Sailing News

Pike’s Bay: High Winds Threaten Marinas, Create Near Emergency

By Gordon Ringberg

Just a little wind and a little rain!

Saturday, June 17, 2006, 3:30pm at Pike’s Bay Marina. The skies were dark and ominous. From a dead calm, the wind rose instantly to a gale. Hail about one half inch in diameter started to punish anybody foolish enough not to notice the approaching storm. The caterers were setting up for a wedding in the clubhouse when their tent outside was slammed into the building, dishes scattered across the parking lot. The wind shifted 180 degrees and blew everything back the other way. The phone rang and a frantic voice on the other end screamed, “Gordy, you better get down here, the docks are breaking apart!”

WX Radar 06/17/2006, 4:04pm CDT

I shot down to the waterfront and immediately saw that docks 100 and 300 had moved offshore about 60 feet. The far end of the 300 dock was up against the fuel dock. Spud poles were separated from the piers and finger piers were floating upside down. The marina didn’t look like it was suppose to look. All this damage had occurred in the space of 5 minutes.

The 300 dock moved 60 feet offshore.

The first thing we did was to make sure that all of the electrical power to the docks was shut off. What happened next was amazing. In the pouring rain, marina members came out of their boats and began moving along the docks, checking to see if anyone was hurt or needed help. A few souls were shaken, but there were no physical injuries.

Finger pier upside down next to the fuel dock.

Next we organized to stabilize the docks and prevent any additional damage to the docks and boats. Dinghies went scurrying through the marina, picking up life rings and fenders, snatching up dock boxes before they sank, carrying lines from the dock to the (now) far shore to brace for any severe weather yet to come.

My crew arrived soon after that, (most had the day off) and we proceeded to move boats from the most severely damaged 300 dock to the less damaged 200 dock and the undamaged 400 and 500 docks.
Dick Kalow and the crew from Superior Charters lent a hand and moved the severed finger piers up to the breakwater were they could be hauled up out of the way. They also assisted Mark and our crew to secure the docks and move boats.

After stabilizing the damage they had on their docks and securing the boat that was blown off it's cradle, a crew came over from Port Superior Marina to see what assistance they could render. The additional man (and woman) power was greatly appreciated.

Docks tied to the inside of the breakwall.

By about 8:00 pm, we were ready to call it a night. The next day, Sunday, we surveyed the damage, added additional support in areas that needed it and began to plan for repairs.

Engineers, electricians and plumbers were called. Power is now back on docks 400 and 500. Water could be on those docks by tomorrow afternoon. Repairs have commenced on the docks 100 and 200 and it shouldn’t be long before they’re back in order. The 300 dock may take a little longer, but it’s all repairable.
Considering the severity of the weather and the damage to the docks, there was very little damage to the boats. On first glance, the damage to most boats appears to be limited to a few gel coat scratches and some torn canvas. But each boat owner should go over their boats carefully to ensure everything is in order.

Some storm stories:

Steve Johnson and his family were on their boat “Lady Jane” at the end of the 100 dock, watching the storm come over the hill. They ducked inside to get out of the rain, wind and hail. Steve looked out and was surprised to see the Fuel Dock moving towards him. A second glance told him that it was their dock that was moving towards the fuel dock. Steve started the engines and threw them both in reverse, backing the dock into place. His son Eric jumped out and secured a line to a nearby piling. Steve’s actions probably prevented severe damage to his boat and his neighbor's boats. Steve then launched his tender and proceeded to help with the clean up.

Seeing the dark clouds while out sailing on the lake, Peter and Poly Alfonso made a quick run back to the safety of their slip on the 400 dock. The rain started to fall just as the last line was secured. Peter retired to the cabin and pulled out a brand new, fresh unopened bottle of Tanqueray. He set the bottle of gin in the sink and filled two glasses with ice. But before he could reach for the gin, the boat healed severely to starboard, then just as suddenly to port (“we’ve never healed that much while sailing!”). The head sail started to unfurl and the main let loose. After securing their boat, Peter and Poly braved the wind and rain to help others on the docks. After everything was settled down, they went back to their boat for that drink. But alas, sometime while the boat was being tossed about, the bottle of Tanqueray was slammed against the wall of the sink and shattered. Peter was shattered too. Wet and weary he crawled into bed and didn’t come out until morning.

I want to thank all of our marina members, the SCI crew, the PSMA crew, our crew and everyone else who helped in those frantic moments after the storm passed. We appreciate the patients of our customers as we work hard to put the marina back in shape.

Gordon Ringberg manages Pike’s Bay Marina.

Meanwhile on Stockton Island

Ten boats including Thom Burns and crew aboard Aerie were anchored at Julian Bay on Stockton Island. They were all waiting for the forecasted west to southwest winds to fill in. According to Thom the weather forecast was remarkably accurate, first the NOAA issued a thunderstorm watch with Bayfield and Ashland counties potentially seeing violent cells. The worst was scheduled to pass Bayfield from 4:00 to 4:10 pm and Stockton Island from 4:20 to 4:30 pm.

It was very calm with boats pointed in various directions while at anchor. Then the clouds turned dark. We could see what looked like cells approaching. NOAA reported a cell had just passed Bayfield. The first cell went south and east of Julian Bay on Stockton and headed out into the Lake just north of Michigan Island. The boat moved back and forth at anchor at least 120 degrees. Then another dark cloud passed just west of Stockton Island. It spun us at anchor through the rest of the swing circle. This cell was accompanied by some hail and intense rain. We were prepared for the worst such as pulling anchor but nothing happened. About 6:00 pm we greeted brother Steve who was returning from Isle Royale. He saw no severe weather and enjoyed grilling at anchor later Saturday.

Upon returning to the marina on Sunday in pretty high winds, the damage was very apparent but so were the efforts of the marina crews and residents. Someone had retrieved my dock box and almost everything in it. My dock partner, Bill from Judith Ann helped me move the box and contents from the secured but floating 300 dock to the temporary 400 dock home.

Captain Thom Burns publishes Northern Breezes.