What is Isle Royale like in June? This year, we arrived in dense fog in the late afternoon. Our new sail participants, Josh, Annette, Evie, and Brad, were already doing most of the work. Working the helm, working the sheets, using the navigation equipment, and now, keeping eyes glued on the radar, the depth sounder, the charts, and the water. We completely missed the Rock of Ages Lighthouse though we passed close by it. Then, when we were set for a blind entrance with crew posted at each post, Isle Royale emerged out of the fog, still 100 feet away. Darn! We entered Washington Harbor and felt the first sun of the day. We experienced fog most days, but rarely for the whole day.
Observation: the SW tip of the Island is getting scruffier and scruffier. I assume this is due to the overpopulation of moose (1200 in acreage that supports about 500). The balsalm firs are basically chewed from the waist up. Any fir that can make it past 10 feet high, apparently, has a fighting chance of surviving into the good years. But there are depressingly few of these at the SW end.
At the NE end, on the other hand, the forest looks decidedly more stable. Shade can easily be found and the bedrock cliffs are as beautiful as ever. We made it to Passage Island this year--our favorite place. The last Island off the NE tip of Isle Royale, it hosts an even smaller eco-system. No large mammals, almost no bugs! A peregrine falcon nest kept us away from the lighthouse which was disappointing personally but heartening ethically; the falcons deserve to nest in peace and it's refreshing to be told as a human being that we can't always do whatever we want.
Dipping was out this year! Too chilly, with water temps in the high 30s on Lake and only in the high 40s in the bays. And no hot weather to inspire chilling dips. After our traditional hike to the Minong Mine that usually culminates in a swim, Cedar commented, "I think this year we'll celebrate with a cup of hot tea instead." We saw plenty of sun as well--don't get me wrong--but as is to expected in June, nothing lasted long.
One other observation: This month we experienced mostly light winds with a strong westerly tendency. We sailed the first half of the trip, slowly, in a NE direction, all the way to Passage Island. But once we turned around, it was hard to find any wind at all, let alone winds with an N or E in them. Fronts came through frequently, with brief spells of NE wind that soon succombed to the westerlies. The only significant NE wind that we felt came just as we were coming into Grand Marais, and were accompanied by thunderstorms. Some years, it's just the opposite.