Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 2-259 in Harrisville, MI -land lubbers for a day

The bad news is that the Admiral walked me all over town. The good news is that the walk only lasted about 5 blocks. We did the three blocks of Main Street and stopped in 3 stores and one grocery store. After the 3 blocks, there is a "main" highway crossing and we did one block in either direction.  That resulted in one more (art) shop and a restaurant for lunch. Several restaurants were closed for the day (Monday). So, our choice was sown to about 3 plus an ice cream/hot dog stand in a small geodesic dome. My bad decision for the day was to forgo the perch dinner after thinking I would have it for dinner. Guess what? You are correct. We had dinner on the boat.
     The temperature was 59F outside this morning, and as you know, I do not get up early... It got into the lower 60s this afternoon. The wind was still about 20 mph out of the north. During the afternoon the wind slowly died to about 10 mph. This evening the wind is almost zero as you can see in the picture at the right. The picture was taken from the finger pier alongside Lucky Us. One of the markers at the harbor entrance is at the middle left, and as you can see, there is barely a ripple on the water. The geese are out in full force swimming around the marina.
     The sunset over the land to the west was not much (picture at right), but the forecast for tomorrow looks were good with winds of 5 to 10 mph and waves less than 1 foot. So, if the weather predictions continue to be favorable, we will depart for Alpena, MI in the morning...

Day 2-258 across Traverse Bay and north to Harrisville, MI

We left Port Austin at 7:30 am and headed north to cross Saginaw Bay and head along the western shore to Harrisville, MI. Saginaw Bay is about 25 miles wide at its mouth where we crossed. We started out with a gentle southwest breeze of about 8 mph with waves less than 1 foot. The wind and the waves were on the port aft quarter so they gave us a slight lift in speed with no discomfort. As we approached the other side of the bay, the wind abruptly switched to the north. Initially it was very light, but it eventually grew to the 5 to 8 mph range. We knew that there was an approaching cold front with northerly winds so this must have been the very leading edge. About the same time small patches of very light fog started to appear up ahead. We could see the fog because the coast along the north side of the bay was just becoming visible, and our views of the coast in the distance  came and went behind the fog. We knew that the cold front had strong winds and a line of storms along its leading edge, but we also knew that the front should not reach our destination before we did. It may sound strange, but the presence of the fog was a little comforting since strong winds and fog generally do not mix. We turned on the radar, which in combination with the chart plotter and the AIS gave us a great "view" of our surroundings. It was about our second experience in (real) fog on the Loop, and the first time that we were approaching a harbor in fog. We could see the small fishing boats on the radar even if we did not see them visually. As I said, the fog was patchy and light so our visibility ranged from about a quarter of a mile and up. It was "cool" and very comforting to see the breakwaters and harbor on both the chartplotter and the radar overlay. Then, BINGO, the breakwater popped out of the fog several hundred yards ahead. We knew that was how it should work, but to actually go through the whole exercise was a wonderful experience (and comforting for the future).

We docked at the Harrisville Municipal Harbor at about 1:00 pm. We had eaten lunch on the boat so after setting all of the lines in anticipation of a storm, we went to the office to check in for two nights. As you may have gathered, we were pretty busy, especially during the second half of the trip, so today was not a good picture day. Here is a view of the marina taken from the office and looking back (east) at the marina. You can just see the harbor break wall in the background above the line of boats.
    After settling into our routine, I lay down in the master stateroom for a nap at 2:30 pm. A few minutes later I heard a long series of booms and rumbling from thunder, and I fell asleep thinking that I would definitely be rocked to sleep. Sure enough, when I woke up, the boat was rockin' and rollin' and the temperature was at least 10F degrees cooler. When I got up about 3:30 pm, I checked the National Weather Service and found the following bulletin:

from National Weather Service:
at 3:21 pm
A line of severe thunderstorms from Oscoda to New Tawas has been indicated on radar. Winds of 25 knots with gusts exceeding 50 knots, possible water spouts and golf ball sized hail.

We had passed these two ports on the Lake Michigan shore just north of Saginaw Bay.
We did go out for dinner in the little town, and we found a nice restaurant. The photo at the left is a view of the marina from the road above. You can see the flags down in the marina standing straight out, but the flag in the foreground is in the wind shadow of all of the big trees.

