September 7 to 21, Dubuque to Quincy

We arrived in Dubuque, and looked forward to our second visit to the restaurant, Brazen.  It was enjoyable, but not as good as the first visit, and certainly not worth the 45-minute walk.  The other problem was crossing the railway tracks.  Dubuque’s downtown is divided from the new waterfront area by the Interstate highway (elevated), and railway tracks with level crossings.  Trains get held up, often enough and long enough to require special signage suggesting alternate routes for drivers.  We had been lucky before, but this time, on our return from the restaurant, we were held up by a train.  After waiting for a while, we had to walk back into town, and then make our way to the elevated bridge that allows passage over the tracks.  This added quite a bit of time to the walk, on a hot and humid night, and it was dark by the time we got back to the boat.  Even then, we could see that the train was still across the tracks and blocking the road.

Sunset in Dubuque

The next morning, Dick picked up the rental car, and we made a grocery shopping trip.  We had dinner at the Copper Kettle.  It is a long-established neighbourhood restaurant, in what is quite an unsalubrious part of town.  However, the pub was packed, and it is rated as one of the top restaurants in Dubuque.  It was incredibly noisy, but the pub food was excellent.

Pub food at the Copper Kettle

Dubuque is an odd mix.  There are some areas with major urban renewal projects, but a lot of areas show neglected turn of the century buildings and homes.  The downtown particularly is very spread out, and the division caused by the Interstate and railway through the centre makes access difficult.  The roads are in poor condition, except for the new ones in the redeveloped waterfront.

One of the interesting sights in Dubuque is the restored Shot Tower, built in 1856.  A shot tower is a structure that uses gravity to create lead shot.  Molten lead is poured through a copper grate at the top of the 120-foot tower, that ensures that all the shot is roughly the same size.  It then falls to the bottom, landing in a trough of water.  As the lead falls, it assumes a spherical shape, and begins to cool, and the water finishes the cooling process and fixes the shape.  The story of the shot tower is an unpleasant indictment of common business practice.  The tower was built at a time when it should have been a viable business venture, particularly as there were lead mines in the local area, but there was significant competition from a competing shot tower in St Louis.  An economic downturn, plus cutthroat pricing on the part of the St Louis business, ensured that the Dubuque tower was never a success.  The St Louis company eventually purchased the tower with the sole purpose of shutting down the competing tower.  It was never used for its built purpose again.  It is the only remaining shot tower west of the Mississippi, and one of the last still standing in the United States.

Dubuque Shot Tower

Dick set off for the 780-mile drive to Brighton Ontario, where he, his sister, and several members of the local church gathered to help move his Mum to a very nice assisted-living complex in another town.  The move was successfully completed, and it was also an enjoyable family reunion with sister Betty, brother Ed, and other friends and family.

I remained in Dubuque on the boat.  Fellow Endeavourcat owners Erika and Holger stopped for a visit as they were passing through the area on a road trip.  Holger was able to solve a mystery for us.  We have a connector on one of the side steps that has developed a very slow leak of dirty water.  Holger immediately knew that it is caused by a stuck and rusted pressure reducing valve in the connector that allows you to hook up the boat’s water system to town water on the dock.  Since we never use this, preferring the safer method of filling our own (clean) tanks as required, we were entirely unaware of the purpose of the connector.  It is a relief to know that this is not a big enough problem to be concerned about, and it can wait until we are back in our winter marina to have the problem addressed.  Erika and Holger and I went over to the Stone Cliff Winery for lunch.

I visited the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which surrounds the marina.  Although I was told that there were several exhibit areas that were under renovation, it was still a most enjoyable visit.  There are displays both indoors and outside, with several raptor aviaries and a few indoor tanks with Mississippi fish and other aquatic species.  There is also a lot of information and equipment from the days when Dubuque was a major shipbuilding port.  I find it interesting that in both of the museums we have visited on the Mississippi the aviaries house raptors that have been injured and, although healed, cannot be returned to the wild.  Other places we have visited house captive bred raptors, and are able to offer flying demonstrations.

Barn Owl at the Mississippi River Museum
Wood Ducks
Bufflehead Ducks (female)

There is a calliope on display, and most days around noon it is set to serenade the surrounding area.  Calliopes are driven by steam, and were situated at the top of cruise boats near to the steam escape pipe.

The Calliope at the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque

Some of the boats built in Dubuque during its heyday included towboats, submarine chasers, steamboats, and even a pleasure cruiser for the King of Siam.  One of the biggest was the Herbert Hoover, the largest diesel towboat in the inland waters when it was launched in 1931.  One of the 100-ton engines arrived on the train backwards, and had to be sent to a turntable 100 miles away before it could be repositioned for loading onto the boat. 

Historic Tug at the Museum
The tug offered all modern conveniences!

Another visitor to Nine Lives was Sid and co-captain Nana (a beautiful Goldendoodle) from the sailing catamaran Tranquility.  Dick had met and chatted with Sid in Bayport.  Sid is doing the Loop single-handed, with a progression of friends and relatives to help out and enjoy various sections of the Loop.  I enjoyed his conversation, and we hoped for another meeting further down the River after Dick’s return.

I mostly ate on board, but one day I walked over to the Stone Cliff Winery for an excellent lunch, accompanied by a flight of 5 of their wines.  The winery is located in a lovely restored historic building, the former Star Brewery.  The chicken bacon ranch wrap was very tasty, and the chocolate lover’s cheesecake was delicious.  I bought two bottles of their fruit wines, which I really liked.  They were described as sweet, but I found them intensely fruity (raspberry), not sweet at all.

Star Brewery
Wine flight at Stone Cliff Winery
Chocolate Lover’s Cheesecake at Stone Cliff Winery

As I walked along the levee, I enjoyed reading the various plaques and looking at the interesting modern art installations.  One of the information tidbits was a comparison of cargo capacities for various modes of transportation.  One river barge carries 1500 tons of cargo.  A 15-barge tow carries 22,500 tons. A jumbo hopper car on a train carries 100 tons, while a 100-car train will hold 15,000 tons.  A large semi-trailer (articulated lorry for our UK friends) carries just 26 tons.  90 million tons of cargo moves each year on the Mississippi River between St Paul and St Louis.

Dubuque levee walk
Cargo capacities comparison

One evening, Twilight arrived at her regular berth.  Twilight is a pretty river cruise ship that brings passengers back and forth from Le Clare, just north of Quad Cities.  The passengers stay overnight at a Dubuque hotel and return the next day to their starting point.  Immediately behind Twilight, a much larger cruise ship, Celebration Belle, moved into the harbour.  The ship turned around, passing just about 15 feet from Nine Lives.  She then took up a position across the harbour, with her gangway extended to the T-head dock next to ours.  She was bringing her passengers on a one day, 100-mile cruise from Moline.  The passengers got off and were returned to Moline by bus.  I was not concerned, not at all… I wasn’t sure whether to brandish a boathook, or put on a life jacket!  Celebration Belle was still in place when I got up the next morning.

Twilight enters the harbor with Celebration Belle behind
Celebration Belle arrives in the harbor
Celebration Belle, very close!

The next morning began a day of juggling cruise ships and their respective passengers.  Twilight set off on her return journey, having embarked her passengers after their night in a hotel and breakfast, with time to visit the museum.  Two large cruise ships arrived during the morning at the main dock outside the harbour, one of them our old friend Viking Mississippi.  Both ships stayed for several hours, and offered sightseeing bus trips for their passengers.  Celebration Belle ran 3 sightseeing trips on the River, 2 from the dock next to us in the harbour. Their 3rd trip was a dinner dance, and I would have liked to watch the passengers arriving, (presumably) all dressed up, but by then the main cruise dock was available, so they were outside the harbour and I couldn’t see them.  A friend tells me that Dubuque is the largest city in Iowa that is on the Mississippi, and it is clearly doing well at attracting tourism from the River in the form of cruise ships.  Such a pity that they can’t quite get their act together for individual boaters with their outstanding marina.

Laundry uses quite a lot of water, so it was necessary for me to fill the tanks.  Normally this is one of Dick’s jobs.  He had conveniently left the hose hooked up to the water connection on the dock, and the hose was ready on the deck.  I got off the boat, and gave the connector the half turn required to start the water flowing.  Well, city water tends to be under quite a lot of pressure, so immediately I opened the valve, the hose on the deck started dancing around, ultimately directing a stream of cold water underneath my bike and showering me.  Dick shakes his head, but I braved the still dancing hose to seize it and wash down the decks before inserting it into the fill on the front deck.  The high pressure meant that the tank seemed to be full when it wasn’t, so water gushed up from the tank and more sprayed all over.  At this point my brain engaged, and I got off the boat again and reduced the flow by half.  The fill then completed properly.

Army Corps of Engineers tow and barge in Dubuque Harbor

The day of Dick’s expected return, some more Loopers arrived in the harbour.  Asea and Bob were just one week into their Loop.  They joined me on board for a glass of wine in the evening, with the plan for proper docktails once Dick was back the next day.  I really enjoyed their company, lovely people, with a great sense of humour.  The next morning, Bob came by to tell me that their forward compartment was full of water.  They were able to get an immediate haul out at a marina just up the river, and once the extent of the damage was revealed, they realized just how fortunate they were, as they could very easily have been sunk at the dock.  Their story continues, but they have repairs already underway, and the insurance company, and the boatyard, could not have been more helpful.  We hope to see them again, if not on the rivers, perhaps in Hilton Head in the spring.

Dick returned a little later than he expected, mainly due to a lot of traffic from construction in the Chicago area.  On arrival at the marina, he discovered that our gate code no longer worked.  Our keycard was also disabled.  It is a very good thing that I didn’t go out before we found out!  It turned out that the wrong dates had been entered in our record, so our card and code were automatically disabled.  The helpful dockmaster reinstated our card as soon as he found out, having picked up my phone message even before his 11am arrival for work.

Dinner at the nearby Woodfire Grill, located in the casino, started well but rather tailed off.  The waitress was very rushed, running about like a chicken, and forgetting to deliver bread until we asked for it.  I started with very tasty, crisp avocado rolls, and Dick said his calamari was some of the best.  For main courses, Dick had prime rib, and I ordered their filet steak.  Dessert was an overly sweet cheesecake with fruit topping.  The food was good, but after the excellent appetizers, it was not very memorable.

Calamari at Woodfire Grill
Avocado Rolls at Woodfire Grill
Prime Rib at Woodfire Grill
Filet steak at Woodfire Grill
Cheesecake at Woodfire Grill

An 8am start the next morning, and we were at last embarked on our final push to return to Pickwick Lake.  At the first lock there was entirely unexpected rain, and when the lockmaster offered to allow us to float free, we accepted the opportunity to stay dry.  We figured the lockmaster probably didn’t want to get wet coming out to give us the lines either!  Fortunately, our rain jackets fit over our life jackets, so when the time came for me to retrieve the fenders, only legs and feet got wet, along with my gloves.  The gloves are definitely in need of replacement, or at least a good wash.  As I returned to the cockpit, Dick, who, like most husbands, usually has no sense of smell, commented on the strong eau de wet dog, that seemed to be emanating from his lovely wife. 

The rain continued on and off during the day.  As we passed a southbound tow just a few miles north of lock 13, Dick heard the chatter on the radio, and it was clear that a lock down was scheduled for 2:15 pm.  He made contact, and was told to come ahead.  A bass boat fishing tournament was scheduled to lock down at exactly 2:15.  There were more than 40 bass boats in the lock, with fishermen holding onto the lines along the sides, and a few needing to raft up.  The timing was set precisely, so we had about 20 minutes to wait after we took our own lines.  Strong winds meant that I was unable to hold Nine Lives in place using the engine, certainly not for that length of time, so I took the stern line, and had to cleat it until the gates finally closed.  Meanwhile, it continued to rain, and all those poor fishermen, two per boat, had to stand there getting wet while waiting for the rest of the contestants.  At 2:15 exactly the gates began to close, and then to everyone’s great disappointment, they opened again for two stragglers.  Finally, they closed for good, and the lock down started, to everyone’s relief, I am sure.  We were advised to let the tournament leave first, a decision we had already made!  It was a surprisingly orderly exit.  As the last boat left the lock, a buzzer sounded, presumably to resume the tournament timing.

We arrived at Clinton Marina.  It was raining hard and very windy.  This will be another marina with a poor review from us.  The marina was built with the piers perpendicular to the current, resulting in awful swirls and great difficulty getting into the slips.  Dick had to make 3 tries at getting Nine Lives into the 20-foot wide well.  The other disappointment was that nobody cleans the docks.  The finger piers were covered with droppings from the local ducks and geese.  Walking on them required a curious dancing step as one tried to avoid the worst messes.  As it was, we had to remove shoes outside the cockpit, not fun on a wet day.  The marina is bouncy, subject to wakes from passing tows and pleasure boats, plus wind and the strong currents.

Clinton Marina after the rain

The onsite Candlelight Restaurant is very good, and we enjoyed our meal.  Dick tried sticky pork belly pieces in a ginger sauce to start, while I took advantage of possibly the last chance to order cheese curds.  I ordered their specialty Chicken George, battered chicken tenders, served with an onion and brie sauce, and Dick had whitefish.  Chocolate mousse cake was an excellent finish.

Candlelight Restaurant cheese curds and pork belly
Candlelight Restaurant Chicken George and Whitefish

Getting out of the slip the next morning was almost as difficult as the entry.  More black rubber marks on Nine Lives.  In hindsight, it may be just as well that we didn’t get the new gelcoat that was planned for last winter!

Just before the lock at Quad Cities, we passed the kayaker we had seen earlier.  In 12 days, he had made about 150 miles.  Quite an adventure.  We were sorry we have never been anywhere to speak to him, we would love to know where he started and his ultimate destination.  A little further south we passed Twilight on her northbound journey to Dubuque.

Long distance kayaker
Twilight heading north on the Mississippi towards Dubuque

We are seeing a lot of Great Egrets in this stretch of the River.  I read that in the Upper Mississippi they are migratory, so they must be starting their journey south.  You don’t usually see so many except in a rookery at night, as they tend, like all members of the heron family, to be both solitary and territorial.  The pelicans are also migrating, and we see large rafts of them resting.

Pelicans
As we approach a railroad bridge we always wonder how accurate their reported height above the water is!

Our next stop was Muscatine.  I had not been looking forward to the difficult docking on their floating dock at the former boat launch.  This dock has only two cleats, one at each end, and we had previously had problems docking as we tried with a bow line.  On this occasion, Dick had a plan, and it executed perfectly.  He used the boathook to put a loop from the midship over the upstream cleat on the dock, and then I was able to back Nine Lives toward the downstream cleat and Dick could easily jump off and make everything secure.

Having found previously that the local restaurants were mostly indifferent, and also we were told that there would be an evening event at the facility right beside the dock, we had decided to eat on board that night.  We had a lovely evening.  First, we watched two men launch their boat with several remote control boats on board.  These are not the pond yachts we have seen in the past, instead they were racing speedboats.  It was great fun to see them buzzing around.  They go really fast, and throw quite a big spray for their diminutive size.

Remote control boat in Muscatine

Dick chatted with a young man on the dock, who came down and asked if we were the same boat he had seen earlier in the summer.  Nine Lives bobbed appreciatively at being recognized.  The young man chatted with Dick about his ambitions to be an inventor.  He showed Dick a book he carries around with all sorts of engineering and mathematical calculations and tables.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t plan to get an education before starting on his inventing career.  Dick did his best to encourage a rethink on that, without being too negative about his ambitions.

Later in the evening there was an incredible lightning storm.  It was to the north of us, so the show was above the colourful lighted bridge.  There was both sheet and fork lightning, but no thunder.  Apparently when the lightning bounces between clouds, there may be no sound. Either that or the distance was too great.  It was quite something to watch, and while I did get a couple of pictures, I found it impossible to catch the most spectacular moments.

Muscatine lightning storm

The next day we had an easy, but long, run to Ft Madison.  The Mississippi was like a millpond.  We were lucky with timing for the locks and barge traffic, as well as having no wait for the Ft Madison railroad bridge to open.  The marina has been under reconstruction since 2019, and although they celebrated a Grand Opening in July, it is not even close to being finished.  There is no power or water available.  Also, it is in a very unfortunate position, right where the railway tracks curve to enter the bridge.  There are almost continuous trains running in both directions, and the wheels squeal horribly on the tracks.  It would be an awful place to stay even if the marina was completed.  We had planned to stay two nights, and had hoped to visit the reconstructed Fort Madison, but after reading that the fort was only open on weekends, and expecting temperatures over 90 the next day, we decided to leave early and look forward to power and water at Quincy.

The Mississippi like a millpond
Nine Lives passes moored barges

Sid and Nana from Tranquility arrived in the harbour, and joined us on board for a steak dinner.  All was going well until Dick tried to start the stove to pan-fry the mushrooms, and discovered that our propane tank was empty. Why the propane has to run out during dinner preparations instead of tea making is down to Murphy’s Law, I am sure.  I read a comment today from someone who said that Murphy had left their boat, but kept getting back on!  Clearly, Murphy likes Nine Lives as well.  Anyway, with the grill out of commission just after searing the steaks, Dick handled the dinner emergency with great aplomb.  He got out our induction burner, and finished the steaks and the mushrooms in the new frying pan.  A good purchase earlier this trip, as our old frying pan did not work on the induction burner.  Dinner was excellent, in spite of the challenges, and we enjoyed the company very much.  Sid has some great stories.  When he was 16, he and a friend bought a pontoon boat and a 25hp motor and travelled down the Mississippi from La Crosse to St Louis.  He is now enjoying revisiting the various towns and cities he saw on that trip when he was a teenager.

Early morning bridge opening for a cruise ship at Ft Madison
Lock 20, we floated instead of taking lines, so photography was possible
A model waterwheel at Lock 20

We arrived in Quincy mid-afternoon, after what is a quite boring run south from Ft Madison.  It was very hot, temperatures up to 96 and the weather app telling me “feels like 100”.  It did.  We docked without problems, and one of the members made a point of coming down to ask if everything was fine.  We enjoyed our stay in Quincy last time, and are looking forward to visiting two of the local restaurants.  Later another member dropped by with an information pack for the town, and also offered to help out if we needed a ride to a grocery store or any other assistance.  Very friendly people in this boat club, who really enjoy meeting other boaters, and especially Loopers.

Dick set off the next morning on his bike with the trailer attached to get the empty propane tank refilled.  He arrived at the hardware store, whose website said they refill propane tanks, to discover that the website is wrong, and they only replace, no refilling.  Since ours is a non-standard tank, it must be filled.  The next suggestion was to go to the local propane supplier for the area.  Back on the bike, but Dick was not quite sure of the location, so he returned to the boat after a brief exploration, and looked it up online.  Armed with the address, he set off again, and duly arrived, only to be told that they would not fill his tank since he was on a bicycle.  They suggested another company, and this time Dick called me to get the address and phone number before heading out.  After confirmation that they would in fact fill the tank, Dick rode there and was greatly relieved to get it filled.  Now with a 30-pound load on the trailer, he returned to the boat, more than a little disappointed that while the trip was mostly downhill, he didn’t get much benefit as it was also into the wind.  So, after a total of 20.2 miles riding up and down the Quincy hills (instead of the planned 3-mile journey), we are again able to grill and to use the stove.

Dick gets ready to take the empty propane bottle for refilling at Quincy

For Dick, the fun was not quite finished for the day.  Upon realizing that the wind was blowing, and he needed to secure his bike to a post in case it blew over, he got off the boat, detached the trailer, and began to secure the bike.  At that moment, the trailer decided to go for a swim and casually rolled off the dock into the water.  Dick dropped to the deck and made a successful snatch, just as the trailer proved that useful as it is, it does not float.

Later in the afternoon as I sat in the cockpit reading, I saw a fishing boat with several good old boys pass by.  To my surprise, one of them was sitting in the back with a strung bow and an arrow nocked.  Not sure whether he was planning to fish with that, or hunt from the boat.  Most likely he planned to shoot Asian Carp or another invasive species, since the season for bow hunting does not begin until October, and bow fishing requires only a sport fishing licence.

We tried a different restaurant in the evening.  This was an Italian restaurant called Tiramisu.  It certainly appeared to be a well established and popular family run restaurant.  White tablecloths and plenty of wait staff, all smartly dressed in black.  Our server was different, an older lady, somewhat casually dressed, and it was very much like being served by your mother-in-law!  Dick started with a portobello mushroom topped with spinach, in a delicious sauce.  I liked my shrimp with mushrooms and artichokes in a scampi sauce.  For main courses Dick had Guazzetto di Pesce, a Roman style seafood stew, and I tried Rolli, pasta sheets stuffed with spinach, ham, and ricotta, rolled up, baked, and served with a four-cheese sauce.  Desserts were the signature tiramisu for Dick, and I had a heated flourless chocolate cake.  The meal was excellent, as were the wine options, and surprisingly inexpensive.

Tiramisu Restaurant Portobello Griglia
Shrimp scampi at Tiramisu
Guazzetto di Pesce at Tiramisu
Pasta Rolli at Tiramisu
Signature tiramisu at Tiramisu
Chocolate dessert at Tiramisu

Rain had unexpectedly appeared in the forecast, so we closed up the cockpit before we went out and made sure to take our umbrellas to dinner.  That definitely did the trick, as the rain held off until after we returned to the boat.

