R 22

Rhodes 22

 

Voyage To Garden Island On A Rhodes 22

Roger Pihlaja

S/V Dynamic Equilibrium

The Crew:

  • Ken Mild: Age 44, Brother-In-Law, Occupation: Police Officer In Sharon, PA, Physically Very Fit, Police First Aid Training + CPR, Avid Sportsman, 2nd Time Sailing Ever, No Blue Water Sailing Experience, Subject To Motion Sickness As A Child - Will Take Dramamine On The Outbound & Inbound Trips; But, Never Really Seemed To Need It, Shows Very Little Emotion & Outwardly Cool Under Stress, Very Amiable & Easy To Get Along With
  • Daniel Pihlaja: Age 15, Eldest Son, Entering 9th Grade This Fall, Honor Role Student, Life Rank Boy Scout, 27 Merit Badges Including First Aid, Swimming, Lifesaving, Rowing, & Small Boat Sailing, Mile Swim BSA Award, Physically Fit, 1st Sailed When He Was 2 Weeks Old, Extensive Blue Water Sailing Experience, Somewhat Reckless - Regards Dynamic Equilibrium As His Own Personal Roller Coaster, Never Been Sea Sick In His Life
  • Gary Pihlaja: Age 12, Youngest Son, Entering 6th Grade This Fall, All A Honor Role Student, 1st Class Rank Boy Scout, 6 Merit Badges Including First Aid, Swimming, Lifesaving, & Small Boat Sailing, Mile Swim BSA Award, Physically Fit, Has Also Sailed All His Life; But, Doesnít Enjoy It As Much As His Older Brother - Is Really Coming Along More For The Camping Than The Sailing, More Cautious Than His Older Brother, Subject To Motion Sickness In Heavy Seas - Will Need Dramamine For Outbound & Inbound Trips
  • Roger Pihlaja: Age 44, Father/Skipper, Occupation: Chemical Engineer Working For Dow Chemical Corp., Midland, MI, Physically Fit (Although Not In As Good Shape As The Others!), Varsity Swimming Team In College, Former Lifeguard, Teach Boy Scout First Aid + CPR, Scoutmaster Boy Scout Troop 776 For 4 Years, Sunday School Teacher For 3 Years, 17 Years Sailing Experience - Much Of It Blue Water Sailing On All Sizes Of Boats, Teach Small Boat Sailing Merit Badge, An Analytical Driver Personality, High Expectations Of Myself & Others, Careful Planning & Preparation; But, Willing To Go With The Flow When Things Go Crooked, Patient Teacher; But, Little Tolerance For Lack Of Effort, High Tolerance For Stress; But, Tend To Become Autocratic When Stress Threshold Exceeded, Never Been Sea Sick In My Life

The Boat:

  • Year Built: 1976
  • Rhodes 22 Hull Number: 46
  • Name: Dynamic Equilibrium The name derives from the physics of the way the forces of wind & water play off against each other in an ever shifting balance of power when the boat sails. Hey, Iím an engineer, I canít help it! Besides, itís my toy & I can name it whatever I like...
  • Auxiliary Engine: 1996 Honda 8 hp Outboard Extra Long Shaft, Cockpit Mounted Remote Engine Controls
  • Inflatable: 1996 10í Roll-Up Inflatable Sport Dingy - Towed Behind Mother Ship
  • Other Equipment: Yes - See Previous Article

Thursday 8/13/98:

Finished prepping the boat, shopped for food, topped off the fuel & water tanks. Packed personal gear. Drove 3 hours to Charlevoix, MI. Rigged & launched boat at Charlevoix City Launch Ramp. Charlevoix Harbor of Refuge was full, so we took a slip at Northwest Marine for $40 per night including water, electricity, bathroom, pumpout, fuel, showers, laundry, swimming pool, private lounge, picnic area, & kitchen area (ouch!). Split a pizza for dinner in Charlevoix. Slept on the boat: Ken, Daniel, & Gary in the cabin & Roger out in the cockpit.

