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Section 9 (continued)

Lake Michigan

(September 10 - 16, 1999)

Friday, September 10, 1999.  We get up, clean up, and take Lisa to the airport. It's been great having her (and JJ) on board.  With her busy schedule at school, this is possibly her last visit with us on this trip.  While we're out and still have the rental car, we do some miscellaneous errands including stopping at a couple roadside market produce stands for fresh fruit and vegetables.  Regretfully, the season is over for sweet corn, but the tomatoes, apples and potatoes look great.

Back at the Interlude, the wind is still blowing and the boat pitching.  The waters at this marina seem to encourage the swells from the big lake to come in and reverberate against the seawalls, making life aboard tough.  While Bill was in the dockmaster's office uploading the web, several other boaters came in "just to spend some time on solid land"--one confessed to being "sicker than a dog".   With the weight of Interlude (especially when compared to some of the other smaller boats in the marina), I would have thought we would not have been moving about so much.   But, we took as much motion as the others, but perhaps not as abrupt motions.

After dinner on board, we watched a new movie we'd purchased while out shopping.   This time it was "Last Tango in Paris."  (Obviously we trying to get caught  up on 30 years worth of movies we haven't seen yet.)  This one was strange--can't say we really understood the subtleties.  But it kept our minds off the rocking and rolling.

Saturday, September 11, 1999.  We awake to a dilemma.  Small craft warnings are up, winds are blowing at 15-20 with gusts to 30, seas are 4-6 feet.  The forecast is for things to improve in the afternoon, then deteriorate overnight and stay bad for several days.  What should we do?  Risk a run south both to make some progress and to escape the weather which seems to be concentrated in the north, or play it conservative and wait it out (and rock and roll some more).  We listen to the weather radio, watch the weather channel, talk to other boaters in the marina (they're almost all leaving, and they're all much smaller than we are), so, we decide to go.

Our plan has contingencies--if it's too rough, we'll stop at Mainstay (23 miles);   if we can handle it, then we'll go on to Ludington (a total of 43 miles), and if we're really tough, we'll set our sights on Pentwater (55 miles).  Jan takes a Dramamine, we secure the Interlude for rough running, and get underway.  We'll be heading south with winds, waves and swells quartering us from the starboard stern (the weather is coming from the northwest).  Bill tries a variety of speeds, and eventually settles on about 16 knots, well up on plane, as the most comfortable speed.

We endure all the way to Pentwater, and enter another Charlevoix-like town which is on a small lake accessed via a channel cut from the big lake.  This is so picturesque it's hard to believe.  What a perfect spot and calm to boot.  We tie up along a long wall at Snug Harbor Marina.  Bill spends the afternoon giving Interlude's starboard side a vigorous washdown (we got the port side last time).  Jan spends the afternoon getting caught up on her diary (several day behind with all the company). The day is sparklingly clear and cool--autumn is here.  What a beautiful place and a beautiful day, and almost no tourists!

For dinner we called the Nickerson Inn for reservations, and discovered they would pick us up from the dock.  Dinner of salmon and lamb was perfectly matched with a 1995 Monte Antico Sangiovese. Great!

Sunday, September 12, 1999.  We arise to the same dilemma again.  A cold front is approaching from the west and predicted to pass across Lake Michigan in the late afternoon.  Winds are 10-15 from the south, and seas 3-5.  If we stay, we may be here for several days since weather looks like it will continue to be marginal for some time.  If we stay, we're in a snug harbor (sic) and one where we've slept soundly for the first time in days.  But,  if we stay, we'll start to fall behind at a time we need to set a schedule.  We have meetings in Washington, Columbus, Tampa and elsewhere coming up, as well as guests to schedule and meet. 

We decide to go and head for Grand Haven, about 50  miles to the south.  If it gets too rough, we have some alternative options which are closer and probably just as acceptable.  From the beginning the water is rough--and as we get well into the trip we just plow ahead running into head seas.  The stabilizers which minimize roll (rocking from left to right) are of no use when the boat is pitching (front to back), so we endure it four almost five hours.  Thirty knot headwinds slow our progress and we ship green water and spray over the bow and windshields almost continuously.

We tie up at the municipal marina in Grand Haven and back into a rather short and narrow slip so that we'll be bow-out.  A  strategy to help quiet water noise on the hull.   With a strong cross wind, backing is a challenge, but we make it in without problems.  (We'd have hated to try that maneuver a few months ago, but daily boat handling would make an expert of anyone.)  But this slip will be a problem--we're getting strong swells coming in from Lake Michigan and hitting us broadside.  As a result, we sit here and roll from side to side--sometimes enough to threaten a full cup of coffee.  It may be another long night.....and it is pouring down rain.  With a couple of exceptions, we've had tough weather and bad dockage almost ever since we got into Lake Michigan.  The good news is that if we wanted to run to Chicago, we could be there tomorrow!  Lake Michigan is coming to an end. 

