Mackinac Island And Back To Home

Friday I worked while Melanie, Mary and Mike walked around and explored Mackinaw City. Later in the day, Mary and Steve came to visit. They are our dock neighbors from home and they live in Ann Arbor. We enjoyed hanging out with them and that evening went to dinner with them at a very interesting place. It had a log cabin feel to it and it was obvious the owners were hunters; it was filled with taxidermy from all parts of the world.

We walked around after dinner and window shopped before returning to the boat for an early night. We were up bright and early and ready to tackle Mackinac island. We caught the 9:00 am ferry which takes a slightly longer route and talks a bit about the history of the island and the bridge. It was good that we arrived early, it wasn’t too crowded but that would change later in the day. We disembarked and exited the ferry terminal to a horse drawn wagon standing right in front of us. Windsor started barking, he has never seen horses and probably thought they were really big dogs! The island has no mechanical vehicles, only horse drawn carriages and bicycles, so it changes the whole balance of the island. They have 1 doctor and 5 veterinarians living on the island!

Riding the ferry to Mackinac Island

We walked up to the Grand hotel and then followed the route the tourist wagons take around through the state park to the fort and then walked back and forth along the main Street. We had a very interesting day seeing the sights and just people watching. In case you did not know, the movie “Somewhere In Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed here using the hotel as a backdrop. There were a few spots on the island marked as places where scenes were filmed. The pictures below are from one of those stores. And, if you like chick-flicks, this is a must see!

Street sweeper

We stopped for a bite to eat at an outdoor patio in the back of one of the hotels and then returned to the ferry for the quick trip home. We were exhausted from all of the walking and pretty much just sat and did nothing for a few hours before taking the dog for a short walk. Right when we did that a parade of Corvettes passed by. There was a Corvette meetup in town that weekend and there must have been 200 or more cars in the parade. We watched that and then headed back to the boat for the night.

Sunday morning came with sunshine and promising winds. The forecast was for southerly winds which were favorable, so we filled up the water tanks, unhooked the electric and headed out into the lake. We started off sailing with a reefed jib and full mainsail and even with that we were making six to seven knots! It was a great sailing day.

Sailing to Hammond Bay

The wind fizzled later in the day and then clocked to the southeast which made our destination directly into the wind!. With 10 miles to go the wind piped up from the New direction and soon we were galloping over waves to our destination. When we arrived we tried to drop anchor and picked up so many weeds that the anchor would not bite into the lake bed. We tried twice then decided to leave the harbor and anchor behind the break wall in the shelter of and out of the waves. I dropped the anchor into clear sand in about 8 ft of water and it bit in immediately,and Melanie headed below to cook us a quick dinner while we relaxed from the crazy ride.

We lowered the dinghy after finishing our dinner and rode into shore to walk the dog on the beach. It was like being at the ocean, hard to believe that it is a fresh water lake. Around sunset we headed back to the boat and closed up for the night. We were expecting storms so we prepared for them but all we got was a light drizzle later in the evening.

Hammond Bay Beach

Next morning we raised anchor and turned for Presque Isle. The wind was out of the South between 15 and 20 knots but because we were relatively close to shore, there weren’t very many large waves so we moved very fast. 34 miles later we arrived before 2:30 having started after 9:00 a.m. . Melanie said she saw 8 knots a few times on the speedometer! That is pretty fast for our boat. We spent most of the morning over 6 so while it was quite a bouncy ride for me down below, at 2:30 I was sitting upright and safely at anchor in Presque Isle.

After work I lowered the dinghy and went over to pick up Mike and Mary for dinner. We had decided to make this a two day stay as the weather forecast called for bad winds the following day. Melanie made a delicious hot meal of chicken with a lemon sauce over noodles – it always feels good to warm your belly after  a good sail. We dropped Mary and Mike off after dinner and went ashore to a small park to walk the dog. There was not much there so we headed over to the rocky shore at the entrance of the bay. It was remote and beautiful. We enjoyed the sights until the flies started biting, then hopped into the dinghy and headed back to the boat for the night. We were prepared the next day to wait the weather out, but while sitting in the cockpit enjoying breakfast, a fellow sailor from Sandusky sailed by – Island Dancer – he said the wind was great and we should leave now. I tried to start working and to my surprise, I could not get an internet connection. The previous day was great, yet nothing today. So that, along with the “forecast” from Bruce led to us raising anchor and heading towards Harrisville.

The first half of the trip was fine and within a few miles, I had reception again as we were close to Alpena. The second half of the trip was not so nice. Crossing Thunder Bay the wind piped up to over 30 knots and while we were moving fast, waves were crashing over the boat and working below was like trying to sit in a dryer and work while its on the spin cycle! I was down on the floor as low as I could go while the boat was getting flung about mercilessly. Melanie put up a clear shower curtain to help keep the wind and water out of the cockpit and that was quite effective for her. I was down below, getting flung about but nevertheless dry. There were squalls rolling through the area, but thankfully they passed either behind or ahead of us and we did not get rained on.

After a long hard day we arrived in Harrisville, all beat up and thankful for the shelter and calm of the harbor. Melanie made a quick Spaghetti and egg dinner which we wolfed down and then she made it clear that ice cream was in order for dessert. After her long day at the helm, I couldn’t say no🙂 We dropped the dinghy and headed into shore where we ran into a little concert in the park! Open mike night. We stopped to listen to some music; I had looked at the store times on line and it said they closed at 10pm, so we had plenty of time.

