Our Promised Land

Chapter 14.     BOATING


Arthur G. Thayer

Thayer Coat Of Arms

Copyright © 1983 with all rights reserved by Arthur George Thayer



      When Bill was in his teens, he suggested we buy a boat. It turned out to be a 25' Owens Cruiser with a canvas top and we were into an entirely new game. As a kid, I always thought all the captain had to do was to avoid big waves. I learned differently in classes sponsored by the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U. S. Power Squdron.

      Bill and I, with the help of others, built a boat house on Grassy Creek. The level of the creek follows the level of Lake Erie. A west wind will blow the water toward Buffalo, an east wind brings the water toward Toledo-- as much as two to four feet in either direction. Furthermore, Lake Erie water levels vary with the season -- high in spring and low in winter. At times the low water grounded our boat.

      On June 27, 1957, we sailed for Killarney, Ontario. We had U. S. charts with us and bought Canadian charts in Sarnia. Our compass ran true from Toledo to the Toledo Harbor light, but, as we made our course, I found the compass deviation to be as much as 37 degrees. By observing distances, time, and land points, we did not encounter problems.

      Weather held us up at Goderich for two days on the way north. Sailing into Georgian Bay, we picked up the spar bouys as we avoided hidden rocks on the shallow inlet. We entered Tobermory to gas up at the Big Tub and then visited Little Tub. The rocky coast presented beautiful picturesque scenes with its pine tree covering.

      Sailing north, we circled Flower Pot Island and then were worried about low level Snake Island. Club or Lonely Islands showed high on the northern horizon. Killarney, a mailboat stop with a general store, had a genial gentleman who suggested possible boat anchorages in the many coves in the surrounding wilderness.

      We spent a night at Killarney Bay and a night in Collins Inlet. In each place we caught a pike or two. The boat leaked when it rained. Eva put troughs of plastic on the ceiling, but some of our bedding got wet anyway. Bill snagged his lure on the boat's canvas top, tearing out a patch which Eva had to sew. My nightcrawlers found their way out of the box and ended in the bilge. And we decided it was time to go home!

Boat in Killarney Bay

Killarney Bay, Ontario with Ted, Beccy, Art, Sue and Bill on the Owens in '57.

      Going south, we arrived at Port Elgin after a rough trip on the waves. A storm was brewing and for two days all boats stayed put. We heard there was a lost boat. The boat had left Port Huron with the skipper thinking his compass was true and ran out of gas in the middle of Lake Huron. He was blown south easterly for three days while rain and fog stopped the searchers.

      Our vacation time was going fast. The afternoon of the second day we left Port Elgin to sail on to Goderich. As we left Port Elgin, we faced two and three foot waves before clearing a buoy six or seven miles west of the port. Once by the buoy, we roller coasted the waves to Goderich with a north northwest wind during the run.

      The next day we headed to Port Huron and were a third of the way there when we saw the lost boat, the "Hi-Ya-Lee", and veered over to help them. Just as we got there, the Coast Guard arrived. The people on the boat were very happy to be found.

      Leaving the rescued Hi-Y-Lee, we continued toward Port Huron, went under the blue Water Bridge, and gassed up in Sarnia. Sailing down the St. Clair River, we headed east into the Chenal Ecarte River and south around Walpole Island to dock at a village in Mitchel's Bay on Lake St. Clair. The healthy mosquitoes were abundant. We closed the canvas boat cover and a dose of bug bomb made the mosquitoes fall. You could almost hear them hit the deck! The morning was foggy and we had to wait several hours to see the buoys. We then continued on to Detroit and down the Detroit River. As we left the river, there seemed to be a wavechop as we entered Lake Erie. (Perhaps the four or five mile current causes the chop on the relatively calm Lake Erie.) Sailing into Toledo and Rossford, it was nice to see home grounds. It was quite a trip, over 800 miles of water and no accidents.

      During the winter a false keel was removed, the propeller repitched, a hard top installed, the decks calked, and my compass corrected to a maximum deviation of 7 degrees. On July 25, l958 at 3:00 P. M. we sailed north for the North Channel. A week before Ted had had his appendix removed and couldn't go on the boat for another two days so Eva took Ted and Sue and drove to Algonac. Bill, Beccy, and I had an 8:40 hour trip coming in at 11:40 in the evening, a thing I did not enjoy as we ran in the dark across Lake St. Clair, into the St. Clair River and on to Algonac.

      The next day, Eva, Ted, and Sue drove to Goderich where we sailed in at 2;08 P.M. They came aboard and we continued to Port Elgin. In the morning we started north and after entering Tobermory for breakfast, went to Little Current, then into Bay of Finn for the night. Our trip north required less than 23 hours sailing time, leaving Rossford on a Friday afternoon and coming into Little Current on Sunday. It was a good run with no storms to slow us.

      We moved to Harbor Island and spent two nights there. It's a beautiful yacht port, boats like the 110 foot "Sis" from Chicago and the Edsel Ford boat were docked there. Georgian Bay and the north Channel are areas of alluring rocky, pine forested shores. It is not unlike scenery of the 1982 movie On Golden Pond.

