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Lake Michigan

Friday, Sept. 8 Mackinac City, MI to Charlevoix

Had a nice run down passed the mouth of Traverse City Bay to Charlevoix. Passed by some very impressive homes on the way in, including the one below on the left, owned by one of the owners of Four Winns Boats. The center of the house is two huge boat garages, filled with antique boats. See more about the house at

Charlevoix is known for its mushroom houses by local architect Earnest Young, never certified as an architect, just a local who believed that architecture should reflect the local landscape and use local materials. He did not believe in straight lines and hated cooking so all his kitchens were tiny. He hated garages (except he had one in his personal house) and rarely put in closets. His neighbor wouldn't sell the him the lot between their houses, so he build half a house on his property line! His stone work is very intricate and beautiful.

The Charlevoix town marina was very fancy, with a natural fountain that incorporated a trout stream fully stocked (Radar was more interested in the ducks than the trout--see center pic below) and a nice stone walkway around the harbor.

Jason and I took our e-scooters around to see the Mushroom houses and stopped at the beach, which was very rocky. The water by the beach was a beautiful Florida turquoise blue—quite startling after the royal and darker blues we had become accustomed to. Nancy went to the supermarket by scooter. We would have liked to spend another day, but wanted to get south to Grand Haven.

Sat. Sept 9 Charlevoix to Leland

Had another pretty run along the sandy coast to Leland, which was a pretty cool fisherman village turned tourist attraction. It had a waterfall spilling between fisherman shanties, with boats docked in its rapid currents.

Nancy took Radar to the beach (see pic below of Radar disgruntled but still refusing to give up the feather in his mouth).

She picked up a nice light blue pebble she noticed while yanking the feather from Radar. Farther down the beach, many people were hunting something in the shallows. I asked if they were looking for Petroski fossils, which was just north of us. They said, no, looking for Leland blues, so I took the pebble out of my pocket and showed it to one of the guys. He confirmed with a gruntled voice that it was indeed a Leland blue. Jason and I wandered through the fisherman shanties turned into shops. We also saw a bright red amphibious car. See the propellers?

Sun. Sept 10 Leland to Ludington, MI

It was a calm grey day down to Ludington. We passed by Sleeping Bear Dunes, which were 450ft tall piles of sand. Unfortunately, the camera did not capture the scale, but see the pic below of the 35ft sailboat dwarfed by the dunes. The sand was not pushed up on the shore by Lake Michigan storms but rather deposited there during a prior ice age.

Nancy took Radar on a long walk around Ludington, almost all of the stores were closed since it was Sunday. The closest restaurant to the boat open on Sunday was a diner called House of Flavors. Nancy went there for a grilled cheese sandwich and to bring back dinner for Jason. Turns out the House of Flavors is attached to an ice cream factory and had amazing ice cream. They also broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest sundae. Nancy brought back a pint and wished she had bought more.

Mon. Sept. 11 Ludington to Grand Haven, MI

Grand Haven was a nice marina a couple blocks from the main street with outdoor ping pong and foosball. It did have some swell, which was a little irritating, but not enough rocking to prevent us from sleeping. A few people got together for a trivia night at a local pub/bbq spot. Jason was exhausted and took a nap but Nancy went and had a good time. She did really well on the questions about candy.

Next day, the mechanic for our dockmate, the remote control joystick for docking, arrived with the software program on a laptop. We went out into the harbor and circled the boat a dozen times to calibrate it. It was significantly off. Much better now, even though we returned to some Loopers odd looks and a few questions onto why we kept crisscrossing the harbor.

The next night we had dinner with Beth and Darin from Piglet. They had fixed their prop and shaft and made the fiberglass repairs. We went back to the same BBQ place because the food had looked good the night before and while nothing was on the schedule on the wall, there was some loud DJ that made it really hard to hear. The food was good and we got all the details of their almost sinking. On the way back, Nancy asked if anyone had seen this musical fountain that was supposedly at the marina. We looked around where the map indicated but didn’t see anything that was a fountain.

About 10 minutes after we got back to the boat, a disembodied voice boomed out across the harbor announcing an upcoming performance of the musical fountain which was colored jets of water shooting 50 ft. up set to music, directly across from where we were docked, just below the random giant blue anchor on the hilltop. Since Beth and Darin were docked around the bend, they joined us for the show. Mattie and Radar raced around and around the boat while we enjoyed the show.

