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 Visit Back Home

Last Sunday, we decided to make a trip to Moonraker.

We had already winterized the boat, but the mast had not been unstepped at that time (we’re going to do bulkhead and mast repairs next spring), so we could not cover it. We got notification that the mast had been unstepped, shortly before the weather from hurricane Sandy came through (hurricanes are not even tropical storms by the time they reach us, but they can still wreak havoc on the Lakes).

Well, just as we’d feared, a lot of water came in through the hole where the mast had been. This didn’t seem to cause any further rot on the bulkheads, though, so we should be able to patch them without fully replacing them next spring. The carpet was moldy, but we’re planning on replacing the carpet with fake-wood flooring. The worst part–the bilge was full of water and mold. We had no battery in the boat, so we had to jury rig the wiring to get power from the car to the bilge pump (our manual pump broke during the storm in Thunder Bay, two summers ago).

We no longer own a cradle (our old one was falling apart, and we decided we would rather not deal with storing and transporting it), so we rent stands. This marina put the boat on a cradle that they owned, instead, which probably kept it safer in the high winds.

When we were done, we took a much-needed walk down the seawall, where we lived for two weeks last summer. Beanie knew immediately where she was and excitedly led the way. It was every bit as pleasant as we remembered it, and, on the way back, we saw some kids playing on the sailboat sculpture. Beanie happily joined them, and she cried when it was time to leave.

It was great to visit our home.

October’s Adventure: Fall Camping!

You haven’t heard from me in a couple days, because I was off the grid.

We have a standing micro-adventure for this time of the year, camping in Traverse City. This area is absolutely gorgeous in the fall, and there is plenty to do, both indoors and out.

Traverse City State Park isn’t exactly your back-to-nature camping experience, and we fell in love with it for just that reason. We already live in the middle of the woods, and we were seeking something different from our usual day-to-day. We love the view of the bay, the bike trail into town, the shopping downtown, and the beautiful drive up 22, through Sutton’s Bay, Northport and Leland.

This year, though, we had a surprise. Our stay coincided with the State Park’s Harvest Festival. It was hopping with kids for Beanie to play with, and there were events going on for the little ones the entire time. We rushed out to the Salvation Army store to grab a costume, and Beanie joined in the fun!

With some friends in the campsite next to ours

Face painting time!

Time to carve the pumpkin!


The State Park has a footbridge over the highway, and the kids got to parade over it and wave to the passing cars. Of course, they couldn't begin until everyone was there...and Beanie does not like waiting.

Still waiting...

And it's go time!

Beanie got mad at me on the other side, because she wanted to go swimming...

On our way back over.

Beanie did get a bit sugared-up and overstimulated, but some Tums and deep pressure helped her fall asleep. She loved the decorations and got very excited about the haunted house.

And, don’t worry, Rob and I had a great time as well!

Rob attracted a lot of attention with his tall bike.

We took a beautiful bike ride along the East Arm of the bay.

The hardest part about these excursions to our favorite port towns is leaving. I’m anxiously awaiting next month’s adventure, which will have to take us near Grand Haven, so we can throw a tarp over the boat. I will have to see what adventure possibilities await us there…

September’s Adventure: America’s Last Steamship

Please excuse my recent disappearance.

Happily, I have come back with some stories from our first micro-adventure. Remember, we will be going on one every month during the “off season” this year. I have to say that we started out with what will probably be the most exciting adventure of the year–a trip on the S.S. Badger. Here are some stories from our adventures:

“Boatel” and Lake Crossing
The Badger is the last operating coal-fired steamship in the U.S., and its license expires in December. As it stands, the EPA may not renew its permit. We’re definitely hoping they are able to work something out.

We dropped Jelly Bean off and Grandma and Grandpa’s house, then headed to Ludington Friday evening. We spent the night on the ship, in our stateroom, then enjoyed breakfast on board right before we left port at 9:00. We cruised 4 hours to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. (Even though we’ve lived in Michigan our entire lives, neither of us had actually been to Wisconsin before!). After spending a couple hours in town, we returned to the ship to cross back to Ludington.

We were actually hoping for slightly rough seas, and we weren’t disappointed. There were 30 knot winds and 7 foot waves. Definitely nothing that the Badger couldn’t handle, but not weather that we would voluntarily sail Moonraker in (as we learned our lesson on the passage to South Manitou).