Quincy is an interesting town.  I wrote about the history earlier in the summer.  We were given a bag full of interesting leaflets and brochures by a Boat Club member.  There are still some buildings in the town of historical interest.  They are very proud of their record as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and also that they welcomed persecuted Mormons.  There are some famous actors and actresses from Quincy, including Mary Astor (Maltese Falcon), John Mahoney (Frasier), and John Anderson (Gunsmoke and Twilight Zone).  Other more notorious former residents include Albert Cashier, born Jennie Irene Hodgers, who enlisted in the Union Army in the Civil War, fought in many battles, and continued to live as a man, without discovery, until shortly before death.  James Earl Ray was well known to Quincy law enforcement before he escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary and shot and killed Dr. Martin Luther King.  Michael Swango is thought to be the most prolific serial killer in American history, and is serving a life sentence in Florence, Colorado.  Jonathan Browning invented a sliding breech repeating rifle while living in Quincy, and one of his sons was John Moses Browning, one of the most important figures in the development of modern automatic and semi-automatic firearms.

Downtown Quincy

This is a good place for my annual review of interesting boat names.  We always enjoy the clever ones.  As we passed a tow on the River, he hailed us and asked if we were called Nine Lives because we are a catamaran.  When told, indeed yes, he told us that he always enjoys working out the reasons for clever boat names, and he was glad to have his conclusions confirmed.  Some of the interesting names we have seen this year include DahlHouse for a houseboat, as well as Hadtohaveit.  Next Chapter is nice. One boat was expediently called Social Distancing.  Another was Boat Ox (hmmm), and another was Blood Money (not sure about that one either).  Soggy Dollars evoked the memory of one of Dick’s more spectacular exits from a dinghy some years ago in the Caribbean.  Second Wind is rather a nice name for a retirement lifestyle.  Noah Genda is very clever, and we enjoyed chatting with them (fellow Loopers on their way home) on the radio as they passed us.  One of the names that, in my opinion, is not going to work well is Miss Is Tipsi.  It’s clever, but one needs to remember that when you hail a tow, a lock, a marina, or a fellow boater, the correct procedure is to call the name you are hailing three times, followed by your name three times.  While common usage reduces this to twice for each name, it is still going to be an incredible tongue twister, not to mention coming out as “Mississippi” to the listener, and causing confusion.  We continue to watch for interesting names, and enjoy the clever ones.

We will stay one more night in Quincy before resuming our southbound voyage, hoping to be back in Pickwick Lake by the first week in October.  We are looking forward to catching up with the rest of this year’s Looper pack, and perhaps enjoying some docktails and shared adventure stories.

August 23 to September 7, return to the St Croix River and south to Dubuque

We said goodbye to Saint Paul and began our return journey with another visit to the St Croix River.  This was one of our favourite places on this trip, pretty scenery, and nice towns.  It is unfortunate that one of the most interesting towns is Stillwater, now sadly lacking in accommodation for transient boaters.  There are several marinas, but most have rented all their available slips on a seasonal basis, and the remaining one was in the middle of a major dredging program.  Our only option was to stay at Bayport, a few miles south. 

Nine Lives leaving Saint Paul
Kinnikinnick Narrows on the St Croix River

First though, we returned to Hudson, anchoring in the wide harbour for the first night.  It is a very popular day spot, at least 10 boats enjoyed the afternoon, but by evening we were the only ones remaining.  It was a lovely evening, with distant sailing races on the lake below the bridge, and a surprise hot air balloon passing over.

Hot air balloon passing over Hudson

I had found a new recipe for pizza dough that I was looking forward to trying.  Our early arrival in the anchorage allowed enough time for dough rising and pizza preparation.  The recipe is definitely a keeper.  We enjoyed a peaceful night, and were ready to move to the marina transient dock in the morning.

Hudson sunset in the anchorage

Three large Sea Ray fast yachts had passed us the previous day, and all had tied up at the Hudson transient dock.  Dick had made our booking by phone, but apparently it had not been written down.  Fortunately, the marina staff were able to shuffle the large boats a little, and move a small one to make room for us close to the shore.  This required a somewhat tricky maneuver, passing between the Sea Rays and the shore, to shoehorn Nine Lives into our allotted space.  Marina staff were on hand to help.  As we slid carefully past the other boats, a loud siren went off.  I couldn’t hear it, as I was on deck getting ready to throw lines, but Dick was quite concerned that this was law enforcement chasing after us for some strange reason, either that or a major issue with boat systems, or possibly proximity alarms.  Apart from being a distraction Dick could have done without, it wasn’t anything to worry about.  When we anchor, I set two alarms, one on the iPad and one on my phone.  I had carefully disabled the iPad alarm before we raised the anchor, but I completely forgot the one on the phone.  Since I had set a very wide radius, we were nearly at the shore before the alarm went off.  I am glad to know that it works anyway.  And it is Loud!  As we slid past the Sea Rays, I saw heads pop up and men come up on deck.  We know the feeling.  Any time a boat arrives at a dock and passes Nine Lives very closely, we wonder about the experience and skills of the captain, and rush out to fend off if required!  As we maneuvered carefully into our spot, the waiting dockhand commented that we were looking like a million dollars.  My reply was that it would probably cost a million dollars if we messed up!

That evening we enjoyed a good meal at Black Rooster.  Dick ordered pork belly, and was delighted to find that it was prepared in the European style (far more fat than I care for, but he loves it).  I had a delicious and creative presentation of ricotta dumplings.  Main courses were walleye for Dick, and chicken with mushrooms for me.  Desserts were equally tasty.

Pork Belly at the Black Rooster
Ricotta dumplings at the Black Rooster
Walleye at Black Rooster
Black Rooster roast chicken with mushrooms
Desserts at Black Rooster

The forecast called for rain later, and usually, carrying an umbrella will ensure that it stays dry.  Not this time.  We were barely out of the restaurant before the heavens opened.  Here is a piece of advice, never share an umbrella with someone who walks so much faster than you that he is normally 20 feet ahead of you.

The marina at Hudson between rain showers

The next morning the Sea Rays left, so we were able to reposition to our preferred spot at the end of the dock.  Not only does this afford a nice view of activities in the bay, it also allows for an easy undocking when we are ready to leave.  Repositioning was an interesting exercise.  No dock hands were available, so Dick and I each took a line and walked the 12 tons of Nine Lives down the dock.  No engines required.  Dick did the strongman part, pulling from the stern, while my easier job was using the midship line, as well as pushing, to keep her in position, not too far off, but not so close that she was rubbing along the dock.  The moment of truth was stopping, accomplished by a quick half turn of the line around a dock cleat.  It is really amazing how little strength is required to stop motion when you use the cleat effectively.  A lesson that most of the (male) teenage dockhands we encounter would do well to learn.  The girls figure it out very quickly.

Early morning at Hudson

Later we walked into town and enjoyed a little shopping at the excellent cookery shop and the bakery, followed by an interesting meal at Lolo’s.  The offerings were well prepared, and quite creative.

Interesting starters at Lolo’s
Desserts at Lolo’s
We followed a tour boat through the railway bridge on the St Croix

It was a very short trip up-river the next morning to the marina at Bayport.  In hindsight, the anchorage across the river from Stillwater would have been a better choice for that first night, allowing a much shorter dinghy ride to the town.  Instead, we had a four-and-a-half-mile trip in choppy conditions with many criss-cross wakes to the town dinghy docks. As we see so often, the docks have been almost entirely given over to sightseeing passenger boats, leaving very few spaces for visiting boaters to access the town.  Dick thought the dinghy ride had been fun.  My thoughts are not to be repeated in polite company.

Downtown Stillwater

Stillwater looked like a nice town, with some interesting boutiques and lots of cafes and restaurants, definitely a tourist destination.  However, given the distance, and a choice between a long bike ride on busy roads, or another dinghy excursion, we were not able to visit when the shops were open.  We went to a Serbian restaurant and wine bar.  Dick’s filet steak was delicious, and I enjoyed my risotto with mushrooms and beef tips.  The wine list included very nice choices, including quite a few sold by the glass.

Beef filet at Domacin
The beef risotto looks unappetizing, but it was delicious
Cheesecake at Domacin
Pannacotta at Domacin

The bouncy return dinghy ride required the application of an extra-large glass of whisky once we were safely back on Nine Lives.  Dick managed to restrain his impulses to shout “Yeehaw” at intervals during the passage.

In 1837, treaties were signed between the U.S. Government and the local Ojibwa and Dakota tribes, to allow settlement of the St Croix River Valley.  By 1843 a settlement was founded when four partners formed the Stillwater Lumber Company.  In what seems to me to be a rather odd division of responsibilities, Stillwater, Saint Paul, and Minneapolis were each given important public institutions.  Saint Paul was made the capital of the new State of Minnesota, Minneapolis got a university, and the short end of the stick went to Stillwater, in the form of the territory’s first prison.  The city didn’t even get to keep that dubious honour, as in 1914, the Minnesota State Correctional Institution was moved a few miles south to Bayport.  Putting the town on the map for another reason, in 1921 Charles Strite invented the automatic pop-up toaster in Stillwater.

We spent a quiet day.  Dick rode his bike the five miles to the grocery in Stillwater.  Rain was on and off, and unfortunately it was very much on just a few minutes before he got back to the boat.  That evening we chose to walk the 1.5 miles to the restaurant rather than risk riding bikes in the rain.  We stopped to chat with a couple who were refitting a very nice-looking classic centre-cockpit sailboat.  They were getting ready to move her to Pickwick Lake, and we were able to offer suggestions for marinas and routes.  They are also thinking about doing the Great Loop one day.

We enjoyed our meal at Manger, a very authentic French restaurant.  Dick tried the duck, and I enjoyed my ravioli. Fortunately, the rain held off, and the forecast heavy thunderstorms with 60mph winds waited until 9pm to pass over.  It had been forecast for 2 hours earlier, and would have been most unpleasant if we had been out in it. (although I had brought my own umbrella in anticipation of the worst case)

Duck at Manger in Bayport
Ravioli at Manger
delicious desserts at Manger

In addition to being the site of the relocated Minnesota State Correctional Facility, Bayport is also host to the maximum-security prison of the same name.  Beginning as three small settlements on the St Croix River, in 1873, the St Croix Railway Improvement Company incorporated them as the village of South Stillwater.  The name proved to be confusing, and was later changed to Bayport.  The early economy was centered around lumber, and the Andersen Lumber Company moved to Bayport to take advantage of the railway lines.  Eventually becoming the largest window and door manufacturing company in the world, the Andersen Corporation is still headquartered in Bayport.

early morning at Bayport

The next morning we filled up with fuel.  Prices are definitely improving.  It was $1.75 a gallon less than our last fill at La Crosse.  Dick took time to ride to the headquarters of Andersen Corporation in the hopes that he could speak to someone about our missing order for replacement windows for our Hilton Head home.  They were initially ordered in November, arrived damaged in March, and we have been unable to get any information since.  Sadly typical of large companies, the front desk was manned by a security guard who had no access to the internal phone directory or knowledge of who Dick should ask for.  A phone number was eventually offered, but it was the wrong person.  She helpfully suggested a different number, but that resulted in a circular routine that ended with a hang-up.  So, a wasted effort on Dick’s part.  Fortunately, the fuel fill and pump-out took long enough that Dick had already returned from his fruitless quest before they were complete, so we did not lose any time.

As we left the St Croix River and moved into the Mississippi, there was a distinct colour change in the waters.  Blue water from the St Croix stayed separate from the brown waters of the Mississippi for a surprising distance.  I guess we know why one of the nicknames for the Mississippi is Big Muddy. 

Colour change in the water where the St Croix meets the Mississippi

We had planned to stop on the Wisconsin side of the River, across from Red Wing.  Once again, that marina is operated by a restaurant, and although their website indicates that they welcome transients, they neither answered the phone, nor returned calls or emails.  As we went past the next morning, we could see no empty spaces on the docks, so one presumes they had rented all their slips for the whole season.  Our plan B was the free town dock, but the town website made it clear that there is no overnight docking allowed.  We returned to the marina we stayed at on our outbound journey.  It was just as well, as it was blowing a gale and we would have been pounded against the docks, and very uncomfortable if we had been docked on the waterfront.

White Pelicans roosting

Eating on board allowed another experiment.  We had bought some cheese curds, with the idea of trying them on board.  I don’t deep fry, and I really don’t care for oven chips, so I made crispy roasted potato wedges.  They were topped with the cheese curds, and brown gravy, to make a dish I am going to call Nine Lives Poutine.  I liked it.  Dick didn’t think it was worth bothering with, although he did eat the leftovers the next day.

Nine Lives Poutine

It was a short run again the next day across Lake Pepin to Wabasha.  This is the town where Grumpy Old Men was filmed.  The waterfront pub, Slippery’s, makes much of the connection, but reviews suggest that the food has gone badly downhill in recent years.  We made a point of having a drink on their verandah, but ate dinner at the local Irish Pub instead.  Dick was in Celtic heaven with 2 pints of Guinness, and pot roast with mashed potatoes and carrots.  My food was not enjoyable, and the seating was backless bar stools, very uncomfortable.

Slippery’s in Wabasha

Dick admired some real Midwest ingenuity.  A clearly home-made travel lift was positioned at the end of the marina dock.  Readers may remember seeing my pictures of Nine Lives being taken out of the water in the more usual travel lifts at the beginning and end of each season. This lift was steel beams welded together, with the required slings and wheels at the base.  What Dick found intriguing was the use of an old Ford truck, set on a large wheelbase that had clearly been taken from a tractor trailer with the frame shortened.  The cab was set backwards so that the driver can sit in the seat and be facing the lift.  The whole thing is powered by the Ford truck engine, with a generator driven from the front of the engine to power the hoist electric motors.

Midwest ingenuity in a home made travel lift

As we walked into town, we were surprised to see a white squirrel.  They are apparently very rare colour variants of the Eastern Grey Squirrel.  If you see a white one, it might be albino, which is caused by a congenital disorder.  Our squirrel was leucistic. This is a partial loss of pigmentation caused by a recessive gene.  Eye colour is not affected, so they do not have the distinctive red eyes of albinos.  More famous examples of leucistic mammals are white tigers and lions. The white squirrel we saw seemed very healthy, foraging in a garden.

A white squirrel

Wabasha downtown is attractive and clean, but too many of the stores are occupied by professional businesses, doctors, and lawyers, leaving little scope for shops or restaurants.  The town was preparing for its annual month long SeptOberfest.  The main attraction, and the reason we stopped in Wabasha, was the National Eagle Center.  This year it is completing a major renovation and upgrade.  It was well worth the visit, in spite of a mile walk on the hottest day of the week.

SeptOberfest decorations in Wabasha
downtown Wabasha
A pretty waterfront garden in Wabasha

The National Eagle Center began as Eagle Watch, in 1989, a volunteer organization dedicated to assisting visitors to Wabasha with eagle watching on the Mississippi River.  They opened a storefront in town, in the year 2000, and took on the care of their first two injured eagles.  Eagle Watch conduct annual surveys of migrating Golden Eagles.  By 2007, they were able to open a 15,000-square-foot interpretive center on the river bank, and in 2022 a $27 million expansion and renovation project is nearly completed.

There were a lot of information displays, not just about the eagles, but also a section on the symbols of eagles, particularly in the military, and another section on Native American associations.  The Center currently houses 5 birds, 4 bald eagles, and a red-tailed hawk.  All the birds were injured in such a way as to prevent their return to the wild.  I enjoyed the aviary, watching the two birds that were present, and asking questions of one of the keepers, while Dick read all the interpretive boards and exhibit explanations.

Some of the information on the displays and at the lecture we attended was fascinating.  Newly hatched bald eagles are fully grown in just 12 weeks.  At that point they leave the nest, but their parents do not teach them how to survive.  50% of juveniles do not make it to adulthood.  Dick wondered whether this is due to teenagers making bad decisions.   It is, but only in part.  It takes 5 to 6 years for them to reach adulthood and develop the distinctive white head and tail.  Juveniles are a mottled brown, and are easily mistaken for Golden Eagles.  The further north eagles are bred, the larger they are, so eagles from Florida are considerably smaller than those found in Alaska.  This was explained as the extra size needed to survive in cold temperatures.  Bald Eagles are a type of Sea Eagle, and eat fish and carrion.  They do not hunt live prey apart from fish.  They certainly do not hunt small dogs and cats, although they are quite happy to eat what other predators such as coyotes have left.  The biggest causes of death (including for the juveniles) are vehicle encounters, and lead poisoning.  Their stomach acids are so strong that they dissolve lead in a matter of days.  Lead in fishing tackle and/or lead shot in carrion may be eaten and when it has dissolved, lead poisoning will kill the eagle in just a few days.

As we browsed the shop, Dick ignored my increasingly strong hints and declined to buy an ever-so-slightly tacky, but interesting, eagle mug.  However, a t-shirt with a bald eagle’s head and “Tough Old Bird” proved irresistible, and I will wear it with pride.

Nine Lives at the dock in Wabasha

We made an early start the next day in anticipation of transiting 3 locks.  The first, Lock 4, was our first time floating free instead of taking a line.  It was a very still morning, so we were not blown about, and I was able to hold the boat in place with the engines.  Even so, we drifted close to the lock wall, not a problem, as we had put out fenders.  Although we are offered the choice of floating free or taking lines at most locks, I would not want to float free in even light wind, and we expect to continue to request a line.

Mississippi Bluffs

We tied up overnight at Winona town dock, which allows 24 hours free dockage.  Our lines were caught for us by a lady who had been sitting on the wall enjoying the sunshine and reading a book.  She turned out to be a Gold Looper.  She and her husband did the Loop in 2015, although at the time they were not yet retired.  We enjoyed a very nice chat, and we regretted that our visit was too short to issue invitations for docktails.

As we sat at the dock in the evening, a large Viking cruise ship passed, certainly the largest passenger vessel we have seen on the River.  Dick later found a news report about the voyage.  Unimaginatively named, Viking ‘Mississippi’ was running empty as she passed Winona, on her way north to Red Wing, where she would pick up crew.  She would then travel to Saint Paul, where she would embark on her maiden voyage down the Mississippi to New Orleans.  Viking Mississippi holds 386 passengers in 193 staterooms and carries 148 crew.  The voyage from Saint Paul to New Orleans will stop at 12 cities, and take 15 days.  At some point we knew she would overtake us, but we thought we would be unlikely to see her again, as it she would probably pass us at night.

Viking Mississippi passes Winona

We had an outstanding dinner at a restaurant called Nosh.  Dick asked, in the words of Billy Joel, “man, what are you doing here?”  This was one of the most sophisticated fine dining restaurants we have been to on this trip, certainly it would hold its own in any big city.  My caprese salad was probably the best I have ever tasted, and Dick’s warmed beet salad was delicious.  Dick enjoyed an authentic paella, while my lobster and shrimp roll was excellent.  The desserts were also outstanding.  I tried their salted cheesecake with caramel sauce, and Dick loved his peach crumble.

Caprese salad at Nosh
Beet salad at Nosh
Lobster shrimp roll at Nosh
Paella at Nosh
Desserts at Nosh

Winona has beautiful architecture, but there is a sad mix of tattoo parlours, professional offices, and very few small shops spread over too many downtown streets.  These small towns and cities really need a visionary, as well as a consistent, long-term strategy to pull it all together.  They also need a focal point to bring in outside visitors.

Early businesses in Winona were based on lumber, wheat, steamboating, and railroads.  The architecture of the downtown shows the level of craftsmanship of the immigrants who were attracted to the area during its heyday in the late 1800’s.  As early as 1969, the town governments began to try to counter the effects of large retail stores opening outside the city by pedestrianizing part of downtown and encouraging shopping.  Unfortunately, the results were mixed, and the pedestrian mall closed in 1993. In the 1970’s, enthusiasm for urban renewal resulted in many blocks of 19th century buildings and local landmarks being razed.  Just ten years later, federal funding encouraged redevelopment of the remaining old buildings.  Second and third floors were remodelled into residences, in hopes that people would move back to downtown.  More efforts are clearly needed.

Oddfellows Block, Winona
Merchants National Bank, Winona
Architectural details, Merchants National Bank
Sunrise at Winona

A two-lock day got us into La Crosse by 2pm.  We were a little concerned about the weather forecast, as we were again docked at the marina across the river from the city.  We had planned to have dinner at Lovechild, the top-rated restaurant in the La Crosse.  The food was delicious, and so well presented.  Dick started with arancini, and I had piping hot and delicious triple cooked fries with horseradish sauce.  Lamb shank was on the menu for the first time in a while, to Dick’s great satisfaction, and I enjoyed my shrimp and arugula spaghetti very much.  We shared peach shortcake for dessert.  We also commented on the large number of staff in the obviously successful restaurant.  We hear so many complaints that staff can’t be hired, and restaurants have to be closed several days of the week, and yet Lovechild has obviously found the formula for hiring and keeping staff.  

Lovechild arancini
Triple cooked fries with horseradish at Lovechild
Lamb shank at Lovechild
Shrimp and arugula spaghetti at Lovechild
Peach shortcake at Lovechild

Fortunately, the expected thunderstorms kept moving to later in the forecast, and did not arrive until after midnight.  Although it didn’t rain, the River was a little more lumpy than I like, and on the return trip a large wake from a tour boat ensured that in my spot at the front of the dinghy I was completely soaked, including my shoes. Dick found this highly amusing, but managed to restrain his laughter, or at least keep it quiet.

