Saturday, September 24, 2011

Seneca Falls, NY to Mackinaw City, MI (Sept 1 to 23 )

Once we made the decision to loop again, we felt like we were way behind schedule.  Generally, "loopers" plan to be in Chicago, getting off the lakes, by Labor Day.  Here it was September first and we were no where near Lake Michigan.  Spurred on by the changing leaves we saw, we made it back to Tonawanda in three days - 15 locks and more than 200 miles.  A far cry from our earlier slow pace.  Once we arrived in Tonawanda, though, it was time to sit and wait and shop.  The change of plan meant we needed more charts and guide books, and then we needed to wait for a good weather window on Lake Erie.
While we were in Tonawanda, we met several other boaters whose plans were disrupted by Irene.  Burt and Prue, on sailboat Exuberant from Sandusky, were heading to Annapolis and ended up having their boat trucked there.  Mark and LuAnn on sailboat Journey from Holland, MI, out for their first big cruise, decided to turn around and go home.  We also met a couple from Austria, Eckhardt and Ursula on sailboat Azimut, who had recently completed a 14 year circumnavigation of the world.
After a couple of really interesting happy hours, we crossed under the last remaining low bridges on the Erie Canal and, with help from Burt and Prue, raised Carolyn Ann's radar arch.  Now we'd be able to use the radar if necessary - and also could use the satellite tv again.  From Tonawanda it was a short trip to Buffalo's waterfront to stage for our Lake Erie crossing. We enjoyed the chance to see Buffalo's skyline from the water and got there early enough to see some of the new waterfront area.
It would've been nice to spend time touring the ships located there, but our weather window was approaching.
 The Great Lakes are notorious for seas that kick up quickly and somewhat unpredictably.  Lake Erie in particular poses issues because of its relative shallowness and also, for us, the fact that we needed to cross the length of it running east to west.  Prevailing winds from the west could easily build up big wave action on the eastern portion.
Our first night was spent in Erie, PA.  Unfortunately there was no tourist break here as we arrived in the evening at left at dawn the next morning.
The next night we stopped in Mentor, OH and were greeted by Great Harbour owners Carl and Lois.  They picked Joe up and took him home for a great dinner and conversation.  I wasn't feeling well (flu shot reaction?) and decided to stay on the boat, but Lois kindly sent some left-overs that we enjoyed later.  (Thanks guys!  That pie was great, too.)  Our last night on Lake Erie was spent at Middle Bass Island where we met yacht club members, Bob and Joan.  We used the club grill and dining room for dinner and really enjoyed our time together.  It's amazing how quickly connections can be made.  The Austrian couple we'd met had stopped at Middle Bass Yacht Club near the beginning of their voyage and offered to take the club's burgee around the world with them.  When we met them in Tonawanda, they had just returned to Middle Bass, after ten years, to deliver the tattered flag (actually the third in a series of replacements).
The water from Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron drains via the Detroit River into Lake Erie before flowing over Niagara Falls into Lake Ontario.  That's a lot of water so our usual 7 1/2 knots dropped to about 5.  The slow pace gave us plenty of time so see the city skyline on our left and Windsor, Canada on our right.
Odette Sculpture Park, Windsor Canada
Windsor's waterfront consists of miles of greenway including the 5 km  long  Odette Sculpture Park.  We could see many sculptures from the river, but it would be wonderful to see them up close.  We made need to come this way again when we have more time!
Our next stop was Metro Beach Park on Lake St. Clair.  The facilities here were very nice in a very secure park.  Weather conveniently kept us there a few days because we ended up having lots to do.  First one of my best friends from college, Barb, who lives in the area came for a visit.  It had been 30 years or so since we'd seen each other (we can't possibly be old enough for it to have been that long!), but it felt like it could've been yesterday.
Back in June in NC on our way north, we had anchored near a boat named Manate.  Joe had talked to the owners on the radio and learned that they have "looped" 21 times.  Every year they move the boat up the east coast, across Lake Erie to the Detroit area for the summer, then around Michigan and down the rivers to Marco Island for the winter.
Once we decided to take the inland route back south, we decided to try to contact them.  With all Joe's contacts it was really pretty easy to find Sarah and Ted - our stop at Metro Beach Park off Lake St. Clair was their suggestion.  As you can see, most boaters in Michigan consider Labor Day the end of the season.  Carolyn Ann looked pretty lonely.
Sarah came and picked us up for shopping and later she and Ted took us out for a nice dinner.  Before dinner they came for happy hour on Carolyn Ann and brought along their friend, Gary.  Gary owned the very first GH37, but had never seen one of the N's, so he got the full tour.  We had a great time listening to the stories of such long time cruisers - and also getting lots of good information for the trip ahead.  Our late start didn't seem nearly so late when we learned that Ted and Sarah don't leave until mid-October!
After all that partying we needed to start cruising to get some rest.  The trip up the St. Clair River to Lake Huron was even slower than the Detroit River had been.  We actually slowed down to below 4 knots - which means the current against us was nearly 4 knots.  At one point we were instructed to stay in the center of the channel to avoid divers that were in the water.  We wondered what they had to do to keep themselves in place with a current that strong.
Michigan has harbors of refuge about every thirty miles along its shores on  both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan because there are very few natural harbors.  The harbors have a breakwater around them and the prices, set by the state, are reasonable.  Our first day was relatively short - about six hours.  We had stopped in St. Clair and couldn't leave before the first bridge opening at 8am.  Our choice ended up being to stop around 3pm or go another 30 miles and possibly arrive after dark.
 The following day we'd planned to leave at dawn, but awoke to high winds.  As the morning passed, the winds dropped and we finally left shortly before noon.  The winds had not totally died though, so it was not a pleasant ride - although not horrible - to our stop at Harbor Beach.  As we were tying up a man came over and invited us to the annual chili cook-off to be held on the dock that evening.  The chili was great - about 10 different kinds - and so were all the cooks.  Winds picked up again, so we stayed a few days.
Next stop was Harrisville - the nicest Michigan facility we've seen.  They've all been nice, but this was exceptional.  The lake kicked up again, so we stayed two nights.  The next day we left shortly after dawn and stopped at Rogers City.  Then left shortly after dawn the following day - our last day on Lake Huron.  

The days we'd spent on Huron hadn't been too bad - but not always the calmest either.  Our last day was the smoothest, and we were treated to the most vibrant rainbow we'd ever seen.

It was a short day's cruise to Mackinaw City.  We needed to stop because Joe had been unable to find a chart for Lake Michigan anywhere else.  Joe found the chart he wanted, and I took a nice walk around town which included nice parks with historical information.  It was good to have a little sightseeing time.
This is the end of our northward travel - finally - it's starting to get cold up here.  Now we'll head south down Lake Michigan.

There are more pictures on the picasa site:


Ocean Breeze said...

I love how you've set up your Picasa album. I need organize ours! Nice job...and great trip. Wish we were in your wake! safe travels.
Paula Sue Russell
M/V Ocean Breeze

Mark & Lu said...

We enjoy following you on the SPOT and the pictures you provide. Keep traveling South!
Mark & LuAnn Perkins
S/V Journey