Friday 8/14/98:

Breakfast on board: Oatmeal, fresh fruit, & juice.Made ham & cheese + PB & J sandwiches for lunch while underway. Weather: High temp in the low 80ís, partly cloudy, SW wind @ 15-25 knots, waves 4-6 feet (i.e. A fast broad reach with quartering waves from the aft port side), Small Craft Warning Posted.

Decided to go for it & caught the 11:00 drawbridge opening out into Lake Michigan. Rig Settings: Single Reefed Mainsail, Genoa furled to 100%, Backstay loose.

Comments:

These rig settings were an experiment. Normally, these conditions & point of sail would call for a double reefed mainsail with about a 125% genoa. Sanford Lake never gets waves this big & I wanted to probe the edge of the performance envelope. SpecificalIy, I wanted to see if I could depower the single reefed mainsail enough to balance the helm. I found that I could by slacking the boom vang, pulling the traveler car all the way to weather, & raising up the end of the boom with the boom topping lift to induce twist in the upper half of the sail. With a really ugly looking, twisted mainsail shape, I found I could get neutral helm most of the time. But, with the stern port quarter wave action, the helm was very busy & it was very easy to broach. You had to be on top of the situation at all times & ready to dump the traveler car to leeward in the gusts. Indicated boat speed was 5.0 - 6.3 knots. Daniel drove for a while, Ken didnít want to, & Gary was asleep.

After about 90 minutes, I was ready to declare the experiment a success & put in the 2nd reef in the mainsail. Much to my surprise, Daniel leaned over the leeward rail seasick & vomiting for the 1st time ever in his life. Gary was sleeping below deck in the cabin due to the Dramamine. Ken didnít know how to put in a reef & couldnít be trusted to drive in these conditions. I didnít have the heart to bother Daniel or Gary to put in a reef. Iíve never attempted to heave-to in our boat under these conditions. I didnít want to attempt it for the 1st time with a sick crew unless I really had to. Putting in the 2nd reef would simply have made the boat easier to sail & perhaps a little faster; but, it was not an emergency. So, I simply mushed on with the initial settings. The newer IMF Rhodes 22ís would have had an advantage in these conditions, assuming the mast furling gear can handle the loads.

Beaver Island is about 11 nm long. St. James Harbor is on the NE corner of the island & from Charlevoix you have to sail the entire length of the island. Once in the lee of the island, the wind direction curled around, hardening up the point of sail to a close reach & the waves became more of a confused chop. Reaching to windward thru this chop, Dynamic Equilibrium slowed to about 3 knots. Now, I really had to play the traveler in the gusts. The ride was wet & wild.

We arrived at St. James Harbor on Beaver Island at 18:15, covering the 30 nm in 7 hours & 15 minutes for an average speed of 4.14 knots. This time starts from the drawbridge in Charlevoix & includes putting up & taking down the sails & docking at Beaver Island. The indicated trip mileage was 31.4 nm, so I didnít stray too much from the rumbline. (GPS - gotta love it!) We took a slip at the Municipal Dock (State Harbor of Refuge) for $15.75 per night including water, electricity, bathrooms, pumpout, & showers. (Ah, much better!)

There was about 5 gal of water down in the bilge, most of it from our own water tank vent. It seems I neglected to plug the water tank vent hose when we left Charlevoix. The end of the vent hose was tucked up behind the sink. When we heeled over to starboard with a full water tank, the water ran out the vent hose & down into the bilge.

As soon as the violent motion stopped, Daniel started feeling better. The Dramamine that Gary & Ken took in Charlevoix had worn off. We pumped out the bilge, setup the boat for sleeping, got ourselves cleaned up, & made dinner reservations at the Beaver Island Lodge for 20:15. The town of St. James Harbor was mostly closed by now; but, we walked around a little bit anyway.

