The Fifth Crossing

Rough.  Started calm but built steadily from the Northeast.  First it was fog with light north wind that veered around to the Northeast and strengthens to 20 knots gusting more at times.  I could tell something was coming the way the swell, yes “swell”, was running from the northeast long before the wind picked up. At lease it blew the fog away.  Oh, but what a perfect wind for the Apostles.  10 knots steady speed with lunges to 12.5 and the ride was on.  Fifty one nautical miles without a tack. 

The Cap’n Lem is so stable.  Were she a mono-hull on this tack, I’d been beat half to death riding in the trough this way.  But the amma in the water balances the amma out of the water and the end result is speed.  Will I ever have the patience to sail AVANTI again. 

I sail passed the wreck of the 338’ wooden schooner PRETORIA which foundered on September 2, 1905 at the north end of Outer Island.  I feel such reverence here where so many rocks are headstones and so many shoals are footmarkers to the watery graves of so many good people.

 I found sheltered anchorage at Lat 46® 54.84’N ~ Long 090® 33.35’W behind a spit of land on Stockton Island.  Do they call them spits here?  It looks like a spit to me.  Anyway, it blocks the waves but not the wind like a spit.  The wind died in the night but comes back with a vengeance in the early morning.  I wake up to slapping halyards and the howl of wind in the rig.  I lay there still and quiet like that might make the wind go away, asking myself, what’s different? Something is different.  Something isn’t there that should be there?  Something just changed and I haven’t grasped what.  Then out the hatch into the cold.  Yip, the anchor let go and drug.  I’m in deep water.  Check the GPS; check the fathometer, 165 feet.  What was missing was the feel of the CAP’N LEM changing headings as the anchor pulls up short and changes her swing heading.   I’ve gone a quarter mile out into the open water.  There won’t be any sleeping here.  I’ve got sea room, blessed sea room.  No hurry now, make coffee, dress, start the day.  I might as well make use of this wind and head for Bayfield 14 miles away.  On the bow the anchor is hanging straight down. 

I would a’, I should a’, I could a’ but I didn’t.  I didn’t put out enough anchor rode, I didn’t set the anchor alarm, and I didn’t put my shoes on, just more lessons learned.  Note to self: leave shoes right by ladder.  It’s darn cold in socks on deck.

Dawn breaks, all’s well, making 6 -7 kts under head sail alone running with the wind.  Ice chunks, big ice chunks ever where, but clear passage through.  

I dock the CAP’N LEM at the city pier Bayfield, Wisconsin on the morning of April 19, 2009 after having sailed 347 nautical miles to get here.  Bayfield was to be my first stop when I left Two Harbors, Minnesota on April 6th.   See what I mean about my “plans”.

Looks like an ocean to me!

Looks like an ocean from here!


11 Responses to “The Fifth Crossing”

  1. Tim Sullivan says:

    Great to see you sailing again to the GREAT White North, I served with you as a SN/BM3 on Polar Sea in 82-84…I was able to sail again to the Arctic and NORTH POLE in 2005 and was the Navigator for the last 4 years on USCGC HEALY. I have not forgot the day we sailed from the river in Seattle through the LOCKS and the ship canal, I am still with the same girlfriend that sailed with us that day…Jean and I have been married for 23 years. I am still serving 28 years and counting and am stationed in KEY WEST FL. I will follow your trip, enjoy the journey stay warm and i will stay in touch as well as dig out the old photos. think i still have Black tarr on my hands from the time we replaced your teak deck on the Choi-Lee. Once a sailor always a sailor. BMCS Tim Sullivan Proud to call you Shipmate.

  2. Dan says:

    Hey Tommy,

    You have taken the long way to get across the lake!!! I do enjoy the updates you provide here. I must ask—have you tried that smoked fish yet and if so what did you think? (Go ahead and say it–good or bad–honest I can take it).


  3. Eve says:

    What ever you do’s ..don’t loose your shoes!

  4. Chip and Frank says:


    We’ll be tracking your progress! Everyday a little closer to the goal. WOW! So exciting! Awesome pictures. That’s funny, last night I was wondering what you do at night to secure your boat! Don’t forget that alarm!!

    Praying for God’s speed and fair weather!


  5. Nancy Gurney says:

    Another sunny day here in Sequim. It’s warm and pretty except for the Yellow Jackets spinning around on my patio. I seriously doubt that you have Yellow Jackets or any other kinds of insects out there on that choppy cold water. Betcha you could put a batch of cookies out in the cabin and not see one single ant.

    Your pictures are so very beautiful.

    Hope you are warm and happy.

  6. David says:

    Wow, good thing the wind took you away from the rocks! A reminder about your anchor alarm with only cold feet for consequence! Not too bad. Reminds me of dragging anchor on MORGENTHAU toward the rocks on ADAK Is. (200 yds away) as the wind came up from 0-40kts with the suddeness that happens in the North. Lite off the turbine, drag the anchor back the other way….As your favorite (and now mine) quote says: The course of your life is not determined by how you wish things were, but how you deal with the way they are. Looking forward to our future trips with your grandson!

  7. Pat says:

    Captain Tommy,

    Thanks for the great blog on your adventure! I wish I had known you were casting off from Two Harbors (where I work). I would have gone down to see you off. Best of luck!

    Just a technical note on your Stockton Island anchorage: The spit of land is, in technical terminology, a tombolo. A tombolo is a narrow spit or a bar, formed by longshore drift, that connects an island to the mainland. In this case it connects a small island with a larger one. The Stockton Island tombolo where you were is shown in a picture on the Wikipedia page defining tombolos ( From the position you reported it appears that you were on the SE side of the tombolo, on the left side of the picture.

    Enjoy our Sweetwater Sea while you are here! Thanks again for sharing your adventure with us.

  8. john fago says:

    Captain Tommy:
    Your following grows. I am wishing for you that you feel the good wishes of all of us with whom you are so generously sharing your adventure. God’s speed and good days ahead! You mention a stove on board. If you can, please share a photo and the safe means of venting you are using. Also, what are you using for fuel. Thanks!

  9. tommy says:

    The heat stove is a Dickinson Newport. It draws the combustion air from outside down the outer stove pipe and sends the exhaust up an inner pipe. The unit is sealed from the cabin air and neither takes air out nor puts gases into the cabin. I call the stove “Cosy”.

    I carry to fiberglass propane tanks and I fill them often. When I go north, I will be very conservative with heat, using it only if I get wet and beyond the ability to keep myself warm. I will ware a mustange suite there.

    I am most happy to answer any questions about the voyage and the boat I can. Thankyou for coming along. tommy

  10. Jerry A. says:

    Very exciting adventure you are on. Thanks for letting us come along. Could you give a little info on your provisions? Thank You.

  11. Sonya Bolton says:

    Dear Tommy,
    We’ve never met but you know my parents Lloyd and Sue Woleslage on Ocean Cove Ln back in Port Angeles. I live with them now since I am fully disabled and bedridden a lot. Such being the case I have to say that following you is living a surrogate life of adventure and imagination. Be safe and know you have someone at home praying for your safety.

    Bless you and know your friends are with you. We read your entries together in the morning.
    Thanks for the inspiration.
    Love, Sonya and Family