Surfin’ Lake Michigan

Day 361: Monday, August 31, 2013

Port to Port: Frankfort to Ludington, Michigan

Underway: 7:17 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 53      Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: Probably one of our biggest challenges on this trip is figuring out the weather. Yesterday morning it looked like today was going to still be too windy and rough to the make the long trek to Ludington. As the day wore on, the forecast changed and by evening it looked like a go. But depending on which weather forecast you looked at, we could potentially see everything from thick fog to 5 mph winds from the south to 20+ mph winds from the north to1-5’ waves. It’s always a crapshoot. We ended up having a great (if boring) travel day. The wind was light from the east at first with long low rollers pushing us along from the north (how does that work). It became almost calm for the middle part of the day although the rollers kept coming. We were regularly surfing at more than 7 mph down the fronts of the waves. By the last 3 hours, the wind finally freshened and clocked more to the north giving us a nice push. We had the sails up all day and even flew the sails wing and wing (jib out to starboard and main out to port) for the last hour. A perfect sailing day in spite of the weather forecast.

After our long straight run down the lake to Ludington (and after being passed by Tour De Loop, Corina, Journey and Down Time) we cruised into the municipal marina to join our friends. After getting tied up and checked in, I borrowed Kents’ bike again and headed off on a Walmart run. It’s been a long time between stops and I am out of 2 cycle motor oil (about $14/gallon at Walmart vs $10 a quart here at the marina) and we need some more 1 lb propane canisters. As usual, I spent almost $100 on my shopping spree and carried it all (a little precariously) back to the marina on the bike. I only missed about half of happy hour but they saved me some Yellow Hammers that Jane made for everyone. She is so excited to be able to get a cable signal so she can watch her college football she left docktails early (she’s been deprived for a while too).

We may be here a couple of days to wait for some strong winds to pass us by. This is a nice and reasonable price marina and the town is big enough to be interesting. It is too far to another decent stop before the weather changes late tomorrow and especially on Monday. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Hello, Goodbye

Day 360: Saturday, August 30, 2013

Port to Port: Frankfort, Michigan

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time having live music during docktails.

Mile to Mile: Someone told us Frankfort was a popular place to go fishing on Lake Michigan. I didn’t realize how popular until last night when we were chatting by the boat and, for over an hour, a continuous stream of small fishing boats returned to the harbor, in the dark, after having spent the day out on the lake trying to catch their limit of king salmon. I have never seen so many fishing boats in one place ever. Almost all of them headed for the boat landing a few blocks down from the marina – I wish I had gone down there to see what they caught. It would have been interesting.

We are staying in port today to wait for better weather – the winds are supposed to be 20+mph out of the south (they would be on our nose for 50+ miles) with higher gusts and a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Everyone else seems to have had the same idea. One sailboat at anchor did try to leave but turned around and came back – they were seeing 6+ foot waves even near shore. Not a fun time.

After taking a shower early, I hopped on Kent’s handy folding bike and trekked a short ride down to the grocery store to get buttermilk and a few other things. Can you guess what we need that for? Well, we headed over to Jubilate to make ebleskivers, of course. As usual, not a single ‘skiver survived the morning. We chatted about boats and cruising and ebelskivers the whole morning. What a blast. We’ll have to be stranded more often. Warren and Marti are doing a really long day tomorrow – about 90 miles – to get as close to home as possible before the next weather system moves through. It’s always hard to say goodbye but we always have hope that we will see each other again.

 After spending some time at the library (me) and doing laundry (Cindy), somehow or another it was time for docktails again. This time we had some charcoal for grilling and we invited our Looper friends from the other marina over too – the more the merrier. We even had live music – some old timey music – right in the covered picnic area – it was music in the park night. Eddy and Linda would have been dancing in the aisles.


Swan Lake

Day 359: Thursday, August 29, 2013

Port to Port: Leland to Frankfort, Michigan

Underway: 7:25 am      Motor Off: 2:05 pm      Miles Traveled: 41/35      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time our credit card was denied – found out that it had been compromised and frozen (somewhat of a hassle to get it cleaned up).

Mile 70 to Mile 105: Lake Michigan was very kind to us today. There was no fog this morning and the lake was calm with the slightest little ripples slapping against the hull. We were able to motorsail for the first hour or so as the breeze flowed from the east southeast off shore. That soon died leaving the lake almost glass smooth – we motored along at 6+ mph enjoying up close views of the beautiful tree encrusted sand dunes that make up most of the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The tallest dunes are over rise 400’ above the lake level. What more could we ask for.

It was a straight shot from Leland to Frankfort and we soon were turning into the inlet around the breakwater and motoring up to the marina (dodging the beautiful white swans that call this bay home). The municipal marina has high stationary docks and a nice park and bike path along the shore. Our slip was only maybe 50 steps from the front door of the library – in fact, I am typing this on the boat and using the library internet to upload everything to our website (as usual, the marina internet is useless). This is going to be a fun stop and it looks like we will be here for two nights waiting for the forecast winds to die down.

