August 20142020-12-20T11:58:01-05:00
108, 2014

Navigating through the White Rocks of the North Channel

August 1, 2014|

Stel and I were on our own again as we slowly cruised through the western end of the Georgian Bay and into the North Channel. The emerald colored water turned clearer and colder with rock formations growing into mountains of white stone due to its quartz content. The remoteness of the area required that we spend many of our nights at anchor, which was a pure pleasure, dropping our anchor in the midst of some of God’s most beautiful creation. Navigating through some of these areas created some tense moments as we passed clearly visible rock formations just under the surface of the water, but we are extremely thankful for the well-marked channels that allow access to these special places for spending a night or two in the wilderness. After dropping the hook, the dinghy was our means to visit other boats, fish, hike and pick blueberries.

There were a few places where we would spend two nights at anchor, but we typically would pick up and move to spots that were recommended by other loopers or folks with local boating knowledge. All of the people that we met along the way were extremely willing to share knowledge of their local waters and encourage us to visit their favorite villages or anchorages.

We’re having a wonderful time, with all kinds of new experiences, but the seemingly simpler life of living on a boat comes with its challenges. A great deal of time has been spent getting access to current weather forecasts, battling the weather, studying and planning safe routes, cruising through difficult passages, finding provisions, preparing meals in a 4’x4′ galley, cleaning the boat, fixing the boat, finding laundromats, sleeping soundly in remote locations and finding ways to stay in touch with family and friends.

We have had some sad days as we have learned of tragic events with friends back at home. Some good church friends lost their 18 year old daughter and my parents lost one of their closest friends. With very limited phone signals and wifi, we have been very frustrated that we have not been able to have regular contact with our family and friends over the last few days. We are trying to make good time as we head back toward the U.S. border, where communication will be easier. We have discovered how dependent we are on our electronic devices during our time in these remote places. Please know that we continue to think deeply and pray for family and friends back home, especially those who are hurting. We love you and miss you.

1108, 2014

Pure Michigan!

August 11, 2014|

A few years ago, there were regular tv commercials about “Pure Michigan”, encouraging everyone to visit this state on vacation. I always wondered….what’s the big deal about Michigan?? Why would I ever want to go there on vacation? Well, now I know why. It is spectacular, especially during this time of the year. The weather, the water, the landscape, the beautiful towns and villages, the family friendly parks, the hiking & biking trailways, and most importantly, the friendly people are making our time in Michigan one of the highlights of our trip.

Stel and I cruised across the US border into Michigan and checked into customs on Drummond Island. Knowing the requirements for re-entry, we had dumped our fruit, vegetables and plants before checking in. Customs came onto the boat, looked at our passports, asked a few questions and welcomed us back into the States with a smile. They didn’t even peek into the refrigerator! I was suddenly hungry for an apple or orange, as I pictured fruit needlessly floating around somewhere in Canadian waters. We spent a few nights on Drummond where we enjoyed great bike riding and even went bowling with friends one night. Our excitement grew as we cast off for Mackinac Island, a historic horse and carriage kind of place that we had been looking forward to visiting ever since we left Charleston. We had not planned to be there on our 37th anniversary, but as it turned out, we were able to enjoy a very special place during a very special occasion. We have been blessed with an incredible marriage and our anniversary has always been a time for us to celebrate! Mackinac Island provided a perfect backdrop for a fun day and a romantic evening.

We anchored in picturesque Harbor Springs where our friends Meg and Jim from Sanctuary had just “crossed their wake”! (completed their loop). In spite of their busy “re-entry” time, they graciously invited the group of loopers there for dinner at their cottage. We enjoyed 3 nights at our beautiful anchorage there, enjoying the local shopping, farmers market and bike riding. Petoskey was our next port, where I needed to leave Stel on the boat for a while and fly back to Charleston to take care of some business. It was tough to leave her, but Petoskey is a very friendly and convenient town where many other loopers had stopped for sightseeing and provisioning. Stel was in good company while I was away for 5 days. All went well for me in Charleston but looked forward to getting back to the boat. My son Sam dropped me of at the airport and from that point, the joy of air travel deteriorated dramatically. As I was going through security, TSA discovered five 38 caliber bullets in the briefcase that I brought back from home. Not good! I guess I had carried a side arm and ammo in the briefcase in the past and just forgot to remove the ammo. Needless to say, they took it very seriously and pulled me aside for an interesting body search and line of questioning. I am not sure what I was concerned about the most, the possibility of being cuffed and carted off or missing my flight back to Stel. I was finally released, barely boarding on time and was then asked to deplane because of thunderstorms. That was a first! After 2 hours of waiting, we eventually flew through numerous thunderstorms before we landed in a gridlocked Atlanta airport. During my next six hours in the airport, I had never seen such a distressed mass of humanity. With thunderstorms everywhere, nobody was going anywhere. The only happy people in that airport were the owners of the restaurants and bars. As I am writing this, I am still sitting in an Atlanta hotel, waiting for a flight to take me back to “Pure Michigan”.

