Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Gales are here!

On Thursday I will be joining several of my fellow paddlers,  heading up to the Legendary Waters Casino for the start of the third annual Gales Storm Gathering. Our casa in Washburn will be turned into a bunkhouse for a handful of attendees and we sincerely hope that the weather Gods provide us with some sort of wind and waves, if not actual gales.

We also hope that said Gods did not get their dates confused.  Last weekend was supposed to be the balmy Indian summer weather for the big Apple Festival in Bayfield, WI.  My buddy from Minocqua, SilenceOfTheLambChops, was scheduled to crash at our place after manning his photo booth along the waterfront at the Apple Festival.  At some point in the day the gusting northeast wind shredded his tent and I got a FB message that he had said to hell with it and headed for home.  The tarp was blown off my wood pile, held down by split wood on the corners, which prompted me to check the nearshore for the night.  "Gale warning in effect through 10am Sunday morning, winds from the northeast 25-30mph, gusting to 40mph, waves 10-14' subsiding to 6-8' early morning".  There was even a queasy video on Youtube of 30 seconds worth of the normally placid Madeline Island Ferry crossing with the comment, "we had to turn into that one, it was a big one". That may have been too much gale for kayaking but in the Apostles there is always a lee.  It would have been fun to sneak out somewhere but it was not in the cards.
Besides the weather the other wild card for the weekend is the government shutdown.  Say and think what you will, but the fact is that the government had never been shut down before because a group of legislators insisted that a law that had been passed by Congress, ratified by an election, and signed by the President be repealed before they pass the budget.  Which of course is their main job. I guess I learned in junior high civics that if you wanted to change a law, you helped elect legislators that would enact that change.  So the AINL, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore will be closed.  This means no visitor center in Bayfield, no launching at Meyers Beach, and supposedly we can't get within 440 yards, a quarter mile, of any of the islands other than Madeline.  This should not be a problem unless attendees have a burning desire to see the Fresnel lens in the visitor center.  There are actually only two official NPS launch sites, Meyers Beach and Little Sand Bay.  Apparently Meyers beach, which pretty much has a parking lot, pit toilet, and no staffing on site, has a chain across the entrance.  This must be to make a point (or due to the ephemeral 'liability issues' thing that people always throw out when they don't have anything better) because no staffing is needed there and other than the summer weekends there is no one representing the NPS down there anyway.  The other launch, Little Sand Bay, closes after Labor Day but they can't padlock that one because the Town of Russell operates a campground and launch right next door.  Every other launch site in the area from Bark Bay to Cornie Beach to Red Cliff to Bayfield and the Washburn coal dock are open for business.  There will be zero problems getting on the water folks.

I'm sure that a good time will be had by all no matter what the weather and state of the dysfunctional US Government is.  We missed the Gales event last year in Wawa and had our own gales event in Homer, AK where we were nearly blown off the water.  It will be quiet in the area with many establishments in Bayfield, Maggies and the Bayfield Inn being a couple of notable exceptions, shut down after Apple Fest weekend.  Washburn however will be open and one of it's newest establishments, The Snug, will be the unofficial HQ of the Washburn contingent to the Gales.  Most definitely 'good craic' as the Irish say and the sign over the urinal, "Don't piss off the fairies" is advice that should be taken to heart.  Patsy's Bar just down the block serves a burger that was voted Best on the Lake by Lake Superior Magazine.  Some great tap handles as well including Summit EPA and Keewenaw Widow Maker. Wood fired pizza at DaLous rounds out that excellent block in Washburn. As usual it will be fun seeing friends from around the Great Lakes and beyond and the coaching once again will be superb.  As my friend from Cumbria in northern England says, "No such thing as bad weather mate, only shitty gear". Bring on the weekend!

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