Wet again, down the river we went to find anchorage in Lake St. Clair for the night.  I dropped the hook at Lat 42° 35.914’N ~ Lon 082° 46.275W.  Just as I dosed, a Sheriff’s boat comes along side blue lights flashing, loud speaker bawling.  It wasn’t exactly the friendly “whither and whence” questions I’ve become so used to on the trip.  It was more like the Deputy took it as a personal offence that my anchor light had tripped the breaker and gone out and that even though I was in only 5’ of water I had become a menace to navigation and would surely be run down in the night by a Great Laker.  It seemed more than he could comprehend that I would come to Lake St. Clair from Two Harbors MN and be headed for Nome Alaska, so he ran a background check on me.  Thank God I paid that parking ticket down in Santa Fe NM 3 years ago or the trip would be over as I spent the remainder of my days in a Michigan jail.  I pushed a button here and turned a switch there and cleared the fault on the panel, the anchor light came on and the Deputy left somewhat sad he had not discovered evidence of my sorted past.  What can I say; I haven’t had a traffic ticket in 36 years.  I woke up uneasy several times in the night, stuck my head out just to check for the little glow on the top of the mast.  I did not want to be a repeat offender.

May 28, 2009, up and underway in dense fog, as dense as any I’ve encountered.  The lake was glassy smooth so much so my radar picked up geese swimming close by.  The heavy weight of apprehension settles on the boat with the gray mist.  Even the occasional gull flying by has a look of determination to get somewhere out of the fog.  I hunt down one of the entrance buoys to the river to gain a feel of just how far into the mist I can see.  It disappears from the radar in the sea clutter before I see it visually. Very dense fog indeed, but fog is not the danger it once was to the sailor.  Science has given us the depth sounder, the radar, and the GPS and that has given sight to the blind.  I never travel in fog without a deep gratitude for being a sailor now and not the back time.  I wonder at the stark terror fog brought to the sailors of old.  Most of the ships I read about that have sunk on the lakes were sunk not by storm but by another ship traveling in the fog.

I stay well clear of the ship channel.  I check my position often.  I sound my horn.   I watch my radar with intense deliberation.  Two hours pass before a blip grows steady and proves to be another vessel, a power boat, …in a hurry.  I check my position often.  I sound my horn.   I watch my radar with even greater deliberation.

First a rain, then a wind, then the fog just goes.  A shape takes form in the distance and it is the shore.  The tension relaxes.

I enter the Detroit River.  All the water form all the lakes and rivers north and west will find its way through here given time.  The current is strong and meets a headwind building a chop that slows progress.  I make cell phone contact with Paul K.  He welcomes me to Detroit and comes to Belle Isle to wave and take pictures of the little boat with a long way to go.  I forget about the Deputy for a while.

I alter my course to take me close by the beautiful River Boat Detroit Princess.  I was told she came here from Texas!  What an adventure that must have been and I try to imagine her at sea.  The current took me past far too fast.

When times get tough, the tough go fishing.  From Clinton River down through the Detroit River, the banks were lined with fishermen.  I’m often asked if I will fish along the way.  I won’t.  There are too many laws concerning fishing and I’m a bad fisherman anyway.   I’ve modified the old saying, you know the one, “if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day…” to go like this… “But if you give a man a can-opener he eats for a lifetime!”  Oh yes, and this, my favorite variation, “If you give a man a can of tunafish he eats for a day, but if you teach a man to can tunafish he can get a job at the tunafish cannery …and will never eat tuna again.”

I find a little cove toward end of the river and anchor in 4’ of water at Lat. 42° 06.870’N ~ Long. 083° 07.242’W.



9 Responses to “Underway”

  1. unstranger says:

    Excellent post. I like tuna.

  2. Teresa says:

    Hello again!
    I’m sorry I missed seeing you pass, but glad you got in touch with Paul! He takes some incredible photos, too, so hopefully he’ll send you some you can put up! Looks like you got a fairly gray day through Detroit, which is a shame because we had some lovely sunny weather last week. The skyline looks so neat when framed by a bright blue sky. When you get back from your journey, feel free to let us know, and you’re always welcome to come out and experience the Detroit Princess! We’d love to visit with you!
    Happy Travels! : ) Teresa

  3. Bill says:

    Tommy —
    I can’t speak for the others following your journey, but your wanderings have this sailor feeling mighty restless and in need of some wandering of my own.
    — Bill
    Houghton, Keweenaw

  4. Gene Trentham says:

    Capt. Tommy
    Close encounters with law enforcement. Some are good, some not. Please don’t leave Michigan to your stern thinking of the evening your anchor light was out. He may very well have reflected later, that perhaps he could have handled the situation differently. He may have been having a day very few will ever expierence. No excuses for ill demeanor, but it happens. Better days ahead and beautiful memories from Michigan.

    NW Lower Michigan

  5. deborah drake says:


    just discovered this journey and as a fellow f-boater excited to follow the path. you must be close to sandusky bay, where i live and keep my boat. if you need a shower or would like a delivery of fresh strawberries just let me know.

    johnson island

  6. tommy says:

    Thank you so much for your kind offer! Yes, I accept both!… But, I’m already past. The wind was right for a run to Put-in-Bay and a storm was coming. Spent the night bobbing around on one of their mooring buoys watching lightening before traveling on. I’m anchored on the Rocky River and got an internet connection.

    Which F Boat do you have? I’m loving mine more and more.


  7. tommy says:

    Oh Gene, Michigan is too big, too beautiful and too full of wonderful people for me to let that encounter color my good thoughts. Besides, it made great material to write about!


  8. very inspiring adventure, pictures are great. we are looking forward to matt and janets and childrens visit in july. i am sure your voyage will be relived. eat your veggie:s and fruit and enjoy every moment. janet:s father raymond.

  9. Dick Wisham says:

    I figured out that I can follow you quite closely by putting in your Lat and Lon on Google. My only experience on the Great Lakes was complements of Uncle Sam. after a brief stay in Cape May. I did get a chance to sail a Lightning there once or twice.

    I’ll be watching your progress. God’s speed.