This post is labelled “yikes” because a “thumb” sounds tame…but wasn’t. It’s Lake Huron. One of the Great Lakes. It can mess with you. And it did, with us.
You probably know that Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten. (By now, you also know that the crew of Many Moons is from an entirely separate part of Michigan, called the Upper Peninsula, which is a land unto its own…but never mind that right now.) The point of this post is that the Great Lakes must be respected. All of them. As natives of Lake Superior, we know this. We’ve been through three of them on this boat already. And yet. Lake Huron kicked our butts. Sort of.
I don’t have pictures of this because I was too busy hanging on. What happened, you ask? A turn-around, that’s what. That’s what you do when you venture out and find the seas are too big for comfort — and maybe safety — and turn around to return to port. That’s what happened when we left Harbor Beach, headed for Port Austin. That’s what a wise Looper does when necessary. (Better yet, you know the weather so well that you never find yourself in that situation. We did study the weather. We did wait for the right time…almost. The itch-to-go played a part here. Get-there-itis did, too.) So, we went. And we rocked. And the white caps kept growing. After an hour, we asked ourselves…Is it getting better? Nope. Twenty more miles of this? Nope! We decided to turn around and go back. That’s when things got scary, at least for me. When heading “downwind” with big following seas, the boat surfs the waves like a clumsy snowboarder in deep powder. It plunges and rises but also wobbles and weaves. Jeff had to steer madly and vigorously, almost working up a sweat, to keep us going the right way through the crests while I hung on as best I could, trying to look neither forward nor backward because both freaked me out.
I’ve been wondering since why this particular kind of sea is so unnerving to me…why I’d rather be going into steep waves that send spray over the bow – which we also did – than sliding down them with a push from behind. I think the reason is that I’m completely out of control, dependent entirely on Jeff’s boat-handling skills (which are considerable). I can steer into steep waves without fear…not much, anyway. It might be uncomfortable but I know what the boat will do. I know I can handle the helm in that situation if I must. But being a passenger while sliding down them? Nope. Not fun. Because if something should happen to him, I don’t know if I could handle driving in that. It takes a certain feel, which comes only with experience, and I don’t have it. There, I’ve said it. I don’t like being out of control that way. It’s odd, though. I didn’t feel that way while skydiving or rappelling over a cliff. I don’t feel that way in a plane. And I love free-hand wake-surfing behind a (small) boat, where I’m controlling my motion through the waves. But surfing-the-waves in a boat, when someone else is driving? That is helplessness, for me.
Tonight, we sit in Port Austin’s calm harbor after a smooth 2nd-try run early this morning. (I set my alarm for 0445, and we were under way by 0515. Love those early mornings! 🤪) Seas were good. I’m grateful. Tomorrow, to Harrisville on Michigan’s east coast, IF the winds are right. Photos and captions of our port-to-port cruise up Michigan’s thumb, below.
P.S. Most boaters I’ve met don’t talk much about internal conditions (how they felt) on days like this. They focus on external conditions (the winds, the boat, what they did about it). But I’m guessing that I speak for many who keep quiet about those pesky things called feelings for fear of seeming weak. That’s just a guess, since they don’t talk about it. 😄