Holland to Milwaukee 2014

My crew of three and I made the Lake Michigan crossing and it was a BIG success and a personal achievement.  We crossed 73nm from Holland, Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and returned one day later.

We started at 4AM Friday and motored across because a lack of wind.  We could have water skied across the whole lake.  The fog arrived about 10AM and stayed with us until 3PM giving us only about 100-300 yards visibility for most of the crossing.  The flys found us half way and covered our boat.  We arrived 5PM in Milwaukee’s beautiful marina South Shore Yacht Club. Lots of people, fun, and excitement at the marina as they are the host of the Queen’s cup.  We had to wait for the Queens cup racers to leave so that we could find space to fuel and get a slip.

Later on, a member volunteered to give us a tour of downtown Milwaukee, river pathway, and a history lesson.  Thanks to the unofficial Milwaukee ambassador, one of my crew, my son, wants to move to Milwaukee after his bachelors degree.

Because of weather forecast, we chose to leave Saturday noon in an attempt to avoid the thunderstorms.  As we left, big anvil cumulus nimbus clouds grew from land and threatened us from land.  The wind was nice as it ranged between 10-20 knots.

The fog was at 1000 yards when we started and thickened only providing us 100 yards of visibility for most of our journey.  The rain and lightning never caught us.  At midnight, the stars were awesome.

Making the Holland channel in the dark near 4AM seemed harder than it should have been.  I have been through that channel a hundred times, but this was the hardest time, mostly due to the numerous green lights through the channel and the long time span between flashes.  Once we successfully navigated the channel, we dropped anchor for the evening in front of where the old Point West restaurant was years ago.

We note this crossing as a huge success as we skipped past threatening storms, rode the waves, trimmed for the wind, and took precautions through the fog.

Every boat has issues and these were the things we encountered.  Some these items added to our anxiety while others were minor inconveniences.  Overall, a 35′ C&C provides sufficient living space for four adults.

  • The GPS/Radar failed twice.  The first was in the middle of the lake heading to Milwaukee with heavy fog.   The error message was “NO FIX”.  We read turned off the radar and let it rest for an hour while we read the manual.  Eventually we started the unit and pressed “restart GPS”, and after a few repeats, it kept our GPS fix.  Then starting out on Saturday to return, the GPS would not hold a GPS FIX requiring many minutes of work and review of our decision to leave.
  • The binnacle compass light required touching, moving, tugging, and hoping so that it would stay lit during the night time hours.  The  compass was considered more accurate than the electronic compass and we used both to gain keep confidence on our direction.
  • The wind instrument powered off and stayed off when we switched batteries.  We re-connected the wires in the cabin and it re-started.
  • Engine starting was a challenge again.  We often had to switch the batteries to “All” in order for the starter to have enough thrust to start the diesel engine.
  • Raising the anchor requires finesse.  While retracting line, the line does not drop nicely into the storage bin, and then it requires manual cleanup every few feet.
  • A heavy red line for an unknown purpose that runs up the mast is frayed badly and in need of replacement. It is not the main sheet halyard.
  • Main sheet line shows wear and tear.  It may be time to be replaced.
  • The water pump and waste compressor would not stop running so we had to start and stop them from the instrument panel when ever they were needed.
  • I wish the check battery gauges would work like my camper with a gauge of 1-10 and 10 being full.  Also, I always wondered if there is a separate battery for the engine and others for the electronic gear.
  • Desk lamp red light was not working.  Thankfully, I always bring my own headlamp.
  • Dock pole has a crack from previous use and the twist locking was unpredictable.
  • We lost (or it did not have?) the small 4inch marine gadget cover.  We searched high and low and unable to find it.
  • The least important item was the most noticeable.  The bungee cord in the cockpit for holding the table securely needs replacement.

On Sunday morning, we refueled the diesel, pumped out the waste, and hosed off the decks.  We then re-connected the shore power and activated DC power, and closed all windows.

Captain John

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About John Weller

Brought up sailing on Lake Macatawa (Holland, MI). Raced Sprites (12 ft main and jib) at the local yacht club as a youth. Raced on LicktySplit J35, BlackBeard S2 7.9, and Lake Effect T30 on Wednesday nights with the Bay Shore Yacht Club racing organization. Enjoy teaching, sailing, and skiing to those who want an adventure.

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