crew. This was a welcome relief. The next day, it was still rough, but I went up to Frankfort to rest some more and wait for my crew member and additional supplies.

Sun. 8/18/02. With my new crew member (Jay) getting broke in, and the weather being absolutely perfect for sailing, we sailed around the clock and made all the way to the northern reaches of MI. We stopped to rest at Mackinaw City. The marina was first class but reasonable and the town was well equipped to handle our tourist curiosity and desire for good food.

I wish I had gotten more pictures of the western shore of Michigan. The water was warm and beautiful and the beaches are as magnificent as any I have seen before. In places the sandy bluffs would tower some 300 feet over the shoreline.

This area of Lake MI is also tricky sailing. There are a lot of islands and shoals. It was a real navigational challenge even with a GPS. The photos are when we were approaching the Mackinac Bridge. This is an easier part of the passage. The shoals and rocky islands are behind us at this point.

An exciting moment on this trip was when we were going under this huge bridge. Contrast the big water, big bridge structure, roaring trucks and traffic, with a small sailboat silently slipping past like a ghost.

Going under the Mackinac Bridge marks the transition from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.

Link to Lake Huron part of the cruise.

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