We made quick work of our normal boat projects – I walked a whole block twice to fill up 3 of our gas cans and get ice. Even though we got in fairly early in the afternoon, there never seems to be enough time to explore – between boat projects, checking in, meeting other boaters and getting organized, it is 5 pm and time for docktails. I did made a quick trip downtown to send a fax and scope out the stores and restaurants just in case we weren’t staying tomorrow. Many of the stores close at 5 pm which is too early for us to spend any money (I suppose that is a good thing).

We thought it would only be the three of us for docktails tonight – Carina, Jubilate and us – but we met Tom and Nancy on Terrapin (a 44’ DeFever) and Warren and Marti again on Tour De Loop so we had a full house under the picnic canopy at the marina. Tom and Nancy are Looper newbies having just started from Petoskey, Michigan. It was fun for all of us to be able to share a little “Looper knowledge” with them as they start out on this great adventure. It seems a lifetime ago when we were just starting out.

We skipped supper – we had too many snacks at docktails – and went for a walk with Warren and Marti downtown (thanks again for the ice cream). Guess who we found wandering the streets of Frankfort? Rick and Margi on Journey came sauntering down the sidewalk with Down Time (whom we also met back in Kingston, NY). It’s a crazy world we live in on the Loop.

We almost got back to the boat and got to talking to another couple – Dave and Judy on Sir Tugley Blue – and their son Barry who lives here and was visiting with his new baby. They have been traveling the Lakes for the summer and had lots of stories to tell. We probably talked to them for an hour and a half. We didn’t finally leave until almost 10:30 pm – so much for Looper midnight.

In Passing: Carp River Point, Good Harbor Bay, Pyramid Point, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Empire Bluffs, Point Betsie.


Day 358: Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Port to Port: Charlevoix to Leland, Michigan

Underway: 7:20 am      Motor Off: 1:05 pm      Miles Traveled: 35      Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: Wow – the wind wasn’t on our nose today. We were actually able to motor sail comfortably all the way to Leland. And Lake Michigan was relatively calm. And we averaged 6.5 mph. And we didn’t hit any fishing boats while motoring through the fog. What a great day.

Our 3-boat caravan (Carina, Jubilate and us) left in time to catch the 7:30 am bridge opening and as soon as we cleared the channel, we hit fairly thick fog on the Lake. Jubilate lead the way and we all sequentially sounded our horns every 5 minutes for a little over an hour while the fog slowly burned off. We weren’t worried about any big ships but we did see a fishing boat pop out of the mist every once in a while. They were unlit and never answered our horns back. The fog didn’t last long – as soon on the breeze started blowing the fog blew away up our sails went. The wind was light but it gave us a little boost in speed and kept the boat stable in the rollers that passed by from the northwest.

Having all three of us out there sailing or motorsailing made the day go a lot faster (and made for some nice photo ops too). We quickly made our way down the shoreline and were turning into the harbor just in time for a later lunch (long awaited pulled pork sandwiches). This is a very new, high quality municipal run marina – a little pricey at $1.75/foot but you get what you pay for sometimes.

In case you are interested, the Leland Township Harbor is in the running for the best shower facilities. There were 8 individual shower rooms – all with there own doors believe it or not. No rushing to get the only shower at the marina. The showers were new and beautiful with tiled walls and floors, heavy duty stainless steel fixtures, a nice bench and large hooks for hanging up your clothes, lots of shelf space in the shower and great water pressure. What more can a traveler ask for? (And no spiders hanging down from the ceiling like at certain places to remain unnamed).

We really enjoyed exploring the unique shops just minutes from the Marina. Some of the shops were in some old wood buildings – Fishtown – built decades ago for the commercial fisherman who called Leland home. They have conserved these buildings so future generations can learn a little about the history of this town. This would be a great place to spend a few days.

We, of course, had docktails again. We met some other Loopers from Florida – Bill and Kathy on Tour De Loop – and had a nice get-together. There was a man and his wife sitting in some wood rockers in front of the main building enjoying the view of the harbor and we started chatting about boats and sailing. They used to be sailors until relatively recently. So they joined our little party and had a blast. It turns out Charles and his wife Janet like to visit this area and this year are traveling with their 19 and 21 year old granddaughters (I can’t wait till I get to do that). He is a Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan and also, on the side, develops and sells hybrid popcorn varieties. We talked about everything from sailboats to genetics to the history of popcorn. (Charlie, tell me when you get your book on the history and science of popcorn done, I will buy one).

We have another promising weather day tomorrow with favorable winds and no chance of storms until late so off to Frankfurt we go. One day at a time.

