Mackinaw City to Chicago – Lake Michigan

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Saturday, August 11, 2018:

We (Jane) figured out that we can’t get a rental car here in Mackinaw City so we will have to cruise around to Petoskey where there is an Enterprise office. From there we will drive to the Detroit airport so we can fly home to Florida for a week.  After planning for about half the day, we took Shepler’s Ferry out to Mackinac Island.  It’s weird that these are spelled differently, but are pronounced the same.  The English named the city and spelled it just how it sounds.  We brought along our bicycles so we could ride around the island.  The ferry ride is very quick and they move lots and lots of tourists.  The business area of the island was very crowded and tacky-touristy.  If you want fudge or ice cream, this would be the place to go.  We rode out along the perimeter road to the west for a ways and then circled back to the Grand Hotel.  We just wanted to walk around and check it out and maybe get a late lunch there.  We got stopped at the front steps by a young lady whose job it is to collect the cover charge of $10 per person.  Really?!  Just to come in and look around?  I guess it keeps out the riff-raff.  We grudgingly paid the fee and found a spot for us to lunch in the Cupola Bar with a great view of the harbor.  We enjoyed a light lunch of tiny portions at a high price, but as we considered where we were and what it must cost to upkeep, we figured it was par for the course.  From our vantage point we saw Antonia cutting through the pass between the islands.

They had asked for a spot in the Mackinaw Island Marina and were told that it was all full.  After our lunch we pedaled out to the east and passed the marina.  I saw a bunch of empty slips, so I guessed that they were reserved for late arrivals.  We biked about a bit and were amazed at the age and great condition of the older homes and the beauty of the island.   The northeast side of the island has an anchorage with crystal clear water that reminded me of spots in the Bahamas.  After returning to the mainland, we joined up with Mark and Lezlie and hoofed it over to Audie’s Restaurant for a good dinner.  It is one of those older places that grew over the years founded on good food and great service.

Sunday, August 12, 2018:

We got a pump-out at the dock and I refreshed our fresh water supply. The forecast of light winds and seas of less than one foot would work well for us to traverse to Petoskey.  At 1110 we were off the dock and by 1120 we were under the Mackinaw Bridge which connects the Upper Peninsula with the rest of Michigan.  It was easy cruising in Lake Michigan, but somewhat confusing to the dock master when we arrived in Petoskey since another boat by the name of Sabbatical had arrived earlier in the day.  The dock master had incorrectly figured that the two reservations were for one boat.  We got it straightened out after some discussion on the radio and docked ourselves in slip C-6.  I put out additional lines and fenders since we would be leaving the boat for eight days.  I made sure with a nice tip to Dock Master Derrick that he’d keep an eye on Sabbatical while we were gone to Florida.  We secured everything and packed for the trip.

We got going early the next day for the four hour drive to Detroit. The travel home and back was without a hitch and sleeping in king sized beds at a hotel and home was a real treat.  It was good to see family and friends and our beloved Lab, Marley, who is too old to join us aboard.  The real treat was getting to watch our grandson, Jake, win the TC Invitational high school golf tournament at Candler Hills in Ocala beating out all players from 16 teams from around the state.  It was a whirl-wind visit, but we got all the boxes checked and Jane’s sister, Jill, returned us the Gainesville airport early on the morning of August 22nd.

On the way back into Petoskey, we stopped at Tractor Supply and bought all they had of the Rotella T-1 straight grade motor oil and continued to put the rental car to good use by hitting the grocery store as well. We turned the car in the next morning, but the wind was putting up 3-4 foot seas, so we were stuck for a while.  I changed the oil and then we went for a bike ride along the trail that follows the bay.  They have some great trails here and we could ride all the way back to Mackinaw City if we wanted to.

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Waterfall along the bikeway.

But we got as far as the Petoskey Brewery well outside of town.  It has been open for about six years and is in an historic building over a hundred years old that was originally built as a brewery, but closed down at the start of prohibition.  We had a good lunch there.  Later we walked the jugs of used motor oil with our grocery cart over a mile uphill to the Advanced Auto Parts store to dispose of it.  They take it without a fee.

