We Can Almost See Chicago (Not)

Day 367: Friday, September 6, 2013

Port to Port: South Haven to St. Joseph, Michigan

Underway: 8:01 am      Motor Off: 12:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 24      Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: Today was pretty much a carbon copy of yesterday except we did not have the northerly swells (yaa!) and we only went 24 miles. It didn’t help us to go farther since we will still have two modest hops left to get to Chicago. We motor-sailed the whole way again which just makes the whole trip a lot more fun for some reason. More sand dunes and sandy beaches slowly passed by on our port side as we aimed straight down the shore for St. Joseph’s. Before we knew it, we were motoring up the channel and turning into the West Basin Marina just in time for lunch. Carina led the way and Shell Seakers zoomed up behind us just as we entered the breakwater. Our Looper group is slowly shrinking – they aren’t too far ahead, though, since a large group of Loopers left the West Basin this morning aiming for Michigan City which is the last hop before Chicago. Hopefully, we will catch up and have another fun reunion before we all cruise south on the Illinois River.

We found a nice protected spot to tie up next to the seawall, had lunch, scrubbed the grime off the boat and had plenty of time to walk over the bridge to make a quick tour of downtown before we had to be back for docktails. With only six of us around, docktails was quieter than usual but we still had fun – for some reason we ended up sharing our boating horror stories but you learn a lot listening to the bad as well as the good (and since we all survived, it can be funny, after the fact).

Just in case anyone was wondering, real life does not take a holiday while you are boating. We have been very lucky so far with only stubbed toes and a few bruises (know on wood) but we have heard about a lot of other accidents or health issues which are more serious. Boats are basically accidents waiting to happen. There are lots of things to hit, bang or trip on. Things break. The decks are slippery. Boats move in strange and unexpected ways. Docks aren’t any better with lots of tripping hazards, oddly placed cleats, uneven surfaces and lines to trip over. We have heard of people crushing their knee between a lock wall and boat, dislocating their shoulder trying to hang on to a line at a lock too long and falling in the water, falling off their bike and breaking their arm, slipping and straining knees and twisting their ankles. Normal health issues also still afflict boater including the flu, colds, cancer and heart attacks. This is just part of life and everyone deals with it as it comes. At least we are all doing something we love when the real world inevitably shows up.

We plan to hang out here for an extra day since the wind is supposed to kick up out of the southwest tomorrow making for a lumpy day. Chicago will still be there when we get there and this gives us a little time to relax, explore and maybe squeeze in a nap if we get everything else done. Plus, we aren’t in any hurry to be done – we’re unemployed remember so as long as the snow doesn’t start flying, we are going to savor every moment while it lasts.

World Longest Roller Coaster Ride

Day 366: Monday, September 5, 2013

Port to Port: Grand Haven to South Haven, Michigan

Underway: 7:30 am      Motor Off: 3:03 pm      Miles Traveled: 48/53      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First tractor parade of the trip.

Mile 236 to Mile 289: These big water passages are a lot different than the Intracoastal or North Channel or even the river systems. You look one way and see the shoreline – here we have lot of tree covered dunes, sandy beaches and a few houses – and you look the other way and all you see is water. Plotting our course requires maybe 6 waypoints to get out of the marina, into the lake and straight down to the next marina. There aren’t many landmarks to measure your progress and you can only have so many pictures of sand dunes and water. We are happy, though to be having good weather and relatively warm temperatures for our hops down our final big water.

We left on time this morning and have definitely noticed the gradual loss of daylight – it is dark out at early, early, early morning – 6 am. I don’t think we will be leaving that early anymore this trip (I can almost here Cindy yelling yah!). We just left at our new normal time and it was chilly out until the sun got well above the horizon. We were surprised to find a solid east wind flowing off shore – even though we hugged the shoreline, the wind was able to build up a decent chop. Another surprise was the persistent northly swells rolling under our hull. Where do they come from? Some of these were a little exciting to surf down. We were averaging 6.6 mph with some bursts up to 7.3 mph. We both raised our sails right away to get a boost from the wind and help steady the boats motion. We didn’t take our sails down until we were less than a mile from the entrance to the harbor at South Haven. Carina was able to sail at more than 7 mph for over 2 hours on just wind power – no iron genny (motor) assist.

