The Wall in Joilet

We arrived on Sept. 13th after another long day along with twelve other boats who somehow all came together even though most came down the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal while we reached the Illinois River by way of the Cal-Sag Canal. There wasn’t enough room for all thirteen boats to moor to the wall so three boats rafted to other host boats tied to the wall. We ended up getting the last spot but, unfortunately, we did not have a shore power cable long enough to reach a power pedestal. The good folks on Band Wagon 3 lent us their spare 50-foot cable. This is what Loopers commonly do along the way to help each other out. The next day we all left en masse bound downriver for various places. Most folks pressed on to Heritage Harbor Marina

, a long way. Some, because of delays at the Marseilles Lock, did not arrive until 3:30am. We bailed out at a marine half-way there and did not regret it one bit.

On the Cal-Sag Canal to Joliet

On Sept. 13th, we continued on the canal to Joliet where the city provides a free wall to moor with free electricity. The canal is very industrial for about the first 20 miles. As I mentioned in the previous post, at one point, we had to pull off into a side canal to let a long tow and barge pass by, there being no clearance at all. This was an area with large numbers of barges parked along side the canal leaving only one-half of the canal available for passages. Pleasure boats necessarily defer to the big boys. After clearing this area, the rest of the canal down to Joliet was through rural areas and quite peaceful. The pictures are examples of what can typically be seen along this waterway.

On to South Haven, Michigan City, and the Cal-Sag Canal

The seas finally settled down enough to allow us to leave for South Haven on Sept. 8th where we were to meet with friends from Battle Creek, Tom May, wife Gabby, Charlie and Julia, the children, and Randi, the matriarch. We were sponsor-parents to Tom when he was at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and became good friends with his parents as well. We had a wonderful visit with them. The kids loved climbing all over the boat with the engine room being the highlight.


The entrance to South Haven harbor had a remarkable lighthouse with what looked like a v-bladed snow plow. We think it is designed that way to fend off wintertime ice flows. Included are a couple of photos of the local American Legion hall which sits astride the entrance to the canal. It has to be one of the grandest Legion halls in the States.

We ended up staying three days in South Haven again having to wait for calm seas. And finally, for the first time on Lake Michigan the water was smooth as glass all the way to Michigan City. We stayed one night there and moved on to a working marina eight miles down the Cal-Sag Canal. The marina was quite basic, in an industrial area but we had the use of a courtesy car which enabled us to re-provision at Pete’s Fresh Market. This market had, by far, the best, most extensive produce section we have ever encountered along with the cheapest prices on most everything we generally purchase. From this marina our next destination was the free wall in Joliet which is the only place a boater may stop along the way, about 50 miles much of the upper part of which is quite industrial with many tows and barges. At one point we had to pull off into a side canal to let a long tow and barge pass by there being no clearance at all.

More Weather Delays on Lake Michigan

After having to stay four days in Frankfort, we left for Ludington on August 30th. Ludington is another Michigan port city that is very nice with a vibrant old-fashioned downtown. We had hoped to move on after one day but the wind-driven waves on Lake Michigan forced us to stay in port for three days.

Ludington is home port to the last coal-fired ferry, S.S. Badger, in regular use. It moves passengers, cars, and trailer trucks from and to Manitowic, Wisconsin. Our boar was docked very close to the ferry terminal which enabled us to witness the unusual docking technique the Badger must use because of the limited space in Ludington Harbor. As the Badger approaches its berth, it deploys its anchor about 150 yards from its berth. Then, the ferry uses the anchor point to pivot 180 degrees so that it may back into the terminal. The process often draws a crowd. The big boat pictured is the Badger.

Then, it was on the Grand Haven on a day that the lake forecast suggested a reasonably good passage. It wasn’t. We bailed out just twelve miles down the coast to Pentwater having encountered four-to-six foot waves. We had to stay two nights in Pentwater (a very nice town) waiting for the lake to settle down. The long pleasure boat pictured is a very old 100-foot wooden pleasure boat that happened to come in when we did.

