What An Adventure
by Margaret Vesely
My sailing adventure begins when I left Mosinee on Saturday July 14, 2001 and flew to Detroit to see my sister, Ruth for a short layover. Ruth and Bill took me to see the miracle mile at St. Clair Shores. That is one mile of shoreline (the 11th mile) with a total of 4,000 boats. We stopped at several yacht clubs and marinas and watched the boats going up and down the canals to lake Michigan. There were all shapes and sizes of boats. It was an unforgettable sight. Then, it was off to Portland, Maine. Arriving about 11:00 Saturday night. Sunday morning at 7:30, I boarded a bus for St. George, Maine. We rode for about 2 hours and saw some beautiful scenery. We arrived at the Outward Bound School in St. George, Maine. It was my first look at the ocean and it was awesome! The Outward-Bound school overlooked Wheeler Bay. There were several boats anchored off the shore, lobster boats and some larger sailing boats. We signed in and when everyone arrived it was our turn (10 women and 2 instructors of which one was a licensed captain) to experience an open-ocean adventure and island living as we sail the coast of Maine, one of the world's greatest cruising grounds. Nearly 3,000 islands and 3,500 miles of shoreline making this one of the last intact coastal wildernesses in America. For over 30 years, Hurricane Island Outward-Bound Schools (H.I.O.B.S.) has lead sailing expeditions for the novice and seasoned sailors. Navigating rugged shores in a 30-foot open boat. These boats were especially designed for the school for their ability to sail and row. They are wide and safe for sailing at slower speeds. Success demands teamwork, leadership and skill. After orientation and an overview of what we would accomplish, we prepared the boat. It was mid-afternoon by the time we left port. We needed to row out, and everyone was assigned jobs. The student captain needed to direct us, to get the oars out and maneuver the boat, well it ended up to be a group discussion. We did finally get out past Wheeler Bay. The winds came up and we did manage to get the sails up and sail for a while. Along the way we looked at the navigation charts and we tried to determine where the islands, buoys and marker were to determine which way we should go. The boat had a unique design, since it was designed especially for this program. There are seats along the side and deep wells to stow our gear, food and water under the seats. We had eight oars and a steering oar (in case something happened to the rudder). Oars are stored down the middle of the boat. Bedtime was interesting. We tied up the spritz from the main and mizzenmast to hold up the tarp between the masts. The oars were spread, all facing the same way. Then, it was some mats and we laid out our sleeping bags for the night. The dew was very heavy. The instructors slept in the stern of the boat and the rest of us between the masts. We camped by Bar Island.
|Inventorying Boat Supplies on first day.
DAY 2 - MONDAY - We were up at 5:30 for a swim in the cold saltwater. It was quite a shock to experience very cold saltwater. When you come up you have to remember to breath. We called on the radio to Hurricane Island. We forgot some of our supplies and if a boat was coming this way, could they drop them off. We forgot the spices and the drinks. Now, we got to explore Bar Island. We went ashore for some quiet exploring time. We could see on the next island, Two Bush Lighthouse, up on the rocks. We sailed and rowed in the early afternoon. Then, it started to rain and we had to row. Then, it really got dark with fierce thunderclouds and lightning and the rain got heavier. We rowed in the wind and rain about 7 miles. The weather got bad and we had to take down the sails. It was getting colder and the storm was now chasing us. Some of the women are seasick and resting on the deck. The rest of us must work together to get to shore. We can see land. We must get to the monument, pass on right, rocks on the left, but it is still far away. We are all glad to drop anchor off Dumpling Island for the night. There is a seal that has followed us for a ways today. The sunset and the rainbow were the best. We have a group meeting to discuss where we are going tomorrow and how we can work together better. There is a beautiful Osprey nest with fledglings, so we had to be gentle and quiet. Every night we must each take our turn for night watch. We are watching for other boats that might not see us and watching to insure our boat would not drift, because the shorelines are very rocky. It is very cold and our rain gear is still wet.
DAY 3 - TUESDAY - We were up at 5:30 for a swim in the cold saltwater. When the sun rose we realized that we were in the middle of the channel. The lobster boats had to come straight at us and swing hard to port to miss us. We moved quickly. While we were leaving the island, the Reliant, a boat from HIOBS brought us our supplies. We finally got underway in the late morning. It was cool and rainy, but we got some sailing in. Late in the afternoon, we stopped at Carver's Cove on Vinyl Haven, since we could not make our community service project, that day. It was so nice to be on land. We walked to a beautiful cemetery nestled over the ocean. What soul could not find peace in such a special haven? Vinyl Haven is a small fishing town famous for Ram Island Ledge Light Station. The lighthouse was constructed of granite block transported from Vinyl Haven. Anne and Myrla got orange juice for our special morning "cocktail" treat. I really enjoyed night watch it was special with the moon and lights from the town.
|Morning chores & planning after dip in the Ocean.
