Sprint for Home – 8/14/16

First of All -

  • First time in the Pacific Time Zone since day one of the trip
  • First elk seen on the trip

Namely Speaking-

  • Three Forks
  • Butte
  • Missoula
  • Kellogg
  • Spokane
  • Sprague Lake
  • Moses Lake
  • Wenatchee
  • Leavenworth

Loop Log:

  • Miles Driven today: 638
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,685
  • Hours Underway: 11
  • Fuel: 53 gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.85
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 101
  • Water Temperature: NA

We start early for the final drive of the trip, passing by Three Forks, named for the three rivers (Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson) which join here to form the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark turned south here, in search of a route to the Pacific. We stick with I-90, which heads up to the continental divide near Butte. As we climb up to the summit, slightly over 6,300 feet in elevation, Sandy spots a lone elk peacefully grazing along an abandoned railroad bed below the highway. We’re in very familiar territory now, having traveled this route many times in years past. We stop DSCF6260for fuel in Drummond, and then roll on, past Missoula and along the Clark Fork River. We stop at the 50,000 Silver Dollar place for lunch. After lunch I turn up the frontage road, figuring it will lead me back to the freeway. However, the road turns away and I know I’ve erred when I see a dead end sign. I’m searching for a place to turn around, and end up having to back the boat into a residential driveway. As I’m carefully cutting and backing into the driveway, the homeowner walks out and helps me with arm signals. Once I’m positioned to complete the maneuver he walks up. I roll my window down and call out to him “Are you the guy who ordered the boat?” He gets a good laugh out of that, and tells me that lots of folks make the same mistake we just made.

We then climb to the summit of Lookout Pass, which serves as the border between Montana and Idaho. It also marks the start of the Pacific Time Zone. We’ve gained back the final hour which we surrendered on our trip east, exactly one year ago. As we descend into theDSCF6261 Treasure Valley, with its famous mining towns of Wallace and Kellogg, it’s beginning to get warm, and after we crest 4th of July Pass and drop down into Coeur d’Alene it’s getting darn right hot. We cross the Washington State line shortly thereafter, and are once again in our home state. The thermometer on the truck’s rear view mirror reads 98 degrees, and the truck’s air conditioning is barely keeping up. Just outside Spokane, near a place called Sprague Lake, I see illuminated tailights and backed up traffic looming ahead. I slow and then stop, wondering what’s going on. I check Google Maps on the cell phone, and learn that we’re in a 25 minute delay. I wonder if there’s been an accident ahead, but it simply ends up being a construction zone. The backup is caused by heavy traffic funneling into a single lane. On this blistering hot day, and on the final afternoon of our trip, this delay is most unwelcome, but there’s nothing to be done but wait. We finally crawl our way to the end of the construction constriction, and can once again resume our speed. We near home around 5pm, but decide to stop at the Big Y for dinner, knowing that we have nothing in the house to fix dinner with. We know we’re finally home when friends walk in. We’ve been gone so long that they almost don’t recognize us. After dinner I fill the truck’s fuel tank one last time, and then we drive into town. I back the boat up our steep, narrow driveway and shut the truck down for the final time. In the past 4 days we’ve driven roughly 2,500 miles, but we’re finally home. In the past year our boat has traveled more than 5,000 miles on its trailer, and has cruised 6,421 water miles in completing our version of the Great Loop.

Stopped by the Wyoming Boat Police – 8/13/16

First of All -

  • First time driving in Montana
  • First bighorn sheep ram seen
  • First time having to stop at a boat inspection station

Namely Speaking-

  • Rapid City
  • Belle Fourche
  • Sheridan
  • Powder River
  • Little Bighorn
  • Billings
  • Bozeman

Loop Log:

  • Miles Driven today: 575
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,047
  • Hours Underway: 14
  • Fuel: 45 gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 94
  • Water Temperature: NA

DSCF6217We sit in the cockpit of the boat and eat breakfast, looking out at the little town of Interior, and the South Dakota Badlands which dominate the skyline to the north and west. It’s a lonely place, which seems to have once been busier and more substantial, but not by much. We pull out of our campsite around 8am and drive a short distance, back inside the Park and over to the visitor center. We watch the introductory film, which is excellent, and then wander through the center, with its exhibits on the geology, human and natural history of the Badlands. DSCF6221 Then we take the scenic loop drive, stopping at a couple of places to get out and take in the wonders. It’s unfortunate that we can’t pause and really experience this place. Our primary purpose today is to cover miles, and by 10:30am we’re once again out on I-90 rolling along at 70 mph. We drive past Rapid City and skirt the Black Hills. Billboards shout at us, urging stops here and there but we ignore them all. We even resist detouring for a quick look at Mt. Rushmore. We’ve seen it and the Crazy Horse carved mountain before, and it would be pointless to navigate our towed sailboat through hordes of tourists for another fleeting peek. On the other side of the freeway, all heading east, are streams of motorcycles. The famed Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has just wrapped up, and bikers from all over the US and Canada are thundering homeward. We stop for lunch near Belle Fourche, memorably pronounced “Bell Foosh” by John Wayne in True Grit. That’s actually how they pronounce it. I’m sure real Frenchmen cringe at the pronounciation.


