Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Vector homecoming

We are under way southbound in Lake Michigan, roughly abreast of Kewaunee, Wisconsin and headed for Manitowoc. There were eight footers on this part of the lake yesterday; today it's like a mirror.

Not long after my last post we turned into Sturgeon Bay from Green Bay, and steamed the roughly four miles to the city of the same name, where we dropped the hook in an off-channel corner that used to be billed as a harbor of refuge (map). We got a good set and put out 100' of chain, in anticipation of possible 40-knot winds.

On our way into the harbor we passed the USCGC Mackinaw, WLBB-30, to port. You may recall I toured through her predecessor, USCGC Mackinaw, WAGB-83, in Mackinaw City a few days ago; the old Mackinaw was decommissioned and the new one commissioned on the same day. The older Mackinaw was strictly an icebreaker by design, whereas the newer one was designed for the dual role of icebreaker and buoy tender, and thus looks very different.

Passing USCGC Mackinaw to port. Note the well deck for buoy duties.

We splashed the tender after setting the hook, and I went ashore to explore the town. Cleft in two by the bay, there are actually two small business districts on opposite shores, connected by a pair of bascule bridges. A free city dock with a four-hour limit provided convenient access, and I enjoyed strolling both sections of the quaint downtown. Perhaps a dozen restaurants are an easy walk.

We went back ashore at dinner time and walked over to Door County Fire, a casual joint in a former firehouse that reminded us of a similar establishment in Rochester. We replenished the beer supply at a mini-mart on our way back to the tender. Sadly there is no real grocery store in walking distance. although I could have biked over to a Target if we had needed anything there.

Yesterday we settled in for a long, stormy day. The forecast proved to be an exaggeration; the predicted 40-knot wind never materialized, topping out at just under 30 instead, and the storm had pretty much moved through by early afternoon. Lake Michigan remained a mess all day, as revealed by a number of web cams we looked at.

I knocked out a couple of projects yesterday, including making a new support for our anchor day shape that slips over the burgee staff, and replacing the impeller on the generator. This latter project was unscheduled; we haven't run the generator since mid-August, just before arriving in Detroit, and the impeller self-destructed when Louise started it up. As luck would have it, I was ashore at the hardware store getting parts for the other project at the time.

I've gotten quite good at changing these impellers with a minimum of fuss. The impeller itself is a five-minute project, but when they shred like this the little rubber bits end up in the heat exchanger, and I have to drain a half gallon of coolant, remove the end cap, and clear the debris before putting it all back together and replacing the coolant. That's another five minutes once the unit is cool enough to touch.

I think they misspelled Dork at this sturgeon-head selfie spot.

The rest of my day went down a Facebook sinkhole. As the reports of massive destruction in the Bahamas started to come in, posts started to cross my feed from the half dozen or so boating groups in which I participate, many suggesting people were planning to mount personal relief expeditions in their boats, carrying disaster supplies. If you are a long-time reader, you may know that I have talked about how unhelpful this is in the past, notably here and here.

Those of us in the disaster relief community call what happens when people send unsolicited goods or, worse, show up uninvited to help, the "Second Disaster." You can Google that term to turn up numerous articles about why it's a problem and how relief agencies try to cope with it. Rather than write another diatribe about it here, where few will see it, I instead wrote an impassioned eight-paragraph post about in on Facebook, complete with links to legitimate channels for contributions.

I shared that post in the nearly dozen boating-related groups to which I belong, including a couple for professional captains and yacht crew. Apparently it resonated; in what is as close to a viral post as I have ever come, it was shared hundreds of times and is now well-disseminated in the boating community. Somewhere along the line, it got picked up by Passagemaker Magazine and posted in their online section, complete with a bio that they made up by stalking my profile, and an old photo of me taken, I think, during the Katrina relief operation.

Frankly I am a little miffed that a national magazine with a supposedly professional editorial staff republished my work without the courtesy of asking permission. They also substituted their own section of relief links in place of the one I had originally included, and they incorrectly reported that I had been deployed to Dorian. That being said, I think the message is important enough that I am happy for the additional exposure, and they did, at least, give me a byline. I am trying to get hold of someone to correct the mistakes. You can read the piece here.

[Update: I have since been contacted by Passagemaker editorial staff. They were apologetic about the mistakes and the lack of prior contact. They correctly understood some amount of urgency in getting the message out -- before anyone set sail, so to speak -- and took my permission to share the post on Facebook as implicit permission to republish; an honest mistake. I am grateful for the amount of additional exposure that the underlying message got through their efforts.]

Of course, I am not authorized to speak on behalf of the American Red Cross, and I never do (except on relief operations when directed to do so by Public Affairs). In my original post, I was very careful to say merely that I was a "relief worker" without identifying an agency (not that it's hard to figure out). Since the magazine outed me, so to speak, I had to reach out to Media Relations this morning to give them a heads-up.

Vector at anchor in Sturgeon Bay.

In any event, in addition to the time I spent writing it, I ended up spending a good part of the day responding to and moderating comments on the post. I can only imagine what my friends who manage much larger social media presences go through, dealing with this sort of thing on a daily basis. We went back ashore for dinner at the nice Italian place in town, Trattoria Dal Santo, and a brief stroll.

This morning the forecast said we'd have a good ride to Manitowoc, and we weighed anchor in time for the 8:30 bridge opening. Well, that was the goal, anyway: after ten full minutes of clearing weeds off the ground tackle we conceded defeat. We finally had the anchor up at 8:37, and then tied up to the four-hour dock to await the 9am opening.  The two bascule bridges are just 700' apart, but they open on 15-minute offset schedules, so then we hovered until 9:15 for the next bridge.

There is a third bascule bridge a little further east, but we cleared it without an opening. The bay gets narrower as one travels east, until it eventually ends at the head of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, a man-made cut that connected Sturgeon Bay to Lake Michigan at the end of the nineteenth century. The speed limit in the canal is five knots, but we had a knot and a half against us, so we couldn't do much more than that anyway.

Vector spent the first few years of her life in Sturgeon Bay, where her first owner brought her after she was completed in Nova Scotia. So this was something of a homecoming for her. Between the new top added by her second owner, our friend John, and the different hull color changed by us, plus the dozen years since her departure, there was no indication that anyone recognized her. We're now retracing the path that John took when he brought her home to Savannah.

Today's cruise to Manitowoc is a full eight hours. We could have split it up with a stop in Kewaunee or Algoma, but we've learned to seize the opportunity for progress on these very finicky lakes. We can be pinned down for multiple days at any of these stops, so in addition to putting in more miles, we also prefer to be at a port with more services. Manitowoc has numerous restaurants in walking distance, and a car rental in case I get another deployment call. The same is true of Sheboygan, our next planned stop.

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