Category Archives: Adventures

Homecoming – Part 10

We had a beautiful, sunny day for crossing under the Mackinac Bridge that separates Lakes Michigan and Huron. They’re 20150702_085137technically really one lake, and share the same water level, but I won’t argue with hundreds of years of tradition. Our destination for the afternoon would be Beaver Island, and with Perky running like the proverbial top, we had no worries at all.. This was a fairly short day for us, and with smooth water we managed to start late and finish early.

We pulled into the very well protected St. James Harbor and headed for Beaver Island Marina.  Be sure to follow the marked channel because it gets pretty shallow in parts of the harbor.  Our friendly and efficient dock hands parked us right next to a Hatteras 52 motor yacht.  Our friendly neighbor explained 20150702_142828that they had previously sailed the world but settled for a few years in Beaver Island. Now they were preparing the big Hatteras to head south, to the Gulf of Mexico, having experienced one too many Beaver Island winters. We met plenty of friendly people on Beaver Island. We did some minor re-
provisioning at the grocery store, conveniently located just across the road from the rustic marina. Be prepared to pay island prices
though. Downtown was a pleasant, and scenic walk away.

Beaver Island was settled by Irish immigrants and the entire town P1020295has a nautical Irish flair that seems to fit this island just right. We would heartily recommend Beaver Island if you’re looking for a laid back, relaxing town surrounded by wilderness.  This is not a tourist trap type of place, but they do welcome boaters. Nautical architecture and Irish heritage was a bonus for us.

More than just a stepping stone to other destinations, Beaver Island deserves to be a destination in it’s own right, but maybe that would spoil it. Take a trip and judge for yourself.

Homecoming – Part 9

We woke up early on July 1, 2015 to a chilly, gray day but we were full of excitement. The wind had died down so leaving the dock should be no trouble at all, except for one minor detail. Perky, our diesel engine, refused to start. Not a single cylinder would fire. Tom had just been through everything there was to purge air from the 20150701_112830fuel system 2 nights ago, and we experienced no problems at all yesterday. Tom decided to call in the cavalry. Drummond Yacht Haven sent over their head mechanic to have a look. Of course he started doing all the things Tom had done two nights before. Finally he changed the fuel filter and discovered a missing o-ring, that must have fallen off as Tom installed the filter. How it could have run at all without it was a mystery to everyone, but we were running again.

Off we went, headed for the Straights of Mackinac. Or is it 20150701_163430Mackinaw? Curiously, it seems to depend on whether you’re on the island or the mainland. Of course Mackinac Island is the finish line for the Chicago-Mackinac, the longest freshwater sailboat race in the world. The clouds broke up and we had a gorgeous day of sightseeing. Kristi arranged a slip at Mackinaw City Marina since Mackinac Island was overcrowded. Everyone was very friendly, but the marina is a little rolly during the day due to island ferries going in and out. No worries, it calms down at night, once the ferries are done.

After we got settled and enjoyed a well deserved beer we strolled around the touristy part of town, did a little shopping, shared a funnel cake and generally had a good time. Once again, due to our schedule, and needing to conserve our “weather days”, we had to push on the next morning to Beaver Island.

LaSalle - Racine

Homecoming – Part 8

On the last day of June, 2015 we untied the lines and headed from Meldrum Bay to Drummond Island. We were very excited to be returning to the USA, but neither of us could put our finger on exactly why. The weather was chilly and fair, but with a ground haze that washed out distant shores. We were motoring due to 20150630_132701some sail problems, but our passage was uneventful, with nary a hiccup from Perky, our diesel. We were happy to have those problems finally behind us.

At Drummond Island Yacht Haven we were directed to come into
the fuel dock to clear customs. The wind was blowing us off the dock hard, so Kristi threw our midship line to the dock hand with instructions to tie us off to the cleat at the end of the dock. Normally this would give us a spring line and we could use the engine to snug us up to the dock. The dock hand just stood there and pulled on the line. Did this 100 pound girl really think she was going to muscle in a 35,000 pound boat? We did manage to get tied up with a little drama after being pinned to the pilings in the middle of the slot.

Our main reason for stopping here is because US Customs has an officer on site. The Customs agent was very nice and even printed out a form we thought we didn’t need. Importation with an old boat that was built in the US was a non-event, and we were back in the P1020293USA! The friendly folks at the marina decided that with the problems we had docking, and the wind increasing, we could just stay there. After a short rest it seemed like a good reason to celebrate, so we took one of the $12 rental cars and went into town for dinner and drinks, and even a game of pool. It felt good to be “home” again.

The evening was cold, but we were excited to be getting closer to home waters.

