Apostle Islands Charter by John Pasch
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My wife Sharon and I decided to celebrate the end of summer sailing by going for a weekend sail. We invited our nephew and his wife and chose the Apostle Islands as our destination. This National Lakeshore Park is arguably the most scenic destination within a reasonable drive of northern Illinois. The boat we finally settled on was a Pearson 31 berthed at Apostle Islands Marina.
Our 8-hour drive to Bayfield was long but we finally got there late in the afternoon and with enough time to complete the boat inventory and sign the charter papers. I wanted to get an early start the next day because we had a long sail ahead of us and an inexperienced crew. The boat was adequate but the sleeping arrangements were definitely cozy. It was well equipped with the expected safety equipment as well as creature comforts.
On Saturday we got a reasonable start and fortunately could broad reach the northern leg of the course. After several hours sailing we turned west and on a beam reach achieved 6.1 Kt while towing a dinghy, which I thought was pretty good for a 31’
boat. After several hours of sailing mostly west we arrived at Sand Island, the most westerly island of the group. Once there we anchored in Justice Bay, a beautiful sand bottom bay with sandy beaches and sea caves along one side. Surprisingly there were only 2 other boats at anchor that night. If the water would have been warmer it could have been a tropical island. The next day we dinghyed over to the sea caves and explored inside then hiked across the island to visit the lighthouse which was built in 1883. The park ranger there gives us a tour and a bit of the history of the building and pointed out the various shipwrecks nearby. She pointed out the ripe blueberries and raspberries and how much the local large mammals enjoyed them. We hiked back to the boat making lots of noise and keeping a sharp eye out. It turns out that the bears can swim between the islands and are always trying to find the most abundant food supply.
The next day we started out motoring since there was almost no wind and we wanted to get to our destination early before the anchorage filled up. We arrived at Presque Isle Bay on Stockton Island with only one other boat anchored there but that was soon to change. The weather forecast indicated a storm coming that night and we left plenty of scope on the rode. Sometime after dark the wind picked up and started to back to the east then came the hail and north winds. Our anchor pulled up and fortunately reset itself probably because of the long scope. We were also protected by the island to our north and east. Others were not so fortunate. Boats that were anchored just across the peninsula from us in Julian Bay were exposed to the open lake and decided to join us about 3:00 am after several were damaged. We found out later that at least 4 boats were run aground off Rocky and Outer Islands that night. The hike across the peninsula the next day to see Julian Bay was pretty with lots of interesting fungi to observe. The ranger told us that there are 16 black bears that make Stockton Island their home.
We got started late morning for our return to Bayfield. Unfortunately we had severe headwinds all the way. They were so strong that I decided to double reef the main and reef the jib to keep us more or less upright. Even with the reefs in we were able to achieve 5.8 Kts with about a 25-degree heel. We finally got back to the marina late afternoon. We did not have a slip but rather were assigned a space parallel to the main dock one position away from the shore. I was assured it was deep enough (barely) but to watch out for the sandbar on approach. Additionally we had to make a very tight 180-degree turn to get to the dock. It seemed that every sailor in the sailing community was there to see if I could dock the boat without hitting something. We were definitely the center of attention but my crew managed to make fast to the dock and all was well.
Sharon and I strongly recommend the Apostle Islands for a scenic getaway.