2004-2005 Cruising Log

Photo: Endeavour 32 sailboat on Lake St. Clair. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Sailing across Lake St. Clair on a windy day with one reef in the main. Credit: L. Borre.

Sailing Logbook for trip to the Great Lakes on our previous boat, About Time, a 32-foot Endeavour sloop

Year 1 (2004)

Chesapeake Bay to Lake Huron
Total Mileage: 1,180
Number of Canal Locks: 38

Instead of our usual summer sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coast, we decided to spend two seasons getting a first-hand look at the Great Lakes aboard our 32-foot auxiliary sailboat, About Time. We departed on 3 July 2004 and completed the final leg of the first year’s trip just after Labor Day in 2004, traveling over 1,000 miles from our homeport in Annapolis to the southern end of Lake Huron. About Time was hauled from the water for annual maintenance and storage in Port Edward, Ontario until the next leg of the journey in 2005.

We did the 2004 trip in a series of four-, seven- to ten-day legs, returning to Annapolis for a week or two in between. A brief summary of each leg of the trip is provided below. (Mileage given in statute miles.)

During the second year, we visited Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior, including a 10-day stop-over for a family reunion on Beaver Island, Michigan.

Leg 1 – Chesapeake Bay to Erie Canal via Hudson River
Great Lakes Sailing Expedition

Beginning Port: Annapolis, Maryland
Ending Port:
Schenectady, New York
July 3-10, 2004

The first decision in planning a trip like this is whether to take the inside route through the Hudson River and Erie Canal or to go outside around Nova Scotia into the St. Lawrence River. Given our time constraints, we opted for the inside route so that we could also visit the Hudson River. We departed Annapolis late in the day on 3 July and motored north toward the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. As darkness fell, small communities along the Elk River were celebrating the holiday weekend with fireworks displays. The next day, we struggled against a strong wind on the Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey, setting anchor as the Fourth of July fireworks began. From here, we sailed along the Atlantic coast to New York, departing in the late morning and arriving at New York’s outer harbor at dawn on 6 July. With a favorable current, we continued up the Hudson River to Ossining, New York where we anchored for the night. We arrived in Catskill, New York on 7 July and began preparations to take down our mast for the passage through the Erie Canal. A day later, we headed north toward Albany and Troy and passed through the first seven locks on the Erie Canal before returning to Annapolis on 10 July. View the photo gallery for more details on this leg of the trip.

Leg 2 – Erie and Oswego Canals to Lake Ontario
Great Lakes Sailing Expedition

Beginning Port: Schenectady, New York
Ending Port: Rochester, New York
Dates: July 17-24, 2004
Mileage: 236

Outfitted with two additional large, round fenders, we continued along the Erie Canal which follows the course of the Mohawk River at this stage, meandering through small upstate New York towns and never veering far from the railroad lines. In Canajoharie, NY, we spent the night tied up at the municipal dock along with two other boats and with dozens of local residents fishing at the newly renovated Riverfront Park. We listened to the sound of trains across the river and cars zooming by on the New York State Throughway nearby.

From here, we continued westbound through seven more locks (Locks 14-20) and joked about passing by towns such as Amsterdam on our way to Rome without ever leaving New York. Again we spent the night tied up to a municipal dock at a renovated park, but this time we were alone with only a few people fishing nearby. Before departing the next morning, we walked into the economically depressed town and visited Fort Stanwix, an important site during the Revolutionary War. On 19 July, we crossed the watershed divide into the Great Lakes drainage basin, as we entered the Wood Creek Basin which flows into Lake Oneida, then the Oswego River and eventually into Lake Ontario.

As we crossed Lake Oneida, we were shocked at how much green and blue-green algae was in the water. We called the local lake association, and they informed us that the lake had always been productive. The lock walls were also covered in zebra mussels, and if we were not careful, they would spit water at us while About Time was being raised or lowered in the lock. On our way to Oswego, we stopped in Pheonix, NY, just before the first of seven locks which would take us down to Lake Ontario through the Oswego Canal.

