Our Longest passage yet
Alpena, MI to Harbor Beach, MI is about 80 nautical miles. At 5 knots per hour this trip would take us about 16 hours. We hope to make the journey in less time than 16 hours, so we will have to go faster than 5 knots for sure.
Why are we going so far today? Remember I was saying that good harbors are few and far between on this side of Lake Huron. There were a couple of alternatives. We could have made a stop in Harrisville, however no reservations to be had. We could have stopped in Port Austin, however we had heard they had a recent tornado go through town and things are not up and running there. The other consideration is weather. We have really nice weather for about another day or so and then it’s supposed to turn for the worse, so we want to be tucked in some where when that happens. Also, see that big bay on the left of the map? That’s Saginaw Bay. If the winds are out of the west, the exposure to wind and waves crossing Saginaw Bay can make things uncomfortable.
So, 80 miles it is.
The alarm went off at 4 am. If we were going to do an 80 mile day, we have to get going early. We thought we would leave the dock around first light. We miscalculated the sunrise slightly however and it was still very much dark when we were ready to leave the dock.
To get into Alpena, there is a long narrow channel marked with channel bouys and very shallow water outside of the marked channel. As soon as we left the protection of the marina we quickly realized that none of these bouys are lit. We have our chart plotter that shows us the path that we took to get into Alpena, so that will help provide a bit of a bread crumb trail to help us get out in the dark. However, Rose still had to get out the spotlight and stand on the bow to shine our powerful light to help identify the bouys on the way out of the harbor.
Did I mention that Alpena is a long way in? We hunted for bouys, shined the light and slow picked our way out in the dark for about an hour until we reached the end of the long line of bouys. Note to self, let’s leave after sunrise from now on.
Of course once we reached the end of the long line of bouys, the sky was bright enough to be able to see where we were heading.
We spent the whole day just making sure the boat was moving at an appropriate speed. We managed to average about 6.5 knots most of the day with all 3 sails flying and the engine assisting us to maintain our speed.
Over the course of the last 3 days we have travelled nearly 200 miles! We are tired, need a break and we are ready to arrive at Harbor Beach for some much deserved rest.
When we arrive near a marina, we typically hail the marina on the VHF to say we are about 5 – 10 minutes from arriving. The marina will typically tell us which slip we will be in, and we get vital information like how the approach is, which side of the boat to place our lines and fenders on to tie up and to ensure that they will have someone of the dock to lend a hand docking.
On this day, we called Harbor Beach Marina on channel 16. No answer… Tried again a few minutes later, no answer…., then some weird guy answered us on the VHF who was not the marina and we still aren’t sure what he wanted…weird.
Well….since the marina isn’t answering and we do have a reservation and it’s now after 5 pm, we wonder if they left for the day. We decided to make our way into the marina and we will just park in an open slip and ask for forgiveness later. This also means we have no idea which slip we will find open and where to place our lines and fenders, so we put them on both sides of the boat so we are ready for anything.
We come in and find the first empty slip and pull right in and we were able to land well and tie up without a problem.
We walked up to the marina office and we finally see a note on the door that says that he will be right back. We later learn that the main town is about a mile or so from the marina and the marina staff – one guy – will drive people into town to go to dinner and bring them back when they are done. So, when we tried to call him on the VHF he was shuttling people into town for dinner. That’s a pretty nice service actually!
We just threw something on the grill and called it a night. We were tired from getting up early and have had a long day.
We decided to stay here another night to rest up for the next leg of our journey. We ran the air conditioning for the first time on our trip. We are getting further south and it’s getting warmer.
The next day we slept in! We were generally pretty lazy. I haven’t even taken a single picture with the camera in the last 2 days….too tired.
We did have an opportunity to meet another boater on the dock who has a beautiful 4400 Tartan, which is an identical boat to our friends Dwight and Kay. The owner of this 4400 Tartan is named Mike. Mike told us all about the route ahead of us with the St Clair River, Lake St Clair and the Detroit River. This will be something new for us…rivers, current, etc. We are also very concerned about the shallow depths that are in Lake St Clair. Mike gives us some excellent information that you can only get from someone who has been there. Mike belongs to North Star Sailing Club and keeps his boat there on Lake St Clair. After chatting for awhile he offers us a slip at North Star Sailing Club and recommends we stay there as his guest. How great! Mike is the second person we have met from North Star Sailing Club. We also met a couple from there during our stay in Petoskey, MI. They also offered for us to stay at their club.
Mike gave us his boat card and also the name and number for the harbor master at the North Star Sailing Club.
Boat cards….have I told you about boat cards? Well, boat cards are bit like business cards but with your name, contact information, boat information and blog! Boaters who are traveling, as we are, exchange boat cards with each other so we can all remember the people we met along the way. You never know when you might run into them again! We have collected numerous boat cards from people we have met along the way already and we put them in a book and write down where we met them or any other small details that would help us remember the encounter.
We got some much needed rest! Sorry, no pictures 😦