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Sea Stories:

Discussion in 'Chris Craft Roamer Yacht' started by Capt Keller, Dec 20, 2004.

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  1. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    Lorain, Ohio
    I thought it might be interesting to have a thread specifically just for Sea Stories since everyone seemed so interested in those that I told on the other thread, 219 hits, and still counting. LOL Anyway, I have decided that I will post any future sea stories here, and I hope that the rest of you will post yours here as well. I will also answer any questions about life aboard a commercial vessel on the Great Lakes that you may have as well here.

    Capt John S. Keller
    Great Lakes Pilot,
    and Author of; "The Very Basics in Safe Boating"

    Sorry for the following commercial folks but my brother insisted. He's a big fan of my work.

    I recently wrote, and had published online, and ondemand, a small Illustrated book just for this reason; My concern over the growing cost of life due to an overwhelming uneducated boating public, especially in first time boat owners, and those who think they know enough, but only know enough to be dangerous to themselves, and their unwary passengers, mostly family, and friends at that. And some have just been lucky long enough to think that they don't even need to read that much. And it isn't much more than a panthlet in thickness. But can be carried aboard any sized boat for quick reference, or studied over the time when their boat is out of the water. It can be found along with my other books here:

    (Once on that page change Title to Author, type in Dunkin, and touch GO underneath.)

    I recomend purchasing the electronic version as it is in color, and you can print out the very usefull lists that I've incorporated in it, and laminate them for use by all hands on your own boat. However owning a copy that you can keep in your boat library is very nice indeed as well.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2004
  2. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    Lorain, Ohio
    About the Food:

    I was asked in another thread about the great food served aboard Great Lakes Vessels. And I can tell you right off that it all depends on who the cook is aboard the ship as to whether you would agree to just how great the food is. And the USSteel fleet ran the gambit from Great to horrible, from chef to short order goofball without a clue. Now being the oldest in a family of six with divorced parents I learned to cook at a very young age. And for a six months period on the USS New Jersey I served as a cook's striker because of my experiance at home. And if there are any further doubts, I also managed many, and even owned my own Dunkin Donuts for a while in the 80's when shipping on the Great Lakes was terrible.

    In any event, most Steam ships that I was on on the Great Lakes had adequate Stewards, or Cooks if you will. However too many of them had what I call lazy, dishillusioned, or former hot dog venders for cooks. The lazy ones at least knew how to make leftovers from frozen pre prepared stoffer dishes, so they weren't that bad, but the dishillusioned, and former hot dog vender cooks were the worst. And if you think I'm kidding about the hot dog vender catagory there was a cook on one boat that everybody in the fleet knew only as HOT DOG Norton. Why? Because hot dogs were served at every meal aboard his ship breakfast, lunch, and dinner as an entre, and the company, and unions required that at least two entrees be served at every meal. I won't say what ship he was on, as that would be slanderous, and hurtful in nature, but believe me when I tell you that this guy was clocked at serving 253 lunches in a row with hot dogs as one entre and either ring bologna, Polish, smoked, or Italian sausage as the other entre. Served with boiled potatoes, or sometimes with cabbage and carrots as well if he was gonna serve cornbeef, and cabbage for supper with his hot dogs. Hamburgers, and hot dogs were a dinner item on this guys weekly menu at least twice a week, and he couldn't make eggs over easy to save his life. And the only thing that stopped the crew from bringing any bodily pain to this guy was that he did serve Steak every Saturday for dinner, and that he had the best second cook in the fleet. The second cook's job is mostly bakery, and salads, and this second cook loved to bake, and he was great at it too. (He also cooked Breakfast, Thank God) From real Danish pastery, to garmand German Chocolate Cakes this guy could bake it from scratch. And if you know anything about food budgets bakery is the cheapest item on any menu if made from scratch. Grocery stores practially give their bakery away at cost because the wonderful odor permeating their store gives rise to spontaneous purchasing by their customers. And I knew more than a couple of Hot Dog vendors at USSteel, believe me.

    The dishillusioned cooks were something else entirely. These cooks usually were former Restrarant People with heavy backgrounds in the culinary arts. The dishillusionment came about once they stepped aboard a ship, and took over as head chef with only a second cook, and a porter as their only help in the Galley, and most second cooks were happy with their own jobs, and unwilling to step up in the ranks to try for Chief Steward. This meant that Chief Stewards had to prepare everything themselves, and as anybody who has ever cooked knows; preparation is everything in cooking. Even if the second cook did make breakfast the Chief Steward had to get up early to prepare for lunch, and dinner menus. And home made soup was always part of every menu even if the other soup was from the can, and it was a company requirement that two kinds of soup be served every day for lunch, and dinner. Why? Because soup is another very inexpensive food item to prepare, but provides many healthy dividends. Chicken soup alone is well known for its anti-biotic characteristics as I'm sure everyone here already knows. And too, many crew members are happy with just hot soup, and any kind of light sandwitch for lunch cold or otherwise. But I digress. In any case, the Chief Steward is responcible for the Galley Budget, ship's linen, and garbage disposal as well if there is no incinerator aboard. Their day starts from 0500, and ends sometime around 1800 if they are lucky. And they are required to manage their work day around eight hours within that time frame, and only get overtime for taking on stores, (and like everyone else aboard) weekends, and holidays.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 21, 2004
  3. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    Lorain, Ohio
    Food continued...

    What makes these people dishillusioned? Well, many things really, and it is different for each one, but let me tell you about one particular Greek fellow, which I'll call Nick the Greek here. It was the last sailing season for the Homer D. Williams, though nobody aboard knew that at the time. The Chief Steward aboard at fit out was a very popular fellow as a head cook in the fleet, and that was basically because he was an old fashioned kind of cook who did everything from scratch, and had a weekly menu that your grandma would have envied, but was just basically good homestyle food that most homestyle restrarants would kill to be able to serve properly. He was inventive, and creative with leftovers, and tasted everything himself before he'd allow it to be served to the crew. Even helped the second cook out in preparing bakery items as he just loved to teach other people what he knew. His stateroom was filled with cookbooks, and not just the ones that he had authored either. And because he was such a great cook his budget reflected it in that it was the lowest food budget on the entire Great Lakes. Or at least it was up until he was transfered upward to a triple A class ship three months into the season, and Nick the Greek stepped aboard at the Soo from the Ojibway. The Ojibway is ship's chandlery Owned by USSteel, a small boat with a crane on it for putting ships stores aboard a ship that is down bound through the Sault Ste Marie Canal, and River system, (or the Soo for short) heading for the lower lakes.

