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Section 9

Lake Michigan

(August 16 - 29, 1999)

Monday, August 16, 1999.  First of all, today is the day that Lisa writes her comprehensive exams (her qualifying exams in her major field)--everybody wish her good luck!!!

We awoke today to questionable weather.  The weather channel showed a broad band of storms accompanying a cold front passing through the area.  Rather than starting out at 7:00 AM, we wait until 9:00 and evidence from the satellite photos suggests the worst is past (little did we know).  We depart Mackinac Island for the last time and say goodbye to Lake Huron as we pass under the Mackinac bridge into Lake Michigan and formally start our way south. 

The first hour is peaceful as we pass through the Straits of Mackinac, but as we are progressively more and more exposed to the brunt of Lake Michigan, we realize we're in for some weather.  The winds are blowing at 25 -35 knots from the southwest, so they have the entire 300 mile length of Lake Michigan to build a head of steam--and some head it is.  We progressively work our way into 6-8 foot seas with strong headwinds.  Everything that's not nailed down on Interlude is being thrown about.   We work to secure everything that we can.

This weather progresses from bad to worse for almost four hours.  We have to hang on just to hold our position.  No one takes a break, we just weather it out (bad pun).  Eventually, at 2:00 we turn east into Little Traverse Bay and expect some relief, but we only get strong following seas, and we wallow onward until we reach the breakwater of Petoskey harbor.  We call the harbormaster and she has a place for us ready--such blessed relief.  As quickly as we dock, Jan just sits down and collapses,   Bill grabs a beer and joins her.  What a trip.  Hopefully, this is the worst run of the trip.

An aside:  we watched the weather channel and got a good grasp on the storms that were passing the area, but we didn't pay as much attention to NOAA weather--which indicated the strong winds and the high seas.  Probably should have factored both into the equation.  Plus this was one of those occasions where we needed to be someplace at some time.  We are scheduled to be at Walstrom's Marina in Harbor Springs tomorrow afternoon so that they can do some accumulated maintenance on Interlude.  In addition, we plan to drive from Harbor Springs to Grand Rapids and then fly to Tampa for meetings at Sterling on Wednesday.  In short, we let contingencies get in the way of conservative judgment, and we paid the price for it.  Interlude was more than up to the challenge today.  We never for a moment felt the boat could not handle the seas--she's up to far worse.  But, we have a lot of stuff on this boat, and the stuff took a beating.  We try to secure it, but there is only so much you can do.    In the end, little damage was done--a file drawer lock was broken when the drawer came out, and a mirrored wall was cracked.  No big surprise.  But it was scary, and it took its toll on both of us, too.  It kind of lets you know who is still in control of things.

Petoskey is the first of several small towns we'll visit  on Lake Michigan.   This is supposed to be the white collar coast and Petoskey substantiates that supposition.  We find the town has lovely shops and fine restaurants.  Jan is overwhelmed with all the "cottage-type" accessory shops, and Bill has to confiscate her credit cards to prevent a fiscal disaster.  In the end, she's very resourceful, and maintains admirable control.  But this is one fine town.  If someday we have a cottage in northern Michigan,  Jan will spend many happy hours in Petoskey gathering the stuff to make the cottage a comfortable home.

For dinner we settle into  City Park and Grill--a really nice restaurant with a good wine list.  Jan tries the local salmon with an Asian twist.  We walk back to Interlude and notice the winds have died down--it's been a very windy day and we're glad they winds have subsided.

Tuesday, August 17, 1999.  Get a lazy start since this will be our shortest run of the trip, probably by a long shot.  We are moving only to the other side of Little Traverse Bay to Harbor Springs.

We spent a couple of hours finishing our shopping--including the purchase of a couple of items Jan has spotted in a kitchen store.  We also pick up some wonderful bread made with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and feta cheese.  Wow. It's smells wonderful.

The move across the bay is as rough as it was yesterday.  Fortunately, our trip is less than five miles.  As we approach Harbor Springs we call Walstrom Marine for arrival instructions.  We've made arrangements with them, they're Hatteras dealers, for some routine maintenance on Interlude while we're away.  Walstrom directs us down a narrow channel to the head of their long dock.