An older lady came over to pet Windsor and we started chatting and in the course of the conversation, ice cream came up. “No”, she said, “I think the store closes at 8pm”. It was 8:10. “Let me ask the owner” she said. She walked over to a young couple and started talking to them. She motioned for us to come over – she was taking to the store owner who said it was closed, but after hearing our story of the windy day on the water she drove us to the store and served us herself! We got our ice cream after all and sat outside in the fading light stuffing our faces. I LOVE small towns! We strolled back and as we arrived at the marina, the impromptu concert was packing up – the lady we had spoken to, along with a friend were the only two people left.  We spoke to her for quite a while , thanking her for doing what she did. Then back to the boat and off to bed. The boat never moved all night.

Heading to Tawas

We woke to brilliant sunshine and clear skies. After checking the forecast we took the puppy ashore for his walk and headed out into Lake Huron, destination Tawas. As usual, the predicted North West wind (highly favorable to our direction of travel) was actually a South West wind – almost directly where we were headed! I guess weather forecasting is the only job you can have where you can be wrong 100% of the time and still get paid! We set sail, motoring as well to keep up our speed. The wind was blowing from the shore so the waves were small and the ride was relatively smooth. As we approached Tawas point, the wind switched to the North West and nice rolling 5 footers came roaring out of the bay, smashing into the waves blowing up the lake, turning the area we were in to a large washing machine. We fought and struggled the last 3 miles to port – taking almost 2 hours to go those three miles into the pounding waves before we arrived at the harbor where we tied up without incident.

After a delicious dinner we went ashore and walked the town. Next day Melanie, Mike and Mary explored the town while I worked and after work I joined them and we went out to dinner at a restaurant in the hotel right next to the marina. Next day, we gassed up, pumped out and departed for Port Austin. The wind direction was such that waves were pounding us as we left and that lasted for about a third of the trip. Once we had crossed about half way over Saginaw Bay, the wind moderated and the waves decreased and the trip was a little smoother. We arrived at weedy Port Austin in the early afternoon and once finished with work, I met the others at “The Bank 1884”, a local bank building converted to a dining establishment. We enjoyed a nice fish dinner and a celebratory glass of Champagne for my birthday.

Sailing To Port Austin

Saturday saw a farmers market in town, so we wandered around buying fruit and veggies and enjoying the sunshine. Early in the afternoon we dropped the dinghy and rode over to Turnip Rock. The ride was over shallow water and the motor hit bottom a few times, but we made it safely there without damaging the propeller. Once there we pulled the dinghy up on a small beach at the bottom of a cave cliff and spent some time admiring the view.

Being a weather hound, I noticed that high clouds were starting to cover the sky in the North and moving towards us, indicating that thunderstorms were on the way. The cliff obscured views of the Northern and Western skies, so we decided to head back and we were right, a line of thunderstorms was headed our way. We motored back to the harbor, avoiding the numerous shallow spots on the way back. We raised the dinghy back into the davits and then Melanie went below and made dinner; pork chops, salad and sweet potatoes.

Turnip Rock

We stayed in Port Austin an extra day because the waves out on the lake the next day were eight to ten feet! It was cloudy and gray but no rain. We walked around and found that there was an art festival in town so we went to that and wandered around and found some wonderful clothes for Melanie to buy. We headed back to the boat where we met up with Mike and Mary for breakfast and then took them back over to the festival. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and it helped to pass away the day. Besides, getting away from the lake and the furious winds made us a lot warmer.

Angry Lake Huron

We were up early and left around 9:00 the following day. Although the winds had died down a lot the seas we’re still quite angry and we had a rough but short ride to Harbor Beach where we anchored behind the break wall. Melanie made a wonderful recipe for dinner, cheesy chard. I went over to pick up Mike and Mary for dinner and ended up swimming. Normally when Melanie climbs out of the dinghy, she takes the line and ties it to the boat. Mike and Mary climbed out of the boat and I stepped out, forgetting that Melanie was not in the dinghy and had not tied it to the boat! I turned around and watched our dinghy drifting quickly away from the boat! I tore off my sweatshirt and without thinking dived in to retrieve it.

After retrieving the dinghy and changing out of my wet clothes, we wolfed down dinner and went to shore to look for ice cream, forgetting that it was Labor Day and everything was closed! We returned to the boats and after a short night of TV, fell into bed. We awoke at 6:30 the following morning to a glorious blue sky. We planned to make Port Huron which was 55 miles away and that required an early start if we were to make it before sundown. We headed out after pulling up the anchor and finding it absolutely covered in Weeds. It took me a good 15 minutes to clean it off before it was light enough for me to raise and stow for travel. My workout for the day.

We motor sailed the entire way, the sun gave way to clouds and then after a few hours the skies cleared and we warmed up. The wind gradually decreased and switched so that it became more northerly as opposed to northeasterly. We arrived around 5:00 and scooted into the river doing close to 10 knots! There is quite a strong current and it really pushed the boat along. We tied up at Port Huron yacht club without incident and after I finished work we headed out for a dinner, our last dinner ashore before home. We found a wings and beer place to enjoy dinner and then began our search for ice cream – we had been denied the day before and this day wasn’t much better. We arrived at the store 20 minutes AFTER they closed. No more Michigan Pothole…..

