Teachable Moments

Teachable Moments

Well, someone must’ve said something to the guy, because he said, in a somewhat friendlier tone, “Where you folks from?” Maren started to answer, but I stifled her and replied ‘Detroit’. “Near 8 Mile?” he asked. I told him "Yep, right near 8 mile."  He got nicer after that and we took our time eating, and got out of there with no further issue. (Teachable moment: “Girls, sometimes when you have too much to drink, you act like an asshole”). I wasn’t until we’d left that I realized that in addition to the earring, I was wearing a t-shirt with a depiction of a black man with an afro on it (it was Jimi Hendrix).  Couldn’t have helped the situation with that neanderthal.

Anyway, bright and early Wednesday morning, we were at the gas dock. As we tried to pull out, we found that reverse didn’t work.Then forward didn’t work. Jones dove down into the quarter berth and pulled the hatch over the shaft, discovering that the key holding the shaft in the coupler was laying in the bilge.  No problem – slide it in, tape it on, and off we went. (Teachable moment:  Know your boat).

Once again, immediately upon leaving the DeTour Village harbor, the main went up, the engine stayed on, and we motor sailed off toward  Long Point Cove. Peter Wenzler, another sailing buddy who’d sailed on my boat for the Port Huron Mackinac race, had strongly recommended Long Point Cove as a first day destination. Based on my somewhat less than perfect memory of my only other visit to the North Channel, the only places I really wanted to visit were the Benjamin Islands, and Baie Finn. Both were too far to travel in one day from DeTour Village, so Long Point Cove was a good first day’s destination, with the added bonus it took us to the very northern edge of the North Channel.  This would allow us to travel East toward the Benjamin Islands via the Whaleback Channel, which (we’d been told) was the prettiest part of the North Channel.

One the way there, I inflated the rubber dinghy that Peter had been good enough to loan us and got out the Richardson’s North Channel guide that Grand Ram (101 Mack races completed) Fred Kreger loaned us. I stuffed the now-dry bags of sails back into the forepeak. In retrospect, I should’ve sent some of the sails home, they took a lot of space, and weren’t going to be used. (Teachable moment: cruising takes a lot more space than racing).

I did the ‘macro’ navigating with a vintage Navtrek program that uses scanned versions of raster charts on a laptop.  This interfaces with the GPS, but the North Channel can be tricky and water can go from depths of over 100 feet to 3 feet in a very short distance, making the Navtrek less than reliable close in.  Meanwhile, Todd had an iPhone application that was incredibly accurate. He used it for ‘micro’ navigating when we needed to know exactly what the depth was. Between the two, we were able to motor sail at full speed, and keep the boat in plenty of water. By not playing the stereo all the time, and not incurring the drain of the two amplifiers on the boat, we were able to keep the iPhone charged up for those critical moments we needed it. Yes, we were roughing it!  (Teachable moment: Use whatever tools you have to ensure safe navigation).

The girls were very excited about our first stop in the North Channel, and were quite interested in the unique rock formations we were passing as we approached the anchorage. On our way in, navigating the rocks and small (tiny) islands to the anchorage, the girls noticed the rust coloration the rocks all had near their waterline.  After a few more turns, we were there.

We arrived at Long Point Cove, which is located just west of Serpent Harbor, and due north of Barrie Island, mid afternoon. At latitude 46.10.50, it was the northernmost point of our travels. Surprisingly, there were about 12 boats in the anchorage, but when I realized how close we were to mainland Canada, it was not surprising at all. It was a stunningly beautiful anchorage, surrounded by rocky bits of land deposited by glaciers millennia ago. We were not able to tie up to the natural rock “dock” that Peter had mentioned – a slab of granite that juts out of shore – as another boat was already there, so we anchored out, with the girls jumping in the dinghy immediately. They climbed ashore and immediately scampered to the highest point. (Teachable moment: When there are no ambulances and no hospitals nearby, don’t fall and split your head open unless you want to be sewn up with sail twine and a big needle). The girls rowed back when their growling stomachs led them, around dusk.  Other than the coffee pot, our only cooking tool was an 8" saucepan that fit the larger of the two sea-swing stoves, and one by one I cooked them hot ham and cheese sandwiches, with hors d’oeuvres of Mack Race leftovers – Rice Krispies Treats (Teachable moment: Hunger makes the best seasoning).

