Day 1 – Rock Bottom Bay
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Cheboygan, MI to Rocky Bottom Bay on the Garden Peninsula, Michigan
Morning came early. Six hours after turning in and about five hours after I quit coughing, I was roused by noises of coffee being made. I was bunked in the salon in full view of the galley, rather than the captain’s quarters. Appledore V’s bunks are narrow; no where near enough space to snuggle up with my new husband. As people began to stir, I mentally review my second shopping list that I had compiled as I fell asleep last night. Until we get to Fort Myers, we would not have access to a car, so groceries would have to be walked or taxied back to the boat, depending upon where we were. I should go back to the grocery store to get before we headed out to get a few more things, some heavy non-perishables along with a bit more fresh meet.
A rib-sticking breakfast of oatmeal with raisins, walnuts and cinnamon was done by 7:30 AM. It was still too early to go back to the grocery, so it was time for a shower. The next shower would be in Chicago, in four or five days. Afterwards, I drove to the grocery while Hugh and Mike drove over to Pellston Airport to drop off Hugh’s truck. We’d be flying back to Michigan to Pellston via Detroit. Meanwhile, Terry and Bill helped David finish sawhorses.
Muster was at ten o’clock. There wasn’t much that we needed to review — watch assignments, galley duty, man-overbaord emergencies. The Captain Hugh informed us that at least until we got to Chicago, we’d be working on four hour watches. Watch A would be Bill and Mike and Watch B would be Terry and myself. Hugh would be “floating,” doing what was necessary and helping out with relieving someone to eat during their watch. The guys would also be rotating on galley clean-up, which would also include bilge checks. Terry has sailed with Appledore V a number of times before and has 18 years sailing experience, so we was appointed as Engineer. This is the third time Mike has been on board, so Hugh asked him to help with the lines. Neither Bill nor I have sailed with Appledore V, so we’d help out anywhere and everywhere.
For man-overboard situations, Hugh would be responsible for driving the boat. Terry would be handling sails. Mike would drive the inflatable. When Hugh looked at Bill and me and said “And someone will need to be the person to go in the water for the rescue” Bill’s eyes got large. “I’ll be the one,” I volunteered.
We finally cast off at ten-thirty.
The weather forecast for the day was not pleasant – overcast, high chance of rain, high 50s temps and strong winds at our back from the East. Friday’s forecast was to be even worse – rain and 35+ knot winds from the West. Hugh wanted to be on the far western side of Lake Michigan before we would anchor for the night.
The first watch had “started” at 7 AM, with Watch A Team. By the time we had raised anchor, motored out of Cheboygan into Lake Huron and set the foresail, it was now past 11 AM and time for Terry and me to take over the watch. And I was responsible for getting lunch ready by 1 PM.
“How’s chili mac sound?” I asked.
“Sounds yummy,” replied Hugh.
At noon, Bill was still at the helm. Mike had told Bill that he, being the one with the least amount of experience, should continue driving so that he could drive the schooner under the Mackinac Bridge. The Big Mac has a clearance of 148 feet in the middle and Appledore V’s masts register 63 feet tall.
“Lunch will be ready on the other side of the bridge,” I told everyone, so that we could all gawk at the cars driving overhead, visible through the grates.
Cold and breezy was the afternoon. We easily headed west, motor sailing with the foresail set and the wind from the East. Mid-afternoon the USCG Cutter and icebreaking tug Biscayne Bay radioed us. They wanted to forewarn us about the weather we were heading into and curious where this 65 foot schooner was headed. As they headed east they wished us safe travels.
Dinner of pork, mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli was an hour before watch change. At 7 PM Terry and I took over the helm for the hopefully last watch. We would not be cruising into a picturesque sunset. At some unknown point, the sun had set behind thick clouds. This was the first time for me to be driving in the dark. Before Hugh went below for a rest, he gave us a course setting, “Head this way, somewhere around 245ish.”
The plan was to go almost due west until we got to the far west side of Lake Michigan to some part of either Michigan or Wisconsin. Hugh wanted us to be able to be as close to shore as possible to so the wind and waves would be as small as possible. He had previously told us that we’d also have to motor sail until the east wind shifted north or west. This meant that we might even have to continue into the night, turning south, until the wind shifted, before we anchored for the night.
At 10:30 PM, towards the end of our shift Terry and I spotted a flashing white light. There was nothing on the GPS or paper chart indicating a continual flashing light. When we got closer we realized it was a cell tower, which meant we were getting close to land.
With all hands on deck, we struck the foresail in the dark. Terry finally persuaded the anchor chain to release.
“It’s pure rock bottom.” Hugh shook his head and grimaced. “It’s dragging like it was set on placed on a blacktop parking lot.”
The anchor was hauled in and we motored to a different place in the bay.
“We’ll this feels like a gravel parking lot, rather than completely flat. I’d prefer some sand but this will work.”
With that we secured the boat and turned in for the night.
ps – If you’re looking to find where we anchored at Rocky Bottom Bay, you will not find it on the charts by that name. We gave it that name, because of how we were dragging. The GPS coordinates of Rocky Bottom Bay are: N45.39.7 W 85.37.0