MI ports on Lake Michigan

St Ignace Marina was a great stop w/ good access to restaurants, swimming for Zeke & friendly staff. Best Whitefish tacos! The long ride under the Mackinac bridge and over to Beaver Island was a little bumpy for us, but Zeke had quite a difficult time. We stayed away from the freighters, but even from a distance their wakes rocked us hard several times as the moved at full speed thru the open water east of Mackinac Island.

Beaver Island is a throwback in time with a few quaint shops, local bars (Beachcombers and Shamrock) and lots of local history, some involving a Mormon settlement on the island. It was pleasant enough, but much of the open shoreline near the marina was cordoned off from riffraff like us. But we did manage to find a hidden spot where Zeke could swim with the ducks!

Some very curious ducks

Northport, near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula in Grand Traverse Bay was our next destination on Thursday, Aug 26. We thoroughly enjoyed the town and the marina, which was great as we were grounded for 4 nights due to weather. One storm was so intense it tore our flexible solar panels off our bimini. Luckily, the didn’t blow over the seawall and we were able to recover them with minimal damage! While there we met a number of loopers, several couples “practicing” for their 2022 loop, and we saw some interesting boats, including this tug docked behind us on the seawall!

It’s a Lord Nelson 37, made in Seattle WA
Named “Theodore Bayre” with a life-size stuffed bear (note the profile) that sits in the Captain’s chair when the boat is at rest.

Finally, on Monday, Aug 30 we were able to head to Leland and although we again had quite a choppy ride we enjoyed the change in scenery! The nearby beach was beautiful, but the huge crashing waves intimidated Zeke. Had dinner on the boat (chix, wild rice and salad) and enjoyed the sunset as the strong westerly winds died down.

Started out early for Frankfort MI this morning (Aug 31) with north winds pushing us in a southeasterly direction past Sleeping Bear Dunes and North and South Manitou Islands. Would’ve loved to anchor out at S Manitou, but no pets are allowed on the islands. Passed Pt. Betsie lighthouse on the way into Frankfort and saw many monarchs migrating across the open water today. Found good food and beer at Stormcloud Brewing Co…. Nice logo too! We’ll wait here for favorable winds to cross the big lake to Wisconsin, maybe Thursday…

At the Detour

Tonight on Sunday, Aug 22 we find ourselves at the DeTour MI Harbor Marina in the Village of DeTour…not an inapropriate name for a stop at this point in our lives.           

As most of you know “we made Whitefish Bay” last Thursday. We came across the open water from Grand Marais MI under fair skies and nearly calm seas, unlike the sailors on the Edmund Fitzgerald. The Whitefish Pt State docks are a very primitive harbor of refuge, but the beaches, water clarity and swimming were stunning.         

Whitefish Point upon approach

We crossed the Bay Friday morning and started flirting with the big boats on our way to the Soo locks.  Sad to be leaving such a beautiful lake behind, but relieved that the large expanses of 300+ foot deep water with no refuge or other boats in sight for hours is done.  We locked thru the Canadian side and docked at the George Kemp marina in downtown Sault Ste Marie for 2 nights.  Rode bikes to a great walley fish fry the first night while Zeke escaped his crate and entertained other boaters and marina staff in our absence. Spent part of Saturday ridding the boat of Lake Superior sand (inside) and spiders and spider poop (outside).  Yes, it’s visible and it stains!

The G Kemp Marina is within the historical district of SSM MI.

Left the Soo and traveled “downbound” on St. Mary’s River to its confluence with Lake Huron and the Village of DeTour.  Nice marina with good access to the beautiful Cheneaux Islands on Monday, where we spent our anniversary anchored out in Government Bay.  Then on to St. Ignace early Monday on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge to take advantage of another beautiful day with friendly seas and plan our journey south on Lake Michigan.

One Week Out

Well we’ve been on the water for a week now. Tonight we find ourselves in Munising at the west end of Pictured Rocks Nat’l Seashore. There’s a live band concert here in the park at the marina, playing oldies but goodies in quality fashion with a strong audience of local families, couples and tourists. I haven’t seen this many kids running wild and having fun (outside of a school yard) in ages! When the band revved up “Do You Believe on Magic”, I thought to myself.. “I most certainly do. I’m in Munising on a boat (a long way from Ashland) and that in itself is pretty magical”. But in reality, I think what I really believe in is people. At our 1st stop in Black River Harbor, the swimming and sunsets were great, but the dockmates were friendly and helpful as we all faced some minor issues in getting on and off the dock due to wind.