The town had a couple really nice galleries, including one artist who did up close photos of waves that were quite wonderful but very large. Jason and Nancy saw an wood inlay art piece of a lighthouse and got it for the boat.

Grand Haven is a town of 20,000 people but they had a free door to door shuttle (it was about to go back to 75 cents a ride). Parents of private school kids or public school kids where the bus stop was inconvenient loved it. Nancy loved it, since it made getting groceries easy as did Jason, since the West Marine was across town. I’m sorry for any boater who came in after us, I’m sure the store had to restock after our trip! I don’ know why more towns don’t offer this (like Annapolis).

The town had a wonderful paved path from downtown along the inlet and out to the light house and beach. Jason and Nancy took a call from Tom Carter while out at the lighthouse to talk about Life Insurance policy for Colin. Couldn’t beat the view. Lots of public art, mostly coastal along the walkway, including the one below of a coast guard row boat saving a drowning man. The beach was beautiful and sandy. The wind picked up so we stayed for a 4th night.

Friday, Oct. 15th from Grand Haven to Saugatuck, MI

Had a following sea to Saugatuck. Nancy had gotten reservations at a marina not within reach of town. We called one of the two marinas and they said they had a spot but we had to pay in cash. We had just enough for the first night! Lots of fancy boats in the marina and large, interesting houses along the inlet to town. Our slip was in front of two bars, making it a somewhat noisy place to dock.

Saugatuck is known for being an artsy town and it did have lots of home décor/gallery shops. Nancy looked up a dog groomer in town that was opened on Saturdays. Got a taxi driver to take her across the inlet to the dog groomer, only to find it closed. Went to a couple other places hoping someone would know a place that clipped dogs nails, but no luck. Nancy did get a narrated tour of town and a recommendation for a restaurant specializing in duck.

Jason and Nancy explored an art fair down the street from the harbor. A few of the artists were quite good, but their paintings were very large. Jason found a shop across the street that sold antique signs for our new garage, that Nancy promised to take home when she returned to Annapolis to speak at a conference in a couple weeks. The first night we went to a steak house and the second night we went to the Duck restaurant. Jason really enjoyed his duck, Nancy was a little disappointed in her choice. While Radar could not get his nails done, Nancy was able to get hers done at a local place that had a lot of wedding business.

Sunday, Sept 17th, Saugatuck to Benton Harbor, MI. For the first time so far on the trip, we were unable to get a slip at our desired location of Michigan City and went to Benton Harbor across from St. Joseph instead. It was a little tight coming in with some weirdly placed pilings, but the actual marina was nice. The wind picked up just as we finished tying up, so the earlyish start was worth it. Nancy took Radar to the huge beach on the other side of the harbor, which I swear had at least two feathers per square foot.

Monday, Sept 18th from Benton Harbor, MI to Hammond, IN The next morning we headed across Lake Michigan to Hammond, Indiana, where we crossed into the Central Time Zone. We really enjoyed our time on the Michigan coast and sorry we didn't have time to explore Frankford or Muskgeon.

The waves were large enough that we had to either go directly with the waves or slightly into the waves, forcing us to zig zag our way across. The several squalls in the way were not helping but Jason did an amazing job of steering around them.

One of the sailboats that came in after us was not as lucky and the squall tore their solar panel off, which they were fortunate enough to keep and reattach, quite a job in those waves. The waves bounced off the southern portion of Lake Michigan creating an unpleasant cross wake the closer we got to Hammond.

Over 4 hours of rocking and rolling, plus an hour and a half of corkscrew motion (up down side to side) made us grateful to reach a protected harbor. We stopped for fuel and we had not even finished when our battery alarms went off. They lasted less than 30 minutes after supposedly charging by the engine for 5 hours and on dock power for 16 hours before that.

Jason and Nancy both had high hopes that the electrician at Hammond could resolve the issue. Hammond marina was the largest marina Nancy had ever seen with over 800 boats. We were half way out on the farthest dock from shore. No joke, at least a quarter mile to land. See below the yellow circle where we are docked. They had bathrooms for both people and dogs out on the docks because it was so far to shore.

