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Section 9 (continued)

Lake Michigan

(September 1 - 9, 1999)

Wednesday, September 1, 1999.  Wow, another month.  We're now 4-1/2 months into our trip. Today we returned from a quick trip to St. Petersburg for business.   Arrived back in Traverse City in mid-afternoon; it's good to be home.  We spent some time on some maintenance chores that were hanging over from when we left--specifically the ice maker and the sink. 

We've had trouble with the ice maker--but it has been intermittent.  Very frustrating--it makes ice, then it won't, then it tries again.  I thought it was finally dead but last week it started trying again.  Finally, we associated the pattern with the weather--when the weather turned cool, it started trying again.   Well, what if the air flow to the cooling cools on the evaporator aren't getting enough air?  When it's cool, it might compensate better than when it's hot.   Sure enough, after Bill dismantled the case, we found the evaporator fins packed with dust.  Fortunately, we have a shop vac on board, and after a thorough cleaning, it's working like a champ again.  Great, our martinis can be over the rocks again--I hate them warm.

Next, just before we left Jan lost an earring down the overflow opening in the sink in the master stateroom.  We dismantled the sink's plumbing, and with a fish tape managed to chase the earring out undamaged.  But we left the reassembly until we returned since we didn't have any plumber's putty to reseat the drain in the bottom of the sink.  A quick stop at Home Depot in St. Pete got the necessary supplies, and upon our return we reassembled the sink, complicated by tight working conditions due to the port engine exhaust line running immediately under the sink, and it also works.   We're batting two for two--not bad for amateurs.  Tomorrow, we take a serious look at the electrical problem described earlier--Bill has some ideas for that, too.

Thursday, September 2, 1999.  A full day in port--a nice luxury.  We spent the day catching up on things which have been neglected.  Bill worked on the electric and decided that the problem is on the dock and not one of the isolation transformers on board.  In the afternoon, it is so warm that we turn on a generator,close up, and fire up an air conditioner.  The town of Traverse City is pleasant and a nice walking area.  We have dinner at the Mackinaw Brewing Company.

Both Northport and Leland indicate we can move their way and find dockage (the season is coming to an end, even though it's Labor Day Weekend).  So tomorrow, after Lisa and JJ arrive, we'll head to Northport. 

Friday, September 3, 1999.  Lisa and JJ arrive before noon, as we were finishing up another major assault on the spiders.  We depart before noon and arrive back into Northport by 2:00 PM.  What an easy day, and the water is as flat as a pancake. Since Lisa and JJ had gotten up about 4:00 AM, they took naps along the way.   We anchored well back on the same east wall as before, and with a little finagling were able to secure two 50a circuits.  Since the temperature will top 90 today, we want air conditioning especially for the night.  This is much better than Traverse City where we could secure only the equivalent of one 30a/240v circuit.

For hors 'd'oeuvres we open a bottle of cherry wine that Rich and Nancy had brought.   It is a specialty of the Traverse City area (cherry capital of the world).   The wine is surprisingly good, and goes well with the smoked white fish we had bought in Charlevoix and saved for the kids' arrival.  Jan also fixed a mix of dried cherries, dried cranberries, nuts and salty snacks which was a big hit.

After dinner, we talked and planned our courses for the next couple days.   Everybody turns in early.

Saturday, September 4, 1999.  We move midmorning to Leland.  Leland is an interesting town.  First the marina is just stuck-on the coast of Lake Michigan, almost crudely.  But, beside the marina a small river flows into the Lake, and it is along a short section of this river that the character of Leland is found.  First, there are a bunch of small shacks called "Fishtown"--now mostly boutiques, they were the original settlement in the area.  Local Native American fishermen still bring their catch into this area where there is a fish store and smoke house.  Makes the place smell good when the wind is blowing right.

Slightly further up the stream are a couple of restaurants and small hotels or B&Bs.  We had lunch, overlooking the river and a small dam which allows water to cascade nearby creating pleasant ambiance.  The "Current Photos" page shows   this area.

Our marina also berthed one of the local Native American fishing boats.  Be sure to look at the photo to see what these really ugly boats look like.  In theory, they're unsinkable--but who wants to find out.  Guess that comes with being a professional fisherman.  I attempt to describe how these boats work in the photos.