The girls know that their dads have had interesting lives, and they spend enough time around sailors to know, at least, that we’ve got plenty of stories to tell of sailing exploits. We told of being Vizqueened to the bed after passing out at one of the early GBOPHD parties, waking up in the middle of the process, and with one free hand, punching Todd and the other guy until I was able to free myself. And then calling Maren’s mother, whom I had just started dating, and who had left with my car, to come ‘rescue’ me. We told the story of the mud, the brawl, the blood, the deflated inflatable Budweiser beer can, its demise, sinking, and resurrection, and why, today, when you see it at Mills Race events, it now has a security fence around it. Or the time we ‘borrowed’ a boat to do a harbor tour on Mackinac Island, only to be told by cops on a boat to ‘terminate your voyage"; rowing ashore and fleeing, mingling with the crowd so as not to get caught. Good dads that we are, we included this teachable moment as both preface and epilogue to all stories: (Girls, we had been drinking, this is what happens when you drink too much). After a few stories, we all fell asleep, hopefully with another lesson being learned (what happens on the boat stays on the boat).

Waking the next morning, the boat that had been tied to the spot next to the island had gone, so we moved Fast Tango. Once again, the boat would not go into gear, and we discovered the key way out; a little tape, and we were good to go.

One of the greatest joys in cruising is having the bow pulpit overhanging a beautiful island while the keel is in 10 feet of water.  The girls jumped off with a long line to tie to a tree, and we set a stern anchor. After a quick exploration of the small piece of rock we were tied to, we decided to pick some of the plentiful blueberries.  Next up was a bath in the crystalline water, giving Fast Tango a scrub and inspection while we were at it.  Everything looked fine, and we spent most of the day exploring, swimming, picking blueberries, and taking photos.

About this time, Todd started complaining about his big toe.  Swollen and painful, he thought he might have gout, so we forced him to drink more water and less beer to calm things down.  And we planned our next passage, for the Benjamin Islands.  Consulting the Richardson’s chart book, we picked a path thru the Whaleback channel that would get us eastward, and dump us back into the North Channel, thru a narrow passage known as Little Detroit. Perfect!

The Whaleback Channel is full of little islands and rock outcroppings, also left eons ago by receding glaciers.  The spectacular scenery provided one of the most interesting sails I’ve ever undertaken. Traveling from West to East, we were to exit at Little Detroit, and being the politically incorrect dads that we are, we of course told the girls it was populated by dwarf pickpockets and carjackers, and contained a four foot tall version of the GM headquarters building the RenCen. In anticipation of our arrival I donned my black skully cap, sunglasses, and baggy shorts.  Needless to say, Little Detroit was nothing more than a 120-150 foot wide passage between two rock formations. Depth went from 150 feet to 75 feet to an alarming 40 feet, then back to 75 and 150 feet just as quickly. It was easy to imagine we were sailing through underwater mountains, and could only imagine how dramatic the topography would have been had the water been 150 feet shallower. And the disappointed girls had another teachable moment: (Don’t believe everything you hear, especially when it comes from sailors…).

Once through Little Detroit, we skirted a couple more islands, and then headed South, intending to leave the Sow and Pigs islands to port, and enter the Benjamin Islands from the southeast. The Sow and Pigs really do look like a mother pig and her babies. Entering the anchorage between South and North Benjamin Islands, we were greeted by the sight of 30 other boats anchored. No problem, it is a fairly large anchorage, and we found a nice spot to anchor. We had to be careful though, a 180 degree shift would have put us very close to the rock, and while the water was plenty deep enough, hitting the rock would not have been good.

We had time to explore and climb around after getting our anchor set. As we’d eaten a gourmet luncheon en route to the Benjamin Islands of hot dogs, Rice Krispie treats, cookies, and other healthy fare, we were not in a hurry to get dinner going. So we climbed around, identified blueberry patches for picking the next day, and told more “Tim and Todd” stories. Tonight’s story concerned the 1993 Chi-Mac victory, a $400.00 Jaegermeister tab (Girls, that’s too much), the drive down I-75 back to BYC, and the subsequent punch up at the bar. Then it was to the previous confrontation in Lake Erie that precipitated the punch up, and, the subsequent summer’s firecracker incident with the same crew. (Teachable moment again: Girls, what’s said on the boat stays on the boat). However, the girls thought a movie should be made of our escapades. More tomorrow…