    Immediately the food went to hell in a handbasket. Weinners, and beans, and stoffer's pre-prepared food becoming the new staple of the crew. A crew that were fast becoming very angry if I might say so as was I over Nick the Greek's nearly tasteless menus. But what was really the kicker, and so **** frustrating at that, was the magnificient smells that still were eminating from the galley even though our former chef had been replaced. And not just Bakery either. The scents that wafted through the air between meals gave a promise that never found reality when the meals were served, and was quickly driving everyone aboard insane with lustful wantoness unfulfilled. Like being teased at a B bar, and never even getting kissed after dishing out hundreds of dollars in buying the girl's drinks.

    And then one day I got a call from the pilot house while I was eating lunch, and had to go through the galley to get to the pilot house in a hurry. And it was midway through the galley that I came to a screeching hault, right in front of a tray of steaming food that looked, and smelled wonderful.

    "I didn't see this on the menu," I said to the only one there, who happened to be the second cook.

    "It's not on the menu," he chuckled, "that's the Steward's lunch. Can't remember what he called it, but it's one of his recipes from Greece."

    "Is that so," I replied sneaking a taste when he turned his back before rushing to the pilot house.

    I swear, I almost creamed my jeans with just that one taste. And I vowed to get the recipe from Nick as soon as I saw him again. As it turned out I became extremely busy over the next few days so that it wasn't until three days later that I had a chance to talk to Nick. And by then he wasn't sure what he'd made himself that day. But luckily we were in the Galley then, and I asked him what he was eating, because again I hadn't seen that on the menu.

    "Well, it's Greek," and he said it as if that should have explained everything.

    "Okay, so it is Greek," I said, "but what is it?"

    "A recipe from my homeland," and this time he acted as if I were dense or something worse.

    "I get that part," I chuckled, "the problem here is that why isn't it on the menu instead of that crap that I had to order."

    Now that made him blink. Nobody aboard a ship would ever dare to ask the ship's cook something about his cooking in the fashion that I just did without expecting retribution in their future meals, and I knew this going in.

    "I don't understand," Nick replied, "I served you American food, didn't I?"

    And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This guy couldn't cook Homestyle Americana to save his ass, but then he had only recently come to America only five years earlier, and as he later told me worked as a head chef at a five star Greek Restrarant in New York City before finding out about the great pay for cooks out on the Great Lakes. The only thing was that in the new USSteel Fleet he had been directed to keep, and serve the pre-prepared food as often as he could. And he had interpreted that directive to mean that he only cook, and serve American Food. To him that meant hot dogs, hamburgers, Steak, and those tubs of frozen entrees USSteel brought aboard.

    "I don't remember limiting my palet to what you call American food, Nick. In fact I love home made Greek food, and so does the rest of this crew. I mean you didn't think pizza, and speggetti were American before they started serving it in restrarants here in America, did you? And I'll bet right now that you have the highest food budget in the company, don't you?"

    I could see from his face that I was right on the mark. But he still wasn't sure.

    "Tell you what," I suggested, "tomorrow make some of your homemade Greek Chicken soup as one of the soups for the day. I'll bet you run out of that before you run out of anything else. And if I'm right you start cooking Greek from now on. Is it a deal?"

    We shook hands on it, but I could see that there was still some doubt in his mind. After all, the next day was Saturday, Steak day, always the favorite day with any crew as far as food was concerned, because at least you knew what you were getting that day was gonna be real food, and tasted good too because it was cooked to your specifications.

    He ran out of soup halfway through lunch, and I won my bet. Still, Nick only went half way as far as meeting the bet was concerned. He cooked half the menu Greek, and the other half Americana. But as time went on the American half became smaller in quantity, and his budget soon matched that of the former cook. And since the other vessels that he had worked aboard didn't know about Nick the Greeks real talent he got to stay there the rest of the year. And if you've ever had Greek Food prepared by a real Greek Chef then you know how wonderful the rest of that Last Year of the Homer D. Williams was for the officers and crew aboard her.

    Capt John S. Keller
  4. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    Lorain, Ohio
    Wanna hear another story?

    "Yeah, I wanna hear how steel hulls "stretch" going up and down huge waves, and how the ice gets to be 4 feet thick, and how boats turn over 'cause of all that extra weight, and deck hatches get stove in and ships crack in half, and you guys run over 80ft pleasure cruisers like kindlin' wood, and about all that good food you guys got to eat.
    Well, the first part anyway.

    I've seen over 6 feet thick blue ice out on Lake Superior near Rock Is. while following the US Coast Guard Cutter Makinaw in a Spring convoy with four other lakers down bound from Duluth, Minn. But even though I've never seen a laker roll all the way over, I was on the Eugene W. Parney with Captain Fisher off of Keweenaw Pininsula when he put her half way over in a trough while in summer ballast in November, and scared the hell out of the entire crew. And let me tell you I was glued to the port bulkhead looking down at the lake only ten feet away from my head in the pilot house. If you wanna hear how this came about, and how it ended up just let me know.

    Capt John S. Keller
    Great Lakes Pilot
  5. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    Lorain, Ohio
    Capt Fisher & the Eugene W. Parney

    There's an old saying; Never sail with a brand new skipper, that I should have remembered when I went aboard the Eugene W. Pargney (Pronounced Par-knee)

    It was 1977, and I had been assigned to the Eugene W. Pargney. An old 32 hatch tarp farm straight decker that had been converted to diesel power in the winter of 1950-51 with a left hand turning screw. (Note: On a right hand turning screw the ship turns better, and responds quicker going to starboard than she does to port.) Originally built in 1917 of riveted steel her LOA was 580 ft. her WOA was 60 ft. and her interiors consisted of well polished wood over steel in the officer's quarters, but painted hospital split pea green in the crew's, mess, and galley areas. Her Gross Tonnage was 7724.00. Her latest Captain; Paul Fisher from Sandusky, Ohio was a brand new skipper, and had been first mate only the year before so he was unseasoned as yet, but held himself in good stead with those in the crew that knew him from other boats. His only hinderance, if one could call it a hindrance was that he spoke with a hair lip making it hard for some to understand him the first time he spoke to them. This could be ticklish when the new person was a wheelsman, but three quarters of the way through the season in late October that was hardly much of a problem. ;)

    My wheelsman was Walter "Wally" Ramsey from Duluth, Minn. a former watchman from my time with Captain Harold "Hell's Fire" Beegle when I first came aboard a ship on the Great Lakes. And as was our habit, both having been in the military we often talked war stories to pass the time on watch in the pilot house. I was on the 8-12 watch working as 3rd mate, and sometimes 2nd mate when one of the other two mates were away on vacation. Captain Fisher would often time come up to the pilot house, check out our position, grab some coffee, and sit in on our gab fests in his observation chair, or just listen as he was often content to do as he sipped his coffee and watched the water pass by.

