Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Lorain, Ohio
Free at Last, free at last! Thank God! I'm free at last!
Getting her home on the cheap???
July 19th, 2005 Underway 1410 :
I was so nervous that I made a shambles of departing the dock, almost putting Kirk (The previous owner) in the water in the process. Okay, so it wasn't really as bad as all of that, but I could have done better, and making those little mistakes with an inexperienced line handler like my wife was just the thing that I needed to put me in Captain's mode for the rest of the trip. It was all on me now to make sure that nothing went wrong from then on. The sky was clear, the wind was light, and out of the west with a one to two foot chop as we left St Joseph/Benton Harbor, Michigan, and headed northerly on Lake Michigan. The weather people said that the wind was eventually going to swing around to the SW and then South around the time that we would be in the north half of the lake. So I turned off the port engine, and set the trim tabs and the starboard engine to making 7.5 kts, or 8 to 8 and 1/2 statute mph One mile an hour faster than I had previously figured to go to get Jill home in time for her job Saturday afternoon. At last Jill, and I were on the way home with our boat. Jill was a little queasy at first as she hadn't been aboard ship in 5 years, and on a small boat in over 20 years. But she smiled through it Britishly, and went a full notch up on my respect meter for it. And I expected her to get her sea legs somewhere around midway up Lake Michigan before she would. Little did I know the Lake had other ideas about that.
I headed for two and a half miles off Big Sable Point, and the boat took on a gentle rolling action, but otherwise everything was running smoothly. (And right about then our daughter's cell phone, though fully charged, gave up the ghost by starting to ROAM. Just like I said it would, but what do I know, I've only been working at sea for 30 years.) The compass at the lower helm ran pretty close to making the course good that the Loran-C was showing, and I was a happy camper for that.
As the day wore on the shoreline got farther, and farther away, but there was no discernable use of mass quantities of fuel to be worried over going slightly faster than the computed hull speed of 7.0 statute mph so I stopped worrying about fuel consumption, and just concentrated on navigation, my wife, and the noises of the boat. As suggested by Kirk we were running the generator for 15 minutes every hour to keep the refrigerator cold to start with, then went to a half hour at a time every two hours or so when not taking things out of the refrigerator for meals.
Around 1800/6:00pm the wind went around to a more southerly direction. The seas started to build slightly, but the rolling actually settled down to where it felt like we were on calm seas. However looking around us the waters were hardly calm. Even so, with a four-foot sea rolling the Gemini steered like an old steamer on rails. And Jill was starting to get her sea legs under her too.
July 20th, 2005:
We were passed by a thousand footer around Little Sable, and saw the Car Ferry Badger cross our bow heading into Ludington, Mich., and our fuel tanks still read between three quarters full, and half full at that time. So I figured on heading into Frankfort, Michigan to take on fuel. It has always been my intention to go no lower than a quarter full in both tanks before taking on fuel. Going lower is a sure fire invitation to catastrophe if the weather changes on you. And as anybody who lives on the Great Lakes can tell you: "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes it will change." The problem is that after running only on the starboard engine for 8 hours the engine started to act up, when I went to add more thrust. So I turned on the port engine, to run only on that one for a while. However after two hours of running it started to do the same thing that the starboard engine had done. So I turned the starboard engine back on, and tried to go a little faster, and they both started to act up. Coughing, and spluttering whenever I tried to add more thrust. So I settled them down into my original speed of 7kts, and they worked fine from then on. But if I tried to go faster than 2,000 rpm during the rest of the trip they would cough, and splutter, and choke to death if I let them. They would work at full throttle, but the boat wouldn't go any faster than 10 mph even at full throttle. Dawn itself was a spiritual undergoing, and uplifting for Jill, and a reminder to me that we are all in God's hands all of the time.
Now Kirk had warned me before leaving St Joseph that she had done the same thing to him the night before when he had taken the family out for one last voyage, but that she had settled down after a minute or so. That he thought it was due to condensation in the fuel tanks that were the cause of this. But as the engines ran fine other wise I wasn't worried. After all, I was trying to conserve fuel consumption on the trip home, and you can't do that running at full, or cruising speed on both engines the whole way. However with this new glitch I would have to run both engines at slow speed instead of just one at a time. And too, the wind was right behind us, and building so we could go really slow, and still make the same speed as before. (Any suggestions on how to fix this Kirk? She refused to go up on plan because she couldn't get up to speed to do that. Haven't added any Dry Gas yet, but after filling the tank three times I doubt that that is the real problem now. Still I will give it a try.)
It was around 1430/2:30pm when we pulled into Frankfort, Michigan to take on fuel. This port use to be home to a Car Ferry company, but is now pretty much devoted to Recreational Marina traffic, with one regular tanker dock owned by Koch Fuels as their only concession to the Marine Industry now. I called the Harbor Master as we headed in, and found out that the fuel dock was clear for us. This would be my first docking since taking over ownership of the Gemini, (whose name has yet to be painted onto her hull.)
The wind was out of the south still, but what with the harbor being protected on three sides by 100 ft hills the wind wasn't even half as brisk as it had been outside of the break wall. The fuel dock lay east to west so when I got close enough I brought her broad into the wind, and let the wind bring us up to the dock gentle as a feather. An hour later we were outbound fully fueled with 250 gallons of gas onboard, $524.00 lighter in the bank, and ready for another 24 hours before the next fuel stop. $2.7 9/gallon.