     It was a two block walk to the downtown and another 2 blocks to the restaurant. The houses that we passed were older but not historic looking. The one thing that was immediately obvious was that all of the houses were in excellent condition. I hate to disappoint you, but I had an Asian Chicken Salad (nuts, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, etc.). The sidewalks had all been recently replaced with this interesting wave pattern in the new concrete.

After dinner, it was time to go back to the boat and "hunker down" for the night. The winds are predicted to be 20 to 30 mph over night and die down to 15 to 20 mph tomorrow.
 We were treated to a nice sunset a the end of a day full of weather changes (picture at left). At least the Admiral will be comfortably rocked all night long...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 2-257 in Port Austin - farmer's market and more

     The Farmer's Market did not open until 9:00 am, and the Admiral kindly waited for me to wake up so that I could go along. She did let me sleep in, but it was awfully noisy in the galley (kitchen) as I woke up ??? As I said yesterday, Port Austin claims to have the largest Farmer's Market in Michigan. I do not know about that claim, but it did have a quite large section that actually sold produce. Some other markets that we have been to are mainly vendors selling all sorts of "stuff" rather than actual produce. There were Georgia Peaches from Georgia, but much of the produce was home grown by the sellers.
     One of the best parts was that the market was in a large empty area right downtown so it was only a 10 minute walk, and much of that time was just walking down the dock and through the marina. We stayed here for two nights because the weather today was supposed to be rainy with a chance of thunderstorms. Well, light rain/mist began to fall after we had been at the market for only a half hour. The forecast turned out to be accurate since the light rain continued on/off for much of the morning and afternoon. Also, the waves on Lake Huron were reportedly up to 2 feet so our decision to stay in port was a good one. We could have travelled safely, but we would not have been really having an enjoyable trip.

     The Admiral stocked up on fruit and vegetables, and then we hit the "other" part of the market. "Go jump in the lake" seems to be a common theme on t-shirts, signs, etc. One of my favorite pieces of "art" was this lovely pig, but the Admiral said that we did not have room for it on the boat.

    We visited several shops as well as the Do-it-Best Hardware on the way back to Lucky Us. Much of the afternoon was spent in the engine room. I cleaned the PCV valves on one main engine and the generator. I also replaced the rubber hoses and clamps on the valves. Several of the hoses and clamps had obviously never been replaced (ever). I got started on that project because the generator is pumping some oil out of the dip stick tube, and one possible cause is a plugged PCV valve. However, that was not the solution for the generator so more will be forth coming. The good news is that the evenings have been so cool lately that we have been able to use, for example, the mooring ball at Put-In-Bay without running the generator to power the air conditioning.

   We went to a funky little diner in town for dinner. Of course, I had the perch dinner. The perch were without a doubt the largest and tastiest that I have had. That plus the dinner of a salad, fries and 4 whole perch fillets was only $8.95. Super deal!

Day 2-256 to Port Austin, MI home of Michigan's largest farmer's market

We left the dock at River Street Marina in Port Huron just after 7:00 am. Our timing was very good because the two bridges open on demand over night so we went through without any wait. We entered the St. Clair River to head north for several miles until we reached Lake Huron. Then I realized that for the third day on the water in a row we caught the end of a sunrise. I fully intend to break this pattern as soon as possible... In the picture at the right the sun is rising over Sarnia, Ontario across the river from Port Huron.
We then passed the Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock from the waterside. She does duty as both a buoy tender and ice breaker. She had just returned to her home port here after having collision damage on her stern repaired. Early last winter she was hit by a ship that she was helping free from the ice.

     We also passed the Port Huron Lighthouse on the water side. It provides a majestic welcome to Port Huron and the St. Clair River. For many sailors she also provided a welcome to much safer waters leaving the storms on Lake Huron behind.

