They really are Great Lakes
23 September 2019
Mackinac Island is a step back in time. Even though it is less than 4 square miles it packs in plenty of activities and historic sights. Almost completely part of the Michigan State Park system, the remaining privately owned properties are mostly adorable Bed and Breakfast Inns. No motorized vehicles are allowed, replaced by horse drawing carriages and buckboards. Mail is delivered by bicycle although I don't know what they use when snow covers the ground. Ferries run all day delivering and picking up passengers. I am posting pictures with this blog but they don't do justice to how charming this place actually is. Really, you need to visit at least once.
The Grand Hotel opened in 1887 and costs ranged from $3 to $5 per night. Now a historic property, the hotel is elegantly maintained with prices starting at $450 per person per night (we were very happy to be there by boat and could enjoy the islands at state marina rates). We enjoyed the lunch buffet and strolled along the world's longest porch. Handsome cabs lined the main entrance for those choosing not to walk or ride bicycle. While I am not sure the lunch buffet was worth $50 pp the total experience is one I would not skip.
Fudge, now we need to talk about fudge. Fudge on Mackinac Island is everywhere, kind of like goose poop in Canada but oh so much more welcome! Every imaginable flavor of Chocolate but also maple and berry flavors. It may or may not be against the law to visit here and not sample the fudge but why take the chance. And don't let me forget to mention the ice cream parlors...
After looking at the weather forecast we cut our 3 night stay by a night and ran over to Mackinaw City for fuel, laundry and provisioning so that we could head west and get tucked in somewhere before the wind started to blow. Another great town that gets many tourists in the summer. A darling main street with restaurants and tourist shops ends at the ferry dock. Friends from a park we spent time in down Florida way came by to catch up, it was a pleasure to see them again! I wish that we would have had more time there but that weather was coming and we needed to cross Lake Michigan as our boat is so small and the lake is so big.
Door County Peninsula was as charming as ever. We spent 6 days being tourists and loved every minute even if we weren't able to move as often as we would have liked due to wind and waves. This peninsula separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan and is a popular vacation area. Even this late in the year the streets were crowded and shops are doing a good business.
Alas, the big lake calmed and we ran down the coast toward Milwaukee. The first night we pulled into Kewaunee in time for the requisite Wisconsin Friday Fish Fry. The owner of the restaurant even came out to help us tie and told us we were free to spend the night. Bonus! The second day waves started to pick up again so we ducked in and spent a couple night at Sheboygan marina. Great marina, my favorite so far on the loop. Fantastic captains lounge and DeeO'gee was welcome too. A dear friend even drove up to visit and take me on a provision run. Another flat day on the lake so off we went.
Milwaukee was a wonderful stop. Many visits with friends, lunches and dinners out. I lived in Milwaukee and sailed the lakefront for several pleasant years, this was old home week. We spent a night right downtown by the Sumerfest grounds and had a magnificent sunset. Wind picked up so we moved up the river for 3 nights to Barnicle Buds Key West style restaurant and dock which was a regular stop on my 26' Pearson. What a perfect spot for visitors. Last, we moved to South Shore Yacht Club, fond memoirs of my time here. Wind kept us in Milwaukee just a couple extra days, giving us a few more days for visits. At wee hours of the morning we cast off and headed to our last stop on Lake Michigan.
Dawn had a hard time arriving with dense fog as far as the eyes could see. By the time darkness and the fog was completely gone we could see the Windy City skyline. Just before entering the harbor we were boarded by the coast guard for a routine safety check, we passed the muster! Very young officers were courteous and quick so we could continue on our way. Approaching by water the city looked even larger than all the times I had visited by land, after we picked up a mooring ball we grabbed the courtesy tender and headed to shore. Several loopers were there and we walked down a few docks to say hello, of couse there were mandatory Docktails that evening. Sunset was magnificent and our viewpoint from the mooring field produced some stunning photos.
The next morning started our journey down the river system which is another blog...
Georgian Bay and The North Channel
19 August 2019
After the hustle and bustle of 100+ locks, Georgian Bay and the North Channel was a relaxing reprieve. We traveled 350 miles with 20 stops, all but 2 at anchor! Loosly buddy boating with Bella Gatto we would travel together, split for a few days and regroup. DeeO'gee missed Bella terribly when we were apart, I think he has a crush on that tall girl next door. Jayne and Jonathan are great to travel with and Lake Michigan will not be the same without them.
Georgian Bay is peppered with summer cottages, cottages might be what they are called but they range from small one room cabins to three story million dollar homes. Built on rock islands and only accessible by boat, these cottages only get used 4-5 months a year. Remember that winter is harsh in these parts!
Traversing through the Small Craft Channel was at times quiet exciting. Referred to as 30,000 islands by the locals, there are probably twice that many just below the surface, with channels so narrow in some areas that the red and green markers were just 30 feet apart. My captain guided us through safely and we were rewarded with some amazing anchorages. Sometimes a narrow cut would open to a private wonderland just for us. Other times a cluster of islands would provide scenic walks for groups of humans and dogs. The highlight of this section was Bad River, a protected anchorage with a network of dingy channels to explore. At times when the water isn't so high one can dingy the rapids, this year there was just swift currents between large bolders. But really it is hard to pick a favorite when so many were picture perfect.
Once we entered the North Channel the cottages became fewer and fewer and true wilderness was more apparent. We saw eagles, snakes, muskrat and some boaters saw bears! The call of the loons would provide music during evening and morning hours. I know we are in Canada but the sound of those damm canadian geese and their droppings were everywhere. Lots of droppings and I mean everywhere. Drats, did I just whine?
Baie Fine was our favorite stop through this area with a great hike to Emerald Lake. Crystal clear water just begging us to jump in from rock cliffs, even Bella jumped from the rocks as DeeO'gee stayed far enough away to be safe from being tossed or falling in. Back at the anchorage we rounded up all 7 other Looper boats for Rocktails, drinks and munchies on the rocks.
We spent almost 3 weeks on this leg and 2 months total in Canada and enjoyed every day, from cities to wilderness it was all wonderful. Quebec Province was probably or favorite section with darling towns and French flair. I can't imagine why anyone would complete the Loop of 5000 miles in three or for months unless the just want to burn fuel and earn the gold burgee. They really could not experience the adventure. We are starting into our 12th month and have traveled over 4000 nautical miles (4800 statute miles) so far on this voyage. We still have a way to go this year and depending on next year's side trips we should finish up at well over 6000 miles.
Living large at 7 knots!
There's a grumpy Looper
And some frumpy Loopers
And those that just plain whine
Here's to all us grateful Loopers that think this life's sublime!