Gemini began to rock and roll even before we got outside of the Frankfort break wall. My former Captain use to always say that you get what you expect to get. So far Gemini had proven that she was quite the seaworthy craft. We had made it a point to check her bilges, the fuel levels, every 6 hours, and check our position every hour or so with the Loran-C against my own calculations. We were on schedule, and very close to my expected fuel consumption for this trip. And while the engines refused to go faster, they worked wonderfully at the speed we needed to go as I had previously planed. Now we would find out what the fuel consumption for that speed was on both engines running together at that speed as Jill was uncomfortable now just running on one engine at a time. Especially now that the seas were running between 4, and 10 feet with the wind SSW at 20-25 mph.
From Frankfort Break wall I steered for 2.5 miles off of Pt Betsie rocking, and rolling to beat the band now. Turning for inside of Sleeping Bear buoy Gemini's rocking, and rolling settled down a great deal, but she started to steer like a cranky dirty ole' B**ch! Cranky being the key word here as I really had to crank the wheel almost hard over back and forth to keep her on course. And then we made the turn for N. Manitou Light at the Sleeping Bear Buoy, and I really was cranking the wheel hard over to hard over to make the course good it was exhausting work.
By the time we were abeam of N. Manitou Light, and heading for Gray's Reef Light I was exhausted, and hadn't slept in over thirty-six hours. I needed a good nooner to recuperate, but I couldn't turn her over to Jill until we got some lee from the islands to our left almost an hour past N. Manitou Light. I call captain's naps nooner's because of a captain I had once been with who called all of his naps nooners no matter what time he took one. The idea being to get enough sleep to revitalize the body, then go back to work with a cleared head. An hour and a half after resting my head on the pillow the violent motion the Gemini was making again woke me up. The look on Jill's face said she needed more than a break from the wheel so I got up, and took over once again after checking our position.
Well, she didn't take hard over to hard over again, but with the wind, and waves slapping against her flat ass she was still a bear to wheel a straight course. In fact I gave up steering a straight course after 15 minutes back at the lower helm station. Instead I vied for 20 degrees either side, back and forth of my true course line from then on. It would take a little longer that way, and eat more miles, but it was a lot less work to do it this way at least until we got close to Gray's Reef Light. Other than cutting corners I was still running Lake Carrier Courses just out of the real shipping lanes, and it was working.
Gray's Reef Light looks a lot bigger from a small boat than it does from a tanker, or an Ore Carrier, but I wasn't worried about the shallow depth in this passage as my draft wasn't any deeper than 3'2" at best, and the water there is over 27 feet deep. She rocked and rolled going from Gray's Reef Light to White Shoal Light Buoy #3, and continued to rock and roll violently all the way to Mackinaw Bridge.
July 21st, 2005:
The good news was that Jill's stomach was no longer queasy. The bad news was that we had eaten up a lot of fuel since leaving Frankfort, Michigan. More than a quarter of a tank's worth. Still, we had close to three quarters of both tanks full when I laid down for my next nooner in the south passage of Lake Huron going at barely steerageway to the Cheboygan Traffic Buoy, and possibly fueling in Cheboygan, Michigan. I woke up two hours later in time to stop Jill from heading into Cheboygan for fuel. Then put her to bed while I picked up our speed to go that 7kts once again figuring to fuel again around 1400 or so at Presque Isle Harbor before proceeding down Lake Huron. Another wrinkle reared up to show its ugly head as I noticed that the main compass no longer ran close to what it had on Lake Michigan, and the same was true for the Loran-C. However with a little adjustment on my part we held as true a course as I could figure for with this equipment. In any event I must have figured pretty good as we made Presque Isle light right on schedule.
It was a little tight making the fuel dock at Presque Isle Harbor, but I was getting use to Gemini now, and ready for anything. In fact the dock guy was shocked to hear that this was only my second docking of the boat. Both tanks were slightly over half full before taking on fuel, but the price for marine gasoline here was $2.83/per gallon. So though we took on less fuel we paid more for what we took on. In any case my original budget had called for $1,800.00 in fuel for the trip, which went down to $1,200.00 with the full tank that Kirk had given her to us with. And that meant that after leaving Presque Isle fuel dock we only had about $267.00 in our fuel budget to get all the way home with. Which also meant that there was only one thing I could do now to conserve fuel. Turn off one engine.
Once clear of Presque Isle Harbor Buoy #2 I shut down the starboard engine, adjusted the trim tabs, and the port engine so that she wouldn't sputter, and cough, and found ourselves moving through the water at an easy 7kts without any further problems. The wind was mostly out of the SW at 15 to 20 and diminishing so that we had the lee of the land to sail in, and hardly any chop to slow us down. I steered until we cleared Nordmeer Wreck, then handed her over to Jill to try and get 5 hours sleep as she steered in open water towards Harbor Beach, Mich. The seas while slightly choppy weren't unreasonably so, and calming with every mile we proceeded now with just SW’ly ghost waves out of Saginaw Bay to keep her rocking back and forth lazily.
I woke up three hours later on my own and felt fully rested so I took the rock'en, and roll'en helm back from Jill, and gave her the rest of the night off from steering. Sunset on Lake Huron was even more magnificent than it had been on Lake Michigan, and I could hear God's Whispers once again after a 5-year silence. In fact all aboard were in rather high spirits about the trip after a warm meal, so I stopped worrying about fuel consumption, and the price of fuel, and just did what had to be done from then on. Around 2100 as she prepared to go to sleep I told Jill that I would wake her up around Harbor Beach, or if I got too tired to drive, but which ever came first nevertheless.
The weather man predicted that the wind would swing around to the NW, then go North by Midnight so the chop that had built up from Saginaw Bay would eventually go down, and certainly it would once we got some lee from the thumb of the lower Michigan Mitten. With the wind and waves slightly on our starboard bow Gemini steered like a dream, with hardly any attention by me. So that I was able to check the bilges, and the fuel tanks on my own without Jill having to be at the helm steering while I did that. I also was able to take an hourly position through the whole night without disturbing her sleep, and that was great too.