After a fast, lumpy and tiring ride down, we were happy to pull into the municipal marina and be perfectly calm again. We (especially Cindy) got a definite workout today. We caught up with Tour De Loop and Karen and Dennis on Shell Seeker who were already in port relaxing. We got our boat projects done quick and wandered downtown with Jane to check out the shops and restaurants of Grand Haven – quiet today but a vibrant and nice tourist destination on the weekends and in the summer vacation months.

Surprisingly, we know somebody who calls South Haven home – Warren and Marti on Jubilate – so we emailed them and they were willing to drive all the way down here to the marina (about 45 minutes) just to visit again and take in another docktails (thanks guys for visiting – it was a blast). They know Carina and Tour De Loop so it was another grand party sitting at a table on the deck in front of the marina watching the sun set in the west. We even had a free tractor parade drive by the marina while were chatting on the docks. We don’t solve any of the world’s problems but we sure have fun trying.

A Grand Old Day

Day 365: Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Port to Port: Grand Haven, Michigan

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

First Things First: First “pool-tails – cocktails by the pool.

Mile to Mile: Yesterday after noon we did not have any specific plans for today. Docktails was a probability and a little shopping was a certainty. Before breakfast was over, our calendar was full and we were going to be busy.

Jim showed up promptly at 9 am to shuttle us around on our shopping errands. Kathie from Tour De Loop joined us as we stopped to get gas, a couple pieces of wood at Home Depot (for a small temporary mast support) and groceries at Walmart. As usual, we only had four or five items we really needed at Walmart but, by the time we finished walking through the store, the total bill was over $100. No wonder the founding families are billionaires. But at least we are well stock for the next couple weeks – we should be almost done with the Illinois River before we need to restock.

Our errands took most of the morning and, by the time we stowed everything, had a quick lunch and cleaned up it was afternoon. We made plans to join Jim and Sharon at her brother’s house (where they are staying) for happy hour by the pool (I know, it’s a rough life on the Loop). Some good friends of theirs that they met in their cruising – Bill and Mary from on Harbor Reach – happened to be driving through town this weekend (their boat is waiting for them down by the Tennessee/Tom Bigbee) and we had a wonderful time meeting them and sharing stories. Jim and Sharon are Platinum Looper – they have Looped twice over the last decade of cruising and hope to do it again. Bill and Mary are Gold Loopers planning their second trip around. No shortage of stories and experience at this party.

After pool-tails, we all headed to the American Legion for their Thursday fish fry (excellent) and some more together time. Sharon’ brother and sister-in law – Paul and Jill – also joined us. We finished a great evening ice cream from the Dairy Crème right in front of our boat and said our goodbyes (as we shivered in the suddenly cool night air). We hope to cross paths again on our respective adventures. Sooner rather than later, we hope. We are thinking about you guys.

PS: Big news back home – Sarah and Jake just adopted their first puppy – Snooter. Isn’t he cute? We can’t wait to puppy sit some day. He looks like a perfect boat dog doesn’t he?

Grand Haven Or Bust

Day 364: Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Port to Port: Ludington to Grand Haven, Michigan

Underway: 7:15 am      Motor Off: 5:30 pm      Miles Traveled: 69      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 151 to Mile 236: After a blustery and windy day yesterday, we were a little worried what the morning would bring but it was calm, warm and the sun was peaking above the horizon as we motored out of Ludington early in the morning. We put up our sails and sailed for several hours before the wind died off. We were able to sail again for the last several hours on a beam reach.

We had originally planned to stop and anchor at a little over 40 miles at Whitehall but it was another one of those days where we couldn’t stop – we were consistently running at or above 6.5 mph. Except for the persistent swell from the north making steering a challenge, the day was uneventful. Bright sunshine reflected of the mostly calm lake all day and the temps were in the mid 70’s. Tomorrow may be windy again so Grand Haven is a nice place to hang out for a day waiting for better travel weather.

After a long beautiful day on the water, we were tired and ready to get into port. We motored up the channel and by the municipal marina and all our friends from Ludington welcomed us back again. Plus we had a surprise visitor – Jim (and Sharon) from Blue Angel whom we met and spent some time with way back in Carrabelle Florida greeted us and helped up get tied off. We couldn’t believe it. It turns out this is their homeport (although their boat is down in Demopolis, Alabama along river) and they are home taking caring of Sharon’s mother for a while. He already offered to take us shopping tomorrow if there is anything we need. It will be fun to catch up on our respective adventures.

