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Section 8 (continued)

Lake Huron

(August 6 - 15, 1999)

Friday, August 6, 1999.  We purposely depart Mackinaw City for Mackinac Island (beats me why the difference in spelling) at 7:00 AM even though we're only going less than 10 miles.  We want to be in the harbor about 8:00 AM in time for "roll call". 

An aside about boating into Mackinac Island.  This is a very desirable location for boaters, and there are even more boats registered in Michigan than in Florida, and Michigan has only about half the population of Florida.  Mackinac Island must enjoy a million visitors in its short season of 10-12 weeks.  This island is much as it was at the turn of the century--and kept that way on purpose.  There are no cars or trucks,  only bicycles (by the million) and horses--horses pulling taxis, delivery wagons, sightseeing tours, and hotel shuttle services.   Be sure to look at the photos we've taken on the island, to get a sense of what it's like.

The State has the only marina on the island and it isn't large.  To treat everyone equally, they run it like the Gestapo.  When you arrive, you go onto a waiting list.   You cannot put your boat name on the list until you're inside the harbor.   Once you're on the list, you must remain in the harbor to stay on the list.   At 8:00 AM each morning, the harbormaster does roll call to see how many boats remain to accept a slip once boats start to vacate the marina.  You can stay only four nights, and then you cannot return for a minimum of three weeks.  It sounds harsh, and it is, but it is probably necessary to assure equal treatment of a scarce resource to everyone who wants to share it.

The big problem is what to do while you're on the list and waiting for a slip.   Most boats anchor out in the "protected" harbor.  I question the word protected, because it is open to the wakes of the tour boats that tear in and out of here continually--leaving significant wakes.  Anchoring is probably OK even though the bottom doesn't hold well, and it can get crowded.  Other boats elect to tie up to the Coal Dock--now owned or managed by a small hardware store.  We decided to tie up here and wait. This disgusting dock lacks all amenities,  contains stockpiles of building materials, plus a waste heap, and appears unsafe even to walk on.  I did as instructed, and reported to the hardware store once we were tied up.  I am informed that it will cost us $1.50 per foot to tie up and wait our turn to dock in the marina (estimated in this case to be about an hour).  That's more than we've paid almost anywhere to tie up to beautiful docks for the night which provide 100 amp electrical service, cable TV, and water.  We refused to pay and said we'd leave the dock.   In the end, we just sat there, generators running, and didn't quite shove off.   Fortunately, the marina called our name for a slip relatively quickly, and we left.   I guess this is free enterprise at work, but usury is probably a more accurate term.

Once on Mackinac Island, there is lots to do.  We take down the bikes and ride the eight mile circle road around the island.  It is so pleasant because there are only other bikes, a few few roller bladers, and a few horses.  The views are magnificent; it is a perfect day.  The heat has broken, temperatures are in the low 70's and the sky is blue.  In the afternoon, we walk among the shops and find a pleasant place to watch the passing parade.  The shops aren't much--endless t-shirts, fudge (ubiquitous on the island), and souvenirs. But, it's fun to walk up and down the main street.

There is also a restored fort on the island (cleverly named Fort Mackinac), a beautiful old resort called the Grand Hotel, a golf course, and a small airport with air charter service to Pellston.  Last year we used the air charter service and enjoyed the 30 minute ride since it gave us a new perspective on the area.

Mackinac Island becomes a wonderful place when the tourists (day trippers) leave starting around dinner time.  By 9:00 PM, the streets have thinned out, and it is just a great place to stroll.  We found a restaurant which features local fish, and had both wonderful perch and whitefish.  Nice ending.  (Oh, by the way, we also bought some fudge.  They won't let you leave unless you do.)

Saturday, August 7, 1999.  We wake to one of the few rainy days we've experienced in the four months we've been underway.  And it's a pleasant change.   We spend the day doing some of those things which wait for rainy days: little chores, some filing, catching up on the web, reading, etc.

Sunday, August 8, 1999.  After coffee and the Sunday newspaper, we spend the morning doing a thorough house cleaning since we'll be having boat guests this week.   Feels good to really spruce things up.

In the afternoon, we take off on bicycles again.  This time we explore the east and west bluff areas of the island.  These bluffs are hundreds of feet above the level of the lake and afford spectacular views.  On the bluffs are some of the finest Victorian homes to be found anywhere.  We have photos of a couple of them in the Current Photos page.  On our way down we pass the Grand Hotel.  This fine old hotel is a wonderful resort...but it is developing a questionable image in the minds of most visitors to the island.  They won't allow you in the hotel unless you are a guest, and they even charge you a fee to walk on the road in front of the hotel.  They're taking themselves a little too seriously if you ask many people.

