This online document is a means of sharing the adventure of traveling on America's waterways with friends and family. Last Dance is continuing to take her crew to historical, natural, beautiful, and interesting places. Enjoy the ride.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Lake Superior - Old Dave's Harbor

Tucked in close to shore creating a protected anchorage in preparation for a forecast storm.  Stern tie was used again to hold the boat close to shore in the slight curve of the cove.  The anchor is set in 37 feet of water which would create a swing circle greater than 240 feet if the boat was allowed to swing on the anchor.  Much better to be held in one spot.  Eventually, Last Dance was secured with two anchors forward and two stern lines aft.  A very worthwhile effort in gaining a protected mooring for the storm and to have access to the island and experience the nature and history of this area.

The buildings to the left are the assistant lighthouse keeper's house and boathouse.  One of the interesting aspects of Old Dave's is the history of the Otter Island lighthouse and the fishing camp on Old Dave's Island.

Otter Cove is at the east end of Otter Island, a harbor carved out of the mainland with Otter Island protecting the opening.  Old Dave's Harbor is at the western end of Otter Island, a cove protected by a small island, Old Dave's.  The chart plotter has Last Dance properly placed along the shore of Otter Island.  It can be seen that there are no depths or charted rocks in Old Dave's Harbor.  The entrance to the right, off Otter Bay, is much narrower than indicated with rocks lying off both points.  The entrance to the left, off Lake Superior, is impossible to navigate with shallows and rocks not charted.  One of the challenges of cruising Lake Superior is the lack of accurate navigational information.

The deep water makes for a long anchor line to achieve proper scope but, on the other hand, allows a boat to be moored very close to shore for greater protection.  As can be seen on the chart plotter screen above, while Last Dance is less than a boat length from shore, she is in over 14 feet of water.  (The depth sounder is set to read the depth of the water under the keel.  Since Last Dance has about a 4.5 foot draft, the draft has to be added to the reading to calculate depth.)

From anchor, looking to the south, the opening to Lake Superior can be seen.  On the shore of Old Dave's Island, the remains of the abandoned fishing village are slowly deteriorating.

Looking north, the opening to Otter Bay with the mainland on the northern shore.

The fishing village was home to multiple fishing boats for many decades.  The depleted fishery of Lake Superior made commercial fishing from this outpost economically unfeasible and the village was abandoned.  A close look at the water reveals rocks and logs that were once part of crib structures providing docking wharfs for the fishing boats and now making this shore impossible for anchoring.

The houses have seemed to survive the ravages of rough weather but the storage and workshop buildings are quite deteriorated.  Some remnants of the habitation lay along the shore - an old bathtub and a washing machine.

The concrete wharf at the assistant lighthouse keeper's house is still in good repair, providing an easy and secure landing for trips ashore.

Trips ashore are greatly appreciated by Bonnie, the boat dog, for exercise walks and to explore the various smells.  Different and unknown smells reside here due to a herd of caribou which live on the island.

Otter Island is a part of Pukaskwa National Park, which has decided to allow all park property to return to its natural state.  This policy is allowing the lighthouse keeper's building to deteriorate and rot, erasing evidence of an important part of history.

While rare for visitors to land here, the park service does expect a few and provides information about Otter Island.  The lack of communications in this area is noted by the statement: "In case of emergency contact by satellite phone . . . "

The Otter Island Lighthouse is at a high point of the island, a good distance from the house on the cove.  A long trail leads from the assistant lighthouse keeper's house to the ridge.

While the trail was built for utilitarian purposes, it makes for a good hiking trail through the rock formations and the woods.  It also leads to the buildings and history of the only lighthouse on this coast of Lake Superior.

The lighthouse is no longer operational and the trail no longer maintained.  The lack of maintenance is obvious as the trial is becoming overgrown and structures, such as this staircase, are deteriorating.

Over the top of the ridge and down the lakeside, the Otter Island Light sits. With the elevation provided by the island, the lighthouse did not need to be a tall structure.  Interesting cutout of a beaver serves as a wind vane.

Multiple ridges of granite make up this part of the path, creating difficult walking.  Long elevated walkways and bridges were constructed to support travel between the buildings, of which there are three - the lighthouse, the lighthouse keeper's house, and the generator building, in this image.

A helicopter landing pad sits adjacent to the generator building, providing access in winter months when the lake is frozen.  Four, large speakers in front of the building served as a very loud fog horn.

