August 27- August 30, 2004

August 27, 2004

We left Port Huron this morning under threatening skies. Of course, the wind was right on our nose, but with the river current behind us we still made good time.

As the day progressed, NOAA started predicting T-storms with 60 knot winds. We didn't want to get caught in the narrow river channel with that kind of wind, so we decided to make an unscheduled stop in Detroit, at the Erma Henderson Marina.

We entered the marina with some trepidation. We had stopped in a different, nearby Detroit marina on our way inbound in 2000, and it had been pretty scary. That marina had been surrounded by razor wire, and when we took a walk outside the compound the neighborhood literally seemed like a scene out of "Mad Max," with abandoned buildings and no people at all. So this time Ken was talking about sleeping with the flare gun under his pillow. (It's not a 357 magnum, but it would be pretty effective at short range. Probably set the boat on fire, though.)

This marina turned out to be a different story.

The people we met have created a very close community (which they call "Paradise Island") with their friends on the docks and they really went out of our way to make us welcome. We exchanged boat tours and spend a lot of time visiting.

  "Paradise Island" in Detroit, MI


Ken with new friends at Erma Henderson Marina in Detroit, MI Here's Ken with Catherine, David, Pat, and Tina. David and Pat live on their boat during the summer.  

Tina, pictured above, is the principal of a local middle/junior high school with 650 students. She knows the name of every student in her school. She said that the stress and political hassles had made her decide to retire next year, after decades at the school (her grandmother had taught at the same school), and that a lot of the teachers were threatening to quit if she left. She said that her retirement plan was to take a zero stress job, like being a "greeter" at Walmart. Ken told her she'd get tired of that after two weeks. We are privately betting she won't quit.

David is program director for a local not-for-profit that runs programs aimed at keeping families together and keeping kids in school. He and his wife Pat invited us on their boat and really made us feel at home.

All told, we felt like we had met some of the movers and shakers in a tough and struggling neighborhood. The whole experience was nothing like our somewhat paranoid expectations when we sailed in.

We also took advantage of the stopover to give each other haircuts. (We had gotten haircutting lessons from Beth's hairdresser, Alene, several months ago.) Ken gave Beth an elaborate, layered cut. Beth has a much easier job with Ken's hair -- since there isn't much. She just puts a 3/4" guard on an electric clipper and zips around his whole head.

Both results look ok, if we say so ourselves.

Alene told us that the most important rule in haircutting is never, ever, say "oops."

  Sporting new hairdos

August 28, 2004

We woke up to a heavy downpour, but we decided to leave anyway. Our next stop would be Port Colborne, Ontario at the head of the Welland Canal, 265 miles away. We figured we'd get to Port Colborne late on the 29th.

Forbidding Detroit River landscape The bleak overcast made the landscape of the Detroit River particularly ominous, especially when blended with the smoke and gas flareoffs at plants along the river. We felt like we were passing through Mordor.

As we approached the Lake Erie side of the river, the scenery became more inviting and we saw lots of greenery and birds.

  Scenic landscape of the Detroit River Great Blue Heron on Detroit River

Once we reached Lake Erie, we were able to raise sails -- it was a great feeling to be sailing again.

Like we had on Lake Huron, we encountered quite a bit of shipping traffic on Lake Erie. The ships use designated "upbound" or "downbound" lanes. The lanes are marked on our navigation charts, but, of course, are invisible when you look out on the water. We try to stay out of the lanes but they criss-cross the lake and we often can't avoid them. We keep an eagle eye out to make sure the ships don't run us down.

Here's a sequence of our encounter with the ship "Sarah Spencer". It first appears we are on a collision course. But once the ship altered course to follow its shipping lane, we breathed easier.

Upbound freighter cruising in the shipping lane Freighter turned and appears to be on collision course with us  
Freighter making turn away from us Freighter passing safely to our port side  

We're trying to get into a proper rhythm for night watch-schedules. We have supper around 7:00 p.m. After dinner Beth takes a nap while Ken stays on watch until 11 p.m. Then Beth takes the 11 p.m. - 3 a.m. slot while Ken sleeps. Ken comes back on around 3 a.m. while Beth goes back to bed. At 7 a.m. Beth gets up and makes breakfast, and Ken gets another nap after breakfast until about 11 a.m. We hope this schedule will allow us to stay in sync with meals -- its nice to be able to eat together.

Underway we eat all of our meals in the pilothouse so that we can keep watch while we are eating. This works well except when we jump up to make some adjustment and then forget we have a bowl of food sitting there (such as when Beth sat in her oatmeal).

Keeping watch inside pilothouse at night Night watchkeeping is pretty comfortable with our pilothouse. We have radar, a computer with navigation software, backup paper charts, autopilot control, and VHF radio inside the enclosure. If we dress properly we can usually avoid getting cold or wet.

August 29 - 30, 2004

The unsettled weather caused the winds to gyrate as much as 60 degrees. With just the two of us (an often with just one person on watch), sailing was extremely difficult, so we motored during much of the night. Then we had 10 hours of very nice sailing. We were amazed at how well the boat moved in light air.

We've decided that Lake Erie is the land of big bugs.

Very large fly on pilothouse   An enormous fly landed on our pilothouse window. It had eyegear that could rival Darth Vadar's helmut.


We were afraid this monster fly would get into the pilothouse and eat us. Ken is preparing to implement the Bush doctine of pre-emptive defense.   Ken defending our perimeter from mutant insect  


Ken with large dragonfly Later that night we were visited by a huge dragonfly, which first showed up out of the dark by landing on the front of Ken's life vest. Ken responded the way any tough sailor would -- he jumped up and down and yelled "Aaaghh!" The dragonfly later returned and spent the night on the outboard motor, where he was welcome. He was beautiful in his own way.  

We had many squalls again throughout the rest the day and night. We used the radar to track the storms and then altered course to stay out of their way. (Mostly to avoid lightning.) At various points we were literally surrounded by rain squalls, but still dry.

We arrived off Port Colborne around 10 p.m. We didn't want to enter an unfamiliar port at night so we decided to "heave to" for the night. (And no, this doesn't involve throwing up. Usually.)

Sail plan for "heaving to" You heave to by reducing sail, "backing" the forward sail (by putting the sail on the wrong side), and lashing the tiller hard over to windward. Heaving to allows you to remain in a limited area indefinitely while the boat moves at about one knot.


We hove to from 10:30 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next morning. This picture of the chart on our computer screen shows the area just SE of Port Colborne, with the red line showing a history of our track. Our "heaving to" track starts in the middle of the screen, where we start to drift slowly to the SE. This line covers 10:30 p.m. until 4 a.m. Ken then came on watch and sailed back to the NW for an hour, and then hove to again for another three hours. The result was this zig zag course.   Track of heaving to off Port Colborne


Beth in foul weather gear sailing into Port Colborne, Ontario   There was a steady drizzle as we made our approach into Port Colborne. Beth is dry and warm in her foul weather gear.

After 48 hours on the water, it was great to take a hot shower. (Our shower stalls on the boat are still full of supplies that we haven't yet stowed away.)

We plan to stay three nights at Port Colborne before tackling the Welland Canal. (The Canal is slower than the direct route over Niagra Falls, but easier on the equipment.) It will take us a day to get through the Canal and onto Lake Ontario.   Docked at Port Colborne, Ontario