An extended stay in a marina is always a good time for laundry, so I put through several loads of washing while Dick worked on the print version of the Nine Lives blog.  We have a couple of relatives who do not use computers, so Dick takes the time to transfer my text and all the pictures into a format that can be printed and mailed.  Our dinner reservation was a little later than usual, so we headed across the River at 6pm.  On arrival I looked in vain for the cute muskrat that we had seen the previous evening, bustling along the riverbank before disappearing into a hole underneath a huge tree.  Sadly, I didn’t have the camera ready at the time, so no photos.

We returned to The Chateau, where we had enjoyed an excellent dinner on our previous visit.  Unfortunately, the earlier experience was not repeated.  The food was merely okay, and the building was overly warm.  The waitress let slip that the owners were out of town.  The whole experience seemed to lack the special something that had made the previous meal so good.  It was also quite slow, so we arrived back at the dinghy in twilight.  In some ways this was the highlight of the evening.  Dick was able to set up the all-round white light that is required for night boating, and we were glad that the red and green lights also worked as expected.  The River was quite calm, and there was enough light from the shore to easily see, so it was quite an enjoyable experience.  As the days get shorter, we are more likely to be out after dark, but the stop in La Crosse will probably be our last that requires the dinghy for getting to restaurants.

Eagle sculpture on the waterfront in La Crosse

Sunday was the day to finish the laundry, and then we dinghied over to the city for dinner at The Water Front Restaurant.  We were early, so first a drink in the bar, followed by our meal at a window table overlooking the River.  The waiters and bartenders were all smartly dressed in black, with collared t-shirts with a logo.  Slightly unfortunate, the logo read tWf.  I doubt that I am the only person who reads the large letter first.  Dick enjoyed his oysters Rockefeller, and I had very good giant shrimp with two sauces, the herby tarragon remoulade was delicious.  Our steaks were good, but “au poivre” in this restaurant turned out to mean a black pepper crust, rather than a peppercorn sauce.  It made the steaks rather dry, and the crust was unpleasantly crunchy.  Peach cheesecake with home made peach ice cream finished the evening.  We returned to the marina in the dark, but now that we were experienced, it was quite enjoyable.

Shrimp starter at The Water Front
Oysters Rockefeller at The Water Front
Ribeye steak at The Waterfront
Peach cheesecake at The Water Front

Monday morning we booked a Segway tour.  As we headed over to the dinghy dock, we were surprised to see Viking Mississippi docked on the levee.  Up close, we could see just how huge she is.  We were the only guests on the Segway tour, which made it very enjoyable and a little more informal than usual.  The tour included the waterfront park, and a nice ride around the marsh.  The marsh was very pretty, with purple loosestrife and reeds at the edge of still water with duckweed.  Plenty of birdlife.  I didn’t get an opportunity to take pictures.  From the marsh we went through the very clean and modern University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus, then the best part of the tour was seeing some of the lovely turn of the century homes in the older part of town.

Segway tour in La Crosse
Holway Mansion, now a B&B called The Castle
Another lovely historic home in La Crosse
A beautiful garden in La Crosse
Viking Mississippi at La Crosse
Viking Mississippi from the water

La Crosse is named for a game with sticks that was observed being played by Native Americans when the area was first visited by the white man.  As did many of the settlements in the area, the city began as a fur trading post.  By the middle of the 19th century, it became a centre for lumber, brewing, and railroads, and was one of the largest cities in Wisconsin.  By the 20th century it also became a centre for education, with 3 colleges and universities.  In the fall, La Crosse hosts the one of the largest Octoberfest celebrations.  It has the dubious distinction of having broken the Guinness Record for having the most bars on a single street.  They are also proud of having more bars per capita than any other city in America.

Statue depicting the game of La Crosse

As we returned to the marina, we saw Viking Mississippi making her majestic way down the river.  Later, we returned to the dinghy dock for our last evening in La Crosse.  As we crossed the river, I was wondering what the large black something was, that I could see on the levee where the cruise ship had been docked.  Then we heard a lot of sirens.  After docking we had to walk that way through the park, and we could see that an SUV had come to rest with its front wheels overhanging the river.  The driver was still inside, and there were at least 5 fire engines, plus ambulances and a lot of police cars, and even a police boat on the water.  I don’t take pictures of accidents, but later, as we left for the evening, I did take a picture of the vehicle recovery in progress.  The SUV had been winched back, but you can imagine how terrifying it must have been to be in that car when the wheels were over the river.  For the driver, it was a bad day, or a good day, depending on how you look at it.

A good day or a bad day?

Dinner at the Charmant started with great traditional American style onion soup.  Dick ordered steak frites.  The fries were outstanding, and there were plenty for me to enjoy half of them!  I liked the chicken pate that I had on the previous visit.

Onion soup at Charmant
Frites at Charmant

We left fairly early the next morning for a long but uneventful trip, with no delays at two locks, to Marquette.  Autumn colours are starting to show, and the bluffs of the Driftless Area are looking very attractive.  There is mist on the River in the early mornings, and beautiful reflections in the still waters.  We shared one lock with a man on a long distance kayak voyage.  He had foot paddles instead of using a conventional paddle.

Mississippi morning
New markers ready to deploy
Fall colours begin

We docked at Marquette on a tour boat dock that allows transients on a first come first served basis.  There was no power or water available, but it was a vastly better option than returning to the awful facility at McGregor.  Dockage was not supposed to be free, but there is nobody there to take your money from Monday through Wednesday, so we couldn’t pay.  Dick explored the village, and enjoyed a brief stop at the local winery, tasting, and buying a couple of bottles of red.  However, this village has noting to recommend it, unless you enjoy a casino.  Prairie du Chien, across the River, is a larger and more interesting town, but there is no easy access for larger boats like Nine Lives.

Marquette docks
Still morning on the Mississippi
Mist on the River

Another early start for a long run to Dubuque, with two locks to transit.  On this occasion we were not quite as lucky, and had a long wait for lock 10.  Fortunately, the weather was fine and almost no wind, so stooging at the lock was less tiring than usual.  We are still seeing lots of bald eagles, as well as white pelicans and the usual cormorants.  We passed the docks for Pattison Sand, a large mine/quarry that produces silica and limestone.  As we move south, the landscape will be getting flatter, and the scenery will become more industrial.  We arrived in Dubuque just after the staff were finished for the day, but Dick had been able to speak on the phone to the attendant, so we had the gate codes, and they left the key card for the washrooms tied to the cleat on our dock.  We will be in Dubuque for an extended stay.  Dick will be renting a car and driving to Ontario to help to move his Mum to assisted living.  I will remain on the boat, and have plans to visit the extensive Maritime Museum and Aquarium.

Pattison Sand at Clayton
The map of our August voyages

July 10 to 24, Port Charles to Sabula

Our meal at Toni’s on Main, in St Charles, was so good that we immediately booked to return the following evening.

Let me take a moment to tell you about marina courtesy cars.  We have only taken advantage of them occasionally, preferring to use our bikes whenever possible.  All these cars are unique in their own way, except that they are universally in such poor condition that you would not even be able to give them away.  One had a locking mechanism that if it was used, the car could only be unlocked if someone crawled into the vehicle through the back window.  Although use is usually free, in all cases you are required to add fuel (fair enough), but sometimes the amount you are required to add exceeds what you could possibly use.  One place charges a $15 fee, and restricts use to one county while all the good shops are in another county, and closer.  The car we had exclusive use of at Port Charles was by no means the worst example.  There was no fee, an honour system request to replace the fuel you used, the vehicle ran well and use was unrestricted.  On the downside, especially given the temperatures, the AC did not work, and the headliner had been covered over with muslin, held in place by Velcro and the sun visors (making the sun visors inoperable).  One does not even want to think about what that muslin was hiding!  Given that there was absolutely nothing in Port Charles, and St Charles was 10 miles away, we were very grateful for the vehicle, regardless of its condition!

Missouri farm

St Charles was founded in about 1769 by a French fur trader.  At the time the area was ruled by Spain following France’s defeat in the Seven Years War.  Originally settled mainly by French Canadians, the city was an important river port, and was considered the “last civilized stop” by the Lewis and Clark Expedition before they headed upriver to explore the territory gained by the Louisiana Purchase.  There is still a French Quarter in the middle of town, although it was clearly never as prosperous as the area now included in the Riverfront and Main Street areas that make up the St Charles Historic District.

On Sunday we returned to St Charles, driving through beautiful farmland, and spent some time wandering up and down Main Street.  Major refurbishments have been made to all of the buildings, and many of them have been repurposed under a downtown business revitalization scheme.  Here and there were clever and amusing sculptures of dogs, dressed up in interesting costumes.  The street is full of independent shops and restaurants, and is clearly a mecca for visitors from nearby St Louis and farther afield.  The best of the shops we stopped at featured beautiful glass work, unique Christmas decorations, and interesting art and sculptures.  We were very tempted, but managed to resist and instead bought some oatmeal cookies from a nearby bakery and a couple of small tubs of herbs from a spice shop.  Our dinner at Toni’s was tasty, although we decided on lighter choices after walking around in the heat.

Main Street, St Charles
St Charles
St Charles
St Charles
One of several dog sculptures in St Charles

On our last day in Port Charles we took time to thoroughly clean inside the boat, a chore that had not been done before we started the voyage, as we had planned to engage a cleaning service.  Dick also hosed down the outside and vacuumed the cockpit, but it was too hot for any other outside cleaning.  I washed all the sheets, but we made a note that in future we should try to do that on a cooler day.  The dryer draws a lot of power, so while it is operating, we have to turn off one of the two AC units, and a single one struggles to keep up when outside temperatures are above 90F.

The new engine pump arrived and was duly installed.  It took some hours, and goes to prove what we have observed, boat yards do give priority to emergency repairs, especially for customers who are in transit.

After a busy day, we settled down to sleep.  I was just drifting away, when I became aware that Dick was going up on deck.  He tromped up and down for a while, pausing here and there.  I assumed he was closing the dryer vent (he wasn’t).  Finally, he came back inside and shortly after, he turned off all the lights and everything was peaceful.  Of course, I was now wide awake, and wondered whether he had for some obscure reason started the water tanks filling and then forgotten (he hadn’t).  I was woken abruptly at 5:50am by a wide awake, fully dressed husband requiring my immediate assistance in tracing the reason why the freshwater pump was running continuously.  Apparently, that was what the tromping about had been.  Failing to diagnose the problem in the dark, Dick had turned the pump off completely, and then lay awake half the night, mentally tracing lines and outlets, trying to work out what the problem could be.

Wife duly rousted out of bed, the pump was turned back on, only to find that it was operating normally.  The whole exercise did reveal an up-to-now undiscovered storage area below the washer dryer.  The previous owners used it for laundry supplies.  I have always assumed it was just one of the many mysterious hatches that are all over the boat and give access to the various mechanical gubbins for boat operations.

By our 7:45am departure, the problem was still a mystery.  The pump has since performed as normal, touch wood.

At last, we set off up the Mississippi River, our first day of previously unknown (to us) territory.  We passed the Golden Eagle Ferry.  Our first impression was that this small car ferry runs from Nowhere Illinois to Nowhere Missouri.  In fact, it does, but it was surprisingly busy with several vehicles waiting on both sides as it buzzed back and forth.  Apparently, this ferry allows drivers to bypass St Louis and the inevitable congestion associated with a big city.  There are few bridges over the Mississippi River.  At this point, Alton, to the south, was closest, and then the next was 80 miles north.  It is not surprising that there are several ferries in operation on this stretch.

Golden Eagle Ferry

In time we arrived at Lock 25, and were pleased to be able to go straight in.  This was our first lock in a while with nothing to wrap a line to.  Instead, the lock keeper dropped a line to Dick, and instructed him not to cleat it.  Trying to hold 12 tons of sailboat-shaped boat in place without a helping cleat is difficult.  I used the engines as I do in UK locks, to keep Nine Lives in place and stop her turning and banging against the sides of the lock.  Easy enough with practice, which we have a lot of, but I feel sorry for boaters who experience this for the first time.

That day we went straight through both locks with no wait, and saw no barge traffic at all, even though the lock reports from the previous day had suggested we could expect at least an hour’s wait.  We were tied up in Rockport by 4pm, a long day even without any lock queues.  The marina is very shallow, just 2 feet of water under the boat.

Two Rivers Marina, Rockport

Louisiana, Missouri was across the river, over a highway bridge.  Dick took his bike across and reported that there are signs of former wealth, but 90% empty stores.  However, there is a lot of cleaning and improvement going on, so that may change.  Otherwise, it is an industrial town with little to recommend it to tourists.

Louisiana, Missouri

We passed Hannibal, having had difficulty determining whether or not the marina had a slip for us.  This town is clearly capitalizing on the Mark Twain association.  Mark Twain this, Mark Twain that, even a never-functional Mark Twain memorial tribute lighthouse.  We skipped Hannibal on this occasion, but now that we know they do have space for a boat of our size, we may stop and see what the fuss is about on our return.

There was a delay of about 45 minutes at Lock 22, waiting for a split tow to go through, but we were tied up at Quincy Boat Club by 3:30pm.  We were the only boat there, but a member saw us arrive and came down to catch our lines and invite us to their dinner event the next evening.

Quincy Boat Club

The city of Quincy has an interesting history.  In 1838, the governor of Missouri issued an extermination order, forcing Mormons to flee their homes.  They crossed into Illinois at Quincy, and were made welcome in the town.  In 1839 they purchased land upriver and founded the city of Nauvoo.  Nauvoo was the largest city in Illinois by 1844.

Quincy downtown
Quincy downtown

Quincy was an important port on the Mississippi in the years leading up to the Civil War.  They flourished partly because they managed to be cagey about their sentiments over slavery, and traded enthusiastically with both sides.  Negotiations with President Lincoln by 3 of his friends from Quincy, ensured that the city was allowed to continue trade with the south, in spite of embargoes.  The city supported the northern war effort by producing cannonballs and military hardware, but they also accepted, processed, and traded tobacco products from Missouri when other ports were embargoed.

We had a good dinner at the strangely named Boodalu Restaurant, fortunately only a short walk up the very steep hill.

Boodalu shrimp cocktail
Boodalu carpaccio
Boodalu steak with portabella mushroom
Boodalu creme brulee

The next day was a most enjoyable evening at the Boat Club.  The Club was started in 1933, based in a ranch house on the water’s edge.  The floods of 2019 destroyed the clubhouse and the docks, but there happened to be a failing restaurant in a very attractive building just a few yards along the waterfront.  The Club was able to buy it, and it makes an outstanding venue.  The food was very good, some of the best I have had in a club setting, cooked by volunteers.  Members came up and chatted with us and made us welcome.  The live music was wonderful.  The singer was Liz Bentley, who offered a mix of covers and her own songs, mostly country music but with some country takes on folk and light rock.  Dick even agreed to stay for one more set than his usual tolerance, possibly because of the very comfy seats, but he was also enjoying the music.

Liz Bentley at Quincy Boat Club
Quincy highway bridge at night

We headed up the river to Keokuk.  In this area the river has long stretches of various wildlife reserves, and there is little to see except trees.  We have seen bald eagles, golden eagles, deer on the banks, and of course herons.  As we move north, we are starting to see white pelicans again.  They are migratory, spending winters in Central and South America, and summers as far north as northern Canada.

Bald eagle, not much of a picture, but you get the idea

After seeing very little traffic on the river, we were suddenly overtaken by a lot of small boats.  On the Illinois side we could see a large building that turned out to be the former Warsaw Brewery.  The brewery closed in 1972 after brewing beer for over a century, but the beautiful old building has been transformed into a restaurant.  Lots of the boats had docked there and we could see people walking up the hill to the restaurant.  It always surprises me how few waterfront venues offer any sort of docking for boats.  Those that do are invariably very popular.

Warsaw Brewery
Hydroelectric plant at the lock at Keokuk

At Keokuk Yacht Club we had to tie up on the outside, very subject to waves and wakes, and the day was surprisingly rough. The first evening we rode bikes (my first time this season) 2 miles to a downtown restaurant.  There are some beautiful large homes along the bluff on the way, but for the rest, the roads were in very poor condition, and downtown, although clean, was mostly empty shops.  We did have excellent pizza, but I was not a happy bunny having to ride on the rough road.

Keokuk bluff top homes
Keokuk bluff homes
Keokuk bluff homes
Keokuk Rand Park Garden
Keokuk Rand Park Garden

Sunday afternoon the Yacht Club had an event with live music.  This time it was The Boys, who played mostly rockabilly with lots of covers and some of their own music.  An older couple danced through almost every song for several sets.  Apparently, they are big fans and attend most of their events.  We had a perfect front row seat in the cockpit of Nine Lives, and enjoyed a bottle of wine and a few nibbles.

In late afternoon a sternwheeler arrived, the Mississippi Princess II.  She is the real thing, built 50 years ago in St Paul by a retired admiral.  She has had only 3 owners during that time, and is a private vessel, not a charter.  There was a bit of a flurry on her arrival while a small boat was moved to make room on the other dock.  They had not realized that our dock was the one with power, so after Dick spoke to the owner, we agreed to move Nine Lives back a few yards and use the other power pedestal, making room for them in front of us.  It was wonderful to watch the sternwheeler reposition.  There are two separate paddlewheels, and two rudders, and the captain turns the wheels forwards and backwards as needed to maneuver the boat.  The engines appear to be gas rather than diesel, but Dick didn’t get an opportunity to ask.  Later on, the local Harbor Host, his wife, father, and another couple joined us on board Nine Lives for a drink and chat.  Before they left, they toured Nine Lives, and were most impressed with the space and comfort below.

Mississippi Princess II
Mississippi Princess II

The next morning there had been a mayfly hatch, and the entire windward side of the boat was covered with them.  One can easily knock them off the screens from inside, but you daren’t try brushing or washing them down, as they are extremely delicate and make a disgusting mess.

Mayfly hatch

We passed Nauvoo, the city founded and still occupied by members of the Mormon Church.  The area was very tidy and prosperous looking, quite a contrast to what we have been seeing on the shores so far.

Fort Madison

There are lots of areas of waterlilies along the river’s edge.  Since they only grow in still water, you begin to understand just how wide the Mississippi River is.  The deeper channel can be only a very small part of the whole width, and the shallow areas do not have the strong current.  Wing dams contribute to regulating the flow of the water, as do the frequent locks and their associated dams.

waterlilies at the river’s edge

We came through a railway bridge, that was double decked, with the lower section for trains and an upper deck for cars.  The bridge opened for us, and then stayed open for more than 45 minutes waiting for the sternwheeler behind us to pass through.  We heard someone on the radio complain, I imagine the drivers waiting on the bridge were feeling very hot and frustrated.

Ft Madison railway bridge opening

Further on we passed a barge being loaded with corn for the first time.  Now we know we are in Iowa! A plaque in one of the towns told us that northbound barges mostly carry coal, fertilizer, sand and gravel, and wind turbine blades.  Southbound they carry corn and beans.

corn being loaded onto a barge
coal barges

We tied up for two nights in Burlington.  The marina is very shallow, in fact Dick had spoken to them a couple of times and they were not sure they could get us in.  There had been rain earlier, and while we did churn the mud, we got in and tied up to the fuel dock.  This was fortunate, because while there is an alternative dock (without power) closer to town, we had been a week without a pump-out and knew we were getting close to full.  Opportunities to pump out are pretty scarce on the Mississippi.  Not all states are as enlightened as South Carolina, which not only subsidizes facilities, but requires them to offer free pump out service to any boater who requests it.

Burlington waterfront
Burlington homes

One of the tourist attractions in Burlington is Snake Alley.  No, nothing to do with reptiles, this is a street, built in 1894 to make it easier for horses, vehicles, and pedestrians to move between the residential district on the bluff and the business district on the waterfront.  It still has the original brick paving, with the bricks laid at an angle to keep the horses’ feet from slipping as they went down the turns.  While the whole idea was a good one, it turned out that horses would lose control at the top if they tried to go up the street, so it was, and still is, one way down only.

Snake Alley, Burlington
Snake Alley with cars descending

We walked to Drake’s, a huge restaurant on the waterfront.  It occupied the building that was formerly Drake’s Hardware, once the top distributor of hardware in the Midwest, serving customers from the Appalachians to the Rockies.  Many of the features of the old business have been kept and incorporated into the restaurant.  Dick ordered a duck salad as a starter, that turned out to be a huge meal size, then his pot roast came with a side salad as well!  I ordered spinach and artichoke dip, followed by an interesting lobster chipotle pizza.  Both were tasty, but to be honest, they tasted the same, in spite of being completely different dishes.

lobster chipotle pizza at Drake’s

We had a much better meal the next night at Martini’s, excellent food, professional service. The waitress made sure that Dick’s appetizer salad was not duplicated with a second “side” salad.  It is an interesting (and annoying to us) assumption, more and more, that any starters and all desserts will be shared.  Portions now serve 4 as appetizers.  We don’t always want to share, it means that neither of us gets to enjoy our first choice from the menu.  On several occasions the server has whipped away to put in the order for one appetizer, and we have to call them back to order the other.

Martini’s shrimp cocktail
Martini’s salad
Martini’s ribeye steak
Martini’s filet steak oscar
Martini’s cheesecake selection

We had a small amount of concern the next morning as we left at 7:30am to be well ahead of 3 upcoming tows.  We knew the marina was shallow, and we had churned mud on the way in.  We backed out of the slip okay, but then came to a gentle halt in the marina entrance.  Dick reversed and tried again, slightly more centered and with a bit more speed.  It’s a finely balanced judgement, too much speed can result in getting thoroughly aground with no chance of backing off.  More mud later, we popped out of the entrance and were on our way.

