Category: FETCH Across America (Kees Prins)

18 Jul

5 Comments

Fetch; Great Lakes Boat Building School part 3.

by

Spending a winter in Upper Michigan (the UP) is an interesting experience. Having grown up in the Netherlands, I’ve been through some cold winters, but nothing like this. Two feet of ice on the channels around the school and temperatures down to -23F (-30 C). I did spend a winter month in Finland once and that was very similar. No wonder a lot of Fins and Norwegians moved here in the past. People enjoy the winters here though; often dry sunny weather, hunting, ice fishing, cross country skiing, snow mobiles and snow shoeing, besides of course throwing another log in the wood stove.

cross country skiing along Lake Huron

 

students Chris, Selina and Andy

 

bizarre ice craters along the lake

 

ice shanties

 

holes in the ice inside the shanty

 

kids snow mobile racing

 

my van waiting for warmer weather.

 

At school we were working hard on the various boats. In total we started 6 boats and finished 4 of them. I’ll show the different projects one by one.

 

The whaleboat proved to be somewhat of a challenge, specially the frames. Typically frames are bend ‘on the flat’, meaning with the wide side touching the hull. These frames however, were bend ‘on edge’. They were ¾” wide and 1 ¾” deep and required a specially build trap mold to bend them. This way they initially had all the same curve and after taking them off the mold, had to be modified to fit the various areas of the hull. They also had to be notched around the battens and laps of the hull. Finally, using real green straight-grained oak and not leaving them on the mold too long we managed to fit all frames. The boat seemed to be designed to be very strong for it’s weight. Many parts were to follow, centerboard trunk, ceiling (boards on inside of frames), thwarts, knees, heavy gunnels etc. The oars and spars were build elsewhere. After launching it proved to row very nicely and be absolutely gorgeous. We could barely imagine how hard it would be to row this boat, heavily loaded with gear on an open ocean chasing a whale, let alone harpooning it and then be yanked though the water at high speed! Often they would sail up to the whale to be quieter, and then quickly strike the sail and mast, which weren’t small or light. I guess the boats were made of wood and the men of iron. In June, after graduation, the boat would be driven to Mystic Seaport for the boat show and be left there to go with the Charles W. Morgan, the last whaling ship in the US that’s been restored over the last couple of years and to be relaunced in July.

 

installing frames in the whaleboat

 

frames are notched around battens and laps.

 

special trap mold for bending frames

 

painting the interior

 

installation of ceiling boards

 

photo for WoodenBoat Magazine ad.

 

proud builders

 

 

first row!

 

The Rescue Minor, built by the second year students, made steady progress and was finished on schedule. All the plywood was twice coated in epoxy, then primed in a two-part primer and painted with a one-part marine enamel. The floor boards and gunnel were Iroko, left bare it will turn grey like teak does. The owner already had purchased an electric motor which was about 6 hp equivalent. We installed 4 heavy gel-mat batteries with a total weight of 660 lbs to give the boat a reasonable range and speed (about 6 knots). Everything was nicely concealed under the console, which hinged up for access. The motor was housed under a removable box. Personally I think it’s hard to beat a combustion engine when it comes to cost, weight, range and speed. Can’t wait to see a small energy cell of a few pounds that’s affordable and will go all day with lots of power…. keep dreaming.

 

tunnel drive.

 

ready to be turned over.

 

deck framing

 

batteries and controls neatly arranged under hinged console.

 

ready for the water

 

 

the builders enjoying the ride.

 

The little lapstrake Chica of about 7’ by 4’ came out nice. We decided to go ahead and build a strip-planked version of it as well. This was an introduction for the first year students to contemporary construction. We considered it a tender to a cruising yacht and gave it buoyancy tanks with access hatches. A fore and aft seat would allow shifting the rower’s weight to allow for a passenger and load. The sheer was made of red cedar and would be left bright, while the rest of the hull was made of clear white cedar to be painted. The whole hull was glassed in and out and got 4 frames for stiffness, because there was not going to be a thwart. The inwales got spacer blocks for strength and a few light cedar floorboards to finish it off.

 

first strips are going on.

 

 

last strips

 

smooth, strong and light.

