Making our way down Lake Michigan

173 Days Looping
2,495.8 Nautical Miles Total ( 2,872.1 Statute Miles)
138.6 Nautical Miles This Week
9.1 Hours Underway This Week
16.0 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 129 Total Locks

Monday – Sep 30th – 0 NM – 0 Locks – In: Mackinac Island, MI
We had planned to spend an extra day in Mackinac Island to do some more sightseeing. Even if we hadn’t we would have been there as it was rainy most of the day with winds gusting over 25 mph and high waves, and temps in the mid 50’s. Cold and Blustery. We decided to stay in the Bed and Breakfast another night as the harbor was still too rough to stay on the boat. After a great breakfast at the B&B, we headed out to do some sightseeing before the rain started.

We walked down to the boat and checked on it, adjusted some lines, and then went to the main street and bought tickets for the horse carriage tour. We went and got a coffee and hot chocolate to warm up before the ride, and at 9:40, we got on the carriage and headed out for our tour.

The tour winds through downtown, then out to the Grand Hotel, up the hill past the horse barns and carriage houses, then past the Catholic and Protestant cemeteries and Skull Cave. From there it stops at the Fort on the top of the hill, then back down the hill past the Governor’s Summer house, and returns to town back past the Grand Hotel. Our tour guide and coachman was great, quite the comedian! He kept the trip interesting and filled in the pauses while the horses rested pulling us up the hill with local knowledge and lore.

When we got back to the Grand Hotel, we got off so that we could walk around. The hotel is amazing! It boasts the longest front hotel porch in the world. It was built in 1887 to create a destination for tourists to sell train and steam ship tickets. It was completed in 93 days! Yes, 93 days, about the same as the Le Chateau Montebello log hotel we visited in Ottawa. It’s amazing what they could do back in the day! We were told it was such a rush job because they took the room reservations before construction to make sure people would come, then had to build it for when guests arrived.

They charge you $10 per person to walk through the hotel, which seems like a bit expensive, but when you get in, it’s worth it. We paid our entry fee, then walked up the main drive past the entrance and to the far end of the hotel to get a good view of the Mackinac Narrows Bridge, we then went up onto the impressive front porch, and walked down the length which was as amazing as we had hoped it would be. Note: If you’ve seen the movie “Somewhere In Time” it was filmed at the hotel.

We went inside and walked around on the main floor through the salons and checking out the dining room. We then went up to the 4th floor tower to see the views from there. It was incredible. The whole hotel takes you back to another time, very elegant. After the observation room, we went down to the ground level and walked through some of the hotel shops, which were more modern and VERY overpriced.

We left the hotel and walked back up the hill to the hotel’s carriage house to look at their carriage collection. When the Astor’s were running the hotel and there were many rich people with summer “cottages” on the island, they would bring their high end carriages with them and when they left (most in the 1930s during the depression), they left their carriages behind. The hotel had the foresight to either purchase or rescue the carriages and now has a beautiful collection of carriages, all in excellent condition and what is neat is that they use most of them on a regular basis!

From there, we walked up the hill, back past the Governor’s Cottage (large house), and to Fort Mackinac. Just as we reached the fort, we started to feel some raindrops, but we bought our tickets and started looking around. The rain was just showers and it worked out pretty well that we were able to go into a building and look at the displays while it was raining, and when we were ready to move to the next building, the rain had stopped.

Fort Mackinac is unique in that it saw only minor action and was a quiet fort where most of the time was spent doing maintenance. The main fort was built in 1763 by the French, they moved it from the mainland across the bay on the “Ice Bridge” over two years and re-assembled on Mackinac island. Also, when the US Army was done with it in the late 1875, it was turned into a America’s Second National Park so was maintained as a tourist attraction, and then transferred to the State of Michigan as a State Park in 1895. The result is that the fort is preserved pretty much as it was in the late 1800’s complete with furniture and buildings. There are several spots where there are very early photographs posted that show the view in the 1800’s and you can look up and see the same view (except the trees are a lot bigger).

Around noon is started to downpour, so we went to the Cafe at the fort and had lunch. The cafe is run by the Grand Hotel, we had the soup and sandwich special which was very good and warmed us up. After lunch the rain was still coming down, so we had to run from building to building to complete our tour. At 2:00 when we were finished at the fort, the rain slowed to just a light drizzle and we walked down the hillside into town.