    On one particularly star cluttered night in October on Lake Superior, one of those nights when you swear you can see the whole Milky Way above you, Captain Fisher joined us just as Wally asked me about sailing in two different typhoons on two different sized ships in the Navy.

    "Other than the fact that one was a Battleship, and the other was a Destroyer, there was really no difference Wally. The waves only seemed higher in the Destroyer, but they weren't. The trick is to have plenty of ballest water in her, and sail heading into the waves. During, or more importantly just before you find yourself in a typhoon you fill the empty fuel tanks with water to make her bottom heavier, and more stable. Then you slow down to bear steerage way, and become an island letting the storm pass you by, or make slowly for a lee shore."

    "I've always thought that as long as you put one end or the other up into the wind she'll ride okay," Captain Paul Fisher put in as he settled into his chair in the pilot house, obviously wanting to join in on this topic. "And in fact I think if you can get the seas behind you that she'll ride like she was on fast rails."

    His referance to fast rails was his way of saying that the ship would haul ass with the wind, and seas behind her.

    "I've seen it done with loaded vessels," I said, "but never one in light ballast, sir, especially as light a ballast as we use here at USSteel."

    It isn't really a smart thing to tell the captain of your ship that his ballast tanks are way too light for certain times of the year as he is the one who designates what each ballast tank will carry in water at any given moment, and makes out a chart of every planned water contingincy to suit his will sometime during the year, or goes by what the former skipper had used until he does. And as a ship's speed is also based on how much water it has to push the less water the more speed that you get. So my reply was, by way of being diplomatic, my way of saying please don't try it if you don't know what you are doing, or haven't actually seen or done this yourself before without actually saying that.

    "Perhaps, Mr. Keller," the captain replied, and I swear he smiled into his cup of coffee before taking another sip, "perhaps."

    Now I'm a pretty good poker player, and am able to read faces, and body language very well, and I dreaded what foolhardyness was behind that little smile of his. A little shiver running through me right then as if a warning, or foreboding. However three trips up, and down the lakes afterwards nothing out of sorts had happened, and I breathed a sigh of relief going into the second week of November. And as he had since Spring fit out, Paul had the engine room fill the after tanks, and the rest forward of them in gradients that were less than half full, half empty, or less until finally the forward tanks which had no water in them at all. Indeed, this ballast plan had allowed the Eugene W. Pargney to break every former speed record of hers previous to 1977. And with the colder water of fall she was really hauling ass on a calmed Lake Huron upbound from her unloading dock in Conneaut, Ohio. Of course once we entered the Sault Ste Marie River System all the ballast tanks were filled so that the bow was down far enough in the water for the bow thruster to work going up through the St. Mary's Locks. But once we were clear of the MacArthur Lock Paul called back to the engine room to pump the ballast tanks back out again for our journey across Lake Superior.

    By White Fish Point the ballast pumps were turned off, and we were scooting as we made the turn to head for Manitou Island, and the Keewanee pininsula just beyond. And then the wind started to blow out of the South West.

    [To be Continued]

    Shown here in tow coming out of Chicago, Ill.​

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 31, 2004
  6. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    Lorain, Ohio
    Capt Fisher & the Eugene W. Parney [continued]

    By 0430 we were passing 10 miles off of Marquet Harbor when the National Weather Service put up Gale warnings with the forcast for the wind to go from dead S to SW to W to NW, then N to end up at NE with the wind building as it turned around the compass. As we were in the lee of the land following the protecting south shore of Lake Superior our apparent wind was light, and there was hardly any waves action at all. The wind went SW an hour later, then Westerly a half an hour after that so that we were now in the lee of the Keewanee pininsula's Eastern coast line, and by the time that I came on watch the wind had shifted all the way around to NNE and settled in there.

    The wind began to howl then, and the waves built from 1-3 feet to 6-10 feet and growing, and the Pargney was beginning to do the catapillar dance amidships. The Captain was in his observation chair, and sipping on his fifth cup of steamboat coffee by the time we passed Manitou Island to starboard North bound, and plan 1 for the summer ballest was still in effect when the Chief Engineer called up the pilot house, and asked for a slower bell, or more ballast water to help keep the propeller in the water so that he wouldn't lose the plant.

    "Can you hold on for another half an hour Chief?" The Captain inquired over the ship's sound powered telephone. "We're gonna put her ass up into the wind then, and she should settle right down back there."

    Now I don't know what the Chief Engineer replied, but I could tell that it amused the Captain to no end. However seeing that smile once again scared the hell out of me as I took a quick look at the rpm meter, and saw it dancing back and forth like a metronomb, or old fashioned pendulum on a Grandfather Clock ticking off time as the stern jumped up out of the water, and to fall back down moments later like a breaching whale.

    However sure enough a half an hour later Paul took the front window, and without so much as slowing down first looked over his shoulder at Wally and said:

    "Come hard left, Wally!"

    "Hard left," Wally cried out, then turned the six foot diameter wheel to port until the rudder angle indicator said; "She's Hard Left Captain!"

    "Very Good," Paul replied in his typcal hair lip fashion.

    The Gyro Compass began to click to port, and the bow immediately swung to the left from meeting the waves head on, and the ship was suddenly in the trough of the next wave the full length of the ship when the swing suddenly just stopped as did the clicking of the Gyro. Immediately the Pargney began to roll heavily from side to side violently. And with each passing second her rolling action became more, and more dramatic as she just layed there in the trough of those 20 foot waves now, and wouldn't budge another degree to port because her ass was down in the water, but her bow was high up in the air. I was hanging onto the port bulkhead looking out of the pilot house window at the water 10 feet away as she stalled on her port side, and Wally was hanging onto the spokes of the ship's wheel by his hands with nothing under his feet now but air, and the glass enclosed port bulkhead five feet below him. Luckily for the Captain he had been able to wedge himself solid into the space between the radar, and the front window.

