Sailing Stories, Part 3

I have already shared Sailing Stories from our first summer living aboard, and from the first leg of last summer’s journey.  Today, I’m sharing the posts from our under-the-bridge cruise.  This part of the summer involved a lot of learning, and quite a few adventures.  Enjoy!

Tentative Plan
You know how plans go. But we were still making them!

The Dinghy Project
She was rough, but I huge improvement over the inflatable that we used the previous summer.

Leaving Thunder Bay, A Beautiful Anchorage, a Small Craft Advisory, and PISH
The first change to our plans, and it ended up being lovely.

Sight Seeing!
Since we were stuck, we decided to see what we could see.

Quiet Journey to Rogers City
Finally, a quiet run, with no engine failure!

Rogers City
Exploring the favorite port town of Rob’s childhood.

Long Run to Bois Blanc
This is where we were, a year ago today. Beautiful pictures.

Under the Bridge
It’s a right of passage, for sailors on the Lakes.

Arrival at Beaver Island
In another change of plans, we visit our friends on the island.

A Great Off-the-Grid House
Our friends’ very fun tiny house. This family (plus a new addition!) are now living on Beaver Island full time.

Back to the Mainland
Our journey to Lake Charlevoix.

Taking Advantage of a Good Wind
Another change of plans, leads us to Grand Traverse Bay.

On the Hook in Cherryland
The Cherry Festival was going on, and the harbor master laughed at me, when I asked if they had any slips available.

A Bit of Luxury
An extremely posh marina in Elk Rapids.

Decisions, Decisions
We chose a destination (although it ended up not being our destination, in the end). And, what to do next summer? North Channel or Loop? It’s laughable to read, because it goes to show exactly how futile making plans can be.

Cathead Bay
The most beautiful anchorage ever.

Lessons Learned
What we learned, so far, in our cruising.

Fun in Fishtown
An unusual stop.

Lessons en Route to Manitou
Time to remember to take nature seriously. Spoiler: we made it back…

Beating the Heat
How we deal with summer’s heat, with no air conditioning. (P.S. We’re going to have a/c when we move to Houston!)

Enjoy reading!  There will be a part 4, eventually.  Part 5 will be written after we move to Houston.

Sailboat -

Also, don’t forget that there is still time to help Abby, for my $1 a month challenge!

A Bittersweet Symphony

Happily, I found that my storage space upgrade went through (darned e-checks!). So I have a lot to share with you today.

Muskegon
Upon waking up at the Muskegon Municipal Marina, I realized that there was both a Save A Lot and an Aldi easily within biking distance. Yay! We stocked up on whole wheat bread, meat, artisan lettuce, grapes for Beanie, and, of course, a few bottles of Winking Owl!

We found that Muskegon was a very bike-able town, even if it wasn’t your typical, downtown-cute port town. They have a nice bike trail, good sidewalks, and everything is within two miles.

Here are some pictures from Muskegon.

One of the many boats you can tour in Muskegon.

A nice woody, at a mooring.

Yet another old Islander!

The "Milwaukee Clipper," open for tours.

The yacht club was ALWAYS having a race!

A very cool Coast Guard boat, open for tours.

Yes, you can even tour a submarine!

Muskegon light

Sailboat Mecca
The municipal dock was decent, but we’ve been curious about Torresen Marine. Probably the best sailboat repair shop and dealer in Michigan, Torresen is where our boat-hunting adventures began. Right after our summer on the Sonnet, before I was expecting Beanie, we fell in love with a Grampion from their derilict lot. We didn’t buy it, because it needed too much work. (Ironically, the biggest thing it needed was repair to the bulkheads…and we’ve already repaired Moonraker’s bulkhead once. We’ll need to do more repairs to it before next summer).

Anyway, we wanted to see their shop, because they were very likely to have used parts for our boat. Usually slips at private marinas are too expensive, but I took a look. 50 cents a foot! We headed right over.

We were on a tall metal dock that wobbled when we walked on it. There were four private bathrooms, and two had showers. But everyone there was so friendly. Any trip off of the boat resulted in a long conversation. It was really a fun place, and there were always races on the water to watch. That’s the only place we will stay, when we go to Muskegon.

