August 13, 2001
It has obviously been quite a while since we have found a library. We hoped to send an e-mail from Mackinaw City (Michigan) and walked 1 1/2 miles to the library, but the library would not allow e-mail access on their Internet machines. It's the first time we have run across that rule.
So, we'll catch up since Gore Bay (3 August) ...
One quick story first: Last week, we heard on the VHF radio one boat hailing another - - the boat we heard being hailed was apparently named, "Quack Quack". So, in normal hailing fashion, the gentleman called the name of the boat three times: "Quack Quack, Quack Quack, Quack Quack" - - he wasn't the only one chuckling by the time he finished the series! We have seen and heard a lot of different boat names over the past 2 1/2 months, but "Quack Quack" is definitely one of the most interesting!
We really liked Gore Bay. It was a very pretty, quiet anchorage with easy access to town and just enough town dock space to provide "boat parade" amusement. Little Current (where we stayed the previous two nights) was fun, full of activity, and also had almost everything a cruiser might need, but if we had to pick just one of the towns the next time, we would probably go to Gore Bay.
We went on to Meldrum Bay (Ontario) from Gore Bay on Saturday (4 August). It was an approximate 35- mile/5 hour trip. Although the trip was uneventful (in fact, it was a beautiful morning!), the first SIX attempts at anchoring in Meldrum Bay, immediately off of the town docks (with two different anchors!) were "less than successful". We finally admitted defeat (and we hate doing that!) and called into the marina for a slip. In true nice Canadian people fashion, the man from the marina noted that he saw we were having problems getting the anchor to set and suggested we try again in a second small bay, just around the point (still south of town). We did and the Danforth anchor set the first time - - thank goodness! (Note: Brian is amazed at how shiny the plow anchor is where it was been dragging across the rocks for the past several weeks while he's been trying to get it to set - - I guess that's one way to shine up an anchor!).
Meldrum Bay was very quiet. The town basically includes the marina, a campground, a good one-of-everything General Store, the Meldrum Bay Inn (restaurant and eight rooms), and a few homes/cottages (but, as we have seen at most of the Georgian Bay/North Channel harbors/marinas, even it had a float plane at the marina!). We marked our last night in Canada by having dinner at the Meldrum Inn. We would highly recommend it - - we had just-caught pan fried Whitefish filets, baked potatoes, fresh corn, a bottle of wine, and for dessert, homemade apple pie and coffee. And the evening was perfect in the little cove that we had all to ourselves - - clear, cool, bright moon, and lots of fish jumping out of the water. It was a grand way to end our cruising time in Canada!
Although we did not really want to leave, because of weather predictions over the next several days, we set off for Harbor Island (off of Drummond Island, Michigan) on Sunday morning. The water is now a lighter, "less cold looking" blue, but just as pretty, especially Sunday morning as it was hazy and dead calm. Five hours later (approximately 30 miles), we were the only ones anchored in False Harbor which we were told was usually quite busy. Although several more boats came in towards evening, we were pleasantly surprised that it was quieter than we expected. When we woke on Monday morning, NOAA weather was predicted heavy winds and 3 - 5' seas. So (being our new flexible selves) we hung out for another day in Harbor Island, swimming and reading and lazing. We also took a dinghy ride to the only marina close (1 1/2 miles - Drummond Island Yacht Haven) and cleared customs. The nearest town was over 2 miles away from the marina, however, and as it was 95 degrees and humid (weather in which I tend to get grumpy), we passed on walking into town.
On Tuesday morning, we set off for Mackinac Island and Mackinaw City. It was a good trip out of the North Channel, into Detour Passage, and across towards Mackinaw Straight (connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan). We ran into some heavy fog for about 2 hours half way through the trip (1/3 mile visibility), but all of the boats out there (we think) were doing regular Security calls on the VHF and we all knew where everyone else was. The Security calls and talking to the boats in the area was a pleasant difference between Lake Huron and the few foggy days we had in Long Island Sound!
We stayed at the Mackinaw City State Marina (very nice facility - - ~$1/foot with water and electric) for two nights. We decided not to stay at the Mackinac Island Marina. The Mackinac Island Marina pretty much requires reservations in advance and we did not know well enough in advance when exactly we would get there. (Note: Although there is a daily waiting list to get into the Mackinac Island Marina, it means anchoring out in the harbor for up to 6 hours while the ferries (LOTS of them) bounce you around like a cork with their wakes - - no thanks, not worth it.) But we were able to gawk at the Grand Hotel, Fort Mackinac, and the beautiful B&Bs on the island from the boat as we went by on the way to Mackinaw City. (Note: Once in Mackinaw City, we discovered that the ferry trip from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island is ~$16.00 per person. And us being us (i.e. sensible ? ... and after all, at this point, do we really need another boat ride!), we decided that it wasn't worth $32.00 to walk around an island that probably had the same shops as Mackinaw City and to look INTO a hotel that would not allow anyone into the lobby after 5:00 PM unless they were in jackets and ties. We'll let you know if we regret the decision down the road.
