September 22 to October 4, Quincy to Pickwick Lake

Our second day in Quincy was a good day for chores.  I took care of laundry, Dick defrosted the fridge, and then made a run for grocery shopping.  Sid on Tranquility arrived mid-afternoon, and joined us for dinner at Boodalu in the evening.  Good steaks and enjoyable company.

Nine Lives and Tranquility on the dock at Quincy
Quincy highway bridge at night
Quincy sunrise

The next morning, as we prepared to leave, the strap that I use to keep the power cords from sliding into the water jumped out of my hand as I undid it and landed in the water.  “Catch it!” I said to Dick, who instantly flopped full length onto the dock and retrieved it, just as it began to sink.  He learned the flopping technique in high school football.  You never know when lessons learned as a teenager will pay off in later life!  Sadly, Dick’s favourite white t-shirt is now relegated to painting and oil changes, as the Quincy dock had just that week been resealed and was still a bit tacky.  So a $30 shirt was sacrificed to save a $.99 strap…

Our trip to Two Rivers was very cold.  I needed to get out warm socks, insulated vest (gilet), winter gloves, and rain jackets.  It was certainly a big change from our trip up-river, when the temperatures were well over 90.  Fortunately, the rain let up at both locks, and we had no waits.  It also slacked off for our arrival and tying up.

Dredging the Mississippi south of Quincy

We had a bit of an adventure as we entered the channel to the marina.  I was standing on the deck waiting with the lines, and I felt the port-side pontoon climb a hill!  We had run aground at the channel entrance, with just one pontoon.  It was a very strange sensation.  We were fast aground, and the dockmaster was preparing to contact a helper to pull us off.  Dick powered backwards, hard, for several minutes, and we sort of slewed sideways without actually coming free.  At last, with a surge of very black smoke from the engine, we floated back out into the channel.  The engine stopped smoking almost immediately, but a muddy brown stream shot out from the exhaust for quite a while before it ran clear.

Dick changed the approach to come from downstream and we got through the channel without further ado.  Later, when Dick checked, the starboard strainer was empty, but the one on the port engine was ¾ full of mud.  The rest of the uncaptured mud would have gone through the engine heat exchanger and into the water-cooled exhaust before washing out of the side of the boat as a muddy stream.  Not recommended for the health of the engine.

Strainer full of mud

That evening we had homemade pizza on board.  This last couple of weeks there are fewer opportunities for eating out, and more for eating up what we have on board.

Misty morning at Two Rivers Marina

The next day was a very pretty trip to Alton, with no locks to contend with.  We passed many tows with a full load of 15 barges, all empty.  We wondered whether this was in preparation for harvest time further north.  Also, the Missouri River was very low, and tows were being advised by the Coast Guard to get off that river entirely.

Fishing on the Mississippi south of Rockport

We arrived in Alton with enough time to get fuel and a pump-out.  We discovered that we were at the end of the furthest pontoon in the marina, and as far from all the other Loopers as it would be possible to get.  We had hoped to resume friendly chats and possible docktails, but this was unlikely at such a distance. We did make an effort to visit one of the other docks, and Dick collected a few boat cards, but there really wasn’t the same easy interaction as happens when you share a dock.

Gentelin’s, on our third visit, started out wonderfully with delicious appetizers.  We shared potstickers, and toasted ravioli.  Dick ordered the duck for his main course, and it was good, although it was two legs instead of the half duck that was on the menu.  My tempura lobster was nothing like previous visits.  The wrong batter had been used, and the lobster was the mushy texture that you get when you overcook it from frozen.  Dessert did not salvage the evening, as it was too sweet.

Potstickers and toasted ravioli at Gentelin’s
Gentelin’s main courses
A pretty dessert, but far too sweet for our taste

A meeting was called for any Loopers who were planning to leave the next morning.  It is always more successful if only one boater contacts the lock, so coordinating the leaving times and appointing a spokesman is a good idea.  Unlike a similar meeting last year, nobody brought food or drink, and there was almost no socializing apart from polite introductions.  A very different group from our previous experiences.

We were up at 5am, and our group was in position in front of Mel Price lock at 6:45, 4th in line after 3 tows.  It took until 9:30 for our group of 9 boats to be locked through together.  The next lock south is Chain of Rocks, at St Louis.  Their second chamber was operating, and they were ready for the group to go straight in.  We had a lot of trouble holding Nine Lives in the lock, as we had misjudged the length of line needed to wrap around the floating bollard.  Dick didn’t want to use our normal long lines, but with the very short line and a strong wind, we were corkscrewing.  It took some jumping about to get a longer line in place plus a second stern line, and even then, I had both engines in gear to prevent corkscrewing for almost the whole lock down.  Two boats had to raft up, as there were not enough floating bollards for everyone.  Normally we would enjoy that, but as soon as we realized we were having trouble we had let the group know we could not be available.  We were all through that lock by 11:30am, a pretty good time for the morning.

Looper group waiting at dawn for Mel Price lock
Loopers leaving Mel Price lock 3 hours later
St Louis
Parked tows on the Mississippi at St Louis

Once past St Louis we speeded up, and with help from the current we got up to 20.4 knots, our fastest speed to date.  We had two long days in the plan, and needed to run hard to be able to make the distances.

Normally we would tie up to the lock wall at Kaskaskia, but we happened to be there in the week that they were dredging the area, so boats had to anchor.  The lock keepers were very cooperative, allowing anchoring, even though they could have just closed all access.  Given the distances involved, that would have been very difficult for many Loopers.  We were the first of our group to arrive, but 5 other Looper boats were there first, and had taken up most of the available anchoring space.  We tried to go well forward of the others, but the lockmaster sent us back as being too close to the dam.  It was clear from our interaction and that with later boats, that the lockmaster really didn’t understand anchoring and how far back a boat needs to go from where the anchor is dropped.  We made 3 tries, complicated by a large stump in the area, wind that pushed us too close to the shore, and unhelpful advice from another boater that we were too close to his anchor.  All this was done with an audience, and at the end I didn’t know whether we should take a bow or hide our heads.

Once we were finally set, a boat that had locked through with us earlier arrived, and when asked by the lockmaster if he was the last, he said yes.  This was not true, as he could not help but know, as he had passed the other boat on the River.  The final boat had a very difficult spot to try to fit into.  On the following night, the lockmaster arranged for all the boats to lock up and anchor above the lock.  This made more sense, and ensured less interference with the dredge as well.  The dredge had to move their boom out of the way for every boat that came through, so it would have been much more considerate if everyone had gone together.

Loopers anchored at Kaskaskia

Next morning the anchor came up much easier than it went down.  We avoided the stump and provided no entertainment for our watching neighbours.

On our second day of fast running and long distance to go we passed a loading terminal for coal and many full barges.  I was reminded of a country song on an album from Kathy Mattea, written in 2011, but still very much on point:

>>> 

You might think I’m outta date
But if I’m out of style and old
Why do men still dig me
All around the globe?

Hello, my name is coal
And around here I’m the queen
Some say I’m cheap and easy
Oh but they still bow to me
….
They curse me now for what I am
But not that long ago
They sang my praises everywhere
Hello, my name is coal

(excerpt from Coal, written by Jenee Fleenor and Larry Cordle, 2011)

Coal loading terminal on the Mississippi
Loaded coal barges

We passed through the Shawnee National Forest.  This whole area of the Mississippi is part of the Trail of Tears, when 60,000 members of the “Five Civilized Tribes” of Native Americans were displaced and sent west between 1830 and 1850.  American settlers, mainly from the South, had pressured the government to remove Indians from the southeast, in order to free up the land for settlement.  Population growth, the expansion of slavery, and the rapid development of cotton cultivation after the invention of the cotton gin created tensions and the subsequent land grabs. Although there was some opposition, the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830 and allowed the government to extinguish any Indian land claims in the southeast.  Over the next 20 years this law was used to remove entire tribes from their ancestral lands and send them to newly acquired territories west of the Mississippi.  Up to 12,000 deaths during the journeys were caused by disease, malnutrition, and exposure during harsh winters.

Something was burning near the river, but we never found out what it was

We had decided not to stop at the usual anchorage at Boston Bar.  We found the two previous experiences quite unpleasant, with a very strong current, and high risk from riprap and bridge abutments if the anchor let go.  As we passed, we could see that the whole area where we had previously anchored was completely above water.  The next option also did not appeal to us, although many Loopers do choose to anchor there.  As we passed that anchorage, Angelo Towhead, we could hear chatter from tow operators that they were bumping the bottom in the area of the bridge, and to stay close to the red markers.  This put the tows with their large barge trains very close to the area where boats would anchor, so we certainly were not going to risk it.  We turned the corner into the Ohio River and headed towards a highly recommended anchorage at mile marker 974.

Boston Bar. When we anchored here in June there was over 8 feet of water under the boat, now it is high and dry

We heard from the Coast Guard that there had been a grounding at mile 974, and, sure enough, when we got there, we saw a tow with two barges full of coal, stuck fast beside the red markers.  We turned toward the shore, and fortunately Dick proceeded very slowly, as we suddenly had only 3 feet under the boat.  At that point we decide to back off and attempt to get to safer locations above the next lock.  The next day, Looper friends tried to anchor at mile 974, and they ran aground suddenly and did some damage to their props, so our decision was the right one.  By this time, it was getting quite late, and we knew that going through the lock plus 5 miles further upriver would take at least an hour.

