The face of Bill Lane appeared on the other side of our cockpit screen at the dock the night before departure. "Ahem, we're going to be leaving at 6 am, so, you know, be up and ready to go at six", the instructor of the other boat told the four of us. We knew we wouldn't sleep-in with the anticipation of the trip, but the next morning all four of us were a bit surprised when we pushed off the dock at 6 sharp and headed out to the lake, with Voyager III still at the dock! We heckled Joe on Voyager's deck as we took off before them, the first of many times we would laugh as our appetite for action seemed to outpace theirs.
We crossed Lake St. Clair with a mostly following wind, with good-sized waves throwing the stern from side to side. This was fortunate, since the trailing seas revealed a maintenance issue on both boats. Voyager had adjustments to make in the tubing from the new thru-hull for the bilge pump, and we, on Manitou, our 30 foot Catalina tall rig, found our bilge overflowing into the salon a bit. A few minutes of research into the problem revealed an old hose attached to a thru-hull at the transom that was nearly disintegrated. As the trip progressed, we performed quite a bit of maintenance work. We serviced the head 3 times, finding a Joker valve variation that was a bit bizarre, and we adjusted/replaced the fraying jib furling line 3 times before getting it perfect. An oil change in Little Current, a scrub down inside and out, and in the end, we were proud to leave the boat in good shape for the first time-share of the season when we were done.
Back to our trek: We made Port Huron by 3:45 pm and were out of there by 5 pm with a new hose installed, and a sandwich dinner consumed. I heard that Voyager ate much better, and that wouldn't be the last time that happened either.
To the big lake! Bill told us often that he likes to get on and off the deep of Lake Huron as quickly as possible, and that would suit me just fine, since the exposure to the open water was scary to me, and we had 125 plus miles of it before getting to the safety of Tobermory and the Georgian Bay. Bill said our plan was, "If we get abeam of Kincardine before 11 am the next morning, we can make Tobermory before dark, so we can press on without stopping."
The winds were good, 15 knots or more. Being ahead of schedule, we shut the engine off and sailed a broad reach on the big lake, doing at least 5 knots of speed, according to our plan. Voyager continued to motor, making 6-7 knots, and so while we were making decent time, we fell a bit behind. The wind died a bit during my shift at the helm, and I made the mistake of not motoring up, accepting 4.5 knots of speed, or sometimes less. I thought we were ahead of schedule! Voyager left us in her diesel fumes, and by the time my shift was over at midnight, her lights were ahead at great distance.
Patrick MacArthur, my classmate, took the helm, while I found sleep. Patrick is capable, a man of many talents and experience. He is an excellent mechanic, a tireless worker, and always takes initiative in an instant if something needs to be done. He was a true asset to our team.
Overnight on the big lake we rotated our shifts every 1.5 hours. Each crew had 1.5 hours in support topside, 1.5 hours at the helm, and then two 1.5 hour periods to sleep. Patrick's support was our instructor, Dave. Dave Anderson is a retired U of M professor of electrical engineering. He has an encyclopedic knowledge base, and is a very accomplished sailor. Best of all, he was a patient instructor. He actively supported us through a few difficult spots, like the crossing through the Benjamins, but otherwise he let us plan and execute our routes on our own, while always watching on the GPS to make sure we weren't getting in harm's way. Dave really kept us moving on a great pace during our adventure.
Patrick and Dave fired up the engine and the wind started to shift while I slept. We kept Voyager in sight, but very much in the distance. It did make it easy to track the course, since they gave us a light to which we could steer. But we couldn't seem to gain on them! When it was time for me to get up at 3 am, I awoke to a 20+ knot wind from the north-northwest, and better than 3 feet waves. And cold!
Jerry was supporting Dave, and for Jerry, that means cooking, even in rolling seas. So, while it was often hard to just stand up, there was rice on the stove. I have had the great fortune to train with Jerry Brady in all our level 2-4 ASI water classes. While I may not share all his appetite for danger ( don't so much "yee-haw" my way over the biggest waves), he and I share a complete enthusiasm for harnessing the power of the wind on the sailboat, and we have sailed together enough that we can anticipate each other and we synchronize together very well. Part of what I love of sailing is that teamwork and harmony. And as an individual, Jerry has a phenomenal variety of interests and passions.