    "Well Wally," and his hair lip was especially thick this time, "that didn't work. You better try bringing her hard to starboard now."

    I couldn't see Wally's face, but I watched with breath held as hand over hand he slowly turned the ship's wheel by climbing it, and the Pargney was still stalled laying on her port side with every intention of rolling all the way over when the next wave slammed into her. A look at the RPM meter, then the Gyro compass showed nothing happening as Wally finally brought the wheel amidships, then slowly, ever so damned slowly the rudder angle indicator moved to starboard.

    The rudder angle indicator was halfway to hard over Right when the entire bow lifted up out of the water, and the stern dove down into the next wave ass backwards. If anyone had asked me at that moment I would have thought the Pargney a sure gonner, but then the Gyro started to click once again, and it was clicking to starboard. The ship rolling back upright first allowing Wally to get the rudder hard over to starboard, and his feet once again on the firm deck. But i could swear that the foreward half of the ship from amidships was all of the way out of the water then, and preparing to slam back down into the raging sea she was so light forward. But a funny thing happened as the forward end came slamming down. Two large waves tumbled under her keelson actually catching her like a father who has tossed their child into the air, as the bow gently settled down onto the third wave with barely making the ship tremble bow to stern.

    "Steady her into the waves again, Wally," Paul's hair lip had a bit of trembling in it as well.

    And then the Engine Room called again insisting on slowing down, or putting in ballest.

    "Just tell the Chief that we are heading into it now, and we'll see," but this time there was no smile on Paul Fisher's face, just determination.

    However we both noticed that the RPM meter wasn't showing full throttle anymore. Nor as we both knew was anything Paul said to the Chief Engineer going to change that now. Still, Captains with USSteel get paid for hauling Iron Ore, and their bonuses are reflected in their tonnage hauled per year, and speed was the last element in hauling tonnage on these smaller, much older ships. More water meant slower speeds, and it was bad enough that he had to head upbound without cargo, to slow down was the ultimate insult as far as a brand new skipper like Paul Fisher was concerned.

    [To be Continued]
  7. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    Lorain, Ohio
    Capt Fisher & the Eugene W. Parney [Ending]

    By the time I headed down from the pilot house to go aft for lunch the midships area of the ship was doing the Watusi, and looking more like the middle of a trampoline than a steel deck of a ship, humping, and falling 8-10 feet overall. You could hear the hatches moaning under their tarp covers, and I just knew that half the battens were loose if not all of them. But at least one good thing was that I didn't spot any stretch marks on the main deck, and they would have showed there before anywhere else the way the ship had been working in that sea.

    They had cleaned up the mess, and galley area by the time I arrived, but were still securing a few items just in case. The porter was moping up the soup, but thankfully Hamburgers were on the menu, so I ordered a cheeseburger, and fries with a milkshake, and took note of all the ashen faced crew members mumbling at their food refusing to look at me. As if it had been my fault that this had happened? Because I was on watch at the time?

    "They don't blame you, Mr. Keller," said the second cook handing me my food, "they know the Captain did it. Wally already told them so."

    "Then why the looks?" I asked.

    "We all thought you got thrown out of the window when she was on her side the way she was. They saw something shaped like a man fall up there from back here."

    "Must have been a tarp," I thought outloud, but headed for the officer's mess just the same.

    Usually I ate lunch in the crew's mess with the rest of the 8-12 watch, and the 3rd engineer so that they could clear the officer's mess right away, and enjoy some time off before supper. But since everybody on the ship was at work, or in the mess rooms eating that wasn't an option.

    "He still hasn't added water to the ballast tanks," the Chief grumbled entering the officer's mess right behind me. "but I'll be God Damned if I'll go full bore into these seas, and loose the entire plant for some f**king bonus!"

    And so went lunch as me and the 3rd engineer exchanged grins back and forth over the Chief's colorfull language, and foul mood as we ate.

    By supper time the Chief engineer had had enough, and by the time I was coming on watch again he went up to the pilot house to talk to the captain in person. The wind was now howling so bad out of the NE that nobody was allowed on deck for fear that they'd be blown over the side. So the Chief had had to walk over the empty ballast tank tops through the cargo holds to get there. This ship didn't have tunnels as it had been built before the 1940's and towards the end of World War I in fact.

    I don't know what he said to the old man, or vise versa, but he wasn't happy when he left the pilot house. And then a half an hour later as we slammed into those seas head on the plant suddenly died, and all power was lost for close to three minutes before the lights came back on. All forward momentum was lost in those three minutes, but the ship still did the watusi amidships. Not that we had gone very far since heading up into the waves early in the day anyway. The NE shore line still was nowhere to be seen on our radar scope, and it was indeed the highest out of the water of any shoreline on Lake Superior.

    "What were you telling me about that Destroyer in a typhoon, John?" The captain's question came out of nowhere, and was directed right at me.

    "Well Capt," I said, "they fill their ballast tanks, and make bare steerage way to let the storm pass by them, in effect becoming a floating island.

    "Give the engine room a call, and tell them to put in Plan 2 for ballast." Captain Fisher said looking directly at me. And I had no doubt that he was giving me the order as a consolation for the previous watch's debacle.

    Even putting more water in the boat didn't change things much, and even though he kept having me put in more ballest every half hour I knew that the Chief had no intention of stopping until the ballast tanks were all full once he had been given permission to run water into them. At 2200 all the ballast tanks were full, but we were still going full steam ahead, and the lights were flickering at every other wave that we slammed into. Until at last:

    "Call back to the engine room, and tell them to cut her back 5 revolutions, John."

    "Yes sir," I replied.

    And every 15 minutes after that I had to make a call back to the engine room for 5 less revolutions until at last, around an hour after my watch the Pargney stopped slamming into every wave, and barely made headway.

    We made sight of the NE shore line around 1000 the next day, and once up in her lee were able to put the much smaller seas, and wind at our back, and head once again for Duluth, Minn. I later found out that we were the only ship out there on Lake Superior during that storm. Had we floundered, nobody would have ever known what had happened. The Eugene W. Pargny only ran one more year after that, that I know of, and she was scraped in the winter of 84-85 in Thunderbay, Ont. which is on the northern shore of Lake Superior. And they never found a stretch mark in her steel hull either. ****, our grandparents made good stuff, didn't they.