Approaching Olmstead lock. Last year the wickets, the part of the dam on the right side of the picture, were well underwater and we were told to just drive over them instead of locking through.

The anchorage was straightforward to get to, and has plenty of depth.  It was not easy to tell whether the anchor had grabbed, so I set both alarms with a small radius.  It was peaceful, with little current.  Dick decided we would put on our underwater lights as well as the required white anchor light, just to be more visible.  So the blue lights went on, and we looked like party animals!  Later, Dick had second thoughts and turned the blue lights off to save battery power overnight.

The sun set as we anchored on the Ohio above Olmstead lock

After running hard so much, and forgetting to turn the icemaker off, a major defrosting project was required.  Nine Lives tends to sit a little low at the stern anyway, but when running hard, she digs in even more, and the bow is even higher, although she does her very best to level out on plane!  If we forget to turn it off, as the icemaker adds water it slops over and runs down behind the ice bucket, creating a frozen block at the back of the machine.  Not the project Dick had hoped for at the end of a very long, stressful, and tiring day!

We had a short run to Paducah the next day, so a leisurely start with time for a bacon and egg breakfast.  We were there and tied up by mid-afternoon.

We had a good meal at Cynthia’s.  So far this seems to be the most consistent of the nice restaurants we have revisited.  We started with house smoked salmon for me, and oysters for Dick.  For main courses, I enjoyed bacon wrapped pork with cherry sauce, while Dick’s veal scallopine with mushroom sauce was delicious.  Dessert is never to be missed at Cynthias, and I could not resist returning to the chocolate slice as previous visits, while Dick loved his peach cobbler. 

Smoked salmon at Cynthia’s
Oysters at Cynthia’s
Pork with cherry sauce at Cynthia’s
Veal scallopini at Cynthia’s
Chocolate slice at Cynthia’s
Peach cobbler at Cynthia’s

In the middle of the night, we, and several other boats were boarded.  The masked intruder was almost certainly casing the joint, planning to steal.  He even peered down one open hatch at the Loopers sleeping below!  Oh, and did I mention that he had a stripey tail? Apparently, this raccoon likes to visit the boats, and was checking them out on several nights.

I went to the National Quilt Museum.  I had missed it on our previous two visits, and I found it quite surprising.  I particularly enjoyed the more traditional quilts, but it was interesting to see some of the other exhibits, including one room with fabric totems, and another Black Lives Matter project with quilted swing coats.  While I enjoyed the Quilt Museum, Dick visited the Railroad Museum.

National Quilt Museum, Paducah

Our Looper friends limped in with damaged props (after attempting to anchor at mile 974), but they were still ready to join us for docktails, followed by dinner at Grill 211.  They had booked a haul out and were hoping for a quick repair at Green Turtle Bay. (note, we think the repairs were completed quickly, as they are now on their way again)

Paducah has changed their procedures with their docks.  Previously, there was one Parks Department employee, plus a helper, who had dedicated cell phones so that boaters would get straight through to them.  They would come to the dock, and help tie up, and also arrange where each boat would be best, knowing what other boats were expected.  For some reason, the Parks Department has decided that they are now completely hands off, and boaters are expected to “sort it out”, with no assigned dockage.  This can result in small boats taking up the outside spaces, leaving the inside (with shallower water) for bigger boats.  It also means (as we saw) that nobody with authority is there to arrange for boaters to close up and leave enough space for the rest.  The day we arrived there were two rafted up on the inside, and the next day one boater refused to close up and left a very tight space for the next boat to try to get into between the dock and the rocks.  I will mention that while we have met some lovely people as always, overall we are not impressed with either the friendliness or consideration for others of many of the Loopers we encountered this year.  Dick has received a request for his opinion on his Paducah experience, so he is hoping to suggest a return to the previous system, at least for the 6 weeks when they are fully booked each night by the Looper pack.

The next day, as we headed up the Cumberland River, we heard the Coast Guard reporting historic low water on the Ohio River between Cairo and Olmstead Lock, and also shoaling around mile markers 972 to 974.  It is quite a pretty trip up the Cumberland, in spite of some large quarry operations.  There must be good fishing in the river, as we saw many herons, and also eagles and egrets.

Cattle drinking on the Cumberland River
Fishing on the Cumberland River
Nine Lives on the Cumberland River

Dick phoned Green Turtle Bay to ask for our dock assignment and check that they were not putting us into a narrow slip.  He was very disappointed to be told we were to be on a t-head on the far side of the marina, once again, as far from other Loopers as possible.  When he told the lady that we were planning to walk to town for dinner, she told him that from that t-head, instead of a mile, the walk would be two and a half miles.  He must have sounded very sad, because the nice lady had a rethink, and changed us to Slip Number 1, right beside the bathhouse and the marina office.  She said it would be a bit tricky to get into, and she was right!  There is a rescue boat permanently docked at the end of that slip, and Nine Lives had to wiggle quite a bit to get in there.  I was glad to see our neighbour take his bikes off the finger pier, as I had visions of sweeping them into the water as we made the corner.  With lots of help ready from fellow Loopers and dockhands (and thus a large audience), Dick made it look easy and sashayed into the spot without any difficulty.

Green Turtle Bay Slip 1, a tight fit and a tricky maneuver for Nine Lives

We met fellow Endeavourcat 44 owners, and enjoyed looking through each other’s boats and comparing the similarities and differences.  They did the Loop in 2018, and sold their boat and planned other retirement activities.  Instead, they found that they did not enjoy RVing, so they looked for a new boat, specifically an Endeavourcat, that they could live on full time and repeat the Loop, taking a lot more time.

Deer at Grand Rivers

In the evening we walked over to Patti’s 1880 Settlement Restaurant.  It was a bit more than a mile, and undulating, with no sidewalks, but quite a nice walk and we saw deer in the gardens.  We had a great evening.  The restaurant was extravagantly decorated with lighted greenery with an autumnal theme.  The waitresses are dressed in flower print long dresses, and the waiters wear bib overalls.  There is a large shop with loads of junk that they hope you will buy while you wait for your table to be ready.  We started with an appetizer sampler platter.  It had fried pickles, something we have been seeing on menus everywhere this year.  I don’t eat pickles, Dick tried a few, but won’t be ordering them in future.  The loaded home-made potato chips were very good, as were the mozzarella sticks and the chicken tenders with accompanying sauces.  Dick ordered one of the signature pork chops for his main course, while I decided to be adventurous and try a Kentucky Hot Brown.  This was slices of ham, smoked turkey, and tomato, on toast, topped with cheese sauce and bacon, and completely buried under homemade potato chips.  It was delicious!  For dessert Dick went for their famous mile-high coconut cream pie, and I decided on a chocolate martini that was both pretty and tasty.  Given the distance and lack of sidewalks (or street lights), we asked for a ride back to the marina, and they took us straight away.  The restaurant will pick you up and return you to the marina if you call them, so we had been reasonably confident that we would get the ride back.  We will certainly return to Patti’s on our next visit to Green Turtle Bay.  It is a complete departure from our usual fine dining options, but very good food, and lots of character.

Autumn decorations at Patti’s
Appetizer sampler platter at Patti’s
The signature pork chop at Patti’s
Patti’s version of the Kentucky Hot Brown
Mile high coconut meringue pie at Patti’s
Patti’s chocolate martini

We were planning several more long days, so we set out shortly after 8am the next morning.  We had lots of help and good wishes from fellow Loopers.  Our exit was not quite as perfect as the entry, but still impressive.  One of the Loopers commented to Dick that he had been watching our progress on Nebo and could not believe how fast we were going.  We did set another new record at 22 knots.

Green Turtle Bay Marina in early morning

We were now into Kentucky Lake, a huge, long reservoir created from the Tennessee River by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1944.  The TVA was created by Congress in 1933 as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Over time it evolved primarily into an electric utility.   We passed a derelict building that we have wondered about previously, and this time I was able to identify it as the Old Danville Grain Elevator/Terminal.  It is an enormous concrete structure.  It was built on the banks of the Tennessee River in 1914 for the purpose of transferring barge loads of grain and other products to railcars above on the L&N Railroad.  It was 6 stories high, and used two huge elevators to move goods from the barges to waiting trains above.  Cargos included peanuts, grain, limestone, iron, and cotton.  When the TVA began clearing land for the creation of Kentucky Lake the terminal ceased operations.  Nobody knows for sure, but the suggestion is that because the structure was so big, and made entirely of concrete, it would have been prohibitively expensive to remove it.

Old Danville Grain Elevator/Terminal on Kentucky Lake
Autumn colour on Kentucky Lake

That evening we anchored for the first time in Birdsong Creek.  Some of the reviews suggested a very complicated entrance and high risk of grounding, but Dick had good sonar detail on his chart, and seeing another Looper boat already in added to our confidence.  We stayed close to the green markers and always had plenty of water below us.  We anchored in 10 feet, beside the other Looper boat and well away from shore.  It was a very pretty, peaceful spot, in the middle of the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge.  Further up the estuary is a freshwater pearl farm, that we might visit on a future occasion.

