Monday, September 7, 2015

Taking on Lake Michigan

August 18-Sept. 5

Days 280-299

Many travelers we have met along our way have warned us that Lake Michigan can pose issues for boaters. How right they were! While we have not seen 6 foot seas, we have had many more unpleasant cruising days than we prefer. When the waves hit us on the beam it is time to start searching our charts for the closest protected harbor. Luckily, the state of Michigan provides wonderful opportunities to get off the lake all along its west coast. I have decided that while Lake Michigan may not be one of my favorite bodies of water, I have thoroughly enjoyed the lovely towns that have provided our safe harbors along the way. After leaving Mackinac Island we headed for what we believed would be a nice anchorage in a bay by Garden Island. Two nights of rocking and rolling convinced us that it was time to take the short trip into the marina on Beaver Island. Since then we have basically travelled only on days that our Windfinder App says it won't be too rough out on the water or we have just set tight and enjoyed what we found on shore. 

The small village of St. James is nestled in a protected bay on Beaver Island. This is the largest island on Lake Michigan, but as we must rely on our feet for transportation we were only able to explore this small part. They did provide every cruisers major requirements, a nice grocery store, good restaurant, ice cream, and a bakery.

Didn't realize I had found two headless ducks until I looked at this picture on my iPad. I was actually just trying to show how beautifully clear Lake Michigan's waters are.

The sunrise across the lake seems to be promising us a nice day on the water. It was nice for a few hours before the wind picked up and we again started looking for a place to hunker down. When we dropped anchor in Sleeping Bear Bay we thought we had been transported back to the gulf. This was our first glimpse of the Michigan sand dunes. Jess was thrilled to set the anchor in the sand again.

Lake Michigan is so huge that it can kick up waves just like the open ocean. Mariners have to really pay attention to wind direction and speed in order to make good decisions about traveling these waters. From what locals tell us it really gets bad later in the Fall. 

With the wind picking up over the next few days, it was time to head into the marina in Frankfort. This is a nice small town with stately old homes covering the hillside overlooking the lake. Our walk along the river front also took us to the Saturday morning farmers market, where we were thrilled to pick up some locally grown fruits and vegetables. 

With the sandy beaches, nice waves and a beautiful blue sky it may have not been conducive to boating, but it was perfect for wind surfers.

The beauty is certainly in the details on these older homes. With all of the different textures and paint colors it must take constant attention to keep them preserved at this level.

Bama Dream enjoys her relatively peaceful berth in Frankfort. Unfortunately, the wind did shift directions, causing the waves to push through the channel and straight into the harbor. We rocked and rolled so much one night we couldn't even tell we were in a marina.

We were not the only loopers waiting out the weather in Frankfort. After docktails on Spirit Journey, we all headed to Dinghy's for some great food so that we could swap more boating stories. 

After four days in Frankfort, this looks like our first possibility for getting a little bit further south. Not perfect, but doable.

The water is still a little choppy, but the sun has finally broken through as we near our destination for today. After negotiating our way through the rocky terrain in the Georgian Bay, the sand dunes along the coast of Michigan are quite a change. As we had never visited this area before, and didn't realize that the west coast of Michigan is basically one long sandy beach.

An overnighter in Ludington made us wish we had more time here, but the weather is good for tomorrow, so we will continue our travels. We arrived at the marina early enough for a nice walk around town, and of course a stop at the local ice cream shop.

Just like everywhere else we have visited for the past few months, the flowers in Michigan are glorious.

Ludington is the homeport for the S.S. Badger. It is a passenger and vehicle ferry that has been in service on Lake Michigan since 1953. It is the last coal-fired passenger vessel operating in the Great Lakes. 

What a treat! Our one night stop here just happened to coincide with a concert by the Navy Band Cruisers out of Washington D.C. They are on a Midwest tour, and we were thrilled to get to see these awesomely talented musicians perform.

A stunning sunset glittered off the sculpture, "Reflections", as it seems to catch the wind at the edge of the harbor. 

The S.S.Badger leaves the harbor on her trip across the lake to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The ship is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Another roly poly day on the water, but we are determined to make it to Grand Haven today.

We didn't know it at the time we tied up to the wall in Grand Haven, but when night fell and the Musical Fountain began its show, we soon realized we had front row seats.

We were entertained each evening with this beautiful light and water show set to a variety of musical numbers. At the time the fountain was built in 1962 it was the largest musical fountain in the world. It held that title until 1998 when the Bellagio Fountains were installed in Las Vegas.

The Pere Marquette Railway operated in the Great Lakes region during the first half of the 20th century.  This engine on display in Grand Haven was the inspiration for "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg. A Michigan native, he had seen the engine as a child when it was housed on the Michigan State University campus.

Grand Haven has its fair share of beautiful old homes with amazing architectural details.

The cool summer temperatures, as well as long hours of sunshine, contribute to a lucious landscape of thick green lawns and vibrantly colored flower beds.

