Thursday, May 31, 2018

Captain Dan has the Last Word...

Dan Wiles in Baldwinsville with his Plaque
The Final Words on the Emita II from Captain Dan Wiles:

I did not want to deliver the Emita to Michigan City. Now that the job is done, I am really glad I did.  In hindsight, shepherding the boat that had been such a focus of my life for so long to her new home turned out to be more of a privilege than a chore and gave healthy closure to the only career I have ever known.  I had time to reflect on the endless parade of “characters” that had walked across her gangplank.  I considered the milestones in my life that were shared with my “boat family” and the all too many moments I missed with my real family at home.   

My brother, sisters, father and mother all contributed so much to the reputation and character of this storied vessel and of course the hundreds of crew members over the years who all left their mark whether they know it or not.  Lisa Wiles, Ben Horne, Duane Morton and Steve Wunder teamed up to make this last move with us to Indiana and the Emita paid us back with an amazing 1200 miles of flawless mechanical brilliance!  She continues to be a remarkable boat and her future looks pretty bright to me.  I would be lying if I said I won’t miss her. I had a feeling that saying good-bye would be difficult and I was right.  But I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to doing something new and different this summer.   

To sum up the past 44 years I need to say just one thing…Thank You!  Thank you Emita for keeping me and all who have traveled with you safe.  Thank you for the living you have provided me and my family.  Thank you for paving the way by defining canal tourism and education and recreation.  And lastly, thank you for all the friendships and relationships that have enriched my life over the years.  My Emita II relationships are very different from my land-side relationships.  Must be that whole “shared experience” thing!

~Captain Dan Wiles 

P.S.  Because of his knowledge and life-long commitment to the New York Canal System, Dan was recently elected President of the Canal Society of New York.  You can follow him and support the Canal System he loves by becoming a "friend" of the Canal Society of New York on Facebook.  And be sure to visit the Emita II when you are in Michigan City!

Thoughts from Captain Duane

After returning home to New York, Captain Duane Morton sent his thoughts on the trip to share with you.  Thank you
 your help, Duane!

"The Emita II has been one of the icons of Mid-Lakes Navigation for many years. To see her as no longer part of the family will be a great change. Looking at this change is almost like having a child who has come to the point in life where they are ready to strike out on their own. Her life in Indiana will be a change from the confinement of the canal to the openness of Lake Michigan. However she will continue to bring people to seeing new vistas and the joys of being on the water. Being a part of bringing her to her new home was both joy and sadness. However she went easily to her new home and she performed like the great lady that she is.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Mission Accomplished!

After 14 days of travel on the Erie Canal, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, on the morning of Thursday, May 24 the Emita II was safely delivered to her new  home in Michigan City, Indiana with Harbor County Adventures.

Since I was not there I asked the Captains to share their thoughts with you on this historic journey. Here are two of them.

Captain Steve Wunder:
"Hey Cap, Please blow the whistle one more time. I've known her voice so long and well. Carving a course on the Erie Canal. Hey Cap, throw a wake that would be swell one more time on the Erie Canal. Damn the bridge that won't go up Cap one more time. Tend the lines the way we do , kissing the wall one more time. We are up, we are down Lock gates swing open just for you. In and out with a wave Cap , one more time. Here she comes glidding towards the dock,one more time. Coming and going for so many years, makes me so happy I burst into tears, One Last Time."

Captain Ben Horne:

"The first Wiles I met  was Dan; we were in sixth grade.  I gradually came to know Dan through our association with the school band.  I was aware Dan’s father “Skipper” owned Mid-Lakes golf course.  This was a popular dinner destination with my family.

In 1982 I came to work for Mid-Lakes as captain of the Skaneateles Lake boats.  I was trained by Peter Wiles and came to know Libby, Hattie and Sarah.  Quite frankly this was the best summer job anyone could hope for.  We had a very tight-knit group and had a tremendous amount of fun performing our respective jobs and serving the customers.  It should be noted my sister Margaret worked on the Emita during this time.

Fast forward to 2018.  The Emita has been sold and needs to be moved to Michigan City, Indiana.  I was honored Dan Wiles asked me to participate.  The trip is now over and everyone is headed home.  I thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with my classmate Dan.  I have met Duane Morton over the years however never shared any conversation.  I enjoyed talking with Duane and getting to know him.  His knowledge and experience were critical in making this move successful.  I had never met Steve Wunder; as a retired NY State tugboat captain his experience was also invaluable on this trip.  Steve’s ability to make the most offbeat comments had us all in stitches.  I am greatly honored to share this experience with these men.

In the tour boat business one does need a good vessel.  That vessel will fail or succeed based on the integrity of those who command and work on her.  The Emita has been successful over the years due to the exceptional integrity of those associated with her.  I am truly grateful for my association with these fine folks I call my friends.

May the Emita II continue the precedent established by Mid-Lakes Navigation and welcome all travelers in her new location."

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Mackinaw to Frankfort

The Emita and her crew left Mackinaw at 5:45 am headed for Frakfort. Lake Michigan has so far proved to be kinder than Lake Huron and the trip was pretty uneventful.  We like uneventful!

Captain Dan wasn't too excited about the Sea Gulls who decided to hang put on the canopy. I'm not sure which were worse, the swans of bugs or big gulls!

By all accounts the water was beautiful and calm. 

It's pretty amazing this has been home for the guts for the past 2 weeks. And everyone is still taking to each other!