After a quiet night I enjoyed watching the sun come up and egrets fishing in the shallows.  As we pulled anchor, a hunter showed up with his dog to refurbish the duck blind across the creek.

Sunrise at Birdsong Creek
Egret in early morning at Birdsong Creek
A hunter refurbishes his duck blind on Birdsong Creek
Fishing at the mouth of Birdsong Creek

A check on our fuel situation suggested that we had used more than expected on the fast runs from Alton.  We decided it would be prudent to add some, rather than risk running dry before we got back to Pickwick Lake.  Dick made some phone calls, and found that the next marina south no longer sells diesel, and the further one was not answering their phone and has a reputation for being very expensive.  We decided to turn back north and get fuel at Pebble Isle.  It was an hour back, so the whole operation added nearly 3 hours to our day.  The dockmaster at Pebble Isle was very friendly and chatty, with a real Tennessee country accent.  We managed to figure out most of what he said, and guessed the rest!

Abandoned railway bridge/causeway near Johnsonville

The detour meant that we were very late into our planned anchorage at Swallow Bluff Island.  We set anchor just as the sun went down.  Fortunately, we had stopped there on the way north in June, so we were confident about the location.  It was a very quiet night, little wind, and no wakes, and the light current kept us perfectly in place.

Anchored as the sun sets at Swallow Bluff Island
Sunrise and mist on the river at Swallow Bluff Island

The shoreline was sandy, and it was easy to see the evidence of the recent lowering of the water to winter pool.  The pool refers to the depth the water is kept at on rivers and lakes when they are controlled by locks.  Kentucky Lake has a winter and a summer pool, with a difference of about 5 feet.  Winter pool allows room for winter and spring flooding from runoff and precipitation, while summer pool keeps the depth for greater numbers of tow traffic and allows for drought conditions.  The pool is measured as the number of feet above sea level.  On the Mississippi, the locks and dams are there to maintain navigable depth of the water for commercial traffic, they are not for flood control.  Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee River are controlled by dams that generate electricity for the TVA.

It is easy to see the difference between summer and winter pool a few days after the water has been lowered for the winter. The dark brown sand on the shore was covered at summer pool.
Bluffs on the Tennessee River
Turkey vultures gather on the shore on the Tennessee River

Our last lock for this season was Pickwick lock, a 50-foot lift.  It was a very ugly experience.  Nine Lives twisted and I couldn’t get her straightened with the engine.  I had to take over handling the line on the floating bollard while Dick pushed off at the bow with all his strength to keep the bow from scraping on the wall.  We won’t forget that experience in a hurry, and will put out another fender as close to the bow as possible for future locking.  We will also request a spot further back in the lock, where there may possibly be less turbulence.

Pickwick lock and dam

Once in Pickwick Lake it was an easy run to our winter marina at Aqua Yacht.  We decided not to stay on board for the last 3 nights, which makes everything easier for packing up, cleaning, and preparing for winter maintenance.  We booked into a cabin at Pickwick Lake State Park, where we stayed at the beginning of the season.  They have a decent restaurant on site, so no trying to cook either. 

On our second evening we treated ourselves to a return to Corinth and Vicari Restaurant, that we enjoyed in June.  In this instance our return meal exceeded our previous great experience!  I ordered the trout pate again, while Dick tried the stuffed mushrooms.  We went onto the chef’s menu (last fine dining experience of this season!) and shared the chateaubriand.  It was absolutely delicious.  To finish we had crepes with fresh strawberries.  Although it is a half hour drive, we will plan to return when we are back to the boat next year.

Appetizers at Vicari
We shared the chateaubriand at Vicari
Strawberry crepes at Vicari
In case anyone thought we actually eat all that food at the restaurants, here is the stack of take home leftovers!

Dick has spoken with the service manager at Aqua Yacht, and handed over his list of maintenance projects for this winter.  He is feeling a lot more positive that the work will in fact be completed as requested, as the staff seemed to be more engaged with the projects this time.  The 2000-hour engine service is already on the schedule for next week, and the refurbishing of the gelcoat will be done shortly afterwards.  Poor Nine Lives is looking like a stray cat these days, especially after a season on the muddy Mississippi.  The gelcoat was already dull when we started out in June, with far too many black rubber marks and other dings and scratches.  The previous name was showing through as well, most unfortunate.  After refurbishment, the plan is to refinish Nine Lives with a new ceramic coating.  There will also be fresh lettering.  The owner of the boat cleaning company has also assured Dick that she will be properly cleaned once a month.

This is the final blog issue for 2022.  We will resume in late June next year, with plans to go north on the Ohio River to Pittsburgh and then beyond on the Allegany and Monongahela Rivers to the end of navigation.  We will return again to Pickwick Lake for the following winter.

Nine Lives 2022 Statistics

States: 8, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota

Locks:  58 (that’s 29 in each direction)

Miles:  2359

Bottles of Jack Daniels: 5 half gallon bottles

I will mention that unusually this summer, several of our guests shared our enjoyment of Manhattans as an adult beverage, so I am sure that contributed to the high number of bottles emptied.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Fastest speed at wide open throttle, 22 knots, fastest speed at normal throttle, 12.4 knots.

Rivers:  5, Tennessee, Cumberland, Ohio, Mississippi, St Croix

The map of our September travels. You can see the sections where we ran fast south of St Louis
I will leave you with a nice photo of Nine Lives passing the Arch at St Louis taken by a fellow Looper

July 25 to August 6 Sabula to Red Wing

Leaving Sabula, we continued passing through the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Reserve.  This reserve stretches from Rock Island, Illinois to Wabasha, Minnesota, a 260-mile stretch of the Mississippi River.  It is an important element of the Mississippi Flyway, a migration route for roughly 40% of all migrating North American shore birds and waterfowl.  I read that Asian Carp are also migratory, but I suspect that the reserve was not actually intended to benefit them!  National Wildlife Refuges provide management of over 560 tracts of land and wetlands in the USA for conservation, management and even restoration.  I was surprised to see that hunting and fishing are permitted in these areas, with appropriate permits.  One hopes that the various ducks, game, and the fish have read the fine print before they decide to take up residence.

A calm morning on the River

As we made our way north, I noticed a warning note on my chart alerting us to the danger of unexploded ordinance.  The note suggested that it might not be a good idea to anchor there…

The signs warn boaters of unexploded ordinance

We passed a prominent wing dam.  These are barriers that extend out into the river, usually created using spoil from dredging, but also tons of rock may have been brought in to create the barrier.  A few are visible above the surface, but most are underwater.  Their purpose when built was to increase the flow, and therefore the depth, in the main channel, while calming the areas between the wing dams and the shore.  Since the construction of the lock system, they are not being maintained, but they are almost all still in place.  They are a huge hazard to boaters.  Some may be just one or two feet below the surface, and since they are made of rock, not mud or sand, hitting one is going to be a big headache for the unwary boater.  Wing dams show up on charts as a thin black line stretching into the river.  Interestingly, they do not all show on all charts.  Dick and I use two charts.  He has Navionics on Nine Lives’ chartplotter, while I have AquaMaps on an iPad.  This gives us two perspectives for navigation.  Often wing dams only show on one or the other chart, not both.  The lesson of course is, stay in the channel!  Not only as marked on the chart, but also using your eyes to see where the red and green channel markers are placed.  Just to make things a bit more exciting, occasionally markers are missing, or worse, they have been moved off station by the force of the water, so one needs both the chart and the markers for careful navigation.  Running aground will always ruin your day, even if the bottom is sand or mud.

A wing dam

The wing dams were built as part of the first efforts to control the flow of water and create a reliable channel for commercial traffic in the Mississippi River.  In spite of several construction campaigns, increasing the initial channel depth of 4 feet to 6 feet, by 1918, barge and passenger companies could not compete with the railways, and river traffic essentially died.  After a campaign by commercial interests and farmers, the 9-Foot Channel Project was included in the 1930 Rivers and Harbors Act.  This project increased the river depth to a reliable 9 feet, by construction of 29 locks and dams between 1931 and 1954.  As did other major infrastructure programs, the first part of the project provided jobs during the Great Depression.  Skilled workers were paid $1.20 per hour, while common labourers got $.50 an hour.  Jobs were given first to workers who were married and had families to support.  The system stretches between Minneapolis and Granite City, Illinois (just north of St Louis).  Unfortunately, one of the negative impacts of the lock and dam system is that some of the migratory fish can no longer move freely up the river to spawn.  As a result, stocks of sturgeon, paddlefish, and skipjack herring, among others, have decreased considerably.

Dredging a narrow channel. Note the position of the red marker behind us, we would normally pass that on the other side, but there was no room!
Lock 7 and the scenery of the Driftless Region

One of the interesting features of locks in this part of the River, is the specially constructed public viewing platforms at each lock, with easily accessible parking.  Further south in Missouri and Illinois, we noticed that access to locks was mostly restricted or made difficult for the public.  On one of his outings, Dick enjoyed watching the full sequence of locking through a tow with 15 barges, requiring the lock-through to be split into two parts.  We are usually stooging below the locks when split tows go through, and it always seems to take forever (it does take a minimum of 1 ½ hours, and often longer).  Having seen it up close, it is easier to understand just how complicated the operation really is.

