Monday, July 12, 2010

Entrance Into Beaver Island

Talk about an entrance! Into Beaver Harbor. After leaving Leland at 5:15 a.m., we have a lovely sail northwards. Ten hours later the winds pick up suddenly. Mark wants to bring in the foresail so I steer Speakeasy closer to the wind. Mark cannot completely roll in the sail. Ten feet are flogging. Every gust of wind make the sail react. We are able to lower the mainsail without a problem but the constant flaying of the foresail is unnerving.

Although I have studied the chart of Beaver Island, including the arial photo provided in Lakeland Boating’s Lake Michigan Ports ‘o Call (aka The Bible), finding the red buoy to go around is difficult for me. A building with a day-glow red roof makes it even harder to spot that red buoy. Mark yells, “Don’t aim for the roof, aim for the trees to the right of the roof.”

The gusts are fast and furious. The flapping, clapping noise of the sail is infuriating. I steer to reach the private marina with whom I had communicated before everything went haywire. Now Mark wants to anchor to fix the foresail, but I don’t have enough control and am afraid Speakeasy will run into an anchored boat.

As we pass the municipal marina, I see that the width of the slips is generous. We must dock here.

As I make my approach, several boaters miraculously appear on the dock. Roland (I learn his name later, of course) gestures for me to use my handheld to communicate, but I can not hear him. Besides holding it in one hand and trying to steer with only one hand is hopeless. I let it drop to the floor of the cockpit and watch Roland’s hand signals. He motions for me to come into a slip with starboard tie up. Mark quickly puts on stern and bow lines and gets a couple of fenders into place.

I approach the slip with one thought running in my brain: This is not the time to come in slowly. I must use power. I must overcome the wind and the waves with the diesel engine. No success. At the last instant, I put the boat into reverse and give it as much juice as I can. We veer off, missing the dock. The boat is like a wild bucking bronco.

Now Mark takes over the helm. I move to the bow of the boat. People are yelling. I balance myself on the deck and grab the bowline. I know I must toss it to the man awaiting it. I must not let it fall into the water. If he cannot catch it and stop the boat, Speakeasy willl crash into the front of the dock.

“Throw the line,” this stranger yells. I hesitate, breathe deeply and throw the line. He catches it, snubs it on the cleat and Speakeasy is stopped in her tracks.

It’s over in an instant. Speakeasy has been reined in. The sail still thrashes out of control, but we are in a safe harbor. Two men jump on board to help us get the lines in the right places. Then when they leave, we reposition Speakeasy so we can get the electrical outlet cord into the dock outlet. We turn on the power. We sit down. We don’t do anything. The adrenalin burst subsides. We are exhausted, but safe and sound.

And the day had started so differently!

Let me set the scene. We awaken at 4 a.m. in Leland Harbor. We stumble over the gang plank to use the heads. I am startled to find the cleaner woman in the ladies’ room. “Now I know why these bathrooms are so clean,” I declare.

“I have to get an early start,” she responds. “I like to be finished by 5:00 a.m. It’s too busy to work in here at night.”

By almost 5 a.m., we are almost on our way. Mark makes coffee in the percolator. Then I turn off the LP, throw out the jacklines for future installation, and tidy up the salon.

I start the engine and have an overwhelming desire to make a blueberry run. Since I have already left our entrance fob in the Marina Building, I plan to knock on a window, but lo, and behold, Ms. Early Bird Cleaning Team of One opens the door as I approach. A sign. A veritable sign. I believe in signs when I’m sailing.

Blueberry dump accomplished, I head back to Speakeasy and take the helm. Mark releases the bow line. I hand the stern line to him as he jumps aboard. I turn the wheel to port and ease us out of our improvised slip. We motor around the boats -- giving the Hinkley a wide berth -- and leave the harbor (red light to port and green light to starboard.)

Hello, stars! Big Dipper, Small Dipper, Orion, and many more. Breathtaking. Light wind as we put up the main sail.

We sip our coffee and salute a new day!

Later I fix fresh blueberries raspberries and strawberries on a bed on Siwss Muesli and cover with Fresh Naturaly Yogurt. Health fiends have nothing on us.

We sail. Actually we motor. Light winds require it. Three hours after departure, we have a blueberry pie break. Delicious.

As soon as possible we kill the engine and sail. Mainsail and foresail. Five knots. No other boats. On course.

We wing and wing for hours. Then the winds die a bit. I want to watch the World Cup Finals. Surely we will be able to do that on Beaver Island so Mark turns on the engine.

At the same moment the wind increases forcefully.

We make it in and learn several hours later that The Netherlands has lost to Spain. Anti-climatic after our adventure.
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