Dawn Treader W1066 Sails in All Five!
Linda Heffernan
The versatility of the Wayfarer was shown again this summer when my husband, Jim, and I enjoyed a two week holiday trailering our Wayfarer, Dawn Treader to Canada and Michigan. It didn't begin as a quest to sail our restored woodie, W1066 in all five of the Great Lakes, but rather evolved after we made plans to attend the North Americans at Mississauga Sailing Club on Lake Ontario.

Driving to Canada from our home in North Carolina is a 12 hour trip, too lengthy for a weekend so we retirees wanted to add other activities to this championship regatta. We happily accepted Nick and Mary Seraphinoff‘s invitation to spend a few days at their home on Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. Nick extended this invitation to USWA skippers and crews interested in a tuning and training session in preparation for the 2013 Worlds.

Traverse Bay is just a few hours’ drive from the Upper Peninsula and as a native Michigander I had always wanted to visit Tahquamenon Falls, so it didn't take a great leap to tack this venture on to our two week escape from the heat and humidity of our home state. In addition, if the weather cooperated we could sail in Lake Superior! Wow! Three Great Lakes, three wonderful bodies of fresh water! We had our August get-away planned!

Upon arrival at the Mississauga Sailing Club on Friday, we were greeted by the club’s ambassador, Bill Taylor, father of MSC’s racing team Mark and Paul. At 3PM we launched Dawn Treader in Lake Ontario in comfortable 9-11 mph easterly winds and a fair amount of chop. For reasons unknown to us, perhaps it was the unsteady seas, we stumbled our way through the tacks and gybes and to our chagrin upon raising our new spinnaker for the very first time lost the sail under the boat! Quick action prevented any damage. Not a very auspicious start to our Great Lakes tour! Saturday’s four races in the 8-12 mph southeasterly winds went smoother but missing a few shifts and less than proper sail settings contributed to our disappointing 10th place.

Saturday racing off the Mississauga SC: Dawn Treader (1066) spinnaker hoist

On Sunday the winds blew in excess of 25 mph from the west and the Race Committee and sailors concurred that the sensible decision was to stay ashore. CWA Chairman, Mike Codd, brought out the overhead scale and Wayfarers lined up to be weighed. This activity had been scheduled for Monday as an effort to document boats planning to compete in next summer’s World Championship at Mississauga Sail Club.

We anxiously watched as Dawn Treader was hoisted up and weighed in at 422 pounds very near the weight of another woodie, Chich, sailed by Sue Pilling and Steph Romaniuk.

Since we had ended our Ontario stay a day early, we grabbed the opportunity to sail Dawn Treader in Lake Huron on our way to Traverse City. On midday Monday we arrived at Lakeport State Park nestled on the sandy shoreline of Lake Huron, set up camp and drove to the launch at the public marina in Lexington, 10 miles north. We were excited about the unexpected opportunity to add another Great Lake to our list but Monday's onshore east winds were a bit strong, kicked up a lot of waves and promised an uncomfortable departure from the lone finger pier and a tough sail around the breakwater. We decided to wait until the morning and the forecast of less wind.

Jim helms Dawn Treader in Lake Huron near the shoreline of Lexington, Michigan.

Our patience paid off as Tuesday morning brought southwesterly winds of 12-15 mph and calmer seas. We enjoyed a brisk sail reaching along the shoreline in the light chop and looking through the clear water at the rocks fifteen feet below the surface. We snapped photos and captured a short video of Lexington Trailer Park to share with Jim's brother and sister since LTP was where they all spent their childhood summers.

By late afternoon we were on the western side of the state, ready to take on Lake Michigan! From the moment we arrived at the Seraphinoff‘s lovely home on East Bay of Grand Traverse Bay we were immersed in Nick’s Adult Sailing Camp with the finest facilities for sailing, launching and day docking. We walked to the water to see Nick and his daughter, Julie, sailing the Osprey, a 19-foot Hartley Boat, with Julie testing her skills on the trapeze. Richard Watterson had just docked his new Wanderer, the 14-foot version of a Wayfarer. On a trailer waiting to be sailed was another Hartley boat, the Super Nova, a sleek and speedy 12-footer. In case you didn’t already know this, Nick and Peter Rahn are now distributors of Hartley Boats in North America and good salesman that he is, Nick wants to provide more than a brochure for his prospective customers!

Wednesday began with coffee on the deck overlooking the collection of boats tied up at the long pier or on dollies. While we slept Marc Bennett had arrived with Jamaica Blue W10861. During the coffee hour, Chip Cunningham showed up having driven from Lapeer, Michigan with Solje W1321. An hour later Mary Seraphinoff arrived from Detroit with son-in-law, Nikos Damaskinos, and his daughter, Marina. Next Bill Smethells arrived by sea – he had solo-sailed his Wayfarer from his summer house on the west side of the bay.

Marct and Nick help Jim check the mast rake on Dawn Treader.

We were eager to launch Dawn Treader in Lake Michigan and sail with our friends but Race Captain Marc Bennett had promised a rigging and tuning session. Thus, four Wayfarers and one Wanderer were gathered at the near-by boat launch for measurement of mast rake, jib luff tension, and spreader angles. By mid-afternoon all boats were launched and the match sailing began in moderate winds. Two woodies, two Mark IV’s and one Wanderer provided a beautiful display of finely tuned sailboats slicing through the blue waters in the bright sunshine. After comparing boat speed on windward tacks and reaches, we sailed our boats back to the Seraphinoff pier for the night. The sailing talk and camaraderie continued through our pizza dinner. In early evening we said good-bye to Marc and Julie who returned to work responsibilities in East Lansing.