The Beaver Island Lodge is about Ĺ mile walk from the Municipal Dock & about ĺ mile from the Beaver Island Marine Dock. If thatís too far, just call them & theyíll send a car for you. The dining area of the Beaver Island Lodge faces northwest & west overlooking Lake Michigan with magnificent views of Garden Island & Whiskey Island. The sunset was grand. The chef at the Beaver Island Lodge specializes in wild game recipes. So, come prepared for locally caught roast quail, duck, lake trout, whitefish, coho salmon, & venison with exotic herbal sauces & seasonings. You can also get more conventional dishes like chicken, steaks, & prime rib if your pallet is not adventurous. There is also a desert selection that is to die for (chocoholics take note!). This is a nice place. You donít need a suit & tie; but, donít show up in the clothes you just spent 7 hours battling Lake Michigan in either. Reservations are recommended.

Saturday 8/15/98:

We slept in late.

Breakfast on board was at about 10:30: Farmers omelets, toast with butter or jam, fresh fruit, & ice tea

There was a period of time in the early 19th century when Beaver Island had a large Mormon religious colony. There is a museum called the Mormon Print Shop which documents this period of history. We took Ken to the museum & walked around the town of St. James Harbor a little more. My family did the Beaver Island tourist thing over the long Labor Day holiday weekend last year. So, the boys knew their way around town.

If you have more time, there are guided Beaver Island tours that take you all over the island. There is a shipbuilding & fishing museum, a couple of grocery stores, an ACE hardware, Laundromat, many gift shops, locally owned restaurants (no MacDonalds or Burger King) & taverns. If you prefer to stay on land, there are several motels & lodges as well as campgrounds. There is a car ferry to Beaver Island from Charlevoix. However, itís cheaper to rent a 4WD Geo Tracker from Beaver Island Marine than to bring your own car over on the ferry. Beaver Island Marine is also the only place on the island to buy fuel for either your boat or car. Once you get out of St. James Harbor, the roads are nearly all dirt & rather punishing to a car, which is another good reason to rent rather than bring your car across on the ferry. If you drive around the island, watch out for whitetail deer, which are everywhere. You can also rent bicycles, motorcycles, sailboards, canoes, rowboats, camping gear, etc. Besides Lake Michigan, Beaver Island also has 3 inland lakes for bass & panfish. There is a canoe building shop which makes custom epoxy/wood strip canoes to order. Each one is a work of art, signed by the craftsman on the forward bulkhead with a woodburning tool. I think they are too pretty & expensive to actually take down a river; but, itís interesting to watch them being made. Naturally, Daniel & Gary each wanted one for their own personal use on our next Boy Scout canoe trip - Yeah Right! If youíve never been to Beaver Island; then, figure on spending at least 2 full days to see everything & a week would not be unreasonable if you are into arts & crafts, camping, fishing, or history.

Weather: Temp in the mid 80ís, sunny, SW wind @ 5-10 knots in the morning, diminishing to light & variable by mid-afternoon, waves 1-3 feet in the morning, diminishing to 0-2 feet by evening

Rig Settings: Full sail, boom in upper position

Comments:

We departed Beaver Island at about 14:30 & sailed about halfway to Garden Island. At this point, the wind died all together & we opted to motor in the last 1-1/2 nm.

Garden Island is covered by state forest land and is administered by the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources (MDNR). The MDNR maintains a pair of emergency cabins on the southern end of the island for the use of boaters or hikers in trouble. These cabins are unlocked & stocked with supplies. Garden Island has a lovely natural harbor down in its southwest corner. The bottom of the harbor is hard pebbly sand & there is a small island to tuck behind. The water is clear enough to see the bottom in 25 feet of water & a striking blue green color. The MDNR has a dilapidated dock in the southeast corner of the harbor not far from their cabins. The water depth off the MDNR dock was only 12 inches, so tying up was out of the question.

