Marquette to Grand Marais, MI

The sail to Marquette was slow and uneventful.  West Huron Island sank astern to join the long file of my life’s most charming memories.

Marquette greeted us with a downpour of rain but no lightening.  I slowed to a crawl coming in to the lower harbor to allow the rain to pass.  It did. Tiny was on the dock waiting.  Ever faithful, ever helpful, a shipmate, good and true, “Tiny” Ben Saint.  He helps me moor at Lat. 46® 32.532’ N ~ Long. 087® 23.394’ W at the Marquette Fish Market dock.

CAP’N LEM and I depart on May 3, 2009 at 1010 for Whitefish Point and a visit to the EDMUND FITZGERALD.  I am not taking this trip!  This trip is taking me.  I point the bow, hoist the sail, set the autopilot, then watch in amazement as the things behind me grow small and slip below the horizon and the things ahead come to focus, grow larger and tug me forward.  The wind of the day is south east and never over 10 kts.

I see strange things on the Big Lake.  I see land where there is no land.  I see no land where there is.  The wind and water bend light and trick my eyes.   It’s a good joke.  But this one is not a joke.

As the sun sought the horizon, the wind dropped down, the sea (to me it’s a sea) glassed over with not a ripple.  It’s only motion coming from a dying swell born somewhere near Thunderbay far to the northwest.   On the Beaufort Scale, the wind was 0.  Yet, The CAP’N LEM just kept right on sailing and I mean sailing, not coasting or wallowing in a swell, but truly sailing! In a wind that did not even ripple the water, CAP’N LEM traveled over the ground at 5.6 kts.  The ammas waked, the rudder gurgled, the flag waved and the sails remained full of a wind that came from I do not know where.  (I’ll not spoil the moment with theories of relative wind.)  All I know is the sea was glassy smooth and the vessel sailed on.  Sometime the speed would drop to 4.5 only to build again to 5.2 or better and we sailed on.  At 2015 Au Sable Point Lighthouse was abeam, and we sailed on.  The sun set and we sailed on until I was a mile or so from Grand Marais Harbor breakwater.  Still amking 3 kts under sail alone, I lowered jib and started the motor.  At 2225 May 3, 2009, CAP’N LEM was anchored at 46® 40.401’N ~ 080® 58.863’W in 32’ of water having covered 64 nm in the day and 628 nm in the 27 days out of Two Harbors MN. 

So ends this day.


14 Responses to “Marquette to Grand Marais, MI”

  1. unstranger says:

    gifted writing. It is uplifting to read such prose and terrific descriptions of real events; especially as they occur.
    ‘West Huron Island sank astern to join the long file of my life’s most charming memories’. Just tremendous!
    I wonder who sent the wind that shouldn’t have been logically there?

  2. MJ says:

    Ah, good captain–This day’s tale reminds me of how just when one thinks they are taking on a challenge in life, they find that life (or the sea, as it were), all along, is taking them.
    Sail on!

  3. David says:

    You piqued my interest with the story of MESQUITE when we talked last- what a story! Enough to send a chill down any mariner’s spine. ALWAYS know where you are! Important to remember especially when operating next to the rocks….one never wants one’s ship to become a dive attraction!

  4. Andrea says:

    I’m wondering what the temp is there now.

    I remember wearing a several of layers of warm clothing on a shipwreck tour on a rainy day in Munising…in July.

  5. Lake Lover says:


  6. John Shea says:

    Capt. Tommy is right to call it a sea. The first European explorers to experience the Great Lakes called them “Sweetwater Seas”. They feasted on the then-potable water, to be sure!
    Safe travel!

  7. John & Laura Meckel says:

    Hi there Tommy~~~
    You met my husband at the Exxon in Four Lakes,WA. He came home and told me of your adventure. Our whole family is so excited for you and Cap’n Lem and have been following your progress. We will keep you in our prayers for a safe voyage. Your writings and pics are wonderful.
    Stay Safe,

  8. Eve says:

    What a wonderful tale…I so love reading about your days..thanks

  9. Tyler says:

    Following your travels with great interest. Sorry I missed you in my new port off call, Grand Marais MN. I have many miles under the keel on the course you are taking. Sorry you couldn’t get in and around Isle Royal. It is just one of the many dazzling jewels of Lake Superior.

    If you have time check out the Museum at White Fish Bay. Touristy but lots of great info on this wonder of the world.

    Fair Winds & Following Seas


  10. Dennis Roundtree says:

    Caught up with your last two weeks today. Fascinating! And your writing really flowed with feelings about West Huron Island. Sure and ya must have some Irish in you to pull the poetry out of a lonely sight like that. Well done.

    Alas, I’ve not had the privilege to be under sail, but over five years sea time collected on cruise ships working with the computer systems onboard. Back on the Royal Viking ships and Sagafjord I got some of the feelings for the sea that you’ve been describing so well, but today’s ships are too big, too many people, too cheap, and just too much!

    I also relate to some of your feelings of discovery of unexpected joy in a place you hadn’t expected it from a couple of very long road trips I made in 1998 and 2000. Both trips 3 weeks, all alone, and 11,500 miles round trip from Miami to Alaska first, then the 2nd trip to Dawson City, Yukon. Not nearly the challenges you face on the seas but some great personal experiences nonetheless.

    I moved to PA in December after my job with the cruise line ended, and I’ll be following you along with all these others. Safe passage and favorable winds to you.

    Dennis Roundtree,
    PA on a rainy Tuesday afternoon

  11. Shel says:

    Aye Captain! A friend pointed me to this website. I’ve a deep love for all things north (or very south). A love of the cooler climates. 🙂 And sailing!! And I have a special fondness for Lady Superior which I haven’t been to since I was a child. I am enjoying reading your journey. Such sparkles!! I hope you post pictures of the Edmund Fitzgerald part. Thank you for sharing it all!!! — Shel from City Island, NY

  12. Jim Knape says:


    Glad to see you had a good trip to Grand Marias from Marquette.

    Sailing in what appears to be non existant wind. Well what happens is the water is so cold that it just kills all wind near the surface. Like a cold heavy blanket of dense air. The warmer air higher up has some movement to it, but not enough to penetrate the cold blanket. So basically you have wind on the top half or so of your sails. We call it wind shear. Happens mostly in a light south wind. I heard of one guy on a Santa Cruz 70 on lake Superior who went up the mast and did not want to come down as it was warm at 80 feet high but frigid at the deck.

    The looming you saw is a very common experience on Lake Superior. Sometimes it make a difference wether you sit or stand as the layer of cold air near the water can be only a few feet thick or quite a bit more other times. Yeh its wierd science stuff,

    I wonder what the indians thought when they experienced looming when they paddled thier birch bark canoes. I bet they called it a religous experience???

    It was fun meeting you when you were in Marquette.


  13. Virg says:

    I watched your interview & copied the website but didn’t open it until today.
    You didn’t say much about Grand Marais, MI when you walked up to get bread, etc. There’s such beauty here, especially around the bay area.
    I was pleased to read what you said about Rogers City, as it’s only about 30 mi. from my home town. We used to visit our Polish relatives there, and it is a neat-looking city.
    Be safe and enjoy each day.

  14. KeHoeff says:

    hey this is a very interesting article!