Further, both my fellow crew members were such enthusiastic and capable mechanics. Whether it was fixing the head, replacing the hose or furling line, or maintaining the barbecue, I was starting to expect them to go below for a tool, and reappear in a cape and tights. A super-hero!
After my support of Jerry at the helm, I had what I had coveted as the "sunrise shift" at the helm, from 4:30 to 6 am. What I didn't anticipate was that, as the light increased I had more and more trouble seeing the lights of Voyager miles ahead. Patrick helped with binoculars, but either fatigue, optical illusions, or the seas and mis-tracking of the course kept playing tricks on us. We had been trying to raise our sister ship by radio, but had been failing miserably. I was very worried that I would not be able to tell if they took a turn to starboard for Kincardine, or continued to head north for Tobermory. As 6 o'clock and the end of my shift approached, so did Kincardine. I tried one more time and got Kate McRae on the radio!
Voyager, Voyager, Voyager! This is Manitou, over.
Manitou, this is Voyager, over.
Are you going to Kincardine, or continuing for Tobermory? Over.
We are going to Tobermory, how about you? [!!] Er, you're going to Tobermory, right? Over.
Ok, yes we will head north to Tobermory. See you there. Over.
See you in Tobermory. Over and out.
I felt that while I didn't seem to catch them at all, I accomplished big-time, since we were in communication, and we were together on our way to get off this lake! But the wind was now coming from about 315 degrees at 25 knots, making us almost pinching to try for due north to Tobermory. I went to bed.
While the big waves made it difficult topside, once below with my eyes closed, I loved them. I was rocked to sleep. I awoke a little early and headed topside, prior to my 9 am shift. Jerry had been baking biscuits! Voyager was now to our east. We had been gaining, and were now passing them. We had been able to hold our course fairly well. After baking his biscuits for us, Jerry took the helm and was riding the waves like a cowboy at the rodeo. I hid from the frigid wind behind the dodger in my full, brand new, foul-weather gear, trying to keep my fingers from freezing off. "Wouldn't it be great if these waves were about 2 feet bigger?", that's Jerry at the helm. Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I wasn't in a particularly agreeable mood.
I took over again at 10:30 am, and failed miserably at keeping our course, called it quits at noon, thinking we would have to tack to Cape Hurd, and decided the best thing to do, would be to sleep.
I got up after a little bit, and the wind was more westerly, allowing us to head for Tobermory without a tack. I was able to pilot the sailboat in to Tobermory docks on my final shift, about 15 minutes before 6 pm, far ahead of Voyager, who arrived after we had showered and toasted our success. We were at the dock there, less than 36 hours after leaving St. Clair Shores, a new ASI record! (Per Bill Lane and Dave Anderson)
Showers! Wine! A toast! Dinner! Rest! Heavenly. Now comes the fun part.
We headed out the next day for Killarney. Flowerpot Island was beautiful. We did Club island and the tricky Squaw. Then the wind picked up and reflected off the water as we broad-reached for Killarney. The sail in there was beautiful. Killarney, at the Sportsman's Club, was pretty upscale. The showers and bathrooms, get 5 "Marilyns." (Marilyn Leece grades shower accomodations from 1 to 5 stars, but I think grading from 1 to 5 "Marilyns" is better.) They kept the bar open for us to eat. Good beer! Good eats! Now to the coves.
I won't describe every cove. We hit 25 of them. Yes, that's apparently a new ASI club record. Here's our list:
- Dunks bay
- Club Island
- Squaw Island
- Covered Portage Cove
- Powerhouse Bay
- Snug Harbor
- Hole-in-the-Wall from the north
- Boyle Cove
- Rat Portage Cove
- Marianne Cove
- Bell Cove
- Sturgeon Cove
- Amendroz Island
- McTavish Island
- McBean Cove
- Gibson Cove
- Eagle Harbor
- Fox Harbor
- Bay of the Benjamins. The tricky cut between the islands.