An early night was in order because we had 70 miles to go the next day. We cast off right around 7 am and motored out into the river bathed in glorious sunshine and zero wind. The current pushed us at a steady 7 to 8 knots and by noon we were entering Lake Saint Clair. The wind never showed up – there were short promises of help from the wind, so we kept the sails out, but most of the time we were dependent on the river current to speed us along.

Leaving Port Huron

We entered the Detroit River and motored down to the spot we had anchored on the first night and dropped anchor. After dinner, we decided to head into shore. A passing boat told us there was a nice restaurant at the marina right next to where we anchored. We had no idea there was even a marina there! We headed in on the dinghy and found a huge marina hidden behind the houses lining the shore. We ordered lunch for the following day and enjoyed a drink while we waited for our food.

September 8 was the last day of the trip. Glorious sunshine once again woke us up and we raised anchor in a calm, windless river, heading into the shipping channel and turning South towards Lake Erie. Mike once again had an engine overheating problem; weeds blocking the water intake. We dropped anchor outside the channel and tried to unblock it to no avail.

We raised anchor and decided to motor slowly enough to not overheat the engine. After an hour of that, we realized that it would take ten to twelve hours to make it home so we gave them our hose blaster and he jury rigged a hose to the kitchen faucet and was able to blow the obstruction out using their galley faucet.

That said we were on our way again at normal speeds and after a long day of motoring across a calm lake, our islands came into view and we arrived safely home at our dock. A celebration at our local favorite restaurant finished off our adventure. 1140 miles later we were back at home port and talking about our next adventure; this one was in the books!

Traverse Bay And Beyond

I forgot to mention, when we were entering Traverse Bay yesterday, we encountered a family of swans out in the middle of the bay about 4 miles from shore. Quite a beautiful sight to see – seven swans a swimming!

We headed into shore at Suttons Bay the next morning so that Melanie, Mary and Mike could catch the bus to Traverse City to visit doctors and chiropractors. Mary had some sort of infection and Melanie needed a chiropractor. I stayed and worked and watched over the boats. The wind came up during the day and Windsor and I bounced around quite a bit at anchor as the waves built to 2 to 3 ft, but both boats’ anchors held. A big relief since I would have had to reposition and reset the anchor myself and it’s a two-man job.

I came ashore after work and picked them up at 6:00 when the bus dropped them off at the local library. We had a light dinner and finished it off with ice cream before heading back to the boat for the night. The next day was more of the same. Melanie was feeling much better and had free range of motion and best of all, no more pain! We headed into shore around lunch time so we could go to a market that sells local and Michigan only produce and products. That and then a trip to the grocery store along with me working was pretty much it for the day.

Around the dinner hour, a Zodiac dinghy came by and it ended up being a couple with the exact same boat as us. They had anchored in front of us while we were down below and came over to chat. We ended up going into shore to meet them at a micro brewery for a few appetizers and some great conversation before coming back to the boat and hitting the pillow hard. Its always nice to swap stories with fellow sailors.

Thursday we headed into the marina early in the day and spent one night there. Mary, Mike and Melanie took off into Suttons Bay to explore all the stores and take in the sights. I took a lunch break and met them at an outdoor patio for a wonderful salad and quesadilla combo we split. After work I grilled some fish and we enjoyed a light dinner before heading into town to top the meal off with a dessert, ice cream of course! I will say, we have eaten a LOT of ice cream on this trip – mostly “Michigan Pot Hole” but we are not gaining any weight – perhaps its all the exercise we get boating 🙂

Friday morning we left Suttons Bay and made our way towards Traverse City. There were five marinas in the area and we had called all five with no luck, there were no empty slips for us for the weekend. We decided we would anchor out and enjoy the weekend anyway. We motored out of Suttons Bay and turned South toward Traverse City. During the course of the day the wind came up and gradually increased, slowing our speed to under four knots. It was directly from ahead and we wanted to make good time so we were under motor.

Someone at Suttons Bay told us that there was a wall in the harbor where you could tie up but it was first come first served and no reservations. As we approached the city, dark clouds began to gather on the horizon and soon we could see a big storm brewing and barreling towards us. Looking at the radar on our phones we saw that it was moving from Southwest to Northeast so we moved over to the west side of the bay hoping it would pass South of us. For once we got lucky. A few raindrops was all we encountered; the anger and the brunt of the storm passed to our South and the skies cleared. We motored in to the harbor and found three open spots on the wall, we had a place to tie up! We docked, tying up against the wall and then Melanie made us breakfast for dinner; sausage, eggs and pancakes. It was delicious!

Traverse Bay

After stuffing ourselves we took off into the heart of the downtown area and found the Cherry Republic store. Their headquarters are in Traverse City and we have been dying to visit that store for a long time, having ordered through their catalog for many years. It was a fabulous store, we ended up buying way too much and there were plenty of samples to try which we thoroughly enjoyed. Chocolate covered cherries were definitely a favorite. We waddled back to the boat and found a casual clothing shop on the way with very reasonable prices. Melanie found herself a great hooded t-shirt and for me other T-shirt with a map of the Great lakes, a nice addition to the sailing wardrobe.

Saturday there was an art fair in the Park right next to where we were docked; we had front row seats! We strolled around admiring the craftsmanship of the various artists, one of whom was a 17 year old young lady who had just published her first book, a novel directed at young teenagers. We were very impressed and spoke to her and her parents for quite a while. There were live bands playing music all day long, oldies and goodies we thoroughly enjoyed. The music was just loud enough to be able to hear at the boat, but not too loud to be obnoxious. I did a little bit of maintenance on the sail handling systems and then we relaxed for the rest of the day while we ran a few loads of laundry. Melanie, our gourmet chef made Chicken Alfredo for dinner and we finished that off with a walk through the bustling town for ice cream.