LaSalle - Racine

Homecoming – Part 7

After a good night’s sleep we awoke with plans to visit the Benjamin P1000935Islands and maybe spend a night anchored in that area. Perky started right up and idled smoothly as we untied our dock lines in the still morning air. We throttled up to leave and Perky died again, but not before getting us about 10 feet from the dock! We were able to use what little momentum we had to tie up further up the dock. We were now in the fuel dock area, but didn’t have a lot of options.

As Tom worked to start the engine, the fuel dock manager complained to Kristi about our position. We got the motor to P1000945stumble along just enough to let us circle back to previous location. The days mileage would stand at about 100 feet, round trip. At this point we spent the day checking and changing everything we could and finally got her running again. We ran her at the dock full throttle for about 5 minutes with no trouble. So with fading light, we watched the bridge and told ourselves tomorrow would be better.

The next day was clear and sunny as we timidly left the dock. We watched the scenery and listened intently to Perky the diesel as P1000982once again, there was no wind. After about an hour Perky’s familiar hiccups came back, but we chugged onward. Despite all of our problems so far Tom insisted that we make a slight detour to at least cruise through the Benjamin Islands. The Benjamins are unique in that they are essentially pink granite boulders so huge they form islands. With a few trees growing in the crevices they have a very stark yet haunting look.

After looking around we headed off to our next overnight stop, 20150629_190143Meldrum Bay. Once clear of the Benjamin Islands the water opened up again and we had no worries apart from our ailing engine.  We pulled into Meldrum Bay Marina and found a very rustic place in the middle of a wilderness area. The bay is well protected and quite, at least in June.  A perfect setting for getting away from it all, but so perfect for fixing a still ailing engine. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a very good stop.

We were directed to Meldrum Bay Inn just up the hill from the marina for a meal and Wi-Fi since we needed to do some research. We were a bit surprised when our 20150629_175037hostess informed us that she would only give us the Wi-Fi password after our meal. She suggested we relax, talk, eat, and forget our problems for a bit, and that was the best advice we got on the entire trip! So, for best meal, best atmosphere and best advice of the trip we nominate the Meldrum Bay Inn.

Back at the boat Tom studied the Perkins shop manual again and 20150629_201046found some bleeder screws he had missed previously. In a bid to fix it once and for all he changed all the fuel filters again, and bled the the entire fuel system (this time including the mystery screw). Testing the engine again at full power, she ran like a champ. A power cruiser came in after the marina staff left and we helped them dock and then chatted a bit. They agreed that Meldrum Bay is a great spot to stop.

So once again we went to bed tired but happy knowing our next stop would be Drummond Island, MI, USA.

LaSalle - Racine

Homecoming – Part 6

20150627_092651We had a short trip to Little Current so we weren’t in a big hurry to leave Killarney. We ate a leisurely breakfast aboard, watched the wildlife and even saw an airplane take off. Eventually though, it was time to go, so we cast off the dock lines, backed out (making sure no aircraft were coming) and headed out the narrow channel for Little Current.

Leaving the beautiful channel we found a wonderland where rocky islands jutted up from the bottom in crystal clear water. Of course it’s the submerged rocks you really have to watch out for, but with water so clear you can see the bottom 15 feet below, the main problem is convincing yourself P1000907how far below the surface some of them are. We carefully threaded our way along our planned course while keeping an eye out for any obstacles.

We were in no hurry at all, so we enjoyed the circuitous route to our destination. As we approached the swing bridge at Little Current we realized that we would just miss the opening, so we had a bit of time to kill while P1000918waiting for the next scheduled opening. Kristi got in some low speed steering practice while we meandered in the area, admiring the Strawberry Island lighthouse, until it was time to queue up for the bridge. The approach channel is very well marked and we idled up a little ahead of schedule, not wanted to miss it a second time.

As the bridge swung open for us, Tom throttled up and Perky, the P1000928diesel, died. Luckily what little wind and current we had was with us, so we slowly drifted through the bridge while trying to restart. Luckily we had plenty of room, and Kristi took the helm with her only goal being to keep us off the hard stuff. Tom worked frantically to refire the diesel but all she did was crank. We realized that the town seawall was good destination and Tom started to get the dinghy out 20150627_180025of the davits to side tow us in. Just then a friendly power boater offered a tow, and with his help we were able to coast up to the seawall and tie up for the night.

Once tied up to the Little Current Town Dock, Tom got out the wrenches and worked at troubleshooting the engine… again. After a calming phone call from a diesel mechanic friend, who reminded us to stick to the basics, we got Perky running again.  We ran her up to full power, straining at the dock lines, with no sign of trouble. With both of us tired from a combination of travel, exertion and stress, we wandered into town and found dinner at the excellent Anchor Inn Grill.

We went to sleep that night tired but with plans to see the The Benjamin Islands the following day. Pearl Lee and Perky had other plans.

