Monday, September 2, 2019


We are under way southbound in Green Bay (the bay, not the eponymous city), bound for Sturgeon Bay. We just passed Chambers Island to starboard and the communities of Sister Bay, Eagle Harbor, and Sister Creek to port. I would have started typing three hours ago, when we left port, but I've spent all of that time in a futile goat rope trying to get myself to Atlanta.

Yesterday we were offline most of the day, which, of course, meant that would be the day for the Red Cross to call to deploy me in advance of Hurricane Dorian. My phone was offline all night, too, but Google Voice had helpfully forwarded that message to me in email, which I discovered around 10pm.

This morning thus was a mad scramble, starting with making sure there was a marina in Sturgeon Bay who could fit us and had two weeks of availability -- we had originally planned to just anchor there. Of course, today is Labor Day, and so only one of the five marinas even answered the phone, but, at least they had room, albeit for a price. That gave me the green light to call the Red Cross back and say "yes," and they immediately assigned me to the Georgia operation and started working on travel logistics.

Passing the white cliffs of Washington Island in Green Bay.

That's where things ultimately went off the rails. Even though the Green Bay airport is just an hour away, the cheapest transportation we could find was about $100 each way. The Red Cross has a firm reimbursement limit of $50 round trip, so a $150 disconnect. After a brief discussion here we decided to just eat the difference as an additional donation to the relief effort; after all, just parking the boat for the two weeks I'd be gone was going to be over $1,300. In the end, they decided they couldn't let me pay that much out of pocket (?) and canceled my deployment.

In the meantime, I had used the time offshore on autopilot to completely pack my suitcase, which is still sitting down on the bed. I might just leave it packed; we'll be closer to the airports in a few days, and if Dorian cuts up the coast like a buzz saw as currently projected, there will be more deployments in the coming days.

Yesterday ended up being one our most uncomfortable days on the water since we moved aboard over six years ago. Shortly after I last posted here, we dropped the hook on a shallow sand bank at the edge of St. James Harbor, at the north end of Beaver Island (map). It was dead calm in the harbor, and we dropped the tender to go ashore. We made two trips; one to the private marina for a little (expensive) tender fuel, and groceries from the store next door, and one to the municipal dock in the middle of town.

Vector anchored in St. James Bay, Beaver Island.

We enjoyed strolling the quaint island town before being picked up at the marina by the shuttle for the Beaver Island Lodge, where we had made dinner reservations. Even though it was a spendy white-tablecloth place, it was picture-perfect, with a window table overlooking Garden Island to the north across a small strait. The lodge was otherwise surrounded by evergreen forest. It was all quite lovely.

We had a calm, quiet evening aboard, and I even went on deck late in the evening to look for the aurora, which might have made an unusually southerly appearance (it did not). Our first indication of trouble was a staccato rolling motion when we awoke, which I initially thought was just a bad boat wake. When it didn't stop, we jiggled our way through our first cup of coffee with the weather forecasts open in front of us.

When we had left Mackinaw City, we had a forecast for at least two and maybe three good days on the lake for our crossing; Beaver Island was just a way station. But by yesterday morning the forecast had deteriorated significantly. We were now facing ten hours of 2'+ seas on a short 3-second period. Nothing dangerous -- Vector hardly notices -- but very uncomfortable for the mammals aboard.

Our alternatives were none too appealing, either. We could hunker down in the harbor for several days, moving to deeper water, but clearly the waves were already making their way in, and tomorrow the forecast calls for 8'-9' waves on the lake. We could bash our way east instead of west; a shorter and slightly more comfortable trip, but again we'd be pinned down on the east side of the lake for several days, giving back the westing we had already done.

The small community of Jackson Harbor, Washington Island.

With a possible ten-hour passage, we did not have the leisure of sitting around while we mulled it over. We got under way on our original route, leaving the option to turn back at the edge of the island group if things got untenable. We curled around the northeast tip of the island and steamed through the same strait that we had admired the night before. The lee of the islands provided a comfortable ride until we passed the northwest tip of High Island.

That's when, as expected, things got bumpy. But another hour or so west, the projected 10-15 mph southerlies had already escalated up to the 20s, and the south wind building all morning and running up 250 miles of uninterrupted lake was pushing waves into the four-foot neighborhood. We spent the next six solid hours bashing against four footers with a 5-second period on the port quarter. I increased engine rpm from our normal 1500 to 1700 just to get us through it faster and give the stabilizers a little help. I added another 20 gallons of fuel to the day tank to cover the extra burn.

It was 6pm by the time we finally made the lee of Rock Island, the northermost tip of Wisconsin's Door Peninsula. We passed the Rock Island State Park to port as we made our way into the tiny Jackson Harbor, at the northeast tip of Washington Island, where we dropped anchor in the only part of the harbor deep enough for Vector, right near the entrance (map). The bottom was rocky but we got a set in a light cover of sand.

Turning around Rock Island.

We had leftovers aboard, and Louise crashed hard shortly after dinner. She was already in bed when I discovered the voice message from the Red Cross. Even though it was another potential aurora night, I, too crashed before midnight. This kind of passage is exhausting; it's too rough to want to type, or read for very long, or do much of anything, and just moving around the boat to use the head or get a drink is an acrobatic exercise. Even though it was a day cruise and broad daylight, we each went belowdecks to spend an hour or so in bed, where the motion is the least. On top of all that, it was a very emotional day for us with Dorian visiting death and destruction on the Abacos.

I might have run ashore this morning just to have a look at the small community near the harbor, but with deployment a possibility we instead weighed anchor first thing to get a head start to Sturgeon Bay. Complicating matters was the possibility that Green Bay itself would be too rough in today's northerlies, and we'd have to cross over at "Death's Door", the Porte des Mortes Passage, and come down the lake side instead, adding an hour to the trip.

Other than the mad scramble this morning leading nowhere, it has been a lovely cruise. The Powatomi Islands and the Door Peninsula are stunningly beautiful, and we can look across Green Bay and see the mainland to the west. Had we not been racing to Sturgeon Bay for a deployment possibility, we might well have stopped at one of the small harbors we passed earlier. One thing is for sure: with 8-9 foot seas tomorrow, wherever we stop tonight will be our home for at least two nights.

1 comment:

  1. Yikes — sounds like a tiring couple of days. Glad to hear you both are safe. Louise doesn’t always mention where you are at so I decided to check. (And I’ve been distracted with my own stuff.) hope your deployment goes smoothly. And I wish you wouldn’t have to -ie no hurricane ready to throw itself up the coast.


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