 

air tanks and frames

 

spacer blocks for the inwale

 

The Chippewa went through periods of various appreciation. The lofting and planking were challenging, while all this time we suspected the free board to be too low. We resisted changing it though and once on the water it proved to be just gorgeous and row very well indeed. I could row it at a consistent 4 knots, it left little wake and just slit through the water. This boat is a local design and many were build right there in Cedarville. A local model builder, Paul Wilson, had built several versions of it and showed us his collection one day.

 

 

fresh off the molds

 

bending frames

 

frames looking aft

 

painting party!

 

she rows like a charm.

 

Chica (on the left) and Chippewa

 

Paul Wilson showing his beautiful models

 

 

After winter break we had started building Katie, a 20’ gaffer, designed by Harry Brian. This boat gave the students practice with a backbone with deadwood, ballast, floors and carvel planking. Next year decks and a cabin will be added. After setting up the backbone with the molds we worked on floors for a while. Ribbands formed the steam bent frames, which went real smooth thanks to nice bending oak, cut locally. For planking we used Cypress, which was fairly clear and nice to work with. The hull seems very promising, with it’s proud bow, flat run, and stiff sections. I’m confident that it will be a nice cabin cruiser, with a real shippy feel.  I can well imagine crawling in the cozy cabin after a hard sail, lighting the woodstove, cooking up a simple meal and hunker down for the night.

 

shaping the transom of Katie

 

installing ribbands

 

bending frames

 

 

fitting planks

 

hot out of the steambox

 

nice lines

 

We also finished a small launch which was started last year. We installed decks, seats and an old time gas engine. After paint a local sign painter put on gold lettering.

 

gold lettering on the Lawley Pop

 

 

A great advantage of the teaching schedule is having breaks. With Spring break coming up I got the urge to be around warm weather for a bit. I booked a flight to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico to visit my friends Rob Sanderson and Kai, who spend the winter on a nice cruising sailboat ‘Velella Velella’. They work in Alaska in the summer to fill the cruising kitty and then hang out in Mexico where water and air is warm. Kai was doing a intensive yoga class and Rob was hanging out on the boat, watching whales and surf with his friends. I tried to surf one day, got on a wave a few times before I was exhausted and ended up with sore muscles for a few days. It made me appreciate surfers a lot more; you have to be in pretty good shape to keep at it. Reading and hanging out on the boat and in town suited me just fine. We sailed a few times on the Banderas Bay between Punta Mita and Bucerias, we saw humpbacks whales, dolphins and lots of seabirds. We took a nice day-hike on the south shore and I spend two days in the city by myself. One night on the boat, I woke up hearing cows in the distance. I went outside and didn’t hear it anymore. Back down below I heard it again and realized they weren’t cows but whales! I put my ear right on the hull and could hear it in great detail. There was a lot of back and forth between whales with repeating sounds. Fascinating to lay there listening to these great creatures communicating with each other.

 

Rob and Kai’s boat, a 38′ Ingrid

 

cozy interior

 

sailing to Punta Mita

 

Rob taking pictures of humpback whales

 

humbacks

 

dolphins

 

dive bombing blue footed boobies

 

pelicans everywhere

 

local kids just hanging out

 

 

schooner in paradise

 

dining in the shade with friends

 

local bead art

 

going ashore in the dink

 

going out through the surf

 

great surfing

 

a drink afterwards, life is good

 

 

one of Rob’s fabulous breakfasts aboard Velella Velella

 

jungle all around

 

I’m being watched

 

small heron waiting for fish

 

time to say goodbye

 

Back in Michigan the ice had just broken around Mackinaw Bridge and it wouldn’t be till mid April for the ice to melt in front of the cottage. On May 12th we had our last snow storm. Being still cold outside, I found some time to take on a bit of a dove-tail challenge and put together a crazy complicated box, with curved sides that tapered in thickness. I don’t think I would do that again.

 

Fetch in last snow storm on May 12!

 

glueing together the crazy dove-tailed box

 

pretty though…

 

As soon as ice and snow were gone, the birds seemed to make haste getting on with building nests and raising their offspring. Swans, Sandhill Cranes, Terns, Swallows, Geese, Ducks, Herons, Bitterns and lots of songbirds all were busy doing their thing. Otters, Beavers and Muskrats finally didn’t have to deal with ice anymore. Deer could swim across the water again without getting stuck in floating ice. Ospreys carried tons of fish to their nests and Bald Eagles would chase them, trying to make them drop their catch. Summer folks would come back up from down-state to occupy their waterfront cottages and scoot around in their Chris-Crafts. It felt a bit like they were cheating not being there for the cold winters.