Finally, we got a good day to travel, destination Grand Haven, for two nights. But, on the way we heard a weather broadcast for severe thunderstorms near Grand Haven warning boaters to get off the lake. We took refuge in Whitehall which is rather an uninteresting place to hole up, for THREE days. On September 6th, my birthday, we left for Grand Haven on seas that were pretty much benign. The waves were two feet and it was following sea.

Grand Haven is a very nice town. It has a museum that is surprisingly good. The Coast Guard has a long history here. Grand Haven is known as Coast Guard City, USA. The museum has many CG artifacts and displays. The museum also has a complete Bastian Blessing soda fountain counter. These could be found in many drugstores stores around the country and were manufactured in Grand Haven. Here with us in the municipal marina are several Loopers we have seen along the way in one place or another. It’s that way all along the Loop.

Grand Haven, although being a very modest-sized town, has two brewpubs. It seems that almost every Michigan of any size that we have visited has at least one local brewery. Last night (Thursday) we went to a local dive bar for Mexican food. The food was outstanding. The place was already packed at 5 o’clock, a place  obviously frequented by locals. We haven’t had good Mexican food since we left Maryland in early May. We are going for a repeat tonight.

Tomorrow we leave for South Haven, a 45-mile run. Seas are forecast to be 1-foot so we expect a smooth transit. On Sunday, friends from Battle Creek will be visiting us there.

And Four Days in Frankfort

Finally, after six days laid up in Charlevoix, a town fine enough to do so, lake conditions were good to travel comfortably. We travelled 75 miles to Frankfort, a long day on a 9 MPH trawler. We had planned on stopping in Manistee which is about half-way but needed to move on down the coast. But then, after arriving in Frankfort the weather got us again. The winds kicked up the waves on the lake to conditions (five-to-eight- foot waves) which would make travelling extremely uncomfortable. This forced us to stay here in Frankfort for four nights but tomorrow (8/30) the winds are forecast to change direction and the waves will be benign for at least the next four days. A sailboat that had been anchored in the cove nearby came in to the docks for one night because their anchored had dragged during the night. Their anemometer atop their 60-foot mast recorded a top wind speed of 60 knots during the night. We leave in the morning for Ludington after filling our fuel tanks. Ludington is a 55-mile trip.

The pictures are from Charlevoix. It just happened that the Michigan Model T Association was having a rendezvous while we there. Frankfort is nice but no noteworthy pictures to be taken although there is a great brewpub nearby at which we had dinner last night. Tonight it is docktails at 5:00pm and then pizza aboard our boat with another Looper couple.

Three More Days in Charlevoix

We had planned to leave today (8/23) for Leland, MI. We have been here for three days already waiting for the wind-driven waves to subside. The waves on the Michigan side of Lake Michigan can be very strong when there is a west wind. And, the waves will almost always be on the beam (directly from the side) which will roll the boat from side-to-side which makes for a VERY uncomfortable ride. Overnight two nights ago the waves were reported to be five-to-seven feet. Likely there were some that exceeded seven feet. The forecast for today was for waves two-to-four feet with winds of 10-20 knots. Since our boat is heavy and has stabilizers we thought we would give it a go. So, at 9:00am we prepared to leave having detached the shore power cable and the water supply hose. Then we ran into a fellow Looper who had just returned to port having had left at 7:00am this morning. When they had cleared the point and turned south, the waves were just too much and they elected to bail out. That changed our mind immediately. We won’t be leaving for three more days the forecast being the same for the next three days. If there is one rule about cruising is that one should not have a schedule to keep. Keeping to a schedule makes for bad decisions. Gloria did some house-cleaning and the Captain continued on a floor-sanding project that was started yesterday.

So, we took advantage of what the small town of Charlevoix has to offer. We shopped at the farmer’s market that was set up this morning along the main street alongside the marina. We bought some fresh lettuce, yellow squash which, by the way, is unavailable in Canada for some reason, and some local tomatoes.

