Saturday, August 8, 2015

Leaving Lake Erie and Entering Lake Huron!

Lake Erie Metropark Marina, Rockwood, MI, Wednesday, July 22, 2015.

The trip from Put-in-Bay to Lake Erie Metropark was blissfully easy. We definitely chose the right time to travel on this day!
When we got to the Metropark we were directed to a slip shared by a jet ski. The docks are wooden, sort of narrow, but very sufficient for our purposes. We met several of the boaters who dock here, including the man who owns the jet ski. He stopped by to talk…and ask “how in the world did you get from Knoxville to this place?” ;-)
The marina is only a small part of the Metropark. There are over 1600 acres set aside for this park, right along Lake Erie. The park area next to the marina has a fishing pier, which was being well used, a bike/walking trail, picnic pavilions, etc. Looked like there were several neighborhoods on either side of the park…and we saw a lot of people biking along that trail.


Erma Henderson Municipal Marina, Detroit, MI, Thursday, July 23, 2015.

Nice cruising today! We were close enough to the shore to see lots as we went by. We chose to take the Amherstburg Channel from Lake Erie up to downtown Detroit, MI, where we docked at the Erma Henderson Municipal Marina. A few of our views from the water today...
One thing about this course is that we were actually in Canadian waters a lot of the time. That meant that if we started using our phones’ mobile data or made calls…we might incur large fees from our carrier, Verizon. Today we chose to leave the phones off and use a small camera for pictures. ;-)

Entering Detroit on the Detroit River...

The last picture is a  view from our marina slip. Erma Henderson was a great stop for us. There were a lot of boaters out on that beautiful Thursday evening and they were all chatty and friendly. One lady ran from her dock to ours to help us tie up in the slip.

Though we didn’t take a lot of time to walk around the surrounding area, I did walk Lucy out in the nearby park area and it felt like an OK kind of location.

The marina staff was very helpful. We had pizza on our mind for the evening and they gave us several menus, including one from Jets Pizza, which is the one we chose. The marina has a guard gate that requires a code for entry, but we told the 24 hour security guard on duty that we had a pizza delivery coming and the delivery was made right to our dock.

Loved the name on this boat...

As many of you probably already know…Detroit, MI, was my home from 1952-1960…kindergarten through the beginning of the 8th grade. That was back when Detroit was a great place to live, and my memories of it are good.

One especially dear memory is of our neighbors, the Geibs. I spent many a day running around, playing, with either Don (Butchie) or Donna. Though our last face-to-face visit was back in 1985 when I took Mother and Daddy up for a visit to their old friends and places, Donna and I have kept up connections. The connections became garbled and finally lost over the last several years. Moves, cell phones replacing land lines, all contributed to my not knowing how to connect again with Donna as we’re in the area.

It finally occurred to me that Donna might be on Facebook so I asked my sister, Nadine, to do some searching and let me know if she came up with something. She did, indeed! Two phone calls later and I was leaving a message for Donna to call me.

Bottom line: we connected that evening and decided to get together when we get to Port Huron this weekend!

River Street Marina, Port Huron, MI, Friday, July 24-25, 2015.

We left the Detroit area on Friday the 24th and traveled a long, long day to Port Huron. In miles, the trip was not so bad. However, the current on the river, many no wake zones, and dodging other boaters’ wakes slowed us down. Ten hours after leaving Detroit, we got to Port Huron.

First we crossed Lake St. Clair. Water was smooth and the shores were far from sight. As we were leaving the Detroit area and entering Lake St. Clair we heard a broadcast from the Canadian Coast Guard in Sarnia, CA, announcing the closing of the St. Clair River Friday-Sunday, 10-4, between certain coordinates to accommodate a power boat race. The coordinates covered a section from one side of the river to the other, both the US and Canadian waters.

Wayne immediately called the Coast Guard and got the Detroit section on the radio. They confirmed the closure Friday-Sunday. Really?? On further questioning the contact read the official notice, which indeed said the same thing. The notice ended by saying something like “further inquiries should be directed to the Port Huron Coast Guard section.

Wayne hailed Port Huron Coast Guard. Same response: river closed Friday-Sunday for power boat race. Never one to stop until he gets the right answer, Wayne continued to question the young man about the logic of this move to the point that their was a long pause on the radio. Then the Coast Guard representative came back and said, “My superior says the river will be closed on Sunday from 10-4.” Now…why couldn’t they have announced THAT?