We make the turn and carefully proceed up the channel between two rows of sister ships--mostly in the "over 50 foot" size range.  It's not too tight, there must be four to six feet of space on both sides of Interlude.  But, our docking assignment is right in front of the Pier Restaurant where not less than 50 people are dining alfresco.  As we get closer, it is apparent we're the show for the day and everybody stops eating to watch us dock.  Interlude's bow is so close to the dining area that we could be serve on the bowsprit (honest!).  Gosh how Bill hates to park in front of an audience--and with a strong wind to our beam, too.  But, Walstrom has good hands on the dock, and we pull in perfectly and without problems. Phew!

As we approach the dock who is standing there but Mike Mahrer.  You may remember, Mike is a "neighbor" in St. Petersburg and we met he and his wife, Nancy, at Gore Bay in the North Channel.  Mike had suggested we consider Walstrom for a stop and routine maintenance.  We did.  And coincidentally, Mike and Nancy were there to greet us--isn't that classy. 

Walstrom has a list of small items to fix--the hour meter on generator #1, a sensor on the same generator, a faulty oil pressure sender on the starboard engine, the leak in the port stabilizer hydraulic system, a squeal in the salon a/c, a bad thermostat in the Scottsman ice maker, etc.  The mechanic they assign to the job, is young, but seems very sharp.  

After working with the mechanic, we call a taxi and drive back to Petoskey to pick up a rental car. 

Before returning to the boat, we decide on a dinner stop, and Jan picks out the Legs Inn in Cross village which is about twenty miles north, but she is sure from her reading that it is worth the stop.  Legs Inn is a one-of-a-kind place, that's for sure.   To begin with, it's Polish and serves Polish food.  OK, we'll try it.   Next, this place has been built, years ago, by an eccentric (there seem to be lots of this type in the north woods).  The place is a log building built in stages, lots of lean-tos.  Inside some beams are straight and true, others are wild and grotesque.   Stumps of trees conveniently form parts of counters and the bar, doors are of strange heights, shapes, and locations.  Rooms have the remnants of trees "growing" in them.   Etc. etc.  Where does Jan find these places?

Well, long-story-short.  We're not wild about Polish food--except for the kielbasa.   But, the restaurant is certainly a conversation piece.   A fun evening.   (Check out the photos.)

Wednesday, August 18, 1999.  We arise at 4:30 AM and quickly pack and leave via rental car for Grand Rapids (a four hour drive) and a flight to Tampa/St. Pete.   At the airport we learn that our flight has been cancelled, but arrangements have been made for us by Delta on United.  We'll be a few hours late but we'll get there.   This is one of the times that it really pays to be a heavy frequent flyer.   Delta has made arrangements for us before we arrived at the airport.  The trip is uneventful and we arrive back in Florida before 5:00 PM.  It will be great to see good friends again, and to help Sterling celebrate it's successful registration as an ISO 9000 Certified Company!  A big job, well done.

Sunday, August 22, 1999.  We return from Tampa, through Cincinnati to Grand Rapids where we find the rental car and drive three plus hours to Traverse City where we meet John and Parsla Mason.  We had dinner with the Mason's in St. Pete on this visit and convinced them to join us for a few days on the boat.  They are able to find tickets directly to Traverse City where we meet them and bring them to the boat.

Monday, August 23, 1999.  We're up by 8 AM and awaiting word from Walstrom Marine about the status of the maintenance work.  No word, by 9:30 so Bill goes looking for the maintenance department which is at another location.  He returns with word that the work hasn't even been started.  Some confusion at Walstrom which leaves us with a week in port and no work done. Nuts!  They agree to call us this afternoon and appraise us as to whether they can at least get the leak in the stabilizers fixed tomorrow.   This is a major disappointment--particularly since we arranged the work more than a month ago, and gave them a full week to get the items completed.  So much for great recommendations.

