East from Thunder Bay

The sea trial was a great success and as expected, Arkansas Traveler runs quite smoothly through the water now. The odd vibrations at low RPM are gone. The people at Thunder Bay Yacht Club were wonderful to us and very accommodating throughout our entire stay.

Bill, Steve, and Tracy at McKellar Marine Centre run an extraordinary business and go well beyond expectations in their attention to detail when working on boats. You are in good hands there if you ever need boat repair work done when in the northern part of Lake Superior. And, they are just great people, and talented in many realms. Tracy is also a potter and works in glass. Steve makes maple syrup on his homemade outdoor syrup furnace and he makes jellies from those tasty wild Canadian blueberries.

Thunder Bay Yacht Club from the river

Thunder Bay Yacht Club from the river

We left Thunder Bay early last Tuesday morning, looking forward to exploring Black Bay and other nearby anchorages.   There are numerous small islands and islets to thread through after rounding Sibley Peninsula heading east. Beacons and charts mark the rocks and dangerous passages.

Light on Trowbridge Island

Light on Trowbridge Island

Small islet east of The Sleeping Giant

Small islet east of The Sleeping Giant

Squaw Bay is large with a few scattered cottages along its shore.  A single-hander sailed by in the morning to to check out the foreigners in the bay.

Squaw Bay is large with a few scattered cottages along its shore. A single-hander sailed by in the morning to to check out the foreigners in the bay.

 

The nights were in the upper 50’s and the days were in the lower 70s. It is a much different lake this year, with warmer air and water temperatures. We cruise wearing light windbreakers. The fish are in the deeper, cooler waters and trolling is difficult without a downrigger to get the lure to 40- to 50-foot depths where the fish are.

After anchoring for the night in Squaw Bay, we worked our way through the islands to Otter Cove at the mouth of Shesheeb Bay. This remote anchorage was a favorite last year and we stayed two nights this year as well.

There were no other boats in Otter Cove so we dropped anchor close to the stream leading to a waterfall. Here in the quiet and protected waters, sightings of beaver, eagles, loons, a happy Blackburnian Warbler, and a moose entertained us.

The still and peaceful upper arm of Otter Cove is filled with reflections.

The still and peaceful upper arm of Otter Cove, filled with reflection.

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Back to Thunder Bay

Word from Canada is that Arkansas Traveler is ready to splash! The shaft has been straightened, the engine realigned on its mounts, the cutlass bearings replaced, the strut straightened, and the spare propeller mounted in its spot at the end of the shaft.   The repaired propeller is in the trunk of our rental car and will become the new spare that we will hopefully never need. Alas. I wonder what the rock looked like.

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The propeller, straightened, balanced, and shiny.

We expect that after all of the focused fussing with the engine/shaft/propeller alignment factors, Arkansas Traveler will run more quietly and smoothly through the water than ever before. She has been returned to her original shipyard standards, or better. I cannot wait to ply the waters of Lake Superior again.

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This is a fuse. It is unlike any fuse that I have encountered. It lives in a clear plastic box deep within the bowels of the engine room and holds many electrical secrets.

The above fuse (a little over 1” long) was the fix for our windlass problem. It took an extra call to the very helpful mechanic at Barker’s Island Marina before we found it. We checked the circuit breakers and all the in-line fuses that we could find, but this fuse was a new style for us. It controls the power to the windlass and the wash-down pump on the foredeck. It is extremely important and we now have a glut of spares.

During the prop repair process we drove home, stopping for two nights in Grand Marais, Minnesota. It is one of our favorite ports – good food, interesting local art, excellent coffee shops, fresh donuts, a superb independent bookstore, and an especially inviting lakeshore promenade. Here are some photos…

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Thank You, Thunder Bay

The above photo demonstrates how a vessel floats happily on the water.  Alas, Arkansas Traveler requires serious work and it will be several weeks before she again tugs at her anchor.

