The Adventure Begins: A Sailing Story Part I

Revelation II was the name of Dad’s prized sailboat. It was a 1969, sloop-rigged Columbia, 28 footer. He had owned it for many years.

Sailboats are a lot of work. There is always something to fix or upgrade to get everything the way you want it. After all those years of owning Revelation II, Dad had it just right, including all new instruments.

My Dad has an adventurous spirit. He loved to fly and sail and he was always looking for the next adventure. This story is about one of those adventures. It ended up a little long, even by my standard, so I’ve broken it into parts…

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I had wanted for a long time to take a cruise in the sailboat around the northern end of Lake Michigan. One weekend in August, Ed and Georgine were up with us on the Island and I was in the process of preparing the boat to take my trip. Ed looked the boat over, gave me an engine tune up and checked all the instruments so he would feel comfortable that I was ready.

On a Monday morning, Dolores helped me pack up the supplies for the boat because I expected it would take me four days. Then she told me, “Give me a call on your cell phone when you’re on the horizon from our cabin so I can see you and give you a call to say goodbye.”

My first stop would be Manistique, Michigan. I left the slip I kept at Caps Marina and sailed out around Detroit Island, past the Pilot Island lighthouse, then turned north towards Manistique. Soon Dolores gave me a call  and said, “I can see you!”

The weather was okay and everything was going along well. I had the auto-helm turned on to steer the boat and I had my Bible on the cabin top so when I stood on the steps going into the cabin, it was just at reading height.

I was out for about six hours when I noticed my course was drifting. I finally figured out the auto-helm was not working. On checking further, I realized none of the instruments were working—the boat speed, wind speed or depth sounder. So I had to steer by hand. This  was in the early days of GPS. I had a handheld unit and was grateful because when I got to Manistique I needed it. I couldn’t see the harbor; all I saw were trees where I expected it to be. The GPS gave me a heading for the harbor and I was able to find the entrance. It’s a small harbor with a few slips and a gas pump. I maneuvered away from the slips so I could swing right into one and got stuck in what felt like a sand bottom.

Fortunately, another sailor came along and explained to me that there was sufficient depth only close to the slips. If you get too far away from that, like I did, you get stuck. To be honest, I don’t remember how exactly I got unstuck…I think I threw a line to the other sailor and he gave the line a tug and pulled Revelation free. When I got in and tied up, he said to me, “Apparently, this is the first time you’ve been here.”

“Yes, it is.”

“You have to be careful when you go back out because the harbor is the mouth of a river.”

Typically, sand flows down the river and leaves a little ridge between the harbor where I was tied up, and the exit down through the mouth of the river. I planned to gun my engine so I could hit that little ridge pretty hard, get through it and be free on the other side. But I wanted to call the boat yard in Milwaukee first to see if they could give me any suggestion on what was wrong with all my instruments.

I made supper, then slept on the boat that night and called the Milwaukee boat yard the next morning. I talked to Scotty who was very familiar with my boat, told him my dilemma and asked his advice on fixing it.

“Bill, your boat is a 1969. Through the years, there have been wiring changes. No one ever removed wires, they just kept adding to them. I can’t even begin to tell you how to fix it.”

The next port in my plan was Beaver Island. According to the chart, it was kind of a tricky entrance with many marking buoys to guide you. As I thought about it, I realized how many hours I had ahead of me and to navigate it without an auto-helm and other instruments, I felt would be impossible. It wouldn’t be able to leave the tiller to eat, check a chart or do anything else. I called Dolores to tell her what was up and that I would be coming home that day.

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3 thoughts on “The Adventure Begins: A Sailing Story Part I

  1. Pingback: Reflections on Shoals and Swells: A Sailing Story Part II | Sundays With Dad

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