Once again, we set off without being sure that our destination would work.  This uncertainty has defined our voyage so far.  Some marinas don’t respond to enquiries, those that “think” they can accommodate us are not sure.  Keokuk was first come first served, no way of knowing whether the space would be filled with small boats, and no nearby alternative.  Fort Madison marina is only partly built, in spite of having had a grand opening on July 1st.  What is working in our favour, is that there is no competition for any available transient spaces.  Nobody is boating!  We assume it is the heat.  Another aspect of this trip that adds to the uncertainty is a lack of current reviews of marinas and anchorages.  There was major flooding in 2019, and many docks were destroyed or damaged.  Any reviews dated before 2019 cannot be relied on if there is nothing recent.

A couple of pelicans swam into Lock 17 ahead of us, but they did not care for our company and flew away.  Locks would be great locations for photography, but unfortunately, we are far too busy to take pictures.  Pelicans like to hang around during the summer, as the water churns up lots of fish, and eagles congregate during winter, where the moving water is less likely to freeze.

In Muscatine, there is a municipal marina, and our reservation was accepted and money taken.  We were assigned to a dock downriver from the marina.  On arrival, we found that it had no centre cleat, only a large one at each end of the dock.  Nine Lives is sailboat shaped, which means that a bow line cleated first makes it impossible to bring the stern in.  Cleat the stern first in a fast current, and the bow will swing out too far to throw a line.  We managed to tie up, but it took several tries, and eventually Dick had to leap off the boat when it was close and then run to grab lines.

A man who had used the boat launch was quite unhappy with us, as he had difficulty tying his boat while he got his trailer.  He settled down when we explained that we had been assigned (and paid for) the dockage.  There was no power or water, so we ran the generator for over 48 hours, happily with no issues.

Nine Lives at the dock

Situated at last, we were very surprised to see Mississippi Princess, the sternwheeler, arriving beside us.  They had also made a reservation and been assigned the same space!  Once they understood what had happened, they got on the phone and were directed to tie up across 3 open slips in the marina proper.  Dick walked over and helped catch their lines.  The next day he chatted with a Parks and Recreation Dept worker, who told him that the marina was badly designed and has always silted up.  The man said he was surprised that the sternwheeler had got out at all.

In 1833, at the end of the Black Hawk War, the Iowa Territory was officially opened for settlement.  Began as a trading post, by 1840 the town, originally named Bloomington, had grown to 507 residents.  Growing quickly, the town soon had a gunsmith, a hatter, tinsmith, cigar maker, flour mill and packing house, in addition to its main lumber industry.  To avoid confusion with other places of the same name, the community voted to rename the town Muscatine.  In 1853, Orion Clemens brought his family to town and took over the newly renamed Muscatine Journal.  He employed his 18-year-old brother Sam at the paper.  Under his pen name, Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens wrote “Life on the Mississippi”, commenting on Muscatine’s beautiful sunsets.

Muscatine sunrise
Muscatine County Offices

Just before the turn of the century, John Boepple came to town from Germany, and started a button making industry using the shells of freshwater mussels.  Muscatine became the world’s capital of the pearl button industry.  By 1894 there were 43 button factories in the area, employing 3500 people.  H.J Heinz also set up a pickle factory.  A unique feature of the town is the light system on the bridge.  In 2008, 43 LED fixtures were attached to the bridge, capable of generating 16.3 million colour combinations.  It is believed to be the first of its kind to be installed on a bridge over the Mississippi River.  It was certainly pretty to watch from our ideal location at the dock.

former button factory in Muscatine
Muscatine bridge at night
Muscatine waterfront

Our dock was actually intended for the small boat launch, although a newer launch has been built further upstream.  While Dick explored the area on his bike, I sat and watched a group setting up for a hovercraft meet.  It was fascinating to see these small craft, especially when two arrived by water and just zipped straight onto the land.  They maneuver very like a boat on the water, but on land they are somewhat clumsy and tricky to park.  Several of the men simply stopped where they were and then lifted and manhandled the craft into place.  The meet was set up, but the main events were not until after we left.  It would have been fun to see 15 or 20 of these interesting craft zipping around, although it would have been incredibly noisy!

Hovercraft meet at Muscatine
hovercraft
hovercraft arriving by water
hovercraft arriving by water

I watched a fisherman retrieve a huge net and empty it of quite a few fish, just a few feet from our stern.  There are still plenty of fish in the Mississippi River, in spite of the invasion of Asian Carp.  Catfish is found on menus up and down the river.  Walleye, Sauger, Bass, Crappie, Perch, Paddlefish, Bluegill, and Pike are some of the fish to be found on the waters of the middle and upper Mississippi.

Muscatine fisherman hauling in his net
sorting the fish

The first evening we walked over to an Italian restaurant.  I had very good pizza, and Dick’s choice was an indifferent lasagna.  The next day was a shorter walk, to a hotel restaurant right on the waterfront across from our dock.  The menu looked interesting, and Dick’s grouper was tasty, but my portabella sandwich was awful.  Far too many unrelated strong flavours competing.  I thought of it as the Jackson Pollock chef’s style.  Throw a bunch of stuff into a sandwich and hope it works.

the grouper was tasty
the portabella sandwich was awful

We left quite early the next morning, with no idea where we would dock the next night although our destination was the Quad Cities area.  Dick was never able to get an answer from the marina in Moline.  Finally, we tried making contact with Lindsay Park Yacht Club (which had in fact been recommended), and we were able to make a reservation.

Davenport (Quad Cities)

We called Lock 15 from a little distance downstream, and were told come on up, they were just locking down another pleasure craft.  Dick asked if he should hurry, and was told it would not be necessary, so we proceeded at our usual trawler speed.  As we arrived at the railway bridge south of the lock we were disturbed to see the other pleasure boat was already there.  When we called the lock again, we were told there would be an hour and a half wait while they locked down a split tow.  Quite a disappointment!  Eventually the tow slid slowly out of the lock, but they needed a tug to help align them into the channel, so there was a lot of churning water.  The lock keeper called us in long before the tow was clear, as he had another two tows waiting above.  Dick made three tries at getting into the lock through the roiling water, on the third, Nine Lives spun around through a full 360 degrees before Dick could get her into the channel, meanwhile avoiding hitting the lock walls or the unfortunately placed dredge on our port side.  There was also a railway bridge right above the lock and the operator had said there was 20 feet of clearance, so Dick had expected to have to get out and drop the antennas.  This was impossible while he fought the roiling waters.  Although Dick is generally not pleased that Nine Lives has oversized engines, I am sure that on this occasion we were glad of them.  We were also happy to see that there was enough clearance under the bridge without lowering the antennas, as I can’t reach them.  Rather more excitement than we like!

Eventually we were through the lock and arrived at the Yacht Club.  Three members came out to help us get into an admittedly tricky spot.  Nine Lives is wonderfully maneuverable, but driving sideways is not her best thing!  For a change there was lots of depth.  Everyone was very friendly, and offered advice on what to see and do while we were visiting.  We had already made plans while we were there on this stop, but we will return on the voyage downstream and spend more time.  In the evening, after sampling the offerings at the on-site restaurant, we were invited to join two members for drinks.  We enjoyed a very pleasant interlude, telling stories of life on the Great Loop, while they regaled us with their own tales of handling a new-to-them cruiser through Mississippi locks.

Appetizer sampler at Lindsay Park Yacht Club

Saturday was our 45th wedding anniversary.  I occupied myself with laundry, while spending most of the day writing and preparing pictures for the blog.  Dick launched the dinghy.  The dinghy has no name yet, perhaps it will never get one, other than dinghy, or perhaps dink as an affectionate short form.  Dick scouted the route and the dinghy dock where we planned to go for dinner, and he also went up to the Moline marina that we had been unable to contact, in spite of trying for weeks.  There are lots of large boats there, so plenty of depth.  Dick chatted with a guy on the docks, and found out that the restaurant, whose staff are supposed to take bookings for the marina, would rather keep the docks open for short term diners, so now we know why calls are not returned.

That evening we crossed the Mississippi in the dinghy, and after passage through a very narrow channel that was distinguished by a huge Danger, Strong Currents warning sign (!) we tied up at an excellent town dock.  The steakhouse was just a block away.  It is highly rated, but I noticed that it was surprisingly dirty, cutlery, menus, even the tables were greasy and had food remnants on them.  Dick’s prime rib was excellent, but my beef wellington was truly awful.  No relationship to the menu description, and very overdone, although I will concede that the meat was tender.  The dinghy ride back was somewhat choppy, and I am hoping that in future we won’t have to cross the river to get to dinner.

Danger, strong currents
dinner for our anniversary

The next morning, we passed American Countess, a sternwheeler cruise ship.  She was originally a casino boat, but when Iowa changed their laws to allow casinos on land, the ship was sold for scrap.  Bought by a cruise ship company 3 years later, she was taken to a St Louis yard, where she was cut in half and extended with a new 60-foot middle section to increase her passenger capacity.  She now cruises up and down the Mississippi, still with true sternwheeler propulsion, although we noticed that she appears to need to have her own accompanying tug pushing as well.

American Countess
American Countess
narrow channel after exiting one of the locks
Windmill Cultural Center, Fulton

After lock 13, we came into what is the widest part of the Mississippi.  It is like a shallow lake with many islands, and the channel winds back and forth.  We passed a large pelican rookery.  The scenery is definitely getting prettier as we travel north, with more nice homes on the bluffs and less industry.

Pelican rookery

At Sabula we entered the marina and were assigned a 16-foot wide slip.  We tied up on the t-head instead.  Although our 19-foot beam is always the most important piece of information that Dick gives to a marina when he is booking, and he always stresses it several times, as often happens this was ignored.  The dockmaster apologized and said he was just told 44 feet long.  After the inevitable question, “are you sure you need 19 feet?”  and carefully pacing off the slips to confirm that they really are only 16 feet wide, he calmly made the necessary arrangements and we were able to stay on the t-head.  It meant a little bit of holding my breath in the morning, when the large tug from the next well came out and rounded the corner and passed us with just a few feet to spare, but all was well.

2022

June 20 to July 9 Pickwick Lake to St. Charles

At last Nine Lives is underway again.  Not our most auspicious start, on several levels.

In October last year, we left Nine Lives at a marina on Pickwick Lake, in a covered, in-water slip, where she will spend the next two winters as well.  As usual, there was a list of work to be done (this is boat ownership), and 8 months in which to do it.  Dick also arranged for monthly cleaning, and a major refurbishment of the gelcoat.  In November, Dick returned to the marina to check on things, and finalize all the arrangements.  Through the winter, he sent emails and made phone calls, to no response.  The local harbor host even visited on our behalf. Eventually, Dick visited in person again in April, discovering, and he was not particularly surprised, that nothing had been done.  The boat was filthy, and none of the mechanical work had been started.  He managed to get the most important item on the list, the check of the house batteries, done while he was there, and the required replacement batteries were ordered.  Assurances were made that the installation of the new batteries, the 2000-hour engine service, the bottom paint, and a thorough cleaning and waxing, plus other minor items, would be completed before our arrival in late June.  Follow-up phone calls were made, and further assurances given.

We set off from Hilton Head on Monday, June 20, with the vehicle loaded with all the pantry items that we had removed in the autumn, plus fresh and frozen provisions for the first few weeks.  As we drove off, Dick commented, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we got there and found Nine Lives out of the water!”  Nine hours driving later, we arrived at the marina, and as we drove toward the parking lot, there she was, up on blocks, out of the water.  We later learned that she had been taken out just two hours before our arrival.  It wasn’t funny at all, deeply annoying would be a better description!

A great disappointment!

There was a bit of a scramble to find local accommodation for a few days, with a full-size fridge-freezer to ensure that all the food did not spoil.  For all that Pickwick Lake is a vacation destination, and with many very expensive homes along the cliffs, the area has little in the way of accommodation or restaurants.  We stayed at a hotel and conference center in the State Park at the top of the lake, and Dick checked on the progress of the bottom paint and other work twice a day. 

A large adult beverage was required.

Nine Lives was finally splashed on Thursday, and on Friday morning we were able to move aboard.  Even then, there was  work still being done.  Some things did not happen, including the 2000-hour service, but Dick felt confident that it could wait until we return in the autumn.  The promised waxing did not get done either, just a cursory wash-down, and inside cleaning was impossible to arrange at short notice.  So, Nine Lives is not looking as beautiful as she should.

One thing I can tell you, appalling as this seems, not getting the work done in a timely manner is absolutely normal at all the boatyards we have dealt with (so far, we are 4 for 4).  There is huge demand for skilled work, and constant boating emergencies, so regular maintenance work and non-essential repairs are given low priority everywhere.  Friends ask, can we go somewhere else?  The short answer is no.  All of the reputable boatyards are the same anyway, and this is an ideal location for our next 3 year’s plans.  We have a covered slip at a good rate for the time we need it, not easy to find.  That said, the yard manager assured Dick that this will not happen next winter.  We will keep fingers crossed, and Dick will have to attend in person more often.

We spent Friday and Saturday on various start-up tasks, including sanitizing the freshwater tanks, launching the dinghy and testing the motor, adding new cords to lessen the sway of the dinghy while we are underway, fuel, pump out, and fresh water fill.  I occupied myself with various jobs, including of course bed making, putting away all the provisions and pantry items, and preparing fresh bags of cloves.  A number of other inside jobs were completed, and some were postponed until later.

Fuel fill, pity we didn’t do this last autumn.

I was surprised and pleased to find no evidence of unwanted critters inside the boat, and almost none in the cockpit.  This, in spite of the condition of the outside, and the lines, fenders, dinghy, and power cords being festooned with spider webs.  I put this down to multiple precautions.  All food that is left on board is kept in plastic storage bins.  Bounce sheets are placed in all drawers and closets, bags of cloves are distributed generously in the pantry cupboards, and I did a careful and complete spray inside and out with spider control as we left.  No way to know which of these precautions is working and which are boating myths, and I have no plans to “test” by leaving any of them out!

freshly prepared clove bags

We tried several local restaurants during our enforced stay in the area.  The only upscale eatery was in Corinth, a 30-minute drive away.  The town is an interesting mix of new and old, and everything is well cared for and clean.  The meal in the restaurant was good, and we will certainly return.  As we drove out, we saw three middle-aged men, sitting on chairs on the sidewalk, with guitars, jamming with no audience but having a wonderful time.  Nice town.

Corinth downtown
Smoked trout pate at Vicari
Bananas Foster at Vicari
Bread pudding at Vicari
Pizza on our last evening at Aqua Grill

We were finally able to get underway on June 26th at 8am.  Unfortunately, there was already an up-bound tow at the Pickwick Lock, and we had a 3-hour wait until it was our turn to go through.  Later in the afternoon we were caught by thunderstorms.  The winds were so strong they lifted up the fold-down seats on the bow, then the rain came down in sheets.  This helpfully dropped the temperature from 95F to 71F, at least temporarily.  We anchored behind Swallow Bluff Island, first time for our new anchor rode (chain) and markers.  Dick had to wear his bathing suit in the rain for the anchoring exercise (fortunately for me, my role in the anchoring process is inside at the helm!)  I posted on facebook to complete our first day, and Dick wondered why nobody asked for a picture of him out there in his swimming trunks!

Bye bye Aqua Yacht
Pickwick Lock

With the sun shining, and our first day successfully complete, we enjoyed our traditional toast to the season’s boating of bubbly, accompanied by cheese and crackers.  Dick fired up the grill for an excellent meal of steak, baked potatoes and mushrooms.

First night toast
Ready for the grill

Before dinner, Dick took time to fix the new boarding ladder. He used his purpose-bought pipe cutter to trim the supports. When that broke (mutters about cheap piece of junk), he made a second attempt using the vastly more time-consuming hacksaw. Sadly, the supports were still far too long and the boarding ladder was still unusable.

Fix the boarding ladder part one
Fix the boarding ladder part two

When we anchor, I set alarms on two devices, to ensure that we are alerted if we move more than an acceptable amount during the night.  Of course, deciding how much is too much, is somewhat of an art. One has to take into account currents, distance from shore, amount of chain we have out, and whether or not there are tides.  On this occasion the research said that the current would keep us in line in the channel, so I set a fairly small radius on the alarms.  At 4:38am I was rudely awakened by a loud Whoop Whoop Whoop a few inches from my ear.  I leapt out of bed, calling for Dick to wake up, and rushed up to the cockpit.  Instant relief to see that we were nowhere near either shore, followed by absolute puzzlement when I could see from the anchor light on the other boat in the anchorage that we had turned completely around and were facing the opposite direction.  This would be expected in an area with tides, but on an inland river it was mystifying.  We could only conclude that the upstream and/or downstream dams had stopped moving the water, thus minimizing the current.  Later that morning the other boater came by and told us that a huge wave had come through during the night and completely repositioned his boat.  Since we were already wide awake after the excitement, coffee was made, and we watched the sunrise and got an early start.

Sunrise at Swallow Bluff Island

This first part of our summer voyage required retracing our route from last autumn for nearly two weeks.  In order to catch up with the plan, we ran for two long days and missed a couple of anchorages.  Our second night was at Pebble Isle Marina, an okay spot, but it will be too shallow when we return in autumn, and it has little to recommend it.  This area is all part of Kentucky Lake, a long ribbon of artificial lake created by the Tennessee Valley Authority through the beds of several rivers, including the Tennessee River.

The basin outside Pebble Island Marina

We passed the Tennessee River Lighthouse, a 70-foot structure, high on the bluff, that used to show a continuous white light.  Anecdotally, it was used as a navigation aid for some years, but it is now sadly derelict and falling further into disrepair each year. 

Tennessee River Lighthouse

Ospreys nest on the taller daymarks, and some had nearly grown chicks still being looked after by their parents.

Ospreys nest on the daymarks
Repairing pylons

We arrived as planned at Kentucky Dam Marina.  As is not uncommon in this part of the world, there was no response to the radio, and our phones did not have enough signal to call.  We had to go to the fuel dock, and ask for docking instructions by calling out to the attendant.  The first suggestion was to “take any of those slips”.  I pointed out that they appear to be 14-foot-wide slips, and Nine Lives is 19 feet.  Oh.  The uncovered slips in the marina were mostly empty, but we elected to go all the way to the end and take the t-head.

The nearby restaurant was closed except for weekends, so I made jambalaya on board.  It was the first time for that recipe, won’t be the last!

Dick took the time for one of the undone chores, installing the new TV.  The previous one, although working fine, was not a smart TV, so Dick decided to replace it.  This will allow us to stream regular programs (acceptable wi-fi permitting).  We also installed a new DVD player, and are continuing with our usual evening tradition of watching murder mysteries and other box set programs.

Installing the new TV

Kentucky Dam Lock was very backed up, and the lock keeper advised Dick that pleasure craft have a difficult time using that lock, plus the river above has heavy barge traffic.  We decided to take the longer route through Barclay Lock and up the Cumberland River, expected to be faster even though it is considerably longer.  We had an hour wait for the lock, and met several tows on the river in both directions, but it was an easy day to Paducah.

An attractive waterfront property at Green Turtle Bay
A tow enters Barclay Lock, only a few feet of clearance, skilled driving required!
Osprey nest above Barclay Lock

There were a lot of dead Asian Carp, and Barclay Lock smelled like a bad fish fry.  Not sure which is more unpleasant, dead ones, or the live ones leaping out of the water, hitting under the boat, and potentially jumping into the dinghy.  A tree in the river even had dead fish festooned in its branches, which also speaks to how high the river gets during spring flood stage.  We saw lots of turkey vultures, ospreys, and a bald eagle on the shore was deciding whether a dead carp that had washed up looked tasty.  It was clear from how undercut the banks were that the river has been particularly high this spring.  Tree roots were exposed, but the trees themselves still had leafed out.

Exposed tree roots show how high the water was this spring

At the turn into the Ohio River, there are two Federal Mooring Cells.  These are huge steel structures that are set up for barges to moor to while waiting for locks.  One of the two at this inlet had collapsed.  You can see in the picture the sheer size of the structures, and imagine the power of the water that caused the collapse.

Collapsed Federal Mooring Cell

We liked Paducah last fall, and were not disappointed on this visit.  We stayed two nights.  I had time to do a quick load of laundry, and Dick spent the day running errands on his bike in 100-degree heat.  He found some great bread from the bakery, beautiful fresh strawberries and other fruit from the market, and he made a run to both the grocery store and the hardware.  There were so many items, he sadly forgot the main reason for the hardware store, which was a replacement pipe cutter.  As mentioned earlier, the boarding ladder that replaced the one that we lost last fall (oddly enough at Paducah), needed the ladder supports to be trimmed to fit the boat and make it useable for me.  Getting on and off has been quite a challenge, the step from the back is usually too long for me, so without a ladder I can be stuck on board.

Paducah Docks

On our first evening we tried a highly rated and trendy new restaurant.  It was in a re-purposed freight warehouse, but unfortunately it was rather too trendy for us.  Leaving aside décor that consisted of a basic coat of paint and hard metal chairs, we were told to scan a QR code to see the menu, which we refused, so paper menus were reluctantly provided.  The only option for the wine list was the QR code, go to the website, or order completely blind from the choices rattled off by the waitress that gave only varietal, not origin, winery, or price.  We did choose from the website, but requiring patrons to bring and use a smart phone does not endear us to any restaurant.  Dick’s food was quite good, mine was not.

