Saturday, August 31, 2019

Petoskey to Frankfort

Tried to get to Leland, but they had no room. Labor Day, donchano. Thus the long trek here.

The red bits along the travel line indicate 10 knots or more. We traveled a bit faster today to make the time shorter. I did it for the dogs, you know, who aren't fond of very long days.

Not a great day, but not a bad day either. When we left the water wasn't choppy, exactly, but it wasn't swells either. Kind of a choppy-swell. Around 2 feet or less in the Little Traverse Bay, but down to less than 1 foot in a couple of hours. Our biggest grumble was the temp -- we left in 51 degree weather. It only ever got to about 64 on the water.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Lots of sand dunes on this part of the journey. The Sleeping Bear Dunes are a sight from the water. Probably worth investigating in the future.

Depth on the crossing, nearly 500 ft!
Besides the occasional fishing boat waking us, the trip was good. 

Now, however, I need to sleep. Which might be a challenge; there are predictions that we might see northern lights tonight. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

We rented a car

Thatch House, Charlevoix
Given we were here for a week or so we rented a car. Also, given we were here for a week or so, we didn't want to take the time to hit all the little towns that loopers told us to -- when the weather breaks we want to head south and quick.

So, car + little towns = road trip!

The two towns we wanted to see were Traverse City and Charlevoix (pronounced shar-leh-voy).

The drive to Traverse CIty took about an hour. It's located at the bottom of the west side of Grand Traverse Bay. That makes it a 3 hour drive to the place from Lake Michigan, then another 3 to get back out. Consequently, we always planned on passing it by, so a drive there worked perfectly.

Half a mushroom house
We ate lunch at the 7 Monks Taproom, then walked the city a bit. Gotta say, not as quaint as Petoskey. There wasn't much "old" architecture, as if a fire had occurred and all the rebuilding was done to current styles. 

After we drove to Charlevoix. There we drove around to look a the Mushroom Houses the town is known for. The marina is cute. We were glad to see it but glad to pass it by.

Definitely, staying in Petoskey was the right call. 

Check out that stone work (click to make it bigger)
Boulder Manor.
The gray one on the right holds is built into the porch
and holds up the building. It's roughly 6 feet tall.

This video was taken by Jess while traveling through
Collins inlet. You definitely wan to watch this on
a bigger screen if you can. Jaw dropping vistas.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Parked in Petoskey

Bike path to Bay Harbor
No matter how much you want to get a move on, you've got to respect the water. And the weather. 

We know a change is coming during the next week. While heartier sea-folk or those familiar with the lake may press on, we're just not comfortable doing that. And by we I mean me.

Pretty quick we thought Petoskey was a nifty place. Lots of restaurants, nearby groceries, hardware stores, breweries, wine tasting rooms, and other shopping make it stand out among many of the "little towns" we've seen over the last couple of months. 

Brekkie at OPG; dutch baby and 49er flapjacks
On arrival we looked for a place to eat and decided to try the Mexican restaurant nearby. We haven't had Mexican since Mariachi's in Brewerton, NY. Frankly there wasn't any to try. (Turns out Jose's was quite good -- if we have time we will go back). The topic of discussion was what to do: The next two days would be dandy for traveling. But that would put is in a town like Leland or Frankfort when the weather would change. We might be stuck there for a week. Never having been anywhere up here, just didn't know what to do.

Blue and clear waters of the bay
As luck would have it, while returning to the boat we ran in to loopers from B-Side. They're from this area. We put the question to them: If you were going to spend a week in this area, where would you do it? They said Petoskey, hands down. In fact, they already did spend a week here, with plenty of good travel days to do otherwise.

So be it. We have a car rental reserved for a couple of days to pick up tomorrow. We'll drive to visit some of the other little towns around, like Charlevoix and Traverse City, that we planned on missing. When the weather is good, we'll make the run to LeLand.