Not far beyond our lunch stop we cross into Wyoming, and it’s there on the eastern fringe of this great and true wild west state that we’re subjected to a holdup by modern day highwaymen. Actually, they’re fish and game men, and instead of our gold and jewelry, they’re holding us up to inspect our boat. They place signs on the freeway, directing all watercraft to pull over at the rest area turnoff. Law abiding citizens that we are, we do as directed. I’m certain that we’re the first sailboat in the history of the program to stop and report last cruising on Lake Huron. This distinction entitles us to receive the full attention and treatment of the young men at the inspection station. They do a carefulDSCF6224 walkaround, carefully examining this potential harborage of nasty invasive species. They look the trailer over, crawl under the boat and look into the centerboard well, and they pay particular attention to the transom, which is still adorned with small, very dead barnacles. They ask that I open the water ballast valve, which is empty of water. I’m informed that they will need to attach engine flushing ears onto the lower unit of our outboard and flush the outboard with 140 degree water. I lower the engine and they start their water pump, carefully measuring the temperature of the water to confirm that it’s at the prescribed temperature. They place the ears DSCF6229on the cooling water intake and I start the engine. After a couple of minutes, this supposedly has killed any nasty creatures still lurking inside our engine, and I shut it down. Then they crank up their pressure washer, and proceed to blast away at the transom, knocking off all those little barnacles. This seems very strange, since those salt water barnacles have long been deceased after being in fresh water for the past 3 months. I explain this simple fact to them and they just shrug their shoulders, saying that their boss requires that they do this. I do get a free cleaning of the back of the boat, however, I’m not pleased with the more than half hour delay which this all costs me. Finally, they’re satisfied that our boat is no longer a threat to Wyoming’s waters and I get a carbon copy of their inspection form. They affix a small cable to the boat trailer, sealing it with a soft metal compressed slug, which prevents me from launching the boat without first breaking the cable. They tell me that Montana also has an inspection program, and that myDSCF6239 receipt and the cable should allow me to pass through with minimal delay.

We start up again, driving through the storied Powder River Basin which was the scene of some of the most bitter fights between Indians and cavalry during the 1860’s and 1870’s. A short distance off the freeway, the happless and foolish Fetterman succeeded in getting his entire command wiped out by Red Cloud and his warriors. When the Indians win it’s termed a massacre. When the cavalry prevails in an attach on a defenseless winter village full of women and children, like at nearby Wounded Knee, it’s called a battle. At least, that’s how traditional histories treat such tragic events. Today, the Powder River Basin is mostly known for its energy production. A sign we read at a stop along the way proclaims that 1/6 of the world’s current energy production comes from this basin, mostly low sulfur coal but also natural gas. That’s a statistic which is hard to fathom.

We pass the cities of Buffalo and Sheridan, near the base of the Big Horn Mountains, and then cross into Montana. I warily watch for boat DSCF6241inspection station turn off signs, but see none. We do see numerous signs related to the Little Bighorn Battlefield, which until recently was known as the Custer Massacre site. From a distance we can see the lonely hill, with tiny white specks marking the location where 7th Cavalry troopers fell and died. Once again, we’ve previously visited this historic place, so we motor on. Around dinner time we approach Billings. I see a generic logo sign for “food” and turn off. Unfortunately, restaurants are nowhere near the exit. We end up in a hopeless traffic backup. It seems that even in Billings they have rush hour traffic. The presence of carnival rides some ways off also suggest that we may be caught in traffic related to a local fair. I manage to swing a “U” turn and get back on the freeway. We go to what I take to be an exit on the western fringe of Billings,DSCF6252 which also boasts “food” signs, however, once committed to the exit, additional signs tell us that the restaurants are 1 to 2 miles down the road, right in the heart of downtown Billings. I stop at the first place we come to, a Dennys, and against my better judgement, we turn in. The parking lot is nearly deserted, as is the restaurant itself. This speaks volumes regarding the qualities of the food served here. At the conclusion of our meal we conclude that we’ll never stop at another Denny’s again. Realizing that it would be hopeless to respond honestly, I lie like crazy when the waitress asks us how everything is tasting. In addition to serving terrible food, the service is slow and uninspired, and it’s after 8pm before we get back on the road. I’d hoped to make it to Three Forks today, knowing that there’s a nice state park there, and that this location would put us within comfortable driving range of home for our final day on the road. However, it’s getting late and I’m weary of driving. We roll into Bozeman around 10:30pm and stop at a rest area there. The truck parking area is completely full, however, I find a double parking space in the car parking area, and pull in there. We climb into the boat for our final night’s sleep in the vee berth.


