The sail from Port Huron was quiet and fast as the wind pushed us gently towards our destination. The sun peeked out weakly from behind a thickening layer of cloud. During the late afternoon we could see storm clouds ahead of us with heavy rain pelting the land and waters ahead of us. The way the clouds were moving made us think that we could dodge the rain, but with only 3 miles to go to our intended anchorage the weather broke loose, turning towards us, and began pounding us into oblivion. Wind, waves and rain lashed the boat for at least an hour. The rain was coming so hard it stung and made it hard to see, so we turned our backs to the weather but the wind was pushing us away from our destination. After the first wave of wind and rain passed, we decided to bite the bullet and head straight into the weather, enduring three more waves of binding wind and rain until finally it calmed down and we were able to enter the harbor safely and drop anchor. We closed up and came down to survey the damage below. All the window seals had leaked and we were soaked and cold so changing into dry clothes and some hot tea and food in the belly was in order.
We went to bed early, exhausted from the cold wind and rain. The next morning we awoke to low clouds and no wind, so we fired up the motor, raised the anchor and departed. There was a lot of mud and weeds on the anchor, so it was quite difficult to lift. Once secured we headed out of the harbor and up the coast to our next stop, Harbor Beach. Without wind we ended up motoring all day, arriving early in the afternoon. We dropped anchor just inside the break wall in about 15 feet of water. After work, we took a boat ride in the dinghy to shore. It was a quaint little town with a few shops, a small grocery store and a diner. We stocked up on some items before ordering a pizza which we ate at the picnic tables on the beach. It’s nice to be able to get off the boat. The sun peeked out later in the day as the clouds receded to the South and we were blessed with a glorious sunset. I awoke around 3:00 a.m. and was witness to a cloudless sky peppered with stars. I spent a few minutes looking at the amazing sight before heading back to bed.
Friday morning was sunny but again, no wind. After a cup of coffee and a light breakfast we raised anchor and started motoring towards Port Austin. The lake was calm, but being a Friday there were many people out getting an early start to the weekend which made working down below rather interesting. The boat bounced quite a bit over the waves made by passing vessels.
We were headed to Turnip Rock, but could not really get close enough with our deep keel to see it clearly. So we headed around the Port Austin reef light and into the harbor. That was an adventure! There were weeds and grass up to the surface of the water and we almost had to plow our way through, at full throttle going about a half mile an hour. We were able to make it through, but had a ton of weeds wrapped around both the rudder, the keel and the propeller. A little bit of back and forward with the gear shifter to shake it off and we were able to safely dock.
Melanie made a wonderful dinner of Jambalaya and after eating, we found a good ice cream store where we enjoyed a scoop before heading back to the boat. We spent a few hours watching TV while we did laundry and then fell into bed. Saturday was clear but very humid and there was almost a misty fog covering the water. We walked into town and went to the weekly Farmers market before taking showers and preparing for departure. Mike had another block in his water intake, so we had to return to dock and blow it out. Once that was accomplished we left without issue. The lake was flat and calm, almost no wind. We were headed to Harrisville. It was a lot cooler and more comfortable out on the water but we had to motor the entire trip.
At some point the wind did come up enough for us to set some sail to help our speed, but without the motor, we were only doing 2 knots. We arrived in Harrisville around 7:00 p.m. and it took three tries to get safely anchored. The weeds in the harbor were terrible! First time I dropped the anchor and Melanie started to back up the boat it just dragged along the bottom picking up weeds and branches which I almost did not have the strength to lift and clean. I got it up to the water line and then had to use a boat hook to get the weeds and the mud off. It must have weighed 100 pounds! Second attempt, same results, so we called the harbor Master and he told us where to drop where the weeds were not as bad. Third time we hit paydirt and were safely anchored. Melanie made salmon burgers and a delicious salad for dinner and we chatted until dark before falling into bed exhausted.
In the morning we took Windsor into shore to potty and spoke to a couple of locals that were taking their powerboat out of the water. We had a nice chat, and then returned to the boat to raise the anchor and head into the gas dock to fill up with diesel. Apparently this is the only Marina for about 100 miles in either direction that has a working diesel pump! Then we were on our way, once again on calm waters which sadly required the motor. So we set the course and were on our way to our next stop. 7 miles out of port, the bracket holding the alternator to the engine broke in two places. I hastily shut down the engine and there we were, dead in the water. After a quick discussion we decided to head back to Harrisville, so we hoisted our sails and sailed back to the entrance of the harbor where our friends who were following behind on their own boat towed us in.
We dropped anchor and I began working on the problem; disassembling the alternator and removing it from the broken bracket. During this time, the wind switched 180 and started blowing quite hard, about 20 mph. I looked up and saw that the docks were rather close. I looked at the anchor alarm and sure enough, distance from our anchor point was steadily increasing. Then the alarm went off – we had to think quickly – there was no way for me to reset the anchor in this wind; we HAD to get a dock.
I radioed the dockmaster and explained our problem and then set up for a rather unconventional docking. We let the anchor drag far enough so I had enough anchor line on the boat to allow me to let out line and control our docking. Gently we guided the boat into a slip with help from many people on shore. Thankfully no damage and we provided great entertainment for the dock patrons. Once tied up we went ashore to pay for the night and Melanie started talking to a gentleman on shore who was bringing dinner to his daughter who worked at the marina. He turned out to be Mayor Jeff Gehring and at once he jumped on the phone and started calling around to find someone who could fabricate the part for us.
A few hours later we had a newly fabricated alternator bracket in hand. Jeff would not take payment from us. The kindness and helpfulness of the people at the marina as well as Mayor Jeff was overwhelming! We rewarded ourselves with a trip to the local ice-cream shop for a treat to top off the day. God REALLY took care of us. Next day was a day of miserable, rainy weather, so we paid for another night and I worked, while Melanie cleaned dirt and debris from our leaky windows and then used silicone grease to help seal them, which did the trick! No more leaks!
A large sailboat called Island Dancer had pulled in the previous evening and it was someone we knew from Sandusky! I had traveled with them 6 years ago through the Canadian maritimes to deliver a boat to Boston. I sailed as far as Prince Edward Island and then returned home, but it gave me experience as to what to expect when we took our own journey starting in 2017. We spent the evening chatting about our adventures and catching up on each other’s lives. It was an unexpected surprise and really great to see them. Before we realized it, it was almost midnight and we had chatted the night away! We went back to our boat and fell asleep to the sounds of train whistles as three or four trains passed through town in quick succession.