 

Mid May Andy and visited ‘Windswept’; Bonnie and Tim’s summer camp on one of the islands. Bonnie’s family ties to this area go way back and she was one of the initiators of the boat building school. Andy kayaked and I rowed the Chippewa. We had wonderful time hanging in front of the fireplace enjoying good food and great company.

 

underway to Windswept

 

Windswept consists of four cottages among trees along the lake edge

 

yum!

 

heated with a fire place

 

 

the boathouse

 

Chippewa tied up

 

…seemingly floating in air

 

visit of a Beaver

 

Early June the students graduated and left for home or to their new jobs. For me, I loaded up Fetch, hooked her behind my van and hit the road. Instead of going east however, I would first spend some time out west in Port Townsend, but more about that later.

09 Jan

8 Comments

Fetch; Boat Building School, part 2

by

November was coming along and sailing opportunities were dwindling. Winters in upper Michigan tend to be pretty harsh, so everybody moves their boats in storage. Having two feet of snow on a saggy tarp isn’t the way to go. I was fortunate to find covered storage in a building with a concrete floor; nice and dry and no critters. I took all the gas and water out and rolled her in.

 

Fetch in storage

 

The school was closed during the thanksgiving week,so I took a flight to Port Townsend to spend some time with my family and friends. We stayed in the house Sofia and Gary are building where the woodstove kept us nice and toasty. It was good to see everybody again and we were able to continue a 5 year tradition of thanksgiving diner with friends.

 

thanksgiving diner with family and friends

 

Sofia’s and Gary’s place

 

I stopped by Maritime Center, my old stomping ground, and said hi to the folks I used to work with. Two Scamps that were started during Scamp Camp in August were getting the final bits and pieces put on. The peapod that has been in there for years got a few new planks and the Spitsgatter of the local sailmaker, Sean Rankins, was inside for repair. Another neat boat inside nearing completion was the Eun na Mara, a trailer sailer designed by Iain Oughtred.

 

projects in the North West Maritime Center

 

Eun na Mara

 

At Haven Boatworks I found most of the usual suspects and had a chat with some of them and it was as if I never left. I used to work there of and on for several years and liked it a lot. They were busy with all sorts of repair. The local schooner Adventuress was undergoing major reframing and planking on the port side. Almost every year another portion of frames and planks get rebuild till it’s all done.

 

Adventuress

 

stern repair

 

some of the Haven Boatworks crew

 

After a few ‘mandatory stops’; certain cafés, Rose Theater, Thai restaurant, time was up and back I went to snowy Michigan. Not a familiar sight to see my camper covered in white powder.

 

 

wintery view from cottage

 

Inside the school however, the floor is heated and life is good. I’ll show you a few pictures of the powerboat I mentioned in the previous post, the Rescue Minor.

 

lofting table

 

Hans, Ed and Andy laminating the transom with vacuum bag

 

 

installing frames against the molds

 

laminating the chine

 

lining off planks lines

 

glueing Sapele overlay on transom

fiberglassing the bottom

 

good view of the tunnel

 

We needed green (still wet) oak for frame stock and rails for our projects and James (our shop assistant) offered to cut some trees down in his woods. He lives in Grand Rapids and owns a wooded lot just north of there. There is a cabin, a wood shed and a big barn that he and his family built and a nice little brook in back. Quite a few folks in Michigan own a piece of land in the woods or by a lake that they use in the summer.

After hauling it all to the school on a big trailer the oak got sawn up by a sawyer who has a portable woodmizer.

 

James’ cabin in the woods

 

James

 

nice brook in the  back

 

oak logs ready for the sawyer

 

making sawdust

 

whaleboat frames bent on special jig

 

After Christmas break we’ll start to build a fifth boat called ‘Katie’, a traditional looking 20’ gaff sloop designed by Harry Bryan. This will give the students experience with a more substantial backbone, ballast, decks and cabin.

 

Gaff sloop Katie that we are going to build

 

 

The first semester was ended with a nice Christmas dinner offered by the school for students and local guests.

 

christmas dinner at the school

 

yummy!

