Return Lake Michigan

The last time we were on these waters was in July of 2002 on our sailboat, Beau Soleil, when we went in the opposite direction!

We finally were able to leave Killarney with the rain and wind behind us at last. We cruised approximately 35 miles and tucked into an anchorage for the evening. The waves were pretty nasty out there, but once in the anchorage we were settled in. We were the only boat there. The next morning we pulled up the anchor and went to South Benjamin Island, a spot that we loved when we were sailing in 2002. It is probably the prettiest anchorage in the North Channel. We had a lovely sunset and enjoyed the beautiful rock formations here. We would have loved to stay longer in the Benjamin Islands, but because we got stuck in Killarney, we needed to get moving in order to make our Milwaukee schedule.

The Benjamin Islands are the most popular destination in all of the North Channel. Formed from beautiful pink granite, they provide a rocky refuge for the cruising sailor. The two principal islands, North Benjamin and South Benjamin, are skirted by a number of smaller rocks to the southeast, known as The Sow & Pigs and The Boars.
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The Benjamin Islands

The Benjamin Islands


Once we left South Benjamin Island we headed entered the Straits of Mackinac and headed to St. Ignace (pronounced “ignis”), located across from Mackinac Island. Once again, the weather was bad. What an incredible stretch of bad weather we have been having. Wind, rain, gloom. We ended up spending three nights there; again taking a bite out of our schedule. The good news is that we took a ferry over to Mackinaw Island and spent the day there. It was my first time there. It is a charming island where new motor vehicles are allowed. There are over 500 horses there – primarily draft horses which are used to pull carriages for all of the tourists. We took a carriage ride of the island, which was really quite informative. The homes on the island are quite beautiful. Many are Victorian in style. Also on the Island is the Grand Hotel. It has over 300 rooms, none of which are decorated the same. It also lays claim to the largest porch with rocking chairs. If you are not a guest of the hotel, you can pay $10 to walk inside. You can easily spend a couple days exploring the island. Mark and I will probably get back there some time – we would love to take our granddaughters there someday. The funniest thing we saw – Yep, a UPS delivery man via horse and cart!
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I also celebrated my 61st birthday in St. Ignace! Woohoo!! Had a wonderful dinner of Whitefish at the Galley restaurant. What did I get for my birthday? Mackinaw Fudge, of course!!

We left St. Ignace, went under the Mackinac Bridge and left the Straits of Mackinac and entered Lake Michigan heading to Charlevoix, Michigan. It was a calm day on the lake. And, guess what we had? Sunshine!! I took advantage of the nice day to wash the boat while underway. We have a “sea water wash down” on the boat, so I can hook up a hose and use the lake water to wash the boat. It took me three hours! There were many thousands of dead little bugs all over. Keeping a boat clean is no easy task. I just finished washing the boat when we got to Charlevoix.

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge


Mark tries Whitefish Livers - good, but very rich!

Mark tries Whitefish Livers – good, but very rich!

Once docked we met up with Don and Anita from Limelight. Anita and I took a walk to see the “Mushroom Houses”. These were houses that were designed by an architect by the name of Earl Young. They are very beautiful with wavy designs in the stone and roof. We then had “cocktails” with a group of other Loopers. I invited Don and Anita back to the boat to celebrate both Don and my birthday’s. In short, it got a little crazy and fun was had by all.
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Mark and I left the next day and headed to Luddington, MI. We anchored there for the evening. There was another Looper boat there – Halcyon. There were two couples on board along with a hound dog which would bay from time to time. The next morning we took off at 7:00 a.m. and headed across Lake Michigan to Sheboygan. It was a good day to cross, taking us seven hours.

We spent two nights in Sheboygan. Here we met our Looper friends, Anita and Don from Limelight. Their home is in Manitowoc and they drove down to have dinner with us. We had a wonderful evening. It would be the last time we would see them for some time. Don and Anita had just finished their two year journey doing the Loop and were getting ready to cross their wake.

Limencello!

Limencello!

Milwaukee – here we come! We had a lovely day to make our 46 nautical mile leg from Sheboygan to Milwaukee. It was an unusual feeling of familiarity seeing the shoreline down to Milwaukee, and then the Milwaukee skyline as we neared. Mark and I are both from Wisconsin and lived in downtown Milwaukee. We had sailed these shores many times on our sailboat. While in Milwaukee it was planned to visit friends and also Heather, Ellie and Anna. We thought it would be about five days – we stayed a week and a half! But what a wonderful time we had visiting with everyone. I am pretty sure that I packed on an additional five pounds there with all of the eating and drinking! On Friday, 8/29 we had a gathering of 22 friends. Most of them joined us on the boat for a drink before heading off to our friends, Jean and Scott Hickey. There we continued with the libations; catching up with one another. Some we had not seen for several years. It is so amazing how even though you may not see people for a long time, but when you do it is as if you had just been with them. This is what good friendship is. It was so fun to have everyone on the bow of the boat – a wonderful memory for Mark and I.

