Two Crossings

Morning April 13th, my harbor home is ice chocked with new ice and small growlers.  The new ice stopped the Cap’n Lem’s swing at anchor and the march of the old ice into channel so the night was the quietest yet.  Slowly, very slowly I worked my way out of the anchorage into open water so I could try to get into the next channel to find the place where the Steamship America went down.   It is reported the bow can be seen just below the surface in 4’ of water.

It was not to be.  The ice was thick and fast against the big island and Thompson Island with lots of large broken growlers.  No place for the Cap’n Lem to be, for sure.  The wind is NNW and it takes me out past Rock of Ages Lighthouse again.  I feel a kinship to its loneliness this cold April day but it must stay put while I must move on.  The Keweenaw needs me to sail through her waterway so across the big lake I go again.

A ship!  I see a ship!  I watch the bearing drift.  There is none.  And what that means is unless one of us changes course or speed we will try to occupy the same place at the same time.  In sea going terms that’s called a “collision” and no matter who’s at fault, it will still be bad for me.  I recall Carl Sandberg “whither the rock bumps the jug or the jug bumps the rock, it’s still bad for the jug”. 

So I call her on VHF channel 16, switch to channel 8 and let her know who I am and that I will alter my course to go behind her.  She was the EDWARD L RYERSON.  I also call her later to inquire how I look on the radar.  It’s always good to know if I can be seen in a fog.  She let me know I painted a good image.  “Thank you, crew.”

On the horizon toward the Keweenaw Waterway west entrance, white.   Closer, of course it’s ice again, only this time it’s big ice, old ice, boat eating ice.  I test it down one lead to see if there is a way around but no, not now and the wind is picking up.  No place for the Cap’n Lem here either.  Well, beautiful little Grand Marais MN was a nice place to visit.  I come about and head back.  I believe I might be doing this a lot before I see the likes of Nome Alaska.

Its 55 miles to GM but only 40 to Horseshoe Bay.  We’ll see.  Oh, but what a ride.  The wind builds to a snappy20 to 25kts but I’m on a broad reach and the Cap’n Lem is loving it.  I get a steady 12kts with runs as high as 14.8.  Much faster than I’m use to but all is well and it I can slow easily by turning down wind.  That’s what one does with a trimaran to depower.

And then the dark and with it all the doubts one can have on a small boat alone at night, in the dark.  I check and recheck.  The autopilot is tracking well, Betty is making power, the running lights are burning bright, the radar… the radar transmittion does something weired to the autopilot.  Well, I don’t need this right now! Turn it off, turn it back on, yep something is going on. I suspect it’s the wiring to close to the fluxgate compass that when the radar transmits it pulls the autopilot off course.  Think, what have I done, ‘I looped the excess wire for the radar… and it’s too near the compass.  Ok, deal with it; just use the radar in spurts with the auto pilot in standby.  That works.  Check the GPS.  Lots of sea room.  All is well and very dark.  All the lights on the horizon seem to be houses ashore.  No boats, that’s good. There is a flicker to an a/c light that is different than the steady shine of a dc light used on a boat or an aid to navigation.  It’s very subtle, but years of going to sea have taught me what to look for.  But still, I had best check the horizon again with the binoculars.  It’s dark and I’m afraid of the dark. 

Closer to shore now the wind eases a knot or two.  My GPS keeps record of my track line.  I’ll use that to find my way back into the Horseshoe bay never forgetting there are rocks to the right of me and rocks to the left.    I go back to douse the headsail from aft, go forward to ready the anchor, go back to check the position,  go forward to let down the anchor, go back to steer the boat into the wind and set the anchor, go forward to douse the mainsail, go back to secure the rudder, go forward to check the anchor, go back to check the position.  I’m home for the night.

I have traveled 91 nautical miles in less than 12 hours and crossed Lake Superior twice more.

Leaving John's Island in the ice

Running for Horseshoe Bay

14 Responses to “Two Crossings”

  1. Hi Uncle Tommy!
    Jill forwarded your website to my dad and from there on to me, and all I have to say is ‘Wow!’

    What an amazing adventure you’re engaged in!
    Hopefully at some point I’ll get the opportunity to hear your stories from this trip!
    My fiance Lee is a former Sea Explorer and from Excursion Inlet/Elfin Cove, AK – so you can bet we’ll be following your trip with dual interests.
    Take care of yourself, and if you have the time feel free to email me.

