Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Apostle Islands Trip 2015

Donavan, Jane, and I were able to spend time in the Apostle Islands again, and we had a really fun time. We spent a couple more days there than we did last year. Here are the highlights:

Day 1, Thurs, July 16: Left home at around 8 am, and headed to Little Sand Bay. Along the way had lunch at Ehler's General Store in Cornucopia, and met Video Blogger Andy Miller, of Boat Works Today. Donavan has followed his blog for a while, and Andy has helpful videos on boat repair. We arrived at Little Sand Bay in the early afternoon, and met our friends there, Jeff, Kari and their daughter Nellie. Little Sand Bay is the only part of the Apostle Islands National Park that is on the mainland. We spent a few hours rigging the boat and putting it in the water. Luckily the rain didn't come until after we could duck for cover inside our boats. We ate dinner on our friends' boat and stayed dry (thank you guys for a really good hobo dinner). After Jane and I left for the showers, Donavan managed to slip and fall between the boat and the dock. He was bruised, and fortunately only his lower legs fell in the very cold water. Glad nothing worse happened, or we would have been heading home before the vacation even started. Donavan was very sore the next few days. We listened to the rain and wind all night, not much sleep.  
Our boat is on the left, and the Teachers Lounge is on the right. Umbrellas make for really good hatch covers in the rain.

Took this shot at 5:30 am, the fog was just starting to lift as the sun began to rise behind the clouds.

Day 2, Fri, July 17: We sailed, alongside our friends' boat, to Devil's Island to look at the sea caves. They are beautiful to see up close. The wind was perfect that morning, and we sailed for 12 miles downwind, wing on wing, using the pole to hold out the jib. Apparently that's called a whisker pole, or whiskey pole. Who cares. Anyway, it was a gorgeous day, and the only problem was that we were swarmed by vicious, biting black flies near the sea caves. We used our dinghies to sail inside the sea caves, and the flies just got worse. Regular bug spray does not stop these flies one bit. We decided to head to Oak Island after that, and anchored for lunch. Nellie jumped on our boat for that stretch of the sail, and Jane and Nellie had fun playing together. We anchored near the hole in the wall on Oak Island, which collapsed a few years ago, but it's still used as a landmark. It took us a while to get our anchor to stick, kept coming loose. We used our dinghy to go to shore, and play on the small beach and collect rocks. There was a sign on the beach saying that the campsite was closed due to bear activity. (!!!) I scanned the ground for big paw prints, and didn't see any. The girls were so excited to play in the sand, that we hung out for a while. I continuously scanned for bears. Nobody else seemed concerned about it, but I remained on bear watch duty. We never saw any bears, but later learned that a park biologist had recently been within one foot of a bear and used bear spray (like mace) to try and scare it off. But it didn't make a difference!  So the national park service thought it best to close that area for the time being. After about a half-hour, we hopped back in our dinghies and stayed the night on our anchored boats.  The anchor alarm kept going off all night, so we didn't sleep well.  In the morning Donavan helped Jeff deal with a line that wrapped around his mast. It was a rough morning, with not much sleep. 
The trees were barely hanging onto the edge of the rocks. At the Apostle Islands, it's very easy to see how the earth is in a constant state of flux.

The water is really clear, and the caves look like a maze of pillars and holes.

Day 3, Sat, July 18: In the morning, both boats sailed to Manitou Island where we toured the remains of the fishery and got a history lesson about the hard work that had to be done in order to make a living in the area. Volunteer Denise was there, same as last year, and was fun to see her again. She actually lives on the island for a couple of months each Summer. We hiked a short trail to where there used to be a sand spit, to do some more rock collecting, but there really wasn't much of a shore to speak of, so we turned around and went back to the boats. Felt good to stretch our legs after so much time sitting on the boat. We parted ways with our friends because of scheduling and weather predictions. Donavan, Jane, and I headed towards Stockton Island, sailing most of the way, and motoring the last part of the trek when the wind died down. Weather was predicted to be very windy that night and tomorrow, along with storms and hail. We lucked out, because the wind was the only part of the forecast that showed up.  We slept somewhat better that night since we were at a dock, but the high winds were causing a halyard to bang against our mast, waking us up. The wind was so bad that I didn't want Donavan to go up on deck, in the dark, and tighten/fix the problem. He eventually did at about 2 a.m., and we all slept better for it. 
Jane took this shot through our rolled up sail while we were still anchored near Oak Island.