Traveling up the St. Clair River we began to see the beauty of Michigan Great Lakes!  The water just kept getting bluer and bluer...

We had chosen the River Street Marina for our stay because it got good ratings on Active Captain (AC) and it looked well positioned for accessing the town. To get to the marina we would go up the Black River a short way, transiting two lift bridges in the process. At the time of day we arrived, the bridges were on an “open every half hour” schedule. When we got to the first bridge it was 20 minutes until 4 o’clock. There was a marina right there with a good price on diesel, so we decided maybe we could get a pump out AND refuel before the 4:30 bridge openings and we would make good use of our wait time.

Little did we know, this was a super efficient marina!! They did the pump out while Wayne and I conducted the fuel up. We were done and outta there in time for the 4 PM bridge!! Just happens that the people who manage this marina also manage the River Street Marina.

This is a gorgeous venue, the River Street Marina. Lots of arty little extras...

Notice the bench in the right foreground...

Bike rack...

The staff, from Mike, the Dock Master, to his able crew of dock hands, is the friendliest, most accommodating group we’ve seen yet.

The marina was said (on AC) to have had a courtesy car…which we were looking forward to since we had an appointment for our furry Lucy to get groomed while there…And we needed another grocery run, a large one, due to my having shopped at the uber chic Heinen’s in Cleveland and my reluctance, there, to blow the budget. ;-)

Well, the courtesy van was supplied by a car rental company that had gone out of business…and the van hadn’t been replaced. That didn’t stop this marina. Individual dock hands ended up escorting us to Lucy’s appointment and to the grocery. My trip home from the grocery this time completely filled up the unsuspecting driver from the trunk, through to the back seat…where we placed groceries on some of his clothes. ;-)

Donna, my friend, came up on Saturday afternoon with her girlfriend, Sharon (who’s always up for an impromptu trip!) After greeting Wayne (Wayne and Donna had never met)and taking a tour of our spacious 32 foot trawler [grin]…Donna, Sharon, and I took off for lunch and a long get-to-know-you again talk. It was wonderful! We fell right into step…and Sharon rounded out the happy threesome.
We went to the Freighter restaurant at the Doubletree Hotel in Port Huron. The food was delicious and we spent a lovely 3 hours talking and watching the Blue Water Bridge and St. Clair River traffic.
After a goodbye at the boat, the ladies took off. Wayne and I had supper from the Fuel Woodfire Grill downtown and it was delicious!

The next morning Wayne and I took off for a walk around town. We walked up to the Coast Guard station, then back, stopping at a hardware store for tidbits. After lunch the dock hands gave me a ride to Kroger where I stocked up on vittles. That tucked away, I went back uptown to see if ANY shops were open…and they were! Browsed around an antique mall and found an old War Dept. Field Manual on Engineer Field Data. (Read, where to place the latrines and how deep to dig, etc.) Should make good collage material!

Port Sanilac Harbor of Refuge, Port Sanilac, MI, July 27, 2015. Easy day up to Port Sanilac, MI. As we came into the harbor we saw our friends from Port Huron! We'd met and talked with them at River Street Marina in Port Huron. The two couples were in two boats traveling together from their home at the bottom of Saginaw Bay down to Port Huron and back. As they left Port Huron we snapped pictures of them in their boats on the river and sent to them by email. So…as they were leaving Port Sanilac that day as we arrived, we took a few more pictures and sent along to them. ;-)

Wayne and Elvia

Joyce and Steve

Port Sanilac has a cute little town just up the hill from the harbor. We were looking for a few things, ice cream as one, of course.
We spied a shop called “Karen’s Creations” with all kinds of “stuff” in the windows and on the sidewalk. Funny, though, it advertised ice cream. Probably the stick variety from a chest freezer…but we were ready to settle for that. We walked inside…and the place looked like ice cream wouldn’t have a chance to survive in here, freezer or not. There were racks of clothes everywhere, do-dads crammed into corners and on the floor…it was a tad warm and dark inside. We moseyed up to the service counter, still wondering what’s with the ice cream sign, when we see “Karen” and behind her a list of ice cream flavors for dip serve. Really???, we asked! Oh, yeah, she says as she up-ends the service counter and reveals a large ice cream freezer with kegs of flavors sitting inside. Strangest thing we’ve ever seen for an ice cream venue…but it was good ice cream!
We walked on down the way, after making quick work of the ice cream. It was a bit warm that day!