The next evening, we returned to Cynthia’s, a restaurant we enjoyed last fall, and it was a much nicer experience.  The setting was another historic warehouse, but sympathetically renovated, and there were tablecloths, wine glasses, and menus!  The crepes Dick had for dessert rank as one of his top ten restaurant desserts ever.  Given the number of business and personal restaurant meals he has had all over the world, this is saying something.

Chicken pasta at Cynthia’s
Dick enjoyed the Grouper
Chocolate dessert
Crepes, one of the best desserts Dick has ever tasted

After filling up with water, we set off by 9am, but we anticipated a 3 to 4 hour wait at Olmsted Lock.  We arrived at the lock at 11:30 and went straight in.  Last fall when we came through the water was high enough that we didn’t even go through the lock itself, instead we were directed to pass right over the wickets (dam).  Olmsted replaced two other locks on the Ohio River, and yet it can still be under water when the river is running high.  The 30-year lock building project was both the largest and the most expensive inland waterway project ever undertaken in the United States. Olmsted carries the most tonnage of any lock in the entire Army Corps of Engineers system. 

A dredge on the Ohio River

As we made our way down the Ohio River to the Mississippi, we passed many barges at anchor, and being gathered together for transit of the river system.  Barges are the containers, huge floating steel tubs usually 195 feet long by 35 feet wide.  They get lashed together and are pushed by a tugboat, called a towboat, more often shortened to tow.  Boaters learn very early to call the tow, if you try calling the oncoming vessel a barge they may not answer, as that would be a bit like trying to speak to a railway car instead of the driver.  There are essentially two types of tow.  Smaller tugs, amusingly referred to as lunch bucket boats, push and pull the barges into place for loading and for lashing together.  The reason for the name is that the 3-man crews work the same tug in the same part of the river, bringing their lunch aboard and going home after their shift.  Larger tugs handle the transport up and down the rivers, and may have more crew, who of course sleep on board.  Last autumn on the Illinois River, we saw barge trains of up to 3 wide and 4 long.  This spring we have seen several that are 5 wide and 6 long, for a total of 30 barges.  These exceptionally large barge trains are only possible south of St Louis, because of the limitations in the size of the locks further north.  The tonnage of the materials carried is staggering, and these run 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  We will easily meet or pass 10 that are underway each day as we travel.  Mostly the barges are filled with sand or different types of stone.  Some carry chemicals, and some are carrying scrap metal.  Many are covered, so we don’t know what is inside.  Later in the year there will be many carrying grain and flour.

Barge 5 wide and 6 long

At Cairo (pronounced Kay Row to our private amusement), we turned the corner, and were at last in the Mississippi River, a week after leaving Pickwick Lake.  We stopped for the night at Boston Bar, an anchorage we visited last fall.  Naturally, just as we got into position to set the anchor, the heavens opened, and there was no time for bathing suits, so Dick just had to get outside and get soaked.  The rain stopped as soon as the anchor was set.

anchoring in the rain
He got wet!

Boston Bar is not our favourite anchorage.  There is a strong current, and it was particularly strong that night.  Our anchor held, but there is a large bridge abutment and a wing dam of riprap directly behind.  It would have been very close getting the engines started in time to prevent disaster if the anchor had come loose.  We are planning a different stop on our return in the fall.  To add another reason, as if one was needed, Dick thinks that the combination of the strong current slightly starving the intake of water to the raw water pump, and sand in the river getting into the impeller, contributed, if not fully caused the generator to break down.  In the morning, when I came up to the cockpit with my coffee, there was a strong smell.  I mistakenly identified it as diesel, and Dick duly sniffed and said, no, he could not smell any diesel.  In fact, it was burning rubber.  Next time I smell something strange I will not try to be specific.

The next evening, we anchored in Little Diversion Channel, just south of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  This is a pretty, but narrow channel, and one of the few safe anchorages between St Louis and Cairo.  It took several tries before the anchor set, most unusual for our trusty rocna.  There didn’t seem to be a lot of current to hold us in place, but as Dick discovered when he jumped into the water, there was plenty!  He immediately found himself 10 feet behind the boat, and had to swim very hard to get back.

Dick started up the generator, and was just getting ready for our traditional beer after stopping for the day, when the generator stopped.  Several tries more and it was clear there was a problem.  It was humid, 90 degrees, and we really, really wanted the air conditioner!  The air conditioners cannot be run without either shore power or the generator.  Dick began his investigations and found that the impeller for the raw water pump was completely worn out.  We carry replacements, so he installed that, and then cleaned the strainer.  Still the generator overheated, and it became clear that the pump was not moving the water.  The only conclusion (after Dick jumped into the water to examine the outlet, just in case a piece of dead fish had been caught there) was that somehow there was a problem with the pipe.  (Ultimately, we learned that the problem was the bits of the worn impeller blocking the pipe, something Dick could have fixed if he had realized the issue.)

Worn impeller and the replacement
Maybe the problem is out here!

Little Diversion Channel was quite a pleasant stop, well off the busy river.  There were butterflies flitting around the boat, and a hummingbird circled us a couple of times, but I had nothing to offer them.  A couple of fishermen went by, and some pontoon boats.  Local law enforcement passed several times, carefully slowing right down to pass us without a wake, most considerate!  We enjoyed a very nice dinner, another new recipe, but it was awful cooking in the heat.

Sunrise at Little Diversion Channel

Although it was really hot, we made the decision not to stress the engines by running hard for the 8 hours it would have taken to get to Hoppies, and we proceeded as planned to Kaskaskia Lock.  Running that far against the current at high speed would have cost an extra $250 in fuel, plus it would be quite hard on the engines.  At Kaskaskia we tied to the lock wall, and spent a quiet night (sadly no fireworks visible, although it was July 4th).  We did skip the planned exploration up the Kaskaskia River to Evansville, and proceeded the next morning to Hoppies.

As we travelled up the Mississippi River, we were struck by the amount of coal being carried on the many barges.  It had been my impression, from reading news reports and articles concerned with climate change, that coal is on the way out, having been replaced by other fossil fuels (and of course other forms of energy such as solar, hydro, and wind power).  We have passed generating stations that are clearly coal-fired, many with piles of coal waiting, but they have all been shut down, or are on standby.  There are two other critical uses for coal, steel making, and cement production.  Electricity does not get hot enough for these processes, so coal is still being used. Also, coal is now being shipped to China, Japan, and other Asian countries.  Coal production declined after 2013, but it had increased steadily between 1950 and 2013, and in 2020 it was still higher than it was in 1980.  In fact, this year, 2022, coal production is up, predicted to be 22% higher than last year.

Loading coal at Knight Hawk Lone Eagle Dock
loaded coal barges
coal barges waiting to offload at a cement plant

We passed the interesting Tower Rock, a huge rock formation in the river.  First mention of this rock was in 1673, when missionary Jacques Marquette wrote that this was a place dreaded by the savages because a manitou, or demon lives there.  Later a band of river pirates occupied the rock, and preyed on Mississippi shipping.  The outlaw base was destroyed in 1803 by US Army dragoons.  Sailors passing the rock would celebrate with a drink of spirits.  We did not follow that particular tradition, we are strict about saving all alcoholic beverages until we are docked or anchored for the night.

Tower Rock
Tower Rock

Hoppies is a Looper legend.  It is called a marina, but a better description would be to say it is a fuel dock that has extra space to tie up overnight.  They are the only fuel stop between St Louis and Paducah, and many Loop boats may not have a 225-mile range.  Nine Lives can make that trip southbound in 3 days, but coming up-river against the current it took 5.  We are fortunate to have a 1000-mile range, so seldom have to be concerned that we may run out of fuel.  Hoppies is 3 somewhat rusty steel barges lashed together beside the shore.  They had docks, but they were destroyed in flooding in 2019.  I had thought they had no power, but I was delightfully wrong, and we were so glad to be able to plug in and use the air conditioners again.  The temperature was 99F, and the weather channel reported that with the humidity it “feels like 112”.  Even the fuel was worth stopping for, as it was $.70 a gallon less than the other marinas we would be stopping at over the next few days, so we filled up.

Hoppies, a Looper legend

We had understood that the only nice restaurant was a 2.5-mile bike ride away, but an alternative in town was suggested.  LaChance, a local winery, has opened a restaurant in a historic tavern building, so we decided to brave the heat and try it.  Although supposedly a 15-minute walk, I was immediately regretting the decision, as the sun beat down, and the road was slightly uphill, but to our surprise, the owner of Hoppies drove up in his car and offered a ride into town.  It was a very kind gesture.  Tuesday is a limited menu, but Dick enjoyed his enormous catfish po-boy sandwich, and I had outstanding chicken quesadillas.  We each tried a flight of wine tastings (Dick red, me white), and Dick came home with a bottle of one of their red blends.  Kimmswick is a pretty and historic town, founded in 1859.  The log tavern, built in 1770, that LaChance has taken over was once a favourite haunt of Ulysses S. Grant.  There are a number of attractive old houses in the village, as well as the Anheuser Estate and Museum on the riverfront.  The town is a regular stop for river cruise boats.

La Chance Restaurant, Kimmswick
La Chance
Anheuser Museum, Kimmswick
Anheuser Museum
Sunrise at Hoppies

After an excellent night’s sleep in air-conditioned comfort, we left early to allow for delays at the two locks we would pass through on our way to our next stop at Alton.  As we approached the outskirts of St Louis we could see beautiful homes on top of the bluffs.  One has a huge sculpture in the garden overlooking the water, depicting a pair of legs diving into a pool.  I can’t imagine the cost of building this enormous structure, and what could possibly be the point.  We passed the Gateway Arch in St Louis in mid-morning, and were very pleased to be directed straight in at Chain of Rocks Lock.  A couple of hours later, there was again no wait at Mel Price Lock, so we arrived at the marina in Alton and were tied up by 2:15.

Wealth and taste…
Oh my!
A red-winged blackbird hitches a ride

We had booked a meal at Gentelin’s on Broadway, a fine dining restaurant we enjoyed last fall.  Alton, although historic, is not an attractive town.  Some efforts are being made at gentrification, and there is a pleasant waterfront park, but they have a long way to go.  I was glad we were walking both ways in daylight.  We enjoyed the meal, although the restaurant was surprisingly noisy.  There was a man singing and playing a keyboard, and unfortunately between the amplification and acoustics in the restaurant, diners had to raise their voices to chat, and the result was an incredible din that did not add to the experience.  We expect to return anyway, as the food is excellent.  My lobster tail cooked in tempura batter was delicious, and Dick enjoyed his crispy roast duck.

House salad at Gentelin’s. A salad is always included with your meal in the midwest.
Crispy Duck at Gentelins
Tempura Lobster Tail at Gentelins
Chocolate dessert at Gentelins

We had only a short run to Port Charles Harbor in St Charles, just past the confluence of the Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers.  North of Alton we passed our first Mississippi cruise ship.  While very large, it was still dwarfed by the barge that we passed at the same time.

Mississippi Cruise Ship

In Port Charles, we are tied up for several days.  The generator repairs were completed almost immediately.  In some ways it is fortunate that the problem happened, because while investigating the generator problem, Dick became aware of water in the port-side bilge.  He knew from our experience with the starboard engine last summer that this could be the beginning of a problem with the raw water pump on the port engine.  Further examination determined that the pump is definitely failing, and a replacement has been ordered and will arrive Monday.  Of course, if the 2000-hours service had been done, this problem would have been identified at that time.

Dick borrowed a pipe cutter and fixed the boarding ladder at last.

We walked next door to the interestingly named Duck Club Yacht Club.  A very nice club, with a lively bar and a nice restaurant that is open to transients staying at the Port Charles Marina.  Dick had pizza, followed by cherry pie, while I liked my shrimp wrap.

Pretzels and beer cheese at Duck Club Yacht Club
Pizza at Duck Club Yacht Club
Shrimp Wrap at Duck Club Yacht Club

Saturday we took the courtesy car into St Charles.  As the only transients currently in the marina we have exclusive use of their somewhat beaten up Dodge Caravan.  We made a grocery and liquor run, and scouted the downtown in advance of tonight’s meal in a highly rated Italian restaurant.  Tomorrow we plan to spend some time wandering through the historic Main Street with its many boutiques and cafes.

August 10 to 24, Green Bay to Milwaukee

In the best literary and television tradition, I left the last entry with a cliff-hanger.  Yes, the engine pump was fixed, sort of…

The marine tech eventually arrived to replace the raw water pump with the rebuilt replacement from our Looper friends.  He got the replacement in, only to discover that it had not been rebuilt as our friends had been told, and in fact it leaked worse than ours.  The tech made several trips to the shop, and the leaking was reduced to a small drip with the admonition to keep a sharp eye on it.  The tech was great, not only did he stay after quitting time to make sure the job was done, he also drove us to the restaurant, and absolutely refused to accept a gratuity.

Dinner at Republic Chophouse, a steakhouse, was very good, although it was second only to the Grand Hotel in cost!  It is strange that Green Bay seems to be very much a foodie place, with outstanding and innovative restaurants, but no shops to buy gourmet treats.

This would be good place to address a family comment.  Family, unlike friends who are usually more diplomatic, say exactly what they think, complimentary or not!  Anyway, apparently the general consensus from the Dutch heritage side of the family is that “they seem to be always eating”.  Well, this is somewhat true, if eating is defined as trying out interesting restaurants.  We have always said that we are “eating our way around the Loop”, and trying all sorts of new eateries as well as local shops is a huge part of the enjoyment of the journey for us.  Add in the fun of meeting new friends and sharing docktails, this is what Looping is all about. In fact, the expectation of closed shops and restaurants, or having to eat outside with plastic cutlery and paper plates, was the reason we stayed at home in incredibly hot Hilton Head last summer.  Many of our readers have asked me for more food pictures, so I try to oblige.

Having had two pumps replaced this year, one for the fresh water system and one for the starboard engine, got me thinking about pumps in general, how important they are in our lives, and we don’t even think about them.  There are pumps in your car, in your dishwasher and your washing machine.  Your heating/cooling system may be a big pump.  On a boat like ours, they play a vital role, bilge pumps, fresh water pump, shower drain pumps, washing machine, toilets, and 2 of our 3 AC units.  We have a bicycle pump to keep air in our tires and top up the fenders when they get too squashy.  Each engine has a raw water pump that cools the engine coolant and exhaust, and another inside the engine that circulates the coolant internally.  Without these pumps, the engine would get hot enough to burn up the boat.

A noticeable feature of the entrance to Green Bay is the large colony of white pelicans roosting on the islands and outer breakwaters.  American White Pelicans are one of the largest North American birds, with a wingspan of 9 feet and weighing up to 30 pounds.  They nest in the interior, as far north as northern Canada, and as far south as northern California.  They are migratory, spending winters in southern USA and Central America.  During much of the 20th century they were absent from Wisconsin, due to habitat destruction by the draining of wetlands, and the use of DDT.  They have now returned and their numbers are increasing every year. We have been seeing them all along the western coast of Lake Michigan and in Green Bay.

Pelicans and cormorants roost in Green Bay

We departed Green Bay on the 10th as planned, and had a smooth journey to Menominee.  The wind kicked up at the end, but we had a very wide slip in the marina and good docking help. 

Passing a Lake Freighter heading for the port of Green Bay

The city of Menominee is at the southern tip of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The area was originally occupied by the Menominee Indian Tribe, but they were displaced and their descendants now live on a reservation in north central Wisconsin.  In the 19th century it was a lumber town, producing more lumber than any other city in the United States.  In the early 20th century, as the lumber business waned, other industries arrived.  One of these businesses was Lloyd Manufacturing, which made wicker baby buggies. In 1917, Marshall Burns Lloyd invented an automated process for weaving wicker and manufactured it as the Lloyd Loom. This machine process is still being used today in the production of good quality wicker furniture.  The downtown and waterfront have some beautiful old buildings, many of them restored, but the town has little to offer visitors.  We enjoyed a decent meal at the best rated restaurant in an interesting historic building.

Downtown Menominee
One of the historic buildings in Menominee
An interesting and unusual door on a building in Menominee
Bergs Landing restaurant in Menominee

We left early and ran fast for a very choppy passage across Green Bay to the town of Sister Bay in Door County.  This is a busy tourist town, with a large boating presence.  We were early and had to wait out in the bay for our slip to become available while jet skis and pontoon boats whizzed around us and sailboats took full advantage of their right of way over all power boats.

We had an excellent meal in what I call a basket pub, that is, all the food is served in baskets regardless of whether you eat inside or out.  I had the best lobster roll ever, and Dick really liked his fish special (it was walleye).  The town is very spread out, with the grocery store and some of the shops at the top of a big hill, but it was worth the climb.  On our return we stopped for cappuccinos in a place that advertised, “Come try the worst ice cream some lady on TripAdvisor ever had in her life.”  The sense of humour was also apparent in one of the offered ice cream flavours, called “Exhausted Parent”, made with blueberries and a shot of bourbon.

Sister Bay main street
Beautiful hydrangeas in a garden in Sister Bay
One of the pretty shops in Sister Bay
Another attractive boutique in Sister Bay

I can’t find much information about Sister Bay, other than to note that it was once a farming community, now reinvented as a tourist destination.  There is a common Swedish theme, and possibly the most famous attraction in the village is the Swedish restaurant complex that has a grass roof, typically grazed by goats.

The Swedish restaurant in Sister Bay
Goats on the roof. Yes, those are live goats.
Sunset cruising in Sister Bay

In the marina we marvelled at the display of incompetence as a very new and expensive boat pulled out of their slip using thrusters.  A bad miscalculation resulted in the dock being knocked right off its supports, damaging the boat in the next slip and a small runabout on the other side.  When shouted at, the owner called out not to worry, he would take care of it, and he proceeded to leave the marina for his sunset cruise with friends and family on board.  Well, he never returned.  When we got back from dinner that evening there were 3 local sheriff’s cars in the parking lot, and a lot of discussion going on.  Highly unlikely the man got away with it, his details will have been on file with the marina, and there were a lot of witnesses.

Dock damage in the marina

We made a quick run a few miles south to Fish Creek ahead of the weather kicking up.  The harbour was tight and higgledy-piggledy, with a lot of very large boats.  Through the evening the wind and waves really came up, and we felt sorry for all the moored sailboats as they bounced up and down.  Some small boats had obviously come in to the harbour for dinner, and were tied to the wall, heaving up and down and scraping on the concrete, and with quite a dangerous crossing when they left.

The marina in Fish Creek

Fish Creek is another tourist town with lots of interesting shops and restaurants, but in this car culture it is very spread out.  We had a long walk to a highly rated pizza place.  We chose different pizzas so there would be leftovers to take back to the boat.  Dick liked his, mine was merely okay. On the walk, we passed a shop advertising, along with handcrafted gold and silver jewellery, long range rifles and suppressors.  Only in America.  We decided to give that particular shop a miss. 

Pizzas in Fish Creek
Only in America

Temperatures were very pleasant, with slippers and a shawl needed for early mornings, but sunny with light breezes during the day.  A wonderful change from the earlier heat and humidity.

Fish Creek is another tourist destination in Door County, with a more upmarket feel compared to Sister Bay a few miles up the road.  Behind the village looms Gibraltar Bluff, a huge limestone outcropping that forms part of the western side of the Niagara Escarpment.  The founder of the town, Asa Thorp, was an entrepreneur who bought much of the land in the area and constructed the first dock in 1855.  Summer tourists began visiting by 1900, and the area became an upscale resort community.

The White Gull Inn, Fish Creek
Cherrmosa at White Gull Inn
Cherry french toast at White Gull Inn

We went for breakfast in the historic White Gull Inn.  They offered a “cherrmosa”, champagne with sour cherry juice, an excellent beginning.  I followed that with cherry French toast, also delicious.  Dick was less adventurous and had an omelette.  After breakfast, we wandered around the varied and interesting boutiques in the village.  A music shop was a highlight.  Not only did they sell instruments and sheet music, they had every imaginable toy, souvenir, Christmas decoration, model, or game you could think of, all with the theme of music.  I was tempted by cook books that came in a box with CDs of suitable music to accompany the dinners.  Dick was happy to find two pairs of comfortable shoes in a moccasin store, and I found a gorgeous ruana in the alpaca boutique.  Outside the alpaca shop were, you guessed it, alpacas.  The baby was just six weeks old, and as adorable as they come.  It was a beautiful store with many choices, but we limited ourselves to the ruana and several pairs of socks.  I also resisted temptation later in a wonderful ladies shop on the main street.

Historic Church of the Atonement in Fish Creek
A log cabin in Fish Creek
Gibraltar Bluff towers over Fish Creek
A street corner in Fish Creek
Alpacas, the baby is 6 weeks old
Gorgeous!
Lobster bisque at Barringers on our last evening in Fish Creek
Sole Meuniere at Barringers

It was an easy run to Sturgeon Bay.  There was a certain amount of confusion in the marina, as they discovered as we were about to dock that there was not room for us in the assigned slip.  We were waved off and sent to another one (which happened to be the same one as our previous visit).  We were surprised to find that our cleats already had lines tied on them, that we had to remove and set aside in order to tie our own.  Shortly after our arrival, a large and beautiful sailboat was assigned to dock beside us, but it was too wide, and sadly made a large scrape along their beautifully painted hull before managing to reverse out.  An hour later, the owners of the slip we were in returned from their cruise and were very surprised to find us occupying their space.  They were nice about it, and were willing to dock in the space next to us after they had retrieved their lines, but this has been the story of the summer, marinas not having a clue how to manage their slips and transient reservations.