On Friday, the weather failed to cooperate for any boat travel and we took advantage by getting chores done. We organized the other Loopers in the marina for docktails in the small boater’s lounge to exchange stories and plans.

Petoskey Docktails

Saturday, August 25, 2018:

We shoved off under overcast skies with a forecast of light winds from the south and waves of less than one foot. That would normally be a good day for travel.  By 1130 we were passing Charlevoix and the winds had picked up to around ten miles per hour.  Waves were between one and two feet.  As we passed Bells Bay we noted that winds were increasing.  Crossing the opening to Grand Traverse Bay, I could tell that the wind was using the full fetch of the 25 mile length.  At 1220 we were experiencing 3 to 4 foot wave quartering on our bow.  You just can’t depend on the weatherman any more.  We contemplated turning back to Charlevoix or ducking into Northpoint Village Marina because it could be a lot worse for us after we come around Lighthouse Point and are exposed to the greater Lake Michigan.  The mouth of Grand Traverse Bay is about 7 or 8 miles across, so we knew the rough ride would only last about an hour and on we pressed.  The waves were close together which makes for an uncomfortable situation and the occasional wave seemed to be five feet.  Once across the opening and in the lee of the peninsula, the conditions were actually quite pleasant.  At 1335 we came about the Grand Traverse Light and delighted in the approachable waters with the southerly winds blocked by the angle of the coast.  By 1400 the sun came out.  After 50 miles we docked at the fuel dock at Leland Harbor Marina just after 1530.  I’m not sure if I was worn out by the trip, or just not focused on what I was trying to do, but I started refueling the starboard tank, and very quickly heard it getting full.  So I stopped.  The attendant said that was only 15 gallons.  I was perplexed and then realized I had just filled up our holding tank with diesel at $3.46 a gallon!  Jeeze-mineeze!  The dock hands were all really kind about it and helped get it all pumped out and provided four rinses.  Maybe it won’t be dangerous with the combination of the diesel and methane!  I felt like the biggest idiot on earth, but I guess that’s better than hooking the pumpout hose to the fuel tank.  Within an hour we were all done fueling (162.75 gallons, not counting what went in the poop tank) and undoing my buffoonish error and we docked into our assigned slip.  That night we had a great dinner at The Cove on the deck overlooking the waterfall.  There’s a guy here who drives his car in the water.

Sunday, August 26, 2018:

With a suitable forecast of southerly winds at 5 to 8 knots and waves of one foot, we dropped lines at 0940. I think all the other Loopers in the marina left well before us.  I didn’t mind the late start since we were only trying to get 41 miles to Frankfort.  It was sunny and conditions out on Lake Michigan were flat.  At 1042 we passed Pyramid Point Shoal with slight rolling waves.  At 1130 a fog bank rolled it at Sleeping Bear Dunes and enveloped us.  Visibility quickly reduced to about 500 feet.  Even though we were within a third of a mile of the beach, we could not see the 450 foot high dunes.  I blew the horn occasionally to alert other boats of our position.  At times the dune peaked out from above the fog.  At noon the fog cleared somewhat and we had an estimated 1500 feet of visibility.

I heard Sea Jamm call over the radio to confirm nearby boat positions. Someday answered as well and we were all able to locate each other despite an inability to see through the fog.  They were both well off our stern. Sea Jamm was outrunning us and passed headed to the municipal marina in Frankfort.  By 1345 the fog had cleared and we had a visual on the other boats.  At 1445 we docked at Jacobson’s Marina.  Jacobson’s seemed to offer better protection from the wind plus they have a pool and hot tub.  We cleaned the boat and got showered before Peggy and Denny Rodebush showed up for happy hour aboard.

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Peggy and Jane worked together 100 years ago (their term) in the ICU at Alachua General Hospital back in Gainesville.  We walked over to Fusion for dinner after.  It was great catching up with them.  Denny completed the Loop in 2005/2006, so he knows what all we are going through.

It was rainy and windy for the next three days and Peggy and Denny showed us great hospitality touring the area and hosting dinner for us at their cabin. Denny has been building it himself and it is finished enough for them to live in.  We got to walk on the beach where I picked up a bunch of stones and found a Petoskey Stone.

