A southwest wind sends a string of waves behind the CAP’N LEM.  The shallow water stacks them up out of proportion to the strength of the wind.  We run with them with a burst of speed but it’s a losing race.  They lift the stern, give a burst of speed then pull back as they roll on setting us up for the next one.  By angling this way and that, I can catch the bigger ones trying to squeeze another foot or two toward the east but with a following sea the waves always out run the boat.

Rounding the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse, I think of the Lightkeepers from the past willfully imprisoned on this manmade rock island.  Who were they?  What did they do when they weren’t trimming wicks, oiling lamps or polishing lenses?  Did they read…a lot?  Were there more than one?  Ashore with a house and quarters perhaps they were a family but out here?  It looks so small and so far away.  Did the weight of responsibility set heavy on their shoulders awake and asleep, “must keep the lamp lit.  Must not go dark”.

In 1966 I joined the Coast Guard with dreams and fantasies of perhaps I’ll be a “lighthouse keeper” but that era was passing and it was not to be.  Knowing what I know now it’s just as well.  I loved and hated the ships simultaneously.  Loved the sea, hated the seasickness.  Loved the adventure, longed to be home.  What a quandary!

The wind wraps around the headland with us for awhile then quickly leaves us in a confused water to be hit with a headwind.  We tack, short and long, short and long.  The short tacks take me in close to shore where the land warps the wind and veers it to the southwest giving us the lift we need to make south until it backs again and we tack.  The day is getting old. Several short tacks and we’re inside Harbor Beach breakwater and anchored.

On May 20th, my eyes open at 0230.  I get up.  Check the anchor, check the position, check the wind.  I could go, but I’ll be dying for sleep by noon so I force myself back into the bunk and to a fitful sleep “someone has stolen my computer.  It was right here.  How could I be so stupid?  I just took my eyes off it for a second.  All these people, so many computers, but not mine.  How will I tell Ken I let someone steal my computer!” 

The sun rises and the wind rises.  This lake does not want the CAP’N LEM to leave none too quickly.    I lose track of tacks, but the short/long works again.  A day of labor and I make Port Sanilac.  Inside the harbor the wind is still gusty.  No docking in this so to anchor I go.  But it drags, catches, drags again.  I watch it with suspicion until it lets go altogether.  Quick, start the motor, set the autopilot, forward to haul the anchor before running over the line with the propeller.  The anchor is just a ball of grass from the bottom.  No wonder it couldn’t bite and hold.  New spot.  Wonderful, stinky, sticky, softie mud.  Got to love mud! Mud holds.

Anchored at Lat 43° 25.816’N ~ Long 082° 32.210’W in 5 feet of water having traveled 1107 nm to date. Tomorrow more of the same, but Friday! A change.


5 Responses to “Tacks”

  1. Chip and Frank says:

    Captain Tommy-

    Continued fair sailing! Catching up with you at the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse. Thank you for the lovely Edmund Fitzgerald piece, I have always been moved by that story. You captured the sacred and the somber in your reflection and bell tolling ceremony. We are following along and watching progress in action!

    Still keeping the home fires burning in PA as we had frost this morning on the shop roof, strange times we are living in!

    God’s speed-

    Chip and Frank

  2. AElkin says:

    I’m a 35 year old new sailor in Port Dover, ON. (Middle to East Lake Erie)
    I know your plans will change many times between then and now, but when do you plan to be in the area? Port Dover is a wonderful place to visit…let me know if you need any information.

    I very much enjoy your philosophy and your wit. Keep writing!


  3. Gene Trentham says:

    I could not believe someone stole your computer. As I read it, I read on thinking it was a bad dream you were having while you were trying to sleep. I guess you have to start locking the hatch. Sorry about that.

  4. tommy says:

    No, it was a dream, but one so real I had to check my satchal, t.

  5. Shane says:

    Old Coastie myself well I am only 41. I had a BM1 that had been a lighthouse keeper as a BM3 out in Washington someplace but he showed us photos of the place. It was incredible he lived there with his wife and 2 kids the only way to get to it was across the sandbar at low tide and by boat any other time. Basicaly all he did was monitor the radio beacon and mow grass. Easy duty. “I loved and hated the ships simultaneously. Loved the sea, hated the seasickness. Loved the adventure, longed to be home. What a quandary!” I understand this completely I get over it though whenever I have to paint something white but it does bring back the memories. If I never stand the 4-8 watch again it will be to soon.

    Take care