Sunday morning we woke to a cloudy sky, dropped our lines and headed over to the fuel dock to top off the tank before leaving the comfort of the marina and heading back out into the bay. There was a brisk wind building out of the direction we needed to go (always seems that way) but being Sunday, we decided we would sail and give our hard working motor a break for the day. We made good progress up the bay, passing near a sailboat race – they all had black sails – and dodging other sailboats out relishing in the breezy conditions. Traverse City faded into the haze and as the day wore on, the clouds dissipated and gave way to a crystal clear sky over the bay. In the late afternoon we neared the top of Mission Point and turned East to round the corner for the quick trip down to the bay.

Slogging up Traverse Bay to Mission Point

It was a full day, we anchored in about 30 ft of water off a public beach and Melanie made dinner which we took over to our friend’s boat to share. We watched the sun sink slowly behind the island before returning to our boat for bed. After an hour of TV we went topside to admire the starry night. With no light pollution, being on a boat in the middle of the water is a GREAT place for some intense stargazing.

Monday morning we woke to a Mill pond, but the wind gradually filled in so that by the time we left the Anchorage after my weekly status meeting, we had a good sailing breeze. We headed out and sailed up towards Northport on the Western tip of Traverse Bay. We made good solid progress but in the early afternoon the wind started to get a little squirrely, shifting this way and that, trying to prevent us from reaching our destination. Finally with about 2 miles to go, in frustration we started the motor, dropped the sails and motored in. We dropped anchor in about 30 ft of water and I could see it on the bottom!

It never ceases to amaze me how clear the water is in these 2 lakes. We ate a light dinner, then dropped the dinghy and headed into shore. Mary and Mike got a dock for the night so they were already there; we tied up to their boat and went ashore to hang out for a while. Then, off to the grocery store for ice and a few necessities and we headed back to the boat and dropped into bed. Each night before turning in, we have made it a habit to look up and watch the starry night for a few minutes. We were greeted this night with a line of satellites passing through our field of vision almost directly above our heads. There must have been about 40 of them in a perfect straight line, all evenly spaced. I have seen videos of this but never actually witnessed it until now. Apparently, it’s part of the Starlink satellite Network. It was quite amazing. We followed that up with two meteors in quick succession before turning in for the night.

Leaving Northport for Charlevoix

We were greeted the next morning with another beautiful cloudless sky. The water was calm, like a mirror, calm enough to use as a mirror to shave! After Mary and Mike left their dock we raised our anchor and motored out into Traverse Bay, making sure we obeyed all of the navigation marks, as they marked dangerous, shallow water. We turned towards Charlevoix with nary a breeze in sight. The trip to Charlevoix was uneventful. It was calm and we ended up motoring the entire way; the sails did nothing to help us.

There is a drawbridge that we had to wait for and pass under before entering into Round Lake which is in the heart of the town. We passed through the bridge and once in the lake, we saw numerous mansions, high-end condos and huge boats around the edge of the small body of water. We anchored in about 30 feet of water outside of the channel and enjoyed the rest of the day. After work we headed into shore and ate outside at a small pub, enjoying a great dinner of Whitefish and chips. We walked around and looked at the shops and the sights. Right in front of the docks is an outdoor auditorium, and that evening we were treated to a brass band concert and they played many favorites, mostly marching band music, what a treat!

Charlevoix draw bridge opens

We fell into bed and woke the next morning to sunny skies. During the night the wind changed direction and we were now facing the opposite way. I worked while Melanie, Mike and Mary went into shore and toured the shops and museums. After work I joined them at a small taco bar for some fish tacos and they took me afterwards to show me what is called the mushroom House. A famous local architect designed and built a number of houses in a small neighborhood. After our walk we went back to the boat because there were storms in the area and I did not want us to get caught out in the weather with the possibility of the boat’s anchor dragging. We got spritzed on but that was about it; the weather held off and we slept well. There was a day dock where you could bring in your boat for free and run some errands, so first thing in the morning we went in and got ice, head cleaner and some boat soap. Then we shoved off and waited for the bridge to lift so we could pass through and motor out into lake Michigan. Our next stop was Sturgeon Bay. Winds were very light so motoring was the word of the day.

We entered a cloudy, gloomy looking lake with high and low gray clouds covering the skies. Things looked a little foreboding and they were. Gentle rain began to fall after about 2 hours and gradually increased in intensity, then the wind picked up and the waves started to build. Working down below became quite a challenge, the boat was rocking through about 40 degrees which meant I could only type with one hand when it rolled to the right because I had to hold on with the other! Poor Melanie was stuck driving while I worked and she got soaking wet, even after we put up a few clear shower curtains to try and block the rain and wind.

Round Lake in Charlevoix

Eventually in mid-afternoon, the rain stopped. I stood watch for a few minutes so Melanie could go below and change into dry clothes and warm up. Looking at the weather and the forecast for the night, we decided it was probably worthwhile to try and head on straight to Mackinaw City. I called the marina and they did have a spot so the decision was made to head there instead of our Anchorage, which if the wind came from the predicted direction, would have been a very unpleasant night of rolling and rocking and possible anchor dragging – not fun in the middle of the night. Clouds thinned out and the sun made a weak appearance, the wind changed in our favor so that we were able to make an easy six knots. The wind from behind and the waves from behind made the ride got a lot smoother!