We’d just gotten into town when it started to pour again, so we popped into the Mackinac Museum. The curator was great, we chatted with him about some of the boating history of the island and he told us several stories about the ice bridge and snowmobiles that had plunged through, as well as ships that had gotten stuck in the ice during the islands history.

After touring the museum, we walked back down main street toward the hotel. We stopped at the marina and checked on the boat, which was still bouncing around a lot. We tightened up the lines as best we could then went back to the hotel to relax and get ready for dinner.

At 6:00 we went to the 1852 Grill Room at the Island Hotel our table was right in front of the big windows overlooking the harbor and the boat. We had an excellent dinner, and watched it slowly get dark (no sunset as it was solid overcast). After dinner we walked back to the hotel, and turned in as we planned an early departure in the morning.

Tuesday – Oct 1st – 52.5 NM – 0 Locks – To: Harbor Springs, MI
In the morning it was still raining, but the winds had died down some. We cast off from Mackinac Island at 9:00 AM and headed out toward the Mackinac Straits Bridge. There was a pretty heavy fog, and all we could really see was the towers until we got really close. I turned on the radar to watch for the ferries that use that channel and we passed three before we got to the bridge.

Once we passed under the bridge, we continued due east until we reached the White Shoal Lighthouse, then turned south down Lake Michigan. The seas had been steadily been building and we were seeing 2-3 ft waves when we turned. The wind was to our stern, however the waves seemed to still be coming from the east on our side, so it was a pretty rocky ride. We tried a couple of speed and trim settings to see if we could smooth out the ride somewhat. We got it to where it was tolerable, but it was still rough going. Our original plan was to cross Little Traverse Bay and go to Charlevoix. The farther south we headed, the more the waves kept building, we were seeing regular 4 foot waves. The radar showed heavy rain approaching and when we saw a flash of lightning in the distance, we decided to skip the crossing, and run down the north side of Little Traverse Bay to Harbor Springs which was the closest protected port. Even with the waves we were able to average about 16 knots (about 18 mph) for most of the way, and at 12:15 we pulled into Harbor Springs Municipal Marina, the skies opened up and we docked in a downpour. Michael the Harbormaster still came out and helped us get tied up.

We waited for about 30 minutes till the storm passed, and then went to the office to check-in. A tree next to the office had been hit by lighting the day before, and their computer system, phones, and 1/2 of the lights were not working. We planned on staying for two days so Michael said to catch up with him later to check-in and pay. Harbor Springs is a tourist town with lake goers in the summer and skier’s in the winter. There is a fairly large ski area just 2 miles from town. This meant that the town was still pretty much “open”, and there were many choices for restaurants and a main street with a variety of shops to explore. One of the highlights for us was a glass blowing studio!

Around 1:30 is stopped raining, and our stomach’s had settled down from the bouncing on the way down, so we went to a little restaurant called “Bar Harbor” across the street from the marina and had some lunch. Then we walked up to the Glass Blowing Studio and had a nice time chatting with the glass artists. Being fall, they were preparing for a pumpkin festival and were making lots of glass pumpkins.

After the glass studio, we walked up and down the main street checking out a few shops. We know that we would be staying an extra day and Wednesday was forecast to have rain and high winds. So we just scoped out what we wanted to visit and then went back to the boat. In the early evening we went back to Bar Harbor for dinner (they had a great beer called Horney Monk), then went back to the boat for the night.

Wednesday – Oct 2nd – 0 NM – 0 Locks – In: Harbor Springs, MI
Overnight the wind shifted to the East, and increased to about 20 knots. Harbor Springs is a natural “C” shaped harbor with the opening facing east. We were in a fairly protected corner of the marina, but still felt the waves. Also, as the wind was from the east, it pushed the water into the harbor, so the water level on the docks went up over 10 inches. We had to re-tie our lines to keep the boat from bouncing too much.

When the rain stopped in the late morning, we went back over to the marina office and checked-in with Michael the Harbor Master. He still didn’t have his computer or credit card system back on-line so we settled up with him paying cash. We then walked down the waterfront past some very nice homes to Irish Marina, the other big marina in the harbor. They were working on an expansion and we watched them driving 60 ft iron piling into the ground to support their new building. We stopped into their ships store, and picked up some split ring to replace a few that had gotten bent over the course of the trip.