What is stooging, you ask? Well, this is a highly technical nautical term. It essentially means going nowhere while keeping the engines engaged. Having had a very unfortunate experience last year, when we anchored instead of stooging, we prefer the latter, tiring though it may be. The captain has to keep making minor adjustments as the wind and currents push the boat away from the chosen waiting position.

The first section of barges has been pushed out of the lock, while the second section is being pushed in
the tow pushes the barges into the lock
At last the barges have been lashed together again and the tow pushes the whole lot out into the channel

We arrived in Dubuque Marina at 3:15pm.  The marina is protected by a levee and huge gates, that are normally open, but can be closed if the River floods.  This is a “full service” marina, with a severe shortage of actual service.  Apparently, it is now only staffed between 11am and 3pm (and we had already discovered that the phones are not answered when it gets close to quitting time).  We had hoped for a pump-out on arrival, but instead we had to wait and get it done the next day.  Untying and retying Nine Lives is not a trivial exercise, so it is irritating to have to go through it unnecessarily.  We knew our dock assignment, because the marina has the best booking system we have seen, but we had to call a different number from the main marina phone to get the code to let us back through the security gates after visiting the town.  The showers require a key card, so no joy there until the single staff member arrived the next day.

A cruise boat arriving in Dubuque marina, passing through the huge gates
Dubuque Marina with the museum, and Nine Lives at dock
Dubuque sunset

In spite of lack of marina staff, Dick and I were very impressed with Dubuque.  This is just as well, as I am going to have to stay there by myself for about a week on our return trip.  The historic downtown and the revitalized waterfront are spotless and undergoing major improvements, much already complete.  Old warehouses are being repurposed to both dining and living options.  The marina is surrounded by a major museum. A large casino, a resort hotel, and an extensive business park have been built south of the main downtown area.  It was an easy and safe bike ride for Dick to an excellent grocery and a good hardware store.

Dubuque Courthouse

Our back door latch has been giving trouble, with the door suddenly flying open while underway.  Just before Dubuque it gave up entirely, remaining firmly shut regardless of how much twisting and tugging was applied to the handle.  Fortunately, we have two side doors with zippered entries, so we weren’t trapped!  Eventually Dick did manage to get the door open, and for a brief while we had to use a piece of string to hold it in place (the low-tech option for sure).  Thanks to the useful Dubuque hardware store, and after some considerable fiddling once the latch mechanism had been taken apart, Dick managed to find the correct one of 50-odd ways the pieces could go back together, and the door is working again.  We are treating it like the precious, delicate, and valuable almost-antique it is, knowing that the repair was temporary at best, and until Dick can get a replacement latch mechanism.

Our first evening we walked across the bridge over the railway tracks to a downtown hotel and had a mediocre meal in their dining room.  The Jalapeno maple glazed shrimp were unusual and tasty, but the rest of the menu was uninteresting.  The next evening, a longer walk brought us to Brazen, where we had an excellent evening.  We brought back a lot of boxes, because the waiter explained that theirs is a “sharing” menu.  I didn’t take pictures of the desserts, pot de crème for Dick and Basque cheesecake for me, but they were some of the best we have had.  Both were very “grown up”, in other words, not sweet but very flavourful.  Interestingly, the desserts were also true single portions.  We are definitely going back when we return to the city!

Jalapeno maple glazed shrimp
Dick loved the duck confit at Brazen
I tried the delicious smoked trout pate, with the best house-made chips I have ever had
Fried chicken at Brazen for Dick
I added a few shrimp to the signature pasta dish at Brazen

The next morning, with a relatively short trip and only one lock, we were able to make a more civilized start at around 9am, instead of this trip’s more usual 7:30.  There was zero rain in the forecast, but just as we pulled into the lock the heavens opened, making it a very wet transit for Dick.  My responsibilities in the lock are indoors at the helm, and I was delighted to see the lock doors open and the sun coming out just when it was time for me to get outside and pull in the fenders!

We spent one night in Guttenburg Marina, an excellent example of a well-run but essentially unstaffed marina.  It shows this is possible.  After booking online we received an email with dock assignment, wi-fi code, and shower code.  A follow up phone call was made, a few hours before we arrived, to make sure that we had received all the information.  The marina is quite small, maneuvering is tight, and it would have been tricky if the second space on the transient dock had been occupied.  The shower facility was spotless. Dick explored the town, returning to report that although it is clean and has nice parks, there is little to see or do.  One of those nice places to live but not so much for a visit!

Guttenburg marina

It was a very short run to McGregor.  We arrived before noon, and then had to hold in the channel while a workboat pulled several logs out of our assigned slip.  That marina is just about the most rickety we have ever experienced.  It has wobbly wooden docks, most with no rubber, and the whole marina is a magnet for debris.  New owners are trying to make improvements, but a lot more money and time is needed to bring it up to any reasonable standard.  The staff were friendly and helpful, but that was it.  Various pieces of rope and an old rag were trip hazards on our dock, not to mention a large weed rake left right in the middle, tines facing up.  The railway line is just 30 yards away, and trains blow the whistle because the town has a level crossing.  Why is it called a whistle when it is in fact a very loud horn?  I don’t know.

McGregor Marina

We explored the town.  McGregor was once a thriving community, began when Alexander McGregor started a local ferry service.  By 1870, it was the busiest port west of Chicago.  As we are seeing everywhere, it is clean and old buildings are being renovated, but this one has farther to go than most.  One interesting item, McGregor is where Augustus Ringling’s sons, the Ringling Brothers, got their start by giving penny shows to the townspeople.  The house they lived in is still there.

McGregor downtown
A pretty, somewhat neglected, garden in McGregor

There are more boats out on the River than we have seen until now.  We went through Lock 8 with 2 fishing boats, a speedboat with drunks on board, and a jet ski.  Above the lock were probably 100 fishing boats, all speeding (and throwing large wakes) toward a small marina and motel off the main river.  Apparently it was a large annual college fishing tournament.

Spiders love boats. If I forget to spray the lines when we tie up, they invade.

6 years ago, when we drove across the country, we stopped for one night in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  We liked it very much, and have been looking forward to returning.  The La Crosse Boat Club is across the river from the town.  The marina is well protected from waves and currents, and is very active, with boaters coming and going all the time.  They also have a very popular onsite restaurant.  The Boat Club is a short dinghy ride across the Mississippi to the town courtesy dock.  I say courtesy dock, they charge $10 to tie up!  Usually these docks are free, encouraging visitors to stop and enjoy the shops and restaurants.

Dick pays $10 for the La Crosse town dock
Downtown La Crosse
La Crosse waterfront park

We returned to the Charmant Hotel, where we stayed before, and enjoyed an excellent meal in their restaurant.  It was so nice to find that standards hadn’t slipped, in fact they are even higher.  Dick’s starter was the creatively named “Ants on a Log”.  It was escargot (without the shells) arranged on large split pork bones with marrow.  I enjoyed my more traditional chicken pate.  The rest of the meal was equally good.  The hotel is in a repurposed and sympathetically renovated former candy factory. 

The beautifully restored candy factory that is now the Charmant Hotel
“Ants on a Log” I am told it was delicious
I enjoyed a more conventional chicken pate
Duck for Dick and trout tartine for me at Charmant

Our visit to my favourite Duluth Trading store was disappointing.  This season apparently has nothing on offer that is my taste, and most of the old standbys that serve me so well are apparently no longer being made.  We hoped that the Red Wing shop has better offerings.

The next evening, we walked a little farther to Le Chateau, a beautifully restored 19th century mansion.  We started with drinks in the basement bar, accessed by a scary, although gorgeous, spiral staircase.  All wines and drinks for the dining room are dispensed from the basement, and staff use the spiral staircase even when carrying trays of glasses and drinks!  Dinner was delicious.

Le Chateau
Le Chateau cheese plate to start
Le Chateau filet steak
Le Chateau elk chop
Le Chateau desserts

We spent a quiet Sunday.  Dick did some small jobs, including replacing some lights in the salon and the bedroom that had been flickering.  I took care of some laundry, and after Dick went round with the vacuum cleaner I managed to get rid of some of the dirt in the cockpit.  It has been just too hot to tackle that cleaning until now.  The eisenglass is still filthy, but that is a major scrubbing job still to do.  We had dinner at the Boat Club.  It was basic fare, but good, and they did have cheese curds.  These delectable morsels do not seem to have migrated far from Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota. A great tragedy.  Cheese curds are usually encased in batter and deep fried, served with a sauce, perhaps marinara, or ranch.  Even Dick suspends his health-conscious objections to most fried food and is happy to share an order when they are on offer. We order them whenever we find them on the menu, but they have proved to be very difficult to photograph.  They disappear before I am able to get the phone out to take the picture!

disappearing cheese curds

Monday we set off with no sure destination.  There are 2 marinas in Trempealeau, and the one that Dick had chosen did not answer any phone calls or emails, or return messages over several weeks.  Their website says they have space for transients, but apparently it needs a revision.  The second marina only answers calls on weekdays during regular business hours.  We were able to make a booking there while we were on the way.  We were the second transient booked that evening, and sadly for us, the other boat got the better dock.  Theirs had full rubber, and was slightly further from the railway track, while ours had one end tilted and nearly under water.  We were about 60 yards away from the tracks this time, and with another level crossing, the horns were blowing all night.  While listening to the blaring of the horns and the clack-clack of the cars rushing past, I couldn’t help but think about photos one has seen of train derailments.  I wondered whether two jackknifed cars would reach Nine Lives….