Charlevoix Who

Day 357: Monday, August 27, 2013

Port to Port: Beaver Island to Charlevoix, Michigan

Underway: 7:07 am      Motor Off: 12:40 pm      Miles Traveled: 39       Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: We are finally starting our 400 mile journey down the length of Lake Michigan. It is big water but the ports along the eastern shore are 20-40 miles apart so, if we pick good weather windows, we should have some nice cruising over the next 10 days. The prevailing winds are usually from the west so we could have some perfect sailing weather giving us a speed boost. Our first 40 mile trek was overcast and rainy but not stormy. We had some waves and swells on the front quarter which slewed the boat around but nothing uncomfortable. Just boring – no buoys, no scenery and gray skies. At least we are finally going south.

We made it to the Charlevoix lift bridge with 5 minutes to spare (it only opens on the hour and half hour) and we were tied up at the municipal marina a few minutes later. Everyone has told us we would really like Charlevoix so we were excited to do some exploring but first we needed to finish a couple of boat projects. Cindy hung out some wet stuff to dry while we got checked in. I walked 15 minutes to the nearest gas station and refilled our containers (saved about $12). We were ready to check out downtown.

The park area in front of the marina is beautiful. Nice curving stone retaining walls, lush green grass, a kids water feature with fountains to run in and out of and huge, multicolored hanging flower pots all along the water front – it lives up to the towns nickname, “Charlevoix the Beautiful”. We did some window shopping and Cindy bought a lightweight waterproof jacket. The shops were nice but I’m not sure what we are missing – you can only shop so much.

Marinas are interesting places. Everyone has a story and is usually willing to share. I started chatting with Bill sitting in the cockpit of his sailboat and found out he runs an outdoor store in town and just bought this boat in Holland Michigan to travel to the islands this winter. How exciting. I can’t imagine how long his To Do List is to get ready to leave to go south for the winter by sometime in September. At least the boat looks ready to go – it was beautiful with lots of custom woodwork in the interior. It might have been a boat we would have bought had we been looking. Then, after dinner, I was sitting in the lounge typing the blog and got to chatting with Marti and Warren – another sailing couple that have spent the last 9 weeks exploring the area on their Cabo Rico. We now know someone in South Haven which is a nice port to stop in on our way south. Dinner anyone? We enjoyed sharing sailing stories – especially sailing stories on small boats. We hope to meet again.

The weather looks perfect for traveling south tomorrow – a light north wind, waves 1-2 feet and sunny. What more could you ask for?

Just Ducky

Day 356: Monday, August 26, 2013

Port to Port: St James, Beaver Island

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First wild turkeys.

Mile to Mile: What a difference a day makes. The wind just stopped early in the morning and the water was calm when we got up at sunrise. We could have left for Charlevoix but no one brought up the idea so we stayed another day on Beaver Island. Somehow or another, we stayed busy all day.

We started with a leisurely breakfast at Dalwinnies (again) with Ozel and Mary Ann from Freya and Bob and Debbie on In My Element. We were in no rush to leave and then Kent wandered in and joined us so we stayed even longer.

After our long and leisurely breakfast, it was time for boat projects. I needed to replace a large bolt on the motor mount that had corroded away so off to the hardware we went (one on about 5 trips there today). Even though this island only has 400-500 permanent residents (the population jumps to 3500 in the summer) it has a wonderful grocery store and hardware store. Replacing a single bolt can be a time consuming project – the first bolt I bought was too small in diameter so I exchanged it (trip number two) and then I needed a bushing (trip number 3) and I found the other bushing was cracked and needed to go back again (trip number 4).  Luckily Kent loaned me his bicycle that made the trips easy and fast. I finally replaced the bolt and moved on to replace a drain hose for the scuppers (cockpit drains) that has been leaking. This project went much faster than expected and I didn’t need to make another emergency run to the hardware store. For my last project I needed a couple of bigger diameter stainless steel screws so back to the hardware store I pedaled (trip number 5).

By the time all our projects were done, it was time for Happy Hour. We made white chocolate dipped strawberries and nachos that went perfectly with the crackers and cheese with smoked fish, quesadillas, peanuts and summer sausage and cheese and brownie bites. What a feast to share with our friends on In My Element, Freya, Carina and Freedom Bird (Tom and Susan).

I still hadn’t taken many pictures for today or explored the north side of the island, so I borrowed Kent’s bike again and went on a scenic tour to see the lighthouse, the beach and the other side of the island. I can see why so many people like to spend their summers out here in quiet solitude.

The weather looks really good for our crossing over to Charlevoix tomorrow. Hopefully we have a nice stable stretch of weather so we can hop down the east coast of Lake Michigan toward Chicago. Time will tell.

Rock and Roll

Day 355: Monday, August 25, 2013

Port to Port: James City, Beaver Island

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: It was windy today. Really, really windy. The forecast was for 15-20 knot winds with gust to 30 – we saw steady 20-30 knot winds with gust to 50+ all day. (Kent took a picture of his wind readout showing 52.6 knots – yikes). Even in our somewhat protected marina, the waves and whitecaps had the boats rockin’ and rollin’ all day. Waves on the big lake were 8-13 feet (not 8-13 inches like we like). But it was sunny and warm on land and we weren’t going anywhere so we weren’t suffering any.

