Our First night passage

We left Manitowoc at around 8:20 pm on Wednesday June 16th. Our plan is to cross Lake Michigan and anchor for a few days in Portage Lake which is near the town of Onekama, Michigan. The passage is about 62 nautical miles which should take us around 12 hours or so to complete.

Why leave at night you ask? A couple of reasons, one, we need a good weather window of at least 12 hours to make the crossing. The weather and wind can be a bit unpredictable on Lake Michigan in June until the settled high pressure weather systems of summer are here, typically in July and August. We also were waiting for 2 packages to arrive at the marina of items we have ordered which are scheduled to arrive Wednesday before we leave. Had it not been for the packages, we might have left sooner. We also want to arrive in day light hours when we get to Michigan, so 12 hours prior makes a departure time of 8 or 9 am or later not practical since we would arrive likely after sunset.

With our timeframe for leaving established, we spent Wednesday getting things ready for departure. Filled the water tanks, filled the diesel tank, emptied the waste tank, last minute load of laundry and stowing things that might fly about while sailing.

We are not the only people leaving the marina this year for parts unknown. Our friends Dwight and Kay aboard “Aurora” just left early Wednesday morning. We are next to leave. Then leaving in August will be Dan and Fawn.

We couldn’t leave without a little celebration, so about an hour before we left, we gather anyone who was here on E dock and popped our special departure bottle of Champagne to share. This bottle was gifted to us by our Pepin family of sailors when we left to ship our boat to Manitowoc and we have set aside this special bottle just for this occasion. A toast to all sailing friends old and new and those on the move! Cheers!

And then we were off!

Once we got offshore, we put up the mainsail, the jib and the staysail. We had about 6.5 knots of wind. As dusk was quickly approaching we watched as the setting sun faded into the skyline of Manitowoc at the stern of the boat. Up ahead the darkness of night was approaching. As is typical, we found the fishing fleet of boat that are usually about 5 – 7 miles offshore and tonight was no exception. Dusk seems to be a difficult time where you have diminishing light with which to see boats, but it is not yet dark enough to see them based on their navigational lights. We make sure we have turned on our navigational lights as well.

We have a tri-color light at the top of our mast that displays red on the port side, green on the starboard side and white to the stern of the boat. It’s difficult to see if this light is on when looking at the top of the mast. We both look and debate for sometime to determine whether our light is on or not. We finally conclude that the light is not on. We also have navigational lights, red, green and white on the boat itself lower down. The white stern light seems to be working, but we don’t seem to have the red and green at the bow working. Uugghhh…yes, we should have checked our lights before we left the dock. That would have made sense, but here we are. So, we turned on any light we could, like our deck light to make sure other boats could see us in the dark. Finally, as we were worrying about our lights and the current fishing fleet of boat traffic around us, we got the bright idea (pun intended) to use our luci lights. If you have never seen luci lights, they are small inflatable lights that are solar charged and you can set the ones we have to different colors. So, we set one to green and put it on the starboard side of the boat and we set one to red and put it on the port side of the boat. Now we have ourselves some homemade navigational lights. The total irony about this is once we got the light up and working we never saw another boat all night.

Our time on passage was spent watching the moon set behind us, watching the darkness over take the horizon and we had about 2 hours in the dead of night when you could not see the horizon on the water. I was on the first watch from 11 pm to 3 am while Mark went down below and slept. I kept up with our logbook, made some coffee and enjoyed that, did some journaling, watched the stars and just enjoyed the waves and the water passing by the boat. It was a beautiful clear night with 10 – 12 knots of wind the entire way and we sailed the entire way without running our engine.

Mark came up on deck about 3 am and I went down for a nap. Mark was on watch from 3 am until about 7 am when I woke up and came back on deck. Mark was witness to a beautiful sunrise on the water. The eastern sky started to brighten about 3:50 am and slowly continued to illuminate the sky. The light glistened on the waves on the port side of the boat, while the starboard side was still dark. Here are some photos of the sunrise from the water.

We were both tired as we motored into Portage Lake but excited to see a new place and get the anchor down and get settled.

Beautiful homes line the shores of Portage Lake. We got the anchor down and we are in need of some sleep!

3 Comments on “Our First night passage

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