Gorgeous sunset -- not enhanced at all, I swear!
Yesterday we took a three mile bike ride to the neighboring marina. There was an Original Pancake House there, which is a fave of our. We used the bike and pedestrian path around the Little Traverse Bay. It gave us stunning views of the almost Bahama-like blue waters. Rumors has it that this is the work of an invasive species, zebra mussels. Once they got into the lakes they got crystal clear.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Mackinaw City to Petoskey

Hello, Lake Michigan.

Of all the trials we have to do to complete the Great Loop, this one is the most daunting: Navigating Lake Michigan. With most of the other large bodies of water (Delaware Bay, the Atlantic off New Jersey, Hudson Bay, Lake Ontario, and the Gulf of Mexico to come) we need to prepare and select a day to travel. Just one, sometimes two. This, however, will go on for weeks. And it can be bad for weeks. Last year, loopers were stuck for two weeks waiting for a decent day to proceed.

On top of that, there's a plaque by the marina that explained why the Mackinaw Straits were the windiest waters in all of Michigan. Yay.

That said I'm happy to report that day one went swimmingly. Seas started around one foot, maybe a bit taller, but smoothed out to less than six inches. Nippy to start, around 55 degrees, but it warmed up, especially as we turned southward to have the northern breeze on our back.
Heading under the Mackinac Bridge

We docked in the Petoskey City Marina, which is very close to downtown. We got a slip assingment when we called en route only to discover it was too narrow for us. They stuck us on a t-head which was bumpy and a long walk for dogs. We asked to move and got a WAY better slip.

Darling town, by the way. Less touristy, and more useful, than Mackinaw City. That's a good thing.

Abandoned light house marked our turning south

 A couple of swans welcomed us to Little Traverse Bay.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Mackinac Island

The Mackinaw Bridge
Once again the weather made the decision to travel or not iffy. We watched on Nebo and saw some looper boats head out. One was Tiki Queen. Russ texted them asking how was the water. The response: The water is rough. The first mate is not happy. Don't go if you don't have to.

So we didn't.

That didn't mean no boat rides. I wanted to take one of the terrifying ferries to the island. They go fast, 23 mph!!! Hey, I go less than 10.

While underway I had a conversation with a local. A man who lives on the island all year long (yes, I think that is crazy) just came back from a fishing trip in Boston with friends. He gave us a couple ideas of "must dos." First, visit the fort. Second, eat lunch at the Tea Room in the fort, which has the best view on the island. He listed a couple of other things (governor's mansion, Grand Hotel, buggy rides, walk along West Bluff to see the amazing houses), but we spent a few hours at the fort then headed back. One of the better forts to tour, by the way. We should know. We've seen several on this trip.

Downtown Mackinac Island.
No cars allowed.

The Bark Chapel. The fort is on the hill beyond it.

Pan view from our lunch spot.

On the ferry

Trash pickup on the island.

The marina below. We could have stayed there
but many complain about the ferries waking them.

We ate pizza here. Crazy ambiance. Decent 'za.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

De Tour Village to Mackinaw City

The oncoming cold front had everyone a bit on edge this morning. Stay? Go? We woke around 5:30 AM to the sound of engines. Two other looper boats, Allons-y! and Trinity decided to run. We quickly fed and walked the dogs, then joined the small flotilla. We traveled faster than they did, so we passed them on the way in. We also ran at 2500 rpms, which was a bit more than usual. When the fog came up I knew moving faster was the right call.

The waters behaved themselves. Placid turned to 1 foot swells, but no chop and nothing more drastic.

Sunny when the sun rose; leaving De Tour
The biggest issue came just beyond Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw, just like the city, but spelled differently). Between Mack City and the island are ferries -- high speed zipping, big wake making, shuttle ferries. Thank the stars we have AIS. My navigation screen was blinking with AIS boats, coming, going, and docked on the island. When they move our system projects a line indicating their course. Seemed like it was all I could do to stay out of their way and not get the snot waked out of us.

The Straits State Harbor was recommended to us by locals while in De Tour Village. It's big, it's new, and it never has too many boats. Why? No one knows. It was paid for by the government funding, so... there's that.