When we arrived at about 15:30, there was another large sailboat lying at anchor up on the north side of the natural harbor. We anchored in 7 feet of water in between the little island & the MDNR docks on shore about a mile away from the other boat. It required 3 trips in the inflatable to transfer all our gear & people from the boat to the shore. We camped near the MDNR cabins. The rest of the day was spent setting up our campsite, exploring the immediate area, beach combing, & reading the visitor journal entries in the MDNR cabins. Soon after we arrived, we were visited by a pair of jet skis from the other sailboat. I couldnít believe it. They were nice enough people; but, even way out here, I couldnít get away from those darn things! Although nobody in our party said anything, from the way we were wilderness camping, they must have gotten the hint because we never saw them again.

Along about 18:00, another sailboat slipped into the harbor. She was 35 feet long, Kelly green in color, cutter rigged, heavily built in double chine construction from steel, & flying the Irish flag? After dinner, I rowed out in the inflatable & they turned out to be a family of 3 from Dublin, Ireland. Theyíd crossed the north Atlantic in 1994, cruised the Atlantic seaboard, & entered the Great Lakes via the Hudson River & Erie canal. Every year, they lay up the boat somewhere for the winter & fly back to Ireland. After Lake Michigan, they were heading for Lake Superior & planned to haul the boat for the winter in Duluth, MN.

In Boy Scouts, we believe in civilized camping. Dinner that night was chicken noodle soup, ham & cheese on crackers, grapefruit sections, coffee, fruit punch, & Hagen Das ice cream for dessert. Iíd brought along 4 pints of each crewmenís favorite ice cream flavor in a small foam cooler packed with dry ice & sealed with tape. We each had half of our ice cream that night & finished it off the following night. The boys knew about the ice cream; but Ken didnít. Iíd learned Rum Raisin was his favorite flavor from my mother-in-law. Ken was impressed.

We stayed on Beaver Island for 3 days in backpacking tents. The boys stayed together in one. Ken & I each had our own tents. I would row out to the boat in the morning to take down the anchor light, put up the American flag, & get drinking water. In the evening, I would row out to the boat to take down the American flag, put up the anchor light, & get drinking water.

Sunday 8/16/98:

Weather: Temp in the mid 80ís, sunny, winds light & variable

Comments:

We did a loop around the southern end of the island, hiking approximately 15 statute miles along the beach as well as inland. There used to be people living on Garden Island & there are many ruins of native American villages, old houses, sawmills, a post office/general store & even a boat yard from the 19th & early 20th centuries. There are trails which are easy enough to follow; but, they are not marked or maintained. There are plenty of deadfalls to climb under, over, or go around. We used a topographic map & compass to navigate. In a couple of cases, we had to cut cross country thru the woods. This is no place to be wandering around if your backwoods skills are not sharp. There are no steep hills to climb. The highest point on the island is less than 100 feet above lake level. The beaches & trails can range from mostly sand to cobbled rocks to chest high saw grass & bracken ferns to marshy wetlands. The trees are mostly cedar & white pine, with some areas of paper birch, poplar, & sugar maple. While hiking along the beach, we rounded a point of land & saw a bald eagle feeding on a cormorant. Apparently, this bald eagle had a taste for cormorants because there were about a dozen shredded carcasses within ľ mile & the eagle looked fat & sassy! Near our campsite, we found the skeleton of a coyote & heard them at night; but, never saw any. We saw lots of whitetail deer, snowshoe hares, trumpeter swans, cormorants, ducks, Canadian geese, & snakes - mostly garter snakes. The insects werenít bad. The deer just stand there & stare at you until you get very close. I took a picture of a doe from 50 feet away. When the flash went off, she must have jumped 12 feet!

The boys also rowed out to the little island out in the harbor & did a 1/3 mile loop along its beach while I was cleaning up after breakfast (It was my turn) & Ken was looking for arrowheads.