    And that ain't no bullshit either.
  8. CaptainRoamer

    CaptainRoamer New Member

    Nov 30, 2004
    Lake St. Clair
    No more stories? I'm sure I speak for most when I say we love to read about your experiences on the lakes!
  9. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    Lorain, Ohio
    Well, I thought I'd give the others a little time to write some of theirs. You are the first to respond here, though I have had a few private inquiries. For those who like my stories I have two books that can be bought online over at One is recommended for first time boat owners, and those who think they knew everything before taking a boating class. The other is a fantasy novel about the origins, and demis of Dragons that takes place during Pendragon's childhood. For those into poetry I have two books there as well. When you get there just look up authors, I'm posted under the pen name: Dunkin.

    Capt John S. Keller
    Great Lakes Pilot
  10. wally erickson

    wally erickson New Member

    Nov 29, 2004
    san diego
    Sea Ray story by Wally and Eric

    Better get those props right boys!

    Dark Rock, a 1960 30’ down-at-the-heels steel roamer was waiting in its primer gray paint in a small tributary to the Potomac River. Its twin Corvette engines burbling, cooling water flowing out the exhaust pipes, dropping a few inches into the river. The boat was running light. “I’ll show this fancy Capt. Eric with his fancy aluminum boat and big engines what speed is all about!” Then the captain saw his target and his lips parted in a cruel grin. Gin and Tin, gleaming on this fine summer day, its flags flying was heavily loaded with summer supplies, full tanks and running slow trying to conserve the fuel that the thirsty 454s' were gulping down like fine cognac.

    Flicking his cigarette butt overboard the new owner of Dark Rock hit the throttles. The stripped out boat responded immediately. No more head, no more ‘Oh man it’s an Onan’ gen set, nothing unessential to add weight was left onboard.

    Captain Eric caught the glint from some of Dark Rock's broken glass and instantly knew he was in trouble. Knocking over his beer as he reached for the throttles he barked out orders “Hang on kids, everybody grab something” When he hit the throttles the engines bogged down, the Holly Double Pumpers supplying more air then the 454s could handle. Finally they started making power and the bow rose skyward. Fumbling for the trim tab switch he regretted bring along the Jet-ski hanging from the davits. He saw "Dark Rock" heading for him on an intersecting course. If only he could get up on plane sooner he would make it. It was too late. He saw Dark Rock starting to bank, showing its clean bottom to them. A moment later all of Gin &Tin was covered in oily river water followed by a flying Jim Bean bottle and a wave and smile from the skipper.

    From: Eric Nordac
    Sent: Tuesday, May 04, 2004 8:08 PM
    Subject: Re: [CC_Roamers] Props, Performance...Suddenly Concerned with Speed....

    But wait,..., no sooner than the "Dark Rock"'s captain drew in the sweet draughts of victory, than out the shadows of the nearby 301 Bridge, sprang the evil-minded fleet of local Sea Rays. Relishing the recent sight of interneccine Roamer warfare, their meticuoulsly well groomed leader, Sir Gotbigbucks, tugged on the cord of his Apelco radio phone as if to whip on his motley crew with a fevered grip, "...and remember, take no prisoners, leave no hatch unopened, and be sure to grab the Club burgee. It's fifty lashes for the man that gets there last", he snapped as his tossed back another Slo Gin Fizz and paid no heed to the fast approaching weather front.
    Indeed, by then, the late summertime air crackled with electricity as yet another 105 degree day built up a king thunderhead ready to lash the shoreline and punish any stragglers. Weary of combat himself, the Gin & Tin's captain almost failed to look back as he too headed back home, ranting about Mad Dog 540s and englishmen.
    But through the gathering storm, he saw them: the dreaded Sea Ray contingent.
    They had not eluded his keen eye -- they were a sight he had grown to hate, to scorn, and even pity, as the long summer months of many years had passed by. He also knew that the rookie Roamer captain, like an errant flyboy buzzing the aerodrome, had paid no heed to the ultimate price that such high jinx can cost. And today looked pretty bad.
    Yes indeed, the gather Sea Ray fleet had split in two, angling to cut off their prey and finish off the deed. Bashing through the Potomac's mighty two foot whitecaps they circled, throwing caution to the wind and a month's grog rations at the now paralyzed Dark Rock captain. "We got'ca now Roamer boy." " Hand over the burgee and nobody gets hurt!" "Bad boy, bad boy, whatca gonna do, whatca gonna do when we pee on you!"Such was the trash spewing from their mealy mouths, foaming at the thought of another Roamer kill. Yes, this was what they lived for, dreamt about, and planned, oh so fiendishly - and SIr Eric knew it.
    Singlehandedly he had fought off their unending attempts to make the river their own personal "Sea Ray Alley", sneering at the right and lawful rule of Chris-Craft and the benighted Roamer brotherhood. And today was going to be no different, he could just smell the plastic burning in the air, the smell of victory,..., and couldn't wait to remind them one last time: "It's a pennant, not a burgee, you clam-digging lugs"To be continued.....

    Wally Erickson <> wrote:

    The commander of Dark Rock through down his Webster’s New World Dictionary in disgust after looking up internecine and realized trouble was ahead and trouble behind. He parted the Sea Rays like Mosses parted the Red Sea and then put the helm hard over and followed in their wake. At first it looked like he would be joined in battle but heard over his crackling radio something about a Boat US insurance agent screaming to call it off, the old Roamer was not insured!
    He could see Tin Tonic was down but not out, the crew frantically cleaning the windshield with Windex and paper towels. TT was defiantly insured and they were going after her. The Rays were slowing, trying to coordinate with their leader over the pending attack. Dark Rock split them again and was nearing TT to help defend her when the port engine blew her oil rings. Thick blue smoke billowed out the exhaust and filled the river. As the Rock swept by TT, TT followed in the haze to the small tributary off the river. Just then the Capt. Of the Black Rock noticed blue flashing lights of the EPA River Police converging on the hapless Sea Ray group and then saw the TT Capt. Eric replacing the mike on the radio. As the smoke settled over the Sea Rays the skipper of Dark rock through over some old tire fenders and motioned TT to join him.

    Post script:
    It was discovered through subsequent investigations that Mr. Gotbigbucks was John Anderson of Arthur Anderson Inc and was taken into custody for accounting irregularities and tax evasion. Several of the Sea Rays were found to have Nitrous Oxide Fuel systems and were impounded by the EPA. Sincerest thanks are given to the anonymous tipster for protecting our nations waterways.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2005
  11. brian eiland

    brian eiland Senior Member

    Jul 28, 2004
    St Augustine, Fl and Thailand
    Sterling Hayden's Sea Stories

    Just recently in the May issue of Yachting World Elaine Bunting included a reference to a little know book author by the name of Sterling Hayden. Maybe most might better remember his name as a Hollywood movie actor.