The Denis Sullivan

The Denis Sullivan

The Familiar Milwaukee Skyline

The Familiar Milwaukee Skyline


We were fortunate to be able to spend time with Heather, Ellie and Anna as well. They only live about an hour and a half from Milwaukee, so they came down for a couple of days. We were able to go to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the Kadzinsky exhibit; Heather’s favorite artist. Pizza at Zaffiro’s – yum! It was fun to spend time with them. Ellie spent one night on the boat with us. During the night, she woke us up because she was frightened at new sounds she was hearing – I think she thought it was Sirens calling! What it turned out to be was “wind in the rigging” of sailboats surrounding us. Once she was assured there were not ghosts, she went back to sleep. Ellie also accomplished a major feat – she learned from Papa how to tie a Bowline knot! Very impressive and she is quite proud of herself, as she should be. I still screw that up! The girls are growing so quickly and I relish every moment being with them when we can. They are beautiful and so bright! Anna has such an incredible sense of humor. She always makes me laugh. Anna says that we have too many friends because we are always so busy with people. I told her that there are NEVER too many friends!! We are so fortunate to have friends in many areas of the United States that we will always remain in touch with. Can you believe it – somehow we managed NOT to get a photo of Heather, the girls and us! Bummer. We will have to get together again somewhere along the way to get that taken care of!
Selfie by Anna

Selfie by Anna

Papa teaching Ellie to tie a Bowline Knot

Papa teaching Ellie to tie a Bowline Knot

I've done it!

I’ve done it!

Milwaukee at Night through the Porthole

Milwaukee at Night through the Porthole

My sister, Shirley came for a visit

My sister, Shirley came for a visit

Anna and Ellie outside of the Milwaukee Art Museum

Anna and Ellie outside of the Milwaukee Art Museum

On Labor Day weekend, Sunday, we were invited to our friends, Jeff and Inna Germanotta’s home on North Lake where we again spent time with friends from Mark’s US Bank days. It was a beautiful day on the lake. Inna ordered a fabulous cake decorated in a nautical theme. It’s the best cake I have ever had!! A fun day to enjoy brats, corn, beer and wine and a cruise on the pontoon boat. Thanks Jeff and Inna!

We saw another boat at the dock which is doing the Loop. I went over and invited them over for cocktails. Their names are Sylvi and Simon from Quebec on their Ranger Tug, Seamont. We had heard about them from Anita and Don, who had spent time with them along the way. They are French Canadian and are not fluent in English, but do get by quite well. We managed to arrange a night out with them to a lovely French bistro, Pastiche. It was wonderful and they so enjoyed having some typical French bistro food and wine. We look forward to seeing them again somewhere along the way. Sylvi is still working, but has taken a year off from her teaching job to do the Loop. I just received an email from them this morning and I had to laugh at some of the spelling of words from Simon!

We finally left Milwaukee to head to Chicago. Guess who came back on board for a few days?? Yep, Andy Horn. He wanted to see an area where those crazy jumping carp are located. He didn’t see any carp, but had some other interesting adventures! We stayed at Winthrop Harbor, located on the Wisconsin Illinois state line where we had someone take a look at our Direct TV and television satellite system which has not been working for months. They were unable to solve the issue – long story – so we have decided to wait until we reach Florida to have someone there come to get it operating. We are able to get local channels from time to time, and quite frankly, we haven’t missed TV.

Unfortunately, we were not able to stay at DuSable Marina, located next to Navy Pier in Chicago. This was perhaps fortunate for Mark – no shopping in Chicago for Pauline. :{
Instead we went down to Hammond Indiana and stayed at the marina there. Andy and Mark lowered the mast one more time to get us under the one and only low fixed bridge the next day. We were up at 6:30 to leave the Great Lakes and open water for while and begin our river adventure. There was little traffic and some prospective obstacles proved to be imaginary. However, one that we did not anticipate caused us a 3-1/2 hour delay. As many of you know, there is a fish (Asian Carp) that has invaded America’s river system and authorities are desperately to keep it out of the Great Lakes. To accomplish this they have set up an electric 1/4 mile long barrier which charges the water and the fish won’t swim through it. However, pleasure and commercial boats can proceed right through. When we arrived at the barrier we were told that it was going to be shut down for four hours and that we should tie up to a very rough rock wall to wait it out, which we did. Three and a half hours later, they stopped working to allow the boats accumulating up and downstream of the barrier through. We had one more delay before reaching our destination of Joliet, IL; tying up to the free town wall/dock. The Joliet street bridges that cross the Illinois River are too low for us to get underneath, even with our mast down. And, during evening rush hour they will not open them for any boat traffic. We and another other boats circled for another hour upstream of the bridges waiting for the appointed hour at which they would open the bridges. We arrived at the wall about 7:00 p.m., a 12+ hour day.

The next day Andy and Mark re-erected the mast and Andy caught a train back to Milwaukee. We decided to spend one more night instead of departing mid-day on our Illinois River journey. That night the entire midwest was “blessed” with a very strong weather front that resulted in 5-8 inches of rain, and most of the locations on the Illinois River and Mississippi Valley’s. You guessed it, we were not “blessed” with flooded rivers in front of us. Due to the high water and debris (large trees) no in the river system, we decided to wait an additional day before getting underway. Let us tell you, Joliet is not a city where one wants to be on the streets after dark. Drug deals going on in the parking lot just outside of the boat. Needless to say, Pauline ended up cooking for a couple of nights!

My apology for the very lengthy blog – I’ve gotten very behind and now have to play catch-up. Hope you enjoy it!

Next time, the River journey begins . . . .

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3 thoughts on “Return Lake Michigan

  1. Hey you two….we have been in Ludington for the past two weeks…missed you by a couple of days. The weather is still a challenge here….glad you aren’t on that lake today.

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    • We just got off of the Mississippi today, and glad of it. Entered the Ohio, but will only be on that for a bit before we hit the Cumberland (33 miles) and then the Tennessee. I doubt that we will be able to get together, but let us know if you are anywhere nearby. We simply cannot guarantee where we will be when.

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