St. Joseph, MI, West Basin Marina, Saturday, September 5, 2015
We’re moving on down to St. Joseph today. NOAA and Passageweather both predict waves about 1 ft. and winds 5-10. Waves should come on our stern and push us all the way. ;-) We have reservations at the Eagle Pointe Marina, which is way up the river in St. Joseph and we're a little leary of the depths we'll encounter on the way up the river. But...it's Labor Day Weekend! We hadn't planned to stop at St. Joseph, but our aborted trip to Grand Haven left us scrambling for reservations somewhere on the lower portion of Lake Michigan. St. Joseph is so busy, too, because of the Tri-State sailboat race going on this weekend. On Friday boats travel from Chicago to St. Joseph. Sunday, from St. Joseph to Michigan City...and on Monday from Michigan City back to Chicago. Illinois, Michigan, Indiana=Tri-States.
Leaving our slip at Eldean, we saw that we really might get one of the “scattered showers and thunderstorms” predicted for the day. Little did we know…this would be a day we’ll not soon forget.
“Big Red lighthouse” was looking good today!
It was neat seeing the sunrise peaking above the clouds...
When we left this morning at 7:15, fishing boats were pouring out of the harbor headed for their favorite spots on the lake. We were traveling about 2-3 miles off shore, and most of the fishing boats today were further out than we were. That was good because we didn’t have to alter our course to avoid them.
We'd been into the trip for about 2 hours when we saw in the sky...and on the radar...a rather large rain patch coming our way. (We're located in the very center of the little circle.) The waves had been on our stern giving us a push...but as we got closer to the coming storm (we were hearing thunder and seeing flashes of lightning) they started coming out of the southwest, on our bow. It was looking like we might get "some action" out of this storm...But...we really didn't have a place to get away from it.
This lasted 45 minutes, during which time we increased the speed of the boat to make the ride a bit smoother. We saw a good bit of lightning and had thunder claps...and the winds picked up.
Eventually...it looked like this on radar: we were engulfed. At this time, we didn't have rain on us..."just" wind and waves...
We passed a nuclear power plant and it was funny to see that IT was aglow!
So then...all that storm went beyond us. And we breathed a sigh of relief. The waves stayed on our bow, but we still had a push from wind coming in from the northwest so were traveling about 1/2 mile per hour faster than normal at 1600 rpms.
Then we saw the sky darkening again right in front of us. By this time we were passing by South Haven, and about half way to our destination.
This baby was out to make a point! For over an hour we had little rain...but were pummeled with high winds. I checked a weather app and found a "special weather alert" calling for storms in the area we were traveling. The storms were likely to have heavy rain, some hail...and winds 30-40 mph. At the time the picture above was taken...we had those winds!
Having had the experience at Thunder Bay on Lake Huron with the failed engine, we knew it helped to have a plan in mind...should something happen. We felt our canvas was at risk of being blown apart...so started talking about what we would do if that happened. We already had our life jackets on and our PLB's in our pockets. As we talked, we decided it would probably be good to just notify the Coast Guard of our location and situation. So we did.
Then...we just rode it out for over an hour. High winds...high waves...high anxiety!
Finally, about 20 minutes before we reached the St. Joseph breakwater, the storm passed. We were left with waves a bit higher than normal...but not like they were in the storm. Coming through the entrance to St. Joseph, though, was some of the roughest water we saw that day! A bit of wind, some current in the river...and it was like being in a toilet that's been flushed. ;-) Swirling around! More stuff in the boat hit the floor just coming into the harbor than had fallen or moved in the previous 6 hours.
While we were still out in the storm, we decided to try and get a slip at West Basin Marina there. It was right inside the entrance to the harbor and would be a much quicker tie-up. We'd talked to them yesterday and they were expecting to be filled to the max today because of the races. When we explained our situation to Andrew, the harbor master, he said we could come in and tie up to the fuel dock for the night.
So...here we are!
After hooking up, checking in, plugging up, we ordered a pizza and salad from Jet's Pizza in town and just sat for a while....
After lunch (a late one at 3 PM) we decided to walk into town for a frozen yogurt bar we'd spotted on the town map. It was a good couple of miles round trip...and HOT! Part of the trip was along a railroad track, though, and on the way back I picked up some great pieces of rusted metal for art projects: they will give a rust stain to papers. It makes the papers look antiqued. ;-)
Scenes of St. Joseph from our walk to town...
A drawbridge was part of our walk and as we started across a couple of sailboats needed to come through...
Neat little downtown area and it was hopping today!
Well, we're all tuckered out from our experience with storms today! In over 15,000 miles of boat travel we've never been in storms that were this strong...and for so long a time. But...the boat did well, and we did OK...so we'll tuck this one away as a day to remember.
Tomorrow we plan to travel to Michigan City (guess we'll be seeing these sailboats for a while longer).
Oh, I forgot. An interesting thing happened last evening at Eldean Shipyard in Lake Macatawa. Around 5:30 or 6 two Coast Guard members came up to the boat and knocked on the side. We stepped out onto the back deck and they asked if this was Wayne Prichard and the boat Journey. Yes. "Well, do you know anything about the "sheen" that was spotted at the fuel dock today at about 2?" Sheen? You mean like maCHINE? "No...an oil slick...a sheen." No....we weren't at the fuel dock. We came in and went straight to our slip. We did see the Coast Guard boat out in the lake and a Coast Guard helicopter hovering over... "Well, we were told by the staff here that you were at the fuel dock and bought two fuel filters and some fuel. Are you sure you don't know anything about the sheen?"
About this time, Wayne and I realize that they don't really believe us. They kept asking questions over and over...getting the same answers...and we insisted that a mistake had been made by the staff. Finally they left.
We started wondering whether the credit card would have been hit with charges for the fuel and filters. So today, when Eldeans opened at 8, Wayne called Jake, the fellow we'd been in contact with yesterday for a slip. Wayne explained the situation and that we might be made more vulnerable for Coast Guard boardings if they put the boat name on a "watch" list because of this mistaken information.
Long story short, Jake checked and found out it was a person on staff who's normally not in the office area that gave the Coast Guard misinformation. Jake called the Coast Guard and explained that a mistake had been made by Eldean and that our name should be removed from their records. He also verified that we had only been charged for the slip.
All"s well that ends well! Jake did a good job cleaning up that mess! ;-)