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Thread: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

  1. #1
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    Default Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Well, 'tis not the season for traveling far for boat adventures, but I did manage to get out for another couple of days of sail-and-oar camp cruising. This time around I decided to head a couple hours down the road to the Willow Flowage in northern Wisconsin:

    US Overview.jpg

    The Willow is similar to the Turtle Flambeau Flowage nearby, but smaller. "Flowage," for those who don't know, is the Wisconsin DNR term for a dammed lake system in the north woods, often with boggy marshy edges, convoluted shorelines, and plenty of islands.

    I hadn't been to the Willow since 2011, on a trip when I had only seen a small part of it. As in the Turtle Flambeau, there are a few dozen free, non-reservable, boat-in campsites scattered around. I loaded my boat (Don Kurylko's "Alaska" design) and headed out. Got to the boat ramp (20+ miles from the nearest town), walked over to check it out, and returned to my car to find the rear tire completely and utterly flat...

    Did a quick change to the temp spare:

    A.jpg

    And launched the boat. A very shallow ramp, so it took a LOT of pushing to get the boat off the trailer. Somewhere the question of how I'd get the boat BACK on the trailer was bouncing around the back of my head, but I did my best to ignore it. It was already late afternoon, so I loaded up my gear and headed out.

    B.jpg
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Looks fun.

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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    OK, time for a few more posts to continue the cruise. I launched from a nice sandy ramp on the eastern side, marked in yellow on the photo below:

    Overview.jpg

    It was already early evening by the time the boat hit the water. My plan, such as it was, was to sail toward and/or into the northern half of the flowage, passing by the campsites marked on the map, and land at the first campsite that was open. I wasn't sure how crowded it was going to be.

    Light winds, but favorable--enough to keep me moving at an appropriately leisurely pace, leaning comfortably against the leeward gunwale:

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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    From here:

    d1.1.jpg

    I continued west and then north, passing several nice campsites that were already occupied. Fishing boats and pontoon boats, mostly, and a few kayakers. Northern Wisconsin is NOT a sail and oar hotbed...

    Just before turning north, I did sail past an open campsite. I was briefly tempted--nice sandy beach and shady pines--but it was well within earshot of an occupied group campsite just around the corner, so I kept on. Eventually the winds died away enough to make getting out the oars the better option:

    d1.2.jpg



    And, just as I had hoped, campsite #10, tucked away in a little backwater, was open. Too far out of the way, maybe, to be a popular choice. But it was really really nice, one of my favorites--a bit muddy at the landing, but open and piney and well sheltered.

    d1.3.jpg

    E (2).jpg

    I spent the rest of the evening setting up and lounging about camp, then headed back down to the water for a final check on the boat (and lowering of the sail--brailing is convenient, but not an overnight solution) before turning in.

    E.jpg

    A perfect evening--no phone, no Internet, no COVID-19 updates. Just a couple of common loons calling across the water. I normally like to get aboard for a 2-3 week trip each summer, but even a couple of days out was proving to be well worth it.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 08:09 AM.
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    I dawdled around camp the next morning, reading my way through the Swallows and Amazons series--I was on The Big Six for this trip. Childhood as it should be--adults around to provide meals when needed, otherwise kids left to themselves on boats.

    But somewhere in the not-too-late morning (no watch, on purpose), I set out to explore farther north into the flowage. There was already a decent following breeze, so it was just row a bit offshore and hoist the sail for an easy run up the islands:

    d2.1.jpg

    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 07:32 AM.
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    I sailed into the northwestern corner, where my not-overly-detailed map brochure showed a campsite near a backwater marked "The Rocks." Sure enough, a couple of large granite boulders, one taller than me. But the campsite was already taken. I looped around and headed back east around Stormy Point (which got stuck in my brain as "Storm King Point" for some reason), then north into Langley Bay:

    d2.2.jpg

    Where I sailed through the narrow entrance channel with a couple of bumpings of the rudder on the bottom:



    Just after the loop at "The Rocks," somehow, my downhaul came uncleated and pulled out through the blocks--most of the blocks. I caught it in time before it completely undid itself, and re-tightened it. Odd. No more problems, though.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 07:34 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Well, the old "my photos are turning themselves into attachments as soon as I'm not looking" thing is happening again. I don't know what, if anything, is showing up on the WBF for anyone trying to follow along.

    Time for a break. More tomorrow, I suppose.

    Tom
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  8. #8
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    Default

    The first photos are showing up on tapatalk, then they stop. Videos are fine. Thanks for putting up these trip reports, nice to see the green and wet from here in blasting hot CA (105 today, supposed to last a week like that).

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Nice. I need to get out more.
    -Dave

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Cool trip. Just read the Big Six with my 10 year old!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Can't tell you how much I appreciate you posting these trip reports. Love the kind of sail/oar you are doing and I find it inspirational to read about it.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Most of the missing photos are just maps to show locations (I like maps), so at least the video links seem to be working. A little more armchair sailing to share--on with the trip!