We were able to arrive at the marina by 7:30 and thankfully, beside a short 10 to 15 minute drizzle, we had no more rain and the sun even peeked out. We were safely tied up when the sun set and were greeted with colorful clouds and a confirmation of our decision when the wind switched to the northwest and picked up in strength to 15 – 20 mph. Our anchor spot would have been miserable had we not decided to come straight to Mackinaw City. After we tied up, we wandered around looking at stores just to get off the boat and stretch our legs and give the dog a bit of a break. Then we found a place for a quick bite to eat before returning back to the boat to turn in for the night.

Rounding The Hand

Next morning we were blessed with blue skies and temps in the upper 50s! Who would guess that in the middle of summer we’d have to wear jackets to stay warm. We filled the water tanks, ate breakfast and prepped the boat for departure. There was a gentle breeze, unfortunately out of the exact direction we were headed. We sucked down a good cup of coffee, filled up our water tanks and then shoved off.

Melanie was dressed like it was winter. I set up shop down below and worked and was cozy warm because I took the engine cover off so it would heat the cabin. A little loud but well worth it! We zigzagged up the coast of Michigan (because we cannot sail directly into the wind) using the motor to help propel us along and made steady progress until we passed around the northern tip of Thunder Bay. Late in the afternoon we rounded the point and set a course for Presque Isle. There were many sailboats, trawlers and other vessels on the water; more than we have seen in a while. We also saw another boat from Sandusky headed south! It’s been amazing how many people we have met that are sailing up here that are from either Cleveland, Sandusky or Gibraltar which is over near Grosse Isle, Detroit. The wind slowly died during the afternoon but stayed strong enough to give us good forward movement along with the engine. The waves did decrease and this allowed us to go a little faster.

We pulled into Presque Isle Bay around 8:45pm just in time to drop the anchor and watch the sun set. Glorious colors from reds to pale purple painted the sky. We watched the show for a while before sneaking below for a cup of hot tea and then a glorious warm bed where we slept hard. I was wakened by the sun streaming down through the hatch and into our V-berth in the front – blinding light woke me from a pleasant dream and off we went.

Coffee, then breakfast and we raised our anchor out of the crystal clear water and motored out into Lake Huron, raising the sails and setting course for Hammond Bay, some 30 odd miles away. There was a gentle breeze from the South West, so we took advantage of that, setting our sails for only the 2nd time this trip WITHOUT the motor. Blissful quiet as we slipped along around 5 to 6 knots – actually faster than we can motor – and relished in the beauty of the day. A few hours in, the wind pooped and we started the motor to continue to make decent time. We wanted to reach our destination before sunset; its always awkward going into an unfamiliar place to anchor in the dark.

Then the wind switched to the north West, directly where we were heading and piped up to 20 to 25 knots! This led to the waves gradually building until they started to break over the boat and with 8 miles to go, we decided that it was not worth the slow, painful slog. We could fight the weather and take 4 hours to go 8 Miles OR look at the charts and find a place behind us to take shelter. We found a marina at Rogers City that was behind us about 8 Miles, so we turned and with the waves and wind now pushing us, our four hour slog became a calm, quick hour and a half. We pulled into the marina, tied up and unwound after being beaten up just a little.

Based on the recommendation of a fellow sailor, we took a walk and found a restaurant called “Up North 23” and had dinner there. It had a beautiful view of the angry lake. The next day while I worked, Melanie, Mike and Mary walked around town, going to museums and shops and enjoying a full day while the wind took its anger out on the lake. That evening was the final super moon of the year, called a Sturgeon Moon. Around 9:00 p.m. it rose above the horizon, a buttery yellow ball that was just beautiful. Despite my efforts I was unable to get a decent picture of it. We fell into bed soon thereafter while the wind blew itself out during the night.

An angry lake

We left Rogers City on a dying breeze in the morning and as the day progressed it got hotter and the wind disappeared completely. We entered our anchorage point at Cheboygan Bay right around the dinner hour after an uneventful day, dropped anchor and lowered the dinghy and headed into shore to see what we could find. Cheboygan is actually a small port on a river, so it was bustling with activity. We found a nice dog friendly restaurant and ate dinner before heading back to the boat to enjoy the sunset.

Saturday morning Melanie had a very sore hip. She had either thrown out her SI joint or pulled a muscle and we needed to see a chiropractor. We raised the anchor and motored into the river. The drawbridge opened and we found a dock close to where we had eaten the previous evening. Two chiropractors that advertised as open were however closed so we disappointingly walked back to the boat, passing by a farmers market on the way. We stopped, browsed and bought a few fresh veggies and then headed back to the boat, untied and headed out through the drawbridge again into Lake Huron. To our left side the two towers of the Mackinac bridge appeared on the horizon 12 miles away. We waited for Mary and Mike to raise their anchor and join us, then headed off towards the looming bridge.

Approaching the bridge

As we got closer, Mackinac Island slowly came into view with its historic Grand hotel showing as a fat white stripe across the middle of the island. Clouds peppered the sky hiding the sun, making it raw and chilly. The bridge rose out of the water, getting higher and higher as we passed Bois Blanc Island to our right.