Crossing into the Great Plains – 8/12/16

First of All -

  • First time traveling in South Dakota
  • First big horn sheep seen on the trip

Namely Speaking-

  • Pottawattamie
  • Council Bluffs
  • Sioux City
  • Sioux Falls
  • Mitchell
  • Corn Palace
  • Badlands

Loop Log:

  • Miles Driven today: 650
  • Total Miles Driven to date: 4,472
  • Hours Underway: 10
  • Fuel: 55 gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 15; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 87
  • Water Temperature: NA

DSCF6186Breakfast at the hotel is very good. We’re back on the road by 9am, feeling relaxed and refreshed. It rained last night, and is still drizzling when we take off. The sky remains overcast throughout the morning. The corn growing country in this part of Iowa is beautiful, with tall stands of corn as far as the eye can see. It’s hard not to be impressed with the richness of this land, and the agricultural productivity it’s so famous for. We stop for fuel shortly before reaching the Missouri River. I’ve decided to return home via I-90, so we jog north on I-29, passing through Sioux City and then picking up I-90 near Sioux Falls. We’ll stay on I-90 all the way back to Washington State.

As we roll westward, the landscape quickly changes. We’re in South Dakota now, and venturing out onto the Great Plains. CornfieldsDSCF6190 give way to grasslands. Billboards compete for attention, urging motorists to stop at the Reptile Gardens, the Corn Palace, the 1880’s Town, and Wall Drug. We motor on, pausing at the Missouri River crossing to fuel the truck and grab dinner. The drive after dinner is a scenic delight. Beautiful cloud formations create dramatic skyscapes. The sun beams through to light up vast fields of sunflowers, in full bloom. Rather late in the evening we take the Badlands National Park exit and drive down into the park. At the entrance station I jokingly ask the Park Ranger “Where’s the lake?” He appreciates the humor. In response to my inquiry about the park campground, he says it’s full, but suggests a place in the nearby town. We drive down into the park, enjoying the tortured scenery of the Badlands. We pass a beautiful bighorn ram, right beside the road, but I’m not quick enough to snap a photo. Just outside the park we find the local grocery the ranger told us about. They have some RV sites in a field across from the store, and we park there for the night. We have the place all to ourselves. Tomorrow we’ll take the scenic loop drive through the park, before climbing back onto the freeway and heading for Montana.















Rolling Past Chicago – 8/11/16

First of All -

  • First time out of the Eastern Time Zone in nearly a year

Namely Speaking-

  • Marseilles
  • Joliet
  • Des Plaines River
  • Des Moines

Loop Log:

  • Miles Driven today: 600
  • Total Miles Driven to date: 3,722
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: 29 gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.16
  • Wind Speed: 15; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 95
  • Water Temperature: NA

DSCF6176On my way to the restroom I flag down a park staffer and let them know about our arrival late last night. She asks me if we have a reservation and I say no. Turns out, the site we parked in was reserved (no sign posting as such), but all is ok and we just need to pay on the way out. The big hurdle of the day is getting past Chicago. A major section of freeway immediately east of Chicago is under construction (I suspect it is permanently under construction – Seems like the same stretch was being worked on a year ago and I don’t think they’ve made much progress). Once we clear the construction zone we reach the toll booth, and I pay my tribute to the State of Illinois. DSCF6177 Not long after that, we get caught in a big slowdown, whose cause is never clear. After a half hour of very slow driving, things clear up.

Early on, we’re passing places we visited while on the cruise. Saugatuk shows up on the road signs, where we passed a pleasant couple of days waiting for the wind to quit blowing. We next see signs for Michigan City, where we stopped in a marina before crossing to Chicago. In quick succession we pass Joliet and Ottawa, both places where we stopped on our cruise down the rivers. When we drive over the Des Plaines River, we’re actually closing our loop in a sense, having passed beneath the very same bridge by boat. We stop for fuel at Marseilles, where we also stopped on the drive east, for our first look at the Illinois River and a working lock. After that, we’re simply retracing our highway route on our way west.

