Bubba, a vagabond sailor and occasionally published writer preparing to wander aboard Ruth Ann, a Bayfield 29.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Bella Gets Wet
Once I decided to leave the starter
issue to later, I went to work on my other priorities. The mast went
up, the rigging up and the boat was launched by the guys at Pier Milwaukee; a great boatyard. I had been calling around about getting
a tow down to the McKinley Municipal Marina where I had reserved a
slip. There is a dearth of tow boats in Milwaukee. I have tow
insurance through Boat/US but their nearest franchise was in Kenosha,
a good distance away. As a non-emergency tow I would responsible for
half of the charges from Kenosha to me, the tow to the marina, and their trip back to
Kenosha. Chris, the owner at Pier Milwaukee, suggested I talk to the
boat next door. He had heard that they were going downriver to
McKinley that evening.
When Bruce showed back up with his
wife, son and dog along, it turned out that he was planning to
piggyback on my appointment to get under the railroad bridge. Instead
of following me through, I followed him because he agreed to tow me
down to the marina. We were on!
Bruce had never towed another boat with
a sailboat, but we shoved off, he swung around to grab Bella,
and I tossed him a line. We puttered around the first bend of the
Kinnickinnick River and lolled our way past the Horny Goat Hideaway
and under the 1st St. drawbridge. Bruce was in charge and was
contacting the bridge operators as we went. The tricky part is the CP
Rail bridge and the KK Ave bridge. The railroad swing bridge and the
city street drawbridge are so close together they have to be opened
at the same time. There's no room fora a boat between them.
As we approached the CP Rail bridge,
the bridge attendant was out on the far end of the bridge beating on
it with a sledge hammer! Bruce called the tower and found out the
bridge was broken; not moving. We started circling around in the
narrow river; to one side a few large fishing vessels and on the
other an ancient rusty seawall. After a couple pirouettes, I watched
Bruce make another call to the tower and saw his shoulders slump. He
called back to me “The bridge is fixed but an Amtrak is coming. We
have to wait.”
One more circle, two sailboats dancing
mid river in the early evening. The Amtrak train roared across the
river, not over our heads but just down the river way up in the air.
As the rumble died down, the bridges began to move. The rail bridge
swings downstream while the street bridge draws up in two halves. It
is amazing how close they get when finally open. Bruce opened up the
throttle and we scooted under both bridges.
Most of the rest of the journey went
smoothly. The Kinnickinnick is quite industrial on the way toward
the lake. We went by all sorts of industrial buildings, some with
wharves. There were boats stored in nooks and crannies everywhere.
The grain elevators we passed hummed like hives. Under the beautiful
I-765 arch and out into the breakwater area we passed a couple small
lighthouses. Even though I was under tow, I relished in my boat
moving through the water.
The breakwater area is huge and runs
both north and south of the Government Cut where Milwaukee's three
rivers join and enter Lake Michigan. McKinley Municipal Marina is at
the very northern end. A beautiful line of fancy
racing sailboats coming in off the lake caught my eye. Most of them had single
sails that cost as much as I spent on my whole boat. As I enjoyed the
boat porn, it occurred to me that they were all coming into the
breakwater's northern entrance - right where we were headed! It
was the Friday night race, I later found out. About half the racers
were crossing our path and going into other marinas around town. The
other half were headed into the same yacht basin as we were.
The folks at McKinley Municipal
Marina were great. First, they happily took my 5 or 6 day reservation
and allowed me to pay by the night so I could watch the
weather and pick the right sailing day without paying for nights I didn't
use. Then when I informed them I was getting towed in, they put me
at the end of a T dock so that I could sail out more easily.
I let Bruce know where I needed to get.
He was very helpful. We came wallowing in to the basin toward the end
of dock 'B.' Bruce pulled me close enough that I got a stern line on a dock cleat. Going forward, I called to a boater who happened to be a
couple slips down the pier. He caught my bow line and attached it.
Bruce had been just tugging in low throttle to keep me against the
dock. He tossed me my line and was off to find his own summer dock. I rigged a
spring line, tightened the other dock lines and went to check in at
the office. McKinley is a very nice facility with nice restrooms and
showers. The marina is right next to the large Veterans Park and
close to the art museum and downtown. A variety of shopping is within
walking distance but marine supply stores are a drive. The marina
gave me a couple keys for the gate and a hang tag for parking a car; all included.
With no engine, however, conditions
needed to be just right to be able to sail out of, and back into, the
yacht basin. Conditions never were just right, the wind often just
wrong. A couple times we pulled the main sail cover off, but that
just seemed to immediately upset the weather gods. A good part of the
weekend, a train of thunderstorms marched up from Iowa, across
Wisconsin and right over Milwaukee. With my flags regularly stiffly cracking in the breeze, there would be no daysail in
Milwaukee. However, we were trapped at a wonderful marina, right next to a
big park, with a coffeehouse right across the street. And my crew for
the crossing was coming over on the Monday ferry.