The wind came and died number of times and it gradually became overcast. Around 2:30 p.m. we passed under the bridge and entered Lake Michigan. We have now sailed Southern Cross in four out of the five Great lakes. Only Lake Superior remains. The wind continued its downward spiral, slowly fading away as the clouds covered the sky. We arrived around 3:45 at Trailhead Bay on the other side of the peninsula from Mackinaw city. We dropped anchor in 17 ft of water and I watched the anchor hit the sand! The water is very very clear! Not quite used to it, Lake Erie is so shallow it’s always brown from the mud and sand that gets stirred up by the waves and the freighters’ propellers. We rarely see clear water there.

Passing under the bridge

After we dropped the anchor, I lowered the dingy and went to pick up Mary and Mike, practicing my rowing skills. Melanie made a delicious dinner of bangers, mash and sauerkraut along with a tomato and cucumber salad. We finished the day with this delicious dinner before falling into bed. The night was calm and serene. The boat barely moved on the flat waters. I woke the next morning with the sun streaming in the window and went up to survey the land. The water was calm and so clear that you could see rocks and stones on the bottom! 17 ft! I don’t think I have ever anchored in fresh water this clear before. After a delicious breakfast we hauled anchor and tried to sail.

The morning breezes were very light and we started off moving only around 1-2 knots, not a good speed when you need to make 30 miles before sunset. But, as the day progressed it gradually increased until we were doing almost three knots which was palatable for a while at least. It’s just nice to not hear the engine and hear the water gently lapping against the hull as we pass through it. Our persistence paid off though, and by 11 AM we were doing between 5 and 6 knots with a good 10-15 knot breeze pushing us along with the waves. We sailed the entire distance to Beaver Island and only turned the motor on to take the sails down and come into the harbor. Now that’s how a day’s sailing should be!

We docked the boat, took Windsor for a walk and then went to the local grocery store. It was closed but we had a nice walk along the shore of the crescent shaped harbor. We came back and bought a breakfast burrito at a local mini mart and enjoyed a good meal before heading back to the boat. We dropped Windsor off for a nap and borrowed the marina bikes to take a bike ride, riding around the harbor to the point where the lighthouse was located.

Beautiful homes, museums and a very picturesque view greeted us. Around sunset we returned, closed up for the night and hit the hay.

Beaver Island Harbor entrance

It was quite chilly when we woke up the next morning. We had a lot to do. Mary, one of our companion travelers had some sort of infection so we needed to get to a doctor. The closest one that could write a prescription was on the mainland at Sutton’s Bay, a small offshoot of Traverse Bay. It was a long distance and we had a late start. Leaving the dock, pumping out the holding tank and getting on our way took a while and there was no wind to boot.

Horsing around with WIndsor

We set the sails in the hope that they would help us and motored out of the harbor. Eventually in the late afternoon we entered Traverse Bay and the wind came up a little and helped us toward our destination. We arrived around 8:00 p.m. with daylight still helping us find our anchor spot. The last half hour of the journey, Melanie made a light dinner for us which we then took over to our companion boat. We enjoyed some food and fellowship before collapsing into bed, exhausted after a long day.

Stormy Days and Helpful Hands

The sail from Port Huron was quiet and fast as the wind pushed us gently towards our destination. The sun peeked out weakly from behind a thickening layer of cloud. During the late afternoon we could see storm clouds ahead of us with heavy rain pelting the land and waters ahead of us. The way the clouds were moving made us think that we could dodge the rain, but with only 3 miles to go to our intended anchorage the weather broke loose, turning towards us, and began pounding us into oblivion. Wind, waves and rain lashed the boat for at least an hour. The rain was coming so hard it stung and made it hard to see, so we turned our backs to the weather but the wind was pushing us away from our destination. After the first wave of wind and rain passed, we decided to bite the bullet and head straight into the weather, enduring three more waves of binding wind and rain until finally it calmed down and we were able to enter the harbor safely and drop anchor. We closed up and came down to survey the damage below. All the window seals had leaked and we were soaked and cold so changing into dry clothes and some hot tea and food in the belly was in order.

We went to bed early, exhausted from the cold wind and rain. The next morning we awoke to low clouds and no wind, so we fired up the motor, raised the anchor and departed. There was a lot of mud and weeds on the anchor, so it was quite difficult to lift. Once secured we headed out of the harbor and up the coast to our next stop, Harbor Beach. Without wind we ended up motoring all day, arriving early in the afternoon. We dropped anchor just inside the break wall in about 15 feet of water. After work, we took a boat ride in the dinghy to shore. It was a quaint little town with a few shops, a small grocery store and a diner. We stocked up on some items before ordering a pizza which we ate at the picnic tables on the beach. It’s nice to be able to get off the boat. The sun peeked out later in the day as the clouds receded to the South and we were blessed with a glorious sunset. I awoke around 3:00 a.m. and was witness to a cloudless sky peppered with stars. I spent a few minutes looking at the amazing sight before heading back to bed.

Friday morning was sunny but again, no wind. After a cup of coffee and a light breakfast we raised anchor and started motoring towards Port Austin. The lake was calm, but being a Friday there were many people out getting an early start to the weekend which made working down below rather interesting. The boat bounced quite a bit over the waves made by passing vessels.

We were headed to Turnip Rock, but could not really get close enough with our deep keel to see it clearly. So we headed around the Port Austin reef light and into the harbor. That was an adventure! There were weeds and grass up to the surface of the water and we almost had to plow our way through, at full throttle going about a half mile an hour. We were able to make it through, but had a ton of weeds wrapped around both the rudder, the keel and the propeller. A little bit of back and forward with the gear shifter to shake it off and we were able to safely dock.