It’s a very hot, humid day, and as we cross the Mississippi into Iowa I conclude that we need to find a motel for the night. It would be prohibitively hot trying to sleep in the boat. We end up stopping at a Fairbridge Motel just outside Des Moines. I check in and then go back to the boat to gather up our overnight stuff. I’m happy to find a working electrical outlet at the base of a parking lot light pole, so we can plug the boat in and keep our batteries charged. We’re still running the refrigerator, and the hot weather has caused the frig to pull the batteries down. We head up to our room, and I can’t wait to kick back and relax. I slide the key card into the door slot and swing the door open. I’m completely surprised to see two young guys already in the room. They’re equally surprised to see me open their door. I briefly consider tossing them both out, but on second thought, realize that they’re both way bigger and younger than me, so I simply ask what they’re doing in our room (in a joking way). Somehow, the hotel has managed to double book room 213. I go back downstairs and explain the situation to the lady on the desk. She’s very apologetic and locates a room for us on the 3rd floor. While she’s setting up our keys, the two guys from 213 come up to see if everything is ok. I tell them “Sure. The motel just rebooked you into a place in Davenport.” That gets a laugh. Up in our room, showers and air conditioning never felt so good. On the negative side, all this driving and climbing in and out of the boat has managed to fire up my troublesome sciatic nerve. It’s not bothered me in more than 3 weeks, but seems determined to cause trouble once again. I take 2 tylenol and hit the rack.


No Room at the Inn (as in Comfort Inn) – 8/10/16

First of All -

  • First time towing the boat in nearly a year
  • First time seeing Uncle Louis and Aunt Laura in 13 years
  • First time stopping at a completely full motel

Namely Speaking-

  • Rogers City
  • Ossineke
  • Grayling
  • Hubbard Lake
  • Holland

Loop Log:

  • Miles Driven today: 310
  • Total Miles Driven to date: 3,001
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: 30 gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 93
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF6136It’s time to haul out off the water and officially end the cruise. I motor the final 200 yards over to the boat ramp, back the trailer down into the water, and pull out. The boat looks weary from all her miles. Scuffed rub rail here, some new gel coat chips at the chine there, stains above the water line and white blotches below, and then there’s that broken skeg at the bottom off the outboard. She definitely looks like she’s been on a 6,421 mile long cruise. The mast lowering process goes smoothly and without difficulty, but it all takes time. It’s 11am before all lines are secured and everything is ready for the homeward drive.

We begin with a substantial detour. We will drive southeast, along the Lake Huron shore to Rogers City, and then turn south toward Ossineke, where Sandy’s Uncle Louis and Aunt Laura live. They’re both 91, the last of Sandy’s aunts and uncles still living. They live at the old farm, which has been in the family since 1862. The actively farmed land has been separated and sold off, but Louis and Laura still live on 4 acres, near the big red barn which Sandy remembers from her childhood visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. We swing into the driveway and we see Louis, sitting outside in the shade of a huge willow. Sandy gives her uncle a big hug as her aunt walks out of the house to greet us. In anticipation of our visit, Louis has gathered up some old photos to view, and we have a wonderful time chatting andDSCF6162 looking at the old pictures. Louis is a remarkable guy, a real World War II hero. He was in the 4th Infantry Division. He came ashore at Normandy on June 27 and was in continuous combat for 5 1/2 months, fighting in the hedgerows of Normandy, in the battle for St. Vith, participated in the liberation of Paris, and was severely wounded by shrapnel during the terrible battle of the Huertgen Forest in November, 1944. He was part of a group which was sent behind enemy lines to gather intelligence on German positions, and it’s amazing that he survived the war. Now, he’s among the shrinking few veterans from that entire war to be still with us. Three of Sandy’s counsins drop by while we’re there, adding to the enjoyment of the visit.

The time passes all too quickly, but by 4:30 we’re saying final goodbyes and pulling out of the driveway with the truck and boat. Getting back to the main north/south freeway from Uncle Louis’s place is easier said than done. We take a series of small county roads, jogging left and right and skirting sizeable Hubbard Lake before getting on a road which takes us due west, toward Grayling. We fuel the truck and grab dinner in Grayling, and then head south on the freeway, hoping to make miles before stopping for the night. I figure on staying in a motel, since it’s a hot evening, and I don’t think we’ll come across a conveniently located campground in the fading hours of the day. It turns out that finding a motel is much harder. We see a turnoff with one of those generic lodging signs, however, we see nothing but forest along the road, and pass it up. I turn off at the next sign, but the sign at the offramp says the motel is 8 miles off the highway. We turn around and go further. Surely, on the edge of Grand Rapids we’ll find something. I take the first exit at Grand Rapids with a lodging sign, but we have trouble finding the place, a Comfort Inn. We have to ask for directions before pulling up a hill and parking. It’s after 10pm and all I want to do is check in and crash. I ask the clerk for a room. She says “Do you have a reservation?” When I reply “No” she apologetically informs me that they’re fully booked. Four stories high, hundreds of rooms, and they’re all full. Amazing. I fire up the truck and on we go. I see a symbol for a rest area just beyond Grand Rapids, and figure we’ll settle for that. Unfortunately, Michigan DOT only provides rest and relief for eastbound travelers. I reject the idea of parking at WalMart, but do find a sign for Holland State Park. I turn off and start following the signs for the park. It’s a long drive, but we finally get there, and are relieved to see that there is no locked gate. I pull in, and the place looks jammed, with campers in every site, as densely packed as a shopping center parking lot. Discouraged, we drive around the loop, not expecting to find anything, but at the far bend we see a vacant site. More importantly, it’s large enough for me to back the boat in and get off the road without having to unhitch the truck. It’s 11:30pm, but we’re finally stopped for the day.