The ‘Bridge Brats’, a group of volunteer school-age boys, learn about community service while serving coffee to boaters passing through the locks. Arriving in Osewego, NY on 20 July, we put the mast back up and were sailing again on Lake Ontario the next day. We made one stop in Little Sodus Bay on our way to Rochester, NY where we learned about the extent of invasive plant infestations. When re-hoisting our anchor, it took nearly an hour to clear the milfoil and hydrilla from the anchor and chain.

View the photo gallery for more details on this leg of the trip.

Leg 3 – Lake Ontario to Lake Erie via Welland Canal
Great Lakes Sailing Expedition

Beginning Port: Rochester, New York
Ending Port: Erie, Pennsylvania
Dates: August 2-10, 2004
Mileage: 230

We made stops at Point Breeze and Wilson, NY before crossing the lake to Toronto where we docked in the heart of downtown just below the CN Tower. After a day ashore to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario and other local attractions, we sailed back across the lake to St. Catherine’s, Ontario. From here we transitted the Welland Canal, a series of 8 locks built for commercial shipping which lift boats over the Niagara Escarpment to Lake Erie.

The commercial ships fit snugly into the locks with just inches to spare. As a recreational vessel, we were required to have a third crew member on-board due to the currents created in the locks. We arrived in Port Colborne, Ontario at the end of a long day and then crossed Lake Erie the following day. Our first experience with the smallest of the Great Lakes was a classic. A strong west wind set up a steep chop in the Eastern Basin of the lake, and we smashed through the waves to Dunkirk, NY, arriving just in time for the Sunday afternoon potluck at the local yacht club. The lake could not have been more calm the following day, but we had to use the engine to propel us to Erie, PA.

View the photo gallery below for more details on this leg of the trip.

Leg 4 – Lake Erie to Lake Huron via Detroit and St. Clair Rivers
Great Lakes Sailing Expedition

Beginning Port: Erie, Pennsylvania
Ending Port: Port Edward (Sarnia), Ontario
Dates: September 1-8, 2004
Mileage: 300

We had a glorious sail from Erie, PA to Ashtabula, Ohio where our friend Al Schwartz came aboard to join us for several days. On 3 September, we made a 57-mile passage to Cleveland mostly under power as the winds were light and variable before continuing on the next day to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island.

We visited these same islands in 2002 as part of a tour organized in connection with the Great Lakes Commission annual meeting. The Erie Islands had received recent notoriety due to the “mysterious illness” of people who had visited the area around South Bass. We had downloaded web news reports prior to arrival which indicated that several water supply wells were contaminated, but that the municipal supply was considered safe. These facts were reinforced with bright green signs posted in the front window of the dockmaster’s office and other local businesses. This seemed to do the trick in terms of restoring public confidence, and we noticed that the tourism business appeared to be booming again as we walked through town in the evening.

After a visit to the Perry Monument, we motored and motor-sailed 60 miles to Wyandotte, Michigan on the Detroit River. On Labor Day, we passed by Detroit and sailed across Lake St. Clair to St. Clair, Michigan. We reached our final destination in Port Edward (Sarnia), Ontario on 7 September. Before heading into the dock, we “stuck our nose” out into Lake Huron. After clearing the strong, 4 knot current under the Bluewater Bridge, we both took a plunge in the beautiful and refreshing blue water of the lake. We took About Time’s mast down again, this time entirely by ourselves, before we hauled her from the water the following day. Next year we plan to explore Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan.

View the photo gallery below for more details on this leg of the trip.

Year 2 (2005)

For Year 2 of our Great Lakes Sailing Expedition, we sailed from the southern end of Lake Huron to Lake Michigan and then across Lake Superior, for a total of 915 NM in 2005.