A concrete walkway leads from the generator building across a bridge over an interesting cut.   Looks like someone, quite large, chiseled a groove through the rock, leaving some of the broken rock in the bottom of the groove.   The rock islands lie outside Old Dave's Harbor's lakeside entrance, providing some protection from rough water coming in from the lake.

The walkway leads to a larger cut in the rock, one deep enough to allow vessels to enter.  Supplies and diesel fuel were delivered to the lighthouse by tying to the wall of this deep cut, then using a power-operated crane to lift the supplies.  The cuts through the rock in this area are most interesting.

History of power at the lighthouse can be seen behind the generator building.  The concrete saddles once held diesel fuel tanks which powered generators for power to the light and the lighthouse keepers houses.  A concrete wall around the tank field is a safety catch for fuel if a tank developed a leak.  Later, the tanks were removed and a serious structure was installed to hold solar panels to power the light and buildings.  Now, the solar panels are gone and the light is dark.

Otter Island light viewed from the water gives a view of the three buildings - generator building, lighthouse keeper's house, and the lighthouse.  The ridge in the background is on the mainland, on the north side of the bay.  These are the only buildings on the shore of Lake Superior for over 60 miles in either direction.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Lake Superior - Otter Cove

The final two hours of the trip to Otter Cove was in fog with no visibility of the shore.  The beauty of the shore was missed and no landmarks were visible for navigation.  Jagged shoreline with numerous islands close to shore mask inlets that might lead to harbors suitable for anchoring.  Fortunately, as the GPS and chartplotter were indicating that Last Dance was approaching the skinny entrance to Otter Cove, the fog began to lift, revealing a small opening.

Through the entrance, down a narrow cut between Otter Island and a mainland point, the cove appeared - a quite large cove.  Water was deep across the cove from shore to shore, mostly at 40 feet or more.  In the background, Last Dance can be seen at anchor.  The structure in the foreground is a helicopter landing pad for the park service.   This area is part of a national park, reachable in the winter only by plane.  Natural forest came right down to the water around the cove, except at this rock point with the helipad.

A closer view of the vertical ridge on the north side of the cove.  Rock formations and natural forest define the landscape of Lake Superior - undisturbed beauty.

Along the point where the lake can lash when it is angry, the shore had a few beaches, again colorful, rock beaches.  Beachcombing ensued.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Lake Superior - Pilot Harbor

A direct route was taken from Brule Harbor to Pilot Harbor, cutting the northeast corner of the lake.  The rocky and wooded shore was visible from over 25 miles away due to the high altitude of the terrain.

As the shore became closer, a clearer view of the rocky and wooded terrain became evident.  A small white spot could be seen.

The rocky shore has coves all along the shore, only a few of which provide the space, depth, and protection needed to be a good anchorage.  Someone decided that Pilot Harbor needed a marker so that it could be found.  An enormous carin, which has been painted white, can be seen back in the trees and a large, pyramidal, wooden day marker closer to the water.

Again, a stern tie worked well in keeping the boat in one place rather than swinging in a large circle and it kept the bow of the boat pointed out toward the lake to better take rough waters in case the winds picked up.  The cut straight ahead is rocky and not navigable.  To the right of the cut is another entrance island with the cut to enter just in front of the rock face.

A view out the entrance to Pilot giving a better view of the narrow cut.  Out on the point, a line of rocks is visible extending off the point.  That line continues under the water, also.  The entrance is not only narrow, but far from a straight shot in off the lake.  The hidden entrance prompted someone to place the markers to aid navigation to this harbor.

The coast of Lake Superior is rock lined with a variety of types and shapes of rocks.   Those that can be seen, such as these, and those just under the water.  It is best to travel at least one-half mile offshore to avoid finding any of those under-water rocks.

As Last Dance left Pilot Harbor, heading farther north, a wall of fog lay about a mile and a half off shore.  Clear skies above, but thick fog on the water.  The peaks on Michipicoten Island can be seen peaking over the fog.

Lake Superior - Brule Harbor

Brule Harbor is actually two harbors - an outer large bay with some protection and 45 -50 deep water in the areas where one could anchor.  Then, through a small cut, there is another harbor that is like a lake.  Only one small cut could allow winds and waves into the inner harbor.  Then, there is a tiny cove in the inner harbor, which was waiting unoccupied for Last Dance.