Mackinaw City was very nice and had everything a cruiser might need (i.e. grocery store, hardware store, a good marine store, lots of restaurants, miniature golf, etc.). The main shopping tourist area (Mackinaw Crossings) reminded me of the streets of shops at the entrance of Disney World! Quaint and pretty with lots of t-shirts, ice cream, souvenir, and fudge stores. We did stop by the American Legion one evening. The Post is right across the street from the marina - - a beautiful location with lots of friendly locals. And, believe it or not, while we were there, a gentleman came in to exchange Post license plates - - and he was from Ridge, Maryland (not 15 miles from Solomons)! Once again, we realized what a small world we live in! Oh, and if you get to Mackinaw City and want a good local place to eat, try the Key Hole. It is close to the marina and has good food and a comfortable atmosphere. And check out the Mackinac Bridge Museum (above Mama Mia's pizza). The museum is small, but runs a good 20 minute film on the creation of the bridge and houses some interesting artifacts. The suspension bridge itself is terribly impressive from the water (even more so when we saw two lake freighters going under as we were leaving). A few facts on the bridge: it is 5 miles long, the towers are 522' high, and it contains 5 million rivets!
On Thursday (9 August), we set out to try the trip to Hammond Bay Harbor. Since NOAA weather was calling for possible rough weather, we kept our options open to either return to Mackinaw City or to stop in Cheboygan, MI along the way. But, although the winds were 15 - 25 knots, they were out of the southwest and we had no problems (Side note to Paul, Bob, and George: we caught a glimpse of the infamous ice breaker, "Mackinaw", as we passed by Cheboygan - - and Brian thought of you guys ...
Hammond Bay Harbor is a Michigan State Harbor of Refuge. The Harbors of Refuge are strategically placed on the lakes so that boaters can get out of the rough weather as necessary. They include anywhere from a small to a good-sized marina and are usually surrounded by protective manmade or natural breakwalls). And although we really didn't need the safe harbor on Thursday (we had planned to stop there in advance simply because it was a good location as far as hours and miles for our trip down Lake Huron), we were grateful for it on Friday. Early Friday morning, the winds picked up to 25+ knots and, as some of the fisherman who were entered in a local chinook salmon fishing tournament reported coming in, the waves were up to 6'! So we hung out for one more day and night. Unfortunately, except for a nice roadside park, there was absolutely nothing close by - - even the nearest pay phone was 9 miles away! But it has cooled off again, thank goodness - - I don't think it even got to 75 degrees.
First thing on Saturday morning (we're talking 6:15 a.m.!), we followed the tournament fishing boats out of the harbor and headed for Presque Isle Harbor. Except for the fact that it was chilly (55 degrees) and we had following seas that made it a pain in the ... neck ... to keep on course, it was a good 40 mile/5 hour trip. Presque Isle and its state-run marina are beautiful. There is not much there in terms of a town (just a small casual restaurant (the Portage, serving surprisingly wonderful food) and an extensive one-of-everything general store. But the surrounding area is full of lots of pines and other evergreens, small lakes, and bogs where we were convinced we would see a moose (but never did). We walked to both the new and old lighthouses (about 1 1/2 mile and 3/4 mile away respectively), even catching a craft fair at the new lighthouse. Unfortunately, it is too late in the year to see the rare miniature irises that are found along the waterfront in this part of the year.
Towards evening, we got to talking with the people on the boat at the dock next to ours, Carl and Judy ("Gypsy") and to Linda and Bill on "Manadee". Both couples are from the same marina in West Harbor, Ohio. We later went to dinner with them at the Portage. They provided us with lots of helpful recommendations for anchorages and marinas on Lake Huron and Lake Erie. We thoroughly enjoyed their company.
We were off at 6:30 on Sunday morning to travel the 55 miles to our next destination, the Harrisville Harbor of Refuge. A fishing tournament was taking place in Presque Isle also so there were fishing boats ALL OVER for the first hour! But it was a beautiful 7-hour trip. We must have seen 8 lake freighters (and considering there are only about 100 left on the lakes, that's a good percentage!). Harrisville is a small town, but does have a small IGA, a pharmacy, and several antique stores and restaurants. (They have a library too, but it is closed on Sunday.) Because water levels are down a bit this year, we were unable to anchor within the breakwalls as we originally planned so we once again got a slip ($30/night with electric and water).
We had a wonderful "black tie" pasta dinner on Linda and Bill's boat with Carl and Judy the night we were in Harrisville. Linda even made homemade bread and brownies (WHILE they were sailing to Harrisville). It was wonderful! Thanks, Linda and Bill. We really enjoyed the evening.
This morning we arrived in East Tawas after a 30 mile/5 hour trip. We originally planned to go to Harbor Beach, MI, but the weather forecast was predicting 3 - 5' waves. So we kept closer to the west shore. We'll try for Harbor Beach tomorrow. So far, Tawas seems nice. The state marina is large and there is an area to anchor within the breakwalls (which we are).
Hopefully, we will find more libraries from here on out. We'll keep in touch.
Hope all is well. Jeri and Brian