We made a quick tour of downtown Grand Haven – the stores were pretty quiet now that Labor Day is past – and came back to the boat, made a quick dinner and walked less than 30 steps to the Dairy Crème restaurant right in front of our slip. (This may not be such a good place to stay after all). I think this wins the award for the closest ice cream store on the entire trip.

Flavorite Day

Day 363: Monday, September 2, 2013

Port to Port: Ludington, Michigan

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

Mile to Mile: As predicted, today was overcast and windy but it never really rained – just a little mist. We made an early stop at the House of Flavors (the claim to fame is fresh made ice cream) for their breakfast special – for $3.89 I got two eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and 2 pancakes. Cindy got French toast and our total bill was $6.79. I wish I had known about this yesterday.

Today was a lazy day. We went on a couple long walks enjoying downtown, the waterfront walkways, the sculpture garden and the beach (have I mentioned there is a lot of sand here). We vision of 3 big golden brown turkeys cooking on the rotisserie wouldn’t leave my brain so we ended up going back to the House of Flavors to have an early dinner – the turkey, homemade mashed pototoes, gravy, stuffing and cranberries were amazing. Cindy had a fresh turkey club. So much better than cooking on the boat on a cool and blustery day.

We ended the day with another walk and a movie on the boat. Tomorrow may be a good travel day and we have several options for places to stop. Now that Labor Day is done, the marinas should be quiet and easy to find space and we may be able to find a touristy T-shirt from Lake Michigan on sale before the week is out.

Calm Before the Storm

Day 362: Sunday, September 1, 2013

Port to Port: Ludington, Michigan

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

First Things First: First time I qualified for a $1 discount on my breakfast because I was over 55 (I’m not sure that is a good first or not).
Mile to Mile:
Even though the weather is ideal for travel, we decided that Ludington is a good place to stay for a couple of days while we wait for some blustery weather to move through. Winds tomorrow are supposed to be 20-30 mph with 5+ foot waves and rain. There are even high current warnings along the shoreline and rip tide alerts. The next several nearest ports are okay stops for one night but might be challenging for longer than that. So we get to explore Ludington for more than a short afternoon.

We said goodbye to Down Time and Journey this morning. They are doing a long trek to Grand Haven to hang out while the weather blows through. We may not catch up to them this time. But you never know.

We enjoyed a good brunch this morning with Kent and Jane at the Old Hamlin Restaurant.  On our way back to the marina, we stopped to watch all the fishermen returning from their morning on the water with their catches of salmon at the four-station cleaning station. These fish were huge. I can see why it is a big business here – especially during the fall fish run when they head up into the side lakes and rivers to spawn. I heard one of our neighbors talking last night – they had only caught one fish but it happened to be huge – 45 pounds and it took them 40 minutes to haul in. I guess that makes it worth the hundred of dollars a pound they cost in gas, equipment and expenses.

Cindy finally had time to take a nice leisurely nap this afternoon. Now that is a luxury. I worked on the blog and other online tasks for a while and wasted enough time for docktails to roll around again. Two more Loopers pulled in this afternoon – Steve and Meredith on Free At Last and Looper Dreams (we haven’t met them yet). We found a perfectly positioned picnic table overlooking the harbor and caught up with everyone’s adventures.

We had a nice show just before docktails broke up for the evening – the S.S.Badger, the last coal fired ferry on the Great Lakes, steamed down the channel and headed into it’s slip near the marina. If you used your imagination, you could envision how it must have looked at any busy port in the world 100+ years ago when coal fired steamboats were the high technology of the day. Thick black smoke streamed out the single huge stack and drifted off with the wind. Dirty but somehow romantic. The ship is so old that they keep a sister ship docked just in front of her to use when they need parts to repair something.

We borrowed a few movies from Jane’s DVD collection and watched George Clooney in the Descendants before crashing for the night. I’m always surprised at how quickly our unplanned “down” days go filled with mostly spontaneous and random activities. Hopefully only one more day before we move on to another port somewhere south on our way to Chicago.

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.