From there we walked into town and visited “Tom’s Mom’s Cookies” a bakery that we’d heard about from pretty much everyone in town and quite a few of our looper friends who had visited there earlier in the season. We bought a dozen cookies, then made our way back to the boat stopping at a few other shops on the way.

We stopped at the restaurants in town to check-out the menu’s to see where we might want to have dinner. One of them, just across from the marina was called New York, and the building had a sign “LEAHY 1904”. Leahy is a common alternate spelling for LAHEY, and we thought it was neat, we had also heard that if you were seated by 5:30, you got your lower priced entree free! We decided that that would be our choice for dinner.

We arrived at New York, just after 5:00 and were seated. We looked over the menu, and read the history of the restaurant. It used to be a hotel and restaurant founded in 1904 by three brothers to serve the people who came to town by train to take the ferry across the lake to the Wisconsin side. The brother that founded the hotel was “Thomas Leahy”, talk about a coincidence! We had an excellent dinner, Brenda had the Lamb Shank, and I had the Steak Frites.

After dinner we went back to the boat, and settled in. We’d made the decision to go across Little Traverse Bay to Petoskey MI. Where there was a marina with lower priced fuel, and it was a good jumping off point.

Thursday – Oct 3rd – 0 NM – 0 Locks – In: Harbor Springs, MI
When we woke up Thursday morning, the wind was howling, there were 2-3 ft waves just outside of the protected dock area, it was raining, and there was a fog where we couldn’t see across the harbor, only 1/2 mile away. So, we decided to spend another day in Harbor Springs.

It pretty much rained all day. We did venture out around 10:00 for some brunch just to get off the boat, and then again in the late afternoon to check in with Michael the Harbormaster again and pay for another night.

Toward evening the wind died down and it started to clear so to avoid getting cabin fever (boat cabin that is), we walked across the street to Pierson’s Grille & Spirits, a skiing themed restaurant for dinner.

Friday – Oct 4th – 48.2 NM – 0 Locks – To: Leland, MI
Friday morning the winds had calmed some and there was no rain. At 9:30, we cast off and headed about 2 miles across Little Traverse Bay to Petosky, MI and got a pump-out and took on 228 gallons of fuel. We got lucky, as Friday was their last day open for the year!

After filling up, we headed west, back out Little Traverse Bay and then turned South to cross Grand Traverse Bay. The crossing was not too bad, we had 1-2 ft waves for most of the way. It’s odd on the Lake as we are used to waves coming from some noticeable direction, what we’ve encountered is sort of like a tempest in a tea pot. Waves come at you from all directions, so one moment you’ve got following seas, and are wiggling around, next they are from the side and you are rolling, then from the front and you are slapping up and down, then many times, it’s all four at once and you just get sick!

Once we got across Grand Traverse Bay, the waves were pretty much off of our stern and we made pretty good time getting to Leland.

As we approached Leland, we noticed huge sand cliffs over 100′ in height lining the shore. Also, the sun came out and lit up the water. It was a spectacular blue-green color like we were in the Bahamas. The approach to Leland was spectaular, beautiful clear water and the sun shining down to light it up.

We pulled into Leland harbor which is a small inlet that was a historic fishing village that is protected from the lake waves by large seawalls on two sides. We pulled in and tied up, we were the only pleasure boat in the marina. Everything else was work boats and Police and Department Of Natural Resources boats.

Leland is another tourist destination, and the town was actually crowded. There is an area right next to the marina called “Fish Town” which is made up of old Fishing shacks that have been renovated into shops and boutiques. Fishtown sits next to a small river where the fishing boats dock, and then has a nice waterfall and old mill site. Very picturesque! There are also three restaurants in town that are very popular and a draw for tourists even in the off season.