My friend Karen, from Michigan Natural Parenting, came to visit with her two kids. Beanie enjoyed sharing her v-berth with them!

Its always great to have company!

Thank you, Karen, for taking a nice picture of the three of us!

Neighbors...

Last Run of the Season
Here’s where it becomes bittersweet.

We had thought that we would definitely make it to Saugatuck and probably to Holland as well. But, for the first time all summer, we have had bad weather this month. The one night we had planned to spend in Pentwater turned into a week. While we were at Torrensen, there was nearly a week of thunderstorms that were so bad the ferries didn’t go out.

Grand Haven was the next port. We would have time to spend a couple days downtown, get the car from Torresen, get a better moped from home, send Rob to the moped rally over the weekend (yes, there are moped rallies all over the country–more about that in a future post!), get Rob’s wisdom tooth pulled, travel up the river, and pull out at River Haven.

So, our run to Grand Haven would be the last of the season.

It was very foggy on Muskegon Lake, so we waited until 11:00 to leave. We made our way up the river and watched the lighthouse disappear in the fog. We turned around and anchored off of the state park (next to all the other boats who had headed out, then turned around).

At 1:00, we tried again. We followed all the other boats, then followed them back up e river after they turned around. Back to the state park.

Well, third time is the charm! We were about to row ashore and pick up food, expecting to spend the night at the anchorage, when we decided to try it one more time, at 4:00. It was still foggy, but not dangerously so. There was no wind, so our last run was a two hour motor. Happily, we knew where we were going, because Torresen sold charts. We stayed close to shore, and the scenery was beautiful.

We arrived in Grand Haven in time for dinner and tied up (for free) on their seawall. It’s a fun town, and they had a light-and-fountain show after dark. We love downtown wall slips, so I think we will have a good time while we’re here.

And to Lake Michigan, Moonraker’s new lake–Farewell, it’s been a pleasure.

Where Are We?

Our chart book ended in Manistee. We didn’t worry about this, because, on the back of the chart book was a map, with every West Marine store in the state marked. There would be one in Ludington. So all we had to do was figure out how to get to one port. And, remember, we followed the other I29 that day.

Our last day in Ludington, Rob took off to find the West Marine, 30 minutes after check-out time. Guess what. It closed a year ago. So, using his instruments on the chart on the wall of the lounge, Rob plotted courses to Pentwater and White Lake. We would then have to figure out how to get to Muskegon, where there would be a West Marine.

So, after being stuck in Pentwater for some time, we were finally blessed with a north wind. Sailing wing-and-wing, we were bouncing off of 8 knots (3 knots above hull speed). As we approached White Lake, we had to decide whether to stop there or continue two more hours to Muskegon (using a poorly copied PDF of NOAA’s chart). The sky was starting to look overcast, so I checked the forecast. We were supposed to get to Muskegon before 6:30, and there was a 40% chance of isolated thunderstorms at 7:00. Normally, we wouldn’t play those odds, but there was more than a 50% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow, so we would be stuck wherever we ended up. We were running low on provisions, and Muskegon has many real grocery stores (including an Aldi, with their wonderful Winking Owl wine!). And, with Rob making his trip to get our car on Friday, we needed to be somewhere with a car rental place by then. So we decided to go for it!

The wind didn’t change much at all, but we heard a disturbing number of distress calls on the radio. A boat sank at anchor, a sailboat capsized, and the Coast Guard answered two “mayday” calls from Grand Haven and Saugatuck (south of us). But, for us, it was calm surfing until we had to lower the sails. Then it was the usual choppy craziness as we beat into the wind for a bit.

We considered anchoring out, but we could not find a good, sheltered place that was shallow enough. We decided to stay at a dock. The municipal docks are usually the cheapest and in the best locations, so we called Hartshorn Marina. We got an answering machine, saying that they closed at 4:30! This is unusual, since most marinas are open until 9:00. We decided to go there and find a slip, and pay in the morning. We saw a well-marked channel leading up to a very cute marina, so we figured that must be the place.

Our depth sounder freaked out as we made our way to the gas dock. The marina was packed, so we planned to tie up there until morning. Two men from a power boat caught our lines and laughed at us. “You’re lost,” he said. “This isn’t Hartshorn!”

