Heading Home Page 2 - Sail Magazine

Heading Home Page 2

It’s not because you can’t get there. Or that it’s dinky. In fact, it’s the biggest city on the biggest freshwater lake in the world. It’s just that it is the farthest end of the biggest and baddest freshwater lake in the world.H.O.M.E.S: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. Childhood mnemonic for memorizing the five Great Lakes.By now all you Carmen Sandiego
Author:
Publish date:
abandoned_lighthouse



The next hop was along the famed Pictured Rocks National Seashore, 30 miles of towering sand dunes and wave-sculpted variegated sandstone cliffs. The high that followed the gale had left glassy-smooth waters, so we could motor up to shore under the cliffs. Then it was on to one of the few anchorages along the south shore, a lovely bay on the south side of Grand Island with a long-deserted lighthouse. There we anchored next to a sunken schooner wrecked over a hundred years ago. We had covered a little over 100 miles of our Superior journey and had seen only two other sailboats.

Our next big hurdle was getting to the Keweenaw Peninsula (pronounced KEY-wa-naw). The Keweenaw is the scowling, 100-mile-long mouth of the wolf, composed of lava that flowed out of a rift in the lake’s bottom a hundred-million years ago. You can pass over its top, or go through its middle via a river, lake, and canal. We worked our way west for several days, anchoring one night in Huron Bay, where hungry bald eaglets chirped continuously while they waited for mom and dad to bring them dinner.

Finally, we entered the Keweenaw Waterway and stopped in Houghton, Michigan, to reprovision and explore the area’s rich cultural history. We were halfway to Duluth, and not just geographically. Houghton started to remind us of our Midwestern roots (Jennifer is from Wisconsin), where folks are open and generous, the twang in their lilting speech is unmistakable, and every answered question is accepted with an “Oh, okay” by the inquisitor.

The only local sailor we encountered while we explored the Keweenaw asked where we were headed and then responded, “Oh, okay. Duluth’s a cool place.” Cool? My hometown? What happened in the 40 years since I left?

As we wested again into contrary-but-mild winds, we checked into a small marina at Black River, Michigan, run by, of all folks, the U.S. Forest Service and manned by an amiable, Goth-dressed, multiply pierced dockmaster who kindly fetched us a six-pack of Leinenkugels beer the next day. “Leinies” is brewed in Wisconsin and was the first choice in my illicit-beer-drinking youth. It was then, and still is, simply the best beer in the world.

granddaughter_helm

Leinenkugels safely stowed, we jumped to the Apostle Islands. These 22 islands form the bulk of a National Seashore and are the principal cruising ground for upper-Midwest sailors. It is a wonderful sailing area; the islands are uninhabited, underwater hazards are nonexistent, the winds are plentiful, and sailboats outnumber powerboats five to one. It is not a wonderful anchoring area; local sailors are used to having only one- or two-sided protection at night. The surge at some anchorages reminded us of the rolling Pacific

Ocean swells that harassed us when we lived in Los Angeles and tried anchoring off Catalina Island.

Because Lake Superior narrows at its western end, we could see the Minnesota shoreline for the first time across the lake to our north. But then, as we anchored on a Friday evening, our shifter cable broke. Suddenly Duluth seemed very far away. We sailed 20 miles to the Apostle Islands Marina in Bayfield and motored up to the dock with me yo-yoing down into and back out of the engine compartment to shift by hand. We were sure we were going to be stuck for days, but a sweetheart of a mechanic named Allen Appel came in on a Saturday and got us going again.

Most important, our family joined us in the Apostles. The kids hauled spinnaker halyards, set the anchor, piloted the dinghy, and cooked the meals. Our granddaughter fished off Catamount’s stern and swam in Lake Superior, something I had done the previous year for the first time in my life. We were still 75 miles away from my hometown, but a boat full of three generations of family was starting to feel like home to me.

fred_bagley

Finally, it was time for the last push to Duluth. We chose a day that promised fair skies and southeast winds, but instead produced rain, fog, and wind from the west. As we headed into the enveloping grayness, the prospect of bringing Catamount under the Aerial Lift Bridge with my boyhood home visible on the hillside seemed to dim. We monitored ship traffic in and out of the harbor on the VHF, watched for blips on the radar, and plowed on. Was this going to be anticlimactic?

Three miles from the bridge we could finally make out the massive grain elevators and cranes of the harbor; clouds obscured most of the city, including the hillside where I grew up. Then the bridge itself began to separate from the mist, its familiar silver erector set of girders announcing the end of our voyage. We headed down through the massive concrete breakwaters, on whose walkways I had, in my youth, watched countless ships come and go, and that were now flooded with tourists taking our picture. Taking our picture! We were sailing (well, okay, motoring) into my hometown.

The lift bridge, looking bigger than I remembered it, rose in front of us, its span seemingly way too close to our mast as we passed underneath. And then we were through. We broke open the ice wine we had carried all summer and toasted Lake Superior, Duluth, Catamount, and ourselves.

lake_superior_map

Related

hardangerfjord

Cruising: Holland to Norway

In 2015, we cruised to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on our Nordic 40, Juanona, which we’d sailed transatlantic from Maine to England. Our 2016 plan was to cruise through the Netherlands to the Kiel Canal, sail into the Baltic as far as Stockholm, then cruise the western coast of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comThe Watch-keeper’s Nightmare The commercial watchkeeper’s most awkward decisions come with a vessel converging from abaft the starboard beam showing a red light. If he’s more than 2 points, or around 22 ...read more

cosair760R

Boat Review: Corsair 760R

We’d only been out on Miami’s Biscayne Bay aboard the Corsair 760R a few minutes when Corsair Marine marketing manager Shane Grover and I began bemoaning the fact neither of us had a GPS with us to determine our boatspeed. Moments later, though, we both came to the same ...read more

ChildrenOfCorn

Ethanol in Fuel

One of the first stories I ever edited for publication in a boat magazine, way back in 1986, was about the dangers and general inconvenience imposed on recreational boaters by the blending of alcohol with gasoline. As I recall I arranged to illustrate it with a sensational gothic ...read more

nomad

Digital Yacht: Portable Nomad

AIS FOR NOMADsWant AIS, but not the hassle and expense of installing a transponder and its associated paraphernalia? The fully portable Nomad from Digital Yacht could be the answer. It combines Class B AIS and GPS functionality with the ability to connect via WiFi or AIS to up to ...read more

ThinkstockPhotos-942755426

Search for Adventure. Not a Signal.

Set sail without losing service. KVH, a manufacturer best known for its satellite-based marine communications systems, just changed the connectivity game for sailors with its new TracPhone LTE-1 marine communications system.The new cellular device combines LTE Advanced cellular ...read more

04-Rainman-watermaker-copy

Watermakers for Long-term Cruising

It’s easy to spend a lot of time and money on sails, engines, generators and electronics when gearing up for a long-term cruise. However, one vital element (literally) that is often overlooked or left until the last minute is freshwater.Granted, you may be planning to cruise in ...read more

11886-Hallberg-Rassy-44-GSP

Know How: Sailing Instruments

So you’ve finally decided to splash out on new sailing instruments, and all that remains is the how and where of installing them. That is not necessarily as simple as it seems. There is a number of things to be taken into account.ON THE BULKHEADThe best place for speed, depth and ...read more