 

The first few days of Christmas break I joined Andy and his family in South Haven. It was nice to spend those days with nice folks and we had a chance to go ice skating on an ice rink. I just had to see the dutch windmill in Holland Michigan, since I spend 6 years of my life restoring those in the Netherlands. It was an authentic windmill imported from Holland. This part of Michigan was founded by dutch immigrants and one finds a lot of street and town names with dutch names.

 

christmas at Andy’s family

 

Andy’s house that he built

 

authentic dutch windmill in Holland michigan

 

like the good old days..

 

wild turkeys

 

The drive back up north offered some nice winter scenes.

 

looks like Elm trees

 

 

winter colors

 

back in the U.P.

 

Back at the school I had a week of uninterrupted time to dedicate to drawing up plans for Fetch. A guy in Australia (Bruce) wanted to build one and asked me to make a set of plans. As I was drawing we started to make some changes. Bruce wanted a cutter rig with a furler on a short bowsprit in order to easily take away fore sail area without having to go on deck. We raised the sheer to make up for the fact that Fetch immersed deeper with the additional structural weight and ballast. His brother David Gregor, who for a while had been playing with ideas to modify the Fulmar and the Wayfahrer, suggested to widen Fetch’ design in the stern. He suggested to ‘insert’ a long wedge as it were, 10” wide at the transom and coming to a point at the stem. At first I thought this was over the top, but after looking at it some more and making a few sketches, I started liking the idea. It would give Fetch more beam for stability, more cabin space, more room for the outboard so the rudder linkage wasn’t needed anymore. By moving the cabin and cockpit aft a bit everything just got roomier. Same sail area and hull length as Fetch and same seat arrangement. This is what it looks like so far.

 

uninterrupted time at the drawing board

 

sail plan of expanded Fetch

 

expanded Fetch with more room in cabin and cockpit

 

more beam and height

 

same folding seat

 

 

my new motto

 

08 Jan

3 Comments

Fetch; Great Lakes Boat Building School

by

A week after sailing in the North Channel (see last blog entry), I started my position at the Great Lakes Boat Building School as a second year instructor. There were 17 first year students and 3 second year students. Pat Mahon is the head instructor and focused on the first year group. Since I only had 3 students, I took part in the first year projects as well. I am still living in one of the Water Lawn Cottages in Cedarville with Bud, my housemate. The views from the cottage keep me entertained everyday.

early morning in front of cottage

 

just one of these days

Another thing that is intriguing out there is watching the water level go up and down. There is some fluctuation due to wind, but the overall trend is going down. The Great Lakes suffer from loosing water. There is lots of speculation as to what causes this. Climate change, dry summers, lack of ice in the winter which makes for more evaporation, increased drainage in Detroit river and Chicago canal etc. A lot of boathouses are completely dry, waterfront docks don’t reach water any more. I just heard the Lakes have a record low. On top of that, the plant growth around Cedarville is unheard of, possibly due to low levels, clarity of the water, nutrients, who knows. Don’t forget, these Great Lakes hold about 1/3 of the world’s fresh water, that’s serious. At the boat school the first year class started with basic woodworking technics and making dove tail joints. They all build a small step stool and a toolbox.

starting up at boat school

 

Kerry and Troy

 

Chad’s dove tail toolbox going together

 

toolbox ‘factory’

After that they each lofted a small dinghy. Lofting means drawing the lines of a boat full scale, so you can make patterns of certain parts of it. The process can be mind-aching at times.

James (shop assistant on right) helps Kris with lofting

The second year students started lofting a whaleboat. It’s a replica of an original 29’ whaleboat like the ones carried on whale ships. The last remaining American whale ship, the Charles W. Morgan is nearing completion and will be launched this summer in Mystic Seaport. We’ll contribute one of about 8 whaleboats. The original boats had steam bend stems (double ended) of 3” deep, so we tried that as well and it worked. A complicated bending jig with a compression strap is what it took.

Bending the stem with Hans on the lever and Ed and Mark assisting

 

successful bend using compression strap.

We then made the molds, the keel and cut the rabbets (grooves to accept planking). After careful lining it all up on the shop floor we started planking.