Jason and Nancy took a few days to put the boat to rights. Jason arranged to have the engine oil changed and routine maintenance done. They ubered into downtown Chicago and took an architectural boat tour of the Chicago River (which they would have missed since the boat was too tall for some of the bridges there). The tour was fascinating and seeing the city from the river’s perspective was really unique. The architecture reflected the immense growth of the American economy over the last hundred years. Jason and Nancy both liked the sky scraper that reflected the location next to the Lake with various shades of blue and green.

They went over to Lou Malnati’s for Chicago’s iconic deep dish pizza, which did not disappoint. Chicago is bizarre because it is layered with streets stacked sometimes 3 levels up. For instance, there was supposedly a Walgreens next to the pizza place but we couldn’t find it. Turns out it was on the street directly below our street. We had a really hard time getting an Uber. Drivers would initially agree then drop us when they saw we wanted to go to Indiana. We were about to figure out Chicago’s public transportation system when someone finally agreed (turns out you can only cancel so many times in a month and he had used all of his up). He was not happy about driving us the hour back out. Also turns out 3:30 is the start of rush hour there.

We finally caught up with our pod, but some of them took advantage of the break to fly home, like Nancy did. We did get to have dinner at a local neighborhood pub with George and Tracy from Done Savin and heard about their adventures in Wisconsin often with only one engine with wind and waves. Fortunately, it was a relatively easy fix once they found the problem. We attended docktails a few times and everyone has been super friendly. The boat Cavalier is docked near us and they have two Cavalier spaniels on board, one of which is a tri-color like Radar.

Nancy finally got Radar’s nails trimmed and bathed. She flew home for a week, in part to speak at a conference. The garage is done on the outside but not on the inside and still is not hooked up to power. She returned and took advantage of a warm weather window to re-varnish two trim pieces that were getting sun spots. She spent a day in downtown Chicago and went to the Museum of American Writers, and the Chicago Institute of Art. She also explored a cool urban park that had an elevated walkway with a great view.

Jason spent most of the 3 weeks fixing or organizing things on the boat. While we have not solved our battery issue, we did find a work around that gets us 12 hours of battery life. We had the engines serviced, and washed the boat a couple times, once by a company. He assembled and secured our second anchor to the swim platform for emergency deployment or to keep us from swinging into the barge channel if we are forced to anchor near the channel. We are fairly well prepared for our next section of the Loop from Chicago through the middle of the US to Mobile Al.

Due to the 3 locks south of Chicago being closed for repairs the previous 7 months, there is a backlog of 270 loopers waiting to go south, not to mention the locals who head south to pull their boats for the winter and all the commercial barge traffic. The Great Loop Association did a great job organizing us. Kim Russo, the President, is amazing. We were assigned to Flotilla 6, so we would be in the 6th group of 16 boats to head down the locks south of Chicago which had been under construction for 7 months. The Army Corp of Engineers needed a few extra days to finish the middle lock, so everyone was delayed an additional 5 days. There were 80 boats at our marina alone.

Several of the boats from flotilla one and two did not want to wait the extra two days, and pulled out and headed down on their own two days before the scheduled time with Army Corps of Engineers. The first few boats got stuck above Dresden lock for 7 hours waiting to lock through, which is supposedly very narrow with no good place to anchor or tie up.

The marinas below the locks can barely handle 16 boats, much less 270, so the first set of boats including ours, have been asked to high tail it down to St. Louis to make room for the boats coming behind. It will mean 4 very long days.

To make matters worse, the river levels are very low, meaning some marinas and anchorages are now inaccessible. The things that can go wrong are myriad, but we have done what we can to prepare. Jason put a depth sounder on the dinghy so we can scope out anchorages if needed. We also have the 2nd anchor rigged for quick deployment. We will be in 1-2 knot current above waterfalls several times in the next couple weeks. Jason also bought 2 extra fenders, since we will be rafting up at the locks. The locks are enormous, but not set up for pleasure boats, so there are only 4 or so places at each lock for a pleasure boat to secure to.

We also have to go under the lowest bridge of the entire 6,000 miles and through a half a mile of electrified water (trying to block out invasive species).

While we have concerns ahead, we found Lake Michigan a magical place and truly enjoyed exploring its shores.


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