The St Lawrence Seaway and Great Lake shipping routes close for winter each year, as ice grips the waters and locks close for annual maintenance.  Bulk carrier vessels, usually called Lake Freighters, carry heavy cargo such as limestone, iron ore, grain, coal, and salt to the 63 commercial ports around the lakes.  Typically, although the St Lawrence River offers an outlet to the Atlantic, different ships carry freight on the Great Lakes from those that ply the world’s oceans.  There are thousands of smaller vessels, but only 13 that exceed 1000 feet in length.  The question is, where do they all go when shipping stops for the season?  Some of them spend their winter layup period in Sturgeon Bay, which is called the shipbuilding capital of the Great Lakes.  As we made our way through the inlet to the marina, we passed the huge yards, with several freighters in for maintenance, and I could see one under construction with the keel laid down and the superstructure being fabricated.  There are huge drydock facilities, including two massive buildings where ships could be brought indoors.

Lake Freighters in Sturgeon Bay shipyards
Sturgeon Bay shipyard and covered drydock

We met another Looper boat and enjoyed docktails with them.  The next morning the new engine pump we had ordered was installed, and Dick has carefully put away the leaky one to send out for rebuilding after the summer cruising is finished.  I was able to join my friends for a game of online bridge in the afternoon.

failed engine raw water pump for rebuilding

We had booked a Segway tour for 5pm, and walked the mile in hot sun to the meeting point, only to receive a text that the guide would be late, which would have meant sitting around for an hour.  We cancelled and re-booked for Sheboygan.  I had prepared a meal in the slow cooker to be ready for our return.  It was a white chicken chili, very tasty and definitely a keeper!

The next day was an easy trip to Kewaunee, and we had great help tying up on the town wall from our fellow Loopers who had arrived ahead of us.  There were 3 other Looper boats in town that night, but they were all in a marina over the far side of the inlet, a long way for anyone to walk to shops or restaurants, and clearly intended to be merely an overnight stop.  We returned to the cheese shop for more gouda and some Dutch cheese biscuits, and then went on to the fish shop to stock up on smoked salmon.

Kewaunee waterfront
Kewaunee Lafond Fish Market

Dick and I toured the Ludington, a historic tug moored along the wall from us.  This tug served in WWII, including participation in the D-Day Invasion in Normandy, towing ammunition barges across the English Channel.  It is a sister ship to one that we saw (but did not go on board) in Oswego, New York.  It was interesting to see that all the senior crew had cabins with single beds, a desk, and a sink, but all cabins, even the captain and first mate, had to share toilets.  We didn’t see where the “ordinary” crew slept, likely in bunk beds, in an area accessed by ladder and below the waterline.  As on today’s cruise ships, the higher the status the higher up in the boat the cabins were!  Dick was fascinated by the engine room (of course), and was amazed to see that there was a turbo-charger on the 8-cylinder engine, something he had never imagined was available in the 1940’s.

Historic tug Ludington, Kewaunee

Lives lost in the sinking of two schooner-barges off the shores of Kewaunee in 1886 resulted in the building of the Life Saving Station, active from 1893 to 1947.  It is now a private home.  Another beautiful historic building is the former Railroad Depot, built in the 1890’s.  The depot closed when passenger service ended in 1957, and after being occupied by several businesses it became home to a very keen gardener. I could have spent ages just looking at the wonderful variety of stunning perennials and flowering shrubs.

Kewaunee former Life Saving Station
The former Railroad Depot garden

Dick and Jim decided to check out a new local restaurant, to see whether we should eat there instead of on board.  Naturally this check required tasting the beer and enjoying the ambiance.  A menu was brought back for the girls to decide, and we all enjoyed a very good pub-style meal.

The run to Sheboygan was our smoothest trip this year, with water like glass and no waves at all. On our first evening we were invited to join Loopers for docktails with 3 other boats.  We enjoyed great stories, everyone has amazingly different life experiences, and yet we are all sharing this journey.  Now that September approaches, more of the Looper “pack” is beginning to make their way south on both sides of Lake Michigan, in anticipation of passing through Chicago and into the rivers after Labor Day.

Water like glass on the run to Sheboygan

We walked up the hill to the Black Pig, a gastropub with an interesting and innovative menu.  The food was excellent, but unfortunately the appetizer and the soup all arrived at the same time as the main course dishes.  Our young waitress was mystified when we refused the starters.  The manager came and apologised, and the waitress also said all the right things, but it was abundantly clear that as far as she was concerned, putting all the food on the table at the same time was correct and we were just weird tourists asking for it to arrive in a different order!  More and more we are experiencing this, to the point where we are having to order appetizers and drinks only, and then order our main course once we see the first dishes.

Morning mist in Sheboygan

The next morning, we went for a Segway tour.  The guide was on time and better prepared with interesting information about the town.  All participants are asked to arrive 15 minutes early, to allow time for training on the Segways.  On this occasion there was a family of 4 on our tour.  Although they parked at the meeting place well in advance, they then left and did not return until nearly 10 minutes after the starting time of the tour.  By the time they all had their training (it was their first experience on Segways), we lost at least 20 minutes out of the 2-hour tour.  Vastly inconsiderate, but sadly common these days.

Segway tour in Sheboygan
Segway tour pause on the lake shore
the lake shore

The city of Sheboygan was settled mainly by white settlers from New York and the New England States in the 1830’s followed by waves of German, Dutch and Irish immigrants.  In the late 20th century, Hmong refugees from Laos and Southeast Asia settled in the city.  Dick noticed that the majority of booths at the farmer’s market were manned by people of clearly Asian descent.  The economy is diversified, with a number of industries.  Johnsonville, maker of bratwurst sausages, and Kohler, manufacturer of generators and plumbing fixtures, are two of the best-known companies in the area.  My first job, when I was 14, was working with my mother, who was the accountant at a Kohler generator distributorship in Toronto.  I remember that in those first couple of summers I was paid cash, under a book-keeping line item “bathroom supplies”.  I did get a very good grounding in double entry book-keeping, that served me well later when I was looking for work after graduation.  Kohler built a model town around its factories in 1900, and to this day the village design and aesthetic are under the control of the company.  It is a few miles inland from Sheboygan, so we will not be visiting on this occasion, although one day we would like to see it.  Kohler also owns and operates the American Club in the town of Kohler.  It includes a top-rated historic hotel, and two famous golf courses.

A former shoe factory, now apartments. Note the sculpture of a chimney sweep on the tall chimney

In the park near the marina are the remains of the Lottie Cooper, a 130 foot long Great Lakes Schooner that capsized off Sheboygan in 1894.  She was carrying a cargo of elm wood.  The construction is fascinating.  The schooner was built in 1896 of white oak, held together with thousands of long iron nails.

Lottie Cooper, a Great Lakes Schooner
Lottie Cooper

The weather returned to being humid, and it was very hot in the sun, but we visited the few interesting shops in the downtown on our way back to the boat.  In the evening we rode our bikes to the best rated restaurant.  We had planned to get there in the dinghy, but Sheboygan, unlike so many towns and cities on Lake Michigan, has taken very little interest in developing its riverfront for visiting boaters.  The former town docks along the riverfront have been destroyed by the high water of recent years, and it is clear there are no plans to restore them.  There is a very wide path and boardwalk along both sides of the river, but strangely, bicycles are not allowed on the north side.

Our meal at Lino’s was outstanding.  We were able to order and enjoy the meal in true Italian tradition, with shared antipasto, then a shared pasta dish, followed by individual main courses.  Dessert and a cappuccino rounded out the meal beautifully.  Everything about the restaurant was impressive, with Lino himself showing guests to their tables, and a finely orchestrated staff who worked together and gave prompt service without being intrusive.

Rack of lamb at Lino’s
Salmon at Lino’s

High winds extended our stay in Sheboygan by two days, cutting into our planned four-day stop in Milwaukee.  On our third morning, Dick decided it would be a good day for one of his signature breakfasts.  Unfortunately, we were out of eggs, but Saturday is the farmer’s market in Sheboygan, so shortly after 8am Dick set off on his bike to shop.  He returned with blueberries, carrots, fingerling potatoes, and corn on the cob, and as he unloaded it all onto the boat, he realized that the main reason for the excursion had been forgotten.  No eggs.  So away he went again, to find a convenience store, and then he had to wait for it to open.  The eventual breakfast was delicious as always, but no mid-day meal was required!

Waves crash on the breakwater at Sheboygan

In the evening we invited Loopers on board Nine Lives for docktails.  It was rainy, so we all sat downstairs in the salon.  10 of us plus an 8-month-old baby and a little dog all fit quite comfortably and shared food and stories!

moonlight

Following the final repair of the engine pump, Dick decided to give the bilges a good wipe out and clean.  A highly respected AGLCA forum member had written that the ideal tool for getting the last of the water from the bilge could be found in the galley.  (So far, I have restrained myself from contacting this fellow and taking him to task over his recommendation.)  My turkey baster was duly used, and then kindly left back in the sink for washing up.  Having washed it, I then presented it to Dick to keep for his very own for future bilge and other boat related usage.  They do say we girls tend to marry a man who is just like “dear old dad”.  I well remember my father using mum’s pristine pancake flipper to repair the fiberglass on his vintage Studebaker.  The main difference was, dad replaced the flipper in the kitchen drawer, still with traces of goo on it!

Our run from Sheboygan was lumpy to start, and then smoothed out, but we ran at 17 knots the whole way, as the wind was due to kick up and there was potential for thunderstorms in the afternoon.  We stayed at Lakeshore State Park, a lovely area surrounding a lagoon beside the Discovery Museum in downtown Milwaukee.  The docks are very nice, and it is extremely quiet at night.  The park is part of miles of new waterfront development, and is full of walkers, joggers, and cyclists from dawn to dark.  Most Loopers chose to stay in a marina further along the waterfront, because this one has power only, no water on the docks, and no security, but we feel quite safe here and it is very convenient for downtown.

Milwaukee skyline

Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin.  It is ethnically and culturally diverse.  There was a lot of immigration from Germany in the 19th century, and the city became known for its brewing industry.  The city had an unusual beginning, as it began as 3 separate towns, Juneautown, Kilbourntown, and Walker’s Point.  There was intense rivalry between the three, particularly the first two, culminating in the Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845.  It began when the Wisconsin legislature ordered a bridge to be built across the Milwaukee River, as the existing ferry service was considered inadequate.  Five bridges were built by the rival towns, and in 1845, a schooner rammed into one of them, the Spring Street Bridge.  Rumours spread that the ship’s captain had been paid to damage the bridge, and the “war” was on.  The Chestnut Street Bridge was partly dismantled by angry townsfolk (the west warders), and collapsed.  East warders then brought up an old cannon, although they didn’t fire it, but they did complete the destruction of the Spring Street Bridge and also dismantled a bridge over the Menominee River.  Attacks continued for some weeks, and all bridge work had to be done under guard, but by December the enthusiasm had petered out (one wonders how much the winter climate contributed!)  Three new bridges were ordered, and the three towns were amalgamated to form the City of Milwaukee.  Even today, bridges across the rivers run at an angle that reflects the misalignment of the streets of the original towns on each side of the rivers.

The German immigration of the 19th century was followed by large numbers from Poland, and many Europeans from other areas, with each ethnic group congregating in the same area.  Through the 20th century a large African American community developed, and also a Hispanic community.  Sadly, the racial distribution and lack of opportunity has resulted in a high crime rate and exacerbation of tensions in the city.  Fortunately, the downtown redevelopment areas are well lit and very safe for walking during the day and well into the evenings.  Downtown is also very bike friendly, with many dedicated bike lanes along the major arteries.

We walked about a mile to an Italian restaurant in the historic Third Ward.  This is an interesting revitalized area of mainly condos, both new-builds and sympathetically restored historic warehouses.  It comprises the area between the Lake Michigan waterfront and the Milwaukee River, and in addition to many restaurants it is also home to trendy boutiques, art galleries, and theatres.  Our meal at Onesto was very good.

Milwaukee historic Third Ward
Milwaukee sunset

The next morning Dick set off on his bicycle to explore, finding several interesting markets, especially one of the best Italian markets we have encountered.  He brought home not only the balsamic pearls I had been searching for, but also the tiny pickled sweet peppers that have proved so popular at docktails.  I spent the day preparing this installment of the blog, and enjoyed the chance to play bridge online with my friends in the afternoon.

In the middle of the game, I became aware that the boat was rocking far more than would be accounted for by a passing wake.  I stepped up top to see that a dramatic thunderstorm was passing through Milwaukee, with high winds and the most amazing sky I have ever seen.  The gusts were so strong that I was nearly knocked over as I stood on the foredeck to take the pictures.  The winds were followed by lashing rain, worrying, because Dick was still out on his bike.  In due course he sent me a text to say he was sheltering in a store while waiting for the rain to pass.

Storm in Milwaukee

In the evening we walked over to the Rare Steakhouse.  It is a very traditional steakhouse, with exceptional steaks and exceptional prices to match.  We shared the accompaniments, and still had far too much food, so there will be some interesting leftovers for Dick’s lunch tomorrow.  As we walked back to the boat I was intrigued by the “limit 2.5 tons” sign on the pedestrian bridge.  I reached into my pocket to get out my phone to take a picture (with the Milwaukee skyline in the background), and discovered that I had failed to pick it up from the seat beside me when I gathered up leftovers, raincoat, and glasses as we left the restaurant.  A phone called confirmed that my phone was waiting at the hostess stand, so Dick set off to retrieve it.  He thought he might apply for husbandly sainthood for this sacrifice of part of his evening, but at this point I am only prepared to go as far as to forgive the regrettable re-purposing of my turkey baster…

Rare Steakhouse, oysters Rockefeller
Rare Steakhouse, bone-in ribeye
Rare Steakhouse, filet mignon and accompaniments to share
Cherry cheesecake to finish

July 7 to 23, Muskegon to Winthrop Harbor

Our pizza evening on our last night in Muskegon was a mixed success.  We walked over to the highly recommended pizza place just outside the marina, to discover that it was take-out only.  There were a couple of rickety metal tables outside on the sloping pavement.  After quite a long wait, as they were very busy, we opened the box on the tiny table and enjoyed some of the best pizza ever.  This reminded us just why we stayed home last summer, sitting outside on wobbly furniture, on a busy street in a chilly breeze, trying to eat pizza with plastic cutlery (impossible).

Our voyage from Muskegon to Grand Haven was most unpleasant.  The waves were 3 ft instead of the 1 ft that was forecast, and they were on the quarter instead of the stern, making Nine Lives yaw (corkscrew motion), I will stop before making my readers feel as queasy as I did…

Grand Haven Riverside Waterfront

Grand Isle Marina was another Safe Harbor Marina.  A huge marina with great facilities, aimed squarely at seasonal slip holders, with no dockhands to help, nor is the radio monitored.  It is quite difficult to hold a phone conversation when on a boat underway, the engine noise means it has to be me calling, and I have to stand at the front of the boat.  Since Dick makes the reservations, I never quite know what has been said or agreed to, and the offices are seldom manned by anyone who has a clue about slip arrangements for transient boaters.

Grand Haven is a relatively small city on the outskirts of the Grand Rapids Metropolitan Area.  A fur trade settlement by French colonial settlers began European occupation. The area began to grow after the War of 1812, with a large tannery, several churches, and banks.  The usual mix of lumber, shipping, and ship building contributed to growth during the 19th century. A piano factory was an important employer in the town for much of the 20th century. Today, Grand Haven is a tourist destination for boating and fishing, as well as stunning local beaches, and there is also a Great Lakes Port importing limestone, slag, cement and coal, and exporting sand.

Sand pile at the Cement Plant
Swallows nest in the precarious sand piles

On our first evening we walked to a nearby highly rated restaurant.  On the outskirts of Grand Haven, we could have been anywhere from Seattle to Alabama.  It was all chain restaurants and auto parts stores along a noisy highway.  Very useful for cities to put this away from downtown, with easy access from the main highways, but there is an awful sameness about it all.  I can well understand why our friends who are making long road trips don’t bother to take the slower routes or stop at anything other than chain hotels off the interstate.  When they do venture off the highway, they see nothing to suggest that a place is worth exploring and a longer stay.  The meal we had was acceptable, but by no means memorable.

The next morning, we rode our bikes to a breakfast place (very noisy, and the weirdest tasting pancakes I have ever eaten) and explored the town.  This was certainly much nicer than the outskirts, but very spread out with several different neighbourhoods of small shops and restaurants.  Downtown proper was bustling, with lots of people sitting outside on sidewalks.  The river waterfront area has a musical fountain that plays after dark.  Sadly, 10pm just seemed too late to ride the bikes quite a long distance on an unlit path.  Instead, we sat watching the boats and dinghies in the marina until sunset.

Creative use of broken crockery at the breakfast restaurant
Downtown Grand Haven architecture

We made an early start for the trip to Holland, as we planned to anchor and wanted to have enough time to get the dinghy off and go into town for the afternoon.  It was a calm and very easy journey, and we anchored with no problem in Pine Creek Bay, off Lake Macatawa.  Our dinghy trip to Holland was rather more exciting than one might wish, with a lot of wakes from big boats and wake boarders.  We are looking forward to the new RIB dinghy later this summer, which should be more stable in chop.

Holland was founded in the mid-19th century by Dutch Calvinist separatists, who emigrated from bad economic conditions in the Netherlands.  The story is that the newly arrived Dutch did not get on with the natives, apparently stealing sugar and venison from them, and eventually forcing them to leave the area.  Dr. Albertus Van Raalte, the founder of the city, was a spiritual leader, as well as overseeing political, educational and financial matters.  I was interested to read that as a group seeking religious freedom, the settlers were not at all tolerant of other points of view.  The Reformed Church of America was founded by Van Raalte, and the city became a centre for several reformed church congregations as well as Hope College and Western Theological Seminary.  Holland is called “The City of Churches”, with 170 in the general area, many of them associated with the Reformed Church.

Nearly 30% of the residents of Holland associate themselves with Dutch descent, and Dick noticed many businesses and even street names that were clearly of Dutch origin.  Today it is a considerably kinder and more welcoming city, with tourism being an important part of the economy.  The attractive downtown is listed in The National Register of Historic Places.  A Tulip Festival brings visitors from all over, with 6 million tulips planted throughout the city.  Heinz opened the largest pickle factory in the world in 1897, and it processes over 1 million pounds of pickles a day during the season.

Former furniture manufacturer in Holland, note the stylized tulip sculptures on the lawn

After tying the dinghy up at a conveniently provided dock at Boatwerks, a waterfront restaurant, we walked into town.  The farmer’s market was just finishing, so there was very little on offer, but Dick bought a pint of blueberries.  Holland is very attractive, with a real European feel and lots of interesting shops and restaurants.  After exploring the town, we returned to Boatwerks for an excellent meal.  Sadly, all the tables for 2 outside were set at the edge of the canopy (no tables available inside), so we were sitting in the hot sun.  Even Dick found it just too hot to linger.

Attractive downtown Holland
Shrimp with two sauces at Boatwerks

We returned to Nine Lives, and I set an anchor alarm on my phone.  This is a useful app that I have used for all our previous voyages, because the alarm setting on our chart plotter doesn’t work in any practical way.  In the middle of a short nap (it had been an eventful day with an early start), I was woken by a very loud siren from my phone.  Google is always my friend, and I discovered that recent versions of Android have a new “feature” intended to conserve battery power.  This feature automatically stops GPS tracking on all apps that are not active on the screen.  In other words, unless you put the app up on the screen, disable the screen lock, and of course plug in the phone, any app that uses GPS will not work.  Or, as in the case of my anchor alarm, will alert you with a loud siren to warn you that the GPS is off.  This feature is not optional and cannot be stopped or adjusted for any or all apps.  So far, I am told that Apple has not included this so-called feature in its operating systems, so I was able to use a different anchor alarm on the iPad instead. 

Nine Lives at anchor

We enjoyed a very quiet Sunday at anchor.  Dick made breakfast (bacon and eggs, hash browns, mushrooms, toast, and coffee) on board, and in the evening he grilled some of our wonderful steaks that are waiting in the freezer for anchor evenings.  There was a small craft warning, and threatening skies, so the pontoon boats with party groups and swimmers, and most of the wake boarders, must have decided to stay home, even though the bay we were in was very calm.  We watched a few fishermen, as well as swans and of course rafts of ducks and geese, and generally enjoyed a peaceful day.

Pulling up the anchor the next morning went smoothly. Altogether, our first anchoring since September 2019 went very well!

Breakwater and lighthouses outside Lake Macatawa and Holland
On our way!
A dredge immediately outside the channel made the exit a little challenging

We had calm seas for the trip to Saugatuck.  There was a little mizzle at first, but it cleared up.  On arrival at the marina there was much confusion.  No response to radio (as is unfortunately common these days), and a lady at the end of the phone who kept asking me what was our slip assignment.  Since I was calling to ask what was our slip assignment, this made for a frustrating conversation on both sides.  Eventually the person who Dick has been dealing with was tracked down, and we were told our slip, and set off down the fairway, only to see that our space was already occupied.  More phone conversations, and we were finally sent to the far end of the marina on a temporary basis for one night.  This end of the marina was a strange but potentially charming little enclave.  There was a large B&B boat (apparently unoccupied), and several brand-new houseboats, incomplete and unfurnished.  Apparently, they are being staged in that location while wrangling over their final location on the river in Saugatuck goes on.  At the end of the dock is a real dive bar, that advertises the loudest live music in the area.  I gather it is very popular, but operated in an eccentric manner, open only when the management feels like it and with no predictable hours or days (except always closing at sunset), we were very thankful that this was one of the closed days!