One of many trains passing the marina at Trempealeau

There are very few places on this trip that we have not been very close to trains, on both sides of the river.  We have seen no passenger trains, only freight.  Dick read that the freight companies in this country own all the tracks, and give priority to freight.  They will not allow a passenger service to keep a schedule.  Friends took a cross-country train trip a while ago, and the delays were so bad that all the scenic parts of the trip were travelled during the night, and the train even ran out of food!  On the waterways, passenger vessels have top priority, followed by freight, and pleasure craft (that would be us) are lower in the pecking order.  On the Illinois River we observed that the lockkeepers would keep pleasure craft waiting for hours (some Loopers have experienced 10 and 12 hour waits), unless they were travelling in a group.  Here on the Mississippi, we have been very glad to find that we are treated fairly, and never made to wait for a tow if we are first to arrive.  Lockkeepers seem to be more used to locking through fishermen and pleasure boats, and they are almost always friendly and helpful when Dick calls.

We passed huge dunes of sand, many of them not natural.  These piles are created from spoil from dredging the river, and the sand is used in winter for gritting the roads.  An information sign at one of these giant sand piles tells readers that anyone can take the sand and use it for free.  They even suggest additional uses, such as general fill, aggregate for concrete, sandboxes, road building, and habitat rehabilitation projects.

sand dune created from dredge spoil

As we travelled north on the River, and thanks to one of the interesting information boards that Dick enjoys reading, we could see how geology has shaped this part of the Upper Mississippi Region.  This area is called the Driftless Region.  During the last ice age, a small part of the region was left untouched by glacial erosion and deposits.  While the surrounding lands were leveled to plains and rolling hills, no glaciers entered this small area, leaving it as the last remnant of the formerly rugged terrain that once spanned the whole of the Upper Midwest.  Tall, tree covered bluffs in this upper stretch of the River remind me very much of the Rhine (without the castles).

Mississippi Driftless Region

After a 3-lock day we arrived in Alma, a good town-run marina.  It was elderly, but well maintained, and Dick was delighted to find immaculate new showers.  Being well off the River in a calm backwater, there is a lot of weed in the marina.  The dockmaster was very helpful, agreed to adjust our location when we pointed out that our assigned dock was very weedy, and also could be quite difficult to maneuver in.  A bike ride into town showed that although clean, this is another town with little to offer tourists.  We ate on board as planned.

Alma marina
Somebody enjoyed building this treehouse in Alma
Shrimp Destin, a favourite dish, cooked on board

We are seeing incredible numbers of bald eagles, often in pairs.  Mature females are 25% larger than males, and the pairs we see are usually different sizes.  Juveniles take 4-5 years to develop adult plumage (white head and tail).  As we passed Wabasha, we noticed the attractive modern National Eagle Center on the waterfront.  We expect to stop in Wabasha on our return trip, so will look forward to visiting the museum.

Bald eagles
National Eagle Center at Wabasha

Just south of Lake City, the River opens out into Lake Pepin.  It is a wide lake with good depth right up to the shores, a sailors’ paradise.  We were put in the sailboat part of the large Lake City Marina, because of better depths.  This is the most sailboats we have seen in ages, hundreds of them.  I enjoyed watching them come and go for afternoon and evening sailing on the lake.  There were also a lot of rental pontoon boats from a local Boat Club.  These were some of the best rental craft I have seen, all in nearly new condition.  A great way for visitors and second home owners to enjoy the lake without the expense of maintaining their own boats.  There are more than 85 species of fish in the lake, so it is also a magnet for commercial and recreational fishermen.

Lake City Marina

In 1922, 18-year-old Ralph W. Samuelson built a pair of water skis by steaming 8-foot-long pine boards in boiling water and curling the tips.  He had first tried barrel staves, and then snow skis, being convinced that if you could ski on snow, you must be able to ski on water.  Over the next 15 years, he put on one man water skiing exhibitions, donating the money he earned to Lake City for purchasing harbor and park land.  Lake City is officially recognized as the birthplace of water skiing.

Early morning at Lake City

Beautiful houses line the shores and can be seen on the bluffs above the lake.  We had thought this would mean some nice boutiques and fine dining opportunities in Lake City, but once again, as with Pickwick Lake, we were mistaken.  The highest rated restaurant in town is a Mexican Restaurant.  The food was good, and the establishment was very clean.  On our walk back to the marina we stopped for ice cream.  The amusing board outside noted that they sell “proper” ice cream, made from real ingredients, not low fat, low calorie, or low anything.  They conclude by suggesting that if you want nutrition, eat carrots.  The ice cream was delicious, although I must say I was sad that they had only rather strange flavours, and not my personal favourite, salted caramel.  Dick is a plain vanilla man, and they did have that, so he was happy. The next night we went to a so-called Italian restaurant.  Sadly, it was actually a pizza joint with a few tables.  Trying to eat pizza from paper plates with plastic cutlery is one of my least favourite things.  Most of the shops and some of the few eateries in Lake City are only open on weekends, although there is a very good supermarket.  We can only conclude that it is not really a tourist destination, rather a place of second homes, and the residents bring their own food from the big city instead of supporting local shops and restaurants.

Excellent ice cream

We enjoyed a very short, lock-free day to Red Wing.  As he has begun to do in advance of each destination, Dick phoned the marina to request our slip assignment before we arrived.  Here on the Mississippi none of the marinas answer radios (and many are erratic with phone calls as well).  When given our slip assignment, Dick asked about the width, and was told happily that it was 15 feet.  When Dick pointed out that Nine Lives is 19 feet wide, and that this information is always given as part of the reservation, they put him on hold.  One can imagine discussions while they decided what to do, but eventually they came back and said we would be on the fuel dock.  While this is never our favourite choice, it does offer opportunities for people-watching, and in this case, there was power and water available.

Not too long after we arrived and got settled, a large (60ft?) Hatteras arrived in the marina, and I could clearly hear an indignant “He’s in my spot!” from the captain.  There followed much negotiation with dock hands and various others, while the boat moved majestically into the slip between the two gas docks.  The engines were left running for over half an hour while people scurried about and, I presume, the owner tried to arrange (without success) for us to be moved elsewhere.  Eventually the engines were turned off, and the boat stayed there for the rest of the weekend.  Marinas double booking the few docks that are usable for large boats has not been uncommon on this trip, another good reason to arrive early when we can.

Red Wing sunset

Like many American cities, Red Wing began as a native village.  Over many years, the village chiefs were always named Red Wing, and carried a staff topped by a swan’s wing dyed scarlet.  The first white settler arrived in 1849, and the village was named Red Wing in honour of the Dakota chiefs.  By 1870, Red Wing had become one of the primary wheat markets of the world, shipping over one million bushels annually.  The waterfront is still dominated by huge grain terminals.  The early years of Red Wing featured a variety of industries.  In addition to the expected flour mills, breweries, maltings, and lumber, there were also vinegar works, and button, cigar, shoe, and hat factories.  The Boots on the Bridge exhibition features a series of decorated fiberglass boots, created in 2005 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Red Wing Shoe Company.  Started in 1905, The Red Wing Shoe Company made boots for workers.  Over the years they branched out, including making military footwear for the US Army.  Their first womens’ footwear was a pair of incredibly elegant hiking boots that featured an ankle-breaking heel.  Red Wing Shoes still concentrate on work boots, hiking footwear, and short, soft boots they call mocs.

We took the dinghy to downtown.  This one was the nicest we have seen since St Charles, with shops and restaurants in restored buildings, and an attractive waterfront park.  It was River Days weekend, so the parks were full of tents, food trucks, and an incredible number of bouncy blowups for kids.  There was also a sound stage with live music.  Fortunately, the music was not so loud that it was annoying, but on the other hand, it was not quite loud enough to enjoy from the boat.  We felt sorry for the organizers of the annual event, because it rained all weekend, but we did see that the car park was nearly full, so they did get a fairly good turnout.

Downtown Red Wing
Former Iron Works, now an attractive apartment complex
One of the Red Wing downtown churches
Another interesting Red Wing church

Duluth Trading was again a disappointment, obviously this is not my year for shopping!  Dinner at a downtown restaurant was merely okay.  They put us at a small table in the front window, and the waitress couldn’t see us.  She kept forgetting about us, and I had to wave at the hostess for attention.  We could clearly hear the “Oh!  I forgot them!” from the waitress after we had waited a long time to order, but she continued to forget us for the rest of the meal as well.

Instead of covered boat slips, some marinas in this area allow boaters to build houses for their boats

The next day was very wet indeed, so plans to explore downtown more fully were cancelled.  Dick dodged raindrops and walked into town to the bakery to find some nice fresh bread.  He did manage to do a little exploring, in particular, he noticed that Red Wing seems to have arranged for all the churches to occupy the same 6-block area in the city.  Some interesting architecture.  In the evening we crossed the bridge over the railway tracks, admiring the Boots on the Bridge Exhibition on the way.  The pub had cheese curds, and other tasty pub food, and the forecast rain held off so we didn’t get wet.