Later on we went to the movies (Mamma Mia II). The theater, in this small town, had three movies playing and was as nice as any big theater venue in a big town mall. The matinee was just $5 plus they had beer for sale – at the theater. Imagine that. Charlevoix is a small town that hearkens back to the small-town America many folks, perhaps most folks outside of these towns, think has long-since gone away. Well, we discovered long ago on this trip that small towns with real downtowns and small, seeming successful shops, are alive and doing well. This is certainly true in Canada and we suspect is true in many towns in Michigan and Wisconsin and other states.

Back to the Good Old U. S. of A.

From the splendor of the anchorage in Coverage Portage Cove it was three days to get to Drummond Island, Michigan where we checked with the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). The CBP has a new app that we used to check in. A boater just logs into the website – after having registered beforehand – and a series of screens pop up which ultimately lead to three questions that must be answered one of which asked whether we had any vegetables on board. We did and I answered “yes”. Then a pop-up says that a CBP agent is evaluating our entry. In our case the CBP approved our entry without requiring a boarding of our boat. We did all this while still on the water. In some cases the CBP will initiate a video-conference. It was all very slick.

The three-day cruise was rather boring, all open water passages, very different from the Georgian Bay and the eastern portion of the North Channel of Lake Huron. After nine weeks in Canada it was the only time when the experience was uninteresting. In fact, those three days were the only uninteresting cruising we experienced since we left Maryland on May 8th. We did encounter a 1,000- foot ship anchored and waiting to continue on to Sault St. Marie. It was the first large ship we saw since the St. Lawrence Seaway near Montreal. Now, how could we possibly know the length of the ship and its destination? It’s called AIS (Automatic Identification System). The ship popped up on our chart plotter. Clicking on the icon reveals the ship’s information.

We stayed one night at the Drummond Island Yacht Haven, a nice marina, but nothing there beyond the marina. From there we cruised to Mackinaw City in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge which bridges to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It’s five miles long spanning the Mackinac Straits.

On the way to Mackinaw City the route travelled passes by Mackinac Island, a resort isle that has no motor vehicles, just horses and bicycles. Pictured are examples of the high-speed ferries that run between the island and Mackinaw City where we stayed the night before moving on to Charlevoix, MI.

And today, here we sit in Charlevoix for the third day. A storm kicked up the waves on the lake such there could not be safe passage until the waves settled down. Since we had some time, we took the opportunity to make a pizza for supper one night. We make a pizza about once a week. We started the trip with sixty pounds of flour on board. Tomorrow the lake forecast is good enough to travel so we will be leaving for Leland. Then it will be on to Frankfort, Manistee, and three days in Ludington so that we can visit friend in Battle Creek.

On to Killarney

After Henry’s Fish Camp, we stayed one night in an anchorage, then on to a marina in Parry Sound, home to Bobby Orr and the Bobby Orr Museum. We left Parry Sound after one night headed for an anchorage in the Bustard Islands. It was a nice enough anchorage but we could not get our anchor to set, the suspicion being that the bottom was a shallow coverage of clay over solid rock. When we weighed anchor the chain was packed with clay and the anchor itself had a big wad of clay mud on it. Anyway, we moved on to an anchorage behind Burnt Island along Collins Inlet which leads to Killarney. The anchor set quickly and firmly and we spent a quiet night with two other loopers (Sea Bee and Coastal Star). After dark we were able to see the planet Venus low in the western sky. The silence at night was almost deafening.

The next day we traveled

beyond the town of Killarney and anchored in another very quiet cove called Covered Portage Cove. We stay two nights. The second day we dinghied back to Killarney, about two miles, for dinner and ice cream. On the way back we stopped at a local marina and visited with the loopers aboard Coastal Star (Ketchikan, Alaska) who we have met in many places along the way all the way back to Kingston. The few pictures posted are some of the sights we encountered on this leg. Notice the trees in some of the pictures. The tops are all bent one way, the same way. The prevailing winds here must be relentless, especially in the winter. Also, notice the two pictures of the rocks nearby our boat. They look close but not nearly as close as some in very narrow passages between channel markers. Sometimes, the rocks are no more fifteen each side of the boat. One must pay close attention to following the channel markers on the Small Craft Route.