    We headed north along the Michigan shoreline with the main shipping channel bearing away to the right (north) so we soon found ourselves alone. We stayed about 3 miles off the coast to take advantage of a slight tail wind (8 mph), also we got a slight lift from the waves hitting the left corner of the stern. Altogether, we gained about a half mph due to the wind/wave lift. I made the call to adjust the course since any closer to the shore we would lose the wind and small waves while further off shore the wind and waves would be stronger. I guess that I made a good call since the National Weather Service kept reporting 2 foot waves beyond 5 miles off shore and we were 2-3 miles from shore.
Our trip for today was 28.8 miles with a time of a little under 3.5 hours. After about 20 miles, we turned toward the west and entered Traverse Bay. The lower part of the state of Michigan has the shape of a hand with the fingers together and the thumb sticking out to the right  (or east). Our destination was the Port Austin State Harbor in Port Austin about 10 miles inside of the southern side of Traverse Bay. As we approached the port, we had to stay about 2 miles off shore to round the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse.
     Sure enough, just a short distance east of the light we could see waves breaking over some rocks just sticking above water level (picture at right). In this case, the term reef refers to the shallow rocks, which are a hazard to navigation, rather to reef in the more classic sense of a living coral reef.
     The Port Austin State Harbor is owned and operated by the state of Michigan. I first found this out when the young dock hand who helped us with lines refused a tip since he was a state employee. The marina has been totally rebuilt during the past two years, and it is a beautiful facility. The first (floating) docks that had been completed last year were left in place over the winter. Obviously, the marina freezes over during the winter, and the ice moves around in the wind, which normally breaks up docks and bends pilings. They used an air bubble system to circulate the water and keep ice from forming along the docks. I have seen this system used along the east coast where the winters are far less severe to protect boats left in the water over the winter. I guess that the system also works much further north where they get "real" winter.
     Tonight we walked to downtown Port Austin, which is just beyond the edge of the marina, for dinner. The people on the boat next to us had recommended "The Bank" as a good place for dinner. Indeed, it was in an old bank building that provided a wonderful décor. As usual, I had the fried perch dinner, and the perch were the best yet. Unlike most fried perch, which are often heavily coated with corn meal, these perch were just lightly dusted with flour before being fried. The light coating preserved more of the "fish" taste. Shortly after returning to Lucky Us we were treated to a wonderful sunset over Lake Michigan (picture at left). A pretty end to a nice day on the water...  Sunrise, Sunset!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 2-255 a tour of Port Huron

Out decision to have a full day in Port Huron proved to be a good one as yesterday's strong north winds continued over night. So the waves out in Lake Huron were still in the range of 3 to 6 feet.
The Admiral had read about a "Ten Cent Trolley Tour" that sounded like fun. I had thought that the "ten Cents" was a joke, but sure enough, the actual fare was a dime. The driver was a hoot! A life long resident of Port Huron who unlike many tour guides did not have any corny jokes along the trip. The trip lasts an hour, and there are several stops where you can get off. You can then reboard after touring a house or spending time on the beach at Lake Huron.

One of the finest views was of the Blue Water Bridge across the St. Claire River. Sarnia, Ontario is on the other (Canadian) side. You can see a line of tractor trailers stopped on the bridge waiting to clear customs. It seems like a very busy crossing especially for commercial traffic.
We also saw a large boulder that is part of a memorial to lost sailors and ships. In just one storm many years ago, some 16 ships and their crews were lost. We have probably heard about the Edmund Fitzgerald, but she is just one of hundred of ships that have been lost on Lake Huron. Waves as high as 70 feet have supposedly been recorded in severe storms.

We also saw the Lightship Huron, which was retired in 1971 and has since been restored. She was the last lightship on the Great lakes and is now open for tours.

A year ago, we visited Thomas Edison's winter home in Fort Meyers Florida. When we went on our dingy trip up the Huron River last week, we ended up about 15 miles from Edison's birthplace in Milan, Ohio on the Huron River.  When Edison was 7 years old, his family moved to (you guessed it) Port Huron. Yes, indeed it is a small world.
We passed a dock where railroad cars had been loaded onto ferries for transport across the river to Canada. Later, a tunnel was blasted under the river for trains. This became such a busy tunnel that it had to be replaced when the rail roads went with higher double deck freight cars. So, in the early 1980s a new, much larger was made using modern boring machine that made the new tunnel. Port Huron was also served by passenger trains. This rail road station and passenger car was served by the line over the rail road bridge that was locked in the up position in yesterday's post.

A couple of blocks from the (deactivated) Port Huron Lighthouse, we saw a replica of an earlier Port Huron Lighthouse. It was built by the home owner who evidently is a fan of lighthouses.

We also saw many beautiful homes and commercial buildings. I will show a bit of my geology side by including the picture on the left. It is a nearly completely restored gas station for Standard Oil of Indiana (or Stanolind, or Panamerican Oil Company, Amoco). "Back in the Day", I did a fair amount of consulting with Amoco and had many friends and former students who worked there. (It was purchased by BP in about 1999).

After the tour ended, we got off the trolley at its next to last stop, which just happened to be on Military Street where there are quite a few restaurants. We chose an Irish pub, which had a marvelous décor and rather surprisingly played rather loud classic 1970's rock music (?). Anyway, I had a marvelous Reuben sandwich for lunch.