In the evening we take dinner at the Mission Point Resort at the other end of the town.   This resort started as a college (that didn't make it).  Now it is the scene of dozens of wedding and meetings on the island.  Our dinner, again, is of local fish which are so good.

Monday, August 9, 1999.  We awake and depart for Hessel in the Les Cheneaux Islands.  We've been here before, but there are new families visiting the cottages and we plan to pick up Rich and Nancy (Jan's brother and sister-in-law) who will travel with us for a few days.

We arrive in the afternoon and spend the next couple of hours pressure washing the bugs from Interlude.  We wonder if it will ever come clean.  We also arrange to have the electrical system on the dinghy looked at since the battery don't seem to hold a charge. While we're working on the clean-up, John  (Jan's brother)and Sherry and their kids come by in the family motorboat, the Funforall.  The Funforall is a Lyman Islander, made of wood in the 1950's, and is a lovely boat.

We chat for a while and agree to return to the cottage in the afternoon by our dinghy for more talk and dinner.  Later, after Rich and Nancy arrive, we make our way to the cottage down the Snows Channel  in the dinghy and spend a great afternoon talking with family.

In the evening, on the dock at Mertaugh's where Interlude is tied-up, we spot muskrat and mink playing on the dock not 50 feet from us.  I don't think we've ever seen mink (alive) before.

Tuesday, August 10, 1999.  We visit the Brobst cottage in Hessel where Jan's cousin,  Lenore Lutz, her husband, Don, and their daughter, and her family are visiting.  Lenore, like Jan, has been coming to this area for "XX" years (a number too big to print!).  Before we leave, we're privileged to tour Lenore's grandfather's cottage across the street from hers.  This cottage is a one-of-a-kind, just as her grandfather was a one-of-a-kind.  Grandpa Brobst, who died well in his 90's some years ago, was a Lutheran pastor and a naturalist.  He knew more about more things in nature than we'll ever know or appreciate.  And the cottage is a virtual museum of his collecting with natural birch bark wall paper, candle holders made from antlers, ancient tools hanging on the walls, collections of Indian arrowheads, etc.   A walk through this cottage is a real treat. 

Lenore's family return to the Interlude with us for a tour.  It's great to see them again and to catch up on their busy lives.

In the afternoon we return to the Ferne cottage near Cedarville.  Jan and Nancy will shop for groceries while Bill helps  to  close it up the cottage for the season.  First the Funforall is hoisted up in the boathouse This year is better than before since the old manual block and tackles have been replaced by an electric hoist system. (If only Dad Ferne could see us now!)  Next a wooden deck built under it. Then the boat is lowered to this deck, winterized, covered with canvas and put to bed. Two years ago, mink got under the canvas and nested in the boat during the winter.  We tie the canvas very tightly this year.

Next we haul the smaller aluminum boat up to the garage, and carry the Sunfish sailboat up there as well.  Dock furniture are also gathered to the garage.  It is a big job, but there are four men to share the load and we make relatively short work of it.   Before they actually pull the doors shut, water  systems will need to be drained, shutters put in place, and other preparations made for the long and cold winter.

Wednesday, August 11, 1999.  We depart Hessel early in the morning heading for Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.  This will be our first visit to Lake Michigan, the fifth of the five Great Lakes we've visited.  Our route takes us from Hessel, out the West Entrance of the Les Cheneaux Islands toward Mackinac Island.  We pass between Mackinac and Round Islands and enter Lake Michigan once we pass under the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced Mackinaw).  This area is the Straits of Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) and it connects Lake Huron with Lake Michigan.  The Straits are perhaps five miles wide and usually rather rough.  We have a smooth passage.  [We'll not call this the beginning of Section 9 of our trip because we plan to return to Hessel and Mackinac Island later in the week.]

The route to Beaver Island is about sixty miles in length and takes us until the early afternoon.  We arrive at the municipal marina and are greeted by a dock master (who knows what's he's doing), 50 amp electrical power, and large pilings.  This is really saying something since Beaver Island is another of those places that time has forgotten.

The village of St. James is charming albeit very small.  The entire 140 square mile island has only 400 permanent residents, and the population swells to only 2000 or so during the summer, so this is one laid-back place. We spend the afternoon visiting the small shops with little luck since most are open only between ten or eleven in the morning and three or four in the afternoon.  We get a late start.  It wouldn't matter for some of the shops though, since they're only open on certain days of the week. 

