Great Loop Day 007 Sept 4, 2016, There's no place like home when there is no place to call home
Lake St. Clair Marina Metro Beach to Decker's Landing.
“You're the skipper now. And the skipper always knows what to do whether he does or not.” HARVEY KEITEL - CPO Henry Klough
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Day 7 Sunday Memorial Weekend, Sept 4, 2016. What a day! I think. Today was unlike any I had ever experienced around my home port or any other port on Lake Erie or her sister Islands.
Leaving Lake St. Clair Metro Beach.
My first taste of how this day was going for me would be on entering the north channel of the St Clair River. All was well marked and easy to find the navigation aids. I'm puttering along at 5 to 6 mph and minding my own business, enjoying the sunny day and blissfully watching the vegetated shoreline for birds and other animals. When behind me I start to hear a distant droning sound of an enormous marine engine getting closer to me. In a short second this behemoth powerboat completely ignores me as he passes going full throttle into the channel ahead. This boat was built for 2 things, one, to go as fast as engineering can make it, and two, to sink and destroy anything floating in its wake. It accomplished his first objective and almost on the second.
I truly feel pity for anybody out in a small runabout or bass boat. These were killer wake waves! The first 2 waves disorient you as the next 3 or 4 work to swamp your boat before you know what hits you. You will not find the word 'courtesy' in these boaters' vocabulary. And any attempt to show kindness or thoughtfulness is considered a cowardly act by these rapscallions of the river. My indignation only grows as more powerboaters power off the lake leaving behind waves of vengeance. My boat gets tossed and bounced about as everything that isn't glued, screwed, or nailed falls down to the floor of the cabin below. Poor Mickey tried to stay on his paws but was unable to grab hold and slid to the floor in all the confusion. In a fit of frustration, I look up at these scoundrels as I recreated the scene of Charlton Heston's character, Astronaut George Taylor in Planet of the Apes as he realizes it is the Statue of Liberty buried waist-deep in the sand,
God Damn You! God Damn you all to Hell!!!
Thought I had a place to stay at Algonac Harbour Marina. A phone call yesterday said boats will be leaving today and to call tomorrow. All my calls went unanswered this morning so I took my chances. Only to find on arrival the harbormaster in a white shirt and carrying a clipboard standing on a dock, waving his arms for me to turn around, saying quite sternly "no sailboat, no room, you can't stay here!"
My pleas for anywhere in this sheltered harbor went ignored.
I yell back, “Any suggestion on where can I go for the night?
I heard him say over the noise of my engine, “Sunset Marina or Sassy”.
Arguing would be pointless, so I turned around and stopped at the fuel dock on my way out. Decompressing a bit I asked the attendant about the manager. "Yea, he really hates sailboaters!", he remarked.
That is not uncommon to hear, Most small sailboat owners are pretty frugal with their money and unlike powerboaters with their voracious appetite for gas and beer, sailors don't spend much on fuel. Except for beer, of course. The Detroit River and the St Clair River are not at all a sailing paradise, to be sure! Although I have seen some big and small sailboats on the lake.
I inquired the locals about overnight anchorages on the river. One of the customers here said to try the beach a few miles north. I looked it up on google maps and it was in no way protected so passed on that.
A call to Sunset Harbor Marina again said they had no room. Calls to Sassy went unanswered. So I thought I try sailing downriver to Sassy. Pulled into a narrow harbor with many empty docks on both sides. There was no one around to ask so I found an unused dock way in the back of the marina and settled down. Sailboats are hard to hide and I was sure someone would be coming around to investigate my presence. I set up for dinner and didn't even attempt to hook up any shore power.
Sassy’s before getting kicked out.
At 7:30 pm a white pickup truck pulls up in front of this dock. I had this uneasy feeling inside. It was the gas dock manager who said I should have looked for him. I said, “This is my first time here, where would I look for you?”
He points to a big blue-sided building and said, "over there, on the other side!"
How was I to know? This guidebook I'm using doesn't show the layout of this marina. Even on Google Maps, the layout wasn’t marked. Or maybe I just missed it.
With anger in his voice, he said he might have let me stay if I had found him earlier. Well, this is not going well. I would have paid him for the night's stay but he was really kicking me out. Fine.