Boots on the Bridge
The Boots were originally created to celebrate the 100th birthday or Red Wing Shoe Company
At last, a photo of cheese curds before they disappear!
The last cheese curd
The July summary

Above is the July summary of Nine Lives Voyage. The green bits are where we travelled at “normal” speed, red and yellow are where we speeded up!

August 24 to September 14, Milwaukee to Peoria

The swallows visited our rail on our last morning in Milwaukee, twittering to each other, and generally enjoying the perch out of the wind.  Yes, the wind.  Our voyage to Kenosha was the worst yet this summer.  Even though we went at fast speed, we pounded through waves that were twice what was forecast.  I needed to lie down for hours after arrival.  The bedside lamp fell over for the first time since our miserable experience on the Neuse River in North Carolina in 2017.  To add insult to injury, my bathroom was filthy, as the pounding made water come up through the sink and threw the dirty, semi-diluted contents of the S-trap as high as the top of the mirror and even onto the ceiling.  If you can imagine taking the contents of the trap under your sink and flinging it all over your bathroom you have an idea of what it was like.  Dick thought I should take a picture and share it, but the photos in this blog are meant to be enjoyable, not an emetic!

Milwaukee, swallows on the rail

Kenosha was very hot and humid, and except for walking to dinner one evening at the best of the limited restaurant choices I stayed on board.  Dick is made of sterner stuff, and set out on his bicycle to explore the extensive waterfront parks.  Kenosha is mainly a bedroom community, for both Milwaukee and Chicago, with a lot of attractive townhouses and a very nice waterfront centered on the marina.  There is even a water park fountain for kids.

Kenosha marina and the remains of an industrial chimney
Kenosha waterfront garden and sculpture
Another sculpture in Kenosha’s waterfront park

Kenosha was once an industrial city, but today, nearly 50% of the city’s residents commute to other locations.  There are several educational institutions, and it is the headquarters of Snap-on Inc, and Jockey International.  Initially called Southport, Kenosha was an important Great Lakes shipping port.  For much of the 20th century cars and trucks were built here, including such well-known brands as Rambler, Nash, AMC, and later Renault.

Waterfront homes in Kenosha

Dick learned an interesting lesson during this stop.  If you walk into a barber shop, and all of the barbers have very short, military style haircuts, as do the other customers, run, do not walk, to another location!  Although he explained carefully what he wanted, he should also have been suspicious when his barber set the chair so that Dick could not see what he was doing.  He realized his mistake when he heard and felt the electric razor take a swath of hair from his neck to above the ear.  At that point there was nothing for it but to let him finish the job.  It will of course grow out, but for now I can’t decide whether the cut looks more like a good-old-boy or a 9-year-old.

Some days just don’t improve.  Wasps descended on Nine Lives, entering the screens through small gaps.  This was also the first we have seen of biting flies.

The historic lighthouse at Kenosha
Kenosha municipal bathhouse from the early 20th century
Wine Knot Restaurant in a historic building
A burger and meatloaf at Wine Knot Restaurant
Kenosha Marina sunset

From Kenosha we had a quick run to Waukegan and the much-anticipated Great Dinghy Swap.  Once again, on arrival we learned that in spite of having booked weeks before, the marina had no slip assignment for us.  They first tried to put us into a 17-foot-wide slip, but I am now an old hand at judging widths and calling out to dockhands to confirm.  Eventually we were given a t-head on the, shall we say, less salubrious side of the marina.  Part of the docks on that side are completely derelict, and even the part we were in had seagulls (and seagull droppings) in abundance.  At least it was an easy distance to the shower facility and also to the path leading to the boat launching ramps.

We tied up and connected the power, and turned on the air conditioners.  Within seconds, everything turned off, and Dick discovered that the power cord had fused.  After it was finally pried off and the remaining 30-amp cord connected again, the AC pump was not working (it’s a new pump), and there were also some other electrical anomalies.  Dick left to check in, and planned to head to the nearby boatyard to see if he could get power cord and fitting replacements.  He returned very shortly, having realized that the configuration of the marina meant it was such a long distance to the marina office that he needed to ride his bike!  Off he went, and meanwhile, back at the boat, more wasps started appearing.  Fortunately, the electrical anomalies sorted themselves out, and by very careful power management we were able to manage with the single 30-amp input.

Waukegan Marina sunset

The next morning was New Dinghy Day!  I was somewhat concerned about the waves.  From the boat ramp where he took delivery, Dick had to go right out into the Lake and then cross a short stretch of open water before entering the marina.  He was absolutely delighted with how the new Highfield dinghy handled.  On arrival he lifted the dinghy in the davits, and was pleased that his carefully considered engineering plans, including scale drawings, all executed without having either Nine Lives or the new dinghy present, worked perfectly. The new dinghy hangs perfectly in the davits and looks splendid.  We tied Minnie up beside us to await the handover to her buyer the next morning.  I chuckled when I heard a small boy in a passing boat shout to his Dad, “Look Dad, they have two dinghies!”

Here he comes!
The new dinghy is so stable compared to Minnie
Dick’s wonderful new dinghy
Perfect fit!

Another project involved glue.  The new, quite expensive pair of boat shoes that Dick bought earlier in the summer had the insoles continuously slipping out.  Gorilla glue was suggested and duly purchased.  The instructions were read, insoles affixed inside the shoes, and then there may have been a slight miscalculation.  In spite of the distaff side of the family’s concerns, the instruction to clamp together the newly glued pieces, was taken to mean that putting the shoes on and wearing them for a while would be an ideal way to ensure adhesion.  It worked.  An hour later, adhesion presumably achieved, Dick decided to go for a bike ride, necessitating a change of shoes.  I bet you have already guessed what is coming.  Yes indeed, the shoes were firmly glued to Dick’s feet, and required both of us to pry them off.  The operation was made more difficult by my inability to concentrate, I was laughing so hard!

Sunday morning there was a small craft warning.  The plan was to take Minnie around to the boat ramp at 9am, but as the waves kicked up, Dick moved the time up to 7am.  I couldn’t decide which would be worse, watching as he negotiated the wind and waves in the very tippy boat, or not watching.  I decided to watch, in case I needed to call the Coast Guard for a rescue.  (Dick did all the sensible things, wearing his life jacket, carrying the hand-held radio, and putting all the paperwork, phone, etc into a drybag).  The trip actually required him to tack back and forth to avoid being swamped, but he made it safely to the channel.  Fishermen on the shore shouted at him that he should slow down as it was a no-wake zone starting at the entrance.  He shouted back that not getting swamped by following waves trumped the no-wake rule!  In due course he arrived safely at the boat ramp.

Waukegan sunrise
Minnie at the boat ramp

The new buyer arrived with two helpers and his wife, and a panel truck to load Minnie into.  The motor proved harder to remove than expected, requiring two trips back to Nine Lives for tools.  The whole operation went as hoped, although there was a great deal of grunting (and possibly muttered curses), as the extremely heavy Minnie was lifted into the waiting truck.

Minnie’s motor was quite heavy
The men get ready to get Minnie out of the water. Note that they have given the heavy motor to the girl to hold!
Ready for loading
Goodness she is heavy!

Dinner that evening was very enjoyable, with 4 Looper guests joining us for a ham and potato casserole.  We remembered that there are leaves for the table in the salon, making it much more comfortable for seating 6.

We had an uneventful return to Chicago, with a slip assignment in the same marina and even on the same t-head.  The difference was that whereas on our last visit we were given the whole t-head, this time they gave us only half of it, and swore that another boat was scheduled for the other half (nobody arrived).  This meant we had to tie closer to the end of the dock, and thus closer to the bad driving habits of the many weekenders stopping for fuel and pump-outs at the next dock.  We had one near miss as we sat and watched, Dick had to shout to get the driver to stop backing up before he hit us.

Our stay in Chicago was the time for the Great Car Shuffle.  We rented a car, and drove north to St Ignace.  This is the alternative jumping off point for Mackinac Island, and we found it quite charming.  We made a note that if we ever return by boat, we will be sure to stop there.  We had a good dinner at a busy family restaurant.  Looking around, I noticed that more than half of the men in the restaurant were wearing hats (usually baseball caps).  When I was a child, women were still considered to be somewhat undressed unless they were wearing a hat, especially in church or going to the theatre, and they kept them on indoors.  Men also wore hats, but absolutely took them off indoors.  So I can’t help but find it disrespectful when I see these caps at the dinner table.  On the other hand, looking at these men, I am probably just as happy for them to keep those hats on, if the alternative is setting them down on the table!

After dinner we crossed the road to a charming converted red London double decker bus for the best salted caramel ice cream I have ever had.

The ice cream shop in St Ignace
You can see how they converted the London bus

The next morning, we had about an hour and a half drive to Drummond Island, where we had left our car.  Dick fended off a request to buy it, and we set off in convoy to return to Chicago.  The next day Dick drove our car to Mississippi, to the boatyard where we will complete this year’s voyaging.  He flew back the following morning from Memphis, arriving in Chicago shortly after 3pm.  Unfortunately, it was a rainy afternoon, and there were few taxis to be had, so it took until 6:30pm to get back to the boat.

