Sunday, December 6, 2009

A humbling experience

St. Joseph is a ENE fetching beach in Michigan. The place has a reputation for going big in N wind, with big swell wrapping arround the channel's breakwall. This was not my forst time at St Joe, but it will be one that I will remember. Today the wind was SW 18-20 mph, or at least that was what the buoy at Sowth Haven (30 minutes north of St. Joe) read. I rigged my 6.5 and sailed upwind from the wall, trying to stay in the area between the wall and the beach. The side-on shore wind felt prety safe, but I ran out of power on my way back. What followed was the inevitable wipe out, and a swim to shore. Not being able to waterstart or uphaul, I ended being pushed against the wall and had to climb one of its ladders. In doing this I lost grip of my rig, which floated astray for 20 minutes until it was pushed back to the wall when I was able to grab it.
Overall, nothing serious happened, but I learned my lesson: no room for mistakes in the Big Lakes. Things that went right: from my launch the wind was side-on, and that is what generated the waves that pushed me back to shore. My dry suit, gloves and booties were appropriate for the conditions, I never felt cold. Things that went wrong: I knew that the wind on the inside was not enough, and I still went out. I was alone, bad idea. I launched too close to the wall, worse idea.
Today Lake Michigan showed me its true power, and I am grateful that I got out of the water in one piece.
Fortunately the ladder I climbed was not covered with ice.
Lake Michigan
... and some room for artistic expression :)
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Don said...

Juan, I've been eaten by the Gooseberry wall at Horseneck several times....Not fun! I feel your pain.

Juan Piantino said...

Hi Don! Yeah I remember the infamous wall at Gooseberry Island... Places like these remind you who's in charge...
Thanks for reading!