  (l to r) Jim, Nikos, Richard and Chip enjoy a gam on the sandbar.

On Thursday Nick showed us one of his favorite day cruises and led our fleet of four boats to the "sandbar," a local shallow area on the east side of the bay where we anchored the boats, walked barefoot in the soft sand, enjoyed refreshments and shared laughs. Dinner back at the Seraphinoff home was a special event that included Mary’s cousin, Ray, and his wife. And Linda’s cousin, Virginia, all Traverse City residents. The wonderful company and memorable sailing on East Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan, our Great Lake #3, was a highlight of the entire trip.

Friday morning we said good bye to our Wayfarer friends and headed to the Upper Peninsula. In two hours we were crossing the Mackinac Bridge, the four mile wonder that spans the Straits of Mackinac where the waters of Lake Huron to the east join the waters of Lake Michigan to the west.

We thought of Gary Hirsh and Al Schonborn who one year ago had sailed Gary’s Wayfarer, Solje, through these straights on their Tip of the Mitt Adventure. Their Wayfarer must have appeared and felt pretty small under this mammoth structure - see two photos above!

A pleasant drive amid the northern pines and birches brought us to our reserved campsite at Tahquamenon State Park near Paradise, Michigan and within striking distance of Lake Superior, the next quest on our Great Lakes Tour. The winds were too strong for sailing but we knew we had four days to complete a splash of Dawn Treader and thus add Great Lake #4 to the list. Fortunately, there was plenty to do at this beautiful park and famous falls, second highest east of the Mississippi River. We filled Friday and Saturday with touring the upper and lower falls, hiking into Clark Lake where we found a patch of wild blueberries, some of the few survivors in this year’s poor crop. The temperatures in the 70’s were comfortable for us but we learned were far too warm for the elusive moose that hunker into the bogs whenever the thermometer rises above 66 degrees!

Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan’s Upper Penisnusla

On Sunday the wind abated and we launched Dawn Treader into Whitefish Bay, known as the Graveyard of Lake Superior. What a thrill it was to sail around the sandy point of the bay and into the expanse of the largest of the great lakes. As we sailed near the shore, avoiding the shoals near Whitefish Point, we put on a good show for the tourists at the Shipwreck Museum, but were always aware that we were the only sail or power boat on the water! And yes, even on a sunny August day, the water is very cold!

Dawn Treader approaches the tip of Whitefish Point on Lake Superior.

While unrigging in the parking lot after our successful sail, we met a family arriving with a Flying Dutchman sailboat. We thought about re-launching the Wayfarer but chatted instead, because we still needed time to tour the Lighthouse and Shipwreck Museum. At this attractive museum we learned about the fate of over 300 freighters and passenger vessels that foundered and sank near Whitefish Point due to careless collisions or winter storms in the mighty Superior. We both have strong memories of the tragic loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot in his soulful ballad of the shipwreck in an early November storm in 1974. We were living in southern Michigan then and the tragedy seemed personal to many persons familiar with the sight of the ore freighters moving north and south off the eastern shores of Michigan.

The Lightkeeper’s home at Whitefish Point

With the fourth Great Lake entered into our log, we began to wander home on a route that took us to Detroit for a short visit with my brother and sister-in-law who live between the Bayview Yacht Club and the Renaissance Center both located on the Detroit River. At this time we already had our minds set on sailing in Lake Erie which would complete the five Great Lake circuit but agreed that the Detroit River, one of the links between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, didn’t really qualify. However, the stop-over gave us a chance to catch up with family and feast on our sister-in-law’s tasty seafood gumbo, while we waited for some wind and investigated some public launches on Lake Erie.

Late Thursday morning we headed south, passing automobile factories, steel plants and huge oil reservoirs, all familiar sights, but ones we hadn’t viewed in years. Outside of Toledo, Ohio we stopped at the Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Preserve and Custer State Park. The launch was more than adequate and the south winds in the narrow channel leading to the river mouth provided an easy run out but a challenging windward approach back in. We were committed to completing this quest so we rigged and launched before we could change our minds.

Egrets lined the west shore of the channel and we enjoyed the beauty of the preserve, a jewel in the midst of the industrial community. In the clear waters of Lake Erie we saw for ourselves that the zebra mussels are still doing their algae clean-up job. The 10-mph winds steadily increased and the choppy seas contributed to a frisky sail. We snapped photos of the cooling towers of the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant to the north and other smokestacks on the shore to the south.

Linda is relieved at the decision  to keep the spinnaker stowed.

Looking around we saw no other boats so skipped the spinnaker. Knowing we had road miles to cover, we wound up a happy sail and began the difficult beat back up the narrow channel to the launch. It proved to be as tedious as we had predicted but lots of practice in the Branch of Hermit Island, Maine in previous years paid off.

This day sail on Lake Erie completed our adventure of sailing Dawn Treader in all five Great Lakes during a two week trip that again demonstrated the versatility of the Wayfarer. In this short period we had raced W1066 in a North American Championship in Lake Ontario, sailed with Wayfarer friends in Lake Michigan, and day sailed on our own in Lake Huron, Lake Superior and Lake Erie. However, whatever the event or reason for launching our Wayfarer, we know that it is the friendships we have made through our years of sailing with the Wayfarer Class that are the real reasons for our participation!