Mistakes made! (The story of the last overnighter of the season)

The Trip

**All photos supplied by John

Day 1: In Wisconsin, northeast up Green Bay from Oconto to Sister Bay

8 hours of sailing with medium-low wind blowing right from astern. Mistakes 1-5: After a few accidental jibes (when a goofy helmsman allows the wind to grab the mainsail and whip it quickly & forcibly from one side to the other; it’s hard on equipment and the heads of anyone 6’5″ or more), we threw up the whisker pole & flyed wing & wing for a while before deciding to give in to Ma Nature and adjusting our course to keep both sails on the same side of the boat!

Back to normal

Day 2: Continuing up past Porte des Morts (Death’s Door) to Washington Island

5 hours of medium wind from the side (beam reach) that shifted around as we neared Death’s Door. Had to sail in circles in order to avoid the car ferries scurrying in and out of Washington Island.

Busy ferry dock at Washington Island, Wisconsin

Carefully motored around Detroit Harbor between Washington and Detroit Islands. The water in this harbor is listed on the nav charts as being pretty shallow for a sailboat, but with John up on the bow we were able to sneak quite close to shore to hide from the increasing winds. We anchored in about 8 feet of water and luckily it stayed 8 feet deep for hundreds of yards in each direction. This bay reminded us of the Caribbean.  The water was a slight turquoise color and we could see the sand and weeds on the bottom below us as if we were looking through air. All around us we could see long, narrow patches of sand where previous mariners had dragged their anchor. It was a gorgeous bay and has a lot of history to it.map4

After anchoring, we set up the dinghy, tossed our bikes in, and motored a mile north to Shipyard Marina. However, the old Johnson outboard started acting up….zoom….die…..zoom….die. Only way to keep it running was to continuously squeeze the primer bulb on the fuel line. Got to the marina and caught the owner before he was leaving for the day. Learned the problem was probably a bad fuel pump caused either by old age or 10% ethanol gasoline or both. Great.

Rode our bikes a few miles into the tiny “downtown” of Washington Island and explored.deaths-door-sign-in-the-middle-of-washington-island

Learned what “bitters” are in the oldest continuously running tavern in the country, Nelson’s Hall. washington-island-bitters-bar-longest-continuously-running-bar-in-the-usApparently this place was allowed to stay open during Prohibition due to the fact that the owner was able to market bitters as a medicine and call the place a pharmacy.


Yes, we’re both official card holders now.
We liked this medicine!

No, silly, we didn’t drink all of that. The tray was from a private party going on.

Mistakes Alert! (Yes, it’s plural.)

Mistake #1: As the reader could imagine, we ended up biking back to the wounded dinghy well after dark. Mistake #2: As we pushed off the beach on this moonless, jet-black night, I remembered that I had forgotten to leave the requisite mast light on. Mistake #3: I failed to mark the location of the sailboat on my phone’s GPS. Mistake #4: We didn’t plan on the expected heavy winds to arrive ahead of their forecast. Result: We had no idea where the boat was on the other side of the bay, and had a sick engine trying to push us through increasingly rough water to try to find it.

Embarrassed by my lack of preparation while hosting another person, I steered in the direction I believed the Tessa Marie was anchored. As we approached the far shore, my now wet passenger & I could not see her. Ok…..which way? Well, let’s try heading along the shore to the right. After motoring (and squeezing) for 30 minutes we were beginning to think we had chosen the wrong direction and would have to double back. Since the motor was no longer responding well to my manual fuel pump system, I was starting to think that we would be spending the night in the dinghy tied up at the shore or in the woods near the shore. Mistake #5: With NO extra clothing onboard.

I’m telling you it was black out.

Moments before I was going to turn around and backtrack, John, with his surgically-rebuilt naked eyes, thought he spotted something. I steered in that direction and sure enough, like a ghost, our floating home began to appear. I had to be within 50 yards to see her while John picked her up from a couple of hundred yards away. Ok, so maybe my night vision HAS decreased.

Since we had anchored close to the shore with an island between us and the 20+ knot wind, the Tessa Marie sat motionless in the water. Aboard and relieved, we got into dry clothes, chatted for a bit, and then bedded down for the night. No harm, no foul. Lessons learned. But derrrrrrrrrrrrr. C’mon captain!

Day 3: Hiding from the scao-y winds (yuh chicken shit)

When we got up, I called the marina across the bay to secure a slip for this windy day and night. We easily pulled anchor and motored across the bay. Initially told we would have a port tie up, we scrambled to get the lines and fenders (bumpers) moved and set on the starboard side as the dockhands were now standing in that position on the dock. Luckily, my first mate has turned into quite the sailor and made the switch in seconds.

We spent the day riding back into town, hiding from rain, and seeing the (in-)famous Kap’s Marina where I had stayed a few nights last year as a brand new sailor. The grumpy ‘ol Kap didn’t disappoint when we ran into him!

Near the ferry dock


Part of Kap’s Marina.


Day 4: Hightailing it all of the way back

While locating the only spot with reliable internet service and hiding there during the rain yesterday, all sources showed a day of potentially powerful storms would arrive the day after tomorrow, so we decided we needed to head back to my home marina tomorrow. Naturally, the wind was forecast to be right on our nose, so we’d have to motor all of the way back.

That’s what happened. 13 hours straight of dieseling. We did try to sail in the middle of the day, but we didn’t have the luxury of having enough time to tack (weave) our way back. We motored past Chambers Island–where I anchored very early this summer–so I could show John. We also cruised past Green Island, where I had tried to hide from a storm early on.

Good thing we left when we did and didn’t mess with tacking because only two hours after we safely tied up on my home slip, the thunderstorms hit hard. Good call, but we ended the trip a day early. Here are a couple of pics taken on the trip back………

Old lighthouse on the west end of Chambers Island
Cool cloud, but a warning


Peshigo Shoal horn










2 thoughts on “Mistakes made! (The story of the last overnighter of the season)

  1. Sounds like lots of fun to me😀. I so enjoy your posts…. living vicariously through you! Hope you have a wonderful fall, winter, and spring. Let me know if you need a crew member next summer. It would be great to get out on the open water again. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When you are a sailor, you are constantly learning! Boating is often a lesson in surprises. Reading about your mistakes helps others thanks for sharing your adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

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