On Friday morning we left Prince Arthur Landing Marina and cruised 9 miles to the Thunder Bay Yacht Club where we hauled out on their Travel Lift.  We thought that the folks from McKellar Marine Centre would pull the prop, set the spare propeller in place, and splash her back into the water. We would be on our way!

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We were mistaken.

Note the severe folding of the blade

Note the severe folding of the propeller blade

In addition to the damaged propeller blade, the strut that supports the shaft has a slight bend to port.  The compromised strut took the shaft out of alignment and added to the violent vibrations.  Bill Zeleny, from McKellar Marine will remove the strut.  It will be heated, and bent back to true.  While the strut is in a machine shop, Bill will check the cutlass bearings and the shaft.

There is a slight bend to port on the strut.  It is difficult to see and that is a good thing.

There is a slight bend to port on the strut. It is difficult to see and that is a good thing.

The pressure from the damaged strut prevents the shaft from entering the bearings evenly.

The pressure from the damaged strut prevents the shaft from entering the bearings evenly.

Further inspection will reveal whether the shaft is damaged.  In the meantime, we will take the prop to Duluth to be straightened and balanced and then head home to visit family, friends and cats.

The Canadians that we have met through this process are amazing, hospitable and gracious.  The Thunder Bay Yacht Club opened their clubhouse to us and shared fabulous stories about their sailing adventures.  They pacified the captain by telling their personal horror tales of boats and rocks.  The club is letting us keep the boat in their yard during the repair process and several members are keeping an eye on her.  The  unique array of boats belonging to club members is amazing.  There are many old classics, lovingly cared for.

The Canadians that we have discussed politics with find Donald Trump horrific and yet entertaining.  We love Canada and her friendly people.

McKellar Marine Centre is a top-notch boat yard.  Bill, Tracy and Steve represent generations of boat mechanics.  Arkansas Traveler is in good hands.

Up on stilts in the yard.  We stayed onboard for two nights, accessing the boat via a ladder to the swim platform.

Up on stilts in the yard. We stayed onboard for two nights, accessing the boat via a ladder to the swim platform.  Our rental car looks really tiny next to the trawler.

Moonrise. Hope that everyone enjoyed the summer solstice.

Moonrise. Hope that everyone enjoyed the summer solstice.

 

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Chippewa Harbor to Thunder Bay

We spent four magnificent nights at anchor in Chippewa Harbor. A storm was brewing, so late Sunday afternoon we moved to a wider area of the basin for better protection from the 45-knot winds in the forecast. We had room to swing in all directions and to let out copious amounts of scope. Monday was a day of rain, thunder, lightning and howling winds as the storm passed through. Arkansas Traveler danced through multiple wide arcs but she did not budge her anchor.  We ate well.

The last meal from the trout: rolled in panko and crushed vinegar & salt potato chips; baked at 350 degrees until just slightly flaked

The last meal from the trout: here prepared for the oven, rolled in panko and crushed vinegar & salt potato chips; baked at 350 degrees until just slightly flaked

On Tuesday we took a long dinghy ride, discovering a well-camouflaged beaver lodge that had been right in front of us for two days. It was easy to see once we went behind it, but truly invisible from the lake. Cagey.

Beaver lodge in Chippewa Harbor

Beaver lodge in Chippewa Harbor

Wednesday morning was calm and clear. Bob raised the anchor at 0530 and we left with Passage Island as our destination.   The sun was bright and shining directly in our eyes as we slowly eased through the narrow S-channel towards the open lake. We were getting a bit to starboard of our GPS entry track and Bob steered to port to get back on track. Through the turn, the stern veered out to starboard and our propeller hit a submerged rock with a loud crash. The engine stalled.

She started right up when I went below and hit the start button. We very slowly powered forward until we entered the lake. There, in open water, we increased the RPMs and discovered a violent vibration. The entire boat strongly objected to the new bend in the prop. It would be a long, slow cruise to civilization. Thunder Bay, Ontario was the closest port with the needed equipment and expertise to haul the boat and pull the prop. If we kept the engine below 1400 RPMs (about 7 MPH), the vibration was tenable; anything faster could cause extensive damage across the drive train.