Melanie made a wonderful dinner of Jambalaya and after eating, we found a good ice cream store where we enjoyed a scoop before heading back to the boat. We spent a few hours watching TV while we did laundry and then fell into bed. Saturday was clear but very humid and there was almost a misty fog covering the water. We walked into town and went to the weekly Farmers market before taking showers and preparing for departure. Mike had another block in his water intake, so we had to return to dock and blow it out. Once that was accomplished we left without issue. The lake was flat and calm, almost no wind. We were headed to Harrisville. It was a lot cooler and more comfortable out on the water but we had to motor the entire trip.

At some point the wind did come up enough for us to set some sail to help our speed, but without the motor, we were only doing 2 knots. We arrived in Harrisville around 7:00 p.m. and it took three tries to get safely anchored. The weeds in the harbor were terrible! First time I dropped the anchor and Melanie started to back up the boat it just dragged along the bottom picking up weeds and branches which I almost did not have the strength to lift and clean. I got it up to the water line and then had to use a boat hook to get the weeds and the mud off. It must have weighed 100 pounds! Second attempt, same results, so we called the harbor Master and he told us where to drop where the weeds were not as bad. Third time we hit paydirt and were safely anchored. Melanie made salmon burgers and a delicious salad for dinner and we chatted until dark before falling into bed exhausted.

In the morning we took Windsor into shore to potty and spoke to a couple of locals that were taking their powerboat out of the water. We had a nice chat, and then returned to the boat to raise the anchor and head into the gas dock to fill up with diesel. Apparently this is the only Marina for about 100 miles in either direction that has a working diesel pump! Then we were on our way, once again on calm waters which sadly required the motor. So we set the course and were on our way to our next stop. 7 miles out of port, the bracket holding the alternator to the engine broke in two places. I hastily shut down the engine and there we were, dead in the water. After a quick discussion we decided to head back to Harrisville, so we hoisted our sails and sailed back to the entrance of the harbor where our friends who were following behind on their own boat towed us in.

We dropped anchor and I began working on the problem; disassembling the alternator and removing it from the broken bracket. During this time, the wind switched 180 and started blowing quite hard, about 20 mph. I looked up and saw that the docks were rather close. I looked at the anchor alarm and sure enough, distance from our anchor point was steadily increasing. Then the alarm went off – we had to think quickly – there was no way for me to reset the anchor in this wind; we HAD to get a dock.

I radioed the dockmaster and explained our problem and then set up for a rather unconventional docking. We let the anchor drag far enough so I had enough anchor line on the boat to allow me to let out line and control our docking. Gently we guided the boat into a slip with help from many people on shore. Thankfully no damage and we provided great entertainment for the dock patrons. Once tied up we went ashore to pay for the night and Melanie started talking to a gentleman on shore who was bringing dinner to his daughter who worked at the marina. He turned out to be Mayor Jeff Gehring and at once he jumped on the phone and started calling around to find someone who could fabricate the part for us.

A few hours later we had a newly fabricated alternator bracket in hand. Jeff would not take payment from us. The kindness and helpfulness of the people at the marina as well as Mayor Jeff was overwhelming! We rewarded ourselves with a trip to the local ice-cream shop for a treat to top off the day. God REALLY took care of us. Next day was a day of miserable, rainy weather, so we paid for another night and I worked, while Melanie cleaned dirt and debris from our leaky windows and then used silicone grease to help seal them, which did the trick! No more leaks!

A large sailboat called Island Dancer had pulled in the previous evening and it was someone we knew from Sandusky! I had traveled with them 6 years ago through the Canadian maritimes to deliver a boat to Boston. I sailed as far as Prince Edward Island and then returned home, but it gave me experience as to what to expect when we took our own journey starting in 2017. We spent the evening chatting about our adventures and catching up on each other’s lives. It was an unexpected surprise and really great to see them. Before we realized it, it was almost midnight and we had chatted the night away! We went back to our boat and fell asleep to the sounds of train whistles as three or four trains passed through town in quick succession.


The day before is always chaos. Melanie ran around all afternoon buying our food and supplies and preparing for our trip. Thursday evening we went to a fundraiser dinner and then came home and made our final pre-departure checks. Friday morning she ran the last few errands and then we dropped the dock lines and left. First stop was the gas dock and a fill up and pump out. While refueling we spilled diesel; it’s always a problem because of the shape of the fuel filler hose. This time though was the worst yet – almost 2 cups spilled into the cockpit, so after MANY paper towels and much mopping up we headed out to the lake to begin our adventure.

We were headed North West to Detroit and the wind was blowing from the North West, so it looked to be a long afternoon of motoring. The wind was light so we motored the entire way. It gradually backed slightly to the West so we were able to unroll our head sails to help us move along a little faster. We scooted along nicely at 5 knots under sail and motor. The islands slowly fell behind and the towers of the power plants in Detroit and Toledo took shape on the horizon. Windmills to the North in Canada spoiled the beautiful skyline. As the afternoon wore on, the wind came up and eventually it was too rough for me to work so I came up to help Melanie steer the boat.

Pointing out the islands

The wind came up to over 20 knots which was quite a rough ride, our forecast of one foot waves was actually three to four footers with spray blowing over the boat. We were a little concerned that our Anchorage would not be suitable. We slogged on into the heavy wind and eventually the tower marking the entrance to the river came into view. We turned in at the tower and started motoring up the Livingston Channel towards our anchorage and as we did, the wind died and we ended up anchored in about 10 ft of water near Sugar Island with the river current gently holding us in place. It was a beautiful sunny evening, calm and quiet.