DAY 4 - WEDNESDAY - We got to sleep until 6:30am. We needed the sleep. Rowing in the wind and rain was hard on all of us. Now it is back in the water for a morning dip, hot coco and getting ready for breakfast. When things were put away we went on the Green's Island. We had awhile to roam and take pictures. Then, it was back to rowing again. No wind! We rowed with some sailing for about 4 hours. We arrived at Bald Island about 3:00. We were told to get our rain gear and our water. The 10 of us went ashore and were standing on the rocks, when we were told by instructors that this was our group solo. We needed to find a campsite, because we were spending the night on the island. Susan and Anne would stay on the boat. The group would stand watch for the boat, that night. We were told to return to the rocks in one hour and tell them 6 things we could have from the boat. We took time to walk the island and look it over. Discussions by the group were held on things like how high would the tide rise, do we need food, would we have safety issues at night, would the ground be too damp to sleep on, how far from camp would we need to go for watch, how would we be warm with everyone not having their own sleeping bag and what if we had an injured person? We went back to the boat to present our list of things needed. We knew we needed to be very specific. We asked for a hot meal for everyone and four sleeping bags. We knew a hot meal would help us sleep better and give energy to accomplish our tasks. We knew there was an extra tarp in the bottom of the tent bag, so we asked for the whole bag. We would place the extra tarp under us. We asked for the two rectangular sleeping bags and 2 mummy bags. The rectangular bags opened all the way, so they would cover more people. So, we were off to set up camp. We found the perfect spot. It was down low surrounded by rocks to protect us from the wind and there were no watermarks on the rocks from the tide. We split up the jobs of making camp, preparing the look out site, storing extra gear, tent set up and personal needs. All was going well when someone noticed the tide was rising on the other side of the rocks. We quickly gathered to determine if the water would run through the rocks and flood our campsite. Time was critical, because the tide was rising fast. After a very short discussion, it was decided we needed to move fast. The water was rising around us. We had only one chance to do this. We had time to make one trip out for each of us. We quickly gathered everything and proceeded to higher ground. We needed to be cautious, the water was now up to the top of our boots and the rocks were slippery. Moving to higher ground, we again had to evaluate the campsite. We were on much higher ground, but a million mosquitoes. We now had experience in setting up camp, so this time it went smoothly. We had just settled in for the night, when we heard voices coming down the path to our tent. It was some kayakers, looking for a place to camp. They soon realized this spot was taken. This night was very dark and difficult to see our way to the watch station. It was soon decided to double the watch. Some could not sleep and joined the watch. The mist grew thick and it was very hard to see the boat at times.
|Leaving Hurricane Island
DAY 5 - THURSDAY - We did make it through the night and rose to a sunshiny day. The price to get back on the boat was something we had written. Everyone had to contribute. So, we wrote this:
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
WHY HAVE YOU PUT US ASHORE TO SNORE
WE SEARCH FOR A SITE WITH ALL OUR MIGHT,
IT TURNED OUT TO BE QUITE A PLIGHT.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
WE SEARCHED HIGH & LOW FOR A PLACE TO GO
WE PITCHED THE PERFECT TENT,
BUT FOUND OUT TO LATE,
IT WAS IN THE FLOW.
WE FOUND OUT JUST IN TIME,
WE HAD TO SCRAMBLE AND GO.
WE WENT BACK TO THE MOSQUITO NEST
AND DIDN'T GET ANY REST.
MILLIONS OF MOSQUITOES ATE US LIKE TOSTITOS
WILL MY EAR EVER BE CLEAR
OR WILL I HEAR THIS BUZZ FOR THE NEXT YEAR.
AS WE SETTLED DOWN, WE HEAR A LOUD SOUND
BEFORE WE KNEW THE GUYS WERE ALL AROUND.
WE CHASED THEM AWAY WITH BAT AND BUG SPRAY.
THEN TOLD THEM TO BE ON THEIR WAY.
THE SAILORS ON WATCH, BEGAN WITH A SHORT WALK
OF DARKNESS AND ROCK.
ALONE ON THE ROCK WITH NO ONE TO TALK,
WE DECIDED TO DOUBLE THE WATCH.