We enjoyed sharing Ralph and Janet's grandchildren, while they visited with their parents from Colorado for a few days. Grady, Hunter, and Haley were impressed with the salmon catch of the day. Between the fishy smells, and the dripping blood they were ready to head off to the playground rather quickly.

Spirit, Fugitive, and Nearly Perfect joined us for a short visit. Yes, more loopers means it is time for docktails! Before we left Grand Haven, Sea Horse and Always Home also arrived in port. That prompted a potluck get together with some locals that wanted to hear our Great Loop stories.

The sun sets between the sails of this sculpture along the shore. It seems that every waterside park has its share of sculptures that are designed to reflect the relationship between the communities and Lake Michigan.

We are still tied up to the wall in what I considered to be a rather small channel coming out of the lake. I had to rethink that when at about midnight the night before this guy came by us on his way to unload a short way up the river. He doesn't look near as formidable in daylight, as he did in the dark when he slowly moved by my bedroom window with his spotlights scanning back and forth.

After watching all of the charter boats coming back into port with their coolers full of salmon, Jess and Ralph decided to try their luck. I will give them an "A" for effort, but we did not enjoy grilled salmon for dinner.

Instead of salmon, Jess and I decided to check out the fare at the World Famous Tip a Few bar and grill. Yes, this is another one of those "World Famous" places on the Great Circle Route. I will say that the food was very good, atmosphere was interesting, and they do not skimp on the alcohol content in their margaritas!

For the huge sum of $.75 each the Harbor Transit will pick you up anywhere in the city and drop you off wherever you want to go. Yes, Grand Haven is absolutely awesome! While we waited to be taken to the best laundromat we have used on this trip, the bees were working hard gathering nectar from the gardens in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

Th calendar says it is time to keep moving south so here we go again. The elevated walkway leading down the break wall to the lighthouse was used during the winter so that the keeper could reach the building from shore. Storms push the ice and snow up so high in the winter that otherwise the lighthouse would be inaccessible. Now that it is totally automated, the walkway is maintained more for historical reasons than actual use.

Well, Jess didn't get totally skunked. This guy did make a couple of beautiful red fillets that will make us a nice grilled salmon dinner.

We enjoyed the company of three of these little guys on our cruise down to St. Joseph.
They were actually quite entertaining, as they flitted about snatching bugs right out of the air.

They totally ignored Jess and I as they walked around our feet and checked out every surface on the flybridge. One of them actually visited inside, but when we pulled into the harbor at St. Joseph they all disappeared.

The sandy beaches have been a complete surprise to us. 

We were also not expecting to find waves just like the ones along our Gulf Coast. The water may be slightly cooler than the gulf, but on the plus side there are no sharks, no jellyfish, and no salt. Even I enjoyed a swim after I managed to get past the chill. Jess just dives right in, I have to get used to it a little at a time.

The Tri-State Regatta takes place on Labor Day weekend. Sailors leave Chicago at 7:00 p.m. on Friday night and arrive in St. Joseph harbor Saturday morning where they catch a very little rest before they start partying at the yacht club. They then depart on Sunday morning for Michigan City before returning to Chicago on Monday. This picture was taken from our boat inside the marina. The sailboats were rafted up 7 deep here and the big girls, ranging from 40-70 feet were 3 deep on the city wall. Keep in mind that say you are on the 7th sailboat and you wanted to go ashore, you have to actually step from one boat to the next all the way. This scene made for a very interesting day. The best part came on Sunday morning when we were entertained by the last boat out of the marina. Traditionally that boat carries a bagpiper who plays as all the boats make their way out of port.

O.K., so not all of the art found in the parks along the waterfront have anything to do with the relationship between land and sea. We couldn't quite figure out what this artist was trying to say, but it was interesting to say the least.

Boating and football do not go together very well. When we left during football season last year we were at  least in the south, not so this year. We did find a bar that graciously set the TV to the Alabama-Wisconsin game for us. It is better than not seeing it at all, but I do miss Ely's play by play commentary. Yea, Bama! 35-17 

With sunny skies and 85 degree weather, everyone from miles around flocked to the beach. It was awesome to see this many people out having one last fling before their summer comes to an end.

We had to wade quite a ways down the beach before we were able to find a spot for our blanket. What fun! The water was perfect and there were kids of all ages having a great time.

Janet shared this picture of Bama Dream as the sun peaked through the clouds on our last morning together. Ralph is still hoping to hook into one of the elusive salmon he has been searching for, and we are getting anxious to head south.

This amazing adventure has taken us to places we had only dreamed about going to, but the best part of the whole thing is the new friends we have made along the way.  We have been traveling with Gud Nuff off and on since we first met them on the Hudson River. What a great time we have had, and if all goes well we will see them again when they reach the Tennessee River, if not before. Safe travels, Ralph and Janet!

What a trip down Michigan we have had. The lake may have kicked up its heals a time or two, but that just caused us to spend more time acting like tourists than we would have otherwise. Thanks Michigan for three weeks of fun! Now we are off to Michigan City, Indiana for a quick visit, before stopping to see the sights in Chicago.

No comments:

Post a Comment