Leg 5 – Lake Huron and the North Channel
Great Lakes Sailing Expedition

Beginning Port: Sarnia (Point Edward), Ontario
Ending Port: Mackinaw City, Michigan
Dates: July 8 – July 27, 2005
Mileage: 405 NM

We returned to About Time on June 30, 2005 and spent the next week preparing the boat for the trip to the upper lakes. We departed the Sarnia/Port Huron area on Friday, July 8, and had a glorious, but long, sail to Bayfield, Ontario. After experiencing the conditions change within hours from light winds and calm seas to stronger winds and steep waves, David recorded in the logbook, “Lake Huron is one big lake.” Lisa noted, “The color of Lake Huron changed from a turquoise blue under the Bluewater Bridge to a much deeper blue as we left Chemical Alley behind.” It was at this moment that we missed the digital camera we left behind at home.

With the rush to prepare the boat and then get underway, the crew decided that a day of rest was in order. Bayfield was just the place. Lisa worked on her rock collection while David puttered with boat projects. We walked through town and visited the local fish market to get some fresh whitefish for dinner. The next day About Time pointed her bow north toward Kincardine, Ontario, where we enjoyed Jazz music ashore at a local bar on Main Street and the sounds of bagpipe music from the lighthouse tower at sunset. The biggest attraction, however, was Almost Rockin, a large motor yacht owned by a doctor from Cleveland which had mangled its props on the well-marked shoal at Bruce Point.

On 11 July, we set out on another day with no wind and motored to Port Elgin, Ontario. The entrance to the harbor is a bit unsettling as every rock is visible at depth of 25′ on the approach, but once inside, the marina is very spacious. In the evening, we dined aboard on beef stroganoff, a galley favorite, studied charts and played a few hands of cards before retiring to the bunk early. We departed at dawn on Saturday, July 12 for Georgian Bay and the North Channel.

The passage between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay marks another change in the water. As we approached land, the water depth went from more than 300′ to less than 100′ quite quickly. We motored along in 18′-38′ of water on the approach to Tobermory and every detail of every rock was visible. Lisa encouraged David to go forward and see for himself. When he did, he exclaimed, “Slow down, it’s really shallow!” In fact, we were in over 40′ of water! The water dropped off again to 90′-150′ and a beautiful, deep turquoise blue color. Upon arrival, we walked to town for a “beaver tail” (fried dough concoction) treat before retiring early after another long day.

We stayed in Tobermory for a few days so that our mail could catch up with us. Everything in this water-oriented community is conveniently located within walking distance of the docks. Every day boats arrived and departed, both power and sail, alone and in rendezvous groups, the latter of which creates quite a presence at the otherwise quiet government dock. We finally launched the dinghy which revealed an outboard in need of serious maintenance. The local marine service shop came by to pick it up. They gave it a complete overhaul, making it as good as new, and delivered it back the next day, rebuilt carburetor and all! After receiving our mail, including the digital camera, we were ready to depart again on Saturday, July 16.

Another early morning departure in calm, misty conditions. The fog burned off by late morning and we sailed and motor-sailed to Killarney where we made a lunch stop for world famous fish and chips. We found it extremely hot on land and way too many sportfishing boats for our liking, so we moved on to Snug Harbour. Although it was a bit shallow entering the harbour, Lisa kept an eagle eye out for the deepest part of the channel, and we edged our way into the anchorage along with a few other boats.

We saw and heard loons almost everywhere. A great blue heron flew right over us after anchoring. Terns feeding were also a common sight. We found numerous, small shrimp-like fish floating dead on the surface of the water in our anchorage. Zebra mussels covered clams, mussels and most limestone rocks in the near shore areas.

On Sunday, we awoke at 8:00 a.m. and took a slow morning. David relaxed on the boat while Lisa rowed over to a hiking trail and walked to the other side of the Badgly Point peninsula to collect fossils.