LaSalle - Racine

Homecoming – Part 5

20150625_154057Early on the morning of June 26, 2015 we made ready to leave Tobermory and bound for Killarney. We were on a long dock with boats fore and aft and another long dock full of boats to port (left). Kristi thought we should wait for others to move, but with no wind or current Tom felt it was doable. So with morning fog still hugging the water we crept out in reverse, going dead slow and using the bow thruster like a rudder. No drama at all, although Kristi stood by with boat hook and fenders, and other boaters came out on deck to watch. Sometimes the bow thruster really is the Easy Button.

Flower Pot Island
Flower pots on Flower Pot Island

Once clear of the marina we headed for Killarney via Flower Pot Island. The island is named for rock formations that resemble flower pots and they really did! With sun shining and mild temps we had found a very beautiful part of the world. Somehow seeing it from our own boat made it that much better.
With no wind and flat water, we motored towards Killarney, marveling at rocky islands and crystal clear water. P1000850Killarney is situated in a narrow channel protected by a rocky island on one side, and rocky mainland on the other. We found Sportsman’s Marina to be very nice with a friendly young staff who actually knew a bit about boats. In the summer this is a very busy place since it’s a popular stop for most boats in the area. We were just a bit early for the summer season, so the crowds weren’t here yet. Just nice docks, excellent service and very clean facilities.

Sportsman's in Killarney
Sportsman’s in Killarney

Friends told us to look for the fish and chips bus for a great meal. We found that the bus had been so successful they are now in a building. Just walk up to the road, turn right and you can’t miss it. The fish and chips were excellent, but be aware this isn’t much fancier than the bus. After dinner we wandered the town a bit and did some shopping. We really liked Killarney and would love to go back during the “summer season”. If you’re visiting Lake Huron’s North Channel, be sure to venture a bit east of Little Current and check out Killarney. It’s a nice little town in a beautiful setting.

Finally it was time to start plotting a course for Little Current.

LaSalle - Racine

Homecoming – Part 4

Early in the morning, on June 24, 2015 we backed out of our slip at Goderich, turned right on Lake Huron and we were on our way to Port Elgin (pronounced with a hard G, as in “gun”). With little to no wind, and small waves we motored north. It was sunny, but a bit cold with wind finally kicking up just as we wanted to dock (why does it do this?).

Docked at Port Elgin
Docked at Port Elgin

As we negotiated the channel and breakwater into Port Elgin Harbour, people on the dock were shouting and pointing in three different directions which caused some confusion. We bumped the fuel dock slightly due to bad directions and somewhat unfamiliar controls, but eventually made it into our slip for the night. Lesson learned, pay no attention to the bystanders. With nowhere nearby to go, we relaxed and got ready for the next day’s trip to Tobermory.

Drizzley cruise to Tobermory
Drizzley cruise to Tobermory

Fog, drizzle and very cool temperatures marked our trip to Tobermory. We didn’t see another boat out all day and at times felt like we were the only people on Earth. We motored along fog shrouded islands, feeling our way forward. We were very thankful for our full cockpit enclosure which kept us dry and relatively comfortable.

Finally, rounding Bonnet Island we could see Tobermory Harbour. As we got 20150625_154057closer it seemed more and more like a 19th century fishing village. The staff was helpful and professional in getting us squared away. Once we were settled we explored the town a bit. If you want fish or fudge, this is your town. We did a bit of shopping and had an excellent whitefish dinner. This was one of our favorite stops, and we both wanted to stay longer because there was so much to see, but with limited time, as Kristi said, “If the weather is good, we have to move.”

We went to bed knowing that the next morning we were off to Killarney.

Homecoming – Part 3

Current getting to Lake Huron
Current getting to Lake Huron

We bid goodbye to Sarnia and headed north towards the Blue Water Bridge and Lake Huron. The current under the bridge was pretty stiff and we were glad that the previous owner had upgraded to a larger engine. We made forward progress, but it was slow. We learned much later that the trick is to hug the West bank where the current slacks a bit. That would have been nice to know before leaving Sarnia.

Relaxing with the salt mine behind us
Relaxing with the salt mine behind us

Once we got into Lake Huron we headed straight for Goderich. There were thunderstorms predicted for that night and we wanted to be off the lake before they hit.  We made it to Maitland Valley Marina with no problems. If you’re headed there, just look for the turquoise salt mine. The friendly staff helped us tie up just as the first thunder could be heard in the distance, and rain started to sprinkle down.

We ended up having quite a storm, but it was short lived and the marina was very well protected.

 

Walking to Goderich
Walking to Goderich

Once the storm subsided we decided to walk into town because a reviewer said it was a nice walk. Nice, perhaps, but it’s long, and steep. There is a long stairway leading up the bluff to town, followed by a fairly long walk to get to the downtown area. If you were in a hurry, and in good shape, you might be able to walk it in under 30 minutes. The town was very nice and has some wonderful old architecture. We got rained on a little, but not too bad and ended up having a nice meal before heading back to Pearl Lee.

