Return to the Dragon’s Fangs

All right, we’re now back on the grid, at Rob’s family’s cottage on the Devil’s river.

So I will now recount yesterday’s adventure.

For those of you who are just joining us this summer, you need to know about our history on Thunder Bay. We encountered our first storm making the same run we made yesterday. A series of rather stupid events led to us being stuck at the marina in Alpena. We finally left, only to run aground by Thunder Bay island. (Here is a slightly more detailed narrative of the same story.) After more stupidity from the marina, who was now doing the repairs, we finally left Thunder Bay Labor Day Weekend, where we motored through weather influenced by a hurricane that had come North.

So, this is where yesterday’s story begins, with us approaching this adversary once again…

A freighter in the distance, as we left Harrisville

The engine had been doing well, for the first two hours, when it started stalling again. We drifted while Rob worked on the fuel lines again. He suspected vapor lock and left the side locker open to vent it. In order to see both the compass and our surroundings, I stood at the tiller, enjoying the rather pleasant weather.

At once, a cold, bone-chilling wind blew over. In the distance, we saw two islands. We were approaching Thunder Bay.

This year, we would go around, rather than between the islands. Most of the islands–and the shorelines–of Thunder Bay are surrounded by boulders. The depths will look good on the chart, but these rocks will come up out of nowhere. Last summer gave us a less cavalier attitude and a greater respect for these rocks that have sunk numerous ships.

Just as we passed the islands, the engine quit again. It was time to change course, so the wind would be to our side. We would sail as we executed the precise navigation that Thunder Bay requires. Rob looked up from his chart and grinned at me.

“Can you hold 300?” he asked.

For a moment, it was an easy, “Christopher Cross” sail, as we call it (referencing the pop song from the ’80’s). I remarked that it was much easier to hold 300 without a broken tiller. We were flying the genoa but not the main.

At once, the wind picked up so that it was hard to maintain the course. After letting out the sail, which didn’t help, Rob decided to switch to the working jib. As soon as the genoa was released, I had no navigational control over the boat, so I could not point it into the wind. He raised the sail, in water that was becoming increasingly rough, with rollers rocking the boat (and making a mess out of the cabin). First, the jib sheets became entangled in the moped (attached to the port side of the boat). When we freed it, the clip that held the line to the sail failed. We were in a crazy wind, hitting rollers to the side, with the jib flopping uselessly ahead of us.

Rob climbed on top again, but he was unable to reach the corner of the sail. I tried to point us into the wind, to no avail. Finally, I tried to engine, which hadn’t been starting. By some miracle it started, and I motored us into the wind, where Rob could attach the clip.

I killed the engine and we sailed well. Rob raised the main, and we were making good time.

Then I saw, dead ahead, trees in the water.

It was Scarecrow Island, completely surrounded by a rocky reef. We needed to pull a tack, to get away from it. In order to be able to tack, we needed to gain enough speed to turn the boat, when we were temporarily out of the wind.

And speed wasn’t happening. The wind died completely.

Through gritted teeth, Rob said, “We’re not running aground!” and started the engine. It ran just long enough to get us a safe distance from the island.

Then, we sailed, making about 2-3 knots, in a barely-there wind. We regretted lowering the genoa. That island was still next to us. I gave it a wide berth.

Our destination, still far away

Alpena, in the distance

Reluctantly, we decided to fly the genoa again. Rob climbed on top, and I could hold the course with the main while he made the switch in light wind. The wind then stopped completely.

Then the magic began…

We sailed in on a perfect beam reach, surpassing hull speed. We came in north of the family property, then sailed downwind, under main only so we would reduce our speed, to the beach, where we set anchor.

Scarecrow Island, off our stern (finally!)

Time to celebrate–we’re in Moonraker’s new home port!

The house


We spent last night at anchor, to make sure they were well set before we came ashore. Now we’re getting settled in at the house. We will spend June here, doing some repairs and upgrades to the boat (like getting a new fuel pump!). Sometime near the end of the month, we will round marker 13 one more time and sail to Presque Isle, then into Lake Michigan.

Also, it is out of respect, not due to superstition that I have changed the name of this post category. The Lakes are not to be defeated, and we won’t presume to say that we will or have already done that.

2 thoughts on “Return to the Dragon’s Fangs

    • Styx! Awesome! I always kind of thought of that as a Moonraker song…Kind of reflects the silliness and randomness.

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