At noon, we departed for Baie Fine (pronounced bay finn) on a sunny day with light winds. We anchored for the first time using the new Delta anchor and tied a line to shore to hold our position which turned out to be a good thing. At around 9:00 p.m. a big storm came through with torrential rain, thunder and intense lighting. We did not get to sleep until after it passed. The next day we continued to Little Current, then to Cutnife Cove on Bedford Island, Croker Island in the Benjamin Islands, Gore Bay, Vidal Bay and ending up on Drummond Island in Michigan one week later (see photo gallery). We spent two days at Drummond before sailing on to Mackinaw City and then Beaver Island, arriving there on July 27, 2005.

View the photo gallery for more details on this leg of the trip.

Leg 6 – Beaver Island, Lake Michigan
Great Lakes Sailing Expedition

Port of Call: St. James Harbor, Beaver Island, Michigan
Dates: July 27-August 7, 2005
Mileage: 72 NM

We visited Lisa’s family for 10 days on Beaver Island, Michigan for a “Beaver Cousin” reunion. Our sail there and back from the Mackinac Bridge were the best sailing days we had on the entire trip!

View the photo gallery for more details on this leg of the trip.

Leg 7 – St. Mary’s River and Lake Superior
Great Lakes Sailing Expedition

Beginning Port: Mackinaw City, Michigan
Ending Port: Bayfield, Wisconsin
Dates: August 7 – August 19, 2005
Mileage: 438 NM

A nip of cold was in the air the night before we departed Mackinaw City for the next phase of our Great Lakes journey: Lake Superior. With a west wind at our backs, we sailed 45 miles through the Straights of Mackinac to Whitney Bay off the Detour Passage. A beautiful display of Venus and the crescent moon hung in the night sky along with what Lisa recorded in the log as “gazillions of stars” while loons called eerily in the quiet bay. The next day we motored and motored sailed 46 miles up the St. Mary’s River to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. We spent a day at the dock waiting for thunderstorms to pass before continuing through the Canadian Soo Locks on August 10.

After winding our way out the St. Mary’s River in sunny, clear weather, we entered Whitefish Bay and had our first lesson in Lake Superior weather. Despite what the forecast says, anything can happen. We were soon engulfed in a rapidly moving fog bank, and with it, a stiff 15-20 knot NW breeze. The seas built rapidly and we motored into them for the last 15 miles. The fog eventually lifted, and we were we happy to make our way into one of the big lake’s harbors of refuge at Whitefish Point. We were the only cruising boat tied up with a few old commercial fishing boats. The adjacent beaches were posted with “No trespassing, no collecting rocks” signs, a hint toward recent battles in Michigan over lakefront access.

The weather report on August 11 called again for changing conditions in the afternoon with the possibility of thunderstorms in the evening. We departed for Grand Marais, Michigan, early and motored in light winds and a rolly swell, a remnant of the NW wind the day before. The shoreline was a practically unbroken stretch of sandy/rocky beaches, low dunes and evergreen forest which finally gave way to steep, glacial bluffs with an occasional cottage dotting the shore. In the afternoon, a swarm of flies gathered on the boat and drove us crazy with their stinging bites. From experience, we also knew that these swarms almost always preceded the passage of a front. The skies were still mostly sunny when we arrived in Grand Marais. Unfortunately, we did have to wash down and vacuum the boat immediately after tying up to the dock. We enjoyed a visit to the Lake Superior Brewing Company for parmesan-garlic popcorn, scotch eggs, pizza and local brews with names like Puddingstone Light, Sandstone Ale and Hematite Stout. At sunset, we walked the beach and began our search for Lake Superior agates.

We departed early the next day under cloudy, dark skies, but enjoyed some good sailing on our way to Murray Bay, Grand Island. The sky lifted in time for us to enjoy beautiful views of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We hugged the shore and admired the sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, tree-lined rivers, caves, sea stacks, and the best of all, a tree on the top of a sea stack with its roots still attached, like a bridge, to shore. As we approached the anchorage on Grand Island, we also spotted an eagle’s nest.

