The Erie before the Erie (August 22nd-September 6th)

Superior was a great lake in many respects. It was huge. It was beautiful. It was remote. It was wild. The superlatives form a long list. After getting off Lake Superior the other Great Lakes didn’t really compare and simply became miles to cover before getting to the Erie Canal. The St. Claire River, Lake St. Claire, and the Detroit River lie between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. We had about a 3 knot current pushing us down the St. Claire River into Lake St. Claire. Canada to port and the United States to starboard like it had been since the Soo. Lake St. Claire was a much larger version of Polson Bay on Flathead Lake. The entire lake seemed to be less than 20 feet deep and we encountered a steep chop as once again we had the wind directly on the nose for the entire crossing. Lake St. Claire empties into the Detroit River just above Detroit, MI. We considered trying to get into one of the “highbrow” yacht clubs but in the end opted to stay at the state marina in downtown Detroit. We got in kind of late so we didn’t get out of the marina for a walk but it was still interesting watching the city go by from our cockpit.

Noodin Visits Detroit

Noodin Visits Detroit

From Detroit, it was back into the Detroit River for the trip into Lake Erie. The river took on an industrial character south of Detroit and of course we had the company of our freighter friends.

Industry on the Detroit River

Industry on the Detroit River

Our Freighter Friends - Always by Our Side

Our Freighter Friends – Always by Our Side

Unfortunately, the weather started acting up almost immediately so we ended up pulling into a marina in Wyandotte, MI that had seen better days. Despite the assurance of the manager that there was plenty of water, we ran aground softly just as we got into our slip. The bottom was thick, soft mud so no harm but still inconvenient.

From Wyandotte we headed downstream to Lake Erie and Put In Bay on Middle Bass Island in Ohio. Put In Bay is major tourist destination for Ohio boaters and we were told not to miss it so we stopped there. Along with the swim up bars, restaurants, and shops, Put In Bay is known for Commodore Perry’s naval victory in the war of 1812. We had a great view of the Perry Monument from our mooring ball in the harbor. The view of the harbor from the top of the monument was even more impressive. We were also treated to an impressive fireworks show over the bay in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. We had the best view in the house as Noodin was front and center in the harbor.

Commodore Perry Monument from Noodin's Deck

Commodore Perry Monument from Noodin’s Deck

Put In Bay from the Monument - Can you See Noodin?

Put In Bay from the Monument – Can you See Noodin?

The Water Taxi that Took Us to and from our Mooring

The Water Taxi that Took Us to and from our Mooring

From Put In Bay it was on to Huron, Ohio where we spent a few days waiting on weather before getting a brief weather window to make a 120nm (24 hour) overnight run to Erie, PA.

Noodin at the Huron, OH Boat Basin - Ahh, the smell of industry

Noodin at the Huron, OH Boat Basin – Ahh, the smell of industry

We spent about a week in Erie waiting on another weather system and had a chance to explore some of the city by foot and public transit. Grocery shopping takes on a whole new dimension when it involves a half mile walk to and from the bus stop and then a half hour bus ride. Just part of living the dream I guess.

From Erie, PA we had two more travel days to get to Tonawanda, NY where we would take the mast down for the Erie Canal trip. The only place to stop in between was Dunkirk, NY. After docking in the crappy (no other word fits) public marina we decided to see if we could move to the nearby Dunkirk Yacht Club. They had an open slip so we moved on over and were greeted by some of the worlds friendliest people. It seemed as though everyone had been out cruising and had experienced the lifestyle that we are beginning. We were treated to a gourmet dinner and great conversation with wonderful people. Truly a wonderful experience.

Dunkirk Yacht Club - Just Good People

Dunkirk Yacht Club – Just Good People

The next day it was onto Buffalo, NY and the end of Lake Erie. The day after, it was a short jaunt to Tonawanda, NY on the Niagara River and preparation for our trip down the Erie Canal.

A New Month and a New Lake (August 5th – August 23rd)

We left the Bondar Marina for the roughly 40 mile trip down the St. Mary’s River which would take us to Lake Huron. The freighters were still with us as were a number of large recreational boats. Believe it or not, a 45’ sport fisher can throw a larger wake than a 1000’ freighter.

