Wednesday, November 9, 2011

High Winds and High Cliff Canal

There have been several days of high winds (50-70 mph) here causing widespread power outages and downed trees. I knew there were large waves in Lake Michigan of over 25’, but I didn’t hear reports of shore damage. Just probably wasn’t watching the news at the right time I guess.

I launched at Sawyer Harbor in Potawatomie State Park about 10 miles by road or 4 miles by water from my home. I had sailed here several time this year and paddled once early in the summer. The moon was almost full and I’d thought a paddle around Cabot’s Point past the Sherwood Point lighthouse would be good this evening. The temperature was moderate for October. It didn’t take long for me to warm up, so we just kept going on to the High Cliff Canal, which is a man-made canal circling a small island surrounded by homes…probably a nice place to live. Some homes are large and others are fairly reasonable. It was about an 8 mile round trip on calm water.

Along the way I found several docks that had been damaged, moved around and twisted by the large waves a week or so before. Areas where the rocks had been scrubbed free of their usual green algae coating and newly fallen rocks that were beaten by water into submission and now were almost submerged.

I left about 5:30 and it was dark by the time I passed the Sherwood Point lighthouse on the return. The moon was rising on the left with the light house signaling on the right…sweet. Some powerboats were around mainly on the way out. Guys fishing earlier in the evening, but I saw only one boat after dark, so it was a quiet paddle home.  I stayed near the shoreline in shallow water after dark as much as possible to avoid being in any boats way.
The boat launch in Sawyer Harbor

Dock damaged by waves

Shoreline SW of Lighthouse

Entrance to the High Cliff Canal

Full moon over bridge on High Cliff Canal

Moon and Sherwood Point Lighthouse

Night landing in Sawyer Harbor

Saturday, November 5, 2011

GRINDING in October

I was grinding paint off the bottom of a sailboat, planning to repair the 30 years of dings, chips and gouges on the keel while laying on my back interlaced between the trailer frames and I’m interrupted by a phone call, several in fact. It was great weekend, near 60, almost calm, sunny and several friends wanted to paddle…one more paddle on a warm sunny day. I had to tell them, sorry I’d like to go, but I need to work on the keel of this boat while it was still warm enough to do some fiberglass work. That was funny I thought, the whole summer has slipped by and on the last day people are in a rush to get in some water time…summer is busy and it is hard to fit everything in. I want to go, but if I’m ever going to use this boat, I need to start the refit…maybe it will get in the water for a month or two next summer.

A week earlier, the evening before my daughter and I went to Kentucky, I paddled in town. That was a beautiful warm fall evening, calm, twilight, the full moon rose, just serenity at its best.

I had launched at Sunset Park and headed toward the Maple-Oregon Street Bridge or the MO Bridge as the operators call it. Passing Bay Ship Building, there were two guys in a pulling boat out in the mid channel of the shipping lane. I was passing them, heading closer to shore as it was dusk and I don’t like paddling away from shore in the evening light when a small kayak is difficult at best to see. The Harbor Lady had left the dock near the bridge a ½ mile away and was heading toward us. The rowers were staying in the channel and I mentioned to them it might be a good idea to head to one side or the other of the channel and stay out of the Lady’s way. They did meander over my way near the shipyard.

Kayaks are small, slender, low and sleek. Qualities that make them efficient to paddle, but difficult to see, even in daylight. When the light is low, I stay near shore. I bring a flashlight, strobe, rocket-flares and a light attached to my vest. Signalling devices are always with me.   Fortunately I have never used anything other than a light. If I ever need to bail out and then lose the boat, I’ll still have signaling devices with me instead of floating away on the kayak. Don’t know if the rowers had a light, but I turned on the jacket light and let it droop over my shoulder, so it wasn’t shining in my face, but would be obvious to a boat coming up from behind me. Another reason to drift near shore are treasures…treasures that escape from some poorly tied knot and become set free until they find me. Tonight it was a black 20” fender. I tied it on the rear deck.

There was a rhythmic clanging in the distance from behind…clack, clack, clack.., like a bell. I looked over my shoulder…a tug was coming up the channel with a flap on top of the exhaust to keep out weather and dirt when it was running. The flap was clanging with each puff of exhaust. A small harbor tug named Barry, a good simple name. I followed it and the Harbor Lady toward the bridges. Barry pulled in and tied up to the tugs of Selvik Marine Towing and I continued on past the MO and Center Point Marina on the left, then crossed the channel to the DNR dock and headed back, past the Coast Guard dock, Selvik, the Maritime Museum where I paused and tried taking a few photos of the rising full moon…didn’t worked so well. Low light, drifting boat in water=blurred photo.

So I paddle back in darkness and Moonlight. I have always enjoyed evening paddles. They are quiet, when the water is full of noisy craft running here and there during the day. The night is a quiet and peaceful time. A few lights here and there, stars, moonlight; I once paddled under the Northern Lights. The red and green flares are always amazing to see, but it is just rare to see them from a kayak….

Oh Yeah I was GRINDING…later.