Great Lakes Solo Page 2

I have always been drawn to solo sailing. I’m not sure if it’s the challenge, the peace and solitude, or just the difficulty of finding good crew. Singlehanding has its risks, but I’ve also found sailing alone very rewarding.Aboard my Westsail 32, Antares, I cruised from Detroit up Lake Huron and into Lake Michigan. The first leg, from Port Huron to Mackinac
Author:
Publish date:
gl.3

By midday, Mackinac Island was about 70 miles to the northwest. The fog lifted slowly and the wind began to die. Well out of the shipping lanes, I took a long nap. During daylight hours in open waters, I assume that other small craft will avoid me as I sleep—a calculated risk. Relying on the kindness of strangers, I sailed ahead.

Around nightfall, still 35 miles out from Mackinac Island, the wind died completely and I started the motor. At 0200 I finally picked my way into the harbor at Mackinac Island. The chain rattled over the bow roller and the anchor quickly set in the sandy bottom. I had completed my passage.

I take the “more is better” approach to anchoring and use a 45-pound CQR with 3/8in chain. I also keep a 35-pound CQR with 25 feet of chain leader ready in the aft locker. My manual windlass is invaluable; it and the Aries windvane are my favorite gear.

I woke to a fine sunny morning. The sound of buglers playing reveille at Fort Mackinac mingled with the clip-clop of horses’ hooves. First settled by French explorers in the 1600s, Mackinac Island is rich in history and charm. Since cars are banned, the island moves at the leisurely pace of a hiker, a bicycle or a horse. It’s a perfect complement to the world of sail.

gl.4

I spent a few days at Mackinac, and in the evenings warmed up my bagpipes and gave the crowds ashore a concert from the foredeck. My pipes have proved a fine way to meet other boaters and people ashore. A singlehander can become isolated, but with my bagpipes I always make new friends.

One evening the owner of a 140ft megayacht invited me aboard for drinks. When the big yacht departed the next day, I piped her out of the harbor, her guests lining the railing and waving goodbye.

Light winds were forecast for the next morning and because the Straits of Mackinac, the narrows that connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, are notoriously windy with strong currents, I decided to take advantage of the calm. By sunrise I was under the mighty Mackinac Bridge and well into Lake Michigan. Turning south, I set the spinnaker in the light morning breeze. I often set the spinnaker by myself, but have gotten into trouble furling too late and now dowse it the moment the wind tops 12 knots.

Ghosting along on the flat lake, huge boulders slipping by in the clear water, a warm sun on my face, I was in paradise. After a short stop at the pretty town of Charlevoix, I pushed north under full sail, bound for Beaver Island, 20 miles off the Michigan shore.

gl6

One of the keys to singlehanding—and life in general—is anticipating problems before they happen. Far ahead I saw what looked like whitecaps. “Now that’s odd,” I thought to myself. But I didn’t do anything, because in my immediate vicinity, it was still only blowing about eight knots. Suddenly a strong east wind bowled Antares over, burying her rail. I wrestled in the big jib, wondering what kind of a sailor would ignore such obvious warning signs.

After that it was a fast run to Beaver Island, and I had my hands full when I got there: dousing sails, consulting the chart, confirming my position, and keeping an eye out for buoys and marks. The wind whistled and the boat leaped from wave to wave as heavy seas crashed on the nearby shore.

Luckily, the anchorage was well protected, and there was a wonderful scent of northern pine air. The east wind blew hard for days, so I waited—no point in bashing my way back through the straits. At night I read by the light of a kerosene lamp that took some of the chill out of the northern air. By day I hitchhiked around the island, visited the lighthouse protecting its southern end and explored the small village that surrounds the harbor.

At last the east wind died and it was time to head back home. I weighed anchor, waved farewell to the north country and made my way east. No doubt there’d be adventures ahead, but with planning, patience and a little foresight, they’d be good ones. I looked forward to another fine solo passage.

Related

mcarthy-and-mouse

Experience: McCarthy and the Mouse

Sitting at the helm in a light breeze, my arms crusted with a fine rime of salt, my skin so dry I’d lost my fingerprints, I heard a clatter and a curse from below. There were only three of us a thousand miles from shore and only one on watch at a time. Usually, the off watch lay ...read more

2018-giftGuide

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Brass Yacht Lamp Does someone on your gift list spend the whole winter missing the warm days on the water? Let them bring a little bit of nautical atmosphere home with this new lamp from Weems & Plath. The glass enclosure means the flame cannot be blown out even by ...read more

image001

Opinion: On Not Giving Up Sailing

E.B. White was 64 when he wrote his now-famous essay “The Sea and the Wind That Blows,” which begins as a romantic paean to sailing and then drifts, as if spun around by a pessimistic eddy of thought, into a reflection on selling his boat. Does an aging sailor quit while he’s ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com A Helping Hand  This is a real-world solution, and I expect correction by my betters. However, anyone whose seacocks are modern ball valves rather than the grand old tapered cone variety may care to ...read more

1812-JeanneaueNewsVideo

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410

Designed by Marc Lombard, the Sun Odyssey 410 shares much in common with her older siblings including of course, the walk-around deck. Other features that set the 410 apart from other models being introduced this year include the 410’s “negative bow” shape allowing for a longer ...read more

shutterstock_698968441

Cruising: The Bahamas

“The ‘Explorer’ chartbooks. All three.” “An unlocked phone. But good luck with BTC.” “Spam. It’s ‘spensive there!” These were just a few suggestions we received from fellow sailors who had cruised the Bahamas when we asked how to best prepare for the trip. In fact, several ...read more

windsensor

Gear: B&G Wind Sensors

Sense the Wind B&G has launched a new line of wind sensors, including the WS320, a wireless system that is suitable for masts up to 80ft. Wireless wind sensor technology has been hit-and-miss, with some users reporting intermittent signal failure on tall rigs, but B&G, citing ...read more