Ed trimming a mold and Andy plumbing one behind him

 

progress at beginning of Christmas break

The first year students started two small boats; the Chica and a Chippewa. The Chica is a dinghy less than 8’ long, designed by Carl Chamberlin in Port Townsend. Although designed to be cold molded, we built her traditionally with white cedar lapstrake planks, oak frames and keel and mahogany transom. Planks were clench nailed to each other and riveted to the frames. Early December the hull was lifted of the molds and by Christmas break the boat was done.

bending on a steamed oak keel

 

simulating plank lines

 

hurray! the hull comes off the molds

 

bending frames

 

nailing preset copper nails through hot frames (Chris holding frame and Andy with hammer)

 

voila!

 

adding structure like rails, thwarts and knees

 

there she is!

The other boat is a Chippewa, which was a locally built whitehall type rowing boat. 14’ long, very low freeboard, plumb stem and wineglass transom. Most of the students built oars as well.

Chippewa getting planked up

After setting up the whaleboat, the second year class started their contemporary project. The school got a commission to build a Rescue Minor, designed by Atkin for use in the war. This small powerboat (20’) was designed to plane in 6”of water and pick up wounded soldiers from the beach. The prop is in a kind of tunnel in the stern. We changed the topsides some. More flare forward, tumble home aft, glue-lap plywood planking above the chine and a gracious curved transom. She will be driven by an electric motor. Next blog will have more pictures of this boat.

Rescue Minor getting ready for planking

Early October Bud and I went to the Van Dam boat yard in Boyne City to test drive a powerboat the school had built a few years back. The yard had done some of the mechanics and finish work and she looked great! This yard builds custom fancy one of a kind exotic powerboats! Very complicated cold molded shapes, glossy hardware and powerful engines. A few of the boat school grads have gone here to hone their skills.

powerboat the school built a few years back

 

first test drive

 

Van Dam’s shop

 

exotic speed boats indeed

 

wanna order a boat?

The ride back gave us wonderful fall colors. A lot of hardwood trees that seem to light up in the afternoon sun.

fall colors

  In evenings and weekends I’ve been working on a design called Loon, that I started years ago and needed some more tweaking. In the April/May issue of Small Craft Advisor you can read a plan review of it. This time around I decided to widen the hull some more and make it so you can comfortably sit up in the cabin. The off-center board is my favorite. Loon is a 23’, canoe yawl, trailer sailer.

23′ Loon

 

sitting headroom

 

outboard can be stored in the well without taking if off the bracket

It was time to make a model to verify the lines and proportions and to see if I could pull in a commission. I built a cedar dove tailed box to store it in as well as a display base. I like it and hopefully you too. Any takers?

glueing the rails on the model

 

ready for paint

 

there she is!

 

on her storage/display box

 

Another post will soon follow, stay tuned.

14 Sep

10 Comments

Fetch; Faces of the North Channel

by

 

 

Aug 31 – Sept 6

Thursday August 30th I hooked Fetch behind the camper and headed north toward Sault St Marie. I was going to join a small group of boaters in the North Channel in Canada, about 200 miles east of the boat school. Driving into Canada I had high hopes to experience another country, but I was somewhat disappointed. Canada looks just the same as Michigan in this neck of the woods. Back in the Northwest a visit to Victoria or Vancouver always gives a definite sensation of going to a different country. It feels more European there. Anyway, following hwy 17 east, it took me about 5 hours to reach Little Current, which is a little town on Manitoulin Island. This is a huge island, which separates the North Channel from Lake Huron. I believe it’s the biggest fresh water island in the world.

The North Channel consists of thousands of islands big and small, a lot of them very rocky. Huge boulders of granite rise out of the clear fresh water and vegetation is struggling to grab a hold with their roots. Trees are fairly low and occasionally one has blown over showing a very shallow root system.

I soon met up with my fellow boaters, Anne Westlund, Eric Hughes and Dan Phy. Anne currently sails a Sun Cat (17’), Dan sails a Montgomery 15 and Eric drove a Ranger 22, which is a small tug with an inboard diesel. Anne happens to live in the same town I live in, Cedarville, which is a total coincidence because Dan and Anne started setting up this trip one year ago, when my trip was still just a thought. Anne and Eric have known each other for many years. I had met Dan last December in Port Townsend, where he built the first Scamp from a kit in the Maritime Center where I was his instructor. We have since sailed twice together in California earlier this year.

 

Eric, Dan and Anne on Eric’s tug.

