Disappointment comes when reality and expectations are not aligned. Being disappointed is a choice but it is a tough choice not to fall victim to disappointment when you have built expectations over a long period of time and have invested a lot of mental energy (as well as time and sometimes money) into the creation of those expectations.
Little Strawberry Lighthouse under cloudy skies
This week has been one of mental readjustment for me (I won’t speak for Jerry because I think he feels the need to cover distance so that we reach Chicago on time more than I do). As we came up the east coast of Florida and since then, we have sacrificed stopping at some spots where we would have if we had two years to do this trip. The primary reason for the push was to get up into Canada and to be able to spend a lot of time here, thinking that we will probably not have another chance to see these areas from the water.
Mechanical and weather delays, added to an unexpected trip home, combined to move us from being one of the first of the 2018 Looper boats to maybe being either the last of them or among the first boats in the Class of 2019. While being out of season is wonderful from the standpoint of fewer people and boats competing for the same slips and secluded anchorages, the cost is that the fall weather up here has deteriorated into a miserable gray stretch of rainy, windy days that are forecast well into next week. UGH! The boat is starting to take on the smell of a lake-swimming Labrador who never really dries out.
We had planned to do the top of the North Channel, seeing Baie Fine (a natural fjord), the Benjamin Islands (reputed for bears and blueberries this time of year) and some of the other highlights of that route. In Killarney, looking at the weather forecast of strong wind and thunderstorm advisories coming from the South, we must reevaluate the safest route for us to take. Staying to the north would expose us to the onslaught of nasty weather in open water and having had a taste of how bad that can be last week, we decide to alter our plans and take the more protected southern route across the northern coast of Manatoulin Island.
We leave Killarney and head north to explore one of the stops we would have made in nice weather, Covered Portage. Here is a lovely, protected cove surrounded by white quartz cliffs, which can be hiked for a splendid view down to magnificent blues of the anchorage.
Friends of ours sent us this photo and we would love to replicate it with ourselves and our boat in the shot but the misty rain and gray skies steal the blues from the water along with our desire to get out and hike. It is at this point that some major effort comes into not being heartily disappointed that we don’t have a week to wait out the weather so that we can make these kinds of memories.
Bending the thought process to focus on the new reality takes some effort but we do pretty well. Heading south again, we pass flows of white quarts that look like glacial ice even in the low light of gray and cloudy skies. It must be magnificent when the sun is out.
This area is known for quarrying the finest silica in the world and we see evidence of this along the waterway.
We bypass Snug Harbor, another gorgeous anchorage when it is a pretty day. If I were to do this trip again, I would definitely make time to anchor in Bad River (where we were at the end of last week), Covered Portage and Snug Harbor. Actually this whole area is heaven for people who like to live “on the hook.” The number of protected anchorages that are secluded and surrounded by natural beauty is just amazing. “Okay, stop thinking of what might have been and focus on what is!” I tell myself again!
We motor past the Port of Little Current, which is the town on Manatoulin Island that is the gateway to the mainland. The only bridge that connects the two is right here. Jerry calls the swing bridge to confirm that the chart is correct and we have 18’ of clearance only to find that there is only 16’! Thank goodness he thought to call or we might have decapitated our radar and goodness knows what else! Gotta love my captain!
Under gun-metal-gray skies we pull into the Gore Bay and I am in love! Somehow we have been misdirected from our marina to the CWC Yacht Charter area (they are right next to each other) and a kid says we can stay there free of charge if we don’t need services!
Gore Bay is lovely, carved by glaciers with steep, rocky cliffs on one side and a settlement on the other side. Towering white birches line the coast and there are nature walks and a lot of Rotary presence here.
Again, I would love an extra day to do the hike along the ridge that overlooks the bay.
We substitute a walk where we are scolded by a squirrel who alerts the nearby deer of our presence but they don’t seem to be overly concerned. These deer are HUGE! Their red and buff coats make them easy to spot among the greenery but they are so busy eating that I can’t really get a good photo of them.
There is fish hatchery here somewhere but we can’t find it in the gathering dusk (I wanted to take a picture for Annie C!) and so we retire to the boat and anticipate a very early start in the morning.
I get up in the middle of the night and am excited to finally see stars and a moon clearly visible but by 5:30 AM we are totally overcast AGAIN! We make our way out of Gore Bay to the scolding from a very disgruntled flock of Canada geese who are making it loudly known that they are less than happy with our early departure.
As the sun rises, we travel the coastline of Barrie and Manatoulin Islands in its morning light. It brightens up a bit but then remains mostly misty and slightly gray. To the north, where we would have ideally been, it is dark and rainy and I am glad we aren’t up there as the wind from the front will have built the waves there. We made the right choice as we have an 82 mile run to make today and the water here is sheltered by Manatoulin Island and is glass smooth most of the way. When the sun tries to peek through the clouds a couple of times the water is a beautiful blue.
We land in Drummond Island a little over 2 hours sooner than we thought we might owing to the windless conditions and we refuel and clear customs in a little room on an I-pad! After 62 days, we bring down our tattered Canadian courtesy flag and are sad to leave Canada but are happy to be back in the USA!