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A Petoskey is a rock fossil from rugose coral.  They are beautiful when polished up.  We went to the historical Point Betsie Lighthouse and Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Frankfort is Denny’s hometown and they summer here returning to Tampa for the winters.  On Wednesday we enjoyed docktails with the other Loopers at the pavilion in the waterfront park.  We got some musical entertainment from fellow Loopers, Jerry on the accordion and Joe with his bagpipes.

We wound up a great visit in Frankfort with dinner at Rock’s Place on Crystal Lake.

Thursday, August 30, 2018:

It was 46 degrees so we stayed in bed a little longer than we should have but by 0840 we were out of the slip and on our way. It was a mostly calm water cruise with slow rollers coming from about the five o’clock angle.  At 1400 we passed the Big Sable Light and the seas calmed after the turn.

At 1616 we entered Pentwater Lake in search of an anchorage.

8.30.1616It seemed like the anchorage has been replaced with mooring balls.  They don’t show up on any websites and are not marked, so I let down the anchor in between a couple of the unoccupied balls.  We grilled vegetables on the upper deck and enjoyed the mostly calm lake.  Just a couple of go-fast boats circling around but not too close.  We had clicked off another 64.7 miles of Lake Michigan with still plenty to go.

Friday, August 31, 2018:

The anchor came up clean as a whistle which indicated a sand bottom. Nice not to have to get out the hose to remove mud.  Mr. Weatherguy showed a south wind of 10 to 13 knots and waves of 1 to 2 feet.  We headed out to Muskegeon and reserved a slip by phone at Harbour Towne Marina.  It is 45 miles.  By 0850 we were back in the big lake headed south.  The sky was clear but the 1 to 2 footers were giving way to an increasing number of threes.

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At 1005 we passed the Little Sable Lighthouse and elected to run in closer to shore around 1130 due to the rough ride of three to four foot waves pounding on the bow.  Jane thought it was four to six.  Not that big, but rough.  Her personal journal is saying not nice things about Lake Michigan.  At 1445 we docked ourselves on a Tee head at Harbor Town Marina.  It’s a nice marina, well protected with a friendly staff.  We walked over to Docker’s Restaurant for dinner.  We sat out on the patio and they had an absolute killer band named Jedi Mind Ship playing.  These guys played from a different decade each set.  We moved over to the tiki bar after dinner.  It was a great show.  There’s a storm a-comin so we know we are not going anywhere on the first, but that’s ok.  College football is starting and this marina has free cable.  It is cable, but it doesn’t include the SEC Network, so Saturday morning, I called Dockers to confirm that they have the SEC Network. We could go back there to watch the Gator game.  Whoever I spoke with obviously had no idea about what she was talking about, because when we got there at kickoff we found out they don’t have it.  Oh well, we returned to Sabbatical, sat up on the fly bridge and listened to it on the phone app.  Just like the olden days of Gator football on the radio.

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Sunday, September 2, 2018:

The forecasters are touting SSW winds of 10 to 12 knots and waves around two feet. We decided that we could just go out and take a look and decide from there if it is something we want to put up with.  It could be ok or maybe not.  So at 0940 we dropped lines and slipped away from Harbour Towne bound for South Haven if we can get that far.  By 1045 Jane made an entry in the cruising log book that is difficult to read.  I’m sure it was difficult to write.  It says something that appears to say, “Too (expletive) rough!”.  I had to agree since my low back is giving me trouble.  She put in a phone call to Grand Haven Municipal Marina and we were assigned slip 18 so in we ducked and docked at 1150 after a trip of only 15.7 miles.  It’s going to take a long time to get off Lake Michigan at this rate.  We have a bracket that holds up our mast (in the lowered position).  We had lowered the mast before starting the Erie Canal and need to keep it down to get under some fixed bridges in Chicago.  In the pounding that we took on the lake, the bracket broke and our mast and boom were caught by the dinghy hanging on its davits.  After repairing the broken bracket, showers and a nap, we ventured out for the short walk downtown.  We had a very nice dinner in the Grill Room at Kirby’s.  Later, back on the boat, we had a great vantage point from the fly bridge to watch the Grand Haven musical fountains with light show. This has been a Grand Haven staple since 1962, though I’m sure the technology has changed over the years.