Monday 8/17/98:

Weather: Thunderstorm with high winds blew thru about 03:00, By 09:00 all that remained of the storm was S - SE winds @ 15-25 knots, During the day, the wind gradually diminished to 5-10 knots & turned to the N - NW

Comments:

Dynamic Equilibrium dragged her Fortress FX-7 anchor on 20:1 scope with 25í of chain about 200 yards further into the harbor during the storm. Fortunately, the anchor hooked a big rock & held about 100 yards off the beach on the eastern side of the harbor. We were on shore at the time. Without a motor on the inflatable, there was no way to get out to the boat. By about 07:30, the storm had let up enough that I was able to row out to the boat & set another anchor at 90į to the first. It was fortunate I was able to do this because when the wind later came around out of the N - NW, it was the 2nd anchor which kept the boat out of shallow water. The next day, when the water cleared, I could see a plowed furrow in the bottom from the initial anchor point to where she hooked the rock!

Rowing out to the boat & setting the 2nd anchor against the wind was exhausting! I got back to shore, crawled into my tent & slept for 3 hours. I said a little prayer of thanksgiving that we were all safe & the boat was not in pieces. Iíll set 2 anchors from now on!

Monday was supposed to have been our day to sail back to Charlevoix. We needed to make a decision by 06:00 about whether to go for it or not. The weather conditions made the decision an easy one to make. There was no cellular phone service on Garden Island. However, I was able to establish a VHF radio relay to get a message to my wife thru the Beaver Island Municipal Marina that we were safe but delayed 1 day due to weather. Weíd brought 2 extra days rations, so had plenty of supplies.

The previous day, weíd found some wooden planks washed up along the beach & we found some nails in the MDNR cabins. We had a hatchet & camp saw along with us. We spent a couple of hours repairing the MDNR dock.

In the afternoon, I was feeling better. So, we decided to hike the northern end of the island. I was very glad we decided to stay. We did a 12 mile loop & found the native American burial ground. Apparently, someone maintains it because there is a sign at the entrance saying there are something like 3500 people buried here & to please be respectful. Most of the older graves were nothing but mounds of earth covered with grass or even trees. There were a few with Christian-style grave stones telling who was buried there, when they lived, & died. Then, there were 30 - 40 traditional native American-style graves with spirit houses, dream catchers, beads, feathers, leather pouches, & various charms. Some of these traditional native American-style graves were quite elaborate & their condition ranged from good to dilapidated.

We encountered another surprise up in the NE corner of the island, a native American research center for developing herbal drugs! There were 12 native American people living there in an old cabin + tents. There were men, women, & children. The place resembled a hippie commune. They were in the process of tearing down their campsite for the season. We visited with them for a while & they gave us water & fresh cookies! I signed their guest log? Weíd have liked to have stayed longer; but, we encountered them near the extreme opposite end of the island from our campsite. We were facing a 6 mile hike with only about 3-1/2 hours of daylight remaining. We had flashlights with us; but, this is no place to be in the woods after dark.

Tuesday 8/17/98:

Weather: Temp in the high 70ís, cloudy in the morning & partly sunny in the afternoon, NE winds @ 10-20 knots, waves 3-5 feet (i.e. another fast broad reach with quartering waves on the stern port side)

Rig Settings: 150% genoa, double reefed mainsail, slack backstay

Breakfast On Shore: Oatmeal, coffee or hot chocolate, & the last of the PB&J on the last of the bread

Comments:

The day began at 06:00. After breakfast, we cleaned up, broke camp, loaded the boat, & were underway by 11:00. Daniel, gun shy after his experience with seasickness on the trip out, opted to take Dramamine along with Ken & Gary. Daniel & Gary ended up sleeping nearly the entire voyage back to Charlevoix.

The channel between Beaver Island & Garden Island was rough & the wind was right on the nose. We opted to motor the 1-1/2 nm until we were clear of the Beaver Island shoal & could turn SE towards Charlevoix. While motoring, we took a big wave over the bow & it landed in the cockpit. Normally, I wouldnít particularly care as we all had on foul weather gear. However, this wave filled up the port side coaming compartment where the Magellan 2000 handheld GPS was sitting! Itís supposed to be water resistant; but, I had my doubts as I pulled it out & saw droplets of condensation on the inside of the display. Sure enough, the GPS unit failed in about 10 minutes. We tried replacing the batteries; but, it was no use.