    Lots of love,

  2. John Danicic says:

    Capt Tommy:

    You can get a good idea of where the ice is on Lake Superior with this satellite link.

    It looks like the Keweenaw waterway is going to be a bit “white” for a while.

    Sail on

    John Danicic
    Cape Dory 36 – Mariah – #124
    Lake Superior – The Apostle Islands

  3. tommy says:

    Thank you so much. This is the site I’ve been looking for but never got to. What a great help. Looks like I called it right turning around. I may try for Bayfield in a couple of days. I can go south then come up. What great training for later up north.

  4. tom koehler says:

    re the excess radar cable interfering with your autopilot… if the cable is nicely coiled to avoid a mare’s nest… it makes a nice elctromagnet when your radar transmits. All the turns in the coil are going in the same direction. The bos’n will rebel at this thought, but consider having half the turns in your coil of cable going the opposite direction. 3 turns are going clockwise, and 3 turns are going counterclockwise – two different fields will cancel each other. Just make certain that you do not put a sharp bend in the cable, as sharp bends are a bad thing. In a related matter, if it is the case that you have to route cables around your vessel, there may be times when they will cross or pass near each other. Try to have them crossing each other at right angles, to minimize any induced currents in them, if they are not shielded. When different cables run parallel to each other, sometimes it is possible for a strong current in one cable to induce an unwanted current in another cable. Sensitive systems like compasses could be vulnerable, sometimes.
    Best wishes to you, sir, you’ve got grit.

  5. Keith McGrew says:

    Capt. Tommy,

  6. Bomweevemof says:

    cooooolest domain name)))

  7. Bomweevemof says:

    great domain name for blog like this)))

  8. Les Bolton says:

    Smooth sailing Tommy. We will be following your progress and sending our best vibes!
    Fair Winds!

  9. bob hollingsworth says:

    we’ve followed your exploits with great interest and the trip so far looks world class. I just returned from the annual northward transit of the Chieftain and the Lady. This time they put me on the Lady and we had quite a trip. Initially we couldn’t depart SF Bay since the headwinds under the bridge threw the vessel into a wild 180 turn at each attempt. So we waited one more day and slipped out into the mighty Pacific. Bang on the nose headwindsup to 35 knso we were often cranking along at 1-2 kn over the bottom with the Detroit banging away in the ship’s bowels.Had to put in at Bodega Bay and then again at Eureka. Finally we found ourselves off the coast of Oregon. I am working the 12-4 watch and it got so bad from the NW that 4 of us sea dogs were wrestling with the tiller. Finally we were done and relieved at 0400 and dove into the sack. The next watch wrestled with the devil for another 45 minutes and then made a command decision to do a 180 and run downhill. Oh my, back in CA.

  10. bob hollingsworth says:

    the next day the captain reported that the office was not happy. Five of us had completed our contracted tours of duty and had to jump ship and head back to our shore jobs. Hopefully the Lady made it to the Columbia River.
    Give my best to Tiny and we wil continue to eagerly track your progress.
    Fair winds…. Bob

  11. Jay O'Leary says:

    Capt Tommy,

    The word is out (Good Old Boat) and there are many of us reading about your adventure. I wish you fair winds, kind seas, and a dry berth.

    Jay O’Leary
    Lancer 28 – Morningstar
    Ithaca, NY

  12. Bill says:

    Hey Tommy —
    Loving your storytelling skills. Puts me right out there on the “Big Lake” (that’s what we call her) with you. You’re gonna have a book to publish right from the pages of your log.
    — Bill
    Houghton, Keweenaw

  13. tommy says:

    Number 17!!!!!!!!!Great to hear from you. This is so much fun. I had no idea so many would be interested.

  14. tommy says:

    Hello Les, tell all at the seaport hello and my best. I tell everyone who will listen about THE LADY WASHINGTON and THE HAWAIIAN CHIEFTAIN.
    My time on there was some of the best of my life.


    PS I have my sailing endorcement for oceans now.