Last Night on the Water – 8/9/16

First of All -

  • First rebuild of trailer lights on the trip
  • First time towing an empty trailer

Namely Speaking-

  • Grand Rapids
  • Muskegon
  • Big Rapids

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Truck: 240
  • Total Truck Miles Driven to date: 2,691
  • Hours Underway: 5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: NA

DSCF6131Our friend fixes us a great breakfast, and I’m hoping I can quickly get the lights working, so we have time to drive back north and get the boat pulled yet today. Balky trailer lights stand stubbornly in the way of this great plan. When I check, I have a left turn signal, but nothing else. I go to work, cleaning up the posts on the trailer/truck plug fitting, but no joy. I then start testing wires. I have power to the truck outlet, I have power to the flat plug fitting on the trailer, but nothing further aft. I remove the right trailer light unit off, looking for a wire to test back there. I don’t find what I’m looking for, but I do find a great big, swarming ants’ nest. They’ve invaded inside the light housing and they’re not happy. I dump them out as best I can, but this just results in ants all over the grass where I’m trying to kneel. Ant bites reward my efforts from this point forward. Bad ground is the suspect. I disconnect the ground connection bolts, grind down to bright bare metal, and start poking holes in various wires with the sharp end of my test light. I get confusing, mixed, and inconsistent results. I get frustrated in trying to get a good ground, and run down to the local auto parts store where I buy a length of trailer wire. If I can’t get aDSCF6132 ground through the trailer frame, I’ll splice onto the ground wire up at the hitch and run a continuous ground wire back to the right trailer light. Before going to that extreme I give the ground bolts one more try, and this time I get a circuit back at the right turn signal. However, when I try to light up the tail light fixture, no light. I’ve got power there, but the light won’t work. The unit is sealed, so I am at a loss. Perhaps the ants somehow have messed it up. Back to the parts store I go, to buy a new light fixture. They don’t have the rectangular style I have on the boat, so I settle for a round unit. Back at the boat, the ground is no longer good, so I clean up the connections and tighten bolts once more. Finally, I have ground and power and a working turn signal, tail lights, and brake lights. Amazing what a good ground connection can do. Only problem is that it is now past noon, and plans for the day are seriously compromised.

Sandy gets into the rental car and I take the truck’s wheel. We say a final goodbye to our friends, and head off to the Muskegon Regional Airport, where we drop off the rental car and grab a late lunch. Finally, around 2pm we hit the highway, heading north and with empty trailer in tow. It’s a solid 4 hour drive back to Mackinaw City, and we’re tired and hungry when we get there. We have dinner at an Irish Pub, realizing that there’s no way we’ll get the boat onto it’s trailer this evening. We’ll spend one more night afloat in the boat, and use the remaining 2 hours of twilight to begin taking the boat apart and hauling gear out of her and loading into the truck. It’s tiring work, but by 10 pm we have the boat stripped down to bare mast, and all the heavy stuff (bicycles, gas cans, tubs of charts, dinghy, boom, etc., etc., etc., stowed in the truck. Time to turn in.

Tickling Thirteen on the Way to Macinaw City – 8/8/16

First of All -

  • First time doing a sustained run at full throttle and empty ballast
  • First time with no further on water destinations ahead of us, beyond today’s goal

Namely Speaking-

  • Macinac Island
  • Macinaw City

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 45; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,421
  • Hours Underway: 5 hours
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.81
  • Wind Speed: nearly calm; Wind Direction: NA
  • Daily High Temperature: 76
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF6098We’re off early for the final run of our trip. I ease our way out of the marina and head south, toward the open water of western Lake Huron. Just before we leave, a large lake freighter passes down the channel. We must be on the route between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Once out on open waters I turn west. The water is glassy smooth, and I decide that, since we have plenty of gas, it would be a good time for our boat to act like the MacGregor 26X Powersailer she is. I open the ballast valve and air plug, and we power up. As theDSCF6099 bow rises, the ballast water we’ve been hauling around with us ever since leaving Norfolk VA quickly drains out. Soon we’re booming along at full throttle, leaving a spreading wake behind us. On this smooth water, it’s amazing to be able to see our wake stretch out virtually to the eastern horizon. Our speed hits 11.5 mph, and then improves to 12. As we near Macinac Island we start tickling 13, and after we pass by the island, we’re running steadily at 13 mph, a record speed for the trip.