We spent the afternoon enjoying Murray Bay and lingered a bit the following morning before setting out for Marquette, Michigan on August 13. We should have lingered longer because the conditions improved throughout the day, and we enjoyed a nice sail for the last 10-15 miles of the passage. Wandering ashore, we found Finn Fest well underway. We were treated to Finnish singing, dancing and music at a local brew pub.

The next day, we sailed and motor-sailed to windward most of the way to Big Bay Harbor of Refuge, and like most of the harbors on Superior, we found the entrance shoaled in and tricky to enter. Luckily, our sturdy, shoal draft boat made it to safety once again. One other visiting boat was in the harbor with us, a power boat from Washburn, Wisconsin in the Apostle Islands area. While we were enjoying our “sundowners” on the fantail, another couple came by and chatted for awhile. They were from Rockford, Michigan, near Lisa’s hometown, had graduated from “Northern” and owned a summer camp on Big Bay. We ate (canned) crab fajitas and enjoyed a bottle of wine. The ice box contained more ice than food at this point.

We saw two eagle’s nests on the way to the twin cities of Houghton and Hancock, located on the Keewanau Waterway. We opted for this route since it was quicker and less weather-dependent than going around the peninsula. We spent two days at the Houghton County Marina where the harbormaster let us borrow his car for grocery shopping. We also found convenient stores in the downtown area, including a shoe repair shop (the soles of Lisa’s sailing shoes needed glue) and a great camping supply store. We visited the Mineral Museum at Michigan Tech.

On August 17, we got underway again under partly cloudy skies, and when we reached Misery Bay of all places, we were hit with the first of many squall lines packing heavy wind and rain. The wind was offshore, and we were on a comfortable reach, so we bundled up in foul weather gear, rolled in a few tucks on the genoa, and sailed to Ontonagon. About Time reached a speed of seven knots at one point!

Other than a few fish boats and other local craft, the marina was deserted. Bob, another friendly harbormaster, drove David to the nearby gas station to fill a jerry can with diesel. Lisa made a sauté of chicken, mushrooms and asparagus over long grain and wild rice — some comfort food after a wet, rainy day on the water — while David tuned in the local public radio station and listened to NPR and classical music.

We sailed and motor sailed the following day along the beautiful shore of the Porcupine State Park and Forest and admired the views of the highest mountains in the Midwestern U.S. We saw occasional backpackers and hikers along the shore, all of whom seemed to be tossing stones into the lake. Monarch butterflies were everywhere we looked. Loons and other water birds fished alongside the boat as we passed. A rocky point gave way to steep, red sandstone bluffs all the way to Black River Harbor of Refuge. Once again, we were the only cruising boat in transit in the harbor. We hiked up to the beautiful Rainbow Falls through a mature hemlock forest. The falls spilled over a bolder-sized red conglomerate, eroding out the softer, cross-bedded sandstones below. Lisa found great rock collecting on the beach — more ballast for About Time‘s hold.

On August 19, we departed under cloudy skies with slight haze/fog giving us less than five miles of visibility and almost no wind and an annoying swell from the ENE. We rocked and rolled along at a bearing of 278° magnetic, but it sure beat having 15-20 knots on the nose! We arrived at Apostle Islands Marina in Bayfield, Wisconsin at 3:30 p.m. We declared our two-year quest for the “Apostles or Bust” to be a success. David recorded in the log, “We made it!”

We were also out of time for the season, so we decided to haul and store About Time in Bayfield. We had some brief discussions about putting the boat up for sale and even talked to a broker, but we did not realize at the time how much the trip had changed us. By the time we drove back to get our car where we left it in Sarnia, Ontario, and then returned to Annapolis three days after leaving Bayfield, we realized that it was “about time” to pursue our dream of sailing and living aboard a boat full time. We immediately began the search for a slightly bigger, bluewater boat for our next adventures. By Labor Day weekend, we found our next boat: a Tayana 37 in Yarmouth, Maine.

View the photo gallery for more details on this leg of the trip.

Adventures while cruising to the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Black Seas in a Tayana 37 sailboat


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