2003 - Into the St. Lawrence Estuary & Back
Ocean Explorer News - May 13, 2003, 1500 CDST – “At Sea”
As I write, Ocean Explorer, Donna, and I are in the process of sailing toward northern Lake Michigan. We left our homeport of Manitowoc, Wisconsin at 0635 this morning. OE was launched on May 5, and Donna and I have been working hard to get it "shipshape" and provisioned since.
Our plan is to sail through the Great Lakes, out the St. Lawrence River and end up in Bras d'Or Lake, Nova Scotia by late summer. It is our intent to go through the Strait of Belle Isle as far north as Battle Harbour, Labrador, and then head south along the Atlantic Coast of Newfoundland. We will visit the French Island of St. Pierre, and then continue along the south coast of Newfoundland and, finally, cross the Cabot Strait to Nova Scotia. We have started this trip twice before but, for one reason or another, have not gone any farther than Morrisburg, Ontario on the St. Lawrence River. I think we are better prepared than ever this year. While I won't make any promises I can't keep, I think that we have a good chance of making the entire trip this time.
Several of you have expressed an interest in our sailing travels in the past. As many of you know, we send out an e-mail "log" via our HAM radio on a regular basis to those who are interested. This year the system has been improved to the point that we have the ability to send an occasional photo to supplement the log.
Another option that those of you so interested may like is the ability to follow our position via charts. It is a good way to learn some geography. You can go to <http://winlink.org/>. On the left sidebar there is a button for "Position Reports," or something close to that. Follow it to the link and try the APRS and ShipTrak options. Plug in my call sign, AA9HE, and you will find our location at the time of our last contact with the WinLink HAM radio/e-mail network.
Best wishes to all,
Rich and Donna
Ocean Explorer News - 5-17-03 – Mackinaw City, Michigan
As you know, we departed from Manitowoc in the early morning of May 13. Winds were light, but that was OK. A heavy wind with big seas and lots of spray can be pretty miserable with the temperatures at this time of year. We ended up doing an overnight passage to Leland, Michigan. It was actually a rather pleasant trip. We had a clear sky and a beautiful, near-full moon. Air temperatures went down to the 36 to 38 degree Fahrenheit range but, between our diesel heater and our Mustang Survival Work Suits (like snowmobile suits with built-in floatation), we managed to make it through the night. We each managed to get some sleep (one of us is on watch at all times).
We saw not a single other pleasure boat, but we did encounter several freighters as we went through the Manitou Passage (the passage between the islands in northern Lake Michigan and the Michigan mainland) in the early dawn hours. They are quite beautiful, being all lit up and appearing more like party boats than freighters.
We arrived in Leland about noon on the 14th. Lake Michigan, and the inland lakes of that area, are so clear. I don't know why, but there must be something in the minerals of the area that precipitate out any particles. As we approached the harbor in about forty feet of water, we could look down and see the bottom with ease.
I had looked all over La Crosse for a book called "The Boat Who Wouldn't Float" by Farley Mowat. Farley is the guy who wrote "Never Cry Wolf," after which the movie was made. "The Boat..." is recommended for those going to Newfoundland as a way to get the flavor of the area. Donna and I visited a small bookshop in Leland, and while there I asked "You don't happen to have..." and she said "Yes, right over here." And so I am now happily reading Farley's book. I have decided that Leland has a pretty good bookstore.
On the 15th we sailed from Leland to Charlevoix. Those of you who looked on the Internet charts may have seen us anchored in Round Lake. We had a good sail and, this time did see another boat under sail. So we are not alone!
Yesterday, the 16th, we did the trip from Charlevoix up through Grays Reef Passage (the whole northeast part of Lake Michigan is filled with rock reefs) and then down the Straits of Mackinac to our present location in Mackinaw City. It was one of those trips that I get a little embarrassed about (we ran the engine). Between Charlevoix and Mackinaw City there really isn't a protected harbor, natural or otherwise, so it is a trip that one wants to accomplish with some efficiency. From Charlevoix to Grays Reef Passage we had almost no wind. We tried to sail until about 11 AM, and then gave up and started the engine. We had no more than made it through the Passage when the wind suddenly piped up to about 25 knots out of the east (the direction in which we were headed). A short, steep sea quickly built and spray was soon flying everywhere. I might normally have thought about putting some sail up and beating into it (the boat actually sails better than it powers through such waves), but the thought of going up to the mast with that cold water guaranteeing to soak me made me seriously consider the risk-reward ratio. Continuing with the engine won out. Then, the fog came, thick, heavy stuff that dropped visibility to about 100 feet. The Straits have some of the heaviest freighter traffic on the lake, so there gets to be a lot of chitchat on the radio as these big fellows try to avoid each other. Even though we have radar, we ducked to the south, out of the main freighter lanes, in an effort to make their lives a little simpler, and ours a little safer. As we passed under the Mackinac Bridge, much of the structure was obscured.
We have spent the day here in Mackinaw City. We needed a day off to get some chores done, and to sit in warm restaurants slowly sipping hot coffee. We are now, technically, in Lake Huron, and we will continue our trip down in the direction of the southern end of the lake tomorrow. We hope to see warmer weather soon. Water temperatures have been in the 36 to 37 degree range throughout the open waters of Lake Michigan.
Rich & Donna
Thousand-Footer in Straits of Mackinac
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