Because of the urgency in our pace, we aren’t able to stop at Macinac Island. We visited there 45 years ago, and I figure the important, scenic stuff like the old fort, grand hotel, and horses and buggies haven’t changed much. So, we don’t feel particularly disappointed in not being able to visit once again. This feeling is reinforced by one change that we do note. A great deal of condo construction has taken place along the waterfront, on the west side of the boat basin. They aren’t particularly distasteful, but they certainly don’t add to the scenic quality either. We also note the steady parade of high speed tour boats hauling tourists out to the island from Macinac City and St. Ignace. I’m certain that tourist volume is way up, compared with 1971. We take lots of pictures of the island and its major structures as we pass by. We also don’t neglect the majestic Big DSCF6100Mac Bridge, which connects Michigan’s Lower and Upper Penninsulas. This great suspension bridge was completed in 1957. Prior to its completion, traffic would stack up for miles and hours, waiting for the ferry during high demand times like summer and the opening of fishing and hunting seasons.

Shortly before noon we enter the Macinac City Municipal Marina boat basin, and take our final slip. After nearly a year on the water, it feels strange and somewhat bittersweet to know that our voyage is coming to its end. Once we’re tied up in our slip, I get our gold Loop flag out and raise it on the halyard. This flag signifies crossing one’s wake on a Loop cruise. Although we haven’t actually made it back to our starting point on the water, I figure that, after 6,421 water miles we’ve earned the right. We will cross our path on the boat trailer, completing our loop, and certainly, the medical and family circumstances count for something. Actually, the technicality of a gold loop flag really don’t amount to the motivation for this undertaking. All the sights, experiences, and people met along the way are the true reward.

I originally figured we’d arrive several hours later, and would just have enough time to round up a rental car. This plan would call for us to drive town to Grand Haven tomorrow, and hopefully drive back here late in the day. Because we’ve arrived so early, we have time to get the rental car and make the drive south today. I opt to do a one way rental, picking the car up at the local airport. We take a taxi out to the airport and then hit the road. We get toDSCF6111 our friends’ house by 5:30 pm, and it’s a joyful reunion. They’ve gotten the truck’s oil changed, and have hitched the truck and boat up for us. We learn that wasps built a nest in the surge brake coupler, resulting in a sting during the hitching process. Hopefully they’re all gone now. I also learn that our friend couldn’t get the trailer lights to come on. I’ll work on that in the morning. Our friend is a local policeman, and in the event that I can’t get them working, he writes me up a warning citation for defective equipment. He says that will get me past any stop by law enforcement here in Michigan. After that, I will be on my own. I hope I can get those darned lights working.

We all go out for dinner together, telling stories and enjoying each other’s company. It’s nice to sleep in a regular bed once again. Tomorrow will be a busy day.













Back in the USA – 8/7/16

First of All -

  • First hiccup from the engine since the electrical problems down in North Carolina
  • First time back in the USA since June 17 (except for 1 day in July, at Boldt Castle, New York)
  • First time the auto pilot has quit
  • First time calling the Coast Guard about a sailboat washed up on the rocks

Namely Speaking-

  • Mississaugi Channel
  • Cockburn Island (pronounced Coburn, as in James Coburn)
  • False DeTour Passage
  • Drummond Island
  • Detour

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 56; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,376
  • Hours Underway: 9 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 12; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 76
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF6090We’ve decided to leave a bit later than yesterday. It blew most of the night and is still in the process of settling down. It’s supposed to calm down in the middle of the day. I don’t want to leave too late, though, since we have a good distance to cover, and we need to allow for clearing US Customs at Drummond Island. You never know when that process might result in delays. Also, there’s a good chance it could get breezy in the afternoon, and I’d like to get in before things have a chance of getting rough again. I reach down and turn the ignition key, like I’ve done hundreds of times before on this trip. The engine fires and catches, like usual, however, after a couple of moments, it dies. That’s very unusual. I go to restart and it struggles to catch. I finally get it to fire and I lift the idle arm, which revs it upDSCF6092 enough to keep it running. We shift into reverse and get off the dock, but this seems like an ominous development on this, the second to last planned cruising day of the trip. I suspect that the spark plugs are in need of replacement. At least, I hope that’s all it is.