Beaver Island has a colorful history.  In the mid nineteenth century a group of Mormons under the leadership of James Jesse Strang settled on the island.  Strang made himself king.  He named the town after himself, St. James. As you can see, he was a modest fellow; and was reported to have had all five of his wives pregnant at the same time.  (My kind of guy.)  Later he was killed by one of his followers who had been flogged for committing adultery.  [This plot was later to be used in the Dallas soap opera on television.]  Then his followers were driven off the island, and it was next settled by Irish fishermen.  Fishing was important to the island until fairly recently.  Today there is evidence that the Indians in the area are about the only ones commercially fishing from the island.

Thursday, August 12, 1999.  Today we get an early start at the shops and to our surprise, the Island has some wonderful artisans.  Jan buys a jewelry box hand made from Camphor wood--it's beautiful.  We also visit a boat model maker shop and Bill starts some preliminary discussions about a model of Interlude.  The model maker is interested, and they exchange cards.  We visit a shop that makes lamps and tables from artifacts recovered from wrecks in Lake Michigan--beautiful work.  Maybe a possibility there, too, if we can convince them to ship the objects for us.

Then we visit a canoe maker's shop.  This guy is an American Gothic.  His canoes are among the finest expressions of wood work we've ever seen.  Each canoe is hand made from cherry wood, laminated from strips that may not be more than half an inch wide.  The final product receives hand made cane seats, beautiful inlays of contrasting woods, and many, many coats of clear lacquer.  The finished canoes are too beautiful to put in water; they should be for display only.  Bill suggested to the artisan that he should have a webpage to share information about his extraordinary handiwork.  But the canoe maker declines saying that if others knew about his canoes they might buy them, then he'd have to work harder to make more.  That pretty well sets the tone for this island.

In the afternoon we button up the Interlude as a promised storm passes through.   In the evening we try out a local restaurant overlooking Lake Michigan.  This has really been an interesting stop.

Friday, August 13, 1999.  We awake to questionable weather.  Small craft warnings are out for northern Lake Michigan and the off-shore forecast is for 6-8' seas.  But, once again, we watch the weather radio and see that the front is passing more quickly than NOAA weather radio indicates.  By 9:00am we decide to go.   Bill is pretty conservative when it comes to weather and boat risks, but this seems prudent.  We use the radar to watch the storm cells and make the five hour run without any problems back to Hessel in good shape.

Upon our arrival we note that activities are well underway for the 1999 Antique Boat Show.  This event is held in Hessel each year and features beautiful all-wood boats.   Part of the reason for this is that Mertaugh's Boat Works, the dock where we keep Interlude in Hessel, is the oldest Chris Craft dealer in the world.  Plus, most of the boats in this area are only used for a couple of months each year--so they last a long time.  Well, we watch the activities and see the boats as they start to arrive.

In the afternoon, Norm Brobst, an almost-cousin of Jan's, stops by and we spend a hour getting caught up on each other's lives. Norm went to Capital University at the same time that both of us did, so we have much in common.  It is great to see him again.

In the evening, Don and Lenore Lutz come by and the six of us go to the chicken barbecue put on as part of the boat show.  We eat in a boat storage building which adds to the atmosphere.

Saturday, August 14, 1999.  We have to leave early today, because our dock is to be part of the boat show.  We get us at 6:45 and already the place is buzzing.   Both Norm and Don are standing outside the Interlude waiting to help us get underway.  Seldom have we had such enthusiasm.  We quickly say goodbye to Rich and Nancy, bundle the rest of their luggage to the dock, and shove off.  This is our third and final visit to Hessel on this trip.  It is now, and it always will be a very special place to both of us.

Our plan is to return to Mackinac Island for a couple of days before we begin our formal trip home down the coast of Lake Michigan.  Mackinac Island is fun, energy,e excitement,  why not.  We arrive at 8:15am and have about an hour wait to get a slip--actually the only slip with 50a power.  By 10:00am we're tied up, and Bill gets sick--it comes on like a wave and within an hour he's flat on his back.  So much for a day of adventure on the island.  He sleeps 20 hour straight.

Sunday, August 15, 1999.  A new beautiful day.  Bill feels better--not 100% but much better than yesterday.  We spend a couple of hours reading the Sunday paper, and planning the next couple of weeks of itinerary.  In the afternoon we call Lisa to wish her luck as she writes her doctoral qualifying exams on Monday. We're not concerned, she writes well and is always over-prepared for exams. 

Since Bill is mending, we spend a quite day.

This, regretfully, ends Section 8 of our trip.  Tomorrow we formally "head south" and begin the trip home in a real way.  Lake Huron was our ultimate destination on the odyssey, and we enjoyed every day of our visit.  We've been here so often by car in the past, but no 12 our our earlier trips ever equaled the joy of the way we did it this time.  But, Lake Michigan is the "white collar" side of the state of Michigan and new adventures await us.