We shoved off from Hessel on the 24th of July and did a short cruise to Mackinac Island. We were fortunate to get a slip right on the island, as the famous Chicago to Mackinac sailboat race had just ended, opening up slips in the marina.
Our slip was a rocky spot with all the ferries continually zipping in and out to and from St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. After getting settled and tied up securely, we took a walk around downtown, stopping for a slice of the town’s famous fudge and a bag of caramel corn.
Since no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, horses, carriages, bicycles and walkers were everywhere. The sidewalks were packed with tourists. We walked along the waterfront and climbed up to the classic Grand Hotel which has housed guests since 1887. Its size, vista, and sweeping lawns were impressive. We stumbled across the greenhouse and gardens where their flowers were grown to decorate the lobby and grounds.
We walked back on much less-crowded Market Street, with its many old restored buildings. Lawns, Victorian houses, and streets were decked out in stunning flowers. I felt like I had stepped back in time!
Back at the boat we met Loopers Eric and Pam from North Carolina and swapped stories with them. We watched boats delivering goods where they were loaded onto trailers being pulled by horses.
We spent another day on Mackinac Island. After showering and breakfast, we walked up the hill to the old Fort and toured all the buildings. The panoramic view from the top overlooking downtown and the harbor was spectacular.
Afterward we toured the museum, then rented bikes and pedaled all the way around the island. Much of the trip on the trails went through a State Park, and always you had beautiful views of Lake Huron, the Mackinac Bridge, or high rock formations. It was a crowded ride around the island.
After returning the bikes, we got hot dogs and ice cream cones. Back at the boat we went over some navigation and on-line wind/weather tools. We ate dinner aboard and talked with other boaters on the docks, and had some great people watching! Every night at 10:00 ‘Taps’ were played to end out the day.
On Saturday the 26th we got an early start to avoid the ferry traffic and cruised under the famous Mackinac Bridge, and through the Straits of Mackinac, the place where three of the Great Lakes come together. The seas were a little lumpy, and the skies overcast, and we saw one ship heading from Lake Michigan into Lake Huron.
Amid spotty light rain, we made our way through the main channel around the shoals of northern Lake Michigan into Little Traverse Bay to a protected harbor and the city of Harbor Springs. We dropped anchor near shore, in front of a building, where later in the evening a wedding reception and dance was held. We watched
an old Chris Craft come in with an elderly couple aboard. They disembarked to attend the wedding reception while the Captain and crew anchored and waited until they were ready to leave.
The music was loud, as was the laughter and conversation. I secretly wish I had been invited – sounded like fun in this beautiful resort town on the water. Jim’s back was really bad, so we didn’t bother to take the dinghy down and go ashore.
Sunday morning we waited for the fog to lift, and set out about 9:20. It was a short cruise that day to Lake Charlevoix, where we went through a channel and under a swing bridge. All the slips were taken at the marina, so we cruised all the way through the lake to the town of Boyne City. Along the way the rain poured down, but quit when we pulled into the marina.
Boyne City was a great place to wait for a better weather window to proceed south along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The marina gave us a courtesy car and we did some major restocking at the grocery store. I cooked a big dinner while thunder boomed in the distance. We ordered our gold Great Loop burgee and renewed our AGLCA membership. Jim did a bunch of computer work – asset, real estate business and condo rental management.
Monday the 28th was another cold and windy day, so we laid low, then walked to town. It was a cute picturesque place with friendly people and beautiful flowers everywhere we turned. We explored a few shops and made a couple of purchases at the local hardware and marine stores.
The next morning we decided to go out for breakfast, so dodging the goose poop, walked to nearby El Sante’, where I enjoyed Whitefish Benedict. They featured many items with local fresh blueberries. Back at the boat we got ready to head out. Folks from the neighboring boat helped us cast off the lines. We backed out of the slip, and suddenly chaos ensued! The gear shifter at the upper helm broke right off while we were in reverse!
I ran below and shifted into forward, but the momentum kept carrying us backward. We barely missed crashing into a boat in a slip on the dock behind us! Jim gave it some throttle from below, but because the windshield cover was on, couldn’t see where he was going. I scrambled up on the bow, and quickly unsnapped it. Once again, this old boat got our adrenaline flowing!
Once we calmed down, we headed to the other end of the lake to Oyster Bay where we anchored out, knowing that it was too windy to venture out onto Lake Michigan. We found the gear shifter lever we needed on Amazon, ordered the part, and got the OK to have it shipped to the Northport marina, our next destination.
Our slip neighbors found us later at the anchorage, and we explained what had happened. It was so sweet of them to come out and check on us! At the end of Oyster Bay there are a couple old sunken boats, and people motored by. We had stir-fry for dinner, played backgammon, and were able to get ‘America’s Got Talent’ on TV.
On Wednesday the 30th, we pulled up anchor, went back through the swing bridge, and out into Lake Michigan. We cruised to Traverse Bay, and while driving, got honked at by a freighter who came up behind us. We quickly got out of its way!