I got up early as usual and worked on the blog in the lounge until it was time to join Kent and Cindy for breakfast at a restaurant nearby. We filled the morning walking around town, visiting the shops, stopping at the hardware store and watching the boats bob up and down in the waves. We borrowed a couple of DVD’s from Jane and set up the computer and some chairs and had a lazy afternoon watching movies.

We heated up a couple of pasties from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for dinner – a perfect dinner on a blustery day. We will probably have another down day tomorrow – the forecast is still calling for (lighter) wind with thunderstorms mixed in – so we will have a chance to explore and maybe squeeze in a nap or two.

Island Life

Day 354: Saturday, August 24, 2013

Port to Port: Mackinaw City to Beaver Island

Underway: 6:32 am      Motor Off: 1:45 pm      Miles Traveled: 41      Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: We left the marina with high hopes that our favorable weather window would hold and allow us to make the long trek to Charlevoix without getting beat up. Well, it held for a few hours. In fact, we had a great sail until we turned south through the channel through Greys Reef. Even though the winds seemed fairly light, the waves had the whole length of Lake Michigan to build and then they hit the shallow water of the shoal. By the time we got through the shoals, we were regularly seeing 3-4 foot waves and rollers with a few 5+ footers thrown in just for the fun of it. The waves were manageable but we also slowed down going directly into the wind and waves and it would have taken another 7 hours of pounding to get to our original destination. We decided to fall off, put up the sails to steady the boat and head west to Beaver Island only a couple hours away. A good decision since the wind never let up and actually increased a little as we motorsailed at 6 mph to our new home for a couple of days – the wind isn’t supposed to let up until Monday afternoon.

We made it to the Beaver Island Marina without any problems and were pleasantly surprised. They have a nice lounge for boaters, good showers, decent internet and you can even rent a car to drive around the island sight seeing. This is a summer cottage community. You can only get here by boat or small airplane. I wasn’t expecting much at the local grocery store but ended up coming out with 4 bags of items some of which we have been looking for for many weeks. And the prices were amazingly normal – not like in Canada.

We had a nice surprise as we motored up to the dock – we found someone we know is already here – Ozel and Mary Ann on Freya. We met them back in Delaware City and   . They had just come in from Charlevoix (going with the waves and wind) and are planning to travel down the west side of the lake. We met their neighbors Bob and Debbie on In My Element too  who are also Loopers. What a fun reunion. Carina had met Freya back at      when they got their mast stepped. We live in a strange strange world on this Loop. We can go for weeks and weeks in our home town and not see anyone we know but out here, on the Loop, if we don’t see someone we know after two or three days, we must be trying to hide.

We caught up on our respective adventures at docktails. We were originally going to have Kent and Jane over to share grilled pork loin (which Jane had given us several days ago after cleaning out her fridge) but she already had one in the slow cooker so we brought grilled red potatoes and salads and had a feast on Carina. One thing you learn on the Loop is you have to be flexible.

Even though this isn’t where we planned to be today and tomorrow and the next day, plans are meant to be changed. There are lots of hiking trails, quiet roads to bike and some interesting restaurants and shops to check out. And maybe, just maybe, we will find time for naps…or not.

Three Days of Fun for the Price of One

Day 353: Friday, August 23, 2013

Port to Port: Mackinac Island to Mackinaw City, Michigan

Underway: 10:58 am      Motor Off: 12:20 pm      Miles Traveled: 7      Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: We wanted to pack as much of the island in as we could this morning so we got up early and went for a long walk along the shoreline. We had planned to walk up a long, steep set of stairs to get to the Arch overlook but it was closed and under repair. So we walked half way back to town and up a steep side street to get to a trail that took us back along the shore again only high up on the bluff. What an amazing view. The clear turquoise water below looks so inviting but, at about 60˚, I think I’ll pass. We were all alone – in our two+ hour walk, we only saw a couple of runners and a park ranger.

We headed back to civilization and passed by the Fort just in time to watch the flag raising – they simultaneously raise 6 flags on command as a bugle plays in the background. The town was starting to wake up – we actually found people wandering around, most of whom had cups of coffee in their hands. We stopped by a hotel we passed yesterday advertising a breakfast brunch for $7.95 and were pleasantly surprised at how good it was – all of our favorites for one low price. We won’t have to cook today.

After a little more window shopping, we were ready to go and so was Carina. We cast off and motorsailed across the channel to the mainland (Irish Attitude and Journey followed us across too) and we all ended up at the Straits State Marina (after navigating one of the trickiest entrances on the trip) a few minute walk to all the shops and restaurants. Can you say “What time is happy hour?” We have something special to celebrate too – Mike and Gay finished their Loop today. What an amazing accomplishment. Now they just have to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives (that’s a lot harder challenge I think).

