A day on the bay
Thunder Bay prime spot for peaceful cruising
For some people, there is no better feeling than cruising across the water on a summer day, with a cool breeze glancing off your face and propelling your sailboat along a lake’s surface.
Sailing is also a test of navigational skill, agility, and coordination, as sails and steering duties need to be executed in sync to properly stay on course and adjust to wind conditions that can change with little notice.
Steve Wilson, of Alpena, has been a sailor for much of his life and enjoys taking his C&C 24+ out for cruises around Thunder Bay and beyond. He often sails with others who are also well-versed in the activity, which helps when sail maneuvers are necessary.
Wilson’s boat, named Last Call, is about 36 feet long and, once the sails are erected, the wind across Thunder Bay has no issue pushing it on its chartered path, which can be altered in a blink of an eye.
Wilson said Thunder Bay is a great place to sail because it’s rare to not have a breeze. He said there are also great views, but sailors still need to be cautious, because the water level drops quickly in some places.
But, he added, those places aren’t as shallow as a few years ago, when water levels were near all-time lows.
“The way the bay is configured, it is almost like a wind tunnel and you get a nice sea breeze, which we get almost every day,” he said. “It really makes for great sailing, most times.”
In Alpena, most of the boats on Lake Huron and on the inland lakes are motorized, and Wilson said there are really very few sailboats that take advantage of the favorable conditions. He said he also owns a motorized boat, but the action and skill that come with sailing is attractive to him.
“Sailing requires you to set the sails in certain positions and drive the boat at a certain angle to the wind,” he said. “It requires a lot more skill than power boating. You can feel the water on the hull and the power of the wind on the sails.”
Accounting for the the changing wind speed and direction requires quick adjustments to the boat. One unexpected gust of wind can cause the boat to lean significantly to one side or the other until the proper change is made and the craft levels out. Then, it is back to relaxing cruising until a repeat scenario occurs.
Wilson said there are several reasons that there isn’t a large sailing community in Alpena. He said sailing on the Great Lakes requires a bigger vessel, which comes with a significant cost, as does the cost to have it docked. He said sailing on the inland lakes is more economical, because a smaller boat can be used and a captain is more able to teach himself or herself the ins and out than one who sails on the Great Lakes or oceans.
“It is easier for them to learn from trial and error on the smaller lakes,” Wilson said.
Each summer, the Alpena Youth Sailing Club teaches basic skills on the Thunder Bay River. The club also competes in races in Thunder Bay using ynglings.
Wilson said the club hopes kids exposed to sailing now will be active with it later in life.
“The goal is to turn these kids into lifelong sailors,” he said. “We want to see them come through the program and take it into adulthood. We are seeing kids who have come through the program who are older and have their own boats.”
Turning kids on to sailing is not the only goal of the sailing community in Alpena. Wilson said adults who wish to learn to sail can also do so each July when there are also adult lessons during the youth sailing classes.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.