29-Jun-2007 -- Winds were 12-15 knots from the northeast and waves were crashing over the breakwall as we set sail from Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 8:30 p.m. on June 28, 2007. With a stiff breeze and favorable wind direction, we looked forward to a swift sail across Lake Michigan. Many friends were nearby to wish us well, because we left during South Shore Yacht Club’s annual Queen’s Cup party. Our departure point was 43° 00’ W 87° 53’.
The sun was beginning to set. Our plan to sail all night would enable us to arrive at the confluence of N 42° W 87° during daylight hours. All three of us wore inflatable PFDs with harnesses tethering us to the boat, plus foul weather gear to keep us dry when waves splashed into the cockpit. Our 28 foot Sea Sprite sloop Alliance has a full keel and comfortable quarters below. She is well suited for offshore sailing.
The six to eight foot waves behind us helped maintain a speed close to seven knots, which is fast for our sturdy cruising sailboat. We headed east for awhile to get well offshore before heading southeast. Looking west after dark, we could see fireworks from Milwaukee’s Summerfest celebration.
At midnight, we celebrated Sally’s birthday at N 42° 44’ W 87° 38’. Sailing offshore, we could see a glow of lights from Chicago, with a full moon peeking out behind the clouds. Our boat continued her seven-plus knot speed, expertly riding the waves as the three of us took turns at the helm. Two of us were on watch at all times, and one person was off watch, trying to nap below.
At 3 a.m. we took down the mainsail to make it easier to steer down the large quartering waves hitting our stern. Sailing on jib (headsail) alone, we maintained a steady speed of five knots.
The sunrise began shortly after 5 a.m. on June 29. The wind and waves were easing, so we hoisted the mainsail at 7:30 a.m. Now basking in bright, warm sunshine, we shed our foul weather gear.
By noon, we were closing in on our confluence. Light, steady winds kept the boat moving at four knots. By 1:00 p.m. we reached the vicinity of our confluence. Arriving at a confluence under sail is always a challenge to our steering and navigation skills. We executed our plan to sail along the 42nd parallel and snap a photo of the GPS as we passed the 87th longitude. Steve stationed himself down below at the navigation station calling out course corrections to Sally at the helm. We didn’t nail the confluence coordinates with all zeros, but we were close enough to qualify as a successful visit. We took photos, shared champagne, and then hardened up the sails to set course for Benton Harbor, Michigan.
That night, safely tied to the dock, we spent a well-deserved rest at West Basin Marina in St. Joseph, Michigan. The three of us celebrated Sally’s birthday with a dinner of grilled salmon at the yacht club followed by birthday cake on the boat. June 30 we slept in, then enjoyed a swim in the yacht club pool before heading west across Lake Michigan back to Milwaukee.
Later, we used the latitude/longitude distance calculator at http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~cvm/latlongdist.html to see how close we were to the confluence. According to the calculator, the distance between 042 00.000'N 087 00.000'W and 041 59.997'N 087 00.008'W is 0.0124 km or 12.4 meters – roughly fifteen paces away!
This confluence is presently classified as "secondary." If you look closely on the south view photo, you can see land features on the horizon. These features are shown on our NOAA chart 14900 of Lake Michigan and identified as stacks rising above Michigan City, Indiana. Since the photo verifies that land features are visible, we are requesting this confluence be reclassified by the project as "primary."
Amazingly, we had favorable winds for the 90 nautical mile trip across the lake and back. Meanwhile, the annual Queen’s Cup race held 24 hours after our sail began, suffered from a dead calm on its course only 60 miles north of our position. The Queen’s Cup is a sailboat race that dates back to 1853.
The expert crew sailing Alliance consisted of Steve Culver, his wife Sally Heuer, and nephew Mitchell Jurisch.
Coordinator's Note: With the view of land, this confluence was changed from "secondary" to "primary".