We also had to see “Michigan’s oldest hardware, established in 1850! Looked like a place you could wile away an hour or two browsing.

This is a beautifully maintained Chris Craft docked at Port Sanilac.  The owners used to live in Asheville, NC, and retired up here.  They've never looked back!  ;-)

Loved this sign in the marina office concerning Aliens!

Later that afternoon I walked up to deposit some mail in the post office.  Then I sought out the local library, of course.  They had a good book sale/giveaway going on and I got a couple of small items.

As I left the library I stopped to talk with the two women at the main desk.  I told them we were visiting the area...and that led to where we came from and how we got to Port Sanilac.  Before I left, they had pulled out an atlas and had me guide them along our route up to here.  Gotta love that about librarians! ;-)

Walking back towards the marina I saw, what looked from the distance, a sign by the sidewalk and 3 girls trying to drum up business for something.  Since it was a hot day, I was hoping it was lemonade and I would make them very happy!  Turns out they were selling face painting.  Well, I talked them into a hand decoration instead...and took advantage of their "first person to buy gets it for 75 cents" instead of for a dollar.

Harbor Beach Marina, Harbor Beach, MI - July 28-29, 2015

Another “smooth as glass” ride on Lake Huron today. We got better than 8 mph because of that. So little wind that we had teeny tiny bugs all over the boat by the time we docked, around 1 PM, at Harbor Beach Marina.

Not a bad stop at all! We’d heard and read criticism of the location because it’s “so far” from town. The marina offers the services of a courtesy van, so we figured if it got too hot (or we ate too much) we’d call for a ride home.

As soon as we had hooked up power and everything, we went up to the marina office and paid for our night’s stay. With directions from the staff, we then lit out on that bike trail, headed for Harbor Beach and lunch. Turns out, it’s an easy walk (we’d estimate under a mile) along a bike path and mostly shaded.

We lunched at Al's Restaurant, splitting a perch dinner (yummy!) that came with a full salad bar and we ordered a side salad (total bill $12).  Indulged in ice cream at the Anchorage next door when our waitress at Al's told us here daughter worked there and "it was really clean!"

While Wayne was finishing up his ice cream, I walked over to the library, a regional library, and bought a tote bag.  Talking with the staff there I learned that it served various area townships and the local school system.  Looked like a nice, well-rounded collection from first glance.

The sunset that evening was beautiful...

Port Austin State Harbor, Port Austin, MI, July 29-31.
Left Harbor Beach at 5:35 AM on July 29, a personal best for us on this trip.  We wanted to get out and "over" before winds moved in during the afternoon/evening.  Red skies at night, sailor's delight; red skies in the morning....sailor's warning.  We're reading them loud and clear!

Made it to Port Austin by 9:30 with pleasant waters to assist.  And as we came into Port Austin...Yes!  Our new friends were there getting to leave for their trip down Saginaw Bay!  I accused them of timing all this so we could chronicle their trip in pictures.  We settled this time for some group shots...and they reciprocated taking pictures of us as we tied up. ;-)

 Let me start by saying that we have NEVER seen a cleaner marina...anywhere, ever!  

Dock hands are out cleaning off the power pedestals daily with 1) duster 2) wet sponge.  Every day! Power pedestals seem to be the last things marinas maintain.  It's not at all unusual to find wasp nests, spiders, bird get the picture.  And the laundry here at Port Austin State Harbor?  Well, it's FREE, my friends.  Not only that, they have 2 sets of washer/dryers.  One is a stacked set, normal size.  The other one is a brand spanking new set by Kenmore, 600 series.  Oh, I've got my eye on this duo!  Anyway...I took advantage of the situation and cleaned up all our laundry while here.  ;-)

This is a great setting for a marina...

Nice beach and park right next door...

After a stroll through town that day, Wayne came back to the boat to see about the generator, which hadn't started this morning when he was ready for oatmeal on the trip up.  He talked with Mark, the guy who had installed the unit, and they decided it needed a new fuel filter.  Much of that afternoon was spent figuring out how and where to get that filter.  We finally located one in a nearby town, Bad Axe, MI, and had arranged for a commuter bus to pick us up at 8:15 the next day.  (Fare was 2.50 each way, per person.)

Meanwhile, I walked around some more in town.