We do some cursory cleaning and then enjoy dinner and a movie aboard – YAY, being back in the USA means that our Amazon Prime will stream again! We finish our first day back in the States with an amazing sunset that paints the sky with fire. We literally stand and watch for at least a half hour; it is that awe inspiring.
Fortune smiles on us with the news that some friends of 30 years will be in St. Ignace and we have 68 miles to run to meet them for a late lunch. The water is a little choppy but not too bad and we come through the Straits of Mackinac under hazy but partly sunny skies…YAAY!
Straits of Mackinac Lighthouse
We have almost forgotten what the sun looks like. We pass beautiful Mackinac Island off to the north and spy the 7 mile long Mackinac Bridge that is closed this morning for an annual charity walk.
We marvel at the clarity and color of the water as we pull into our marina. Standing on the bow, waiting to throw lines to the dock crew, I can see straight down 10-15 feet to where mighty boulders make up the bottom of the fairways.
We get docked, grab a quick shower and meet Bob and Diane for lunch, which we eat outside under perfect skies with lots of laughing and some good local beer.
After lunch, they take off for Sault Ste Marie and we decide that we better catch the ferry and tour Mackinac Island today because the weather (of course) is going to close down again tomorrow.
We grab a five thirty ferry and travel to Mackinac Island. It is a nice ride and we enjoy the town which is a little touristy but if you can think back a bunch of years, you can envision how lovely it must have been.
There are no cars allowed here, so horse-drawn buggies carry people all over the town. We walk up hill to the old Mackinac Hotel. We think fondly of Jerry’s mom, Sharon who vacationed at the hotel once when she was a young married woman and talked about it with incredible fondness for the rest of her life. We feel her presence with us and her memory is warm and fresh as we walk the grounds of this magnificent old hotel.
We are rained into St. Ignace for the next three days. Really it wasn’t so much rain that kept us in the slip as the gusts of wind ranging from 45-60 mph! A couple of times we had a tough time standing upright as we tried to tour the town between bands of rain.
We managed to visit the Ojibwa museum where we learned the amazing amount of skilled work it takes to build a birch bark canoe. Ringing a birch and removing the entire vertical section of 15 feet actually doesn’t hurt the tree, which we are glad to hear. It was a really nice little museum and a great way to spend a rainy day learning about some of the early culture in this area.
The next morning, we have a weather window with lots of wind but no rain and we take advantage of this by riding our bikes 4 miles to explore Castle Rock. It threatens to rain on us the whole way but doesn’t.
The legend has it that Paul Bunyan was the greatest lumberman in the area, when the mosquitos would get big he’d knock them on the heads with his mighty sledge hammer, driving their beaks into the logs. They’d fly away carrying the timber to the mill for him! He and his Blue Ox, Babe got tired and sat down to rest against Castle Rock when an arctic blast came through and froze them to the spot and here they remain (not sure why Babe was frozen with her tongue sticking out but there you are!).
I don’t so much care about the legend as I do about the family owned gift shop that was built on site in the early 50’s by a group of local Ojibwa artisans. The entire roof is made from birch bark and the seams are edged with stripped roots just like in the video we watched about constructing a birch bark canoe the day before. All the supports are birch poles and it is old but it is a true work of art.
We huff and puff our way up the steep steps that take us straight up 200 feet to Castle Rock and the view is amazing. We can only imagine what it looks like when the sun is out and the water is a million shades of blue. Oh well, I will take pictures of the forest instead of the Lake!
The next morning dawns bright and, as forecast, the wind is down and we happily scoot out of the slip at dawn and go under the Mackinac Bridge, which is an impressive piece of architecture.
We head to Beaver Island and cannot believe the colors of the water. It is every bit as gorgeous as it is in the Florida Keys, with hues ranging from teal, to Gatorade Ice to Gulf Stream cobalt. It is SO nice to have the sun out and our journey is a short 5-hour uneventful trip to Beaver Island.
Again, my camera cannot pick up the colors, so I have borrowed an internet image from above to show the different shades of blue around Beaver Island. Our little marina is at about 10 o’clock on this image but if we were here again, I would probably anchor right in the middle where the sail boat is. This is a lovely little town, peaceful and quiet and its claim to fame is that it has a zero-crime rate! We are now past Labor Day so most of the businesses are shuttered but we enjoy a walk around town any way.
We depart a little before dawn, taking advantage of another good weather day. We pass the red spot from the lighthouse and say good bye to Beaver Island and are off to meet Blake in Traverse City today.
We dock at the West Harbor Yacht Club (the only spot that had room for us) and meet Blake. It is a nice facility with great amenities and when members’ boats are away, they rent them to transients for a great price.
We are short on time but manage a whirlwind tour of Sleeping Dunes National Seashore which is an amazingly gorgeous experience.
Again, the colors of the water are stunning, ranging from a silvery shimmer to a cobalt blue with all the colors in between. We don’t do the 450’ hike straight down the face of the dune to the water but are impressed to watch a few people who do.
Next, we are on to Leland because we aren’t sure if we will get there by water. We have a great dinner at the Cove and grab a Leland shot glass and T-shirt for my Leland and drive back to the marina with a stop to sample some of the local breweries’ products.
We head back to the boat, give Blake a tour and the low-down on what’s what and turn in, hoping the weather will favor a good first day out on the water for him and that this isn’t our experience when we depart Traverse Bay into Lake Michigan…