The new transient dock at Blk River Harbor

Ontonagon was our next stop. The town was ok, but the people who helped us with our mechanical problems at the marina (Matt, Mike, Mike and Steve) were the best of the best. They were knowledgeable, willing to help, and friendly – and they all loved and welcomed Zeke on their boats and in their offices. We spent 3 nights there because of weather and needed repairs with no regrets. We will definitely see some of the people again in coming months and years.

Our slip in Ontonagon.

Coming into Houghton Saturday, under the lift bridge, on the Ship Canal, on the tail of the Ranger III ferry was fun and the pizza at the Ambassador was tasty. We started down the canal again early Sunday but had to turn back due to an unexpected hose failure. We tied up at the free downtown dock and Ned rode his bike to an auto parts store, found a good hose replacement, re-connected the fitting at both ends and we were off again shortly after noon. To me, having a partner who has the confidence and ability to remedy problems on the fly is also a bit of magic! Because our travel day was cut short we looked for and found an anchorage near the south entrance of the Ship Canal, of which was definitely magical. It was a small nook on the back side of an island on the original Portage River. Peaceful setting, great swimming and totally secure from wind in 10 feet of water. We enjoyed the solitude after the frequent noise and wakes of boats speeding up and down the canal near the lift bridge. Spent the next night in Marquette with it’s beautiful lakeshore and marina and many sailboats. Then onto Munising today. Looking forward to cruising the Pictured Rocks tomorrow and meeting more friendly folk in the coming days.

Marquette Cinder Pond Marina/Yacht Club

’tis Grand Adventures, Blog at WordPress.com.

The Eve of the Adventure

Today we moved on to the boat and finished packing things away. The crew is ready for tomorrow’s anticipated launch.

Although, right now, the fog has really rolled in. We’ll see what conditions are like in the morning.

’tis Grand and Our Adventure

Meet ’tis Grand, Our 1987 Grand Banks Classic 36 trawler

Our boat is a classic trawler. It is 36′ long with a near 13′ beam. We decided to keep the name ’tis Grand, given to her by her previous owners, because we like it! She weighs in at 23,000#, has two sleeping areas, two heads (toilets for you landlubbers), a galley/salon, and an upper flybridge and helm from which we’ll pilot her most of the time. She’s powered by a 210 HP Caterpillar V-8 diesel engine. She’s not a fast boat, with a top speed of 10.5 mph (so we’ve got to keep a close eye on weather). We cruise at 7.5 – 8 mph.

She’s a beauty! The previous three owners kept her in great shape and we plan to do the same. We have not had to do a lot of work on her, except for general maintenance. We have added two 160 watt solar panels on the bimini to help keep us powered at anchor. She’s a excellent boat for the Great Loop.

Great Loop Route Options

Kathy and I started thinking about boating the Great Loop after I completed a pontoon boat journey down the Rivers from St Paul MN to Mobile AL during Fall, 2018. I met “Loopers” during this trip and and the idea of doing the Loop started to grow inside me. That pontoon boat trip is chronicled at http://www.MikoManto thegulf.com.

The Loop is a 6,000 mile cruise around the eastern half of the US. You can start anywhere on the Loop, using any kind of boat that suits you. The goal is to complete the loop and “cross your wake”. For most people, the trip takes portions of more than one year, especially if you start “up north”. We will be starting where our ’tis Grand is slipped, in Ashland WI, on Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay. Our exact route will evolve as we move along. People ask when we will be at a certain point. We truly don’t know!

Our general initial route will be heading east on Lake Superior to Sault St Marie, then down past the straits of Mackinaw to Chicago. We’ll go through downtown Chicago, down the Illinois River to the Mississippi, to the Ohio, to the Tennessee, and to the Gulf at Mobile AL. And then beyond!

Our progress will be determined based on whether we decide to stop for a while to visit a location, take a side trip, and most importantly the weather and water conditions. Loopers advise that the worst thing you can do is have a schedule. The adventure will take us most of two years, Maybe more if we get carried away with our new lifestyle.

Kathy, I and our best buddy Zeke will live on the boat. We’ll both anchor out and stay in marinas or at docks. Zeke will complicate things, but we wouldn’t travel without him. We will periodically blog to let you know where we are and how it’s going. Stay tuned!