 

getting Fetch ready

 

Anne’s Sun Cat.

 

The day I arrived, it sported a blustery westerly wind with rain of and on. The next day however it had cleared up and we decided to give it a go, in spite of the strong wind. I was immediately double reefed and flew a small jib, as we beated out of the channel in front of Little Current. I had my GPS standing by to check for shallows. Sun was shining, small white caps all over; it was a good start of our trip. Once we entered Waubuno Channel we hung a right and eased the sheets and the GPS showed between 5 and 6 knots. To slow down Anne had scandalized her main sail (lowered the gaff). Her Suncat has a cat rig with one big main of 150 sft. and no jib. Past Halfway Island we turned right again and headed for Sturgeon Cove. The entrance is a bit tricky and one has to do a zigzag to avoid some rocks that were barely awash. Anne had us well prepared for this, so we all got in just fine.

 

Anne has scandalized her mainsail to slow down

 

Eric and Dan

 

Anne and Dan entering the tricky entrance to the cove

 

Sturgeon Cove is protected from most any wind and soon we were swinging to our anchors. In order to go ashore or visit each other, everyone but me had a tender. Sometimes I would peddle Fetch over, or Anne would give me a ride in her dinghy, which didn’t leave much freeboard in the stern. After hanging out on Eric’s tug for a bit, each brewed something for themselves for dinner. Four boats, four people, four galleys. That night some of us heard bloody screaming ashore of some animal that was getting killed or something.

 

Dan in his inflatable

 

paddling Fetch over for a visit (picture by Dan)

 

getting a ride in Anne’s dinghy (picture by Dan)

 

 

Dan’s M15

 

 

Anne’s Sun Cat (picture by Dan)

 

sunset from Fetch’s cabin

 

 

Saturday we left the cove with a little bit of wind, but soon that died all together and we all motored toward Croker Island, about 14 miles to the west. Croker Island looks like one big lump of granite with some trees on it. There is a real nice cove on the west side, where we found a shallow little hide-away, away from other boats. I went ashore with Anne’s dink and had a great overview of the anchorage.

 

follow the leader (picture by Dan)

 

Shaded by the bimini

 

(picture by Dan)

 

arriving at Croker Island

 

Lots of granite

Our anchorage

 

 

 

reading in the sunset (picture by Dan)

 

sunset (picture by Dan)

 

There were several groups of powerboats rafted up together and as the sun slowly set and the bugs slowly rose, the music from those rafts got louder and louder. Big campfires and loud voices combined with firing a gun and later fire works up until about 11pm was our entourage while trying to get some sleep in our little boats. Finally it all calmed down.

 

Sunday we made our way across a small bay to the Benjamin Islands, which is less than two miles away. Anne had told me about magnetic disturbances in this area and sure enough my compass reading was about 60 degrees off from the GPS. She mentioned that people suspect that a meteor has hit this area somewhere in the past. Interestingly enough, when you look at a chart, there is a distinct circular pattern to this group of islands.

 

Chart showing circular pattern of the islands (Croker island on the right)

 

Again Anne brought us to a beautiful little anchorage. She knows the area very well, after having spent a lot of time in the North Channel. For the past 12 years, she has spent about three months per year sailing around these islands, always in small boats. She prefers small boats, because they are cheaper, easier to handle by her self and shallow.

 

our anchorage on Benjamin island

 

 

Keeping the sun off (doesn’t work well with low sun)

 

We’re in Canada!

 

Dan and I did some exploring in a dinghy and a kayak. Huge boulders were worn smooth by glaciers, still showing deep gouges. Many rocks showed cracks running through them, presumably caused by alternating freezing and thawing. One boulder in particular seemed to have been cut by a huge bread slicer. Other rocks showed just the beginnings of cracks and vegetation took the soonest opportunity to wiggle some roots in there. Some low areas on these rocky islands had collected enough organic material for small trees to grab foothold and looked like roof gardens on a granite building. Puddles filled by rain water, some as big as ponds, had plants, fish and frogs in them. It was warm and sunny now, but the winters are pretty severe around here with temperatures well below zero Fahrenheit (-20C) and several feet of snow.

 

 

 

Big boulders cracked like sliced bread.

