Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fun in the fog

The 'out of office' auto reply on my work email said, "Out of the office in honor of Victoria Day, returning Tuesday". Although I clearly saw Canada across the Pigeon River bridge, we did not enter the country. It was actually quite a feat that we even saw Canada, given the fog that blanketed the area for most of the weekend.

The VOR, GalwayGuy, and I made what has become an annual trip up to the Grand Marais, MN area for some paddling, sight seeing, beer tasting at the Gunflint Tavern, and even a bit of golf, Yours Truly not included. Saturday found us in Grand Portage, launching at the Voyageur II marina where the ferries to Isle Royale base. The wind was dead east 10-15mph but the bay was nicely sheltered by Pete's Island. Just as we were coming off the water, we saw the USCGC Alder about to place the green can buoy off Hat Point. We figured that getting any closer than about 400 meters might cause some angst, ala USS Cole, so we stayed back and watched. The operation took about a half hour and the Alder departed and we never saw her again along the lake on the drive back to Grand Marais. We figured that perhaps she headed across the lake for the Apostles and nav buoy placement in that area. Speculation and discussion by GG and I as to the sailing route went well into the night at the Gunflint.

Sunday morning the fog was out in earnest. It seemed that we were the only people in Grand Marais, a tourist hotbed starting next weekend, and visibility was about a block and a half as the image above illustrates. GG and the VOR had a golf time set up at the stunningly beautiful Superior National Course and I hit the water in Tofte and paddled up to the Onion River and back. I love paddling in the fog. Watching cliffs and tall pines emerge out of the mist and the softening of the landscape seems to put my mind at peace. It was not quiet however, since the east wind was still coming straight in at 10-15 causing noisy crashing against the cliffs and lots of clapotis. If I paddled out to get away from the bounce waves I couldn't see shore and if I couldn't see shore my sightseeing paddle would have turned into the hated 'fitness paddle', plugging mindlessly along in a white, rumbling cocoon of fog. The Explorer didn't mind the bouncing a bit so I bobbed along about 35 yards out, the limit of visibility. Some guys in the Bluefin Bar, where I stopped to rehydrate, said they barely saw mefrom their bar stool vantage point, coming in and out of the fog, as I paddled back to the launch site. Another excellent day on the water.
The fog had not lifted as Victoria Day dawned. The VOR and I launched in Grand Marais harbor and paddled around Artist's Point and then southwest toward the Sawbills. The swells were swirling around the rock stacks and openings and we enjoyed a bit of mini rock garden play along the point. As we paddled back into the harbor the fog did begin to lift and the Sawtooths became visible down the shore. Other than the Alder we did not see another craft of any kind on the water. I guess there are some advantages to paddling when the weather conditions are a bit less than perfect.

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