We "did the shops" in Leland, and there were plenty to do.  It is Labor Day weekend, and the place is crawling with people.  In the evening, we fixed a wonderful fondue.  You may remember fondue from the 70's.  Well, we still do it.   We use aged Emmenthaler and Gruyere cheeses, the real stuff--and we found some wonderful locally made baguettes.  Wow, it's great, and a wonderful social meal that can take hours.  We drank young Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio which was a perfect complement.

Sunday, September 5, 1999.  We get up leisurely, and by midmorning begin a short trip to South Manitou Island, about 15 miles off shore.  This island used to be a refueling stop for lake steamers.  Today, there is only an abandoned lighthouse, and some trails leading to primitive campgrounds.  But, there is also a deep and well-protected harbor shaped like a bowl.

Upon arrival at South Manitou Island, we anchor the boat in 30 feet of water and launch the dinghy, and Lisa and JJ take off exploring.  They eventually go all the way around the island which is more than three miles in diameter, and enjoy the perfect weather.

While the kids are exploring, Bill uses SCUBA gear on board to dive under the boat and inspect the bottomside.  He's wanted to do that for more than a month, but for a variety of reasons, postponed it.  Today, in a quiet harbor, in deep clear water, he gives the underside of Interlude a thorough inspection.  Results: propellers and in perfect shape--no dings, nothing bent, and with a little help from a Scotchbright pad, are now polished clean.  All the through-hulls (openings in the bottom of the boat to let water in and or out, are all clean, free of debris or barnacles, and show no sight of Zebra Mussels.  The shafts look fine, the spurs (blades on the propeller shafts which will cut ropes or lines we might run over) are sharp and OK, but appear to have been used.   The transducers (transmitters which broadcast the sonar signals of the depth sounders are cleaned and look fine.  The paddle wheels (small bladed wheels which spin when water moves across them and provide distance and speed information to Interlude's instruments) are cleaned and working fine.  The stabilizers (large fins located amidships which work hydraulically to prevent the boat from rolling in heavy seas) appear to be fine though the port fin is looser than the starboard fin.  We'll have that checked when we pull the boat from the water.  The paint job is tight and in good shape, though there is a covering of slime over most of the bottom--this slime is too difficult (and way too big) to remove underwater, so we may want to have the boat pulled and pressure washed before long.  The bow thruster appears to be perfect, though it is missing much of the paint from the blade--that's not surprising, I guess. Finally, the trim tabs appear to be fine and tight.  Good news.  The only evidence of wear and tear is that the paint is missing from the bottom three inches of the keel--a tribute to the shallow water in the Intracoastal Waterway in Georgia where we hit bottom a couple of times early in the trip.  There is no evidence of damage to the keel--just missing paint.  All in all, a better report than we might have hoped for after 4000 miles of almost daily use.

About 4:30pm we return to Leland and re-dock at the same slip.  We have dinner at Bluebird's--a local tradition since the 20's.  The local fish is great, as usual. After dinner, we watch Casablanca, the classic film.  Lisa and JJ and brought two new movies for us on DVD.  The film is terrific.  "Here's looking at you, kid."

Monday, September 6, 1999.  This is Labor Day and the weather has turned foul.  A strong front is working its way across Lake Michigan and boats are laying low.  Waves on the open lake will be huge.  We spend a quiet day reading and doing things domestic.

Lisa and Jan do some minor shopping and come across a "goodbye fudgies" party.   The locals' way of saluting the tourists (fudgies) who have filled their coffers all summer and are now leaving in droves.  The term fudgies comes from the fact that tourists buy obscene quantities of fudge which locals produce.  Don't know why it's such a big hit up here, but we find these fudge shows in every town, no matter how small.  

In the evening, we have dinner at the Cove--the upstairs restaurant over the alfresco patio where we had lunch our first day here.  Local fish again, an owner who sounds glad to have things calming down.  After dinner, the second movie--Shakespeare in Love.  Lisa tries hard to find movies which suit both of us--I like nitro and automatic weapons, Jan prefers the more romantic types.  Shakespeare in Love is short on pyro but a really great movie...so the kids have done well, twice!

Tuesday, September 7, 1999.  The weather is calm and the front well to the east, and we start early for Frankfort, 40 miles to the south.  The trip is smooth and pleasant.

Shortly after leaving Leland we pass the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.  For some unexplained geologic reason, this area has enormous sand dunes at the edge of Lake Michigan.  These dunes rise as much a 400-500 feet above the water and make an impressive sight.  While the sun wasn't in perfect position, you can still see some of the effect in the photos in the "Current Photos" page.