We were expecting Saugatuck to be one of the highlights of this trip, and it did not disappoint.  Initially a centre for lumber and a port, Saugatuck became an art colony and cultural centre in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Lovely old homes line the streets, many sympathetically converted into art galleries and restaurants.  Beautiful beaches in the area add to the attraction.  There is an interesting hand cranked historic chain ferry that crosses the river to connect visitors to the town with the beaches and parks. The Kalamazoo River leads from Lake Michigan to Saugatuck and its sister city of Douglas.  The river opens out into a smallish lake that is lined with marinas and waterfront condos.  Douglas was initially called Dudleyville, settled in 1851 as a lumber mill town.  The town provided much of the lumber used to rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire in 1871.  Once most of the trees had been cleared, the area became a centre for growing and shipping fruit, particularly peaches.

Hand cranked historic chain ferry in Saugatuck

There were no available transient slips in Saugatuck, so our marina was across the lake in Douglas.  We had planned to ride our bikes to Saugatuck for dinner, so we got ready and wrestled the bikes off the boat.  At this point we discovered that my rear tire was completely flat.  Further investigation clearly showed that there was a problem that could not be solved with a bicycle pump.  Since Google told us it was just 1.8 miles to the restaurant, and my weather app said clouds and a pleasant 72 temperature, we decided to walk.  Naturally, the sun came out, there was not a breath of breeze, and it was a lot closer to 80.  I was fine with the 1 mile, it was the .8 in the hot sun that was miserable!  The restaurant was another one with good food served in a very crowded and noisy setting.  Certainly not worth the long, hot walk.

Dinghy sailing lessons in the lake at Saugatuck

We were able to order a new inner tube for the bike, to be delivered to the marina in just two days.  We have had several urgent orders this year.  Our AGLCA burgee, critical for making new friends on the docks, had become so frayed that it was about to fall apart.  Our Eartec headsets (aka marriage savers) that are very important aids for docking, had the plastic on the ear pieces flaking off.  One of my only pair of sandals decided to shed its sole, and the ink cartridges in the printer ran out.  Fortunately, between our friends in Whitehall, and those in Chicago, we were able to place online orders for these important items.  Funny that we have been travelling for 3 years and never needed to order anything.  I guess everything wears out, and the gap year allowed things to deteriorate.

The next day we took the dinghy into town.  There is an excellent dinghy dock at a park right in the centre, very convenient, and of course much cooler than trying to walk (or even ride the bikes).  As we walked around town, we enjoyed seeing the most amazing old cars.  They were part of a car club, really old, in stunning condition, and more than I have ever seen outside of a museum.  My father would have been in his element, chatting with the owners and reminiscing.  I couldn’t help but think about how much Dad would have enjoyed this trip we are taking!

Dick considers his next car, a Ford perhaps?
Another lovely old car making a turn. Note that the passenger is using a hand signal out of the window for the turn!
This one is a Packard

We enjoyed more of the shops in Saugatuck (some wonderful art galleries particularly), and went to a restaurant on the waterfront for dinner.  On this occasion we decided to sit outside, in hopes that it might be a little quieter.  While we were waiting for our order, a lady came out and stood at the railing.  It seemed as though she was taking pictures, very strange because it was a foggy, drizzly day and nothing much to see (or photograph).  In fact, she was trying to get a signal for an important phone call.  Eventually the lady turned around, and (in her words), was about to stop at our table and tell me that she knows someone who looks just like me.  Then she looked at Dick, and realized that I am who she was thinking of!  Leslie is a neighbour from Wexford, and we were all very surprised at the chance meeting.  No wonder there are so few people in our neighbourhood in summer, they all head north!

The next day was a quiet morning for errands (Dick) and laundry (me), and then a return to Saugatuck in the dinghy.  We explored the remaining shops and enjoyed a very nice meal at Coast236.  Finally, a quiet dining experience with good food, although a very limited menu.

Starters at Coast236
Dick had an elk chop at Coast236
I enjoyed the salmon with mushrooms at Coast236

On Thursday we walked to J.Petter Galleries, an art gallery and wine shop just off the bridge between Saugatuck and Douglas.  They offer wine tastings, and a very pleasant selection of accompaniments.  We shared a wonderful cheese and charcuterie plate with tastings, and returned to the boat with 3 bottles of a delicious white wine from Navarre and some more yummies to enjoy on board. A new boat had joined us on our T-head, another catamaran, this time a sailing cat.  We paused for some dockside chat.

Charcuterie and wine tasting at J. Petter Galleries

Friday was a quiet day.  Dick walked over to what he thought was a museum, but wasn’t, and took the time to repair my bike.  This involved some critical bike repair tools that he found in the cutlery drawer, but the repair was successful and I am once again mobile.

Dick fixes my tire, note the spoon from the cutlery drawer I mean critical bike repair tool.

In the evening we again took the dinghy across, this time to a steak house called Bowdies.  After Dick overheard the bartender say he was moving to Hilton Head in the fall, he mentioned to our charming waiter that we live there.  The bartender came over and introduced himself.  He is in fact the restaurant owner, and is opening his 4th Bowdies very near to Wexford in October.  The steaks were absolutely delicious, and we are looking forward to the opening in the autumn.  As restaurants go, it is very pricey indeed, with everything ordered separately (in other words, you order your steak and it comes with no sauces, vegetables, or starch), so I expect it will be a special occasion destination!

Shrimp cocktail at Bowdies

On our return to the marina, we had, ahem, fun, putting up the dinghy.  It is always a tricky job, because of the weight and design of the dinghy and supports, and several glasses of wine do not make it easier!  The boaters on the other side of the dock had returned to their boat for the weekend, very friendly people, who are planning to do the Great Loop soon.  We sat with them and enjoyed further adult beverages while chatting with them and other boat neighbours until 11:30!  Whoa!  Very late hours for Loopers.

Saugatuck sunset

The next day was another horrible corkscrewing passage to St Joseph for me, even though both wind and waves were acceptable speed and heights.  I now realize that when a fellow Looper refers to Lake Michigan as Lake Washing Machine, he is not necessarily referring to stormy conditions.  Instead, it is the rolling corkscrew that is so much more common than the easy chop we were used to on the other Great Lakes.

Initially a trading post, St Joseph lies near the southern end of Lake Michigan, and is a convenient location for crossing to Chicago.  The convenience was recognized during the early years of the city, as a number of shipping companies and routes provided transportation, freight, and mail between the cities.  In 1911, three brothers, Emory, Lewis, and Frederick Upton, began a company manufacturing household washing machines.  By the 1950’s the company became Whirlpool, and is still the world’s largest manufacturer of household appliances, with its world headquarters in Benton Harbor, across the river from St Joseph.  Some of Whirlpool’s many brands include Maytag, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Amana, Hot Point, and Indesit.  Our route by bicycle to St Joseph shops and restaurants took us through the enormous (deserted over the weekend) parking lot of the Whirlpool Headquarters building.

Taking bikes over lift bridges is never fun or safe!
Downtown St Joseph. The brick streets look charming but are not bike friendly!

St Joseph is quite a large city, and once again the marina was across the river, requiring a long and quite unpleasant (and unsafe) bike ride to the town and restaurants.  The St Joseph waterfront has a beautiful park, and the town is at the top of a bluff, so taking the dinghy instead of the bikes would  still have involved a lot of walking.  Dinner in a highly rated hotel restaurant was good, but staff shortages meant that our poor waitress was trying to look after far too many tables.  We like a leisurely dinner, but more than two and a half hours is too long even for us.

Pink chocolate cheesecake for dessert in St Joseph
Waterfront park in St Joseph
Leaving St Joseph behind a dinghy sailing school

We enjoyed a very easy crossing to Chicago, running fast for about 2/3 of the distance.  On this stop we stayed in Burnham Harbor, a 1000 slip marina located beside Soldier Field, The Shedd Aquarium, and the Planetarium.  We had our slip assignment (a T-head), but as usual no docking assistance. We are now at the point where we prefer to handle the docking ourselves, and were reminded of that when we were “helped” at the fuel dock on our way out.  The helpful young man grabbed the bow line, and prepared to try to haul Nine Lives in with that.  Leaving aside the fact that 12 tons of boat is a lot for even a strong young man to haul about safely, pulling us in by a bow line results in the stern going out away from the dock to the point where even a good throw of the stern line won’t reach.  Of course, getting no docking help means no tip is required, a small saving, but it all adds up!  It is especially annoying to tip a dockhand who has made our arrival more difficult that it would have been without the well-meant but useless assistance.

Chicago cityscape from the water

This marina was the worst so far, with just 2 showers for the entire marina, and no other facilities.  Of course, being downtown in a major city, it was also the most expensive!

Our location on the t-head next to the fuel dock made for interesting watching.  It soon becomes obvious that having a lot of money does not necessarily mean that a boater has any actual boat handling skills, and the dock hands spend a lot of time grabbing tangled lines, jumping over errant fenders, and pushing and pulling just to get some of these big yachts set for fuelling.  I watched a Chicago Police boat decide on a stop and search.  They tied their big RIB to a yacht that was fuelling, and after taking the owner’s keys, they sent down a diver to look at something.  Of course, from the position of an observer, the story is all speculation, and one never really knows the whys or wherefores, or the eventual outcome!  I also watched the set up for some sort of filming across the harbour.  There was a big green screen set up, and all sorts of people bustling about, moving equipment in and out and stringing wires everywhere.  Actors (?) in white shirts and ties stood about looking at large dark cars.  I didn’t see the actual filming, but the setting up took hours, and then suddenly everyone was gone and there was no trace they had even been there.

Filming beside Burnham Harbor

We visited the Shedd Aquarium.  Normally we love aquariums, but this was not quite the experience we had hoped for.  With COVID, there are still only advance timed tickets, and I (wrongly) thought this would mean fewer people.  Instead, it was horribly crowded, and being summer, there were also large numbers of children jumping about, banging on the glass, and generally being a nuisance.  Worst, the rules are now that for indoor venues, if you don’t wear a mask you are certifying that you are fully vaccinated.  Given that the US has roughly 50% of the population vaccinated, that would suggest that in any given venue, about half the visitors should be wearing masks.  If it was 10% I would be surprised.  I found it quite disturbing, and wished I had tucked my own mask into my pocket, with all these potentially infected people crowding around me.  Yes, we are vaccinated, but there are still breakthrough infections, and I don’t want it, no matter how “mild” the symptoms might be!  We never found the underwater viewing places for the belugas, and we decided that any of the other shows would be even more crowded than the exhibits, so we didn’t stay as long as we might have done.

Snapping turtle at Shedd Aquarium
An interesting fish at the Aquarium

What can I tell you about Chicago?  It is the third largest city in the United States (by population), and one of the 40 largest urban areas in the world.  The location of the city, incorporated in 1837, was close to the portage that connected Lake Michigan (and thus, via the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence River with the Atlantic Ocean) with the Mississippi watershed and the Gulf of Mexico.  In 1848 the Illinois and Michigan Canal opened, connecting the two watersheds.  One of the destination cities of North America, Chicago is a centre for food, culture, architecture and history, and of course, shopping.  As we have been finding with many American cities, the waterfront has been beautifully redeveloped, with parks connected by bike paths and pedestrian trails.

Gardens outside the Shedd Aquarium

We enjoyed a wonderful evening with Thor and Jim, friends from Wexford, who have a stunning condo overlooking the waterfront and Lincoln Park.  We had dinner with them at a French Vietnamese restaurant that is one of their favourites.

Delicious starters at Le Colonial
Dick enjoyed his duck at Le Colonial
I had a wonderful shrimp stir fry

The next day was our turn to entertain.  Dick spent hours with the water hose and boat soap, and also window cleaners, so Nine Lives sparkled.  I prepared cottage pie with some ground bison meat we had found in one of the specialty shops on our travels, and made some chocolate mousse with plenty of grand marnier for dessert.  We loved having our friends on board.

While Dick was boat cleaning, I had an interesting phone conversation.  I answered Dick’s phone for him, it was a nice lady to say that he had left a message about a reservation, but she was calling to advise that they don’t take reservations, it is first come first served.  I explained to her that we understand some places do this, but we are a catamaran, and 19 feet wide, so usually we are able to talk to the dockmaster and he will hold a slip for us.  The nice lady heard me out, there was a pause, and then she explained that they are a restaurant.

Fireworks over the harbour on our last evening in Chicago

Our passage from Chicago to Winthrop Harbor was done fast.  The water was very smooth, and if it had been the ocean it would have been perfect, but there was a very long fetch from the top of the Lake, and a short period (to explain to the non-mariners among us, the fetch means that waves start at the north end, and have the whole length of the lake to build up.  The period means that unlike the ocean where the distance between the tops of the waves is longer, here it is short, and boats bob up and down much sooner).  This made for what would have been an awful trip for me.  Dick was good to his wife and we ran fast, thus shortening the passage by hours.

We had made reservations and been assigned a slip in Winthrop Harbor, but on our arrival, we discovered that our place was already occupied.  We tied up at the next slip over, and eventually managed to get an answer from the marina to say they were sorry, someone had bought that slip for the season, and if we were happy where we were, we could stay there.  So followed all the palaver of spring lines, careful and judicious tying of bow lines, and placement of fenders here and there, and the last job is to connect the power.  That was when we found that the elderly pedestal did not have an outlet that was suitable for our boat.  More calls to the marina, and explained the situation, so we were sent to a different dock that we were assured would have the right power, and would be wide enough for a catamaran.  After some exceptional manoeuvring on Dick’s part, he shoehorned Nine Lives into the assigned slip, and we began the tying up process.  It was clear that our 44 ft, plus another 5 feet of dinghy, was not appropriate for a 35-foot pier, as we were sticking out and obstructing about half of the fairway.  So, untie, more clever ducking and spinning of our fortunately very nimble cat, and we returned to the first spot with the plan to run the generator if necessary.  Fortunately, the slips directly across from us do have the right power outlets, so we have run our (trip hazard) cable across the dock and are all set.  Dick rode his bike to the handy local West Marine, and bought an adaptor for the next time (and there will be a next time for sure).  We figure that since this exceptionally large marina of 1500 slips probably has many boats arriving with the same issue, the relatively small West Marine outlet keeps a good stock of what must be a big seller for them!

Winthrop Harbor is the location for the National Weather Service’s marine warnings for Lake Michigan.  There doesn’t seem to be much else to tell, other than that the marina is the largest in the Great Lakes.

Winthrop Harbor has little to offer in terms of restaurants or shopping, so we are eating on board both nights of our stay.  Today is our 44th wedding anniversary, so I planned a nice supper, trying a new recipe for chicken pies, followed by some blueberry cake for dessert.  There just happened to be a bottle of champagne on board as well.  One of the local AGLCA Harbor Hosts arrived in time to join us for cocktails and dinner.  A convivial evening with exchanged stories of visits to Europe and future boating plans.  The new recipe for chicken pies is a keeper too!

June 20 to July 7, 2021, Harbor Springs to Muskegon

Our final dinner in Harbor Springs was excellent, but it did rather fit the moniker “uppity”.  Regardless, we would certainly recommend Willow for its outstanding food and very good service.

It was a long but enjoyable voyage to Traverse City, with calm seas and good visibility.  As we made our way down Grand Traverse Bay we had to dodge sailboats and a beautiful tall ship schooner out for a Father’s Day sail.  There were 3 Looper boats in Traverse City, one based there, one arrived shortly after us, and the third the next day.  This allowed for a very convivial docktails evening on board Nine Lives.  The second day was very windy, nobody on the move and few pleasure boats in the bay.  Fortunately, our spot had very little motion.  We were at the end of the fairway, in a slip supposedly 18 feet wide, but the harbormaster knew it was considerably wider.  Dick turned and slid into the tight slip with great skill, impressing the dockhands with his ability to avoid touching any of the docks or posts, or the waiting concrete on the other side!

Traverse City Marina waterfront gardens

Traverse City is the largest city in Northern Michigan.  The area is also the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States.  Gourmet shops abound, many featuring cherry related foods.  In addition to the obligatory chocolate covered cherries, we bought some summer sausage with cherries and some cherry chili jam.  Other marvellous finds for Nine Lives pantry included sea salt with truffles, lemon infused olive oil, some duck pate, and various interesting crackers for cheese.

The city was initially a Native American settlement called Kitchiwikwedongsing.  Not surprisingly, even the denizens tended to shorten it to Wequetong, which means “at the head of the bay”.  The native settlement was pushed out by European colonization.  From small beginnings as a sawmill, and then an important Post Office location, the city grew, and by 1872 the railway arrived, heralding a period of growth and commercialization.  Lumber and cherries remained the major concerns until tourism and wineries added to the mix.  The population has declined somewhat, but it is still a thriving town and a popular tourism and shopping destination for Upper Michigan.

On our first day we decided to have lunch at Brasserie Amie, a French bistro style restaurant that is highly rated.  We had to wait over an hour to be seated, but the food was (almost) worth it.  This is an issue we are continually facing this summer, restaurants and shops cannot hire staff.  So although pandemic restrictions have ended, most restaurants still have limited numbers of tables, many are closed two and three days of the week, and even when we call a few days ahead we are being offered reservations at 4pm or 9pm because they are so busy.  I am assuming that Americans who would normally take vacations in Canada or overseas are still travelling but staying in the USA, adding considerable pressure to already busy areas of second homes.

The first night was very chilly, so we put on the heating for the first time (happily, it worked).  During the day Dick worked on various small electrical repairs and installed our Nebo tracker.  This is a device that has its own cell signal, it is installed on the boat and wired in, and each time we move, the tracker follows our voyage by satellite and even sends an emailed report when we stop.  We have used the Nebo mobile phone app for several years.  It is very useful for seeing where other Loopers are and for important interactions like arranging docktails, but the app is dependent on having a good phone signal, and, more important, remembering to turn it on and off!  The first attempt at setting up the tracker had issues, but the app creator, in Australia, was very responsive and replied within hours to Dick’s query with a suggestion that solved the problem.

Dick changes fuel filters

We enjoyed several good meals in Traverse City.  Following the Brasserie, we had a dinner at Amical, brunch at The Omelette Shop, and a really excellent Asian fusion dinner at Red Ginger.  As we were shown to our table in Red Ginger, we breathed in the wonderful scents of hot chili oil, garlic, and ginger, but I was suddenly caught by a most unusual and strong smell that was not as pleasant as the others.  I thought to myself, whatever that dish is, I don’t want to order it!  As the smell got stronger, we realized it was not coming from the kitchen, rather it was our menu, that had been inadvertently placed over the tealight by the host, and was on fire!  The initial excitement suggested something a bit stronger than a glass of wine to start, so we ordered manhattans and were delighted to receive a generous pour, worthy of our bartender in Wexford!  The following meal lived up to the restaurant’s excellent reputation.

Whitefish pate at Amical, a beautiful presentation, and delicious!

desserts at Amical

Dinner at Red Ginger

In an interesting art gallery we found some beautiful and whimsical sculptures made from gourds, one was chosen to go home with us.  I enjoyed chatting with the owner, almost everything in the shop is the sort of art and sculpture that I would choose if I was running a gallery.  A most enjoyable visit.  The other shops in Traverse City were also interesting, and quite different from the ones we had been seeing earlier on the trip.  It is always nice to see independent retail that is doing well and not being overwhelmed by big box and other chain stores.

Our last afternoon we saw a loon, unconcernedly making its way up and down the marina fairways feeding.  Our first loon of the year, and something we don’t usually see in populated locations.  Our swim step was a favoured weather protected spot for a mother duck and her one remaining duckling.  I love seeing ducks with their babies at this time of year, but it is always sad to see that the older the ducklings get, the fewer of them there are.  Probably just as well, or we would be overrun by ducks as we are with geese!

A loon feeding in the marina, an unusual sight.

Mama and baby liked our swim platform.

Our trip to Leland on June 25th was thick fog all the way.  It was both boring and worrying, not being able to see except on radar.  Dick’s ongoing boating courses stand him in good stead, and he is now better able to understand what the screen is showing.  He also found a way to overlay the radar on the regular chart, so the former hard-to-read split screen is no longer required.

Leland is an interesting village, once known as Fishtown, and still an important centre for fishermen.  There is an attractive restored timber village beside the harbour, and the main street has interesting small shops.  The location close to Manitou Islands and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore ensures a steady influx of tourists, although most are day trippers. A dam and a sawmill were built on the river in 1854.  The dam is still in place, preventing access for boats from Lake Michigan to a large and quite attractive chain of three lakes called Lake Leelanau.  Iron smelting and lumber were important industries in the small settlement during the 19th centuries, but fishing was always the main business. Today it is still a working fishery and fishing charter centre.

Fishtown

The dam and Fishtown

On our first evening we tried the only fine dining restaurant in town, located in a pretty inn overlooking the lake.  On arrival we were told the menu is offered as a QR code.  Use of QR codes require a cellphone, and I suspect (and after some research I believe I am correct), that not only do they give you access to the information the business is offering, it can also allow access to your details by the business.  Given how many supposedly reputable organizations generate revenue by selling your information, I avoid such “conveniences” as much as possible!  After being offered QR code menus and seeing our frowns, the staff immediately supplied paper menus.  The meal was good, but not particularly memorable.