We woke up the next morning to a sunny day with not a cloud in the sky, and after breakfast and a good cup of coffee, we hauled up our anchor, along with about a half ton of sea grass and mud! We fired up the motor and headed over to the Livingston channel for the long haul up to Lake Saint Clair. Shortly after entering the channel, a huge tanker passed close by, it was rather intimidating. I guess we will have to get used to that. We stayed close to the West edge where there was less current, which allowed us to go slightly faster, 4.5 knots instead of 2.

Beautiful, expensive homes lined both sides of the river. We made slow progress with the current trying to push us backwards. At one point our depth went quickly from 30 down to 7 ft and we caught huge chunks of weed and grass on our rudder and propeller. We turned quickly into the channel and once there, I had to reverse, then forward, and reverse a few times to “shake” off the debris. We made slow progress northward and by noon we could see the buildings of downtown Detroit and were within sight of the bridge that crosses the river over to Windsor.

Motoring under the bridge to Windsor

We reached the mouth of the Detroit River and entered lake St Clair around 2:30 p.m. . Just in time, a large tanker was bearing down on us as we exited and turned a quick left to go north up the west coast of the lake toward our anchorage. We anchored near Grosse Pointe Farms in an area where there were many boats anchored and enjoying the day. Melanie made a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs with salad while we watched as the boats gradually departed until just three were left. We ate dinner with our friends, chatted a while and then I rowed them back to their boat and returned to ours, hoisted the dinghy back up and secured it for travel. A quick hour of TV and then we collapsed in bed for the night.

The evening was rather rough and wavy but in the morning we awoke to a dead calm lake. We raised anchor around 8:00 a.m. and started motoring across the lake toward the entrance of the St Clair River. About halfway across our friend’s boat had engine trouble so we switched off the engine and simply sailed slowly on the gently developing breeze. It was a sunny day with wispy high clouds passing gently by. We started motoring again once we entered one of the St Clair River tributaries, passing by homes and marinas. Then Mike’s engine alarm went off. They dropped anchor in the river just out of the channel and we motored around them while he tried to fix the issue to no avail.

Motoring up the Saint Clair River on Sunday Morning

So we decided that we would head up the river to get reservations at a marina, and they would call a towboat and meet us there. We had been radioing the marina without answer most of the morning. Suddenly a voice over the radio said that they heard us call and they heard the marina answer, but of course, I could not hear the marina. Their radio was apparently not powerful enough. He relayed our requests for a dock to them and then provided us with a phone number so we could call and make arrangements for us and the crippled boat.

We arrived at the marina and got ourselves settled in just in time to help Mike and his wife arrive. Melanie made a delicious dinner for us and our new friend Tim, who had helped us to get our reservations set up. Then a quick walk to the grocery store for supplies and a well needed stop at the local ice cream store. We collapsed into bed and slept hard, seems like we do that every day while traveling. Due to a bad weather forecast, we decided to make our stay 2 days long to recoup, fix Mikes engine issue and avoid the bad weather. It turned out that a quick blast of water down the radiator hose cleared a huge chunk of weeds that was clogging the water intake, hence the overheating issue. Its always wonderful to have a cheap fix like that!

It was good that we spent two days at Algonac. The wind howled and storms blew through the areas that we would have been motoring through so we dodged a bullet. Next morning we were on the road by 8:30 and made making the slow slog up the river. The current in the St Clair River was much stronger beyond Algonac as it was a single wide river instead of three tributaries. At times our speed dropped to less than 2 miles per hour. It was cloudy and the wind was blowing right in our faces so we were unable to use the sails to help us at all. Beautiful homes lined both sides of the river for miles. The odd tanker came flying by us downriver and as the day wore on the skies cleared and the sun finally peeped out. We started off the morning with Melanie heavily dressed – wearing two jackets – as the wind was very cold. I however was cozy and warm below as the engine heats the living area of the boat. Around 4:30 we pulled into Port Huron yacht club, tied up without mishap and then Melanie cooked dinner for us. We finished off the day by taking a walk around the immediate downtown area and wouldn’t you know it – we found a great ice cream shop to “sample”; the Michigan Pothole flavor is rapidly becoming my favorite fix for my extreme chocolate lover palate. After that we took a quick shower and then off to bed for an early start.

The wind woke me up in the morning. Howling through the rigging and making a low moaning sound indicating at least 20 mph winds. We watched a club member preparing for a sail and I was sure that the boat was a familiar design; one I had seen in South Africa as a child. I asked the skipper as they passed us by. “Its a 30 Square Meter” he said. I was right! Sleek fast boats, they caught my eye as they would sail gracefully by.

After a quick discussion we turned Mike’s boat around at the dock by hand and helped him to cast off. His boat is not very maneuverable as it has a full length keel. We left without mishap and headed out into the river and over to the Canadian side where the current is not as strong. Actually, with the wind helping us we made quick work of the remaining mile and a half and finally entered lake Huron. With the wind from behind we were able to turn our motor off for the first time and sail. Glorious quiet for me at the computer! We can actually sail faster than we can motor. Our next stop was Port Sanilac. We delayed departure until about 10 as there were huge storms rolling through that area and I wanted them to clear out before we took off. But that is another story…

The captain at the wheel