The sunsets are some of the best parts of vacationing in the Apostle Islands.

Day 4, Sun, July 19: Since the wind was forecasted to howl all day, we planned on staying put and relaxing in the safety of Stockton's shores. Jane and I explored Stockton Island, while Donavan rested his sore and tired body. He called it, "holding down the seat cushion." We spent a lot of time at Julian Bay, playing in the sand and wading in the crystal clear water. It really does look like the Caribbean in that part of the islands. We were hoping to see Park Ranger Stu Whipple again this year, since he made such an impression on us last year, but unfortunately he had ended his time with the National Park Service. When we asked the new ranger there about Stu, he said that he should keep a greeting card handy for all of the people who ask about him, to sign and send to him.  The new ranger Zac was great, and we attended a couple of his presentations. One included info about Bears, and the other was about an endangered animal called the Pine Martin that has recently shown up on field cameras that are set up on the island. No one has seen this animal on the island for 20 years, so they are excited to learn more about its presence.  The wind howled all day and night at the dock, which was on the South side of the island, but on the Northeast side, in Julian Bay, it was calm. 
Jane and I came across this driftwood on a hike.

Julian Bay

Having fun in Julian Bay

Spent a lot of time staring at this scene, enjoying the day.

The forest looked like a fairy tale.

Day 5, Mon, July 20: We needed to leave the paradise of Stockton Island this morning. Jane was insistent that we go back to Julian Bay to find "the perfect stick," she had left there the day prior. So we made the short walk back, but couldn't find it. We all took one last look at Julian Bay before heading back to reality. We needed to give ourselves plenty of time to get back to Little Sand Bay, so we headed out at around 10 am. The wind was blowing straight at us the entire way, around 20 knots, with 30 knot gusts. There were rolling waves all around us, between 3-5 feet tall. Unfortunately we didn't get to sail at all that day. We motored the whole way, and arrived mid-afternoon. Motoring the boat instead of sailing gets a little boring for me.  The water was splashing all over us because of the waves and wind, so I wore my rain coat. Jane stayed below and listened to her iPod. The wind and the motor were so loud that it was hard to talk. So I used the time to memorize the islands, both by location and in alphabetical order. Donavan looked at me funny when I recited them, but I felt vindicated when later on I was correct on the location of the islands, whereas he was not. :) 

We docked again back at Little Sand Bay, and did some de-rigging in preparation to put the boat back on the trailer and leave the following morning. Since there aren't showers or running water on the islands, we were grateful for being on the mainland where there were hot showers. We all agreed that we smelled and felt a lot better after the showers. We decided to have dinner in Bayfield for dinner, just a 15 min drive from Little Sand Bay. We ate at a great little restaurant called Greunke's. We did not partake in their signature fish liver dish.  However we had really good fish and pork, and Jane declared her cheese curds to be "the best cheese curds ever." We drove around Bayfield for a bit, did some shopping and had some ice cream before heading back to the boat. In the morning we finished taking the mast down and loaded up the truck, and were on the road by 10 am. 
People line up on the docks each night at Little Sand Bay to watch the sun set.

It was hard to leave. Last year I felt the same way. There's so many islands, and at each one there are coves and beaches to explore. And it all changes in an instant when fog rolls in, or rain creates rainfalls over the cliffs, or the sun shines differently on the rocks. I'm sure each season makes it all look different, too. We hope to be back next Summer, maybe staying longer next time. 

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