Next morning, Thursday, July 30, we were out early and looking for the bus, which picked us up at the marina.  It took about an hour each way...with a 1.5 hour wait in-between buses.  We saw a lot of upper Michigan, though, on that bus ride.  Lots of agriculture going on.  Passengers on the bus obviously used it often because many of them knew each other.  It was a slice of life kinda day for us...just what we like.

Bad axe is small, even though the county seat for Huron County.  We had a late breakfast at the Peppermill Restaurant after picking up the generator fuel pump.  In no time at all we were back at our bus stop waiting for our ride home.

And...ya gotta love the name: Bad Axe!

The next day, Wayne installed the new filter.  I went up to the library for a visit.  Lovely reading room...with an adjacent garden area for sitting.

And...their paying for artists to display!!!

The Lake Warriors (sea-do riders) came in for the night... They were going all the way up and down the Lake Huron coast to raise money for a charity.

That evening we joined some new friends, Jim and Peggy on Oui Cherie, on their boat for happy hour.  The skies had blustered up and looked stormy...but we decided it would probably blow over.  Wrong!! We were on the enclosed bridge when it hit and it packed a punch of wind and rain!

Later that evening a group was out on the harbor walk trying to deploy some luminaries.  Unfortunately, it was too windy.  Pretty sight, never the less...

Harrisville Municipal Marina, Harrisville, MI. August 1-2. 

Oh! My! Harrisville!!

OK, so the trip up here from Port Austin on Saturday the 1st of August was uncomfortable. Not scary, just uncomfortable. We looked at the weather forecast, as usual, and timed our departure to avoid, what we saw, as the worst of the day for travel. That, by the way [wink, wink], gave us an opportunity to visit the wonderful Port Austin farmers’ market!

We came away with tomatoes, blueberries, lettuce, cucumbers, peaches (SC), onions, maple syrup…and donuts!

For the first 3 hours of our trip we had waves, 1-3 feet. Had to hold on with both hands FOR SURE while walking…and often braced in our seat when not walking. We varied the direction, the speed…nothing really helped a lot. Finally, the wind settled down and we had a smoother ride,…and biting flies for the last 3 hours. At one point we went to the inside helm (sans autopilot) and drove by compass heading.

We also avoided a number of storms, purely by chance. They were cropping up all over that day...

At last we made it into the marina. What a scenic place!

Harrisville...I am feelin’ it!!!

Peaceful evening, knowing we were staying here the next day due to impending rough weather.

Next day, Sunday, storms were to come in around noon. We walked into town that morning and checked out the few places open. One was the Flour Garden, which had the most amazing beer collection ever. We chose a 6-pack for the stash. I couldn’t resist recording some of the carton art:

Neat little town. Notice the street lights that look like boat navigation lights...

A winding path down the town’s sidewalks...

View from the town to the lake...

We went back to the boat for a check on windows, lines…then headed back up to town for lunch at the Old Place Inn. Building dates back to 1870, and it’s been a number of things like home to a sheriff, boarding house…and finally, a great little restaurant.

We split a perch dinner and added an extra salad/soup bar. Delicious! We followed up with ice cream at the Alcona Coffee Company and Ice Cream Parlor. We then walked back to the Flour Garden for wine, and to the grocery store to pick up 2 flats of bottled water.

Then we called the marina to see if they could pick us up before the storm set on us. No answer. After several tries, I ran back to the marina and asked the harbor master to send the courtesy van up for Wayne and our loot. He was occupied for the moment, but said he would run right up there in a minute. I went on to the boat to put Lucy in her thunder jacket and wait for Wayne.

Turns out, the harbor master had sent someone out to get Wayne…but they didn’t get there. Instead, a fellow at the market gave Wayne a ride back to the marina.

In the meantime…we had the worst storm come through that we’ve ever seen on the boat. I was in the boat and Wayne was at the market. Thunder, lightening, wind, rain…it had it all. Pretty exciting…while sitting tied up sound to a dock!!

The power went off in the marina…and looked like it was off all over town. Later that evening we started the generator and studied for the next day and possible departure for Presque Isle (presk eel, up here).

Alpena Municipal Marina, Alpena, MI, August 3-6

OK…Monday, August 3…this is when we left Harrisville and ended up being towed to Alpena, MI.

Alpena is a great place to get caught! We hadn’t really considered coming here because of the distance into and out of the bay (over 20 miles round trip).

We have a grocery store right beside the marina, a yogurt bar only blocks away, a great restaurant called Fresh Palate from which we had lunch twice and (because the sandwiches were so large) supper. ;-) What more could a cruiser want?