    I had been wanting to get his book and read it for some time now, but just didn't get around to it.

    Well Elaine's article spurred me on and I discovered I already had his book "Vogage". I'm about half way thru it, and what an epic tale.
    Here's a little preview:
    This richly drawn, rousing historical novel is both a tumultuous sailing adventure and an incisive, epic portrayal of a watershed year at the close of the 19th century.

    The torturous maiden voyage of the enormous steel-hulled four-masted square rigger NEPTUNE'S CAR drives her crew to murder and mutiny, while her owner's daughter luxuriates aboard the private yacht ATALANTA. As both vessels arrive in San Francisco (via Cape Horn in the winter) on the eve of the Bryan-McKinley presidential election, an increasingly volatile class struggle threatens to erupt into riot and insurrection.

    The gripping story of two ships and their conflicted crews, Voyage also recounts the first stirrings of the American labor movement and the decline of the Gilded Age of robber barons.


    "A rousing epic.... Big, muscular, profane, cynical, romantic." —Chicago Daily News

    "A rare sort of sheer drive and vitality carries this novel...a raw fury about class distinctions and privileges... strangely refreshing in our blasé age." —New York Times Book Review

    "A fast-moving, heart-pounding saga...pure pleasure to read." —San Francisco Examiner

    "Scuds through the emotions like a windjammer before a full gale." —Chicago Tribune

    "An elemental smash hit." —Kirkus Reviews

    "Solid, masterful writing that ranks the author with some of the giants of literature." —Houston Post

    "Violent, keep turning the pages to find out just what in the name of God is going to happen next." —Boston Globe

    "A well-crafted yarn, a narrative of energy and excitement.... Hayden knows how to tell a story." —Los Angeles Times Book Review

    "A story of extraordinary richness and power.... Sterling Hayden here proves himself a master novelist. His prose is vivid and brawny, his characters come to individual life.... At once a magnificent epic of the sea and a dynamic portrait of turn-of-the-century America." —Publishers Weekly

    "Great storytelling...a sensational achievement in the genre of adventure stories." —Kansas City Star

    "Hayden has created many strong characterizations in his story and has woven in major events and movements of the period.... Voyage is basically a sea story, but its significance is much broader." —Seattle Times

    "A book of savage beauty." —Boston Herald American

    "A spellbinder." —New York Daily News
    Now I discover that the he had a second book, an autobiography. This is the one I had in mind originally.

    The Ensign, May 1999:
    "Webster's New World Dictionary defines wander, as 'to move or go aimlessly about; to ramble; to roam; to go astray in mind or purpose; to turn away from accepted thought or morals.' This accurately describes the life of Montaigu Relyea Walter, later known as Sterling Walter Hayden. His youth was spent during the depression , when jobs were scarce and money was scanty.

    "Although Hayden never finished high school, he did have an inherent love for boats. At 20, he went to work for Irving Johnson, the owner and master of the schooner YANKEE, sailing around the world as first mate. While he found most school subjects difficult, he had no trouble with the calculations necessary for a line of position using H.O.214.

    "At 22, he had his masters papers in sail, and after sailing as crew member and navigator on the GERTRUDE L. T, he skippered the FLORENCE C. R, an 89-foot brigantine, to Tahiti.

    "Always broke and needing money, he never knew what he would do next. So he decided to try his luck in Hollywood.

    "After years of success, he quit Hollywood at the peak of his career and walked out of a shattered marriage. During a bitter custody battle, he set sail with his four children for the South Seas on WANDERER, a stout, true schooner that was nearly 100 feet long and had a 35-foot bowsprit.

    "This autobiography is a superb piece of writing. Echoes of Melville and Steinbeck resound in this wanderer's tale."


    Excerpted from The Times, Georgetown, SC, November 1998:

    "I'm put in mind of Sterling Hayden, one of my greatest heroes and the inspiration for the name of my sailboat. On the morning that his autobiography, WANDERER, begins, he, his first mate and cook stand in the main hatch of Hayden's ancient schooner, drinking steaming mugs of tea laced with aquavit – a Danish vodka known the world over as the sailorman's drink – toasting the voyage on which they're about to embark. That is, if the ****ed judge will let them.

    "As it happens, the judge says No – tells Hayden he cannot leave San Francisco on an old Golden Gate pilot schooner built in the 1890s, cannot sail for points unknown with a handpicked but mostly green crew and his own four young children, cannot set sail on the voyage he's counting on to put his wayward life back on course and restore his flagging spirit. And Hayden, being who he is, casts his docklines anyway and lifts his sails, judge – and the 1950s gray flannel suit America – be ****ed.

    "That's how it starts, and by the time it's done – WANDERER being the same of Hayden's ship and the story of his life – you've had one unforgettable voyage yourself, under a captain whose words may echo in your mind and whose attitude may inform your spirit for the rest of your life.

    "First published in 1963 and long out of print, Wanderer – one of two books that Hayden published before his death in 1986 – has been reissued this fall by Sheridan House, a publisher of maritime books, .... If I had to pick five books to get me through life on a desert island, Wanderer would be my first choice; and now that it's been reissued I can do something, as a writer and reader, I've wanted to do for a long time: tell you about it."

    The Wanderer - Sterling Hayden on Life

    It is from Sterling Hayden's book on taking his kids sailing. Not just for the weekend, not just around the Bay as his wife thought, but for a year and around the world. Called the Wanderer, it is one of the most remarkable books that I have ever read. It is a bible for a chosen life

    To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... "cruising" it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

    "I've always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.

