The River

May 21, 2009.  The wind has veered just enough to the west to give me progress toward the river.  I spend the day coaxing every drop in latitude change out of the wind I can and come to anchor for a while off a beach at Port Huron.  I rest, take a shower in the cockpit, watch the mussel boats outdo each other in aimless frantic burst of noise and wake.  The CAP’N LEM is fast under sail and dreadfully slow under motor.  As the sun drops so does the wind and off we go down the St. Clair River under the international bridge.  On both sides of the river Canadian and American flags are hoisted side by side in salute to friendship and free trade.  I love going to Canada.  Some of my best cruises have been in Canadian waters.  Living in a border town as I do, I always take visitors to Victoria, BC.  I’m not quite ready to cross the borders, though.  I still have to dress the CAP’N …for the ladies, of course.

The thought takes me back to the last days spent with Captain Lem.  The strongest man I ever knew had become weak so I took on the solemn and awesome privilege to be his final care giver.  The VA doctor told me he would die in my motor home.  I just said “I don’t care” then to Captain Lem sitting there in his wheelchair, ” What do you want to do, Cap, go into the hospital or keep on traveling?”  He looked up and said “Uh, I… I want to keep on traveling!” and that’s just what we did, oxygen bottles, wheelchairs, Depends and all.  We traveled by land together that last month, up and down the ICW to visit old time friends, always telling them,  “The Cap and I, we’re on our way to Alaska.  Cap has never sailed to Alaska.  We’re on our way to get the AVANTI and sail there,”  But it was not to be.  At his youngest daughter’s home in Michigan, we stopped.  “We’ll rest here, Cap, just ‘till you feel better, then off to Alaska!” In the end, even that idea had lost its ability to brighten his eyes, but he remained handsome to the last, with dignity and grace befitting a hero who had helped save the world.  I would set him up in his bed, wash his wrinkled face and hands, and gently comb that beautiful long white hair and beard, telling him all the while “Oh Cap, the ladies want to come in for a visit.  We have to get ready…for the ladies.”  His daughter and granddaughters would then be allowed in to read to him or sing him songs.  He always managed a few words of charm, especially when the nurse was along.  They were our days of remembrance.  “Cap, remember time Riley Davis, Donna and you and me…, remember Burt and Catherine, remember old Henry …” His last day, we rang a little ships bell eight times, the watch was done and all was well.  He wore out, and stopped, like a clock not wound.

So now I take care of his namesake, THE CAPTAIN LEMUEL R BRIGMAN III, the little boat on its way.  But first a stop for new bottom paint, a good bath and some re-stowing of the gear, and the all important placing of the name and a christening.

Into the river with a goodly current bound for the boat yard in Mt. Clemens MI.  Traveling a river at night is a world of its own, the shore lights twinkling for attention and masking the important lights, buoys, markers and other boats.  I stick close to the right hand side of the river staying out of the channel as much as practical.  The channel is the domain of the Lakers.  They don’t need yet another small craft to worry about.  When the glare of lights multiplied a hundred fold by the ripples on the water become too much to battle I find a shallow behind an island (don’t want to worry about being run over in my sleep), and anchor at Latitude 42° 42.150’N ~ Longitude 082° 29.037’N having traveled 60 nm to day, and 1167nm to date

Ready for a lift

Ready for a lift




5 Responses to “The River”

  1. barb kraler says:

    Hi Tommy,
    Every morning, with my cup of coffee, I check in with you and CAP’T LEM. Even though you shared this story about your travels with Captain Lem before, I cried when I read your story. What a wonderful gift you gave each other. I just know Captain Lem is watching and caring for you every nautical mile you sail, and helping to keep you and the boat safe.

    Thank you again, for taking me along on this amazing adventure!!! I hope the haul out all goes well. If Tiny is still meeting up with you, please tell him a big hello from me.

    Best wishes and warm regards,
    Your shipmate Barb

  2. unstranger says:

    Well done you Cap’n.

  3. MikeinAppalachia says:

    Ya done good! Erie should be nice for you.

  4. Steve says:

    Greetings Capt Tommy, I have been following your site since its start and have found your voyage to be absoulutly amazing and a lesson to all in following your dreams. A mutual friend of ours who I had the pleasure to sail with on ACTIVE forwarded me your site. I believe we may have crossed paths during my three year stop in P.A. and perhaps the few times I visited SHEARWATER (Why I went onboard I do not recall) I do recall the many wonderful things of P.A, (where the sea meets the mountians) picking monster blackberrys across from the log yard going out to the spit, wondering where the snow line will be in the morning (looked as if a chalkline was snapped), sleeping in the back of my jeep at the park’s trailheads for early starts, and dancing the night away at the Junction. Be safe! Steve, USCG BMCS, at the West Chop Lighthouse and CG Station Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard

  5. Roger Larson says:

    Me too! Coffee and lessons every day. Planned to hike Mt. Pilchuck on Sunday, but me at the wheel and my wife with the guide book missed the seasonal advisory. Luckily there was an alternative hike to beautiful Lake Heather. Now we have to try it again, when there isn’t 4 feet of snow on the shore. BTW: ever stop Fat Smitty’s for their burgers? Something made me think of it, not the lake or the mountain, but it is on a bay. Oh, the snow line and P.A.?