Oh, yes, and we’ve met some super people. Rich, one of the two guys who manage the marina, and captain of the Maverick boat that towed us to the marina, is a font of information about mechanical issues, where to find parts, etc.; Beau, captain of a NOAA research vessel docked here and doing classes for an area college, has traveled in Lake Superior and gave us some great information about stops along the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; Dave, who took a commercial fishing boat hull and built a live-aboard boat. Dave also helps with the college classes. His boat has logged the most experience gathering data on micro plastics in the Great Lakes; and Rick, a sailor from Charleston, SC, and his Jack Russell, Ryla.

Donna Baxter’s daughter Kelly lives in Alpena with her husband, Chuck, and her daughter Erin. I met Erin and Donna downtown Alpena on Thursday afternoon and we spent a couple of hours shopping downtown. Then we went over to the new Meijer’s store in town…fantastic place!
On Thursday evening, they all came over to the boat for a visit and we spent a raucous couple of hours laughing and getting to know each other.

Erin, who’s entering the 9th grade this year, is an artist in her own right. She draws beautiful medallion shaped designs that I would call mandalas. I’m going to share some resources with Erin and am trying to convince Donna and Erin to come down next summer for a week’s visit!

Found some great little shops in Alpena! One was Traveling Ladders that took it’s name from the tall ladders that run along the wall to access high items…like in libraries or hardware stores. They have so much STUFF there that I would love to have for art purposes…but, of course, we don’t have room for a lot more art supplies on the boat. ;-) So…I limited my purchases to 2 player piano rolls (75 cents each after 75% off sale), a book of stained glass designs, and earrings. It took a lot of restraint. Turns out, the woman who shares ownership of the store with her husband, is an artist. She has a studio upstairs…and a store full of materials with which to work!! I was green!!

The large antique mall in town held this jewel. Why would there be a schnauzer there? I wonder!

The views of the marina and their HUGE flag here have been wonderful!!!

Alpena harbor and lift bridge...

On Friday, August 7, 2015, we left Alpena…and the waters were totally benign.

All the way up to Presque Isle, MI. And what a place this is!!! Talk about remote and beautiful! We chose to anchor instead of enter the harbor nearby. First time we’ve anchored since the Hudson River! There’s something about “being on the hook” that is so relaxing...

The water is so clear...

We took Lucy into shore at the nearby dock and met locals, Lynda and Wally. They live here during the summers and in the mountains of Georgia during the winter.

There were so many neat rocks there!! And Erin had told me about the Petroskey rocks...
Petoskey Stones
On certain Lake Huron beaches, as, more famously, along the state’s Lake Michigan shore, hikers might turn up a geologic treasure: the Petoskey stone, actually fossilized remains of colonial corals that existed 350 million years ago in the tropical seaways that sloshed over present-day Michigan in the Devonian Period. Thus, they are relics of ancient reefs, smoothed over the vast expanse of time by currents. They were transported from outcrops of Alpena Limestone around Little Traverse Bay -- the vicinity of the stone’s namesake town -- to points beyond by continental glaciers.

I asked Lynda about the stones. She described them…and I found one! I’m looking forward to finding more over our stay here.

Tomorrow looks a little blustery…so we’ll likely stay here until Sunday, at least. Yes!

So, as I finish this long, long entry we are still in the vicinity of Presque Isle, but we moved this morning to the bay just north of here called, wait for it: North Bay.  The winds had picked up over night and somehow we found ourselves facing the wind...but taking waves on the beam.  Well, you already know how we feel about that!

We took Lucy into shore as a group from the area was getting ready to do their "open water swim."  Air temperature was in the 50's...water temp?  Not sure.  But I'll bet it's chilly.  Hardy souls up here!!

Fought some waves as we left Presque Isle harbor and rounded the bend to North Bay.  But we've found a great spot, tucked into 10 ft. of water with sandy beaches to land the dinghy.  Hoping we can leave tomorrow and start our trek towards Lake Superior.  We'll see.  Looks kind of iffy right now.

Meantime, take a gander at this place!  We're the only boat in the bay.

If you look closely, you might be able to see the lighthouse in the background...

Wayne thinks we've finally gotten an infinity pool!

And the beach is perfect for Lucy.

I picked up this t-shirt for Wayne in Port Huron the day Donna came to visit.  This just about says it!

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