"Is there any other place I can spend a night as I am not familiar with this river?" I tried hard but couldn't get my eyes to tear up in sadness (sometimes that works).
He points his arm downriver and smugly says, "Try Decker's Landing."
"Ok, don't shoot me, I'll go", I said as I quickly untied and started up my outboard.
With a half-hour of daylight left and no known anchorage in this river, I headed downriver in the direction of Deckers Landing on his suggestion. Wow, traveling south with the current is fast! I sure hope I don't go past it. I checked my guidebook and there is no word at all on this Decker's Landing on this river.
Up ahead near the shore I spotted an elderly guy fishing the waters from his aluminum boat and slowed by to ask for directions. He nodded his head and said to follow him as he was getting ready to get underway to Deckers Landing. He remarked he wanted to let me have him go first. With him ahead of me he slipped into this narrow opening, turned right, and suddenly disappeared inside the channel. Completely and totally. No wake, no sound, no boat. Well, that just gave me goosebumps.
There are docks on both sides of this narrow inlet and I docked next to a large boat lift. Stepping off the boat after securing Mickey I checked out the office which of course was closed. Not wanting to make the same mistake as I did at Sassy's I started to look for people to ask and spoke to a nice middle-aged lady with her dog on a short leash. She said to check with the bar manager, Donna at the lounge on the water next to the marina.
Entrance to Decker’s Landing Marina if you can find it.
The bar was busy and loud with music blasting from a jukebox and boaters jocking for a position on the dock in front. A group of boisterous customers sitting inside at the tables complained their orders were taking too long. I stopped a waitress rushing by with a tray of food if she knew where I could find Donna. She told me to stay there and she will find her for me. I sat on an empty stool next to a middle-aged woman in front of the bar. The waitress had disappeared into the crowd of people. I sat and waited and waited and waited some more and no one approached me. I turned to the woman next to me and I caught her attention. I said I was looking for the manager named Donna and was told by the waitress who was going to get her for me.
The woman smiled and said, "I'm Donna and I am the manager." Well, what do you know! I found Donna! I gave her my tale of woe and asked permission to spend the night. She asked me which well my boat was in and mentioned I'm next to the boat lift. It happens to be one of the 3 wells she owned. See, as I mentioned before, here in Michigan docks or slips are called 'wells', why? I still don't know. Also, I noticed the word, isle, as in Grosse Isle is not pronounced Grosse aisle like an aisle in a grocery store but is pronounced as 'eel', like an electric eel. So it's Grosse Eel! …and it probably is.
Thankfully she took pity on this old sailor and said yes, and didn't charge me for the overnight stay. Good thing Mickey and I had dinner on board at Sassys before getting kicked out. Note to all transient sailboaters: avoid all of St. Clair River during holidays if you are looking for an overnight stay unless you already have a “well” reserved but do visit Decker's Landing for some great food and music.
Guidebooks were not much help. The phone number to Algonac doesn’t connect you and many marinas are not mentioned. Getting an early start tomorrow to make the run to Port Huron, that one is in the guidebook and on the phone call has room for me tomorrow. Fair winds and gentle seas.
One of Mickey’s hangouts.
Champion’s Autoferry to Harsen’s Island across the St Clair River at Algonac, MI.
Lake St. Clair Marina Metro Beach to Decker’s Landing; taking the long route.
Comments from 2016:
Dave Litespeed Wow, very sad that they would turn someone away! I'm sure they could have found a place for you for the night!
Susan Christine WOW, what a day! Hope you're able to get a good night's rest Henry and have a GREAT day tomorrow!!
Diane Lamoreaux Colleen is watching over you. She wanted you at Deckers. Keep on with fair winds and gentle seas..hugs.
Pogo Bob, It'll get better, brother!
Keith Behrendt Stay tough Henry, remember Jesus (his parents anyway) had the same problem; no place to stay on holiday weekends.
Henry Krzemien RN I was thinking the same thing Keith but a sailboat would look awkward in a stable. Lol.
Sherry Thaler Awesome comments I echo 100x. Have some beautiful sailing days ahead. Tell Mickey That Mally said to hang in there...LOL. You too :-)
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Saving everything you are writing brother! Fair Winds!