It turns out that he gives directions to lots of boaters looking for the municipal dock, which was around the next bend, He was amazed that we made it in without running aground like most of the other boaters do.

So, we managed to turn around and round the next bend. The man had told us that the floating docks were the transient slips, so we tied up to one. The marina was almost empty, with three other families staying there. It surprised me that the bathrooms and showers didn’t have codes, until I saw that we were fenced in by barbed wire. There was a gate that opens for vehicles, and requires a card to get back in. We appear to be surrounded by abandoned factories. Not a typical location for a municipal dock.

We wondered if we were in e right place. Rob talked to the other boaters, who said that we were, and hooked us up with some much-needed kitty litter and beer.

A friend of mine, who is familiar with the area, has assured us that this isn’t actually sketchy, and that we’re downtown! We’ll have to check it out in the daylight.

Here are some pictures from our adventures today.

This barge is called the "Pere Marquette." It used to be a car ferry called the "City of Midland."

Beanie was busy with an activity book from Storybook Village.

Little Sable Point

Stay tuned! I have more pictures to share with you, but they will have to wait until my storage upgrade purchase goes through…

Weathered In

Two nights ago, we arrived in Pentwater. We rented a slip, so that Rob could do his camera repairs and possibly work on the 12 volt system. We’re staying at the municipal dock, which is a small operation–staffed by a very fun, delightful harbor master and one dock hand. There were few pleasure boaters here when we arrived, but the marina was packed with fishers.

Yesterday, we saw that the weather was not favorable for us–there was a strong (10-20 kt) southerly wind. We learned in Presque Isle that we can’t make good headway against such a wind. So we decided to anchor out. There were a lot of boats moored in the lake, and a few on the hook. First, we headed to a private marina to get a pump-out, nearly running over their low-lying floating dock in the process! Then, we proceeded to the anchorage. The lake here is rather deep close to shore. We came in as much as we comfortably could, and barely got below 30 feet. We won’t anchor in more than 20, since we have to raise our anchor by hand. The wind was picking up, as well, so we headed back to the marina, where the harbor master was happy to see us. As the day went on, the marina filled up with more cruising boats–mainly power boats, but a few sailors as well–seeking refuge. Today, the wind will be from the north, but it is supposed to get up to 30 knots, with 5-8 foot waves. Like our power boater neighbors, we’re planning on spending another day in Pentwater! After this blows through, we will have a good day to sail to White Lake (or even Muskegon, if the wind is really good!).

In the meantime, here we are! Pentwater is definitely a tourist town, so I’m glad we stocked up on provisions in Ludington. But we’ve had some fun, and we’ll do more exploring today.

Some of our favorites:

–The multitude of ice cream shops! Beanie and I went to the Pentwater Popcorn Company and split a double-scoop Peanut Butter Cookie dough. You can imagine her surprise when they handed her that large cone. All she could say was, “Wow!”

–Right across from the boat, is a store called, “Storybook Village.” How could Beanie not love that? It’s owned by two boaters (and Great-Loopers, none the less!), and they encouraged her to look around and play with the books and corresponding puppets. Beanie found a princess doll to ride the dragon puppet, and she loved the tiger puppet. We bought a pirate book, and she tried on a mermaid costume that she loved (hint: Grandma!). They have story times throughout the day, and Jelly Bean loved coming back to hear three stories. I’m sure I’ll be spending more money there before we’re done.

–The west side of Michigan has some wonderful toy stores, with lots of kid-powered, educational (in the exploratory fashion, rather than direct teaching) toys. Beanie fell in love with the Pentwater Toybox. You can see them on You Tube here. She played with the wooden train set, while Rob and I looked around. I found her a sticker book, which she loved, and some glow-in-the-dark fairy tattoos. She loves girly things, so I thought these would be a hit. Turns out she hates fairies, and favors pirate tattoos. Go figure.

–Pentwater also has a great Boat Store. Forget West Marine! This store is set up in an antique store-style shop, complete with boating antiques. But don’t worry, they have all the necessities. We bought some marine toilet paper and looked at carburettor supplies.

We will do more exploring today, then we will head south, as the weather allows!

