Sunday, August 11, 2019

Roller coaster ride

We are under way on Lake Erie, headed for the Detroit River. In just a few minutes we will enter Canadian waters, leaving Ohio behind. When we drop the hook this afternoon we will be in Michigan. The forecasted one footers on the lake are actually 2+ footers, on a short period, so it's quite the choppy ride, but it will be worse tomorrow so we're just plowing through it. We have four hours ahead of us, a good time to catch up the blog.

Even though I posted that we'd eat aboard on Monday, we actually decided to go ashore together and see if we could find dinner in town. We splashed the tender and ran upriver to Black River Landing. The docks were still posted with a $15 entrance fee to the Rockin' on the River festival that had happened in the enormous park over the weekend, but it was deserted on a Monday evening.

Cedar Point at night.

Lorain is clearly in the process of revamping its main street; I would guess eliminating some angle parking in favor of wider sidewalks for cafes and the like. We walked through the construction detritus on our way through town. The only place open on a Monday night was the sports bar, Scorcher's, but it was decently rated, had a large selection of drafts, and the food was fine. We were both happy to get off the boat and stretch our legs.

In the evening, the gleaming white lighthouse on the harbor breakwater was awash with light; a historical society maintains it and it seems to be a major attraction here. I tried to snap a photo but the brilliant white overexposed against the fading sunset background. You'll have to settle for the sunset shot before they lit it all up.

Sunset over Lorain harbor.

We lingered a bit in the morning, as the lake forecast improved throughout the day, but we had the anchor up well before lunch and headed out on a straight-line course to Sandusky. We were not even an hour out when the weather radio started squawking about an enormous thunderstorm with 50-knot winds. The radio alerted pretty much every five minutes for the next hour as the storm moved across the area, and eventually it hit us.

Fortunately, it was coming right at us head-on, so even though it was some 12 miles across, our closing speed was over 36 knots and we were through it in less than 20 minutes. Given our recent lightning experience. we clenched every time we saw a flash, but Vector took the wind and seas in stride.

Just emerging from the storm, as seen on our radar.

At some point the Coast Guard issued a small craft warning, but "seek safe harbor" has a different meaning in a 6.5-knot boat when confronted with storms moving at five times that speed. Our anemometer recorded the wind at 47 mph before it quit working, and we know it went higher than that. Visibility also went to zero for several minutes and I had to activate the automated fog horn.

The forecast called for rain on Wednesday and Thursday, so we planned on heading out to Cedar Point to ride the coasters on Friday. With two full days in Sandusky, we made plans to rent a car and head to Dayton to see friends, and gave them the choice of days. They chose Thursday, and I booked a car for that morning. We figured to be at anchor for both days, after the yacht club quoted us $2 per foot for dockage, and after making the turn around Cedar Point we headed down the channel and all the way to the coal docks.

Sunset over Gibraltar Island, Put-In-Bay.

We dropped the hook in a small embayment next to a long-abandoned berth (map). A small boatyard with a pair of Travelifts is at one corner of the bay, but no other traffic uses it. It was peaceful and calm behind the breakwater with only the sounds of the locomotives and rail cars moving coal. It rained through dinner time and we had a nice meal aboard, but things dried out by evening and we took the tender ashore for a brief walk downtown, landing it right at the foot of the main street.

That was not going to be a good option for leaving it all day on Thursday, and so after our nice walk through town we explored a little in the dinghy looking for other options, settling on the small city marina they call the "Paper District," where we could leave it for the day for $15.

I passed this Amphicar in the dinghy at Put-In-Bay.

Wednesday I had planned to spend the dry parts of the day exploring downtown Sandusky and maybe scoping out a place for dinner. Morning brought a beautiful day, and a check of the forecast revealed that rain, if any, would be limited to perhaps an afternoon sprinkle. Plans on a boat are always fluid and subject to change by the weather, and we quickly re-evaluated our plan to wait till Friday to go to the park.

First and foremost, both the park and its attached marina would be much less crowded on a Wednesday than a Friday. Moreover, the dockage rate would be $95 instead of $110. And by taking two nights at that rate, Vector could be secure at a dock while we went to Dayton, rather than riding unattended at anchor in forecast 25-knot winds.

Our view from the dock. We could hear the ratcheting of the lift hills until the park closed.

A quick check with the Cedar Point Marina revealed we could come right in, and so we weighed anchor and made the half hour trek, and were tied alongside one of their 50' slips (map) by 11am. We spent most of the day in the park, riding perhaps seven or eight of the big coasters along with the giant Ferris wheel and the 300' tall whirligig. In the hottest part of the day we took a short break back at the boat and then went to dinner at the nice seafood place right at the marina. We left the park just ahead of the 10pm closing time.

We had to forego a few of the biggest and newest coasters because the lines were just too long, even on a Wednesday. And perhaps the most famous of all, the Top Thrill Dragster, was inoperative the whole time we were there. Still, we had a great time, and I would be happy to return. If we come by boat we will definitely stay in the marina again, where guests get a one-hour early entrance to the park before the public opening time.

Sunset over Cedar Point as seen from The Big Wheel. Before I got barked at for taking photos in the park; SMH.

