Huron Island Anchorage

On the 29th day of April, I’m awake at 0230.  The wind is gone.  The water is still.  The CAP’N LEM quiet. But I must get up.  By 0330 the anchor is up and we motor into the darkness to recover the ground lost coming south to anchor on the Keweenaw Bay. 

To the south east Scorpio is rising.   Jupiter is up.  Venus is next.  Then the first glow of dawn.  My old enemy, darkness, defeated once again.  The sun comes up and with it the wind.  Up the sails and a beat to the north on the east wind brings the good CAP’N LEM around Point Abbaye.  The wind stiffens and veers to the southeast.  I won’t make the next headland so I tack. 

The course brings me close to the Huron Islands.  I look them up in the Bonnie Dalh’s.  One anchorage, marginal at best, good only in an east wind.  And now I’ve an ample supply of east wind.  But it’s too early in the day to give up, so around for another run at clearing the headland.  By the time I come out from the wind shadow of the islands, I have a surplus of east wind.  It doesn’t take me long to get a belly full of beating when I have so far to go.  Around again!

But for this headwind to punch my nose, I would have had no reason to go to Huron Island on my way to Marquette.  But for this headwind, I would have missed one of the most picturesque anchorages I’ve ever been in.  Ok, rocks to the left of me, rocks to the right, rocks dead ahead, and a rocky bottom added for free.  Not the best of holding ground, but how can I give it up.  The small bearer islands stop the swell but the wind still wraps around and sets the CAP’N LEM doing jig time on a short string.  I watch the GPS carefully.  We hold. 

And I’m in love.  I’m in love with this place!  And why wouldn’t I be? Wasn’t this the place I saw so clearly in my dreams at 6 or 7 years old when I swung in the tree swing ship of my imagination?  It must be. I know it was an island.  Was it this island?  Yes, I think it was.  How else could something I’ve never seen be so familiar, feel so much like home.  And don’t I remember it calling me with a simply “I’m here, come find me”.   Wasn’t it then that I started running away, in my mind?  Isn’t this why I poured over the maps in the geography books I never read, searching the details.  And my teachers told my mother, “He wanders”.  Wasn’t I looking for this very spot with this very boat at this very time?  Didn’t I always know I would drop the hook at Lat. 46® 57.589’N ~ Long. 087® 59.957’W on this day in this year even before I knew what a latitude or longitude was?  I love this place!  Love does strange things to this sailor.

On the hill over my harbor home is a lighthouse built in 1868.  And a stone toss away from the CAP’N LEM, the boat house of the lifeboat station the keepers manned when the need was there.  Things have changed.  The light is automatic.  The boathouse is empty and defaced with spray paint. (Mel proved his undying love for Liz by coloring their names on this historical place for all the world to see, along with Hosa and You Suck.  Way to go, Liz.  Ya got yourself a real winner in that Mel guy. ) 

A pair of loons land and hunt for lunch in the clear icy water.  He is elegant in black and white; she is beautiful in red head dress and softer white.  They are a close together.  She follows him.  I name them Mel and Liz.  What else.

I’m enthralled with one lone storm tree in the rocks near the water’s edge of the barrier island to my anchorage.  I ponder the seed that fell among the rocks so far away from any visible soil and refused to die in spite of the wind, snow and ice and even the comings and goings of man.  There is a ragged scare where a limb, a large limb, was torn from the truck, yet it lives.  The green of life is in its top.  Hardship has not killed it.  Perhaps it knows what I’ve come to know; that hardship is not my enemy in the same way the easy life is not my friend.  Like I learned from Captain Lem, an easy life leads to a pudgy body.

Aboard the TONI AND DONNA   A play in one act:

Characters:  Tommy, young mate, age 40s; Captain Lem, the captain, age between 70 and 86

Setting: aboard the schooner TONI AND DONNA at the bow

 Tommy:  Captain Lem, why don’t you use that anchor windless to get that anchor on board.

Captain Lem:  Well, Tommy, if I don’t pull the anchor up by hand now, when the time comes that I need to pull it up by hand, I won’t be able to.

Captain Lem points to anchor windless, adds in after thought:   Those things break.

The End

The wind lies down in the evening.   I worry about a westerly, but stay anyway.  I go to the hatchway often to look up at the light flashing from the top of the hill. Ya, this was it.


Boathouse West Huron Island

Boathouse West Huron Island


Lighthouse through the trees West Huron Island

6 Responses to “Huron Island Anchorage”

  1. MJ says:

    Dear Captain Tommy,

    What a fantastic post. And yes, how can one NOT fall madly for the spot you described? Thank you for the vicarious pleasure of this day’s sail. I absolutely adored it!

  2. Dave Combs says:

    Capt’n Tommy,
    Good luck in your adventure, I hope you will continue to find peacefull anchorages during your trip. I, too, have an F-31( Susan C ) named for a departed loved one. They are amazing craft and I seem to prefer names that honor those who have inspired our lives as opposed to abstract concepts.
    I sail in warm waters but wonder what modifications you have made to ward off the cold below? I’ll be following your progress and wishing you fair winds. Dave

  3. unstranger says:

    Very real. You keep posting, I’ll keep reading.

  4. Bill says:

    Tommy —
    You found my secret place … AND TOLD THE WHOLE DANG WORLD ABOUT IT. The Huron Islands are a magical place. The rocks and trees and waves speak to you there. It’s where I go to get away from life and people. Sometimes I’ll see a day-tripper or two, but I’m usually the only one nutty enough (‘cept for you) to toss out a hook between the boulders on the bottom and hope for two things: (1) it will hold, and (2) you can retrieve it.

    On the North side are a couple exposed spots with deep glacial scars cut in the basalt giving witness to the forces that carved these Great Lakes over eons past. Everywhere you look … rock, rock, and more rock. Angry. Hungry. Boat eating rock. There are a couple of wrecks — one on the North side and one near your anchorage. Well protected in an East wind, but what a washtub in a Westerly! I try to imagine what it must have been like back in the day as the life of a Lighthouse Keeper. Not seeing a soul for weeks at a time. Guiding ships in and out of Keweenaw Bay … carrying supplies in and copper out and passengers bringing wide-eyed immigrants seeking a new life in this inhospitable land. There are remnants of a small garden plot and even a couple grape vines hidden away.

    I can see the light blinking at night from my family’s cottage on Big Traverse Bay … it beckons me back.
    — Bill
    Houghton, Keweenaw

  5. Dirnov says:

    Hi there,
    I have already seen it somethere…

  6. Propane Plus, Inc. says:

    It was a fresh start to spring to meet Ben your shore party crew, and explain your travels while you were in Alpena. I went to the marina to see your vessel and to perhaps meet you. We wish you safe waters and will continue to watch your voyage.