We spend a couple of hours walking around Harbor Springs and discover that the area is undermined by a number of artesian springs which provide wonderful, fresh water bubbling to the surface.  There are numerous fountains in the area and water fountains which run continuously, including one here in Walstrom Marine.  Cleverly they chose to name this town Harbor Springs rather than Florence on the Rhine, for example.

Tuesday, August 24, 1999.  Today work begins in earnest.  By noon the oil pressure sender on the starboard engine is fixed, the exhaust temperature monitor on generator #1 is replaced, and the port stabilizer pump is removed and sent to a hydraulics company for seal replacement.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that we won't get out of here today--and cancel our plans to dock at Charlevoix tonight.

Parsla and Jan spent the day shopping and returning the rental car.  John and Bill go after the spiders on the boat--Simple Green and some elbow grease take care of most of them.

Wednesday, August 25, 1999.  We get up and depart Harbor Springs after we fuel and do a pump out.  The destination for the day is Charlevoix, a resort town which is only about 15 miles away.  We cruise westward out of Little Traverse Bay into open Lake Michigan.  Lake Michigan is big--with a smooth coast, bluffs, and little population.  We soon find the light and breakwater indicating the entrance to Charlevoix.  

Charlevoix and the surrounding waters are very interesting.  First, from the smooth shore of Lake Michigan which is without much of interest, you enter a channel through the breakwater.  The channel is perhaps a quarter of a mile in length, and not more than 100 feet wide.  There are high banks on both sides, and they are lined with attractive condominiums part of the way.  Three fourths of the way into the channel is a draw bridge which opens on the hour and half hour.  Past the draw bridge is a little more of the channel, then it opens into a small lake which is not more than half a mile across but lined with shops, cottages, Victorian homes and condos.  This is Round Lake.  At the other end of Round Lake is a second channel, of approximately the same width, but only a hundred yards long.  This channel connects Round Lake with Charlevoix Lake. Charlevoix Lake is huge--25-30 miles long in each of two fingers, and miles wide.  There are a couple of towns which abut the Lake, but otherwise it is woods and forest.

The entrance to Round Lake via the channel is a remarkable feeling unlike anything else we've seen or experienced.  First, the lake is completely ringed with civilization, in an area that is essentially wilderness.  Secondly, the developments on the lake are all on a rather steep hillside so the Lake seems to be in a basin--making it all the more intimate.  Third, all the development is upscale and very chic.  While we are the biggest yacht on the lake at this moment, the dockmaster indicated that they'd had four 100 foot plus boats in at the same time earlier in the summer.  The shops here are special and, for change, don't focus on t-shirts or fudge (which have plagued us since Mackinac Island or before). 

Jan and Parsla spend the afternoon strolling the shops with Bill and John tagging along and most "assuming the position".  For those of you who are of the female persuasion who might not know, assuming the position is when the man (men) of the group find the seats near the door, and read Sports Illustrated (or Vogue) while the woman (women) shop.  Some men assume the position automatically...

Late in the afternoon, we borrow the car of the dockmaster (one of the nicest guys we've encountered in our whole trip) and drive John and Parsla back to Traverse City where they'll catch a flight back to St. Pete. On the way to Traverse City, we stop at a road side stand and buy a cherry pie.   We have dinner at their hotel and end a short visit over a feast of wonderful local fish.  We drive back to the Interlude in Charlevoix through road construction (what's new up here?) and a downpour.  We return the car to our dockmaster, and call it a day. 

Thursday, August 26, 1999.  We get up and spend the day doing chores, touring the local waters by dinghy and revisiting some of the shops.  We find a fish store, the John Cross Fish Market, that provides fresh and smoked local fish and buy a whole smoked white fish--should last us for a while.  Indians do the fishing, Mr. Cross smokes and markets the catch.  This market is one of the last of its type in the Great Lakes.