Oak Bay, North Channel north of Harbor Island

The "EVART" in Oak Bay, North Channel north of Harbor Island in '58. Sue is wading, Beccy sunning, Bill undressing and Eva swimming.

      Going west then north through the North Channel, we anchored in a cove on the north shore next to huge rocks. Sailing south into Bayfield Sound, we spent the night with friends, then a night near the Canadian Soo. In the morning, with the sun shining bright, we entered the canal and used the lock to enter Lake Superior. We paid our respects to the Coast Guard men at their station and they helped us trim the boat propeller. We then went through the locks and down the St. Mary's River and stopped at DeTour.

Canadian Lock Pass

The "EVART" went through the Canadian Lock into Lake Superior on a sunny day.

      As we sailed west to Mackinaw City on a very hazy morning, we could see the far off pylons of the bridge up in the sky, but a nearby lighthouse was fogged in. Gassing up, we left the City and went under the bridge into Lake Michigan, then on to Mackinac Island.

      No cars are allowed on the island although fire trucks are used. A carriage ride on the island was interesting as the driver told us the history of the island. Each of us walked the 1000 ft porch of the famous hotel.

      An empty freighter out distanced us as we sailed by Rogers City. We made port at Presque Isled Harbor for lunch, then moved on to Alpena for the night.

      Going south in the morning, we sailed to Oscoda for a gas stop, then across Saginaw Bay to Harbor Beach for the evening. Considering that our car was at Goderich, Eva and I decided to continue to Port Huron then to Sarnia across the St. Clair River where Eva took a bus to Goderich and then she drove our car back to Port Huron. It was well we did so as a storm tossed many boats in Lake Huron that afternoon, but, as we were morred in Port Huron, the storm only rained on our boat. Sailing down the St. Clair River on a pleasant day, we again saw the park-like shores, then across Lake St. Clair and by Detroit spending the night at the Wyandot Yacht Club on the west shore of the Detroit River. In the morning we sailed to Toledo and arrived back in Rossford at 2:15 P. M. on August 8th. The trip was 1211 miles long, gas mileage was 2.22 mpg, and speed averaged 17.3 mph.

      These long boating trips afforded me the pleasure of being my own boss. We enjoyed the beautiful areas and encountered no accidents. We'd be out of sight of land much of the time or in a haze or rain for hours with only the compass to guide us. Meeting my estimated time of arrival at a buoy or landmark would delight me. I could do everything my way and so I did.

      On other vacations we went to the Bass Islands, including Put-in-Bay, Cedar Point, Kingsville, and Pelee Island; some on weekends, others for as long as two weeks. But the boat was becoming harder to maintain and in 1967 we traded it in on a Johnson Surfer. The Surfer is 19 feet long and has a maximum speed of 37 mph. If the waves permit, it will easily cruise at 32 mph. The gas consumption is 4.4 mph. We have sailed to Harrisville, Michigan (20 miles south of Alpena), Detroit, the Bass Islands, and Vermillion, Ohio.

      On August 22, 1969, Eva, Sue, Sue's girl friend, Debbie, and I sailed to Harrisville, Michigan. We left at 3:00 P. M., spent the night at the "Idle Hour" on the St. Clair River and arrived at Harrisville at 5:40 P. M. the next day. Bill, his wife, and children, Ed and Kim, picked us up in his van and took us to Hubbard Lake where we spent a day or two at a rented cottage and brought Uncle Chris in for dinner. The trip was great. The waves were four and five feet high on the St. Clair, but it was a flowing wave.

      In the '70s, I told a fellow the waves and winds seemed to be higher each year and he said, "You're getting older!" And that is true. Ted uses the boat for fishing and occasionally Eva and I sail up and down the Maumee.

      In the spring the ice breaks up and floats down the Maumee River causing ice jams. One year an ice jam forced the water back into Grassy Creek. The water rose higher than the eaves of the boat house and the Owens Cruiser rammed into the roof damaging the top and windshield and flooding the motor. In the winter we keep the Surfer on a trailer near the house. I fashioned an electric hoist in the boat house to raise the surfer to keep algae from forming on the sides and bottom of the boat.

Boat House on Grassy Creek

Boat House on Grassy Creek


Grassy Creek on Boat House

Grassy Creek on Boat House - Water crested above the eaves of the boat house damaging the roof and the Owens in '59.


                      Other Chapters

                        1.     Atlantic
                        2.     Silica
                        3.     Oil City
                        4.     Boat Trip
                        5.     Chris's Home
                        6.     Hubbard Lake
                        7.     Hunting and Fishing
                        8.     Our Farm
                        9.     Schools
                      10.     The Depression and the 30's
                      11.     Michigan State University
                      12.     Jobs
                      13.     Our Home
                      14.     Boating
    Next - - - 15.     Trips
                      16.     The Tropics
                      17.     With The Kids
                      18.     It Is Written


                      Thayer Letter


                      Tree Page


Copyright © 2001 with all rights reserved by William V. Thayer

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