A 1000' Freighter on the St. Mary's River

A 1000′ Freighter on the St. Mary’s River

The wind and waves increased as we neared the North Channel of Lake Huron so we grabbed the first protection we could find after reaching the lake. Whiskey Bay (46°05.4’N,83°53.0’W) was a decent little anchorage but certainly not a destination place. We had planned on a couple of weeks exploring the North Channel but after having a look at the schedule decided that we didn’t really have enough time. Two weeks would barely be enough time to see the North Channel and would have had us travelling virtually every day. Instead, we decided to hang out near Whiskey Bay at a handful of different anchorages and relax. It was the right decision and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

A Burnt Island Sunset

A Burnt Island Sunset

Other than in the North Channel and Georgian Bay, Lake Huron doesn’t have much for anchorages. We were forced to stay in marinas for the rest of our time on Lake Huron. We stayed in Rogers City, Alpena, Harrisville, Port Austin, Harbor Beach, and Port Sanilac. Several of the stays were for more than one night as we waited out bad weather. Most of the marinas were pretty decent and had courtesy cars and some had bicycles to use. We had these super cool single speed bikes to tour around Harrisville.

And How do You Do This?

And How do You Do This?

Ready for a Ride

Ready for a Ride

We were stuck in Harrisville for a couple of days due to strong winds and large waves so we left for Port Austin as soon as the winds had calmed. The weather forecast included a chance of thunderstorms and NOAA was right for a change. We watched the sky turn dark behind us and then gradually over take us. The wind went from 10-15 knots to 20-25 knots as the storm approached. All of a sudden, we had 35-40 knots and torrential rain. Phebe was at the helm and she and Noodin did a terrific job. The waves had increased as the storm approached but the heavy rain beat them down as the strong winds blew the wave tops off. It was actually pretty neat to be out in after we got things under control. That being said, we haven’t travelled since when thunderstorms have been forecast.

Kind of Cool after the Fear Leaves

Kind of Cool after the Fear Leaves

We did get a chance to fly our new spinnaker on Lake Huron. We’d never flown a spinnaker so didn’t know what to expect. We were able to get it set and back down when the time was right so will definitely use it again when we are in light air.

The New Spinnaker in Action

The New Spinnaker in Action

 

 

Closing the Book on Lake Superior – Welcome to the Soo (July 31st-August 2nd)

With the remote portion of Lake Superior behind us it was time to head for Sault Ste Marie and the St. Mary’s River. We made a couple of overnight stops at Batchawana Bay (46°55.2’N, 84°36.0’W) and Goulais Bay (46°43.8’N,84°30.4’W) to break the trip into reasonable distances. Both of these bays were shallow and warm and had numerous homes and cabins around them. The water was warmer but had lost much of its clarity. It was, however, a great breeding ground for insects. It was mayflies at Batchawana and caddis at Goulais. I have to say I preferred the mayflies as they were easier to get rid of.

Batchawana Bay Mayflies - The Boat was Covered with Them

Batchawana Bay Mayflies – The Boat was Covered with Them

From Goulais Bay it was off toward Sault Ste Marie (the Soo) and the shipping lanes. This was our first up close experience with the 1000 foot freighters that ply the Great Lakes. All went well and fortunately we only passed them going in the opposite direction. It would have been a little unsettling to be overtaken by one of these giants in the narrow channel.

A 1000 foot Freighter

A 1000 foot Freighter

We passed under the international bridge connecting Sault Ste Marie Michigan and Sault Ste Marie Ontario as we made our way into the smaller Canadian Locks that would lower us into the St. Mary’s River.

International Bridge at "the Soo"

International Bridge at “the Soo”

This was our first experience going through locks and thankfully it was just us and one other boat going through. The other boat locking through with us was a tour boat. Nothing like having a large audience watching your first trip through the locks. The locks lowered us 21 feet to the river below and we were off to the Roberta Bondar Marina on the Ontario side of the river. We spent a few nights at the Bondar Marina re-provisioning and doing miscellaneous chores as well as enjoying Sault Ste Marie.

The Locks at Lake Level with our Audience

The Locks at Lake Level with our Audience

 

The Lock Doors Opening at River Level

The Lock Doors Opening at River Level