We left the next morning and, after clearing one more low bridge, stopped for a pump-out and help to raise the radar arch back up. Once the arch was up, Joe and I spent the better part of an hour putting the bimini back on. You'd think we'd get better at that.
We went through one more lock - the Black Rock Lock - which raised us five feet so we could enter Lake Erie. There is another way to get there, against a 7 to 12 knot current - our normal cruising speed is about 7 knots, so you see the downside of that route. Actually, it's a REALLY big downside because if you're going the wrong way - which we would be, given the current - you go over Niagara Falls. The day before we left I got an email from our friend Joan warning us not to get sucked over the falls. I had horrible dreams all night about going over the falls, and told Joe in the morning that he'd really be in trouble if that happened. Obviously, it didn't. I'm sure you'd have seen it on the news if it had.
The marina in St. Clair offered half off for your second night stay during the week so we decided to take a break and stay. This has to be one of the best marinas we've been to. There's nothing really special about the facility, but the staff couldn't do enough for us. They would take us in their van anywhere in the area we needed to go - and then offered to carry our laundry and groceries to the boat for us. And always seemed happy about doing it! If you're in the area, it's a good stop. (Also, fuel is $.25 off per gallon on Tuesdays!)
The following morning we continued up the St. Clair River against a pretty good current. It was cloudy when we started out and then turned foggy. And foggier. The prediction was for it to dissipate in a couple of hours, but then the wind was supposed to increase from the north. That would have made Lake Huron pretty uncomfortable, so we stopped at Port Huron for a quiet afternoon. The next morning with left again to enter Lake Huron without fog or wind this time. The current is very stiff as all the water from Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron flow through this narrow river into Lake Erie and eventually over Niagara Falls. Against this current of approximately 5.5 knots, we could only make a speed of 2.4 knots ( less then 3 mph). So after a very slow crawl we crawled our way into lake Huron. The current greatly lessened the further we got into the lake..
The lake had treated us well as far as giving us a smooth ride, but it had also been the birthplace of a gazillion midges! These midges are mosquito sized, non-biters, with a short life span that would drive you insane if you had to be out with them for any length of time. They love the white boat, so every morning the decks were covered with dead midges and the sides with the ones that were still managing to hang on.
The winds had picked up and storms were on the way so we stayed in Mac City the next day and toured the retired icebreaker, Mackinaw. For more than 60 years (1944 - 2006) she kept the shipping lanes open for traffic on the Great Lakes. The way she did it was pretty incredible. Ballast water, inside the ship, could be moved from one side to the other - some huge amount moved in 90 seconds - that would cause a 20 degree tilt each way. In the same way they could also raise the bow 25 feet, move up over the ice and crash down on it. Between the side to side tilt and raising the bow, the ship could basically waddle itself through the ice. Impressive.
We were awakened at 5:30 the next morning by a thunderstorm packing 40 mph winds. We figured we'd just stay another day, but after talking to a more local boater and re-checking the weather, we decided to try it. Now, we have certain preparations we make for rough water - our version of silent running - meaning nothing flying and crashing around the boat. On this trip, things that had never moved before came crashing down. The waves in freshwater are totally different from those in saltwater. They can build up fast and don't seem to make swells - just waves close together for you to crash through. Definitely not one of our most comfortable days with large steep waves crashing the boat from three different directions! Joe had never seen anything like it, but Carolyn Ann just kept chugging and we just kept on holding on and we made it to Charlevoix exhausted. We ended up staying two nights in Charlevoix - did some laundry and watched the tension filled US vs. Belgium world cup soccer game. What a goalie that Tim Howard is!
We'll stay here a few days and hope to visit with some of Joe's relatives.
More pictures on picasa http://picasaweb.google.com/joseph.pica