Ludington

We have just finished a fun week in Ludington. We didn’t have as many adventures as we did in Manistee, but I do have some stories to tell…

Three Nights at the Mooring
We were invited to use a mooring by the yacht club, next to the other I29 that we cruised with (and rescued!) on the run from Manistee. After our first night there, we decided to row ashore and take a trip into town. We loaded our foldable bikes onto the dinghy and tied up next to a cute little clearing on a point. It was quite the ride into town, but we went to the beach and climbed the lighthouse.

When we returned, we saw a bag in our cockpit. In it was a note, thanking us for the tow, and a gift certificate for the Jamesport Brewing Company.. Seeing that we had arrived, then men from the other Islander rowed over, and we visited for awhile. They promised to e-mail us some pictures, and they weren’t surprised to learn that I had already posted pictures of their boat!

After a calm night, we decided it was time to spend a day doing nothing. So we all played, read, and relaxed on board. It was a very welcome, quiet day. At least until the 12 volt system overloaded, and we couldn’t run any electronics (including the fridge).

Then, that night, the storm hit. We were moored, so we weren’t worried about dragging anchor. However, the lightening was very close this time, and that kept us awake. Also, the hail was a bit noisy.

We had been planning on renting a slip for four hours the next day, so we could shower and enjoy some dinner, With the 12-volt failure, then the storm, we were ready to spend the entire day–and night–enjoying a bit of civilization. So we headed to the municipal dock.

Statues in the Park
There was a huge playground next to the marina, but Beanie’s favorite part were the “follow the leader” statues. Here, she joins the sculpture!

Municipal Dock
We definitely enjoyed our stay in Ludington. The people there were extremely friendly, and you couldn’t do anything (walk to the shower, do the laundry, etc.) without meeting someone new! Here are is a picture of Moonraker at the dock.

Therapy and a Toothache
On Wednesday, my parents picked us up for our last stopover into Midland. I took Beanie to PT while Rob went to work, to pick up more cameras to repair. When I picked him up, he was holding his face and in horrible pain.

The next morning, my parents watched Beanie while I dropped him off at the dentist and headed in to work, to meet with my new principal and get moved into my new classroom in the high school. When I picked Rob up, he had a prescription for pain meds, an antibiotic, and orders to get his wisdom tooth pulled.

We called the very oral surgeon in the area, but couldn’t get in until September 10. Then, we noticed that one dentist had an office in St. Johns as well. We got an appointment there for the 16 of August. We’ll most likely be in Grand Haven at that time, so we’ll rent a car for a day to make the trip there and back (it isn’t all that far).

A New Destination
Since the summer is winding down, we decided to look up storage rates in Muskegon. They were a bit more than we wanted to pay, so I researched Grand Haven. Rates were much more reasonable there, so that will probably be our final destination. We’re still waiting to hear back from the marina, to work out the specifics.

We have also changed our plans for next year. It turns out that there is at least one fixed bridge of the Mississippi, so Great Looping is not really an option. We still want to go to the end of the Michigan side, and then we’ll decide what to do next! We won’t finish the Michigan side this summer, because we’ve been choosing to spend longer in port than we had been. And we have no regrets about that–better for the journey to take years….

Motoring to Pentwater
Lake Michigan has a rhythm. Every week or so, there is a windy day, then possibly a storm, then a good North wind. The storm hit Thursday night, but there was still supposed to be a North wind today.

We left at 11:00 and the wind was from the South. When we made it to the big Lake, there was no wind at all. Good thing we only had two hours until we would stop in Pentwater!

As we were sweating and listening to the rumble of the atomic four, I pointed out that this would have been a good day on Lake Huron. All of this calm wind has spoiled us!

Stories from Manistee

First, I have to apologize for not keeping you up-to-date on our adventures. There has not been time to write, because we’ve been too busy having the time of our lives at our new favorite port. That’s right. We were hesitant to leave Frankfort, because we couldn’t imagine anywhere being better. Yet there we were. Everyday in Manistee was an adventure, of the very, very fun sort. We have decided that we absolutely love the middle of the Michigan side of this lake. It’s got the post-industrial, mixed with nature, look of the Huron side, but it also has the art scene of Northern Lake Michigan. Add in the people, who are more friendly than anyone we’ve ever met (everyday is a party in these towns!), and you have the perfect vacation destination.

