Passage to Isle Royale

At 0400 on Friday morning the NOAA weather forecast was what it had been for days: northeast winds 5 knots in the morning, veering to southeast in the afternoon; seas, less than two feet. From the deck, there was no wind, the skies were clear of fog or mist, the temperature was 49 degrees and the barometer was up from the day before. The predawn song of the loons said that it was a perfect day for a passage.

At 0500 the engine was on and the captain was on deck raising the anchor with the new, improved, very hefty windlass. I was at the upper helm looking at the various instruments, listening to the clatter of the chain rolling over the gypsy when there was a silence and then a string of expletives from the captain. There was a jam in the windlass and it somehow killed its motor. “What now?” the captain called up to the fly bridge as he began retrieving the anchor by hand. The anchor weighs 45 pounds and there was probably 35 feet of very heavy chain left in the water.

I hate to admit this, but I really like watching Bob pull in the anchor by hand. It is something about all of that strength and self-sufficiency. While I dearly love of our electronic and electric gizmos and appreciate that they make life easier, I do nostalgically wish for simpler times.

We motored slowly out of the bay; Bob secured the anchor, cleared the jam, and stowed the chain. We pondered over the windlass issue throughout the day and decided that it was certainly a shore-side project. Such is boating.

The cold waters of Lake Superior ensure brisk temperatures. The on-deck reading stayed in the fifties all day. That does not sound exceptionally cold; however, when you are in the wind for 12 hours and not being active, you get chilled. Very chilled. It was a hand warmers and hot soup sort of day.

The NOAA forecast was good, but the Passage Weather forecast was more accurate: the winds, when there were any, were variable and less than 5 knots; the gentle swells were less than a foot high with and their surfaces were mostly glassy. The loons were right; it was a perfect day.

Arkansas Traveler entered Washington Harbor via the Grace Harbor route. We snaked through the narrow passage between Washington Island and Booth Island at 1530. At 1600 we tied up at the Windigo fuel dock to pump the holding tank and I ran up to the NPS concession store, and purchased a Michigan fishing license and some tokens for the washing machine. We looked at the electrical connections for the windlass, the fuses, etc. Nothing obvious appeared out-of-order, so we headed for the anchorage behind Beaver Island and settled in for the night.

Ninety-eight miles and twelve hours; I dreamed of catching trout.

The sun rising over Stockton Island.

The sun rising over Stockton Island. Note how still the water is at dawn.


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5 Responses to Passage to Isle Royale

  1. K. T. White says:

    Your writings are so detailed and graphic that I can close my eyes and feel that I am right there with you.

  2. tomb215 says:

    I can’t wait to hear the fish stories. Or see the photos.

  3. ann jones says:

    I showed mom the Pink Lady-slippers. She was amazed. Makes me happy that you saw too many to count.

    The idea of doing things the old way periodically is appealing to me. Doubt Bob found hauling that anchor very appealing. Your thoughts as to doing things the old way were enjoyable.

    Possible that for the first time in several days Carl and I will be the only people sleeping at our house tonight. It has been busy here.

    The cool temperatures you describe sound wonderful. Pretty warm here.

    Zane and Lauren (she has been here since early Monday morning week) say they are back together. My question was “When were you apart.” They are floating/camping with a group of 4H kids today and tomorrow.

    Say hello to Bob.

    Love , Ann

  4. Alan V Cecil says:

    Just happenstance brought me here…reading your daily entries one by one. The Lake Superior travels are areas the few AGLCA Loopers ever sample. One day, someday it will be my turn!
    Thanks for the sharing and the excitement.
    Alan V. Cecil
    Hampton Roads

  5. Lake Superior repays many times over with its beauty, its solitude, and the focus on nature that it exacts from you. The adventure into the lake delivered challenges, memories and laughter for a lifetime. We feel exceedingly fortunate to have cruised her water and to have met some of the folks who live on her shores.

    Keep that dream alive, Alan!

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