Last Night on the Lakes

I departed Oswego in a gray fog and rain.  It was a warm rain though and the wind was right for my last sail on Lake Ontario.  Well, for most of the afternoon, anyway.  Then it died, backed and came up again demanding I fight against a headwind for the few miles to the lee of Grenadier Island.   It was there I spend my last night on the Great Lakes anchored southeast of the island at Lat 44° 02’ 37.1” N ~076° 20’ 38.9” W in 6’ of water.  My memory reviews past anchorages and ports-of-call but mostly I remember the people.  So many wishing me well, far winds and of course “luck”. 

This night takes me back to the first night aboard anchored of Sandy Island on Lake Superior and the ice that growled its way past the hull all night long.  That was 74 days and 1804 miles ago.  The excitement and sense of adventure has not dwindled.  I’m not tired of this yet.  Onboard the CAP’T LEM, sleep brings rest in spite of the tens of times my eyes open wide awake to check the position, the wind, or a noise out of the ordinary.  The first look out the hatch at a new day is always filled with anticipation.  The best is yet to come.  I am the happiest man I know.

It was by design that I came to the Lakes to start my voyage.  I knew instinctively they had great lessons to teach me, lessons about the boat, sailing alone, being alone and not being lonely, planning ahead, treading the dawn lightly, and thinking before acting, meeting new and wonderful people.   All these things will be priceless at sea and later at life.   My prayer tonight? “Dear God, keep me teachable.”

10 Responses to “Last Night on the Lakes”

  1. Gene Trentham says:

    Capt. Tommy
    I’m curious about the current you have encountered in the rivers. Also what your going to notice for the next few hundred miles. I wonder how difficult it would be to traverse east to west on the St. Lawrence.

    Thank you for an interesting read each day.


  2. tommy says:

    Thank you for your question, Gene. Any currents I’ve encountered have been with me. The Detroit River has been the heaviest. As of yet I haven’t noticed any on the SLW but expect to as I get closer to the locks and dams. I’ll try to remember to mention any I notice.

    I really would not want to be going the other direction. When I motor I rarely push faster than 5.5 knots to save ware and tare on the engine.


  3. Virg says:

    I just caught up with your adventures again. I loved what you said about the dragonfly, etc. The pictures are gorgeous! That little/big insect looks like a quiet precious jewel perched on the rope lines.
    Also interesting were your comments about lightning and the precautions you take.
    You’ve dealt with fog, too. Here in Grand Marais, MI we had very dense fog most of the day today. I went to Agate Beach and out on the wooden ramp to listen to the freighter fog horn. I wondered what musical note it was, guessing ‘f’ but also wondered how the tone is chosen.
    This is our ‘Fly-In’ weekend. There are ten small airplanes on the bay. They weren’t able to do any of the planned activities, but may tomorrow. We had sunshine this evening.
    Your reports are interesting.

  4. Sam Garber says:

    I’ve followed you with great interest, almost from the beginning. I sailed out of Henderson Harbor, just south of Grenadier Island, in the 1970s. I admire your self reliance – your little essay on “luck” is a gem – a quality in short supply these days.
    Speaking of self reliance, I’m reading a book by John J. Rowlands: “Cache Lake Country – Life in the North Woods”, orignally published in 1947. It’s about Rowlands’ experiences in the north woods while serving as a guard of a large parcel of forest owned by a lumbering company. He built and lived for years in a cabin on a lake he named Cache Lake. An Indian friend named Tabiesh, who lived on a neighboring lake, taught Rowland survival in the north woods. The book is illustrated profusely by an artist who lived on another nearby lake. I would consider it an honor if you would allow me to send you a copy – a small compensation for the pleasure you are giving me through this blog.

  5. unstranger says:

    I don’t know how sailors do the constant waking up bit. How can you possibly feel rested when having to do that?

    Anyway, your prayer reminded me of what my mother used to say as she blessed herself with the sign of the cross and worrying about getting old; “God let me keep my senses!”

    Similar, if different.

  6. WillieFife says:

    Interesting question about when one “leaves” Lake Ontario and enters the St Lawrence. In Kingston we think of ourselves as on Lake Ontario, but the charts show the St Lawrence River beginning to the west of the city, at the gap between Amherst and Wolfe Islands. That would make your anchorage at Grenadier island (downstream) your first night on the great river instead of your last one on the Great Lakes. But maybe Americans and Canadians reckon these things differently, like miles and kilometres, different sized gallons, etc.

  7. MikeinAppalachia says:

    Last night or last day on the Lakes? No matter; either way, hope you noted the lighthouse on the SE of Grenadier? At least now you will have some added current to help (mostly) as you go on east. If you can, a shore leave in Quebec City would be a nice break. Keep posting when you can.

  8. Chuck Velie says:

    I finally got a chance to sit down again and catch up on your adventures. What a great read! I feel like the first time I picked up Treasure Island and became enthralled with the idea of ships and the sea. You are keeping your blog as “smart as paint” and I am ever grateful to be an armchair co-pilot on your travels.

    I was thinking about you and the times we had on the Shearwater this last time I was working. We went through our annual ABS/USCG inspection and made it through with zero 835s and no deficiencies! The CWO who was doing the Coast Guard inspection mentioned that I “must have sailed under some good mentors” as we were going grinding through all of the safety checks. I couldn’t agree more! I feel privileged to have been one of your crew and can’t wait to read about some more of your adventures!

  9. Bill says:

    The Great Lakes is proud to have had you traverse her waters you modern-day Voyageur. Dare I say our memory of you will last as long as your memory of us. May the Great Spirits keep you safe, well … and teachable.
    — Bill

  10. tommy says:

    Captain Velie! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’ve always tried to measured my success by the success of those who came after me. My greatest joy in the work world has been when my crewmembers surpassed me to become my peers or even my bosses. Let’s see, there was you on to skipper of how many ships now? And Marin Streeter, in charge of everything engineering, and Matt Halstead, and Jeff Kainz, and now Matt Parker, skipper on the SHEARWATER and Dusty Henry and my daughter Amy, a full Lieutenant in the CG, (she outranks her dad and her husband!) My goodness, the sea has been good to me!