The inner bay waters are ruffled by the wind, but as we near the bay’s mouth I can clearly see “elephants on the horizon”. The tops of sizeable waves are silhouetted against the horizon, and whitecaps are scattered across the surface of the North Channel. It’s going to be a rough start. Right away, though, I can tell that it’s not nearly as bad as yesterday. We plough, bounce, and occasionally pound our way through the oncoming seas. I snap a couple pictures of our friends’ boat, Shamrock, as it struggles against the waves. I get one shot of her being lifted by a wave, with nearly half of her hull suspended in the air. After we pass Mississaugi Channel, though, the whitecaps begin to diminish. Our ride starts to improve, and we begin making better speed. By the time we near Drummond Island and the boundary between the US and Canada we’re cruising right along in just a light chop. Shortly after crossing the boundary I raise our DSCF6093yellow quarantine flag, and we near Chippiwa Point, which is the turning point toward Drummond Yacht Haven, which is where we’ll clear Customs. Before gaining the point, however, I sight a sailboat close to shore. At first I figure it’s just anchored there, but things just don’t look right. In the binoculars I can see the jib partially unfurled, and the mainsail hanging loosely from the boom. The boat is heeled slightly to port, and is not moving. She’s aground. We don’t see any crew on board or on the beach. A bass boat cruises close by, and then moves off. On the basis of all the gear still on the boat, it can’t have been there very long.

After making the turn toward Drummond Yacht Haven I make an irritating discovery. The autopilot isn’t working. In fact, it has managed to turn itself completely off. DSCF6094 The control display is completely blank, indicating no power to it. On top of the engine stumble at the start of the morning, this marks a continuation of a disturbing trend. One thing after another is acting up or going wrong. It seemed to start with me losing the boat hook in one of the last locks we went through. More recently, the Scirocco fan, which is installed in the cabin ceiling, and which we heavily rely on for cooling and air circulation in the cabin, decided to quit. Probably a loose wire or switch problem. And now the autopilot has decided it’s had enough. It’s as if the boat is trying to tell us it’s getting very tired, and needs to take a break from this year long voyage.

We tie up to the Customs dock shortly after noon, and a very friendly lady welcomes us back into the US. She asks us the usual questions, records information from our passports and boat registration papers, and we’re set. We have nothing on board which Customs has any issues with. We feared that apples couldn’t be brought in, so on our way in we greedily gobbled up the 4 small apples we still had. We were surprised to learn that apples are not on the prohibited list here in Michigan, which is surprising since Michigan is an apple growing state.

When it’s time to take off again, I’m relieved to hear the engine start right up. We motor 10 more miles, over to DeTour, a small town on the extreme eastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Penninsula. We pull into a slip at the State DNR run marina there. It’s a nice, clean place with very reasonable rates. Once we’re tied up, I send messages out to our sons regarding their grandpa, and I also contact our friend in Grand Haven, letting him know our plans for retrieving the pickup and boat trailer. It seems hard to believe that tomorrow will our final day of cruising on this nearly year long voyage. We’ve become accustomed to life on the water, and we’re sure to go through a transition of sorts to land based living. I can’t help but admit that a very small part of me, the goal oriented part, regrets not being able to cruise the boat back into Grand Haven, where we started out last summer. However, a great big part of me is pulling me to be with mom and dad at this most difficult of times. I’m very anxious to get the boat on its trailer and on the road, bound for our home in Washington, so that I can then make the trip down to Los Angeles. Just as the weather regularly reminds boaters just how insignificant they are when out on the water, events like dad’s illness are reminders that, as much as we like to plan things out, we’re still subject to events and circumstances which defy our ability to plan. There’s meaning and purpose to all of this, and right now, I think that bringing our family together and showing love for each other is a big part of that purpose.


Retreat – 8/6/16

First of All -

  • First time turning around and returning to port due to wind and waves

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 8; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,328
  • Hours Underway: 1 1/2
  • Fuel: 7.5 gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 15-20; Wind Direction: WNW
  • Daily High Temperature: 78
  • Water Temperature: 73

DSCF6082I’m up at 5am and the boat is prepped and ready to go by 5:30. Just starting to get color on the eastern horizon. A light breeze ruffles the water just outside the breakwater. It’s hard to tell what it will be like at the mouth of the bay. I walk over and confer with Larry and Elaine, confirming their intention to also head for Drummond this morning. I head out with Shamrock following close behind. I’m going slightly faster, and I begin to open up a little distance between our two boats. About halfway out of the bay we start picking up the swell, 1 to 2 feet at first, but quickly increasing to 3 feet. Further out I can see lots of whitecaps, and the wind speed strengthens as we near theDSCF6084 first point which defines the bay. We’re rising and falling into the closely spaced troughs, and as the wave height steepens to 4 feet, occasionally higher, we start to pound. I call Larry on the VHF, who is trailing by 1/4 mile, telling him I’m thinking this isn’t a good idea. He wants to go just a bit further before deciding to turn back. I’m hoping when I clear the point that the wind, blowing right toward the island, may create a bit of a cushion effect, however it just seems to be getting stronger, the waves growing higher. There’s no way I want to do this for the next 6 hours. The forecast predicts a lessening of wind speed in the forenoon, however, even stronger winds by early afternoon. With these rough seas I can’t make the speed I will need to reach Drummond Island by noon. It’s just not going to happen today, so I pick my spot and hang a “U” turn. Running with these high seas is no picnic, with the boat constantly trying to slew around with the push of trailing seas. Larry heads out for a bit longer, but ends up drawing the same conclusion that I have, and he follows us back into Meldrum Bay. We tie up back at our slips, disappointed that we couldn’t make the trip to Drummond today, but comfortable with our decision to backtrack.