From Killarney it will be four more boating days to reach Drummond Island, Michigan where we must clear customs. By then we will have been cruising beautiful Canada for nine weeks but it will be nice to be back in the States.

Henry’s Fish Restaraunt

Yesterday we moved on to our next stop, Henry’s Fish Restaurant. It was the beginning of our transit of the Georgian Bay. Henry’s is a classic stop on the Small Craft Route of Georgian Bay. It is patronized by folks just wanting lunch or dinner and by boaters wishing to stay overnight. Now the overnight accommodations aren’t much to speak of but many Looper’s stay here just because it is a classic. Henry’s was built on Frying Pan Island about 35 years ago. The restaurant is accessible only by boat or float plane. Henry’s is a federally registered airport for sea planes and is serviced by at least five commercial airlines (float planes only). The place was packed for dinner and it is not a small venue. While we were waiting for table a float plane arrived for dinner.

In the pictures of the restaurant, you will noticed the rock outcroppings. This is what is known as the Canadian Shield, solid rock at the surface. The Georgian Bay is all rock. One of the primary routes across the bay is the Small Craft Route. The water is deep in the marked channel but, in places, is very narrow. The boater who strays outside the channel is at high risk of wrecking. At times we passed by massive rocks just fifty feet away but, meanwhile, we were in fifty feet of water.

The Bay is a boater’s paradise with countless islands and bays in which to anchor overnight. It just has to be the best boating in the world.

Orillia to Swift Rapids to Midland via Big Chute Marina Railway

Our next significant stop was at the Port of Orillia which is reached after crossing Lake Simcoe after the Gamebridge Lock. The Orillia town docks are well run and quite nice. We stayed two nights and enjoyed another nice Canadian town.

Our next stop was the lock wall at Swift Rapids. The lock there drops boaters down forty-seven feet. We tied above the lock. For supper we launched the dinghy, went down through the lock, and had very good Fish & Chips at the Wabach Restaurant right on the river. The restaurant is on an island and is accessible by customers primarily by water. The picture of the truck on a barge was a delivery for the island, no bridge, no ferry.

From Swift Rapids there remained only two more drops on the river. One was the final lock (Lock 45) at Port Severn. Lock 44 is actually the Big Chute Marine Railway. The railway is a large rail car that runs on four rails controlled by cables, a cable car. The car is let down into the water. Boats enter the car. Larger boats are held vertically by means of straps slung under the boat. Smaller boats just rest on the bottom of the car when it is advanced out of the water. We were going down river so our transit was down a hill, a rather steep hill. Some of the pictures are of boats we observed making the transit to give one some idea of the spectacle. On board the rail car going down was a bit frightening. Because of the size of our boat the lockmaster had the aft third of the boat hanging off the back of the car. Plus, there was a lot of creaking and moaning and shaking as the car made its way down the rails to the river below.

After Port Severn we made our way to Midland which we later discovered was more precarious than any of the shallow sections of the Trent-Severn Waterway, the Potato Island Channel. We made it without incident. Was it blind luck or skillful piloting?

In Midland we stayed at the Bay Port Yacht Center because we had read that the manager there provides detailed briefings on how to best enjoy and safely traverse (lots of rocks) the Georgian Bay. Our plan was to stay for three nights but we have to stay two more nights for an unexpected but fairly inconsequential repair.

In preparing the boat to leave Midland this morning, the captain removed the sea water strainers to clean them of accumulated debris. Sea water is used to cool the engines through a heat exchanger. Plugged up intake strainers means no coolant water flow and overheated engines. Well, one of the strainers could not be reinserted into its housing. The housing is original to the boat. Tomorrow, a next strainer housing will be installed by the good folks here but it means two more nights in Midland before heading out to Henry’s Fish Camp on Frying Pan Island. We were very lucky that the marina had the correct housing in stock.