Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lake Pepin Trip 1.0

Early Friday morning I met up with friends Heidi, Troy, and Bradley at the boat in Afton. After getting the boat launched, Heidi took off and met up later with us that evening in Lake City. My original estimate was an 8 am departure, and 6 pm arrival.  We ended up getting to Lake City by 4:30. There was virtually no wind. We did try to put up sails on the North side of Lake Pepin, but when the wind meter said 0.0, we didn't bother with the sails.

On the way down, everything went well. Bradley made us cinnamon raisin french toast for breakfast, and we cooked up some brats on the grill for lunch. We ended up using only 3.5 gallons of gas all the way down. One of the concerns was the river current on the return trip. After leaving the St. Croix and leaving the Mississippi, we picked up about a knot of speed. Knowing that the river between Prescott and somewhere North of Lock and Dam #3, the currents were going to be the strongest, we decided it would be smart to try heading up-river for a bit to determine if it was realistic to make the return trip in the time allotted. So we turned the boat around and found at half-throttle we could still make up-river at about 2.5 knots.

When we reached Lock #3 at Welch, we radio-ed in, and the lock master allowed us to just float, rather than hang onto a line. He gestured that we'd only be going down about 8-10 inches with his hands. I thought he was kidding, but turns out he wasn't. Normally it's a 6-8 foot transition. I believe we only went down about 8 inches before the gates on the other side opened up. When we arrived at Lake Pepin, we met up with some of the members of the Northern Lights Sailing Club. We pulled up to our slip, met up with Heidi, and got some dinner before Troy, Heidi, and Bradley headed home.

Saturday morning after breakfast and coffee, the club met up at 9 am and figured out who would be sailing on which boat for the day. At first nobody signed up for the morning shift on the Donovan Too, and thought I'd try solo sailing. But one of the organizers had not signed up, so she planned on joining me, and another club member called and was delayed, and ended up joining us too. We had a really nice sail for a couple of hours before lunch.

coming after morning sail

When we returned, Lori and Jane greeted us entering the harbor. After a quick lunch, and a quick swap of a couple of passengers, we headed back out and sailed the rest of the afternoon. Jane spent most of the time nested in blankets and pillows in the v-berth with a movie, while the grown-ups enjoyed the sail and had great conversations. Throughout Friday night and Saturday there was a fair amount of discussion about possible storms coming Saturday night and Sunday, including mention of 40 mph winds. After we had dinner on Saturday, we decided to move the boat to a different slip in the harbor that was more protected from the wind. We also put a tarp up over the cabin to shed some of the rain. We did have some wind and rain over night, but nothing near the predictions.
wind and rain

Sunday morning there was some light rain, and winds were blowing about 20 mph. The club decided not to go out sailing, so most of the boats were loaded up and headed home. Our friend Wilbur arrived in Lake City around 10 am, and transitioned Lori and Jane off the boat, and Wilbur on for the return trip to Afton. After getting Lori and Jane on their way home, Wilbur and I got more fuel. I noticed for some reason the fuel line was disconnected from the fuel tank. I grabbed the line and reconnected it. We motored around to the gas dock and about half-way the motor quit, as if it had run out of fuel. I checked the fuel and we still had a couple of gallons left. I tried many times to get it to start, but didn't. Thinking there was something wrong with the 6-gallon tank, I changed over to the smaller 3-gallon tank. I quickly got the motor re-started, pulled up to the gas dock, and topped off the tank. Wanting to run on the larger 6-gallon tank, I switched back over to that one. We iced up the cooler and were ready for the return trip.
Coffee or Tea ????

So we headed out and when we got just outside the harbor, we were broadside to the wind blowing about 20 mph, the motor quit again. I tried several times to re-start it without luck. We were quickly being blown into the sea wall of the marina, which is essentially a big berm of rocks. It was less than a minute from the time the motor quit to us being against the wall. I switched the line back over to the smaller tank again, and got the motor started about the time the boat was being pushed sideways against the wall. I put the motor in reverse and opened up to full throttle. As we backed out, the motor was coming out of the water because of the waves. Once we got the boat out far enough, we turned it in the right direction and headed North. Both Wilbur and I were fairly sure that we hadn't hit too hard against the rocks, but I did have Wilbur check all over the cabin of the boat for any leaks. One of the things that I knew did happen, was that the rudder had been pushed back and the prop had gotten into the rudder itself, and shaved off about a 1/2" by 6" area on the rudder. After we gained some composure, we threw the sails up and rode the waves to the other end of the lake, doing about 5.5 knots, since the wind was directly at our backs.
some of the boat repairs that need to be done 

We were able to sail until the point where the channel was too narrow for sailing. We motored our way up through Red Wing with a mix of rain and sun, before spending the night at the Treasure Island Marina, which was about 6 hours after we left Lake City. We grilled up some more brats, corn on the cob, before settling in and relaxing. Wilbur broke out his accordion and played for a bit. We left about 8:30 on Monday morning. When we got to the draw bridge and lift bridge in Prescott, Wilbur commented that there were millions of dollars of infrastructure being used just for us, and were stopping traffic too. We made some lunch, and finished up the last 11 miles to the Windmill Marina in Afton at about 2:30 pm on Monday.

After getting the boat back up on the trailer, we started doing damage assessment. We had chipped some paint off the keel, a couple of scrapes down the side from the bow to the keel below the water line, a couple of small chunks of fiberglass taken out of the keel, and some smudges of slime above the water line where we had scraped against the rocks the day before. While there are some repairs that need to be done, they are relatively minor, compared to what could have happened.

The return trip took about 12 hours, and headed down-river took about 8. We've already planned a second trip to Pepin in July, so Lori and Jane can go through the lock and dam. We're all looking forward to that.

It was a great weekend for us. We enjoyed meeting more people in the Northern Lights Sailing Club, and are looking forward to a fun Summer full of sailing.


  1. Great recap of the Pepin weekend! Wow, scary Sunday, super happy you guys were all ok :) Awesome to meet you and the fam, hope to see you out on Pepin again soon!

    Oh, and great blog!!! Will add to NLSC site soon...

  2. Anchors are one of the greatest safety items.

    Simply drop it and you don't have to kiss the rocks.

    Next time...