A side note about changes to VHF radio frequencies:  Normally channel 16 is reserved for hailing and emergencies.  Every boat with a VHF radio is supposed to monitor channel 16.  But in areas of dense boating, channel 16 is getting very busy...perhaps too busy to get distress calls through.  So the Coast Guard is trying something new.  In Lake Michigan and a couple of other areas in the country, all boat-to-boat, and boat-to-shore calls are hailed on channel 9.  Once communications is established, calls are moved to a non-hailing channel (not 16 and not 9), as we've always done.  The switch of many non-distress calls to channel 9 is supposed to free up channel 16 for distress use.  So far, it seems to work, but it makes some radios which have a quick-default button set to channel 16 an anachronism. We have three radios like that, and we'll have the check to see if the default channel can be reset to channel 9.

Monday, September 13, 1999.  Last night was the worst night of the entire trip so far.  We endured swells all night which caused us to rock and roll endlessly.   At times, I was afraid we'd be rolled out of bed.  Neither of us slept more than minutes at a time.  By dawn, we knew we needed to move and have two options--one, we can move deeper into the river.  There are some large marinas another mile or so up the Grand River, and they may be calmer (or maybe not).  Or, we can head to Holland, about 25 miles to the south, and seek refuge there.  We met the Coopers yesterday last night, they live in Holland, and run a repair shop at a marina there.  They indicated Grand Haven often has bad swells at the municipal marina.  We call their marina in Holland and there is room.   The winds are still blowing, small craft warnings are still up, and seas are running 4-6 feet.  But, we go anyway; it seems like the better option.

The run is completed in about two hours.  Bill runs Interlude at just pre-plane speed to raise the bow and reduce the amount of water being shipped over the windshield.   That helps, but the pounding still makes it very difficult to walk about the boat while we're underway.

We enter Holland the same way we've entered other ports on Lake Michigan--through a channel cut between the big lake and a small lake.  We call the marina, and they provide directions.  As we cross the lake via a ship channel we spot a 80+ foot Burger by the name of Motivation.  This boat belongs to Interlude's first owner.   We'll try to give him a call, if anyone knows his name.  It would be interesting to talk with him about Interlude, and what he's done differently in his successor boat.

The Anchorage Marina is one of the nicest we've found to date. Dual 50A circuits,   cable TV, strong cleats, nearby water and trash collection, quiet waters --and at off-season prices.  Wow!  What a find.

In the afternoon, we take a cab into the town of Holland, several miles away.  We find a great grandfather clock store and spend an hour looking and listening.  We've promised each other that we'd buy a grandfather clock, but haven't gotten around to it.   We saw some in Switzerland, but they were terribly expensive.  But, here in Holland, we're close to where most of them sold in the U.S. are made, and this is a great store to browse. While we're walking, a good friend calls from St. Petersburg to discuss how another boat near them is handling the low voltage problem. (Nice to have cell phones.)  The solution uses a type of transformer with multiple taps that can be selected, as required, to adjust voltage up or down.  It is dramatically lower in cost than the commercial solution we've identified. 

Later in the afternoon, the Coopers stop by, and Shirley offers to find the name and phone number of Motivation's owner.  (This task later becomes a challenge that she will not be denied, and in the end she's successful.  Nice work.)  Chuck is the Great Lakes Cruising Club Port Captain for Holland, Michigan, and knows a lot about our stops south which he shares with us.  We visit their 53 foot DeFever, and swap sea stories. 

That evening the four of us to to dinner at a wonderful local restaurant and we indulge in local fresh perch again, and they're great.  After dinner, the Coopers stop at Interlude for a tour, and we call it a day.  The winds are still blowing, but there are no surges, and no water slapping the hull.  We'll sleep tonight, and make up for some lost z's.

Friends, today we've been gone for five months!  Who would have ever believed we could undertake such an Odyssey?  And in six to eight weeks our adventure will be over.  This has been an epic journey; what a great experience! What a great adventure!