The next evening we walked to a local steakhouse and enjoyed a really excellent lobster bisque and salad, okay steaks, and an outstanding dessert.  We chose a different route to walk back, that proved to be an error of judgement on my part!  We got caught up in the audience heading for a rock concert at Soldier Field.  The police diverted pedestrians from several streets, making the walk considerably longer than it should have been.

Chicago bike path
Dick heads out for a grocery run with his bike trolley
The wedge salad was delicious
Filet steak and assorted sides at Rare Steakhouse
Key lime dessert at Rare Steakhouse
Pedicabs and people, heading to the rock concert

The following morning, we rode our bikes along the extensive waterfront paths to join one of the Architecture Boat Tours of the Chicago River.  The tour was very interesting and enjoyable, and gave us a very good idea of what we would be seeing when we made the same trip on Nine Lives.  The bike ride to and from the tour was rather more exciting that I was happy about.  On a holiday weekend the paths were full of bikes, walkers, and even roller skaters, and it was complete chaos.

Chicago River Tour
Chicago River Tour
Chicago River Tour
Chicago River Tour

We had a really enjoyable evening at the Chicago Yacht Club with our friends Thor and Jim.  We had hoped to dock there on a reciprocal basis, but as with almost every other yacht club we have tried over the years, we were told there was no room for us.  Their nearly empty docks and the presence of many Loopers on the mooring balls told a different story.  Our return to Burnham Harbor took forever, getting caught up in a huge traffic jam for the second night of the rock concert at Soldier Field.  We could not believe how much traffic there was at 8:30pm, especially as the concert started at 8:00!

High winds kept us an extra day in Chicago.  We dropped the new dinghy and went for a harbour tour.  It is so much easier and simpler to raise and lower, and so much more stable on the water.  That evening we enjoyed docktails and chat at the bar with other Loopers.

Chicago Burnham Harbor sunset

We made an early start the next day and passed through the easy first lock into the Chicago River without issue.  It was nice to get through the city before all the tour boats and pleasure craft were out, but we then had to wait an hour for the Amtrak Railway bridge, that remains down for rush hour.  We passed our first barges, 6 and 8 being towed.  The operators were all very friendly and helpful.

Nine Lives heads down the Chicago River

This is a good time to explain about barges, tugs, and tows.  Barges are huge, low, flat containers, used for shipping such things as sand and gravel, chemicals, coal, grain, even mulch.  They will be lashed together.  We have seen as many as four deep and three across.  The sort of vessel we all think of as a tugboat, drives these enormous sets of barges.  The vessel is correctly referred to as a “tow”, even though much of the time it is in fact pushing.  Often the whole assembly is too big for a lock, so it has to be separated and then reassembled after passing through in parts.  This is the reason for the incredibly long delays at locks for pleasure boats.  Commercial shipping gets priority, but fortunately there is a rule that after 3 commercial lock-throughs, pleasure boats must be able to pass.  So far (touch wood), we have found the lock operators very cooperative and helpful. 

Waiting for the Amtrak bridge
Passing barges in the canal
Barges along the canal, Chicago to Joliet
Spillway at the confluence of the Chicago River and the Calumet River
Confluence of the Chicago River and the Calumet River

Our wait for the first lock gave the other Looper boats who had started out that day time to catch up.  We had arrived at 1:30, and went through just before 4pm.  Once through, all the boats (now 7 of us) arrived safely at the town wall in Joliet.

Joliet is the third-largest city in Illinois.  In 1673, Louis Jolliet paddled up the Des Plaines River and camped on a huge earthwork mound, a few miles south of present-day Joliet.  This mound shows on historic maps as Mont Joliet, but it has since been flattened due to mining.  Once an industrial city, Joliet is today transitioning from a steel and manufacturing area to a commuter suburb.  Like many cities, the downtown has suffered from relocation of residents and businesses to the suburbs, although more recently there is a movement to return to the centre.  New downtown businesses include casinos, a minor-league baseball field, and theatres.  Amazon is the city’s largest employer.  The free town wall is the most convenient stopping point for Loopers making their way down the river.  There have been no incidents reported recently, but the presence of a large police station directly across the river is comforting.  Patrol cars visit the park on the side of the river where we dock on a regular basis, and I heard them several times during the night.  We did not consider leaving the boat for dinner or exploration.

After consultation with the rest of the group, nobody else volunteered, so Dick offered to be the spokesman and phone the next lock at 6am.  The lock-keeper said, “I can get you through if you all come now.”  That turned out to be quite a fraught morning, as our drip coffee maker failed.  Disaster!! Fortunately, we also have a french press on board for contingencies, as well as an excellent thermal jug, so Dick is able to make coffee using the kettle.  We walked along the dock and woke up a few of the other Loopers to let them know that they should leave as soon as possible.  The rest heard the sounds of engines, and all arrived in time for the lock-through.  This was the first of 3 locks that day.

Barges on the river between Joliet and Ottawa

It was great to meet Islena, a 40 ft Endeavourcat, and also meet Royal Coachman again, a beautifully restored Endeavour sailboat.  Three Endeavours together is quite unusual, we are a rare breed!  The owners of Islena had toured Nine Lives in Norfolk in 2018.  Mimi loved our boat, and was quite determined to have a catamaran.  It took Mike a while to come around, but they are delighted with their choice.

At the second lock, Dick and I had a bit of a last-minute scramble.  We were rigged for a starboard tie, but on arrival in the lock we discovered that the only floating bollards were port-side, so I had to make a fast change of lines and fenders.  By the time it was done, we were at the bollard, and I had to secure the boat while Dick manoeuvred, the opposite to our usual locking procedure.  3 other boats rafted to us, not a time to get it wrong!

I should describe these big river locks, as they are quite different from what we have been used to on the canals.  To begin with they are huge, hundreds of feet long, and with a lift of 20 to 40 feet.  Spaced along the lock sides are special posts (bollards) that are set into the lock wall and actually float up and down as the lock fills and empties.  So you manoeuvre the boat alongside, and put a line from your mid-ship cleat around the bollard and then tie it back to your boat.  It is important to stay close and watch carefully as the lock fills or empties, in case the bollard hangs up or your line is jammed.  You have a very sharp knife ready to cut the line if something happens.  Because there are only 3 or 4 bollards on each side of the lock, it is often necessary for small boats like us to “raft up”.  Yes, in these locks the typical 36 ft to 48 ft Looper boat is “small.” The first boat in is secured to the bollard, and then the next boat ties up to them, and then the next, and so on.  So the responsibility to get it right rests first with the boat tied to the lock wall!  Nine Lives is bigger than many Looper boats, and in fact we prefer to be the ones first on the wall.

Our group of 10 were through that second lock before 11am, very good luck compared to some stories we read about on the forum.  Getting everyone in, and rafted up was like herding cats, as each boater has a slightly different interpretation of the instructions being given, not to mention a different level of patience while waiting!

Loopers in a line, Islena in front, Royal Coachman next to last
Loopers in the lock, Islena rafted up first beside us
Loopers rafted up behind us in the lock

We are enjoying the Illinois River very much.  There is a tremendous amount of wildlife, completely unexpected for me.  It is very pretty, and even in the industrial areas it is interesting.  We have seen several different kinds of egrets and herons, both golden and bald eagles, pelicans in great rafts, cormorants, and of course the usual ducks and geese.  Travel on the river is so much more interesting than on the Great Lakes.  As another Looper put it, on the Great Lakes you go for ten hours and then stop and see something interesting, because you are so far away from shore during the travel.  In comparison, on the river you see something interesting for the entire journey!

We have now learned that PC does not always stand for “politically correct.”  Of course, I am sure all of us Loopers are PC anyway, but on the river, PC stands for Pleasure Craft, and we communicate with tows and locks by announcing ourselves as Pleasure Craft Nine Lives.

Scenery on the Illinois River
Nine Lives on the Illinois River

Our third lock that day was Marseilles (pronounced Marcellis, to our amusement).  This one took a lot longer to transit.  First, we all had to hang back at a wide area of the river to allow a huge tow to exit the narrow two-mile channel.  On arrival at the lock, we had to wait while the next tow exited the lock.  In spite of the long waits, we were all docked in Heritage Marina at Ottawa before 4:30pm.  Many Loopers transit this day’s 3 locks and arrive after dark, so we were well pleased.

The marina looks after Loopers very well, and is a model of organization that other marinas would do well to emulate.  The harbor staff monitor Nebo, the tracking system that many of us use, so they know when we are all approaching and when we get through the Marseilles lock.  After everybody exits the lock, we are all called to listen to channel 68, and we are told our slip assignments, and who should proceed to their dock and who should hold back inside the entrance.  This way there are enough dock hands to help each boat tie up, and the whole operation goes like clockwork.  During the Looper season they may have as many as 20 boats, all arriving at the same time, but their procedure makes it easy for everyone.  After all are tied up, there is an excellent 2-hour briefing offered, that covers the river system as far south as Paducah, KY.  We had dinner after at the onsite restaurant.  The food was fine, although nothing special.

