Sailing Under the Stars on Lake Huron

Author:
Publish date:
The author, at peace during an overnight passage

The author, at peace during an overnight passage. Photo courtesy of Charles Scott

Bound for Mackinac, I’ve sailed my Westsail 32, Antares, up Lake Huron and approach the straits late on a sunny afternoon. My route will take me up the shipping lanes between the Michigan mainland and Bois Blanc Island. It’s not a particularly dangerous passage, but there are plenty of places to find rocky trouble, and I’ll be busy navigating safely through it all night long.

The blood red sun sets through low haze and although I look (as always) for the green flash, it still eludes me. With the sunset a warm offshore wind builds, and Antares heels to the fresh breeze. Over my shoulder, in the purple-blue of the evening sky, an enormous yellow moon rises.

Comfortably far from land and still in open water, I nap a little, but as I approach the straits and Bois Blanc Island the course narrows. Now I have to stay awake. A Great Lakes freighter passes me slowly, its black shape outlined by navigation lights, its dark hull moving against the even darker shore behind.

Puffy clouds slip by the bright moon and dark shadows drift over the sparkling water. It’s been too long since I spent an entire night under the full moon. Watching it wheel slowly across the starry sky, I’m awestruck by its beauty.

The rising wind carries the scent of pine and the baked smell of warm earth. Carefully following the GPS and constantly checking the charts, I make my way up around Bois Blanc, keeping well off its darkly forested lee shore. The reassuring flashes of channel markers light the way.

Red light from the compass throws a warm glow across the cockpit. The sounds of the hissing wake and the creak of straining rigging fill the night. Antares heels to strong gusts and surges forward into the darkness.

I drink another cup of black coffee—another one of many. All my senses vibrate with the intensity of bringing Antares safely through the night. I’ve rarely felt so alive.

The moon begins its slow descent and the stars shine ever brighter in the black sky. Around 0400 brilliant Jupiter rises, casting its bright reflection on the water. Soon it’s followed by an even more dazzling Venus.

To the west a string of lights, like an outstretched pearl necklace, outline the Mighty Mac, the great five-mile suspension bridge that connects Michigan’s two peninsulas. Ahead I spot the low outline of Mackinac Island and the long line of porch lights that mark the famous Grand Hotel.

Dawn is just breaking. I round the north end of Bois Blanc and then turn toward the safe harbor of Mackinac Island. The chain rattles through the windlass, the anchor sets and Antares swings to the wind, her white wings folded like a bird at rest.

The clip-clop of horse’s hooves and the chime of Sunday church bells drift across the water. The rising sun lights the sky with streaks of vivid reds and orange. It’s good to be in, it’s good to be cruising, and it’s time for a nap.

Cameraman and photographer Charles Scott is a frequent SAIL contributor. He cruises Antares, his Westsail 32, on the Great Lakes

July 2015

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more