We like these 7-mile days – lots of time to get boat project done and have fun before Looper Midnight. Boat projects first. I walked a little less than a mile to a gas station – worth the walk to save $1.00/gallon. I paid for half of our marina fee with a 20 minute walk. We next took the mast down to fix the solar light and check the antenna. (One thing we really like about the marina life is how helpful everyone is. Someone on another boat saw that I was fiddling with the antenna and loaned me his antenna checker to see how much power we were putting out). We experimented with a two-to-one pulley to put the mast back up and it worked like a charm (how long did it take to figure this all out?). We finished just in time for docktails after which there was a nice Gold Loop Flag raising ceremony on Irish Attitude. Congratulations Mike and Gay on a Loop well done. There are lots more adventures in your future, I’m sure.

After an amazingly full day, we still had time to do the touristy thing and wander around the shops downtown. We didn’t buy anything but it was fun to people watch and enjoy the sights. We did challenge Linda (the Dairy Queen) and have ice cream on the way back. After seeing what the single scoop cones looked like (they were huge), we actually opted for child size cones that I could barely finish. Definitely the best ice cream deal of the trip so far. We live a hard life on the Loop, don’t we.

Yoopers and Loopers

Day 352: Thursday, August 22, 2013

Port to Port: De Tour to Mackinac Island

Underway: 6:42 am      Motor Off: 1:30 pm      Miles Traveled: 40      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time having to climb a ladder to get off the boat (the docks were build when water levels were a lot higher); first time going to Mackinac Island on our own boat (it’s just as cool as we thought it would be); first time for Boris to cough and sputter a little (I had to slow down the last two hours into the marina or he seemed starved for gas); first time seeing someone being boarded by the Coast Guard (Carina – they ignored us).

Mile to Mile: A beautiful sunrise greeted us as we left De Tour a little before 7 am aiming for Mackinac Island. We had hoped to have perfect sailing conditions but the wind didn’t quite cooperate – we kept the sail up for a long time but it was only decorative for most of the morning – we had to pinch the wind too much for it to give us a significant speed boost. At least we looked pretty.

We were a couple hours from the Island and were surprised when we looked over at Carina and saw a large Coast Guard inflatable boat parked at their transom. I guess they wanted to double check that they had checked in at customs. I guess Jane and Kent were a little flustered and couldn’t remember the name of the place they checked in (Drummond Island) nor the town we had just left this morning (De Tour). I would have been just as tongue-tied myself. Once they gave them their number, they were happy and let them go on with their day.

We made good time coming across the big water of Lake Huron. They lake was mostly calm for the middle three hours and started getting stirred up for the last hour. Boris wasn’t feeling too good for some reason. He has performed flawlessly for more than 11 months with hardly any maintenance so we were surprised when he first ran out of gas (my fault – I didn’t remember to top the tank off at De Tour) and then, a while later, started coughing and sputtering intermittently. I found that he ran okay if I kept our speed under 5.5 mph which is what I did the rest of the way into the marina. We made it in just fine and they had plenty of room at the inn.

  This is a really nice state run marina. I was pleasantly surprised that it only cost us $30 to dock here. One night in a hotel or B&B is probably over $200 for a basic room – we have our own home here and a waterfront view. Can’t beat that. (I have to make my own bed, though). After getting checked in, I decided Boris needed some TLC. I changed out the gas for a different can (just in case), changed the filter, put two new spark plugs in and cleaned the carberator. And I didn’t drop anything into the lake. Boris started and purred like new but I won’t know if this fixed the problem until I try to go at our normal cruising speed tomorrow when we head over to Mackinaw City.

After having an amazing early dinner on the boat of meat loaf patties, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and our last peach, we headed off to do the tourist thing. The island is absolutely beautiful. The landscaping is pristine. The flowers are in bloom. There are bicycles and horse drawn carts everywhere (no cars allowed). I must have taken almost 100 pictures. Cindy found a nice long sleeve T-shirt on sale and bought some fun post cards. We walked up to the Grand Hotel – the sun was highlighting the grand lakeside porch like a spotlight. I can’t afford to stay there but it sure is amazing to look at. We shared an ice cream and headed back to the boat. This would be a fun place to just relax for a week, on a boat, someday in the future – I’ll have to add it to the list.

Sailing In(to) the USA

Day 351: Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Port to Port: Thessalon to De Tour, Michigan USA

Underway: 6:56 am      Motor Off: 1:03 pm      Miles Traveled: 24      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 114 to Mile 138: Today was a short but exciting day. We left Canada and re-entered the US at 9:16 am. It’s nice to be home after 40+ days exploring the beautiful waterways of southern Canada. Our crossing over to Drummond Island was uneventful. (We found out later that we missed a radio call from some friends – Ron and Lynne on Northern Spirit – we first met way back at Green Turtle Marina in Kentucky. They tried hailing us but we must have been monitoring a different channel at the time. They have finished their Loop and are returning home. We will have to catch up online later). We arrived at Drummond Island and easily checked through customs – they just asked if we had anything from Canada to declare, which we didn’t, so we were good to go. We were really excited when we went to buy ice – $2 for a 10 lb bag – woohoo!