We find all sorts of beautiful housing around this lake including Victoria homes in an area called Belvedere, modern condos three or four stories high, and several Earl Young "mushroom" houses.  These homes are beautiful but hard to describe.   The exterior is stone and wood, some of the stone is very regular, in rows, square cut, etc.,  other areas have stones which are free formed, of varying size, and seemingly growing from the ground up.  Occasionally, there is a huge boulder incorporated, and done some perfectly.  The roof of one of these homes is truly unique.  It curves, freeform, and is highly irregular.  Almost all are cedar shake, and the result is almost a Gnome-like appearance.  The total net result is a very organic dwelling which seems to live very well with its surroundings, and conveys a one-with-the-earth feeling.  We've taken a couple of pictures of them and they're in the "current photo" page.  I wonder what the inside is like.

In short, Charlevoix is a wonderful boating stop.  It would be an equally good stop if you're traveling in the area by car.  We shall return to this spot in the future to explore Lake Charlevoix, perhaps tour one of the mushroom homes, or just to linger a while in beautiful Round Lake. 

Friday, August 27, 1999.  Another tough day.  We got underway about 11:00 AM departing Charlevoix for Northport.  Northport is inside Grand Traverse Bay, near the entrance from Lake Michigan.  Unlike Charlevoix, Harbor Springs and Petoskey, Northport is quaint, tiny, and not much going on.

We spend the day getting caught up on chores.  In the evening we have dinner at Woody's (shades of St. Pete Beach), and enjoy cherry smoked chicken--a pleasant change from our diet of local fish. 

Saturday, August 28, 1999.  We stay in port today in Northport and do chores--Jan works on the wash, Bill works on SRG stuff.  The weather has improved dramatically.  Yesterday it was humid,  hazy,  and overcast.  Today it is cooler, clear, with brilliant sunshine.  For breakfast we went early in the morning to Barb's Bakery--a local tradition, and bought her cinnamon twists--also a local tradition.  Wow!  We had a feeling they would be good when we approached the bakery, and the four benches in front of the shop were fully occupied by folks eating cinnamon twists with cups of steaming coffee.   Since they're closed on Sunday, we bought enough for two days.  There goes the diet.

Sunday, August 29, 1999.  The trip to Traverse City, twenty five miles down Grand Traverse Bay is rough and windy so we put Interlude up on plane at about 20 knots.   It is a much better ride in a following sea and a strong wind coming from aft.   The result is that we make the trip in less than 90 minutes.  We enter the Clinch Harbor Marina in downtown Traverse City, and dock near the end of the breakwater.   It's very rough with seas breaking over the seawall.  Within an hour, the energetic dockmaster has made a place for us back up the seawall more than 200 feet.   It's calmer and much easier on us.  Still, we double our lines to be sure we're snug.

The marina at Traverse City is adjacent to a small zoo, and we walk around it to get into the central business district which proves to be mostly closed since it is Sunday.   We'll go back on another day.

We spend the afternoon preparing the web page update by loading the photos, and doing a quick house cleaning since Lisa and JJ will be joining us in a few days.

Traverse City is an old marina and we can connect to only two 30A 110V circuits.   This provides Interlude with just enough power to get by, if we're careful about what we turn off before we turn something else on.  However, even this precaution seems inadequate as one leg of the resulting 230V connection seems very low.  And we get continual alarms.  Our UPSs are beeping, lights are dim, and some stuff like the A/C don't want to work at all.  Very curious--and as yet, unexplained since the meters on the power distribution panel indicate a full 230V across both lines.  That requires some thinking, and some experimentation to determine the nature of the problem.

Bill has received a proposal from a firm in Ft. :Lauderdale for a "power center" on Interlude which will allow us to plug into "anything" and end up with the maximum 240V 60hertz power available.  It will convert 50hz, it will accept low (or high) voltage--doesn't matter.  The result will be computer-grade 240V, 60hz power.  Very tempting--but very expensive.  However, unless we can find some successful work-around for these ongoing power problems, it may be the most sensible thing to do in the long run, especially if we  want to spend time in the Caribbean where 50hz power is common.  We need to spend some more time with the company on the telephone before we proceed further with the idea.