Best Laid Plans

I encountered headwind leaving Rogers City to make my way south. Tack, tack and tack again. I don’t make enough headway to be called progress so back to Rogers City to wait out the easterly gale. This gives opportunity to meet more interesting and delightful people, the mayor, the Chamber Pres, a reporter and a really good photographor who brought me a picture of the CAP’N LEM taken from the air when anchored out just off the harbor.

Down below, waiting

Down below, waiting

There was a time my dream was to sail across an ocean. I may yet do that, but for now with each place I stop and the people I meet I’m more and more convinced this is the right trip for the time. They fortify me for what is to come.
One lady asked me how I would deal with loneliness as I go farther north. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel lonely now that I haven’t foreseen that to be a problem. When I’m on the water by myself I just don’t feel alone.

 To be on the water is a confirmation of my connectedness to so many many people. Nameless to me, faceless to me. They built the boat, canned the clam chowder, baked the Cheezets, wrote the weather report and on and on. Each contributing even if as unaware of me and my dreams as I am of them and theirs, yet connected we are. From this I’m drawing a deeper feeling of respect and awe at those who I do not know, yet, they have contributed so much to my happiness and wellbeing. Without even questioning their motives, I just accept their help and move on in the wind. So by maintaining such an attitude loneliness cannot possibly overtake me. That and of course, you’re with me.
And on May 14, the wind backs around to the west through the night. A welcome thing. I want to get around the mitten and past the thumb and on to Lake St. Clair. Out again, as the clouds wander off, the sun comes out and the wind comes up… and up. 25 to 30 kts. That’s enough, thank you. So with headsail and the smallest reef in the main so far, off we go tacking to take advantage of the building waves. White-knuckle sailing again. (What’s white-knuckle sailing? Oh, that’s where I squeeze the tiller so tight from fear my knuckles turn white.)  I was warned by a fellow F-31 sailor, “You will scare your self with this boat”.  With each wave I gain more confidence in myself. The boat is doing fine. I set the auto pilot again and though it tends to wallow a bit more than hand steering, it allows me to relax somewhat. NOTE TO SELF: MUST GET A STORM JIB
The waves are different on the lake. There is a subtlety I’m not sure of but I know they are different. Perhaps it’s the density difference from salt to freshwater. I remember having to learn to calculate the difference in the draft of a 750 foot ship loaded on a freshwater river and its draft once it hit the seawater when I was testing for my licenses. (Not a small undertaking for an old cowboy who barely made it through high school). Maybe that accounts for the short period of the waves in relation to their heights. I wouldn’t attribute it to just shallowness of the lakes. For one, they are not shallow and two, the contours are similar to many found in bays and sounds of the Pacific Northwest. In any case they do seem to be very short of period. Besides, CAP’N LEM loves sliding down the face of them like a California suffer boy. I can  hear his chuckle in the wake.
The CAP and I sail on into the dark before deciding to head for Alpena. I’ve never seen so many marked wrecks on a chart in such a small area.  The wind backs to the north to accommodate us then dies to a wimpy 5 knots. I meet one Laker coming out the channel.  My late night crosses his early morning.  It’s 0400 on the 15th before we’re moored at Lat. 45° 03.539’N ~ Lon. 083° 25.624’W having traveled 85 nm to day, and 939 nm to date.


8 Responses to “Best Laid Plans”

  1. Gene Trentham says:

    Capt. Tommy
    I check your blog a couple of times per day. I’ve told my other sailing friends or your travels and plan. I’m impressed with your quest and follow with great interest. Your writing style is equally impressive. We are of the same age and share a love for the lake and sailing. We’re on a small lake connected to Lake Michigan in northwest lower Michigan. You would enjoy your time on this lake too, maybe someday. I wonder if you know just how many followers you really have. You’re a close friend we’ve never met. We wish you all the best.