So, without further adieu, let me launch into my series of stories from Manistee…

Good-bye, Freighter
Remember the freighter we saw coming in? Well, we got some even better pictures of it leaving. Here:

Riverwalk
The best part about staying at the municipal dock was that it was on the Riverwalk. This is a boardwalk along the river, that fills up with both locals and tourists first thing in the morning and after dinner. These were friendly people who loved that fact that we were living aboard such an old, well-loved boat, and were eager to hear our story. We walked down the Riverwalk many times, to take Beanie to the beach, to get ice cream, or just to enjoy the scenery.

The Quest for Real Food
Grocery shopping in upper Lake Michigan, Michigan side, is tough. Everything is Spartan. I have been stopping at Kroger on our trips into Midland, but I have been greatly missing my food co-op and the Amish stores.

So, imagine my delight when, on a bike trip through Manistee, I saw a sign on a building across the road, that said “Real Food Market.” “Real Food” could only mean one thing, in my book..

And I was correct! We arrived at Port City Organics, a very reasonably-priced, independently-owned (all right, BOATER-owned!) whole food store. Their meats, especially, were much better in price than what we were used to. We picked up some necessities and, of course, some locally-brewed mead beer. (It’s wonderful–it tastes like summer!).

Going there was delightful, and we loved talking to the owner, Joe Dumas. If you’re ever in Manistee (and you really NEED to go to Manistee; it’s Michigan’s best kept secret…), be sure to pay this store a visit!

Beanie Gets the Town Dancing
I love my daughter.

I always love her, but sometimes I just glow with pride, because of her. Last night was one of those times.

We heard that there would be a block party Friday night, so we weren’t too bummed when we were weathered in. (All right, we probably could have left, but we might have stayed, because of the block party). There was a live band. The night before, we had rowed our dinghy to a jazz concert in the park. Beanie tried to dance in the boat, which didn’t work well. So I climbed the rocks, up to shore, with her. She definitely grooved, but we had to go off to the side, because that crowd wasn’t really into the whole Beanie-dancing thing. The racers who were tied up on the wall next to us welcomed her, but we pretty much got dirty looks from everyone else (except for the band, who loved her!). Well, she danced anyway…

So, we heard the band on Friday and, after the rain quit, decided to check it out. There were tents set up at the end of Main Street. Rob and I had to pay a cover charge, because it was assumed we would enjoy a complementary glass of a local brew. We splurged and got the tourist glasses! It turns out that this event was in support of the Vogue Theater, which, when it re-opens, will show independent films. We were happy to help out!

As soon as we got in, Beanie, of course, made a bee-line for the front of the stage. She is never content to dance in the back. But this was not the concert from the night before. As soon as they saw Beanie’s moves, another couple jumped in right away, imitating her. Then, the MC (also a boater) jumped in front of her and asked her for a dance. Soon the entire crowd was on the floor, dancing in a circle around the Bean! She changed the spirit of the event, and they were very happy to have her there. For awhile, another girl danced with Beanie, but Beanie kept going until she was laying down on the floor and we knew it was time to leave. The next day, people from the event recognized us as they boated down the river.

Beanie has a gift, to be sure. And the song, “I Hope You Dance” will always, always make me cry (although I usually don’t cry over such things…).


The Other “Us-es” (and Our First Distress Call…)

We had been in Manistee for awhile, and we were actually at a dock, so yesterday I did the laundry. I even dried it, since it was raining!

Unfortunately, I needed quarters to use the machines, and all I had were dimes. So off to the dockhouse I went.

Talking to strangers is a part of marina life, especially in middle-Lake Michigan, so my transaction ended with the harbormaster ribbing the dockhand about her success in college. It turns out she’s a psychology major, so we had a lot to talk about.

Then a boat crashed into the dock. Oops.

What I saw, right away, was the bow of Moonraker. Why was Rob at the dock? Then I saw that it was slightly different than our boat. I walked to the cockpit, to have a look. Sure enough, it said “I29” on the floor. I immediately asked them what year it was. 1965. It was Moonraker, but two years older. I got excited about this, so of course the harbormaster (who was already a Moonraker fan, by that time) assigned them to the slip next to ours.

We talked to the two men on the boat (one is buying it from the other), and it turns out their struggles have been similar to our own. We gave them our spare ignition coil, because they needed one. And we found out that they would be going to Ludington the next day. Great! We would race…I mean cruise…together!