The Emita docked in Frankfort for the evening. Captain Ben did the honors. The crew are, relaxed and prepated for a big day tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Making a Run For It!

Leaving Port Sanilac
The weather continued to be poor after waiting a day at the dock in Port Sanilac.  You can see in this picture that the harbors were calm, but the east winds were still creating havoc out on Lake Huron itself.  Unfortunately the weather was not predicted to change for a number of days.  However in researching all the information available to them, the Captains found the weather further north to be favorable.  With a delivery date looming, crew who wanted to go home and a small weather window the decision was made at 3pm on Sunday afternoon to make a run for it.  As Captain Duane said, "This was a nice place to visit but it's time to go!"

A route was plotted and posted on the wall.
On the last "run" from Port Huron into the bad weather a number of things were broken in the Galley, so precautions were taken this time to get everything packed away.

Even the refrigerator was tied shut!

With Captain Dan at the wheel, Captain Steve in the bow and Captain Duane navigating and watching weather it was time to give it a go.

After battling weather for 5 hours (during which Dan said it was "Not Fun") the Emita broke through into calm weather, weather and water.  In fact the sunset was beautiful, probably made even prettier by the feeling of safety and accomplishment.

An Overnight Adventure?
While plotting the course out of the weather the crew had allowed for Plan B, wherein if the conditions were right they would keep going through the night in order to make up for lost time. Dan had originally said they would not travel through the night on this trip, but after becoming extremely confident in the radar and other navigation equipment he felt more comfortable traveling overnight and picking up lost time so the decision was made to continue forward.

And everything and everyone did its job!  The Emita successfully traveled throughout the night.
The three Captains took roughly three hour shifts; one drove for 3 hours, a second stayed in the pilot house and helped navigate and keep the driver alert and the third slept.  Every 3-4 hours the Captains rotated.  (It should be noted it was Captain Ben's day to drive the van, so he had gone ahead to wait for the Emita to dock.)

Dan assured me Duane was looking at the instruments and not asleep!  :-)

And a beautiful sunrise...

Lake Huron's Last Laugh
As the Emita approached the northern end of Lake Huron, the boat was enveloped by bugs!  Luckily they did not bite, but they covered everything!  Dan said it was "Lake Huron's last laugh!"  YUCK!

Mackinaw City
27 hours after making the decision to leave Port Sanlilac the Emita reached Mackinaw City.
And she finally, safely, docked!

The crew will get a good night's sleep and leave tomorrow (Tuesday) probably before dawn for another 12+ hour day. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Due to bad weather and continuing east winds, the Emita II and her crew spent Saturday hunkered down in Port Sanilac to wait out the weather. Captain Ben caught up on some important reading.

There may be a weather window starting around 2pm today (Sunday) and we will keep you posted.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Lake Huron Humbles...and Uncle Ben

 The Emita and Lake Huron
When I talked to Dan on Thursday night he said the weather was changing and there were projected winds from the East (unusual and when you are traveling north on the western side of the Lake, not ideal) as well as decent waves, so he had decided to stay put at the Marina in Port Huron for Friday into Saturday afternoon. Saturday afternoon the winds and waves were projected to diminish so they would head out then, perhaps traveling through the night for the first time to pick up lost time.  We want to get the Emita II to her new home as quickly as possible, but safety for the crew and the boat always comes first.

However, on Friday morning Dan and Duane took the chase van north to scout out locations for the next few days, and as they checked out harbors they looked pretty good.  So, in the interest of time and getting the Emita to Michigan City as quickly as possible (and getting back home!) Dan made the decision in the afternoon to travel up Lake Huron.

So off she went...if you zoom in on the small rectangle going under the bridge, it is the Emita II.
However once they got out into Lake Huron, it was much worse than they expected.  The water level in Lake Huron is high and the winds and waves were significant.  The Emita was getting tossed around a bit and a number of glass items were broken in the Galley.  Gear on the lower deck was moving around - this was the first "bad" conditions of the trip.  Dan had some colorful language to describe it!  Overall the Emita and her crew handled conditions, but as Dan said after, "We are not doing that again."  After about 5 1/2 hours the Emita had only traveled 30 miles, and the decision was made to go to shore and hunker down safely in Port Sanilac, Michigan.  Again, that's 30 miles closer to Michigan City, but as Dan said, he was "humbled".

Back Home... 
Meanwhile back home life goes on.  While the adventure was happening on the Emita on Lake Huron, Colleen Nickerson and I stopped by to visit Uncle Ben Wiles, Dan's 101 year old uncle.  He is amazing and I thought you might enjoy our visit too.  When I started giving Uncle Ben the update on where his nephew was, he said "Let's go into the living room and get the charts." 

During our visit we mapped out the entire trip, as well as where Dan and the Emita was at that time.  I just happened that during the time we were there was a relative calm out for the boat and crew, and Dan was able to answer a few texts at that point and to say hi to his 101 year old Uncle as we was .  Isn't technology amazing?!
Me, Uncle Ben and Colleen Nickerson
Uncle Ben is awesome!  Having Dan away has not been fun for me and this visit was the highlight so far of this part of the trip for me.  By the way, Colleen worked with Dan on the Emita on and off for about 20 years.  Her visit to the Emita to wish her farewell was chronicled earlier in the blog.

I will keep you updated on progress as I know it!  Pray for good, calm weather!