After we were both cleared to enter the US, we headed off for De Tour, Michigan. The municipal marina was brand new and very nice. Big, wide floating docks, a covered area to have docktails and picnics, amazing bathrooms and reasonable prices. What a great stop before we cross the bay for Macinac Island tomorrow. Plus most of our friends from Kingston came cruising in in the afternoon and Spiritus was still here having waited for a better weather day to cross the open bay. Time for a party or two. By the time all the boats converged here they filled up 12 or more slips – one of their busiest days of the summer season for transients.

I spent some time talking to Stan who is exploring the North Channel in his 19’ West Potter Percephonie. He had some interesting ideas on how to make a small boat more liveable and efficient. It’s amazing how much room you gain by just adding three more feet of length – Aurora is a 22’ boat. Scott, from one of the transient boats that came in today, stopped by to say hi after hearing we lived on Lake Minnetonka. He raced sailboats a lot on the lake for a long time. What is even more amazing is that he went to the same high school I went to – Mound Westonka – and was a good friend of my brother Gary. We even had some of the same teachers. What are the odds of meeting in a random marina in the middle of nowhere? We had a great time trading stories and talking about life on the water. He and his wife Donna are heading back the way we came from by way of the Great Lakes. They are going to winter in the Caribbean somewhere on their sailboat Saltine.

We spent so much time chatting and visiting we didn’t get anything else done. (Luckily most of our boat projects are already done). We finally broke away with Linda and Jane to make a quick grocery store run and get a little walking in. We all found something to bring to docktails too. Docktails was a blast. There were 18 people again and we knew 16 of them. We really enjoy our little reunions. We are going to miss this a lot when our Loop is over.

We joined Eddy and Linda and wandered down to a bar restaurant for pizza and hamburgers. I played Linda in shuffle board (and won just barely). We played some old babyboomer music on the jukebox and just enjoyed hanging out together. After a long, busy day, we were exhausted and called it a day – the US Quiddler Championship will just have to wait until the next time we get together.

PS: Happy Birthday from Aurora, Kay

O’Canada – Thank You

Day 350: Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Port to Port: Blind River to Thessalon, Ontario

Underway: 7:56 am      Motor Off: 1:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 32      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 82 to Mile 114: Thessalon will be our last stop in Canada (if all goes according to plan). We exchanged our leftover Canadian money back into US dollars and spent the last of our change on ice cream. Thessalon is another place where we stopped in 2002 – back then, the municipal marina was only a couple of years old and it basically hasn’t changed much since. It is still a good deal though. We were the only transient boats in the marina this time. The season is winding down. We heard from a Looper boat last night that Spanish Marina at the beginning of the North Channel was closing for the season already. That’s a little freaky.

Our little travel group split up a little today. Spiritus headed straight to Drummond Island to check back into the US at customs and we headed, with Carina, northwest to Thessalon. This will make tomorrows jump across less than 3 hours and we can have some time to explore near the marina at De Tour.

Our journey up the coast was uneventful – warm sunshine, calm seas and a light breeze made for perfect travel conditions. We even got a little wind assist for a few hours making the trip a lot more fun. We were tempted to take a left and head for Drummond Island about 4 miles before Thesselon but we decided to relax and stop one more time in Canada for old times sake.

The marina hasn’t changed at all from 2002. Just aim for the blue roofs and it will guide you straight in. The two girls on duty greeted us on the dock, tied us up and even laced our extra dock line nice and neat. This place is a bargain – the bathrooms are clean and spacious, the staff is very helpful and the lounge on the second level is really comfortable. I remember the girls sprawling out on the carpet upstairs and catching up on their trip logs here in 2002.

After we docked and checked in, Cindy and I grabbed a couple courtesy bikes and went on a tour of downtown. We were early enough to do a little shopping before everything closed at 5 pm. We found the pizza place where we hoped to eat dinner but it was closed – I guess the guy randomly picks which days he wants to be open. We got a few groceries, exchanged our Canadian money back to US money, checked out the library internet, found a family restaurant on the edge of town that looked promising for dinner and staked out an ice cream shop for dessert. What more could you ask for.

I spent a couple hours updating the blog and checking the weather before going back to the boat to get Cindy and we went out to a nice dinner. It would have been perfect if I had remembered to save half of my dinner for tomorrow. I may not have room for ice cream in a couple of hours.

These small towns along the north shore of the North Channel and Georgian Bay are all connected together by the Trans-Canada Highway. Thessalon is lucky in that they have a normal downtown without hundreds of semis driving through day and night. It’s struggling but some of the businesses seem to be doing well. The stores in Blind River were all located right along the busy, noisy highway. I like the former a lot better than the latter.