After we cleared the buoy marking the Beaver Island shoal & turned SE, I got my 2nd nasty surprise of the day. I could tell we were on approximately the correct heading by our orientation relative to Beaver Island. But instead of reading about 165į, the shipís compass was reading about 245į. I said, Quack???!!! I got out the navigation charts & quickly set up a range to 2 landmarks on Beaver Island. The shipís compass was indeed reading 70į in error to the west. Thatís the difference between going to Charlevoix & going to Chicago! The compass didnít seem to be stuck; but, clearly it couldnít be trusted. I had Daniel dig thru my backpack & he came back with my Boy Scout orienteering compass which weíd been using on Garden Island.

If youíve never seen one, they cost about $15.00 & look like a 2" X 5" rectangle of clear plastic on a lanyard that hangs around your neck. However, they are liquid filled for pretty good damping & are rugged enough for young boys to use. Ken just looked at me & said, "Youíre going to navigate across 30 nm of Lake Michigan without GPS with that?" Well, not quite. I also had my 7 X 50 mm Bushnell compass marine binoculars to take visual bearings, it was a clear day, we still had the Autohelm ST50 knotlog for dead reckoning, we had good navigational charts, & if we stayed on course; then, we should see the Beaver Island ferry once or twice. By now, the Dramamine was starting to take effect & Daniel & Gary were getting sleepy. With the double reefed mainsail, the boat was much better behaved than on the trip out even though the indicated speed was about the same at 5-6 knots. However, with the stern quartering waves, the helm still needed constant attention or the boat would broach. I needed to be able to leave the helm occasionally to take a bearing &/or plot a fix. Ken was going to have to occasionally drive. We practiced together & he eventually got the hang of it; but, did manage to spin us out twice. The 2nd time, he dumped Daniel out of his berth onto me as I working up a fix. In one of his typically understated remarks, Ken simply said, "I find steering under these conditions stressful." Gary had cleverly wedged himself between sleeping bags & other gear up in the V-berth, so none of this bothered him. A lee cloth for the port side settee will fix this problem & the project has just risen to the top of the priority list.

The Charlevoix landmark is a cement plant with a tall silo. After 3 hours, the silo appeared right on the bow as a tiny vertical line on the horizon which could be seen from the crests of the biggest waves. Ken was impressed & I was rather pleased with myself as well.

We just made the 17:00 Charlevoix drawbridge opening. Starting from our 11:00 position in the channel between Garden Island & Beaver Island, we covered 31.5 nm in 6.0 hours for an average speed of 5.25 knots. The waves were a little bit smaller, the rig was set up properly, & the boat was carrying less weight at the end of the cruise than at the beginning. An experienced crew would have flown the tri-radial spinaker to bring the average speed up around 7 knots. But, this would require expert helmsmanship, constant communication between the sail trimmers & helmsman, with another crew member navigating.

We recovered the boat, unrigged, unloaded the gear, had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Charlevoix, & got home about 01:00 on Wednesday, 8/19/98.

The compass failure seems to be a loose internal compensating magnet. Iím still trying to dry out the Magellan GPS in a vacuum oven at work. Assuming I can ever get it working again, itís going to live inside a Ziplock bag from now on.

PS

My wife got worried about us on Tuesday night. So, at about 20:00, she started calling the Charlevoix City Police, US Coast Guard, 911 in Charlevoix, etc. A Charlevoix City policeman found us fueling up the Astro minivan at a gas station after dinner in Charlevoix. I was going to call her from that gas station anyway to let her know we were on the way home. I was little embarrassed; but, at least I know she missed me. Hopefully, she got thru to call off the search before the US Coast Guard scrambled a search & rescue mission to find us. I keep expecting to get a bill from the US Coast Guard for several thousand dollars!

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