A little foggy underway
Oh, and the package? Finally arrived at the De Tour marina. As You Wish picked it up and will deliver it tomorrow, if they travel. Russ told the dockmaster that they might, mentioning their boat name. The guy got all excited. "Please tell me that's from the movie, The Princess Bride." Oh, yeah. It is. 

That made his day.
Notice anything missing?
BOATS! Where are the BOATS?!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Meldrum Bay to De Tour Village

We started the day with just a little bit of excitement. While boarding the boat Savannah slipped and fell into the water. Having learned what to do from the last time (in Stuart, FLA) I slacked the leash and let her fall. See, now I have a connection with the swimming pug. I knelt down and scooped her up. She emerged refreshed and ready to start the day. 

We're no back in the US. The state of Michigan, as a matter of fact. Not the mitten part, more the "thrown snow" from the mitten. We checked in to the country via an app called ROAM which enabled us to declare our return with ease. Push the send button and a custom agent gives you a call. I suspect he checks our credit rating, then says, "Welcome to America."

Today was the exactly opposite of yesterday. No boater could have asked for better. Sunny, blue skies, calm winds, and absolutely not a wave to be seen. In fact, I've attached a picture of the water and putting it by the one yesterday. 

Today. More of this.

Yesterday. Less of this.

Got here without a hitch. In fact it was so wonderful that we almost continued to our next stop, Mackinac City. But, sadly, we had a package to pick up here. Which, as it turns out, still hasn't shown up even though the Amazon and UPS sites all say it's been delivered.

Yep. Welcome back to the USA.

Just as we woke a fog came in.
Turns out it dispersed just as quickly.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Spanish to Meldrum

We probably shouldn't have made this bit of the journey today. Blind River was supposed to be our destination, but while underway we did a bit more research about the town, which is about a mile away from the marina. That felt exactly like Spanish, so we had a little "been there, done that" attitude. We plotted the course to Meldrum.

Water should have been about a foot. It was closer to two with the occasional three. Winds were supposed to die down. They remained pretty constant. Needless to say it was a bumpy ride, so much so that we moved the helm to inside the boat for a couple of hours. Way easier to take the slams from there. And the dogs were happy to have our company. But the skies were perfectly blue and sunny, making is all a little more acceptable.

Worse water action than forecasted
In conclusion not the worst by far. But not great, either.

Usually when we hail a marina and ask for a slip assignment they tell you something like "slip 3 on the A dock" or "the t-head on the third pier." Here we were told "port side tie on the blue picnic table." Oh. Kay? Sure enough, once we made the turn towards the marina, four piers jutted out into the bay, each with a different colored picnic table on their ends. Always something new.

The big reason to come here was the little restaurant in the Meldrum Bay Inn. We had a wonderful meal, splitting the Coconut Shrimp, a Mango and Strawberry salad, pan seared Whitefish with caramelized onion mashed potatoes, and a Apricot/Orange/Cardamom Cheesecake. The whitefish was a little soft, but otherwise the meal was fantastic.

Note the blue picnic table at the end. Made it easy to spot.
We'd been eating a lot of fish-n-chips lately, which seems to be the common food fare of the lake, and doing so typically at a truck stand or diner. So a linen-table-cloth experience was a perfect ending for a rather snotty day.

Meanwhile, I took this video while we were at the Benjamins. It made us all laugh. Can anyone tell me the name of this song? It's stuck in my head.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Benjamins to Spanish

Being in Spanish marks two milestones. First, we say goodbye to Jesse, who's traveled with us for a week. We had great weather during that time, saw some amazing islands and coves, and had a wonderful time.

Second, Spanish is the north-most point for us. Yep, from here on out we're heading SOUTH. Chicago, here we come!