After lunch, we used the marina shuttle to go grocery shopping, and to stop at Walgreens for some prescriptions for me. We have used Walgreens for prescriptions throughout our trip, and it has worked very well. I usually try to order on line a couple of days before we reach a location. It was a little less smooth this time as I had to make calls to two doctor's offices to ask them to expedite the e-mail refill requests from Walgreens. I ended up having to go back later for one last prescription, but at the end of the day I had everything filled, and I am good for another 90 day.
I will end today's post with one last picture of a beautiful stone house. Yes, indeed, Port Huron is a pretty little town.

Day 2-254 Strong headwind and current enroute to Port Huron

We left the Algonac Harbor Club about Noon. We had a lazy morning after the long day yesterday, and the Admiral went back to bed since she had not been sleeping well. She has also finally recovered from some low level bug so she must have needed the extra sleep. As we departed the marina, we passed 2 families of swans, which was quite a treat. The first family performed marvelously for the camera.
The second family was a little more camera shy, but I stopped Lucky Us and backed about 100 feet down a side channel to get a little better picture (at right).

The trip to Port Huron was only 28.8 miles, and we knew that we would be slowed by the 2 to 2.5 mph current in the St. Clair River. However, we were also slowed a bit more by 20+ mph headwinds. We arrived at the River Street Marina in Port Huron at 5:45 pm. Our normal cruising speed is just over 8 mph, but for the entire trip we averaged more like 5 mph.
Normally, a 20+ mph wind would create waves up to 3 feet, but there were enough bends in the river to keep the waves generally below 1 foot.

The picture at the right shows the Canadian flags being whipped by the wind. We did note that there did seem to be something of a contest over which country was more patriotic with many flags on both the American and Canadian sides of the St. Clair River.
     Since we were in the shipping channel, except for entering/leaving marinas, we passed lots of commercial vessels. The picture at the left shows the up bound lake freighter Atlantic Huron passing us. You can see the huge bow waves, and also, you can see how the strong head wind is blowing spray off of the wave crest.

Most of the up bound freighters that passed us were going more than 10 mph faster than Lucky Us so the passes were pretty quick. I like the picture at the right because it almost looks as if the two freighters are going to collide... However, it is an optical illusion since they actually passed at a very safe distance. For the record, we did get out of the main channel when being passed, especially when two ships were passing at the same time.

In case you have not gathered by now, most of our views for the day were of ships. There were some small towns and lots of non-descript cabins and houses, but in general the riverside scenery was not great.

So, I will spare you any more freighter pictures after this one. It was one of the largest of the day. This picture was also taken near the end of our trip, and you can see how the sky had started to clear. However, the wind was predicted to remain high through tomorrow.
Okay, so I said that the photo above was the last freighter picture, and indeed this is another one of the freighters that is actually a barge pushed by a huge tug. This one was traveling 1.1 mph faster than Lucky Us, and it took forever to creep by Lucky Us.

When we reached Port Huron, we turned west into the Black River and had a series of three bridges to pass before we reached our marina. The first one was easy since it is a railroad bridge that is permanently locked in the up position (picture at left). The river has several marinas and a yacht club.

Even before we heard the weather predictions for tomorrow, we had planned on spending an extra day in Port Huron thanks to a recommendation from our friend Ann M. from Lorain.
The next two bridges had to open before we could pass through. The bridges were only about two blocks apart, and they coordinated their openings so that you passed completely through one before the other one would open. The picture on the right shows the first bridge (Military Street) closing after we had passed through.

By the time that we passed through the second bridge and docked it was nearly 6:00 pm.
After we had registered (and paid) at the marina office, we headed out to Military Street to a BBQ restaurant that was really very good. There was a nice waterfront walkway, including a tunnel under the 7th Street bridge. Of course, I just had to have my picture taken at this neat park bench. The red armrest/cup holder in the middle is a ship model. Unfortunately, my hand was empty at the time...