 

 

 

(picture by Dan)

 

(picture by Dan)

 

‘like a roof garden’

 

Rain puddles as big as ponds

 

Photographing a frog (picture by Dan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday we motored through some real narrow passages between rocks at the Benjamin Islands. I was exploring close along the rocky shore and watched a mink slip in the water to come up with a fish just a minute later. He sat there right in front of me chowing it to bits.

 

Mink eating a fish

 

through narrow cut

 

 

We motored just a few miles north to Fox Island and anchored at the end of a narrow inlet. I beached Fetch for the time being to be able to go ashore. There were beautiful marshes around and I took a long walk along the waters edge. A bigger yacht anchored nearby and the owners, Rob and Linda invited all of us aboard for supper. Linda made delicious lasagna with salad, which made for a pleasant evening. They were at the end of their sailing season and were about to put the boat away for the winter.

 

Nearing Fox Island

 

Anchorage on Fox

 

 

 

Dinner with Rob and Linda.

 

Next morning I witnessed a nice sunrise and after everybody’s breakfast rituals we gathered on the tug for a little pow-wow.

 

Sunrise on Fox Island

 

breakfast

 

Eric invites us over.

 

 

During the night I had woken up and looked around in the moonlight. It was completely still and I noticed the reflection of a rock in the water, which created a face when I tilted my head to the side. During the morning, as we motored to our next destination, I noticed faces everywhere. I was tilting my head both left and right, till my neck started protesting. After a while they just popped out at me, as I motored by and I took many pictures. I felt like these rocks were staring at me as if they held the spirits of bygone people. The pictures I’m showing here are not ‘photoshopped’, just turned on their sides and sometimes cropped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We motored to the small marina in the town Spanish for supplies. Bags of ice would keep our coolers cold for another three days or so. A flushing toilet seemed like a luxury after having been without for a few days. We got a ride up to the town, had lunch and went to the grocery store. Back at the boats we noticed a Banded Watersnake sneaking along the rocks.

 

Banded Watersnake

 

While Anne and Eric motored, Dan and I sailed to our camp spot for the night in a glorious evening sun with a mild breeze. At the beach Eric had made a fire, our one and only fire on this trip. Next morning we gathered on the beach again for pancakes. Anne had brought pancake mix and maple syrup and I made coffee in my French press.

 

Sunset sail

 

campfire on the beach

 

pancakes for breakfast

 

It was time to start heading back toward Little Current. The forecast was for more wind and possibly thunder. Apparently Lake Superior was cooking up a hefty brew. After motoring for about an hour, the wind kicked in and we had an exciting sail between some islands. The wind in the narrow channel was quite fluky and gusty and a double reef was in order. The bay we were heading for wasn’t going to be protected with the given wind direction, so we changed course to Croker Island, where we had been before. This little cove offers protection from any wind. That night a huge thunderstorm passed us to the north with lightning about every minute or more. At times lots or rain and gusty wind made us feel very cozy in our little cabins.

 

Back toward Little Current

 

Thunder (picture by Dan)

 

and rain

 

from inside a cozy cabin

 

Next morning

 

 

 

 

The last day we goofed around in the morning for a bid and started heading home. Again, first not much wind, but later it came in loud and clear. During that afternoon it kept building to about 20 to 25 knots, under picturesque skies. First I did an occasional 6 knots, then peeks of 7 knots and finally I was surfing off waves at 8 knots at times. Going downwind under full main, no jib and the centerboard mostly up, Fetch maintained very controllable. I kept thinking of taking a reef, but didn’t have to.  Anne, with her Sun Cat was doing exactly the same speed as Fetch. She had her full main up as well. When it’s wavy, the speed varies a lot, depending whether you fall off the back of a wave or surf off the front. Once out of the waves in the channel, Fetch kept up a consistent 6 knots semi-planing for the last quarter mile or so. The wind was from dead aft while running, which made me a little nervous, because of danger of an accidental jibe. I therefore reached more while jibing between each course. It was a very exciting end to our trip in the North Channel.

 

Flying back home

 

 

The next day we all enjoyed showers and breakfast in town and I hit the road, back to Cedarville. In a week I’ll start teaching at the boat building school. I’m sharing a cottage on the waterfront with Bud, who also works for the school. It’s about a 3-minute bike ride from work. I’ll keep you posted on the boats we’re building.

 

Our cabin near the school

 

waterfront

 

pretty nice inside

 

My home for the next nine months