Beautiful dogwood in bloom.

The next day was incredibly wet, but we took the umbrella and enjoyed visiting the little shops.  Dick found some really good deck shoes, and I was delighted with a new sunhat, as the one I normally keep on the boat had been left at home in Hilton Head.  My unusual “raining cats and dogs” umbrella generated interest and compliments from several other visitors to the village!

We extended our stay in Leland by a day, as the weather conditions were wind against waves, always an uncomfortable scenario.  This gave us time for a late lunch at the Cove Restaurant, a bustling venue overlooking Fishtown.  We enjoyed some of the best fries I have ever had, served piping hot, with an interesting spice combination of garlic and herbs on the fries, and offered with a delicious chipotle mayonnaise.  Various local fish options completed the meal.  We walked through Fishtown and through the village towards the lake.

The best french fries ever!

Fishtown from the bridge above the dam in Leland

We have noticed in almost every place we have stayed so far that many visitors love to walk the docks and look at the boats in the harbour.  Nine Lives gets her share of interest, as there are very few catamarans cruising these waters.  Small children are particularly attracted to Minnie, our dinghy hanging at the back, and I often hear, “And look!  A little boat!”  Minnie is slated to be replaced later this summer by a new RIB, and I wonder whether the new dinghy will generate the same interest from passers-by.

Our passage to Frankfort was easy and pleasant.  Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is an area that encompasses 35 miles of the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan plus the two Manitou Islands between Leland and Frankfort.  The area includes unique forests, incredible sand dunes that tower above the lake, and glacial features as well as historic Coast Guard stations and a lighthouse.  Creation of the National Park was controversial, as the owners of what was private property at the time did not want the area overrun with tourists.  The name comes from an Ojibwe legend, the mother bear sleeps under the dunes at the edge of the lake, while her two cubs are represented by North and South Manitou Islands.  The spectacular dunes were an amazing sight as we travelled along the shore.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Just north of Frankfort, we passed the pretty Point Betsie Lighthouse.  The lighthouse began service in 1858, and 25 years later one of the first Life Saving Stations was added to the site.  It was the last Michigan lighthouse to lose its keeper, and was only automated in 1983.  Today it is a museum and tourist attraction, some say the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

Frankfort owed its early beginnings to the protected harbour that opens into what was Aux Becs Scies Lake. The name translates from French “with saw jaws”, likely a reference to the early lumbering industry.  Today, it has been shortened to Betsie Lake.  Various investors built the town and dredged the approach to the harbour in the mid-19th century.  Prosperity arrived as the town was further developed as a port and safe harbour, with the usual timber industries in the area.  Frankfort was an important Post Office, and was the county seat for part of its history.  Today it is a sleepy town, mostly involved with tourism.  Main Street is the site of some beautiful old buildings, and there are some interesting junk, I mean antique shops and a few other touristy shops.

Historic buildings in Frankfort

We enjoyed dinner at a new restaurant called Birch and Maple.  Excellent, interesting food.  We could hear from the bartender’s conversation that he was the owner.  He and his partner are committed to “bringing the city to the country”, a slightly arrogant perspective, but if the result is such great food, we wish them well in their endeavours!

Delicious burger at Birch and Maple, I don’t know why they wrapped it in foil!
Dick’s bone-in pork chop at Birch and Maple

In Frankfort we had the same experience as elsewhere, shops and restaurants closed several days a week, and often no opening hours posted on the doors of the shops.  Walking around, especially Monday through Wednesday, it is quite reminiscent of a French village, everything shuttered and no sense that it is ever going to be open, but locals always seem to know when things open up and suddenly there are customers!

There were several Loopers at the next marina over, but their schedules precluded any interaction apart from a friendly chat on the dock and exchange of boat cards.

A lovely evening sky over the marina in Frankfort, an ultralight takes advantage of the nice weather.

Our next leg to Manistee was through heavy fog.  After we were past the point of no return, we began to hear coastguard warnings over the radio for heavy fog across the whole of the northern end of Lake Michigan.  Our weather apps suggested that there was 3km of visibility, but the reality was more like 100 yards.  By the time we arrived at the mouth of the river in Manistee, we could barely see 100 feet.  What was amusing, was how many people there were on the beach!  Why anyone would sit on a beach in thick fog is a complete mystery to me, but there were at least 100 people out there on the sand with chairs, umbrellas, and coolers.

Nine Lives docked in Manistee

Manistee, like many towns, began as a Jesuit Mission in the mid-18th century.  Nearly a hundred years later, a sawmill and settlement were built.  In 1871 the town was almost completely destroyed by fire, which explains the number of buildings of roughly the same age in the downtown.  Logging, shingle manufacturing, and a salt industry all contributed to a thriving, wealthy town, reflected in the beautiful historic buildings on Main Street.  The entire Downtown District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic downtown Manistee

One of the reasons for making the voyage in spite of foggy conditions was to meet fellow Loopers that we had enjoyed spending time with in past years.  We met them twice in Georgian Bay in 2019, and then spent time together when they visited Hilton Head in early 2020.  We enjoyed a great evening with Kathleen and Michael at Blue Fish, the nicest restaurant in the village, and hope for future encounters later in the season.  The next day we explored the town and Dick walked along the river to the end of the pier while I finished the laundry.

I model my new hat in one of the gardens in Manistee.

We made a long, fast run to Whitehall.  The conditions were only right because the waves were coming from behind us.  We could feel Nine Lives climb up one side and surf down each wave, and our speed varied from 12 to 19 knots depending on whether we were going up or down!  A strong current in the channel into White Lake made for some exciting moments, as Dick wrestled the wheel this way and that to avoid running into the breakwater.

White River Light Station, Whitehall

Once we were into the smaller lake, it was still quite windy and choppy.  We were arriving a day early, and had planned to anchor near the Yacht Club, but between the wind and chop, and uncertain depths, we decided instead to proceed to the marina at the top end of the lake, where we were booked for the July long weekend.  I phoned the marina, to ask whether they could accommodate us for the extra night, and had a very confusing conversation with the receptionist.  It is quite difficult to hear on the phone when underway, so I had to keep asking her to repeat, but the upshot was, not only could they apparently not accommodate us for that night, we had no booking for the weekend either!  We decided to carry on and have another conversation over the radio once we were closer.  On arrival, we were again told there was no reservation, but they could let us stay one night.  After we tied up, they asked the name again, and at last the lady came running out and apologising, because even though Dick gave her his first and last name plus the boat name, all she had written down was “Dick”.  So, we then had to untie again and move to our assigned slip.  The wind was unhelpful, as was a very green dockhand, who found my request to put the line around the post and hand it back to me impossibly confusing.  Eventually we did get secured, and the boat beside us was undamaged thanks to my putting out fenders, “just in case”.

This was not the nicest slip we have had.  It was full of duckweed and water lilies, as well as a scum of algae and other unidentifiable mess.  Duckweed is an interesting plant.  Sometimes you will see a stream or the end of a lake or pond covered in a bright green coating of tiny floating leaves.  Each little leaf is a separate plant, with no stem, just a short root.  They hitch rides on waterfowl and even on boats, and are light enough to be blown about by wind, so they spread easily in water that is not flowing quickly.  Duckweed is an important food source for a variety of aquatic creatures (not just ducks), and it also acts as a water purifier.  In many locations it is a very good thing for the health of the water and the waterfowl and insects that live there.  In other locations it can be a big problem, starving the water of oxygen and therefore killing the fish that live below.  It is an ecological Jekyll and Hyde.  From our point of view, the green scum of algae was a concern, and even the duckweed could potentially be sucked into the air conditioner strainers.  Dick will need to check them and the engine strainers to make sure they are not clogged.

Duckweed and water lilies in our slip in Whitehall.

Our neighbour on the next boat was something else again.  He was a friendly, youngish man, who was clearly living aboard his slightly dilapidated vessel.  Dick initially noticed the huge speakers on the enclosed flybridge, but he didn’t see the professional drum kit beside them.  Various of the man’s personal items migrated onto the dock.  At first it was just a chair and a full-size grill, but they were soon joined by another chair, 4 jerry cans of fuel, and various other bits and pieces including a baseball bat (what was he planning to do with that I ask?) plus water bowls for the two adorable 8-week-old shepherd/rottweiler puppies that entertained all and sundry with their antics.  Partway through the afternoon, the peace was shattered by heavy metal rock blaring from the speakers, soon accompanied by live drum practice.  In fact, he seemed to me to be a pretty good drummer, but to say the music was not to our taste would be an understatement!  The fellow only practiced for about a half hour, and he then turned the music down somewhat, and even further after he asked Dick if we minded it.  Dick gave a politely non-committal hand-signal, that worked quite well to discourage further sharing.

We made plans to go out to breakfast on July 4th, but had to change our ideas on the fly as the whole town turned out for the 4th of July parade.  There must have been thousands of people lining the main street of Whitehall, and for an hour we all watched fire engines, police vehicles, church floats, as well as both floats and vehicles from the various businesses in the area.  The Sherriff’s department arrived on horseback.  Both political parties were represented, fortunately placed in different places in the parade.  The Democrats received applause from some of the spectators, but when the Republicans came past, many leaped to their feet and shouted and clapped.  Most of the audience had brought chairs, just as well because the parade lasted an hour.  There were lots of dogs of all sizes, including a huge and rather gorgeous woolly poodle-sheepdog (?) wearing sunglasses.  The whole event was absolutely charming and an example of the very best of small-town America.

July 4th parade in Whitehall
July 4th parade in Whitehall

July 4th parade in Whitehall
July 4th parade in Whitehall
It was a sunny morning!

Dick was delighted to see an old friend in the parade, a McCormick Farmall Cub tractor.  He told me that when he was a child growing up in Brighton, where his father managed a chicken farm, this was the tractor that his father used on the 60 acres of additional land around the chicken barns.  Their tractor was red, rather than the cheery bright yellow of the one in the parade, but Dick recognized it immediately.  Of course, small boys are often interested in tractors and wheeled vehicles of all kinds, but Dick also remembers feeling rather embarrassed among his friends that their tractor was so small compared to what the other boys at school had!  Eventually, the family moved to their own, much larger farm in Norwood, with a suitably large Massey Ferguson tractor.

This tractor reminded Dick of his childhood.

The main reason for our extended stay in Whitehall was to spend time with some good friends who we first met in 1998 when we all lived in Prague.  Jane and Jon retired to Whitehall at the end of their Prague assignment, and they also visited Hilton Head regularly, so it has been easy to keep in touch.  In the afternoon they took us to the White Lake Yacht Club for their Independence Day celebration.  Traditional 4th of July fare, including hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, salads, and ice cream to finish was enjoyed on the sunny terrace.  We shared a table with some other members, and it was altogether a very enjoyable evening.

The next day we started with the deferred breakfast and then went for a long bike ride on the extensive path network in the area.  Whitehall and Montague form twin towns at the head of White Lake, linked by a causeway.  As with many towns in the area, Whitehall began in the mid-19th century as a lumber town.  The city is located about 5 miles from Lake Michigan, but White Lake is connected by a dredged canal.  As we discovered, the canal can experience a current of up to 3 mph.  Montague, on the other side of the White River, remains a separate town, with the usual rivalry between high school sports teams.  The two towns have a total population of around 5000, mainly full-time residents.  Howmet Corporation, manufacturing parts for the aerospace industry, is a large local employer, with about 3600 employees.  The Playhouse at White Lake opened in 1916, and offers live theatre as well as other cultural and arts events through the year.  The tidy houses, extensive cycle paths, and several parks, as well as the boating opportunities on White Lake and the White River ensure the area is a pleasant place to live.

Canoeing on White River
Sweet peas, their scent filled the air on our bike ride.
Sweet peas

Jane and Jon took us to nearby Muskegon for dinner, but declined our invitation to watch the firework display from our boat later in the evening.  Hundreds of people had already set up chairs in the parks beside the lake, and as the 9pm start approached some of them also lined the docks of the marina.  The lake was full of anchored small boats, ready to watch the show.  As it happened, the display did not start until about 10:15 pm, by which time some of the children were getting quite restless!  Our boat neighbour decided to put on his music, cranked up loud enough to rival the fireworks.  The display was a good one, with an excellent finale, and we enjoyed a perfect front row seat from the deck of Nine Lives, accompanied by a suitable adult beverage, just to keep warm in the chilly wind you understand.

Whitehall fireworks display
Whitehall fireworks display

On our last evening Jane and Jon joined us on board Nine Lives for drinks, cheese and charcuterie, followed by a shrimp and salad supper.  Dick helped with the preparation by slicing and pitting cherries.  By the end of the assignment he looked like a slightly demented serial killer, but fortunately he managed to keep the mess mostly on the table and his hands, so aggressive laundry techniques will not be required.  We so enjoyed spending time with Jane and Jon, and look forward to our next get-together.  We have been friends for 23 years.

Dick helps by pitting the cherries
Cheese and charcuterie for our guests.

Our next stop was just a short run to Muskegon.  About half way down White Lake, I went below for a few minutes to tidy up, and suddenly the engines slowed to a near stop.  I went up to see what was going on, and Dick was cursing a b…. sailboat that had suddenly tacked and was now inconsiderately crossing towards us.  Boats under sail have the right of way, so Dick had to be the one to take avoidance measures.  I pointed out that the sailboat had to tack to avoid running into the shore, but Dick’s grumbled response was, “He could have lowered his sail”.  Of course it was said with a twinkle!  The weather forecast was not one that we would normally find acceptable, but Dick thought that the high winds of the previous day would have laid down enough, and the waves would be on the bow.  As it happened, there were still two-foot swells, and they were on the quarter, so a somewhat uncomfortable ride.  Fortunately, we ran fast, so it was only about half an hour of being tossed about.

As we made our way through the channel into Muskegon Lake, we were surprised to see a submarine tied up on the wall, with the engines obviously running.  At first, we wondered who could possibly be the enemy, requiring a submarine presence in the Great Lakes.  Could it be there is a real and present danger from those dastardly Canadians?  Then we saw the tourists standing on the deck, and realized that this is the star exhibit of the Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum.  USS Silversides is a Gato-class submarine, one of the most successful submarines in the Pacific during World War II.  She is credited with 23 confirmed sinkings.  After her retirement from active service, dedicated volunteers maintained and restored Silversides, including the engines.  These engines are run about 6 times each year to keep them in good condition.

USS Silversides, Muskegon

The marina we are staying at in Muskegon is the first in the Safe Harbor conglomerate, that has bought up many of the independent marinas all over the US.  The docks are in reasonable condition, and the facilities are acceptable, but for the first time this trip we are quite a long walk from the showers.  There is a pool, an attraction for boaters with children on board.  However, marina staff did not initially impress us, as they simply directed us to our slip with no offer of assistance. Often, I feel that we do better docking without help, but it is unusual for there to be no dockhands at all.  We have a front row seat for watching a large crane on a barge repairing the breakwater along the pier.  The rock and roll we are experiencing as the ferry arrives and departs, and from chop from the lake, makes it clear that the new breakwater is a much needed improvement.

Improving the marina breakwater.

Muskegon is the largest city on the western shore of Michigan.  The first Europeans in the area were French explorers and fur traders, but by the mid-19th century, lumber brought settlers from Germany, Ireland, and even Canada.  Today it is a large port city with heavy and light industry and food processing.

Muskegon’s historic waterfront area. A former hosiery mill is now apartments, and the old railroad depot.

A morning bike ride along the extensive waterfront path was a great pleasure.  A lot of money has been spent cleaning up what was a heavily industrial area and creating both parks and wildlife areas.  Often bike paths follow disused railroads, and while easy riding (flat, wide, smooth), they can get quite boring.  Not so this path.  There are enough curves and bridges over the water to make it interesting, and the scenery is lovely.  Birds don’t lend themselves to photography by phone, but I saw a kingfisher, swans, ducks and geese, kildeer, red-winged blackbirds, swallows, a heron, and in several areas we could hear the sounds of bullfrogs croaking.  The wildflowers were lovely.

A bridge along the bike path, Muskegon
Restored wetlands in Muskegon
Restored wetlands in Muskegon
Restored wetlands in Muskegon

Unfortunately, the city is large and very spread out, so wandering around shops is not really feasible, and the restaurant we might have tried is a 3.5-mile bike ride.  We did find The Cheese Lady, and happily stocked up on more charcuterie choices, as well as crackers, some Belgian butter, and of course, some cheese.  We will likely try a nearby pizza restaurant for tonight’s supper.  Tomorrow looks fair for our short passage to Grand Haven.

The Cheese Lady, Muskegon

June 4th to 19th, 2021, Hilton Head and Drummond Island to Harbor Springs, MI

Nine Lives is underway again!  After a 20-month sleep on Drummond Island, Michigan, she is at last on the Great Loop again.

Our summer voyage began with loading the car with all the things we took off the boat in 2019, including such essentials as carpets, clothing, and safety equipment, and heading out on June 4th.  We enjoyed a lovely evening in Asheville, North Carolina, with our good friends Jan and Kent, in their beautiful new home.  After a second overnight stop in Dayton, Ohio, we drove to Mackinaw City, parked the car, and boarded the ferry for Mackinac Island.

Historic Round Island Lighthouse

Mackinac Island is considered to be one of the highlights of the Great Loop.  The famous Grand Hotel requires jacket and tie for men in the dining room, and Loopers will carry said jacket around the entire 6000 miles of the Loop for that one dinner!  Dick decided to compromise.  Since boat docking was reportedly difficult and expensive, we chose to stop on our way to pick up the boat and stay on the island in a hotel for 3 nights.  This way Dick could leave the jacket in the vehicle for the rest of the summer, and not take up precious hanging space on board.

The main street on Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island was an important centre of the fur trade, and a strategic fort was built by the British during the Revolutionary War.  Two battles were fought on the island during the War of 1812.  In the 19th century the island was discovered by tourists, and has never looked back.  The island is listed as a National Historic Landmark, and 80% of the island is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park.  There is only one highway, M-185, that circumnavigates the island, and is the only State highway in the United States that is banned for motorized vehicles.

Carriages, bicycles, and the old fort on Mackinac Island

Development is strictly limited, and the town is a wonderful mix of Victorian homes and businesses.  Cars are banned on the whole island, except for emergency vehicles and service vehicles, although residents are permitted to use snowmobiles in winter.  Since 1898, all transportation has been by horse, bicycle, or on foot.  Taxis are shared horse drawn wagons.  Visitors arrive by ferry from spring through fall, but in winter the island can be completely cut off unless an ice bridge forms.

A taxi passes some of the beautiful old homes on Mackinac Island

The Grand Hotel is one of the “grand old ladies” of the world, situated on a bluff overlooking the harbour.  There are many other accommodation options, most at a considerably lower cost, and of course an abundance of dining choices for visitors.  No camping is allowed on the island.

The porch at the Grand Hotel
The gardens of the Grand Hotel
Sainte Anne’s Church
Mission Church
more of the beautiful homes and gardens
Mini-putt golf and the lawn at our resort

Dick and I stayed at a resort hotel just on the edge of town.  Rather than taking our own bicycles on the ferry, we rented for a day so that we could follow the 8-mile road around the perimeter of the island.  It was a nice ride, theoretically completely flat, but one stretch of the highway was closed for repairs.  At first this looked like a problem, as the choice was to turn around and go back, or walk the bikes up a steep hill on a dirt path.  We chose the hill (much to my dismay), but it turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the ride.  After the short uphill path, we came to a t-junction, and from there a very pleasant track took us through the woodland and parallel to the shoreline below.  The woods were full of wildflowers, and there were very few other people so the path was not busy.  Eventually we dropped down again to the shore at the end of the construction, and carried on around the island.

Glimpse of the water from the bike route

the trail through the woods
a horse and carriage on the highway

Although we enjoyed our visit, it was also somewhat disappointing.  The island is being loved to death by tourists, with day trippers in the thousands even before the busiest season starts.  The main street has been taken over by t-shirt and souvenir shops, interspersed by fudge shops, one after another.  Pedestrians and tourists wobbling on unfamiliar bicycles make it difficult to walk through the town.  The horses and carriages, actually wagons converted to carry many passengers, are romantic, but not exactly enjoyable as too many people are crammed onto too-small benches.

One of the beautiful old inns on the island

We tried 3 of the 4 “fine dining” options, expected to be a highlight of our stay.  Only one lived up to the billing, and that was not the Grand Hotel option.  After carefully reading reviews and studying menus, Dick decided that the Woods Restaurant, operated by the Grand Hotel in a woodland setting well above the main hotel, was a better option than the main hotel dining room.  Duly dressed in our finery, we boarded a (shared) taxi at our hotel.  Half an hour later (we could have walked it faster), we arrived at the hotel, planning to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail before taking another taxi to the Woods Restaurant.  Fortunately, on arrival, we asked questions, and discovered that there were no taxis to be had.  We were able to catch a shuttle, so did not miss our dinner!  The meal was acceptable, but not the wonderful experience we had been expecting, and to Dick’s disgust, there was no dress code for the restaurant.  So, the jacket and tie were entirely superfluous.  On our last evening we did enjoy a meal at the Carriage House waterfront restaurant that measured up to expectations.

Shrimp cocktail our first evening
Woods Restaurant
Elk chops at Woods Restaurant