Tomorrow, we will do some touring around Port Huron.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 2-253 Put-in-Bay to well past Detroit, MI

After our full day of sight seeing and relaxation in Put-In-Bay, we set off 91.4 miles to well north of Detroit, Michigan. We had made the conscious decision to by-pass western Lake Erie so we knew that we would be in for a long 12 hour day, but the weather was beautiful. We dropped the mooring ball and left Put-In-Bay at 6:10 am. YES, even I can be "urged" to get up early in the morning... However, as a reward, we were treated to a wonderful sunrise over Lake Erie (picture at right). The wind was southerly at about 7 mph with cloudless skies.  Our decision to get into the area between Lakes Erie and Huron was also influenced by a cold front that was predicted to arrive after midnight. The waves on Lake Huron are expected to be 3 to 6 feet and not calm down for another day or two.Since we were headed directly to the entrance to the Detroit River about 48 miles away, we did not have much in the way of scenic views.
     Once we were in the Detroit River, the viewing opportunities, such as the lighthouse at left, went way up. The Canadian side of the river was much less populated. On the American side the initial summer cabins gave way to very large homes as we approached Detroit. However, once we were in the Detroit River, we were going into a current as fast as 2.5 mph, which slowed our progress even more. As much as possible I tried to stay near the shore where the current was less.
On the southern edge of the city we passed under the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The bridge is a classic suspension bridge with tall towers on either side of the main span.  Since it is over the main shipping channel, it has a vertical clearance of 156 feet. Anyway, when approaching from the south, the initial views of the city are really spectacular.
     As we were about to pass under the bridge, we got a great view of this large Canadian flag on the east tower. Not to worry because there is an equally large American flag on the west tower...

     We also decided to bypass Detroit because the locations of the marinas did not seem either very convenient for sight seeing or very exciting (nice amenities). However, Detroit, as viewed from the water is quite a pretty city. The picture at the right is just a partial view of the skyline, which is a delightful mix of old and new buildings.
     I guess that there is no doubt about where the Detroit Red Wings play hockey? The city has been working on re-developing the downtown area for many years, and their efforts show at least along the riverfront areas.
Certainly the most impressive sight along the waterfront is the GM Center. It has four round towers around a central core building (photo at right). The GM sign is actually a more modern one, which of course, flashes commercials (or at least other GM car logos). Actually, by today's standards the sign is rather small when compared to the giant screens in sports stadiums.
In order to see more of Detroit, we chose to go outside of the main channel and as a result we passed under the Douglas MacArthur Bridge with a clearance of "only" 35 feet. The bridge connects Belle Isle, Michigan (on the right) with the mainland (on the left). I forgot to count, but the bridge must have at least 7 arched spans like this one. As bridges go, this one is really quite scenic.
     Detroit and the Detroit River have long been famous for boat races on the river. In the early days the races featured speed boats designed by famous racers like Gar Wood. Now there are hydroplane and offshore power boat races. These reviewing stands are part of the complex for race fans. Even though we travelled past here in very nice weather with waves well under 1 foot, there are still some larger swells mixed in with all of the other waves. Personally, I cannot imagine riding through here in a boat capable of speed over 150 mph...
     No, I have not forgotten the Canadian side of the Detroit River. In fact there were some very friendly scenes on the Canadian side. In particular, one waterfront park featured these massive flags.
     We also passed another long waterfront park that featured very large pieces of art. This elephant (photo at right) was one of the more photogenic pieces of the many that we went past. The elephant looked right at home in this beautiful weather, but I would think that it might make a rather strange sight in the middle of winter (?).
      We did "share" the main shipping channel with shipping, including some massive lake freighters (picture at left). Fortunately, the shipping channel is very wide, and the areas outside the channel are often quite deep until very close to the shore. Thus, we were usually able to get outside the channel and give the freighters a break.
The photo at the right looks like a small lake freighter, but it really is a very large "boat shaped" barge that is pushed by a large tug. The tug fits tightly into a recessed area in the stern of the barge. We have seen similar ocean going barges back "home" along the Gulf Coast. The "barge" has some power supply since it is self unloading and has a bow thruster.

Having grown up along the shore of Lake Erie in Lorain, Ohio, I have always known that to get from Lake Erie to Lake Huron you go through the Detroit River the across Lake St. Clair and finally through the St. Clair River. I made that common mistake that "it doesn't look very far on a map". It turns out that the distances involved are about 28, 17 and 38 miles respectively. In other words, it is a lot further between the two lakes than I had thought... As part of today's long trip, we went through the Detroit River, across Lake St. Clair and 10 miles up the St. Clair River to Algonac, MI.
 Soooo, after about 12 hours of travel, we pulled into the Algonac Harbor Club to dock for the night. On the way to our dock, I saw this wonderful sight! Thanks to the effort of the Admiral, we had a nice big pool and a hot tub! Whoop! Now that is the way to end a long day.