Well, we started out, and it became clear that our Atomic 4 was doing a bit better. Then a LOT better. They raised some canvas, as did we. We were going nowhere, so we motor sailed. But they were quickly fading on the horizon. It finally occurred to us that their engine had failed (familiar to us!), so we came about and checked it out.

It turns out that they had run out of gas (they didn’t have a working gas gauge). They threw us a line, and we towed them back to Manistee.

When you tow into a channel, you get to make a distress call. This was the lowest level, “Security,” but it was exciting, because we will get to put it to put it in our log book. The dockhand at the marina laughed at us, and everyone was amused to see an I20 pulling an identical I29. Our engine managed it fine, and I made sure to quarter any wakes we encountered, because I29’s don’t deal well with waves taken to the side.

We dropped them off at the gas dock, tied up, and got some coffee and fresh water. Then we both were ready to try again.

This time, again, we started our ahead. They raised their jib (their main was in the shop for repairs). We raised our main and killed the engine. As we raised the genoa, they pulled ahead of us. We were skeptical, and we saw steam coming off of the back of their boat. We continued under sail (doing a beam reach, downwind–where we tried the spinnaker but failed—, broad reach, them downwind again) while they lost us.

Everyone was motor sailing, but we didn’t want to waste gas. We made it, without a chart (since our current charts end at Manistee–and the nearest West Marine is in Ludington). We entered the river, then the lake. Right by the yacht club, we found the other Islander moored. They smiled at us and pointed the the mooring next the them. We tied up, and now we’re enjoying a nice night here.

We’ll go ashore tomorrow, but Beanie enjoyed swimming tonight. Rob’s currently out on the dinghy, exploring, and there’s a good live band nearby.

I think we’re gonna like it here…

An I36

Time to Move On

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Frankfort, but yesterday there was a good, stiff wind.

Out of the north.

So, after a week long stay, we put Lake Betsie to our stern.

It was rough and windy–25 knot winds and waves that were at least 5 feet (with some larger rogues). But we were going downwind, so it was nice and smooth. We tried flying the spinnaker, but we weren’t quite going downwind. We raised the genoa and started out on a beam reach. It was fun sailing and not too rough–and we making 7 knots! We flew to Portage Lake, our destination, and decided to continue on the Manistee.

Eventually, we changed course and did some downwind sailing. This is not as exciting as reaching, so we let Otto take over.

Much sooner than expected, Manistee appeared off our bow.

We needed to come in on a broad reach, which put the waves to our side. It was then that we realized exactly how rough it was. You can’t feel the wind when you’re going downwind or beam reaching, but the broad reach put us right in sideways land. It was fun, and we went really fast, but we were glad it was only for a short while. We actually had a couple waves break over the side of the cockpit. We both got our showers for the day!

Normally, we drop the sails without altering our course, but that wasn’t safe to do in the high winds. So we came about and beat into the wind for a few grueling minutes. With the jury-rigged topping lift (which works well and is completely safe), the main drops right on my head, so I got to contend with that while beating into the wind and trying to keep things as smooth as possible for Rob (who was topside).

Things were much calmer in the well-protected Manistee river.

Manistee Lake was rough and now well-protected, and we had reservations about anchoring out there. However, we didn’t want to make both bridges open again so soon. So we decided to anchor out, cook dinner, then go back up the river to a marina. We saw another sailboat (we later learned it was an Islander) anchored out by the S.S. City of Milwaukee. We gave that area a try, and found it to be quite calm and protected. There was a boat launch with fresh water and restrooms nearby, so we stayed for the night.

You can stay on the City of Milwaukee for $25 a night. We plan to give this a try in the fall!

The wind shifted during the night, and it was rough in the morning. Today is a definitely not a good day for sailing, but it is a great day for exploring Manistee! We talked to a couple in Frankfort, who said that we had to stay at the municipal dock, because it’s very nice. We found ourselves an excellent wall slip, and are enjoying an excellent facility with a great location.

Right after we tied up, a freighter came up the river.

Beanie, of course, had to ham it up for the camera. She got waves from everyone on the freighter, and she greets all of the people who pass us on the riverwalk.