We were not quite ready to leave Isle Royale, but the day was perfect for a passage.

Isle Royale receding astern.  We were not quite ready to leave, but the day was perfect for a passage.

Overtaken by a laker in Thunder Bay

Overtaken by a laker in Thunder Bay

 

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Day One at Isle Royale

Arkansas Traveler at anchor

Arkansas Traveler at anchor

Saturday morning was clear and calm. Loading the dinghy with laundry and our check-in papers for the Isle Royale National Park Service, Bob grabbed the fishing pole, just in case, and we trolled our way to Windigo dock.

At the eastern end of Beaver Island, the line tugged and the pole tip dipped. I gently increased the drag and brought line in until I felt some resistance. Then she ran. It was a relatively short play of give-and-take before I first saw the fin clear the surface of the water and the big trout beneath it. Bob put the net in the water and when the fish saw it, she swam straight down. I was now standing in the dinghy coaxing her to the surface, letting her run, and coaxing her back again. With another dip of the net, Bob scooped up a 26-inch, 5.5-pound Rainbow Trout. I reckon that makes for three meals and a snack.

First fish of the season!

First fish of the season!

With the trout securely on the stringer, Bob steered the dinghy to the dock at Windigo. An hour later, with a load of clean laundry and the appropriate National Park Service anchoring permits, we returned to Arkansas Traveler, trout in tow.

Bob raised the anchor and I piloted out of the harbor. He then cleaned the fish on the aft deck as I steered west out the long harbor towards the fog on Lake Superior. Once on the lake and clear of the headlands, our heading was northeast to Chippewa Harbor. It was a 6-hour cruise, mainly through heavy fog.   The sky cleared as we approached Chippewa Harbor entrance, forty-three miles later.   We anchored in twenty feet of water, deep within the second basin.

This basin has good holding, excellent protection from wind and waves, and is not often visited by other boats this early in the season.   Here, on the hook, we listen to the Loon, the Gray Jay and the White-throated Sparrow. A nesting Merganser hen patrols the shoreline.

The rocky shoreline of Chippewa Harbor

The rocky shoreline of Chippewa Harbor

The post marks a portage trail that leads to another lake.  You can explore the island by canoe or kayak through its many interior lakes.

The post marks a portage trail that leads to another lake. You can explore the island by canoe or kayak through its many interior lakes.

 

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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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Leaving the Apostle Islands; June 16

Yesterday, before leaving the Apostle Islands, we took the ferry to Madeline Island and visited the historic museum at La Pointe.

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It was a windy and rainy day and after touring the museum we found some coffee and took the ferry back to the mainland.

This morning we dropped our lines and left Bayfield, circling Raspberry Island, then passing by Oak, Otter, Ironwood, , Cat, Manitou, and Michigan Islands, and finally to Stockton Island for a quiet night at anchor in Presque Isle Bay. We plan to raise the anchor at 0500 tomorrow and watch the sunrise as we head on the 95-mile cruise (11 to 12 hours) northeast to Isle Royale.

DSC_6082.JPGRaspberry Island Lighthouse

DSC_0019.JPGA calm morning for a cruise through the islands…

On our previous trip to Stockton Island, we hiked the Anderson Loop Trail but skipped the hike to Julian Bay. Today however, after anchoring, we took the dinghy ashore and hiked the .4-mile tombolo to Julian Bay and walked along the beach. The water temperature is still less than 40 degrees – only one of us got our feet wet. The beach sand in Julian Bay reportedly sings when you walk on it. It is something about the texture, size and density; however it wasn’t singing for us this afternoon. The Pink Lady Slippers, on the other hand, are in full bloom and we happened upon an amazing patch of them.

We trolled on the return trip to Arkansas Traveler, going out to the rock at the Presque Isle point and taking the long route home. Sadly there are no fish for dinner tonight.DSC_0065.JPGA corner of beach in Julian Bay with a view of Madeline Island to the south.DSC_0106.jpgToo many Pink Lady Slippers to count

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