Huron & Michigan Lakes Trip

Tag: adventures
By Tom and Sheryl Young, Forever Young, #660

(reproduced with permission of Mainsheet, the Catalina and Capri Owners Magazine)

My wife and I just completed a 1200 NM trip on Lakes Huron and Michigan. It was a great trip with just a few bad days.

It had always amazed me how people got caught out in storms. Didn't they listen to the weather before they left? Didn't they ask other boaters coming in what the weather was like out there? Didn't they use their eyes and common sense to see what was coming? Well, I am not amazed any longer. Our original plan was to go from Leeland, MI to Frankfort, MI but the weather was great, sun was out and we had a wind out of the South for an easy beam reach across the lake.

The first several hours were great with us making about 6 knots on the rhumb line to Sturgeon Bay, WI. The wind was building a bit so we reefed the main and listened to the radio for the latest weather report. If you are familiar with the Great Lakes you can pretty much guess the weather report for the summer "Partly cloudy, highs in the upper seventies to low eighties, variable winds with a chance of thundershowers in the afternoon." The ever present chance of thundershowers would prevent sailing 6 out of 7 days. As we got closer to WI the waves continued to build, the original 3 to 4 foot predicted were quickly becoming 5 to 6. It started to rain lightly. To make a long story short, our day had all the sailing categories, good, bad and ugly. We went from sailing to surviving. The wind continued to build until we had waves of 10 to 12 feet, pouring rain and fog so thick you couldn't see the next wave coming.

The term "confused seas" was made abundantly clear to me when I had the bow buried in a wave and looked up to see a 12 footer breaking over the port side. I was really glad I had an open transom for all that water to exit the cockpit. My wife was so seasick she couldn't even stand. She had been sick every few minutes for the last two hours. We didn’t need to concern ourselves with cleaning up the side decks as the waves breaking over the deck kept them clean.

After 10 hours of this I was trying to get confirmation of my course and made a PAN-PAN-PAN call. The Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard responded. I asked for the coordinates of the harbor entrance to Sturgeon Bay. If I was going to do this blind I at least wanted to make sure the coordinates I had in the GPS were correct. They were and I was very relieved to hear that voice on the other end of the radio. I knew someone was out there.

We didn't need assistance but the CG called back every fifteen minutes to verify our position and course. When we got close to the harbor they asked if we could see the entrance. I told them no but I could hear the fog horn and must be right outside the wall. They said they had an auxiliary boat on the way that would position it self in the middle of the opening and to watch for the lights.

My wife was able to stand and steer while I sounded our fog horn and looked for the lights. I was in radio contact with the Aux. boat and said I was coming in because I could not see the lights. They replied they had us on radar and we must be right behind them. On the crest of the next wave it was obvious we were as we observed them approximately 100 feet ahead.

They led us into the harbor and after 1/4 mile the fog was completely gone. We were exhausted and ready to crash. They escorted us to a dock at a marina and helped us tie up for the night.

I learned several things that day, the most important was that the C320 was up to the task. I was comfortable with her from the start. I am convinced that this boat is a capable cruiser and could cross oceans. I am not suggesting routine crossings of the North Atlantic but certainly the US to Bahamas trip is well within this boats capabilities. Second was, the hatches leak. The forward hatch let in lots of water. Not enough to flood the boat but enough to get everything wet in the V-berth.

I made several improvements after returning from this trip:

1) I bought a Horizon radio with the remote microphone. The handheld did not have the range I needed and running down to the nav station was almost impossible.

2) I installed engine compartment insulation. The noise was greatly diminished.

3) Mounted weatherproof speakers under the sternrail seats. The Bose speakers in the cabin are nice but the person below goes deaf if you turn them up loud enough for the helmsman to hear.

We would like to take Forever Young south next year. We are interested in hearing from anyone who has made the trip down from the Great Lakes to the Bahamas in their C320.

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