Again we anchored out, this time on Northport Bay which is a much smaller bay off Traverse Bay. The skies cleared and we enjoyed our spot, watching young sailors taking lessons near our boat. Two of them even flipped over! Jim took the dinghy down and we went into the nearby marina to get ice and reserve a slip for the next day. Our shift lever was supposed to arrive there via FedEx.
That evening we had dinner aboard, and just before sunset the seas became perfectly flat, and graced us with unbelievable reflections of the clouds.
Thursday the 31st of July was a busy one. We got into the marina around 10:00 am, having to drive from the lower helm. We fueled up and pumped out. The marina facilities are beautiful, and I did 3 loads of laundry in their new complimentary machines. Jim cleaned the boat, as we had been infested by
little bugs the previous night. The shift lever got delivered about 1:30, and because the mechanics at the nearby boat works were unavailable, we decided to tackle the installation ourselves. It went much smoother than we had anticipated, a real rarity.
We walked into town, again graced with many pretty flowers and stopped at a little micro brewery where we sampled a glass of their beer and enjoyed smoked whitefish with pita crackers. From there we walked to ‘The Garage’, a food and drink establishment whose main entrance is an overhead garage door. Back toward the boat we picked up a few items at the grocery store.
It had been a very productive day at a first class marina in a cute town! We prepped for the next day’s cruise, made popcorn and watched a movie.
On Friday the 1st of August we took off after breakfast and a quick visit to the Farmer’s Market, set up right in the marina parking lot. It was a perfect cruising day with almost flat seas on Traverse Bay, and only 3 to 4 mph winds on Lake Michigan. Occasionally we encountered fog, and saw a ship on its way to Duluth. Because it was so calm we decided on bypassing Leland, with its historic ‘fish town’ district, another great Michigan town recommended for us to visit.
For a couple of hours we saw no other boats, only a faint outline of the sand dune cliffs on the eastern shore. Me made our way into Frankfort under hazy sunshine. We pulled into the municipal marina and got the end slip in front of the library, with great internet access, a good thing as we received a purchase agreement on the sale of our condo. We went through the paperwork and signed in all the appropriate places.
On Saturday morning I enjoyed another Farmer’s Market. Lake Michigan was a little rougher, with side winds making our travels a little less comfortable. Again the eastern shores were lined with high sand dunes, and the waters clear and blue-green. We came in through the inlet to the town of Manistee, where we again got a slip at the municipal marina. We walked into town where I explored a nice antique store and Jim went to the hardware store. Someone told us that the lake had ‘turned over’, resulting in the lowest recorded water temps for this late in the summer.
We had appetizers and a cocktail at a river-front place on the deck overlooking the water, then went to see the movie ‘Lucy’ at a really cute restored old theater. Again, the town impressed us with its many beautiful flowers and nice old buildings. We walked back to the boat along the boardwalk, enjoyed some wine and conversation, and watched the steady procession of fishing boats returning to port.
The following morning was another foggy one, so we didn’t shove off until 11:00. Again the seas got a little rough. We passed by Ludington, where ‘The Badger’ ferry boat stops after crossing the lake from Manitowoc. We never spotted it, but it brought back good memories of a couple of trips crossing Lake Michigan aboard with my friend Judy.
We slowly made our way to the Pentwater inlet. All the inlets look pretty much the same with their lighthouse and markers at the end of the breakwaters, and crowded sandy beaches alongside. Pentwater was another beautiful little Michigan town. I cooked dinner while Jim talked to a fellow realtor from Wayzata, MN, near where I grew up.
After dinner we walked to a picnic table, and listened to a fantastic jazz band playing outdoors across the street. We played backgammon, saw a fisherman cleaning his catch at the fish-cleaning station, and watched the sun set.
On August 4th, we planned to leave Pentwater and go to Whitehall, a short cruise south on Lake Michigan to White Lake. Because the seas were so flat, we kept on going. Occasionally big patches of fog made visibility a little challenging. But otherwise it was a perfect day for being out in this big Great Lake.
We passed by many windmills atop the sand dunes, then by Muskegon, and made it to the inlet at Grand Haven. Here there is a free wall where we tied up, right in the heart of the historic district. Many people were out enjoying the early evening, strolling or biking along the sidewalk on the riverfront.
After sunset we watched an amazing ‘Music Fountain’ across the river from the bow of our boat. Lighted water fountains sprayed up to music, the pulsations and colors changing to the tempo of the many songs played over a loudspeaker. The show has been done every summer night since 1962, evolving and improving over the years, and funded totally by donations. I can’t wait to see the show again tonight!
Today Jim did more maintenance to the boat, and walked a long way to West Marine. I explored a few of the cute upscale shops in town, and have been working on the blog. It was nice to take a little break from cruising, as we have been hitting it hard daily since the end of July.
We have loved the little towns, beautiful harbors, and friendly people along the northeast shore of Lake Michigan. Being tied to the wall here in Grand Haven has its pluses and minuses – the price is right, but there is very little privacy. Town is right here, but we get rocked around by the wakes of passing boats. But all in all, I wouldn’t miss this port for anything!
Until next time, ARiverDerci!