Day 30 Mother Nature’s Fireworks; July 4th Storms on Lake Superior

Sailing from Grand Marais to Apostle Islands July 4th.

Colleen woke early to update the blog entries. It is a sunny calm day.

After a leisurely morning in the harbor, we headed out at 11 am expecting a 7 hour crossing to cover 45 miles to Rocky Island in the Apostle Islands. Listened to the Forecast; East/ North East winds, 10 to15 knots, gusting to 21. Diminishing in the afternoon. Sounds perfect for the southwest course to the islands.

Storm Number 1- successfully avoided

Started out with full sail- the 150 roller furling head sail, and fully battened main. Set the course for 210 degrees. Our max speed is 10.4 kph. About 20 miles off shore NOAA weather came across the VHF – Storm Warnings. Severe weather storms w/ 35 mph winds heading EAST from Duluth area. This seemed odd, since we were in strong winds from the NE. Well…. we saw huge wall clouds west of Devils Island.
We reefed the main to reduce the sail, and attempted to maintain our course. The wind had caught the sail in such a way that the out haul line let loose and the foot of the sail sagged out with a jolt. the knot at the end of the line caught the sail from completely pulling out of the boom, but there was too much tension to fix it at this point, and lufting the sail, or having Colleen go on deck was not part of the plan. It became evident we would not outrun the storm.

We dropped our sails and adjusted our course to the west ; started motoring  back towards Silver Bay hoping to circle around to the west as the storm moved east in front of us. The waves were really kicking up, and the winds were steadily increasing. Our plan worked- we avoided the eye of the storm and after about 1.5 hours, were able to resume our 210 degree course toward the islands.

We were about 16 miles from Devils Island and it had just come into view on the horizon. Colleen took the helm as it was beginning to calm down, so Dave could get inside and warm up, change into dry clothes and take a break. We were pretty proud we were back on course.

Storm Two -Gales of July

Glancing back toward Silver Bay, we noticed a wall cloud developing out of nowhere. The NOAA radio had broadcasted alerts for small craft warning, seek shelter, but we had no choices- being 25 miles off shore…. the mentioned a line from Silver Bay, Grand Marais to Duluth and Bayfield…. yes it appears to heading our way.    Later, we found a u- tube video recorded in La Point WI on Madelaine Island which is close to our destination-  the NOAA recording is the same we were listening to out on the water.


No casual lunch served today, its peanut butter and jam sandwiches on the fly.

  • The sky became so dark we turned on our navigational lights at 4:45 PM. Then it hit us in full force. Dave clocked it at 50 mph winds out of the west, and told Colleen to put the companion way boards in to prevent the waves from crashing down into the boat.
  • When the  lightning strike coincides with the sound of thunder at the same time its not good.
  • If it hits the water and jolts back up in the air- not good if it is close to the sailboat.
  • When Dave cautions  to “stay with the boat if it rolls, as it will upright itself”, not a good sign.

Photos never do the waves justice

Wall of clouds

Storm thru the dodger, CW is inside now!

Dave had his lifeline attached to the steering pedestal and crouched down behind the wheel to avoid the full force of the wind and rain. He heaved to; keeping  the bow pointing into the wind to reduce chances of getting broadsided, which was difficult as the wind direction made a complete 360. Then the rain came in full force. The rollers and swells were huge, the tops of the waves were being blown horizontally, as was the rain; making it difficult to see or navigate. The boat was shaking violently from the waves and the wind, which was very loud. Even at full throttle into the wind, we were going backwards by the GPS, the diesel was a smoking! We road this out for about an hour. Colleen took the helm so Dave could get dry clothes, again, we continued sailing towards the islands once the worst had passed. Colleen set course for  Devils Island, and commented that its good to be in familiar waters, like coming home. We planned to head for the south east point of Rocky Island to anchor for the night.

Storm 3- the day is not over yet!

Just as we came between Rocky and Devils, a NOAA weather alarm sounded again. Warning SW Winds; another storm front. Winds whipped up to 35 knots again from the southwest, making Rocky out of the question. We took shelter behind Oak Island and the winds kept shifting. Its another 5 miles to Raspberry Bay, but that looked like our only option.

Pair of Vise Grips on the Alternator Bracket

the duct tape and clamp let go

Just as we approached the bay, Dave inspected the engine, and found that the alternator bracket had broke, he secured it with a wrench and hoped for the best. Previously he fastened it with duct tape and clamps, today proved too much for that repair.

We set anchor in a protected bay at 9 pm . 10 hours and 62 miles logged today.

And the journey continues. I guess when you are “living the dream” there are still bumps in the road!!

About mnsailors

Sailing Lake Superior out of Bayfield WI. Sailing from Racine WI to Bayfield in 2012
This entry was posted in Lake Superior Sailing, Lake Superior Storms, Nature Photography, Sailing, Sailing Photos and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Day 30 Mother Nature’s Fireworks; July 4th Storms on Lake Superior

  1. Lola McIntyre says:

    What an adventure! Glad you’re safe (and skilled)!

  2. scott says:

    well i guess your ship has passed all the tests now, oh ya and you and your crew also. This is sounding like the making of a good book…or movie! way to go! Home stretch.

  3. What an awesome adventure, so fun to follow all the excitement and beautiful sites. So, so jealous…

  4. mnsailors says:

    Words can’t describe the experience of going through this storm. As they say “the boat can take, can the crew?”. We are happy the boat took care of us! Many more days have happy sails!

  5. Dani says:

    Wow! That is quite an adventure. I bet it was exhilarating to make it through that. Tate and I went through some storms on the way into Orange Beach Al, from New Orleans and we we arrived safely we felt like new people. We had accomplished so much and were now more experienced.

    I totally understand how pictures don’t do the waves justice.

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