We've mucked with the schedule a bit due to some lock closures. These came up without warning within the last month. All loopers know the locks will be closed next year, from September to November (the same time you'd really like to get through them). Which is why a number of loopers are looping this year -- to get it done rather than wait another two years. However, three locks on the Illinois River (Starved Rock, Marceilles, and Lockport) announced last month they will be closed for two weeks; Sept 21 - Oct 5. There's been much debate on going sooner or going later.

Stunning sunrise in the Benjamins
Originally for us we were going later. Chicago is lovely in early October. However, this has been a rather cool summer (following a rather cool spring and a cold winter). I just saw on that they are expecting a rather cool autumn as well. Sooooo... we've moved up our schedule a bit, and that means getting outta Canada toot-sweet! Rather than putter about here in the North Channel, we're going to get to the US in the next couple of days.

Last night we thought we'd exit our cove via the "back door," which was a very narrow inlet surrounded by sharp, fiberglass crunching rocks. It was recommended that it only be attempted on calm days with good visibility. When we woke, however, there was enough of a breeze to make it more exciting than we were willing to do. We took the long way around.

Fog hiding islands in the distance
Friends texted us who stayed in Little Current yesterday that there was fog when they woke. We could see it in the distance. As we approached Spanish, it was a race to see who'd get there first, us or it. I really didn't like the idea of entering a unknown marina without seeing where I was going.

As luck would have it, we beat the fog. We got some fuel and pumped out before heading to our parking space, which was on a T-head. When the dock master gave us the assignment I cringed. It was directly across from the entry into the marina. There were two reasons I didn't like it. First, it's a bit tricky getting into and out of the place, and while I'm sure everyone is seasoned and responsible, I really didn't want to be bumped or banged from some hotshot going way too fast. Second, the opening is a large gap in the protective breakwall that surrounds the marina. If the wind kicks up from that direction, things will get bumpy.

The bluffs of Spanish, from our t-head
Of course the wind kicked up. And things got bumpy.

We asked to move, got a new assignment, and now I'm happy.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Baie Fine to The Benjamins

Pic from Peter Christy, who's watching over us.
Thank you!
This is the last night for Jesse. We drop him off in Spanish tomorrow.

We woke to a rainy morning, which held back until we'd walked the dogs, thankfully. We had no network so we had no idea what the weather was like once we left the bay. It almost didn't matter. We needed to get going.

Russ watching for rocks. Tricky part, right here.
Rain came and went as we retraced our way out of Baie Fine and headed to Little Current. Originally we were going to stop here. It's too bad that didn't work out -- the town looks pretty neat. Once the bridge opened around 11 am we continued to the Benjamins.

As we traveled we discussed whether to stop in the islands (one last anchor for Jess to swim and kayak) or just finish a long day at Spanish. Weather was key. The forecasts show everything is calm in the morning, with chances of thunderstorms in the afternoon. We rolled the dice; we're anchored and hoping the predictions are good. Otherwise, could be a bumpy morning.

Bridge at Little Current. Only opens on the hour.
We just anchored, so no drama about it. Faster too, given the long day already. Time to walk dogs and do some paddling.
Rainy Baie Fine. Pic by Martha!

Killarney to Baie Fine

We have no internet here in The Pool on Baie Fine. So I'm killing time by writing a very detailed blog that could also be title "Adventures in MedMooring." Feel free to just look at the pics. I won't be insulted.

We left the small but adorable port of Killarney around 8 am and headed to Baie Fine (pronounced Bay Fin). Looking on the map, a bird could have traversed the distance in 15 minutes. It took us 3 hours. But the weather was pleasant enough and the water placid, so the trip was calm and beautiful. We left about a half hour earlier than our buddy boat, and traveled faster. By the time we arrived to "The Pool" we were about an hour ahead of As You Wish.

We thought we'd execute another MedMoor, anchoring closer to shore then backing up to attach a stern line. The last time we did it we dropped anchored, sidled up to another boat (About Time) and rafted, then attached a stern line. All that was much easier since being attached to another boat meant you weren't going anywhere, so getting that stern line out was no rush, and no worry.