There was plenty to do on the ship, with a movie room, restaurant, bar, Bingo, a store, an arcade, and a kids’ room. We really just enjoyed sitting by the window (it was a bit cold outside!) and watching the water. We’ve definitely missed it!

The Spartan, the Badgers sister ship, now used for parts.

The view from our stateroom.

It was rough, but we had company on the Lake.

Docking in Manitowoc was a little rough, because of the strong winds.

Other company on the Lake.

We wouldnt have gone out, but these sailors seemed to be doing very well crossing the Lake!

It was obvious which port the captain favored, as everyone watching us in Ludington got a master salute!

I was not used to wearing my hair down in this kind of wind!

The perfect end to the perfect adventure!

The Minor Disaster
This time, the disaster happened on land, and it didn’t involve flames shooting out of a battery charger.

I don’t carry a purse, because I’ve found that I always leave them places, leading to many mini-panic sessions (or I don’t notice, and get a phone call later). Over the winter, I began carrying a wallet, later replaced by a change purse, in my coat pocket. I always kept it there, so it was never a problem. In the summer, I started out just carrying the change purse, but I worried that I would drop it while I was boarding the dinghy. Rob had the solution–he cut a length of rigging line, and I tied it around my neck. That’s how I wore the purse all summer.

Going back to work, the purse went back in my pocket, but nostalgia took over this weekend. So around my neck it went.

I paid for our hotel room Saturday night, after the cruise, then I helped unload our suitcases into our room. We were both hungry, and I knew that the specialty market in Ludington had great crab salad.

On the way there, we stopped at the beach and watched the most beautiful sunset we have seen in our lives. We didn’t have a camera, but it was a sight we will never forget.

We got to the market and ordered the salad. It was then that I noticed the line around my neck, untied.

I had used the wallet to pay for our room, and since then we had only been three places. So the odds were in our favor. We combed the store, the parking lot, the beach, the hotel parking lot, and our room. Nothing. We had no money and no access to our money.

Thankfully, my parents came to our rescue, and we learned how to do a Moneygram. (Luckily, Rob didn’t have his license in my wallet, or we would not have been able to receive it!).

So, all’s well that ends well!

The Best Hotel Ever
You’ve got to see this hotel. It’s called Nader’s Lakeside Motor Inn, and it’s definitely the best place we’ve ever stayed. We get the Jacuzzi suite, which is comprised of three rooms off of a hallway. This was a fun couple’s getaway, but it would also work well with Beanie, as she could sleep on the Fouton, in the dining room. We plan to go there again, when things are less stressful.

Meanwhile, at Grandma and Grandpa’s House
And while we were gone, Jelly Bean was having fun of her own!

First, the make-up…

And since she was looking like a rock star…

Make-up’s good, so now it’s time to work on the hair…

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.

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!


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…

Christmas in August!

We could have left Pentwater today. The wind was out of the south, but it was light. We could have motored to White Lake, before heading to Muskegan.

However, if NOAA is correct (and they usually are on Lake Michigan!), a front is coming through tonight. And fronts are always followed by a day or two of north winds. We should be able to sail–either downwind or on a beam reach–to either White Lake or Muskegan tomorrow. It would be a more comfortable ride and save us some gas money! So, here we are, still in Pentwater.

And we’ve been rewarded for it.

This morning, on our way to the state park, Beanie and I found the farmers’ market. At home, we get our food from a variety of local sources, but the best we’ve been able to do this summer is stock up at Kroger during the trips into Midland for Beanie’s therapy. And that’s the best case scenario! Often, we’ve been left to find what we can at the local Spartan store, or, worse, the “boater trap” next to the marina.

But, today, things were different. We’re going to enjoy lots of sweet corn, burgers made from organically-raised beef, and organic greens on our sandwiches. Oh, and best of all, homemade apple butter! Better than Christmas, folks… Next year, I’ll need to plan our shopping around farmers’ markets.

Speaking of next year, we’ve given it some thought. We will definitely live aboard all summer, but we want to take some time playing around on Lake Michigan. We’ll continue south, to Chicago. Then we’ll head back up to Frankfort, where we plan to buy a permanent mooring in Betsie Lake. We will use that as a home base, while we take excursions to some of the places we skipped (like Little Traverse Bay and some ports in Grand Traverse) and return to some of our favorites (Beaver Island, Elk Rapids, etc.). We’ll save money and have access to a car on the west side of the state!