    What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

    The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

    Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?
    Last edited: May 7, 2005
  12. Yana

    Yana New Member

    Dec 1, 2004
    Green Bay, Wisconsin

    Re-read the Sea Ray story just for old times sake and noted the Post Script.
    Any one ever find out what DARK ROCK was eventually re-named?
  13. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    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:

    Early morning:

    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.
  14. Capt Keller

    Capt Keller New Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    Lorain, Ohio
    Free at last! (Continued)

    July 22nd, 2005:

    Mid morning found us 9 miles abeam off of Harbor Beach, Michigan splitting the up, and down bound Lake Carrier courses as we made our way towards Port Huron, Michigan, and the rivers. I called Sarnia Traffic Center and gave them our ETA for Buoys 11&12, and told them that I would call again 30 minutes above the buoys. Jill woke up on her own, and took over the helm as I took another nooner. I woke an hour, and a half later with Sanilac, Michigan ahead to starboard . And after taking over the helm Jill fixed us a breakfast of eggs over hard, sizzling ham, and melted cheese on Italian bread for me, and eggs, and ham for Jill. My estimated time for Lake Huron Cut Buoys 11 & 12 was for 1010/10:10am We were there at 1015. Even with the Gemini once again steering like a Ruffled Bear from Hibernation because of the wind and seas being behind us again. And we were in the Sarnia Traffic Center's boat traffic if anyone was worried, or wanted to find us.
    I had thought to stop in Port Huron, Michigan for fuel, but Jill was against it due to the fast current of the water going under the Blue Water Bridges. In as much as there were plenty of places to stop for fuel in both the St Clair, and Detroit Rivers I didn't argue with her. After all we had over a half a tank of gas in both fuel tanks then. So I gave her the option to pick the next fuel stop as long as it wasn't too far further down the way. And then gave her the choices to chose from. She picked St. Clair Harbor. I'd never been there either. LOL
    About a mile from the tiny inlet that leads into St. Clair Harbor I called the Harbor Master for directions to their fuel dock. They told me that I would have to go through a small bascule lift bridge that only lifted on the half hour, and then just follow the waterway until I came to their dock.
    Now unbeknownst to Jill, the current of the St. Clair River isn't really any slower at St. Clair, Michigan than it is at Port Huron, Michigan. And now I had the added obstacle of going through a small bridge that I had to wait to open for every half hour. A quick call to the bridge tender on VHF Marine Radio channel 09 requesting an opening for 1230, and receiving his okay I turned the boat to head up river, and held my position until he opened up. Of course there was traffic moving that was small enough to go under the bridge when it was closed so I had to deal with them once the bridge did open. And suddenly Jill was nervous about her choice for a fuel dock what with about four feet of clearance on each side of the boat as we entered the mouth of the St. Clair Harbor.
    It wasn't even a concern to me, but the respect that Jill showed in her face as she watched me maneuver through that tiny water way was well worth the entire trip. The dock was just around the corner, and we tied up to it five minutes later to fill her up, hopefully for the last time. The tanks were just between half, and three quarters of the way full when we stopped for fuel. That was the good news.
    The bad news was that the cost of the fuel was at $2.80/gallon when I put the hose nozzle into the first tank. We really had no choice in the matter, we had to fill up both tanks to make sure that we had enough fuel to make it home from there. Oh sure, we could run on just one engine at barely steerage way, and still make 7kts/hr in the river current, but there was Lake St. Clair to deal with before hitting the Detroit River's favorable currents.
    And then God blessed us out of the blue. The guy who ran the fuel dock came down, and changed the fuel prices just as we finished fueling saving us $40.00 in the process. Okay true, we had now gone over my budget for the cost of fuel, but only by a hundred dollars, and that isn't bad at all considering that it would have cost me over $2,000.00 dollars to have the boat delivered overland by a semi-truck trailer. And to deliver the boat over land we would have had to taken off the flying bridge as the boat is too tall to go under the road bridges with it attached. So okay, I didn't save $800.00 dollars, I only saved $700.00. I could live with that, especially if we ended up home with a half a tank of fuel or better.
    We departed the St. Clair Harbor promptly at the 1330 opening of the bridge, and went down river on the port engine going barely maneuvering speed, but making 7kts once again. This time we stayed up on the flying bridge, turned the CD/Radio on, shoved the Beach Boys Greatest hits into the slot, and turned the sound up 7,000 decibels, and enjoyed the view as the land eased on by at a picturesque rate down the St. Clair River to Lake St. Clair.
    After Jill fixed us lunch we talked about trying to go across Lake St. Clair at Cruising speed on both engines to see how the engines would do. Agreeing that we needed to know, I waited until we were clear of the river system, then slowly pushed the throttles forward. Once again they began to splutter, and cough around 2,000 rpms, but I kept adding more throttle nonetheless hoping to get any water out of the fuel system if that was the problem. But they kept spluttering, coughing, and were about to choke out when I pushed the throttle all the way forward, and they stopped all of that, but refused to go any faster than 2,200 rpms, making between 9, and 10 kts/hour at best. Still, I kept them at full throttle to see if they would pick up speed and take Gemini up on plan. The sea state was calm, with the wind at our back, and the temperature was in the high 80's, and very humid. And just about every boat was passing us. LOL
    Half way across Lake St. Clair I cut the engines back a bit to make 2,000 rpms again, with the throttles still above the cruising range, however the engines at least didn't splutter, or cough, but I hadn't taken the throttles down that far either. So at around 9 kts full cruising speed we made our way across Lake St. Clair. The music blasting, tummies full, and sweating like pigs in the intense humidity. The only rocking now was to the tunes, and the passing wakes of the other pleasure, and merchant craft around us.
    I signed off with Sarnia Traffic Center at the St. Clair Crib, and then once we were in the Detroit River I cut back the engines again, under the spluttering range, but I didn't shut down either one this time. Gemini was turning out to be quite fuel efficient even on two engines at reduced speeds. And though she couldn't go any faster than 10 kts now, those engines purred no matter what the weather conditions, or sea state was. And she was about to prove that fact of life once we reached Lake Erie.
    The bow pennant began to ruffle as we left Livingston Channel, and entered Lake Erie. The wind picking up out of the NE with each passing mile of the East Outer Channel, making the 1 to 2 foot chop turn into 2 to 3 foot, with the occasional 4 foot rogue wave busting our chops. I decided to cut a few miles off of our track by leaving the East Outer Channel at Light 10 as there was plenty of water under there for shipping let alone my boat. And as we cleared the lee of the Canadian shoreline the wind, and waves picked up even more. Making Gemini rock, roll, twist, and jerk violently like those 50ft. steel hulled laker fishing boats do in the same kind of sea conditions. But with the engines never wavering at their set safe 7 kts speed we just kept on going. The sunset went unnoticed as we listened to the weather that promised lowering wind speeds throughout the night.
    I put a position for 2 1/2 miles off of Colchester Reef Light into the Loran-C, then I steered a compass course that made that Loran-C course good. Once we were abeam of Colchester Reef Light I set the Loran-C for the Pelee Passage Light's Traffic Buoy, and set out to steer a compass course that would make that course good. And that's when the Loran-C totally freaked out, and began to scream out for Mama.
    What with all of the wind we'd had during the journey up to this point I hadn't had time to read up on this Loran-C, so I wasn't sure if it was just set up for lower Lake Michigan TD's, or if it was able to search for TD's on its own. And now I didn't have any time at all to find out either because the weather turned to total **** by the time we were abeam of East Sister Island. I called the passing Canadian Ore Freighter Captain Henry Jackman, and asked if they were heading for Pelee Passage, and when they said that they were I lined her up, and started to follow them to find a compass course to steer for when they went out of sight. My lower helm compass was steering close to twenty to thirty degrees East of true by then.
    That maneuver worked perfectly, and gave me an idea of what courses to steer for the last legs home on our journey using the lower helm's magnetic compass to steer by. That meant two more courses to steer to get to our homeport of Lorain, Ohio once we reached Pelee Passage Light. If the weather didn't get any worse then we had it made.