I hopped on my pinkish red one speed cruising bike again to look around the edges of town for interesting picture op’s and had a déjà –vue moment. I was riding along the river going along town and suddenly remembered walking along here with the girls in 2002 and finding an ice cream social at one of the local churches. It is really weird how our brains work – why would I still remember that and what triggered the memory as I bicycled along. Strange.

Right now I am sitting in the library – they reopened after a two hour dinner break – and am looking forward to bringing some ice cream home to have with our fresh peaches – they aren’t Mountain Lion but we tested them and they were delicious. I’m drooling already.

Lasts and Firsts

Day 349: Monday, August 19, 2013

Port to Port: Clapperton Island to Blind River, Ontario

Underway: 7:11 am      Motor Off: 2:10 pm      Miles Traveled: 48      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 34 to Mile 82: As the bright orange sun rose over our quiet little anchorage, we motored out and around Clapperton Island and headed straight west. Our original plan (our original plans hardly ever end up being used so why bother – just start the motor and see where you end up) was to anchor out one more day but, as we motored on, everyone simultaneously decided that we should keep going a few more hours to Blind River Marina (we would have been done before lunch had we stopped at our original anchorage). Blind River gives us the option of going across to Drummond Island and getting back in the US tomorrow or having a short day and heading up to Thesselon before hopping over to the US. We shall see which “plan” wins out.

We had an uneventful voyage today – the forecast winds did not materialize. We only saw ripples across the water. The wind we did see was…can you guess?… right on the nose the whole day. Conditions were ideal for sailing except the wind direction. Hopefully we will have better luck on Lake Michigan.

Spiritus caught up with us early afternoon – they left the cove over an hour after us – and led the way into Blind River Marina. We stayed here in 2002 and we met an older couple on the sailboat Odyssey who adopted us and showed us around the North Channel. It was a highlight of our trip.

After finishing some boat projects (what else is new), Cindy and I rode the courtesy bikes into town to get gas and a few groceries. We had three different people ask if we wanted help getting the gas cans back to the marina. We finally said yes after they tipped over just past the station while full. A guy we had said no to at the station stopped again and this time I took him up on his offer (ok, I’m a slow learner). I put the cans in his SUV and he drove them to the marina and actually dropped them off at the boat. Can you believe that? What a nice thing to do – thank you again.

When we shared this story at docktails, we heard another story about one of the other boats while they were in the locks. They were chatting about what they were going to make for dinner – tacos – and they commented that they didn’t have any nachos. Some women just watching the boats lock through happened to hear the conversation and, when the boats arrived at the next lock, there she was with two bags of nachos. She wouldn’t take anything for them. Canada had been an amazing place.

We enjoyed maybe our last docktails together for a while – Eddy and Linda are planning to go straight across tomorrow and we are “planning” to go to Thesselon. That could change before morning, though. Except for the fact that Cindy tried to knock me out by doubling the amount of alcohol she normally puts in our margaritas, we enjoyed sitting at a picnic table just enjoying each others’ company. We fully expect to cross paths somewhere again – there are still a lot of miles to cover before we finally head north up the Mississippi again for home. Plus, it’s not that much fun to play Quiddler with two people. (By the way, I won again tonight even though I was still feeling the effects of Cindy’s double shot magaritas). One day at a time.

Fond Memories, New and Old

Day 348: Sunday, August 18, 2013

Port to Port: Killarney to Clapperton Island

Underway: 8:55 am      Motor Off: 3:55 pm      Miles Traveled: 34/34      Stayed At: Anchor

Mile 0 to Mile 34: All is quiet again at the Killarney Mountain Lodge. The Loopers have all moved on to rockier pastures. We are probably the last large group of Loopers they will see.

We never thought this day would come but we only have a few more hops before we get back into the US (if they will have us back). Then we we have to get ready for hopping down Lake Michigan.

We started the day with a hearty breakfast. We had planned to go to the Lodge for the experience – this is a classic old-school resort – but the brunch was a little pricey and they were full with guest reservations. So we wandered down to our favorite cinnamon roll bakery –The Gateway Restaurant – and had a great breakfast with our friends on Spiritus and Carina. I had already walked down there right when they opened and got a couple hot-out-of the-oven cinnamon rolls – one of which did not make it back to the boat. We also bought a large tub of their homemade strawberry jam – it tasted just like the jam we usually make at home about this time so it will be a welcome treat over the next several weeks.

We had another nice travel day – our first full day on the North Channel. Even though it was Sunday, hardly any other boats were out enjoying the sunshine and comfortable temperatures. Just the way we like it. We sailed a little, had dead calm seas for a while and pounded into some waves for the last hour or so. Never a dull moment. We were 5 minutes too slow getting from Killarney to Little Current and had to wait an hour for the swing bridge there that only opens once an hour but we just turned off the motor and sailed back and forth while we were waiting.