- Croker Island
- South Benjamin
- Beatty Bay
- Bear's Back Island
- Rous Island
The most memorable were when the boats rafted together overnight, and we could enjoy the warm company and great spirit of the Voyager crew. We did that in Marianne Cove and at Croker Island. The last morning in Kegawong, was
especially memorable for the fine Voyager breakfast cuisine. Cuisine is important, and I did not anticipate it would be so fine. The meal I brought was pretty easy and not quite up to the standards of the others. It was chili, frozen prior to boarding, though we did have cheese and some sour cream. I did provide a lot of the luncheon fixings too. But my fellow cruisers were barbecuing off the back of the boat, making taco salads, spanish rice... Their efforts were much enjoyed. We did hear of a little ice cream, fried fruit, and Grand Marnier flambé for dessert at Kagawong on the Voyager, but I can't tell you how that tasted.
And that leads me to one of the most enjoyable aspects to this adventure, the camaraderie. I don't know when I've ever been privileged to be in the company of 8 finer people. When we were rafted off talking after dinner, I was laughing so hard, I was crying. Not only was I entertained, but I was supported, I was uplifted by those around me. The experience was invaluable and the sailors were supreme.
One moment I loved, and still laugh out loud about, was when we headed out of Bell's Cove early, to go have eggs for breakfast in Sturgeon Cove. As we motored past Voyager, at about 6 am, it appeared that Joe Jaeger was the only one up on Voyager, in the stern, doing something, maybe practicing some knots. He looked up with a long envious face, "Getting an early start, huh?" All I can say is there wasn't any of us who didn't want to rope him and take him for more adventure, but he might have had a better breakfast staying put.
In Tobermory, Patrick and I bought hammocks. While anchored in Snug Harbor, I saw Voyager coming and went in the hammock on the deck for the rest of my lunchtime burger, just to be poised for their arrival. It was hilarious. They drove by twice with 3 or 4 cameras taking nearly continuous pictures. Jeez. I hope my hair was in place!
On the last night, in Little Current, we had a very special treasure hunt, that was courtesy of Jessica Hogg, John Johnston and Dave Clark. It was a real special touch. When Claire Zepeda read their note enumerating all we had accomplished becoming level IV, it brought a tear to my eye. And another thing was very special: When we started, Jerry flew 5 Tibetan prayer flags on the boat. On the last night, he took them down and gave each of us a flag, symbolizing either sky/space, air/wind, fire, water, and earth. No doubt, this flag from our teammate, is our most cherished souvenir of the trip. And that's the thing that I will carry with me forever, the shared experience of making this trip and achieving level 4 status with our crew and the crew of Voyager. These companions will never leave my heart. I will always consider it a brother/sisterhood, and I hope each and every one of them do the same.
My friend of more than 30 years, Jim, describes the North Channel (which he has only seen from land) as enchanting. He has the right word, even though he hasn't really experienced it. I did find it enchanting. The kind of experience you want to share with everyone you love. I can't wait to go back. My favorite? Probably Croker Island. I had a great swim, both in the evening and in the morning, and the island was terrific for hiking. Everybody was comfy come sunset, and so declined my invitation, but I was compelled to hike up to the westernmost top of the island with a 16-ounce beer and watched the sunset, texted my wife, Debby, and sent her and some friends a picture, while watching the surrealistic view.
To top off the experience of Croker, when we arrived that evening, before dinner and my sunset hike, the entire Voyager crew was on top of the 50 foot island watching us come in. We saw them, of course. Bill Lane, the commodore, used hand-held radio to talk to us from up there.
Manitou, Manitou, this is Voyager. Over.
Voyager. This is Manitou. Over.
We are up on the hill watching you come in. Over...
Just one more thing. When I joined ASI, I viewed the classes and the training as a stepping stone to the destination of being a better sailor, and having access to the boats. While I sat in that hammock above, I realized that my entire training, but especially the transfer trip, was a destination, in and of itself. It has been the best sailing in my life.
Christian McTurk - ASI, Level 4