In the meantime, Stel discovered what a small world we live in. As she was doing some last minute shopping in Petoskey, she was unbelievably surprised to run into Dale and Faith Hostetler, some good friends from Johns Island. What are the chances of that happening? After settling down from sheer amazement, Dale offered to drive Stel to the airport, an hour and a half away, to bring me back to the boat. When it became obvious that I would not be flying back that night, Stel invited them to spend the night on the boat. They agreed and had a great time together. As a side note, Dale built the teak countertop, name boards and front refrigerator panels for the boat before departing Charleston. Dale and Faith, I’m sorry that I missed your visit, but thank you for taking good care of my wife during your stay! You are truly great friends!!

2708, 2014

Wild Water

August 27, 2014|

I have been boating on an angry sea before, but I never imagined that a lake could behave as badly. We left the town of Petoskey one morning expecting 10-15 knot winds and a 1 to 2 foot chop as forecasted. Stel had an intuition about what the morning would be like, but I told her “heck, we’re only going 14 miles to Charlevoix…how bad can it be?” Within 45 minutes of leaving the marina, the lake went from a light chop to 4-6 foot swells at very tight intervals making for a very sloppy ride. Stel would occasionally give me that “what are we doing out here look”, but as usual, stayed calm and supportive. Turning around didn’t make sense at that point since we were almost half way to our destination, so I did my best to minimize the stress on the boat. I had to keep the bow into the waves, so we were not able to stay on the planned course, lengthening the bronco ride considerably. My plan was to tack up into a quartering sea for long enough to be able to practically reverse the course and ride the waves back to our final destination. Regardless, everything on the bridge was flying around, including our storage box, bikes, chairs, cushions and my mate. We wondered how things were holding together in the cabin down below. Have you ever lost control when shuffling a deck of cards? When we finally got into the protection of the Charlevoix Marina, we went below and were somewhat amazed and amused to find our furniture, books, tools and accessories shuffled beyond recognition. Half of our sofa even made its way down the stairs into our bedroom cabin. A number of other boats followed us into the marina after experiencing the same kind of mayhem, and all of us wondered how the forecast could have been so far off. After putting our house back in order, with no damage done, we critiqued our planning and agreed that this lake had earned our respect.

We enjoyed the rest of the day touring around Charlevoix, one of the favorite vacation destinations for the people of Michigan. We understood why….it was a beautiful little town with homes of extremely unique architecture, flowers everywhere and surrounded by pristine bodies of clear blue water. We arrived in time to catch a terrific farmers market where we found delicious fresh cherries, vegetables and some interesting mushrooms that Stel wanted to try. The entire main street was also having a sidewalk sale. It was a very busy and fun place that day. That evening we had an informal looper gathering where we exchanged weather information and cruising plans for the next couple of days. The forecast was better for the next day, so we pulled out the next morning along with our friends on Satisfaction to make an 8:00 bridge opening. Our plan was to head for the town of Northport, only 22 miles away. Again, the conditions were considerably worse that what were forecasted, but not nearly as bad as the day before. When we arrived at the marina in Northport, we found the docks full of local boaters that were some of the nicest people that we had met on our trip so far. They treated us like neighbors, offering the use of their cars and inviting us to a town barbeque and free jazz concert. We attended one of Northport’s churches on Sunday morning and were made to feel like long-time members. After returning from church, we threw on some shorts, cranked up the engines and pulled away from Northport toward Sutton’s Bay, only a couple of hours south. When we dropped the hook it was reminiscent of the Bahamas water where we could see the bottom clearly. We launched the dinghy and went ashore to check out the town and were surprised to see Wye Tug in the marina! We had a visit with our friends Dick and Phyllis and agreed to meet them in town later for a movie. The next morning we rented some bikes better suited for long distance and then rode the Leelanau Bike Trail to Traverse City, about 17 miles further south. We were quite impressed with Michigan’s commitment to provide such unique public resources for residents and tourists. We had a fantastic day on the trail and in Traverse City before we started our ride back. Little did we know that Traverse City was going to be more that just a biking destination for that day. More to come!

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