TIME MACHINE has successfully completed a Port Huron to Mackinac Race. It was an experience that will be remembered for a long time. Since it was our first Mac Race, it was about much more than than our final finishing position. The success of the race came from the preparation of the boat, the support of the shore crew, the camaraderie of the crew, the transport to Port Huron and back from the Island and the racing itself. When I look back at the last 2 weeks, I think that TIME MACHINE and here crew did themselves proud.
Of course, this was a sailboat race and the finish results are what everyone wants to know about. We finished 19th in a fleet of 20 with an elapsed time of 57:31:48. Overall we were 128 out of 158. To put things into perspective, MAJOR DETAIL won our fleet with a time of 54:18:52. I talked to some of the crew on MAJOR DETAIL and found that they sailed just about the same course we did. They went to the Canadian side of the rhumb line, and then followed the North Shore to the Island. Like us, they were making sail changes "all the time".
Here is a quick review of the experience from the skippers perspective..... The transport up to Port Huron was highlighted by a spectacular 10 hour spinnaker run up the Detroit River. To be able to sail up the whole length of the river is a special thing. We capped off the day with dinner at BYC. The next day brought light air and an early start across Lake St. Clair. At Algonac we attempted to stop at a riverside restaurant with disastrous results. TIME MACHINE was slammed into the seawall pilings by a motorboat wake and the rail was crushed in three places. Fortunately we were on board and could get away immediately before further damage was done. When we reached Port Huron, epoxy was poured into the holes which stopped any further damage. All the crew departed leaving Chuck aboard to kept an eye on things.
Saturday morning came early as Rick, Bill, Ted and Jim assembled at Bill's house for the ride to the Black River. We arrived to find John, Judy, Sybil and Chuck just waking up. Gear was stowed, dry ice was put aboard, the weather briefing was attended, Paul went up the mast to tape off the spreader ends and install the tacking arms and we waited for the shore crew with the provisions. The tension was huge as the Sable was delayed by the bridge openings, but they did arrive and we got all the provisions aboard. Good-byes were said and TIME MACHINE castoff.
We arrived at the starting area in plenty of time. Rick went over the side and scrubbed the bottom. We had a short crew meeting to lay out the watches and responsibilities. By this time I had large rats running around in my stomach. The Race committee boat was busy firing the cannon and the slower fleets were starting. I knew that each shot meant we were closer to starting. At about 12:30 we hoisted the Main. At 12:40 we crossed the shipping channel into the starting area and joined the Level 35 fleet. Winds were soft and variable. John helped me to position the boat well for the start and we prepared for a spinnaker start. At 13:00 we heard our starting gun and seconds later we crossed the starting line. The set of the chute had problems, but we did get it up and drawing and started to reach towards Cove Island.
The next 18 hours were BUSY. Soon after we started a set of thunderstorms passed behind us. These storms caused the dismasting of CYNOSURE (SantaCruz 70) and caused STARS & STRIPES (big Cat) to run over a starting mark. For us, the winds became very erratic, both the strength and direction. Even after the storms moved through, we had to deal with lots of change. I lost track of the sail changes, but estimate that we made 20 - 24 changes as night fell. Between the sail changes we found time to make our first dinner at sea, couscous and mango chutney meatballs. It really hit the spot.
After dark, the winds were very light but steadier. We trimmed TIME MACHINE as best we knew how, but found ourselves sailing alone. The better boats in our fleet were well ahead. Sunday morning and afternoon was high-lighted by more light air and a long tack along the rhumb line towards the Cove Island light. As we approached the mark, we were close reaching at full speed. We found that we had fallen about 3 hours behind the leaders. This was disappointing news, but it renewed our commitment to race hard to the Island. John and I decided to work up to the North shore as the wind was becoming very erratic and switching to the Northwest and West. The crew worked very hard to navigate close into the shore and when we came out from behind the Duck Islands, we found ourselves in a large fleet of boats.
Monday morning came with a rain shower and absolutely no wind. After the rain moved off, we again worked to the North and found very light but steady winds that kept us moving. As we approached the North shore, the wind shifted to the West and we changed to the Genoa. Moving along the shore, the wind continued to fill in and became a steady Southwesterly. At Martins Reef, we tacked and were welcomed by a huge shift to the Northwest and 15 knots winds. This put us right on course for the Island.
The last few hours were fast and furious. We attempted to set a chute on a reach, but could not handle it. In the middle of the chaos, the genoa was nearly lost overboard, but quick thinking on Paul's part saved the sail and got us going again. We finished in a dog fight with C-JEM and SMOKKUM TOO. It had been almost three days when we heard the cannon signal our finish.
It was not until we came to dock that it really hit me. We had completed the race. Everyone was safe. Nothing major had gone wrong. It was a success!!!! We all trooped up to the resort, got showered and then split up for the night's rest. The next morning we gathered for a HUGE breakfast and confirmed the news of the place on the finish roster. After the awards party, John, Judy, Ted and Chuck left for Home. The rest of us had a nice dinner and prepared for the early departure.
Wednesday morning was calm and clear as we motored across to Mackinaw City. The pumpout and fueling and re-provisioning went fine and we on our way. As we passed Poe Reef and crossed Hammond Bay we heard constant messages from the Coast Guard about a missing man. We also saw Coast Guard boats and chopper conducting a search. Later we found out that the victim was a crew on ROWDY, a T35 from our fleet. He had fallen overboard while transporting the boat back to Port Huron. The incident made me more convinced than ever that crew safety is paramount.
We anchored at Presque Isle Harbor and setoff the next morning for Harbor Beach. There was almost no wind and we spent most of the time motoring. We were able to sail for about 8 hours past Harbor Beach and decided to continue through the night. After midnight the wind died again and we motored the rest of the way to Port Huron. After stopping for lunch and more fuel, we continued down the river. A savage thunderstorm passed just to our Sout, but some quick thinking and backtracking up the river kept us out of the worst of it. As night fell we pulled into BYC for the night.
Saturday morning found us on the Detroit River. The engine was running hot. As we exited the river, the temperature alarm sounded. We set the sails and were able to sail most of the way across Lake Erie. Paul and Jim found weeds in the intake hose and got the engine cooling system working better than ever. As we approached the Toledo Harbor light, a special marine warning was posted and we could see a thunderstorm approaching. We started the motor and sped to our slip at TYC.
The trip was over. Almost 700 miles had been covered.
I want to mention some of the extra efforts and people that made this year's MAC a special event. John for putting up with a 'green crew' and teaching us more than he realizes. Paul's wife for the great pasta meal. Chuck for keeping us all fed and laughing and for keeping watch on the boat in the Black River. Rick and Keri for the use of the van and driving us all over the place. Heather for working the provisions and setting up the room at the resort. Paul for the great crewing and keeping us going in the wee hours of the transport. Jim for fixing stuff and getting the last of the TODO list done single handedly. Bill, Ted, Rick, Jim, Paul, and Chuck for working their asses off during the race. Sybil for helping with the transport back. Judy for the driving and meeting us at Mackinac Island. Alice for putting up with me these last few months and coming up to the Island to meet us.
TIME MACHINE will do this race again next year. I can hardly wait.