VHF reception is spotty in Otter Cove and other remote anchorages in Ontario. It is impossible to get a weather report through the static. This year we equipped Arkansas Traveler with a satellite device that comes with a data/phone package. We access it through the laptop or the iPhone. It works like a charm and brought us our email and took us to the various weather sites that we use to make cruising decisions.
It was time to leave Otter Cove. Environment Canada lowered their wind and wave forecast for Friday. We were looking at 10 knot winds from the southeast and 1- to 2-foot seas. Passage Weather predicted 3-foot seas before dawn, dropping to 1- and 2-foot seas after sunrise, and southeast winds of 5 to 10 knots easing through the day and backing to east and then northeast over night. Our route plans took us 75 miles, heading south and then southeast as the wind and waves lessened.
I, of course, wanted to stay an extra day to play and fish. The grown-up within said that we needed to move south before the winter winds came and that we had a good weather window and should take it.
Expecting improving conditions, we did not hurry for a sunrise departure, and raised the anchor at 0745. The first two hours were smooth cruising as we headed south along the protecting Ontario shore. At 1000 Le Petit Mort Rocks were on our port beam and the waves picked up to 2 feet from the southeast. Angry skies lowered over the water. We changed our course to southeast, toward Gargantua Harbor, 40 miles away. Arkansas Traveler happily plowed into the waves, flags flying; the wind picked up to 15 knots and then 20 knots. The waves grew to 3 footers with some 4s interspersed. We wedged ourselves into the helm chairs on the flybridge, deciding to make a run due east to the protection of the closest shore – Brule Harbor, 30 miles away, taking the wind on our starboard bow.
The wind backed to east and kept up its force. The waves grew and we were seeing groups with 5- and 6-foot waves. A large wave would approach, top breaking. The trawler rode up the face and down the back in fine style, but the second wave would swell up, looming larger than the first, hitting the bow with a thud, stopping the boat. We were at times lifted off of the helm chairs. Water was spraying over the deck constantly, and up over the flybridge with frightening regularity.
Stymied by the seas, our average speed reduced from our typical 8.7 knots down to 7 knots and slower.
After four hours of pitching and pounding, we reached protected waters in the lee of the shore. We turned south at 1430 and easily cruised the last 3 hours to Gargantua Harbor. We dropped anchor at 1730 in 30-foot depths with a sandy-mud bottom. The skies were still stormy, but the winds had lessened and the waters benefited from the protection of the shore.
There are no photos from the flybridge. Sorry.
Arkansas Traveler was a champ. She never buried her bow. She cut through the water with the beauty of her lines and the power of her engine. She never skipped a beat. Her crew, however, was frazzled. We think that Lake Superior just wanted one more bite out of us to keep us humble. We are.