Made Whitefish Bay

May 4th, 2009:  0930 up the anchor and to the beach.  I run the CAP’N LEM onto the sandy beach below the town of Grand Marais, MI, jump off the port amma to dry ground and walk to town for ice and bread.  It greaves me to buy ice when so short a time ago I just scooped it out of the water.  Getting underway is easy and uneventful, motor in reverse, wiggle back and forth a little and go.

Outside the harbor the wind is from the east so I beat.  Won’t make White Fish today, but there is Little Lake Harbor and it looks agreeable. 

We’re anchored at 2013 in 12’ of water, position Lat 46° 42.784’N ~ 085° 21.691’W.  A good anchorage, very quiet, though a bit sticky to get into because of sand shoaling.  I catch the dagger board on the bottom twice.  It’s very useful in feeling my way over shallows.

Cinco de Mayo, Happy Birthday Mexico.   O913, Up anchor and out bound.  This time, we clear the channel without kissing bottom.  The CAP’N and I are greeted with a good wind abaft the beam and off we go for White Fish Bay.  Abeam Crisp Point, the wind backs to the east and we beat in long and short sawtooth tacks.

The short tacks in toward shore set us back to the west and it appears we are losing ground, but the loss puts us in the wave shadow of shore.  Giving up the easting pays a profit.  Interest gained in calmer water, stronger wind and faster speed.  It’s money in the bank!

White Fish Point Lighthouse comes into view.  My mind hears Gordon Lightfoot’s line “the searchers all say they’d made Whitefish Bay if they’d had 15 more miles behind them.” In spite of the joy of day, the wonders of the lake, that sense of freedom sailing a fine little craft can give, in spite of the warmth in the sun, there is an underlying feeling of melancholy in remembering all those lives cut short on this freshwater sea.  My only antidote to the sadness is a resolve to live this day, my day, on the greatest of the Great Lakes, to its fullest. 

I sail hard.  I hold fast.  I clear Whitefish Point.  The wind freshens, the waves build and the boat moves on a long port tack far enough out into the bay for traffic to become a concern.  To the north a freighter out bound, to the south a tug with tows inbound and me in between.  I call the tug on channel 16.  It’s the Tug DANIEL. We switch to channel 8 and I let him know I’ll need to tack soon but won’t do anything foolish like try to head in front of him.  I tell him, like I tell anyone who will listen, “I love your lake!”

I come about so not to cross the freighters bow, head toward to the tug on a collision course, then about a mile away, I do an alibi tack to gain time, tack again and pass astern.  In chess, an alibi move loses the turn but wins the game.  Today, we all win.

I remember once long ago, I was towing the Barge KITTIWAKE with the SHEARWATER coming into Port Angeles to our berth.  I had just come off the wire and caught the barge on the hip, lined up for the approach to the mooring when a lovely lady of a ketch came from around the City Pier and headed across my bow, port to starboard…close.  I could see this coming so I slowed.  First he gunned it, but that still made him nervous so he killed the engine and had the crew raise the sails. By then I was stopped.  My heart broke at such a beautiful vessel being handled in such an unseamanlike manner, and then I remembered the only requirement to have a boat is money.

On the door of the First Lieutenant’s office aboard the Icebreaker:

“A man must know

What he is about,

Or the sea will surely

Find him out”

 So there we were, two short tacks and clear of the DANIEL’s tows heading straight for White Fish Harbor.  Douse the jib, take a jibe and in we go with a running swell.  It’s a fisherman’s harbor, this one!  No place to tie a 21’ wide trimaran, so down the sail and up the dagger board and beach dead ahead.  Beached in 3 inches of water (at the bow) position 46° 45.650’N ~ 084° 57.902’W having traveled 38 nm today and 697 nm to date.


On the beach

On the beach

8 Responses to “Made Whitefish Bay”

  1. Lake Lover says:

    Hi Captain Tommy!
    What a fabulous journey you’re on. Thank you for taking us along.
    Love your perspectives, depth (punn), and heart that you share on this extraordinary life-enhancing adventure. The Great Lakes will always be my favorite. Enjoy for all of us, and rest assured no sea monsters will take you down!
    Dreaming from Dallas,

  2. Woody says:

    Hi Tommy
    Congratulations on your arrival at Whitefish Harbor. Was I right or was I right? She is a fisherman’s harbor for sure. And a port of refuge for anybody heading up or down in foul weather. How is Little Lake? I draught 5′, do you think I can make it in there? After your bell cremony only 33 to go for the Canadian locks. Enjoy…………….
    Marquette Woody

  3. Rob Mizer says:


    Man, I didn’t know you had already started. I’ll keep watching and fair winds.

  4. Samantha Riggs says:

    Hello, Tommy!

    I just found out about your voyage from Captains JB and Rob Mizer on Facebook. This is so inspiring! Josephine and I will keep track of your progress. We are moving to Bellingham in August so maybe we can catch lines for you on the other side.


  5. MikeinAppalachia says:

    “and then I remembered the only requirement to have a boat is money.”
    Heh-sad but true. You’ve had a string of great days-hoping they continue.
    Appreciate you taking time to blog, pls keep at it.

  6. Dread Pirate Roberts says:


    This is a resend because I put this in the wrong place in the blog the first time, duh!

    Just back from the my brother’s annual canoe trip and the ever arduous duty of holding my new grandson. Glad to see you are enjoying the trip and making great progress. (I don’t mean just miles.)

    Your comments about duct tape and Red Green reminded me of a statement Red used to make that I have adopted as a sort of byline: “If the women can’t find you handsome, at least they can find you handy.” I really liked that show!! Lots of funny wit and wisdom.

    Anyway, good sailing and I hope to talk to you soon.

    Dread Pirate Roberts sends

  7. tommy says:

    5′ would bump along the way into Little Lake. Lots of silt, and not where you would expect it to be either. If you get in, its quiet and beautiful. Lot’s of eagles. T.

  8. John & Laura Meckel says:

    Hi there~~~
    You are really making progress. We all love reading your journal. All of my co-workers are now following you too and all are wishing you a safe and glorious voyage. Your pics are breathtaking…Thank you.
    Stay safe,
    Love ya~~~
    John & Laura