THE FOG ROLLED IN TO OUR CHAGRIN,
A BLANKET OF MIST THE BOAT WAS IN.
After that night we renamed the Bald Island to Mosquito Beast Land.
No dip this morning in the ocean. We rowed and sailed into the morning. We all continued to have jobs onboard the boat, but I was beginning to see that the navigation duties were beginning to interest everyone. We all wanted to know where we were going and how we would get there. It was early afternoon when we reached Hurricane Island. It is a beautiful island, we were all impressed. After lunch it was time for our individual solos. We were told to get our foul weather gear, water and journals. We all had to turn in our watches. It was to be a quiet time to rest and reflect on our life and our goals. Others would be farther down the beach, but we were informed that we should not try to find them or speak to them. The instructors would be back for us later. I found it to be a time that I became rested and renewed. All to soon it was over. Back to the boat and get our gear. Tonight we would sleep in a platform tent on the island. Maybe, a little more comfortable than sleeping on the oars in the boat and less swaying. No watch tonight.
|Lighthouse in distance
DAY 6 - FRIDAY - Up at 5:30 am and down to the beach for power walking or jogging. Now it was time for our morning dip in the ocean. This time it was jumping from a platform high above the water (we know now this was to prepare us for rock climbing and the heights we would see). It was hard, but we all did it. The salt water is still very cold. Now, its time to hurry, we have lots to do today. We are off to climb rocks. We hike to a different part of the island to see the rocks left by the stonecutters. It was an awesome site. First, we started with the safety practices, we must follow. Then, came the hands on. The first wall was about 10 ft. high with cleats. Most of us had success on this wall. Next came the bolder climbing and general climbing tips. After lunch were the higher rocks at which all of us were very successful. The shear rock face was an awesome site. This rock face was higher with some cleats. The shoes we used were like jelly on the bottom, very sticky. The shoes were an added advantage. We all walked away with a sense of completion and satisfaction that we had accomplished something great. The conversation that night was taken to a higher level. We talked about the future and how we can change the present. Everyone came away from the day with a new sense of who were are and who we are as a group, whether it was here or in our daily lives. And as we talked in the tent we were connected as a group and lifelong friends.
DAY 7 - SATURDAY - We were functioning as a group now and it was our responsibility to have everyone down by the water for our morning run and swim at 5:30 am. This was probably the best day we had for sailing. We were working well as a group and we had the best wind. Most of the day we were traveling between 5 and 7 knots. It was fun to see how fast we could go and working together made it happen. It was another beautiful sunset. There were three other boats out that week and we all moored in Norton Bay. Then the hard part came. We were informed that we had to make a decision about returning to port. It was a chance to experience something most of us don't get to do on a regular basis, if at all. We had a long way to go to get back to port and the best and fastest way was to go with the tide. The tide was up about midnight. We would have to navigate and row at night to make the best time. This meant that we had to work together in the dark. There was some discussion and we each voiced our opinion. We were informed of the risk we would be taking. Navigation is hard at night; we would have to use all of our senses to be successful. There was also the chance it would not be bright enough and we could hit the rocks. We voted and discussed how it would happen. As a group we elected a captain and navigators. We decided to sleep for about 3 hours and get up about 11:30 pm. The night was light enough to see the islands and we could hear the buoys with bells and whistles. It was a little cold, but not raining. Rowing was hard. Our sense of sound helped. Everything went really well until we got back to port. Wheeler Bay did not look quite the same in the dark. We rowed out of the bay and went to the right. This looked right. We did really well but missed the bay by about 50 ft. It was about 3:00 am when we pulled up to the dock. We tied off and some of us slept on the dock and some on the boat. We had done it. Worked as a team to get back. It was a magical experience.
DAY 8 - SUNDAY - It was a beautiful sunrise. Waking up where we had started. Safe and sound and together with friends. There was a lot to do. Unpacking, putting all of the gear away and repacking our own bags for the trip home. We all worked very hard to get it done and an excitement and sadness sort of filled the air. We had shared an exciting, exhilarating adventure together - and now we were all going home. It was hard to say good-by to everyone - it seemed like a special dream and now we were all going our separate ways. We said goodbye to each other and goodbye to the boat and sea that helped us get safely home. Fair winds and calm seas is what we all secretly wished one another through teary goodbyes. None of us will ever forget the challenge and the joy the sea gave us - and the challenge and the joy that we women warriors gave one another.
Margaret Vesely is a member of LDBSA, Mosinee, WI.