    I wanted to check out Langley Bay because the map showed a couple of narrow creeks entering on the north and west sides. Creeping up a tiny little waterway under oars or sail is one of my favorite things about this kind of northwoods sailing. The northern entrance, sadly, was too shallow, and blocked by downed logs. I headed for what I hoped would be the inlet on the western side instead.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 08:00 AM.
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    As you can see on the map below, I went a little too far south. Didn't bother me, though. Mostly because I wasn't (yet) aware of that fact...

    But I had found an inlet to explore, anyway, where I finally had to break out the oars:



    In dead-flat conditions, the ability to quickly brail up the sail to clear space in the cockpit is really nice--one of several reasons why I prefer my boomless standing lugsail more and more now, in my 4th year of sailing this boat. Don't let the boom aficionados convince you that you need a boom!

    You could rig fancy brailing lines to do it with one pull from the helm, but I don't find it any trouble to simply walk up to the mast while rolling the sail.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 08:00 AM.
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    That all happened right about here (assuming the photos are showing up):

    d2.3.jpg

    No matter how clear an entrance or a channel looks on satellite photos or maps, it never quite seems to look that way in real life. Of course, a glance at my compass might have clued me in I had missed Spring Creek by heading too far south, but I didn't look (even though my compass sits tied in on its lanyard right on the aft thwart).
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 09:22 AM.
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  15. #15
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    But the passage I had chosen seemed to be heading somewhere, so I kept rowing. Eventually I did look at my compass to find that I was heading south(ish), which confused me for a moment. The map showed nothing but dry land where I had to be rowing right now. Then again, that same map had already proven itself inaccurate to the level of leaving out entire islands, and making other islands into appendages of the mainland, so maybe it was just the map. I kept rowing...



    The Alaska is a heavy boat, but rows just as well heavily loaded as it does empty--which is what it (mostly) was now, with all my gear (but not the 50 lbs of steel shot ballast) left behind at camp.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 08:49 AM.
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    By the time I figured out for sure that I wasn't heading up Spring Creek as I had intended, the narrow passage suddenly brought me back out to open water behind a tiny little island. But where?

    A quick look to the right along the shore revealed a familiar-looking granite boulder, taller than I was. Yep, I was back at "The Rocks." Storm King Point (aka Stormy Point) was up ahead again, on a heading I could just hold, close-hauled. So I hoisted the sail and rounded the point for the second time, this time heading farther east, skipping Langley Bay, before turning north again:

    d2.4.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 09:23 AM.
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    And here, at the northeastern corner of the flowage, the map failed completely. Where the map (and the satellite photo above) shows an open entrance into the far eastern arm, reality chose to offer a nearly unbroken line of boggy willows:



    The narrow little channel between the willows at 11 seconds into the video turned out (after passing it by to explore other options) to be the main entrance to the eastern arm of the flowage. I did manage to sneak through a little farther north.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 09:24 AM.
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    I didn't go too far up the eastern arm, which seemed to attract more than its share of fishing boats and kayakers. Instead, I looped around and headed back west past a tiny little island (under oars in a strong headwind), where I was able to hoist sail again and head up into the inlet where I hoped to find Caps Creek to follow it north:

    d2.5.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 11:55 AM.
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    I did manage to sneak around a few corners under sail in very light airs...

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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    And then it was sail down, take to the oars--but at least this time I was fairly confident I had made it into the creek I was looking for.



    I love these marshy, boggy backwaters in the north woods (even if they do leave a fierce scum line on a boat hull).
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    I made it as far up the creek as I could get before the channel got too narrow for oars:

    d2.6.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 11:56 AM.
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  22. #22
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    And there, nosed into a reed bed, it was time for lunch--which consisted of a few handfuls of pretzels, and a couple of chapters in The Big Six.

    M3.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 09:05 AM.
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    I thought about paddling farther up the creek--the Alaska paddles fairly well (though slowly), using one oar as an SUP paddle--but decided to head back out to open water instead.

    M4.jpg

    I really like the interior layout, with two thwarts roughly equidistant from the oarlocks. That makes it easy to move forward or aft as needed, to row facing backward or, in tighter spaces, facing forward instead. One of the many little unanticipated conveniences I've learned to appreciate about this particular boat.

    You can see a couple of wooden wedges at the base of the mast--I always bring them along. In big(ish) waves, the mast has a tendency to move around a bit in the step, in ways that make me a bit nervous--imperfect fitting, I suppose. But tapping a wedge into each side of the mast box below the partner solves that problem quite securely.

    In flatter waters, as on this trip, there's no need for the wedges. Still, no harm having them along!
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 09:05 AM.
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  24. #24
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Once out of Caps Creek and past the willow barrier at the mouth of the east arm of the flowage, it was a blustery beat in SE winds back to camp:

    d2.7.jpg

    On my map, that large bay directly south of the "Here" marking was almost completely filled with a large island, leaving only a narrow fringe of water around the edges. Reality? No large island.