  2. Jeffrey Johnston says:

    Hi Tom,
    I’ve been wondering what the conditions have been like where you are. The winds have been howling here in Sault Ste. Marie for days. The boats have been in the water for over a week, and I still haven’t been able to raise the mast, because of the strong winds – I’ve even been concerned about my mooring lines 🙂 I hope you’re enjoying better conditions where you are.
    I hope the temperature is a little warmer where you are as well. It certainly doesn’t feel like spring these days :))

  3. Bill Williston says:

    Hello Tom,
    Alpena is a great little town. Are you tied up in the river? There’s a little brew pub between the dock and the museum.

    One thiing sure about the weather, it is bound to change and be favorable…

    God Speed,

  4. unstranger says:

    Good sailing to you. White knuckle; must be exhilarating! I’d love to be able to do it too.

  5. Dennis Roundtree says:

    Still enjoying both your writing and the vicarious adventure. Your philosophizing really makes me feel kindred even though I’ve never been under sail. For sure I’ll eagerly accept if’n someone offers me a chance to experience sailing. I’ve been in PA five months now relocated from Miami and turned sixty in March. Wrote before – I’m the one with over five years at sea on cruise ships. Not crew, but computer guy who traveled to setup, train, maintain etc. My longest stints were seven weeks a couple times, hundreds of sailaways. I always thought there should be more ships offering Great Lakes cruises, but thankfully the giant ships full of mass market tourists would never be able to get there. I sense it’s a special place. My first cruises to Alaska back in 86 and 87 gave me that feeling and I’m kind of sorry that the classless hoards have descended. But Alaska is chasing them away somewhat now with the headtax and extreme environmental standards they’ve imposed. Capacity in the Alaska market will be reduced almost a third in 2010 and maybe that’s a good thing. The Caribbean and Mexico are fine for the mass market megaships. I’ve been lucky to experience the Baltic, South Pacific and Western Med, but Alaska has always been my favorite and that’s a good part of why I chose to relocate here in PA. I prefer the climate and scenery and I only left a few friends back in the humid heat of El Miami. I live alone, travel alone and agree with your assessments about being lonely and lucky. It’s about choices and actions, and no sense looking back when new things are always ahead. So I’ll only wish you interesting experiences and no serious accidents or breakdowns. It’s obvious you’ve prepared and planned well and meet each day with a willingness to let the weather and events mold your day. Enjoy and keep writing.

  6. Gene Trentham says:

    You’ve have a great distance to go and I know your not racing but absorbing the life and culture along the way. Still, I wonder if you plan to take the Trent-Severn Waterway across Ontario. Missing the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Detroit River and Lake Erie would knock off a few miles and still bring you close to life along the way. I’ve only known those who have and it interests me also. You have previously mentioned the thought of doing all the Great Lakes and then opted not to do Lake Michigan. While obviously partisan to Lake Michigan, it’s just something I would do. I’ve searched back though the blog and thought I read that you planned to finish in September. I cannot believe that to be correct. Do you have an end date? I agree, storm jib would be good.

  7. tommy says:

    Thank you Gene, good ideas, all. I won’t try the Trent-Severn though I would love to. I’m hoping my wait and go, wait and go will pay dividen in the long run. I did search the charts of Lake Michigan and regret not taking the time. The wind decided for me mostly, and I’m learning to go with that. The boat is so fast in the right wind that I make up for not beating back and forth. Coming around Whitefish Point, I beat into the wind and it worked well but it takes a toll. My whole trip is one of plan and change. The limit on everything is when the ice in the NW Passage breaks and allows me through. I do not expect that until August. Some say earlier, but I can only slowly position myself. My trip has been and remains one mile long, the mile in front of me.

  8. Nancy Gurney says:

    Hey Tommy, following you everyday. I think you are having a wonderful journey. You are such a great writer and make everything seem so interesting. We have had some WARM days here on the Peninsula, today is much cooler with a nice wind kicking up. Hot is not welcome. Dang yellow jackets come out and lets face it, Northwest is best served cold. Hope you can get a chance to call soon. Miss you! Nancy