We found out we had only experienced the edge of a very large storm and the following morning reports of large waves kept us at the dock. So we spent a sunny, warm day relaxing and planning our next step, heading to Port Elgin.

LaSalle - Racine

 

Homecoming – Part 2

Detroit
Detroit

At first light on June 20, 2015, we started the motor, and crept out of tiny Westport Marina in LaSalle, Ontario, Canada to begin our  journey to Racine, WI. We motored up the Detroit River full of excitement as we looked at the Detroit skyline. We were planning to cruise through Lake Huron’s North Channel, so we stayed on the Canadian side of the river. Although chilly, it was a gorgeous day for a beginning.

Eventually the river opened into Lake St. Clair. A couple freighters were coming into the river as we were exiting, so we gave them plenty of room. We were starting to be 20150620_090853troubled by Perky’s hiccups. “Perky” is our Perkins diesel, and as she rumbled along she would occasionally miss a beat, just for a fraction of a second. She kept going though, so we vowed to have a look when we stopped for the night.

The weather was fine and we were motoring, so we made a bee line to the St. Clair River. Perky kept up her hiccups, and we kept going. Well, that is until Perky had a bigger than usual hiccup and died. We tried to restart, but the starter was dead. Suddenly we were adrift on the St. Clair River with freighter traffic coming up behind us. We managed to drift to the edge of the channel, and dropped anchor. Tom scrambled below to find the problem while Kristi radioed the approaching freighter so he’d know we were disabled. The freighter captain said he plenty of room and even th20150620_064543rottled back a bit as he passed.

We found that in our panic at the engine stopping we had left the transmission in gear, so the starter didn’t engage. Once we shifted to neutral, Perky started right up. Yea! Time to haul up 120 feet of chain and a 45 lb. anchor. This is not a good time to find out that while your windlass (a winch for anchors) “works” it has no power. Kristi tried to pull it up manually, but after a near mishap we traded places and Tom pulled the chain while Kristi manned the helm. It’s tricky getting the throttle setting just right to counteract the river current, but no overrun the anchor.

A little shaken, and tired, but we were on our way again. We reached Sarnia Bay Marina a little later than intended, but with our first day behind us we felt good.

Over a well deserved dinner we decided to stay an extra day for boat work.  In addition to Perky’s ailments, and the powerless windlass, we found that Otto, our autopilot, occasionally turned randomly, which required that one of us be at the wheel at all times. So, we had our “day off” well planned for us.

Dinner at Sarnia with Pearl Lee in the background
Dinner at Sarnia with Pearl Lee in the background

The next day we checked fuel filters, bled injectors and tested Perky under power at the dock. We found that the previous owner had wired the windlass to 6 volts instead of the 12 volts it required. At least that was an easy fix. Otto, however, remained mystery as we prepared to clear the Blue Water Bridge and head into Lake Huron.

LaSalle - Racine

Homecoming – Part 1

We found our Endeavour 43 during a lunch time internet search in the spring of 2015. She was located in LaSalle, Ontario, Canada. Little did we know what an adventure that advertisement would kick off.

20150502_141426After contacting the broker and explaining our distance from the boat he sent us 150 very detailed photographs. He showed her, warts and all, and it was clear he was not hiding anything. After a few conversations via phone and email we decided to make an offer with contingencies for our inspection, a professional survey and a professional mechanical inspection.

There was only one wrinkle, we didn’t have passports yet. It was one of those things that just kept getting put off, but now we needed them fast. We contacted Congressman Adam Kinzinger and he was able to help by getting us an appointment immediately. We dropped everything and rushed to Chicago,  and spent most of the day traveling, waiting, and finally getting our passports.

Now we were off to see the boat. It looked just like the pictures, no real surprises good or ba20150620_061759d. She needed work, but it was work we could do, so we decided to move ahead. Next came another trip to LaSalle for the survey, which didn’t reveal any deal breaking defects. The yard put her in the water and the mechanic checked her out. Everything worked as advertised, so she became ours. We spent the next four weekends traveling to Westport Marina in LaSalle on Friday after work and back home Sunday evening, working to make sure she was safe for the trip to our home port in Racine,WI. I’m sorry to say I can find no reason to recommend Westport Marina. There must be better facilities in the area, but that’s where our boat was when we bought her.

After a lot of research we decided to buy new sails from Mack Sails. UPS screwed up no less than three times getting our sails to us, but we finally got our sails thanks to Travis at Mack Sails who was instrumental in dealing with UPS. We were delayed a day but that made dinner with some old friends possible, so it wasn’t a total loss.

At first light on a crisp clear morning we backed out of the tiny marina and headed up the Detroit River. Phase two of our adventure was beginning.

LaSalle - Racine