Tuesday, September 14, 1999.  Today is maintenance and chores day.  We have wash to do, and a thorough cleaning in store.  In addition, Bill is adding some voltage test points to the AC distribution panel.  These test points will allow us to easily measure the voltage coming out of our isolation transformers.  This is one of the first steps to a solution to the perpetual low voltage problem we're having. These test points will be essential if we pursue the transformer solution later on, and in the meantime, we'll have a convenient way to know just what the voltage actually is.

We also call the former owner of Interlude (i.e. Motivation) and chat with him about both Interlude and his new boat.  He is quite cordial and offers to be a resource if we have need later on.  His 80+ foot Burger sounds like a worthy successor to the Hatteras with some real innovations in soundproofing and in electronic engine controls.  

Wednesday, September 15, 1999.  Today the winds are down and we make a short move from Holland to Saugatuck.  Saugatuck is easily one of the nicest ports on the Lake.  We enter Saugatuck through the Kalamazoo River which winds for a mile or so in a pass between the sand dunes.  Part way up the river is the Michigan plant of the Broward Yacht Corporation.  If you remember back to the beginning of this diary when we were first purchasing Interlude, the boat was docked in the yard of the Florida plant of Broward.  As we passed, a shiny new 90+ footer is docked ready for seatrials and/or delivery.

Our marina is the Singapore Yacht Club, in the heart of Saugatuck,in Lake Kalamazoo.   It is also our 75th port in this odyssey.  The dock is, as before in some of the other towns, simply across a shallow park from the main street. 

Upon arrival, we polish the fuel that is in our auxiliary tanks and transfer it to our main tanks.  We do this because we don't want the fuel in the auxiliary tanks to get too old and its been in there for several months.  We keep the auxiliary tanks full to provide ballast, as well as emergency fuel in reserve.  We also make this transfer in port since if there is settlement in the fuel that might clog a fuel filter we don't want an engine stopping while we're underway--we have procedures to deal with that eventuality, but they're easier done in port.  The polishing and transfer process takes about half a hour to move about 300 gallons into the main tanks.

After finishing our arrival chores, we walk to a recommended restaurant for lunch, the Butler Hotel, and had great salads.  After lunch, we walk around the town and visit some local galleries.  Upon return, we tune-in the Weather Channel to get an update on Hurricane Floyd.  It has missed a direct hit on Florida thank goodness, but it looks like the Carolinas will get hit broadside.

After dinner, we walk along a wooden walkway that rings the lake.  At one end is a chain ferry, which is a curious device.  These are small flat ferry boats that are pulled from side to side of the waterway by a chain.  This particular one (see the Current Photo page), is hand operated.  That is, the operator cranks a handle which rotates a chain gypsy with the chain passing through.  The chain is anchored on each side of the waterway.  Passing boaters need to give the ferry enough space to allow the chain to settle to the bottom before passing over the chain area.  If a prop hit the chain it would ruin some boater's day.

The cold night air gives us a beautiful view of the Milky Way and a new moon.

Thursday, September 16, 1999.  Today we move from Saugatuck to South Haven, our last stop in Michigan as we move nearer to Chicago.  Winds are blowing from the north at about 10k and we have gentle seas for the run of about 20 miles.

South Haven is a small town that focuses on the water.  The Black River which provides our entrance to South Haven as well as our docking location is lined with marinas and water activities.  But, here too, things are strangely quiet.  We stroll the town and visit a small museum and Coast Guard display on search and rescue boats.   It's very nicely done.  The Coast Guard exhibit contains a number of authentic and restored S&R boats...some dating back a hundred years.  Worth the visit.

And now faithful readers (and if you're still with us, you are certainly faithful, to say the least), let me describe a typical dinner on board. A local restaurant, The Three Pelicans, was recommended by none less than the gas pump jockey in Saugatuck, a local food Epicurean.  But, we couldn't find it. So Jan prepared a spectacular Tortellini Janis. This imaginative dish combines fresh broccoli, fresh tomatoes,  secret sauce, with garlic, olive oil, fresh basil and oregano (from our on-board herb garden), with tomato, egg and spinach tortellini.  This succulent preparation was garnished with grated Parmesan cheese  (Lisa, it's vegetarian!).  The dinner included toasted garlic bread and a salad featuring hydroponic bibb lettuce embraced with a medley of other fresh vegetables and tossed with a light homemade herb dressing.  We complimented the suite with a Paul Jaboulet Parallele 45 Cote du Rhone, 1996 (purchased from the general store in Northport, Michigan). We concluded this fantasy with double cappuccinos (topped with fresh ground nutmeg), and a snifter of green Chartreuse served straight up. We're really roughing it friends, what can I say, but you can't have everything when you're afloat.   Jan comes reasonably close, though...