    I suspect the map was showing a floating island that had broken up and disappeared since the brochure was printed. These kinds of floating islands are not uncommon in these northern flowages, which often contain peat bogs that were flooded over as the reservoir filled. Now and then a chunk of peat pops up to the surface--sometimes quite a LARGE chunk. In the Chippewa Flowage (a similar system farther west, at the headwaters of the Chippewa River), there is a famous floating island that's about 40 acres in size, and has tamarack trees on it more than 40' tall.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 11:58 AM.
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  25. #25
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Windward sailing--the Alaska does OK, but tacks through maybe 100 degrees. The boat is FAR happier off the wind, where the narrow hull "pays off in spades," as the designer Don Kurylko put it once. I've since learned just how right he is about that.

    Still, you can get to windard under sail, even if rowing is faster. If you were in a hurry, though, why would you even be in a sailboat?



    More later--off to do something in real life for now. Happy sailing!
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  26. #26
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Thanks for posting those Tom! Your cruising grounds are excellent compared to our Columbia River ditch

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Nice! And thanks for sharing. I'm going to take a wild guess and say you didn't pack any olives for this Sail and Oar Cruise.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Jones View Post
    Nice! And thanks for sharing. I'm going to take a wild guess and say you didn't pack any olives for this Sail and Oar Cruise.
    I packed 'em--but I never opened a can. How'd you guess?

    This trip was pretzels, poptarts, and (one night) a spaghetti dinner. Also a couple of sandwiches in there somewhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh MacD View Post
    Thanks for posting those Tom! Your cruising grounds are excellent compared to our Columbia River ditch
    Yep, very nice sailing and camping, that's for sure, and no pesky current and wind-against-current situations, or shipping. Just right for a 3 or 4-day trip. By then you're revisiting places you've already sailed past--which is no great hardship, I suppose. I do miss my usual Canadian cruising grounds, though.

    Tom
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  29. #29
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Well, another quiet evening at camp--finished The Big Six and started thinking about that flat tire. I had planned to stay through the weekend, but didn't want to drive 2+ hours home on the temp spare. And no tire place would be open on Sunday. Like it or not, I figured I'd better leave first thing Saturday morning.

    So, up early and heading back to the ramp (still wondering if I'd be able to get the boat back onto the trailer without sinking my car into the lake):

    DSCN6704.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-16-2020 at 12:46 PM.
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  30. #30
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Headwinds at first as I worked my way south, which gave me a chance to see how well I could estimate my tacking angles to get through a narrow gap in a shallow reed bed:



    Pretty well, actually. And here I figured out a bit of a trick I had only been (maybe) vaguely aware of--the half tack maneuver. Apologies if it's obvious, but it seemed like a pretty neat discovery to me. Here's how it works:

    After I tacked back to the right (east) on a port tack through the narrow channel in the reed bed (right after the end of the video above), I found I wasn't able to point quite high enough to miss a longer finger of reeds that protruded south off the reed bed.

    I figured I'd have to tack back to the left on a starboard tack, then tack AGAIN (back to a port tack) because there wasn't much room on the east side, either. So, I tacked.

    And about halfway through the tack, in light airs, I noticed (as usual) how much momentum the heavy Alaska hull carries with it into the eye of the wind. With her long straight keel, you have to sail around gradually, which means you basically (slowly) get about one full boat length directly to windward before the sail starts luffing.

    So, just before the sail started luffing, I noticed I was now clear of the reeds. Instead of tacking, I simply fell back onto the old tack, and cleared my mark easily.

    I'm not sure how useful this would be with a lighter, quicker-tacking boat. But for my heavy, gradual-tacking Alaska, it's a trick I'm going to file away and use again.

    Tom
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  31. #31
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    And then, back to the ramp--a perfect morning sail in light breezes. It would have been far faster to row, but making a habit of rowing in light airs would increase the per-mile cost of my custom sail to an unacceptably expensive level!

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  32. #32
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Back at the ramp, I unloaded everything on the beach before even trying to put the boat on the trailer (I usually unload after the boat is on the trailer).

    But loading, after all my worrying, turned out to work fine. Either I had backed down in a different spot on the ramp, or the water levels had risen (always a possibility with a dammed lake), or whatever. But the boat floated right up onto the trailer, and it was off to the nearest town of Tomahawk, 20+ miles away, to look for a tire shop.

    Yep. They repaired my old tire and sent me on my way.

    So now, I have time for one more short trip before school starts. Where to? Hmm...

    Tom
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  33. #33
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Thanks for posting. I really like that loose footed lug. I had ballard make my sails with a boom as per the original sea pearl plan. Some regrets.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Quote Originally Posted by bluedog225 View Post
    Thanks for posting. I really like that loose footed lug. I had ballard make my sails with a boom as per the original sea pearl plan. Some regrets.
    Yep, for my own purposes and practices, I definitely prefer the boomless standing lug to a boomed balance lug (having sailed 1,000+ miles with each). That conclusion surprised me, as I expected the opposite when I switched to a boomless rig.

    I also understand why so many good experienced sailors (especially more racing-background types) would make the opposite choice, or would opt for the "middle" option of a sprit boom.

    Tom
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  35. #35
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    Default Re: Another COVID-19 Mini-Cruise

    Tom - Do you ever sail that boomless lug downwind with the board raised? If so, how far off downwind can you go before the board has to be lowered?

    -Rick

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