Taking the Long Way to Charter Boaters Meeting

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Tuesday, Oct 21st (see more pictures on my personal FB page and at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sand-Point-Charters-LLC/117105408355629?ref=hl

My brother, Captain Mitch, his boy, Darren and I set out early, before the birds got up, on Sunday morning from the Houghton County Marina for a long boat trip. He’s piloting his 35 foot trawler all the way to Tampa, Florida and I plan to get off in Holland, Michigan for a Michigan Charter Boat Captains meeting on Saturday.

MTUFrom Water

View of MTU from the water on Sunday morning


Nephew, Darren, taking picts on day one


Captain Mitch, on the first morning out, driving by instruments



During layover in Grand Marais, I took a walk along the beach

Lake Superior was “not very nice to us” as Mitch put it. Sunday evening we went in for refuge after getting beat up all afternoon on water that was for-casted to be 2 to 3 foot waves, but the old trawler heaved and hoed over lots of 6 to 7 foot waves before we found birth at Munising well after dark.


Inside the Sault Locks, as we were lowered down to the bottom, or St Marys River level.

Again on Monday, we were only able to go 43 miles before seeking refuge at Grand Marais, which was our plan even before setting out before sun-rise. We holed up there for almost 24 hours waiting for a 25 knot wind to die down enough to continue. When we left, the swells were really big, but not steep, so by nightfall, we covered the 75 miles to the Sault St. Marie Locks and locked through around midnight.


Shows our location on Wednesday morning, just East of the Mackinaw bridge.


Lighthouse at Mackinaw Island through the side window


The bridge before the locks

Not wanting to waste any more time, Mitch navigated from there into the wee hours of the morning while I slept a few winks and took over at 5 am so he could get a nap. Noon-time brought us as far as Mackinaw Island where little brother negotiated a cheap ($25) room that we could use for an hour for our much-needed shower after 4 days without one. (some say once per month is enough, but I like to stay clean by showering once a week)

“It’s pretty cool how that shower moves around when you’re in there,” Mitch said as he dried off. I wasn’t sure what he meant as I laid down on a couch to wait my turn while Darren took a shower. NO sooner did my head hit the pillow and I heard “Get up,


Same bridge, from the other side, underneath

uncle Brian,” far off in the distance, it seemed, until I realized I’d fallen asleep. “I guess I fell asleep for a minute” I mumbled to my nephew as I drug myself up to a sitting position. Darren laughed… I think he’d been trying to get me up for a while already.

I got in the shower and soon realized what his dad meant when he said the shower moves, because as I closed my eyes and stood there soaking in the warmth it was as if I was still on the boat and feeling the constant sway. I think your mind gets programmed after such a long time of rocking back and forth, that it’s still anticipating that movement. Weird.

As I type this, we are moving along at our “cruising speed” (you can hardly call it cruising) of 6.9 knots, or about 8 mph and slowly rocking back and forth on the crests and troughs of the 2 foot waves.


The Big Mac, a troll-side view


A Duck-Eye view of the bridge


Looking towards the NE from down under.

Our instruments tell us it’s 29 more minutes until we have to turn to make the corner into our southwesterly bearing into Lake Michigan, then another hour or so to head 180 degrees south. By tomorrow evening I should be in Holland to chill for a day before a day-long meeting.


Thursday, Oct 23rd

Well, Here I am in Muskegon- It wasn’t on my itinerary, but with the wave action out on Lake Michigan today, I decided to get off early and let Mitch go more directly to Chicago.

We had some really nice weather and calm water yesterday, all the way from Mackinaw Island, so we motored all the way through the night again, but the lake got a little bumpy over night. Mitch piloted from about midnight until I awoke from the splashing of waves on the hull at 2 am, so I took over until I couldn’t stay awake anymore. At least it’s not like driving down the road, where if you fall asleep, it could be curtains almost immediately. On the water, moving at only 7 knots (about 8 mph), and running on autopilot, you could go for hours without incident.

With that said, it looked like I WAS on a collision course with a freighter at one point in the dark. I picked him up on radar when he was 4 miles out and I kept a radar read on him until he was a mile in front of and slightly to my right and looking like our courses were going to intersect. I made a 35 degree turn to avoid a collision and the freighter kept his course – so, no collision, which is good, because we would’ve been the losers.

This morning, eggs and sausage for breakfast along with fresh brewed Nicaragua coffee, compliments of daughter-in-law Heidi. Later in the day, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, thanks to Margaret for making the dough for me before we left. This boat may be slow ands getting old, but it has all the comforts of home.

Now, I sit alone at the Baymont Inn at Muskegan, watching Payton Manning of the Denver Broncs fight it out with the San Diego Chargers.

Mitch had dropped me off in Montague, about 18 miles north of Muskegon and I found some young guys to give me a ride to a hotel that Margie booked for me on-line in Muskegon. I had walked a mile from the dock, pulling my suitcase with a sleeping bag and computer bag, when I stopped a lady walking a dog and asked her if she knew of any taxi service, or how I might get a ride to Muskegon. I knew there was no taxi service here, but she said to go to the community hall down the road.

I poked my head in the back door and saw what looked like a church service going on. I quickly stepped back and closed the door, not wanting to interrupt. There was a jeep that just pulled up outside, so I asked them “what’s happening inside, is it a church service?” The guy in the driver seat said “No, it’s an AA meeting and we’re waiting for our buddy to come out.” I told him my situation, that I had to get down to Muskegon and he said he could take me there for some gas money. The driver-guy looked clean and respectable, but the passengers – 2 guys and a girl – had loads of tattoos, guys had earrings and smoking cigarettes and one more guy coming out of an AA meeting – but it was a cheap ride. On the way, there was a little talk about one having to pass a drug test to go back to work and another conversation about just getting out of jail and a little bit of lewd language, but they delivered as promised.

Mitch left Montague at 5:30 tonight with about 100 miles to get to Chicago, which translates to about 17 hours of bouncing over waves, so he should be there before noon tomorrow if all goes well. My only regret is that I’m not in his boat for the rest of the trip to Florida… anyone want to cover for me while I join him after the Saturday meeting? (you’ll have to change the oil and winterize and shrink-wrap my little boat at home. ) (I’m willing to pay well for it)


Canadian Ore Carrier


Coming into Grand Marais Harbor


No load on this one – running empty


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About Brian Helminen

Brian is the owner and Captain of Sand Point Charters, LLC. He also owns and operates Designotype Printers, Inc. with his wife, Margaret. They have a cottage on Lac La Belle that can be rented by the week in the summertime.

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