We enter Frankfort and dock at the Jacobson's Marina--a nice facility which is almost totally empty.  The season is over.  They're glad to see us.  The dockmaster is very helpful and provides the telephone number of a local rental car company.  We called this company and they said they'd bring the car to the dock.   When we're done with it, we simply leave it at the dock, and the keys with the harbormaster.  Not bad, huh? 

About 4:00 PM we drive JJ to the Traverse City airport for his trip home.  His classes at Harvard start tomorrow. (Lisa is in the PhD program and her classes don't start for several days.  JJ is in the MBA program and his classes start earlier.)  It takes an hour to drive to Traverse City, but we make it in good time, and see JJ off.   It has been good to have him on board again.

We arrive back at the Interlude about 7:30 PM and have dinner at a local bar.  Food isn't much, but sitting on the deck overlooking the marina is very pleasant.

Wednesday, September 8, 1999.  We awake today to wind, rain and a cold front passing from west to east (again).  A fine day to stay inside and read, work on the web, or do something else in the way of catch-up.  We've been warned that by Saturday the highs will be in the 50's--so Fall is upon us.  However, this marina actually has a phone line workstation setup so we can access e-mail, the web, pay bills, etc.  How great to have that convenience.  We take liberal use of it.

In the afternoon, the front passes and it quickly clears, almost like magic.  But something is different--the streets are deserted.  The sign in the window of one shop says they're sorry, but they won't open again until (hopefully) next Memorial Day.   The season is over.  Everyone has gone home.  There is even a chill in the air.  Like on cue Fall is here and no one is interested in more in summer cottages, boating, and the north country.  Surrealistic.......like living in a Salvadore Dali picture.

Nothing much happens of note today until dinner when we select a cute little restaurant (forever nameless) and venture inside.  The inside is as cute as it can be.  We order pretty much the standard fare.  First comes the salad.  Wilted iceberg lettuce, loaded with some non-descript dressing.  Lisa and Jan eat one bite each and leave the rest.  Bill, feeling guilty, eats a little more.  Then comes the bread--like the kind of rolls that come a dozen in a slug--Wonderbread in bun form.   We'll pass on that, too.  Then comes the dinners--Jan has prime rib and it proves to be the highlight of the evening.  Lisa has linguini prima vera--Chef Boy-are-dee!  Bill has chicken--or mystery meat.  It's served with lemon wedges??  Jan and Bill have a garnish of a cabbage leaf under a few hopelessly over cooked slices of summer squash--so overcooked they were essentially unrecognizable.   Then there was the wine--they have a wine cellar for tasting (70 wines to taste), but no wine list--only a house cab, merlot, chard, and Piersporter!  Jan and Lisa have the merlot which turns out to be made in Hungary (the other Merlot is made in Romania) - and it finally comes more than halfway through the meal.  Bill's chardannay  is OK, but comes from New Zealand, which is unusual but OK.  In short, dinner is like a bad dream, like Alice in Wonderbread.  They went through all the motions, but everything turns out commercially wrong.  Chalk that one up to an experience.  Maybe the cook left for the season, too.

Thursday, September 9, 1999.  Well today is 9/9/99 and everything on Interlude is performing normally.  That's the second Y2K-like date to come and go.   Two down, one to go.

Today the weather turned south--rain and wind and cold.  We sit tight.  We're in a marina on the side of a small lake which is attached to Lake Michigan by a 6-800 foot canal, but inspite of this insulation from the open lake, we're taking a lot of motion.   The boat behind us snapped two 5/8" lines due to poor tie-up techniques and the motion.  It is obvious to the three of us that we'll need to get off the boat for a while today to keep our stomachs happy.

Late in the morning,  we leave to explore Frankfort.  Bill gets a haircut, the women shop.  We have a nice lunch, then decide to use the rental car to explore the area--its cold and windy, a perfect day for car-based activities.  We drive north to the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore area and stop at the visitor's center.  We spot some of the dunes and snap a picture or two.  They're huge, and visually striking.

As we return to the boat, we stop at the Gwen Frostic studio which is nearby.  Ms. Frostic is more than 90 years old, and designs simple graphics based on nature.   These are printed on fine papers and sold as everything from blank books, to note cards, to napkins.  Her studio is built into a hill side, has a mud roof, and is definitely in-tune with nature.  What an interesting stop.

Later we make another grocery run, and head home to a bobbing Interlude--winds are continuing, rain in the air, and waterspouts (rare in the Great Lakes) spotted both north and south of us.  We're prepared for a long evening of rocking and rolling.