Waters in this little cove were only 33 feet deep, although quite deep for cruisers who's experience is anchoring in the Bahamas and the Southeast US in depths of 8 - 12 feet.  The deeper the water, the longer the required anchor line that must be deployed to maintain the proper ratio (scope) so that the anchor line is pulling on the anchor sideways, causing it to dig deeper, rather than pulling up, causing it to pull out.

With the proper scope this cove is much too narrow to swing on the anchor, so two stern lines were run to shore.  This arrangement holds the boat in one spot rather than allowing it to swing.

A beautiful day on Lake Superior.  This image was made on the island in the cut leading to the inner harbor.  In the distance is Lake Superior.  The far point on the left is Entrance Island.  The two closer points are the inside of the outer harbor, forming the opening to the channel leading to the lake-like inner harbor.  The water is much too shallow to pass on the right, looking out, leaving a very narrow cut on the left.  The narrowness and the large rocks underwater keep many a boat in the outer harbor.

A ride in the dinghy gives a better perspective of the protection afforded by the cove.  It is to the left, in front of the high ridge around the corner from the dark conifer tree in mid-shot.

Around that tree and the little rock point, Last Dance can be seen tucked deeply into the cove.  In the south, this would be called a hurricane hole as it provides great protection from all winds.  There are few such places along the eastern shore of Lake Superior.

This view of the chart plotter provides an image of the outer and inner harbors.  You can see the blue shoal water that must be crossed to enter the inner harbor, waters that have no depth readings on the chart.  The island in the middle of the narrow spot is missing.  You can also see that the chart plotter has great inaccuracies, having the boat anchored on top of the rock ridge.  Just one of the challenges of traveling on Lake Superior.

The beaches on the mainland and islands that face Lake Superior had a few beaches, again, rock beaches.

There is another area of round rocks on the mainland, south of Brule Harbor.  It appears to be a river of rocks running down that is terraced.  At the top of the first terrace, a line of driftwood can be seen.  This is the height that the waves have pushed the driftwood.  How did these round rocks, obviously polished by rough waters become located on high ground appearing to flow like a river?

That is one question for which there is no answer.  At the top of this terraced flow of rocks are some pits, obviously dug and rock arranged by humans.  First Nation lore has it that the pits were there when the first natives arrived.  What humans could have been here before the First Nation People?  A walk up the rock river was planned to see the pits, but the rocks are loosely stacked and many moved unexpectedly as they were attempted for footholds.  It was decided that the potential for falls and injuries was too high to attempt this journey.

A hike over Entrance Island was more successful.  Many types of plant life and rock formations were observed.  This shot is looking from the island out into Lake Superior.  The lake that can become so angry that it can sink 600 foot freighters like the Edmund Fitzgerald can also be very gentle.

A little fog bank moves into Brule Harbor, another lesson in fog.  It is unpredictable and can arrive at any time.  The cold waters of the lake (48 degrees was recorded on the chart plotter) cools the air and condenses the water vapor into fog.  A small wind shift can create a fog situation.  Fortunately, the Last Dance crew had practice navigating in the fog during cruises to Maine.  It would be needed.

Lake Superior - Indian Harbor

From Sinclair Bay north, the possible anchorages increase in number and are separated by fewer miles.  The next stop on the journey was Indian Harbor, an area off the big lake with multiple little coves, protected from at least a few wind directions.  One of the benefits of cruising in an area where few cruisers ever venture is the best spots you choose for anchoring are available when you get there.  No one was at Indian Harbor, so Last Dance was anchored in the cove with the protection from all winds.  She can be seen in the background in the above image.  This stop began a two-week period where only two other boats were seen.

The cove itself was treed with thick forest right down to the water line, leaving little access for shore exploration.  This is partly due to the fact that Lake Superior was 2 feet higher than normal, bringing the water line much higher along the shore.  However, some of the islands inside the large Bay are more prone to thrashing by the waves and had beaches still above the water line.  Rock beaches.

On the side of the islands facing the big lake, the beaches took more of a thrashing and were even larger.  Another great day for the beachcombers.

The rocks on the beaches had been tumbled for centuries, rounding and polishing them.  The ones still underwater show their true colors.  So many different colors of granite that must have come from many different places, ground away by the glacier ice and later polished by the lake waters.

Indian Harbor also began the lessons of the Lake Superior fog.  It is unpredictable and follows no pattern.  This image is from the boat looking north and toward the opening to the big lake.  The fog arrived at 6 pm and was gone at 7 pm.  It becomes eerie quiet, more so the thicker it becomes.