Sunset in Killarney
Doing it alone was much harder. First, we didn't choose a wise spot. I knew we wanted the wind (and it was only a breeze at this point) to be on our nose if possible. But the wind kept changing direction, swirling a bit in the bowl created by the rocky hills that surrounded us. 

Second, our eyes -- mine in particular -- still aren't accurate judges of safe distances, and with MedMooring that's key. You want to set your anchor as a safe length for your depth. There's a whole doctrine around this but in short, if your depth is 10 feet, you want anywhere from 50 to 70 feet of rode (line or chain) between the anchor and the boat. Then you want to be close enough to short that your stern line isn't crazy long. It isn't the strongest line (the anchor is) so you don't want any real force from wind or current straining it.

Anyway, we picked a spot, tried a couple of times where we dropped the anchor out too far in the lake, and couldn't back up close enough to shore, partly because we dropped it too far away, and partly because the wind make it a tough to back up straight against the wall.

We changed our tactics, looking across from us at the two boats already MedMoored. We turned around and parked there. Easier since I could get an idea of where to drop the anchor judging by the other boats, and it seemed a bit sheltered from the wind. 

Mountainy views
Anchor dropped, boat backed, all we needed to do was get the stern line attached. Which meant lowering the dinghy (we had to foresight to do before we started) but it needed it's paddles, which are stored in little cubbies in the dinghy, which have been shifted and now tough to reach since we're storing the little boat on the bow. It took Russ a good 10 minutes just to get the boat ready. 

Jesse had the stern line out by the time Russ was good to go. Meanwhile I'm keeping the boat more-or-less in place. Russ takes one end of the line and rows to shore, only 30 feet way. He gets out of the dinghy but can't find a handy place to tie THAT to before he ties Cat-n-Dogs to a tree. In that process he accidently drops the stern line, which floats away. He freed the dinghy, got back into it, rows out to where the line drifted, retrieved it, and tried again.

By this point, As You Wish was anchored and had their dinghy lowered. I half expected John to come over and say, "Can I help?" I would have found that funny, given we were so far ahead of them.

Anyway, the second time worked like a charm. We successfully MedMoored by ourselves. 

Safely Medmoored during a purple sunset
Anchoring accomplished, the men-folk started unloading the kayaks while I took down the helm. A few minutes later I hear some commotion and look behind to see one of the kayaks in the water upside down. I assumed it just got away from them until I realize that Jesse is laughing ... from the water. Yep, he took an accidental swim. Said the water was way warmer than his swim yesterday.

The rest of the day was spent hiking and kayaking. With no other incidents of adventures.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Collins Inlet to Killarney, via Covered Portage

Turns out, yesterday's anchorage, while quiet, wasn't "the best". The winds were a little strong, not bad, but made outtings less fun. The islands were spaced, which meant a LOT of kayaking. Jesse was out for three hours, and he enjoyed the trip. He brought back some wild blueberries, which we put to use today.

And where do I put the boat???
However, it was worth the stay for the trip today. We continued on Collins Inlet, and the views were just jaw-dropping. The high rocky passage was awesome by itself, but there was zero wind. That meant that the water had a mirror-like reflection to them. When the canyon was it's narrowest, that made piloting tricky. Usually you can see sky, earth, and water. Today I could only see sky and earth. I had to pilot on instruments to know exactly where to go.

AGLCA LOOPERS! Do not miss this part of the journey. It became our #1 highlight of the trip to date. 

Mirror reflection
The plan had been to go to Killarney from there, then off Covered Portage. But that is only a few miles away. John had the brilliant idea of going there first, then coming back to Killarney. That's what we did.

Covered Portage is a little bay surrounded by high walls. The big thing to do there is park your boat, then take the little hike up the cliffs. The money shot is looking down on your vessel from the hill top.

Oh, yeah. Worth it.

Wee little Cat-n-Dogs on the water.

Click the pic if you can't read it.

He's right here!

Not ours anymore

There's a saying in the boating world, that the happiest days of a boater life is the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it. This...