After a productive and leisurely travel day, we pulled in in front of Spiritus – they were lounging on cushions on the bow of their boat reading – anchored and waited patiently for the North Channel Water Taxi Service (Kent) to come pick us and our drinks up for delivery a few hundred feet away to Spiritus. Kent and Jane know the cruising grounds around Eddy and Linda’s hometown of Navarre Florida really well so they have a lot in common to talk about. I think we are all starting to get excited for the next phase of our trips – getting back into the US (cheap gas, bigger towns, more shopping choices and new experiences) and starting our way down Lake Michigan – our next big challenge.

Lodge Life

Day 347: Saturday, August 17, 2013

Port to Port: Killarney, Ontario

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0     Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time seeing wild otters playing in the water; first boat in movie.

Mile to Mile: Since we got most of our boat projects done yesterday, today was a day for rest and relaxation (and a long walk and eating and calling home and docktails and a movie).

I started the day early walking to the other side of town to get some amazing hot cinnamon rolls at the Gateway Restaurant (one didn’t make it back to the boat) and trying to finish getting the blog caught up. One problem with the internet here is that they only give you a limited amount of data – only 70 megabyes – which doesn’t last very long when you are uploading 20 pictures per blog post at 1.5 megabytes each. I ran out twice yesterday and had them reset it. A pain in the butt. This is how they ration their bandwidth among all their guests. No Netflix movies here.

After a painful few hours waiting for pictures to load I finally got caught up and joined Cindy, Eddy and Linda for a long walk with a detour to the Red Bus for another round of fresh fish and chips. Killarney is small so we were pretty much able to see the whole town in less than 10,000 steps. It felt good to walk, though, after all of our anchoring out. After getting back, I took the computer down to the Sportman’s Lodge to use their much better internet – 5x faster and unlimited and open – and called home on the computer – GMG, Sarah  and Jim. I also downloaded some charts for Michigan onto the computer. I was a happy camper.

I finished just in time to head back for 5 pm docktails – only about half of us left here but we had fun solving the worlds problems (not). After another enjoyable gathering, Cindy and I and Eddy and Linda wandered back over to the fast internet and called their parents to say hi. They hadn’t been able to talk for a long time so it was a wonderful way to catch up. We hope to meet all of them some day. We finished our R&R day watching a DVD – Captain Ron – on the computer. It is a must see movie for seasoned Loopers – you can relate to the Captain Ron-isms and it is, after all, about a boat and on the water. Five stars.

Tomorrow we probably split up for a while – we are going with Carina about 40 miles to an anchorage by Amedroz Island and others are going to Baie Finn – a beautiful fiord with a small sheltered pool at the end. Hopefully we get to connect up again – reunions are always fun to look forward to.

What a Glorious Day

Day 346: Friday, August 16, 2013

Port to Port: Tie Island Killarney, Ontario

Underway: 7:13 am      Motor Off: 12:05 pm      Miles Traveled: 31/43      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First free marina; first marina with a sauna; first marina with a seaplane landing pad.

Mile 22 to Mile 65: Today was worth the wait. The wind died overnight and we awoke to blue skies, sunshine and calm seas. Time to head to Killarney. We headed out following Spiritus and Carina into Georgian Bay. Before we got past the last rock in the Bustard Islands, we had our main and jib up and full close hauled and heading straight for Killarney.

The morning kept getting better and better. The swells left over from yesterday die off, the wind shifted a little closer to a beam reach and we kept sailing. After a couple more hours, Georgian Bay was almost flat but we still had a nice shore breeze to keep up moving well above our normal motoring speed. For the last 2 hours we were “flying” along at a steady 6.7-6.8 mph. It was a joy to be on the water.

Before we knew it we had to slow down, take the sails down and enter the channel leading to Killarney. The marina we found space at was the Killarney Mountain Lodge – we happened to stay at this same marina in 2002. The girls loved it – they got to swim in the pool twice in the same day and even got to play billiards in their game room. It hasn’t really changed in all these years. I could even remember which dock we stayed at back then.

At first they didn’t have room for us but we could have stayed at a mooring ball. We stopped at the gas dock to figure out what to do as Spiritus and Carina got tied up and found out they had a cancellation so they had room. We decided to stay where we were but the best surprise was when we went to pay – boats under 25’ are free. I had to ask the guy three times if he was telling the truth. What an unexpected surprise. Another benefit of a small boat.

The next surprise was all the friends from Kingston that pulled in over the next couple of hours. We ended up having an amazing docktails with old and new friends including Irish Attitude (Mike and Gay), Journey (Rick and Margie), Harmony (Bob and Janet), Spiritus (Eddy and Linda), Sun Gypsy (Rick and Leila + Nora and David) Carina (Kent and Jane) and Free at Last (Steve and Meredith). It was like old home week.

A bunch of us wandered down to the Red Bus to try out the “famous” fish and chips and, since Eddy and Linda were with, we couldn’t pass up the nearby ice cream shop that was closing in 10 minutes. Of course, everyone else didn’t want them to enjoy their treat alone so we all had cones too. What an amazing day on the Great Loop.