After checking in with the Harbormaster, we went back to the boat and Brenda said that I had to change my shirt and pants because “You Smell”. It’s interesting, at home I’d only wear a shirt for one or two days. On the boat, because laundry facilities are limited, and by-in-large you don’t see anyone for more than a day or two at a time, we don’t really sweat (now that it’s cooled down) and we typically don’t do anything to get dirty, you tend to wear the same clothes for multiple days. In this case it stretched into over a week. So, I changed into fresh clothes and we put in a couple of loads of laundry. While the clothes were washing, we walked through Fish Town visiting a few shops, then up to the local IGA Supermarket to get a few things. We walked back to the boat, and I put away the groceries while Brenda put the laundry into the dryer. While the clothes were drying, we walked back up to the shopping district and visited a few more shops including the Grand Traverse Distillery where we sampled a few of their whiskey’s. We also stopped at one of the restaurants right near the marina and made a dinner reservation.

When the timer for the dryers went off, we picked up the laundry and went back to the boat until it was time for dinner. We went up to “The Cove” and had a nice dinner overlooking the waterfall, then back to the boat and watched a great sunset.

Saturday – Oct 5th – 37.9 NM – 0 Locks – To: Frankfort, MI
On Saturday I woke up around 7:00 and checked the weather. It was dead calm, but the winds were predicted to pick up by noon, and get really nasty with 6-8 ft waves by evening. We made a hasty decision to make a run for our next port Frankfort, MI which was much more protected. We skipped showers and breakfast and by 7:45 we were underway and heading out of the harbor and watched a beautiful sunrise over the shore.

The ride to Frankfort was quite nice. We only had 1-2 ft waves for most of the way. Toward the approach to Frankfort the wind shifted and started to pick up and we were seeing 20-25 knot winds. Aside from a freighter heading north, and one fishing boat, we had the lake to ourselves. We pulled into Frankfort at 10:10, and the dockmaster helped us tie up behind a large (100+ft) sailboat to protect us from the winds. He suggested that we put out every fender we had and tie on every line we could as the next two days were predicted to be gale force winds. We got the boat secured and took a walk into town as the winds started to increase.

The dockmaster mentioned that there was a farmers market just down the street from the marina, so we walked there to check it out. We’ve seen a number of mushroom farms in Michigan, and there were several vendors at the farmers market with lots of different varities.

We picked up a few things, dropped them off at the boat, then walked down main street which is another old town with some quaint older storefronts. Frankfort also has a town spring right near the marina and we stopped to sample the water (a bit iron tasting). It was getting on toward 1:30 so we stopped and had some lunch, then walked to the beach at the end of the street where the harbor entrance is to take a few pictures before the storm hit.

As we walked back to main street there was some sort of car club meeting as there were a bunch of sports cars parked on main street. In the evening we walked back to the Storm Cloud Brewery for some dinner. By the time we got back to the boat, the waves had already started to pick up in the harbor.

Sunday – Oct 6th – 0 NM – 0 Locks – In: Frankfort, MI
At 1:30 Sunday morning we were woken up by the boat bouncing up and down and slamming into the dock. We got up and I went out and tightened up the lines and added a few more fenders and ropes. The wind was blowing at 10-20 miles per hour with gusts over 40! We didn’t really get back to sleep, just sat in the salon where it was a bit less bouncy than the bedroom and waited for the sun to come up.

As soon as it was light, we abandoned ship, and went into town for some breakfast, then walked back down to the beach and harbor entrance to see how big the waves were. It was quite a contrast from the day before! Waves were crashing over the breakwaters. The wind was blowing from the West straight across the lake. It was picking up the beach sand and sandblasting us. We took a few pictures and headed back into town to escape the wind.

As it was Sunday, many of the stores on main street were closed, so we decided to walk down the rail trail to Elberta which is across a bridge on the other side of the bay about a mile and a half away. The rail trail was very nice. It was paved and there were lots of interesting wild flowers along the path. When we got to Elberta, we checked out the two businesses there, an antique shop which was closed, and a restaurant but we’d already had breakfast. So, we turned around and walked back to Frankfort.

When we got back to the boat, it was still rocking. We had tied it as tight as we could, and there was a large sailboat next to us blocking the wind, but even so, the boat was bouncing so much it was hard to stand. I checked on Hotels.com, and found a room at a hotel just down the street (next to the Storm Cloud Brewery) and we packed a suitcase and headed there for the night.

The hotel was very nice, we got the “Anselm Adams Room” and settled in. Because we had gotten very little sleep, we took a nap and then went to dinner across the street at an asian restaurant.

NEXT WEEK: Continuing down lake Michigan!