Thursday morning Enterprise picked us up bright and early, and we spent the entire day making the round trip to Dayton to visit over lunch with good friends Di and Pam. After lunch we had a tour of their brand new house and some more conversation before heading back; we returned by way of Marysville, where my Honda motorcycles were made, downtown Marion, where we stopped for dinner at a cute Italian joint in an old warehouse, and the quaint downtown Bucyrus. We also made a stop at Walmart to make a return and stock up on a few items.

Friday morning after returning the car we took the Cedar Point shuttle over to their lakefront hotel, The Breakers, and strolled the boardwalk there before making ready to get underway. We were off the dock just before checkout time, as a phalanx of power boat clubs made their way into the marina for the weekend. We made a quick stop at the free pumpout on our way out.

The lake forecast was not great, and while, in hindsight, we should have just bashed our way over to Put-In-Bay on Middle Bass Island while it was still a weekday, instead we headed right back to the same spot in downtown Sandusky where we had spent Tuesday night. I tendered ashore at the free dock in the park just one bay east and explored the town on the e-Bike; we returned to the same dock at dinner time and walked a few blocks to the Shore House Tavern for dinner.

Vector at Put-In-Bay, as seen from The Keys restaurant. Photo: Julie Snyder

Saturday morning as we motored out of Sandusky bay into the lake, an incoming looper hailed us on the radio. We chatted briefly, and when we told him we were headed to Put-In-Bay, he warned us that it was the weekend of the Powerboat Regatta. Sure enough, we dodged and weaved our way through traffic the whole way across, including narrowly missing a Kelley's Island ferry boat that failed to give way. We arrived to the bay to find every mooring ball and dock taken, some rafted four deep.

We had planned to anchor anyway, and the anchorage was empty, mostly owing to a rocky bottom that makes setting a challenge. We had to drag it across the bottom before it set well, but then we had a very nice spot right off the 350' tall Perry Monument (map). By the end of the day, two sailboats had come in and anchored near us. Shortly after we anchored I got a text from a friend in New Orleans who grew up near here; his sister had sent him a photo from her lunch spot ashore and he recognized Vector.

The view from our anchorage. The Perry monument can be seen for miles.

The real challenge turned out to be getting ashore. There is a launch service, which nominally will pick up in the anchorage for $3 per person, but the moorings are their first priority and they told us the anchorage was "captain's discretion." We monitored their radio and some mooring customers waited a long time for pickups. We decided to splash the tender and take our chances with the docks.

I headed ashore stag, and for $10 the town dockmaster put me at the shorewardmost end of a dock otherwise entirely rented out to a club, in a thick mat of weeds. It was all that was available, so I just dealt with the weeds by paddling the last 50'. I spent a half hour or so scoping out the whole town and then spent less than five minutes atop the monument, after waiting in a half hour line. There was a line to get down, too, but that was much shorter.

It looks calm from up here, but if you look closely you'll see every ball taken and boats rafted four deep at the city docks.

It's difficult to describe the atmosphere at Put-In-Bay. Ohioans think of it as the Key West of Ohio, but, honestly, Key West is more laid back. We found it more similar to Block Island, RI. Lots of tiki bars and other open-air venues, with many bars and restaurants having bouncers outside. Rental golf carts choked the streets, and people wandered around town in everything from thong bikinis to Cleveland Browns jerseys.

On this event weekend the town was overbooked, and restaurants don't take reservations on weekends, although some seem happy to take them when you don't actually need them. I made a round trip through the weeds to get Louise for an early dinner, and we just wandered until we found a place that still had sidewalk tables open since it was only 6pm. Our food didn't arrive until after 7 so it all worked out.

Typical of the entire town on a busy Saturday afternoon.

It was a great spot to just watch the zoo. Several folks staggered past that were already three sheets to the wind, which was no surprise considering I watched people pounding Margaritas at 4. One gal in a thong was hamming it up for the less-than-sober appreciative guys. And no fewer than five bachelorette parties passed by us, including one on one of those pedal-car contraptions that, in many other cities, would be a rolling bar (not legal in Ohio, apparently). They clearly stopped for a few along the way.

I had originally figured two nights here, and had it been mid-week or maybe even a less-crowded weekend, we might have stayed and tried to enjoy another of the many eateries in town, or strolled around the park. But neither of us wanted to plow through the weeds again just for more of the same, and, besides, the lake forecast for tomorrow was worse than today.

Vector and her two neighbors at Put-In-Bay.

In another half hour we will be back in the US and hunting for an anchorage with some shelter from these winds. Tomorrow we will make our way up the Trenton Channel, where we hope to find a bit less adverse current than the main channel of the Detroit.

Update: We are anchored in the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River, west of Grosse Ile and just south of the Grosse Ile swing bridge (map), in Trenton, Michigan. As we entered the river depths were shallower than charted, and we had to bypass our planned anchorage and pick our way here through the shoals. In the morning we will clear through the swing bridge and push our way upriver against a knot or so of current.

1 comment:

  1. A great flashback for us, as we often hung on a bouy in Put in Bay during our sailboat period before traveling in a motorhome:)


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