After the boat is tied up we have breakfast and then I take a nap. Sandy spends much of the day taking advantage of the good internet signal at the marina office, working on the computer. I go for an afternoon walk and, while strolling down the road, I check my phone for messages. I see a text from my sister, who is down with my folks in LA. She reports that dad is not doing well, and it sounds like I need to start rethinking our cruising plans. I need to figure out a way to get home in time to be with dad and give support to mom. It’s not clear just how quickly I’ll need to move, but it’s feeling more and more like I’m going to need to pull up short. On the walk back to the marina I consider options. I need two good weather cruising days, one to get to Drummond Island where we’ll clear US Customs, and another to get across the Straits of Mackinaw and back to Michigan’s Lower Penninsula. Once I get to Mackinac DSCF6087City I have options. If the news from home starts to improve, I can push on by water as fast as safety allows, perhaps covering the 238 water miles in 4 or 5 good weather cruising days. The risk there is that wind will most likely impose delays. Another option is to rent a car and drive down to Grand Haven, retrieve the truck and trailer, and start driving south. My new friend Larry has most generously offered to ride with me in the rental car, so it can be driven back to the rental agency. I can either leave the truck, boat and trailer in Grand Haven with my friend while I fly to LA or, if it looks like I can afford the extra time, spend 5 days on the road trailering the boat back to Washington. It’s tough to be in this situation when I’m needed at the folks’ home. Hopefully, things will sort out in the next few days, but right now, everything seems uncertain, including the weather. Tomorrow looks doable, but then so did today.

Sandy and I talk this all over while on an after dinner stroll. It’s a lovely evening, with low light causing the trees and fields to glow. We see a pair of deer feeding in a field and, while walking back, I look over my shoulder at the long country lane we’ve been walking along. It’s kind of like life, a long route and you just can’t quite see what’s around the far bend.


Waiting on Weather at Meldrum Bay – 8/5/16

First of All -

  • First time since leaving Lake Michigan that we’ve been held up by wind while on fresh water (and Lake Michigan is just around the corner once again)

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: NA – Layover Day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,320
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: 7.5 gallons; $40
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 20; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 73

DSCF6058The predicted early morning rain hits at 6am. I hurry out and set up the cockpit enclosure (just too tired last night to do it before retiring), and then crawl back into the sleeping bag for 40 more winks. When we finally do get up I’m second guessing yesterday’s decision to lay over today. It’s a beautiful morning, and quite calm out on Meldrum Bay. I’m thinking that we very well could have made our move to Drummond Island today. Those thoughts are quickly put to rest around 11am when a small sailboat makes its way into the harbour and docks at the marina. The couple on board report having made a very rough passage across the North Channel. An hour or two later a largeDSCF6064 sailboat, which had been in the marina last night and had departed earlier in the morning, returns to the dock. The captain says they’d tried going out and had turned back. Just too rough out there, he says. So, the decision to lay over is looking better all the time.

It’s a warm day, and the breeze which is causing such rough conditions out in North Channel is quite welcome here. We go for an afternoon walk over to a small museum just up the road. It’s located in a historic fishing net shed. The great grandson of the fisherman who built it greets us as we walk in. One of the most remarkable artifacts we find inside are two large timbers which were discovered on a nearby beach more than 50 years ago. They’ve been heavily researched, and while it’s not 100% certain, the consensus of opinion is that they came from the wreck of La Salle’s ship Le Griffon, which sank in this area in 1679.

Together with the couple who came in this morning, we consult weather forecasts to try and decide whether we can move in the morning. It looks like conditions will be ok in the morning, but the wind is really supposed to pipe up by 2pm. We figure that if we get an early enough start we should be able to make Drummond Island by noon. We decide to go, provided that the forecast holds. DSCF6060 We’ll check again before turning in tonight.

We fix dinner on the boat, but just can’t resist heading back over to the Meldrum Bay Inn for another go at their fabulous desserts. Tonight we try their bumbleberry pie, which is served ala mode. The plate is sprinkled with cinnamon, and the combination is excellent. Our table is out on the balcony, and while waiting for our pie I try taking pictures of the hummingbirds which are visiting feeders which hang from the eaves. Diners at 2 other tables notice what I’m doing and soon they too are snapping photos with their cell phone cameras. We’re entertained by a musician with a guitar who is playing and singing ballads. Both his voice and the lyrics, which I presume are his own, are filled with feeling. We will take fond memories of Meldrum Bay when we leave.