    July 23rd, 2005:

    By midnight we were fighting six-foot waves across our port bow. Gemini was bobbing, and weaving, rocking, and rolling, and pretty much being a real pain in the ass to steer as she splashed about, and I was extremely overtired by this time. After all, I could almost count on one hand how many hours sleep that I had since leaving St Joseph/Benton Harbor, after finding out that the auto pilot couldn't steer a straight course on its own to save its life meaning that we had to steer by hand the whole way home. LOL (Don't worry Kirk, I expected as much in that kind of weather conditions, just hoped for better is all.)
    We found Pelee Passage Light, and the buoys as well to steer clear of the shoal areas, and SE Shoal Light was right where it had always been, and so were its buoys. The problem now was that the wind was still blowing a gagger out of the ENE, and the waves were at 9 feet, and still building as they had a whole lake now to travel over to get to our position. So that once we turned for the SE Shoal Traffic Buoy she stopped banging so much into the seas, but rolled violently in the trough, however she did steer a lot better doing that, well easier anyway.
    The six and a half miles to SE Shoals takes about 20 minutes at best on a Merchant ship, but it was the longest 6 and a half **** miles that I ever traveled there in my life making 7kts. As it was I decided not to wait to turn for Lorain Harbor at the SE Shoal Traffic Buoy, but turned early to see how she would ride in the new course once we were clear of all the shallow waters. If I had to I could head up into the seas for quite a way then like a sail boat tack down to a following sea if need be. By then the waves had built to 10 feet, and the wind was still whistling in the rigging. But she was riding much better, and a lot less violently, so I sent Jill to bed to get some sleep for a few hours. She quickly returned to tell me that water had come in through the forward hatch, to soak the carpeting up there, so she slept on the sofa in the salon near the lower helm once again.
    By 0300/3am the wave heights were peaking at around 12 ft., but the wind was actually diminishing slightly. Still it would be hours, if not days before this sea state settled down, and my wife needed to get back to work in 12 hours. Now I had purchased a US Coast Guard Light List over a month before sealing the deal on the Gemini, but it hadn't arrived until the day after we left St. Joseph. So all I had to go on was what it said for shore lights on my NOAA charts. And I hadn't gotten any Notice to Mariners to correct any changes that might have occurred since buying those new charts. So I had to take them at their word, and basically go by all I knew as a Great Lakes Pilot for 30 years. The weather buoy we passed on the way to Lorain was right where it was supposed to be, but that far out the shoreline didn't look familiar at all in a boat so close to the water traveling in 12 foot seas from the lower helm station. However the chart said that the outer Lorain Breakwall had a Flashing White Light that flashed every 6 seconds, so basically I just went south and looked for that **** light.
    Jill woke up around 0345/3:45am to help look for that light, and one look at my face, and a quick look out the window at the passing waves told her not to ask me any questions for the time being. And then suddenly she spotted a white flashing light ahead, but slightly to port that hadn't been there before. I looked where she pointed, and spotted it, then began to do the Mississippi count out loud to find that it flashed every six seconds. If that were the light that we were looking for then we were almost 30 degrees off course according to the magnetic compass at the lower helm station. Of course it was possible since I'd turned early, and the wind and waves were pushing us westerly that we were that far off course. Even for the course that I had to guess at making with that magnetic compass in the lower helm for the last leg of our trip home. So I turned to port, and made for that light.
    Gemini was in her element, bobbing, and weaving from wave crest to wave trough, continuing to go 7 kts faithfully with those big twin 454 Mercruisers purring deep throatedly as we rocked and rolled heavily, undulating, and jerking 40 degrees each side of the course to that light for almost another two hours. By 0545 we were outside of Lorain Harbor outer breakwall light, and I decided to wait for sunup to go in in daylight so that I could gauge the turn for the waves charging in against the breakwall.
    With the sun peeking out of the eastern horizon I turned Gemini's back to the seas, gave her some throttle, and headed to clear the breakwall. It was like riding a surfboard, and catching the waves just right. As in most maneuvering on the water going slower is better than going faster, but as soon as we passed that outer breakwall light I nudged the throttle forward to make the turn into Lorain Harbor, and out of the soup. We were home at last.
    Making my dock seemed relatively easy after all of that, but it was our first tie up there so I wanted to be perfect. Jill got out the fenders, and lines for tying up as we met the fishing fleet of small boats going out to take part in a fishing tournament. 'God Help Them!' I thought, and turned into my slip. "Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hunt."

    Total cost for fuel: $1,900.00
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2005
  15. brian eiland

    brian eiland Senior Member

    Jul 28, 2004
    St Augustine, Fl and Thailand
    Monty Python - Four Yorkshiremen

    First off I might suggest that this subject thread be moved over to more general Yachtforums Yacht Club rather than isolated over here in the Chris Craft one?? I think the content would suggest that?

    Perhaps we could inject a little humor in this old subject thread....just saw this posted on another unrelated forum. A good laugh.

    Mattress, smelly diesel ??? is that all??????You big softie…. In my day we didn’t even have mattresses!!We slept in the diesel tank, eevveery morning we had to lick bottom of ‘ull clean wit tongue and if we LUCKY the captain would whip us to sleep with a cat o nine tails. .... Ross

    Monty Python - Four Yorkshiremen
    Monty Python - Four Yorkshiremen - YouTube