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The next day it was still too rough on the lake for boating. We walked all around town and all the way out on the breakwater to confirm that we did not want any part of it.  At least it is a cute town and they go out of their way to cater to tourists.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018:

After checking all the weather sites, I felt like we could cruise again, but I made sure to have a list of all the bail-out spots in case we needed to escape the lake. We would try to make it to South Haven, some 48 miles.  There were a few clouds and the wind at the dock seemed light.  At 0800 we backed out of the slip.  By 0825 we were in a 2 to 3 foot chop back out on the lake.  The mast bracket broke again.  At 1030 we were at Holland, but kept going with the knowledge that we could duck in at Kalamazoo River ahead.  At 1100 I noticed a 48 foot Meridian, (Prime Meridian) would pass by to our starboard.  His dinghy didn’t look right and sure enough they shortly weighed up and I realized that their dinghy had fallen off the mechanical brackets.  We came about and alongside offering assistance.  He didn’t seem like he wanted any, but we stayed on station, just in case.

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He had to cut the line to get it freed and directly waved us on and soon they were back underway.  By 1155 we pressed on at the Kalamazoo River entrance and at 1225 the waves had subsided to two feet and smaller.  At 1300 it was smooth sailing with a light chop of less than a foot.  By 1420 we passed the entrance to South Haven and elected to continue on to Benton Harbor and arranged for a slip at Anchor’s Way Marina.

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By 1630 we were scooting across glassy calm aqua.  Anchor’s Way is well up in the river at Benton Harbor, but the railroad bridge was swung open and we could get under the other two.  Docking at 1715 right in front of the pool was assisted by the friendly folks there.  The day had heated a good deal, so the pool was a refreshing benefit.  After showering, we walked around to Clementine’s for dinner on the marina side patio.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018:

We got an early text from Sherry on Sea Jamm that they were out in the lake heading south and the waves were tolerable.  Backing out of the slip at 0750 we got our new ball fender hung up on a pile and it got punctured by some metal.  It did save the boat from damage and I guess that is its purpose.  Out in the lake at 1103 we suddenly lost power.  The engine didn’t die, but it slowed way down.  I was pretty sure we didn’t hit anything with the prop, so I suspected the primary fuel filter.  In a minute, the boat seemed fine and we resumed the cruise.  We have two primary filters that can be switched from one to the other with a lever.  I figured that I could change to the port filter whenever we get where we are going.  At 1125 we passed New Buffalo and at 1204 we entered Indiana.  Shortly after the boat lost power again and almost quit.  After a few pumps on the throttle, I decided that it would be best to pull in at Michigan City, Indiana, and switch the filters.  At 1225 we came through the Michigan City breakwater and proceeded to the fuel dock at Washington Park Marina.

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Approaching Michigan City, Indiana

It took longer to find the fuel dock than it did to switch the filter lever.  We recranked and by 1257 we were back underway.  We then realized that we were in the Central Time Zone and it was now 1157.  Great.  We stopped and never lost a minute.  At 1215 we could see the skyline of Chicago and decided to switch from driving the rim of the lake to going directly to Hammond to make up time.

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With the wind coming from the SSW the waves were not too bad.  It would prove to be crucial since a storm was coming from the west and we needed to make up some time.  We docked in our slip in the lee of the floating casino at 1545 CDT with help from Alan and Sherry (Sea Jamm) after a 69 mile day.

We stayed in Hammond for two nights. On Wednesday night we went into the casino with Alan and Sherry but only to eat at the Asian venue.  The next day the wind blew and the waves crashed over the sea wall.  We knew we should not venture out even though Chicago was only two hours away.  We have pushed back our reservation at DuSable Marina at least four times, maybe more.  On Thursday afternoon Alan and Sherry picked up a rental car and we joined them for a drive up to Cicero to sample some of the famous deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s.  It lived up to the reputation.  Great – even with very light cheese.

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