Dick had ribs at Heritage Harbor

It was nice to have a quiet day.  Although we had no difficulties, it is surprising how tiring the three-lock day had been.  We cleaned the boat, and I cooked on board.  It was a recipe for fish and shrimp in tomato sauce.  Dick liked it, but I didn’t, and to quote his Dad, “what the cook don’t like, we don’t eat,” so I have expunged that recipe from my repertoire.  Part-way through dinner preparation, the propane tank ran out.  This was a further disruption to the coffee making in the morning, as we were now reduced to boiling water in a pan on our single induction burner!

Consulting with other Loopers, we determined that we would be 8 boats the next morning, so again it was agreed that Dick would make contact with the lock.  He got up at 5:30 (coffee making takes longer when done with the French press).  After discussing things with the lock-keeper, messages were sent to the 8 boats suggesting a 7:30 departure.  Ultimately, we were 12 in the lock!  We were definitely getting better at the whole operation, including rafting up.  That lock is beside a State Park called Starved Rock.  It is a haven for wildlife, and there were huge rafts of pelicans in the shallows.  As we all made our way into the lock, many of them took off and flew overhead, swooping and wheeling around, an incredible sight.

Waiting for the lock
Pelicans at Starved Rock
Pelicans swooping overhead
Pelicans overhead
Starved Rock
Loopers in Starved Rock lock
passing a barge at a wider point in the river
High water has undercut the trees on the river bank

That evening we anchored behind an island off the river near Henry with 5 other Looper boats.  There was a bit of drama when one of the group decided they had dropped their hook too close to the shore, and they decide to move.  When they tried to lift their anchor, they discovered they had snagged a huge waterlogged stump.  It took helpers from 3 of the other boats to get it free, but it was a marvellous demonstration of how wonderful Loopers are at helping each other.

Loopers helping each other
It’s a big stump!
Almost got it!
They got it!

This was also our first experience with Asian Carp.  They are a group of invasive species that is causing havoc on the inland waterways.  They include bighead carp, black carp, grass carp, and silver carp. Asian carp are fast-growing and prolific feeders that out-compete native fish and leave a trail of environmental destruction in their wake.  They were initially imported for use in aquaculture ponds, but they were accidentally released into the Mississippi River system.  Silver carp are easily frightened by passing boats, and leap 8 to 10 feet into the air, sometimes causing injury to boaters they collide with. They can grow to more than 80 pounds and 4 feet long, and they live for 15 to 20 years. As we made our way into the anchorage, we kept hearing big splashes.  Suddenly I could see these huge fish leaping high out of the water and landing with a loud slap.  Some Loopers have had the unfortunate experience of them landing on (and even in) their boat.  We are keeping fingers crossed that I do not have to write about that particular experience in our next blog!

That evening I made one of our favourite meals, the very English “toad in the hole”, using the countertop oven and the induction burner.  This is a large Yorkshire pudding, with brat sausages cooked in the pudding, served with lashings of gravy and of course peas.  We were delighted with the results, and happy to know that we can make what is one of our favourite family supper dishes more often.

Duck blind ready for autumn
Pelicans on the River
Pelican taking off
Ultimate recycle, a tow and barges are now a pub

The next day turned out to be 8 hours of travelling, just to end up exactly where we started.  We knew that the marina at Peoria did not have space for us until Tuesday, but the information Dick had said that we would be able to tie up at the City dock for one night.  If the City dock was full, there is an anchorage directly across the river, so we would be able to dinghy across to get to the restaurant for dinner.  After 4 hours of travel, we arrived in the city to see that there were two sailboats taking up the two outer wells at the City dock, sticking out so far into the fairway that access to the wall was prevented, even for boats much smaller than we are.  As it happened, we had been warned by the nearby IVY Club harbormaster that tying up at the City dock is not safe, especially if you want to leave the boat, so we were not that sorry.  It is a pity, because there are quite extensive docks there, all at various state of dilapidation, and so much more could be made of them.  Clearly Peoria, unlike other waterfront cities we have visited, has no interest in improving or updating their waterfront for visitors.

We proceeded across the river to the designated anchorage, but it was completely unsuitable.  The depth under the boat was as little as 2.5 feet and as much as 6 feet.  The calculation for safe anchoring is 7 to 1, so if you calculate 14 feet (from where the anchor is on the boat to the river bottom), multiply by 7, you need to put out about 100 feet of chain.  This allows the boat to “swing” around where the anchor is embedded in the bottom.  So, there must be enough room for that swing, and if the bottom is too shallow in that swing circle you risk running aground.  This would tend to ruin your sleep!  Anyway, we felt that this so-called anchorage was too close to the busy river, with barge traffic running 24 hours a day and limited depths and swinging room.  We made the disappointing decision to head back up river towards the last night’s anchorage.  We did make a couple of attempts to find a closer alternative, but at each place we left the channel the depths shelved alarmingly.  Four hours later we were back where we started.  Henry Island is a very nice anchorage, but we wished we had better information and had just remained there for the day.

On our journey we saw pelicans, great and snowy egrets, little blue herons, tricolor herons, golden eagles, turkey vultures and wild turkeys.  In the evening we watched three deer swim across the channel between the islands.

sunrise at the anchorage

We returned to Peoria the next day, again enjoying the wildlife along the river.  Our slip at IVY Club was waiting, and a fellow Looper walked over to catch our lines.

Peoria is thought to be the oldest European settlement in Illinois.  It is a shipping centre for a large agriculture area that includes production of corn, soybeans, and livestock.  Peoria used to be the headquarters of Caterpillar, Inc, until its relocation in 2018.  There is still wealth in the city, as shown by the beautiful homes on the famous Grandview Drive, that runs along the top of the bluff overlooking the river.  Healthcare and associated businesses account for roughly 25% of Peoria’s economy today, and there are still manufacturing and related industries.

That evening, after it became clear that there was no safe bike route to our chosen restaurant, we took a taxi.  This was a highly rated local steakhouse.  The 80’s style salad bar and the plastic tablecloths told the story.  It was busy, with lots of families, and the food was not bad, but the whole experience was not what we had hoped.

Steakhouse potato skins
salad bar at the steakhouse

The next morning, Dick got out his bike and special trolley, and dragged it up the incredibly steep hill with the 15lb (empty) propane tank and then rode 6 miles to get it filled.  He returned with 35lbs at the back.  We have some concern about the condition of his brakes after the ride down that hill, but he is off again today for a grocery run.

Peoria Grandview Drive character house
Peoria Grandview Drive viewpoint

Yesterday evening we took another taxi to a very nice restaurant.  This one was at the top of the big hill, and the food was very good.  We really enjoyed the cheese and charcuterie board to start, and my shrimp and Dick’s cioppino were excellent.  I had been looking forward to Dick’s description of the restaurant’s famous whisky bar.  We had talked about sipping from their extensive offerings while waiting for the return taxi.  However, it was not to be.  Dick’s inner Dutchman/adopted Yorkshireman kicked in, and he proposed that we should walk back to the boat.  It was “just over a mile and all downhill, and a lovely evening.”  Beautiful houses to see were also promised.  They were beautiful, what you could see from the silhouettes in the soft garden lighting at twilight.  It was soon dark, the hill was steep, it was hot and humid, and I had not dressed for a long walk in sandals.  Dick thoroughly enjoyed the post-prandial exercise.  I did not.  Tonight we will eat here at the marina, and we hope that upcoming locations offer better bike or walking options for restaurants!

Cheese and charcuterie
cioppino
cajun barbecue shrimp
pecan pie and ice cream
let’s walk home honey!

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 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
Baked trout at Woods Restaurant
Smoked Whitefish at Carriage House
Escargots at Carriage House
Filet steak at Carriage House
Dessert choices, lemon pie or Scotch whisky

Saying goodbye to Mackinac Island, we returned to the car and crossed the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and on to our destination at Drummond Island.  Nearly 5 miles long, the suspension bridge was opened in 1957.  Restoration work seems to be ongoing, and looking at the supports one feels no surprise. 

Mackinac Bridge looms out of the fog

Another ferry took us from DeTour village across the St Mary’s River to Drummond Island.  The river is the main channel connecting Lake Huron to Lake Michigan, and thus sees a lot of commercial traffic as well as pleasure boats.  A relatively narrow passage between large bodies of water means it is often a rough passage, as we experienced on our several ferry rides to and fro.

Drummond Island is a large island at the north end of Lake Huron.  It has a full-time population that swells to many more during the summer months.  We had enjoyed our stay there in 2019, and again we were not disappointed.  We arrived in early afternoon on June 8th, and Nine Lives was waiting for us in the water, with two ladies just finishing cleaning and polishing.  Dick schlepped bags and boxes from the vehicle to the boat, while I attempted to sort everything out as it was delivered and made up the beds.

Nine Lives was in the water waiting for us

The first order of business on arrival after any winter is to “shock” the water system and tanks.  This means adding a bleach solution to the nearly full water tank, run the various taps a bit to move the solution through the whole system, and then leave it to sit overnight.  The next day the tanks are emptied, and then refilled and emptied again before the final filling.  Dick also changed our Seagull filter, a special filter for the drinking water tap (and the ice maker) that filters bacteria as well as the more usual chemicals and sediments.  We were delighted to find that most of the winter projects we had requested had been completed.  The forward air conditioner had been replaced, and the new one works well.  The aft air conditioner, that was originally installed backwards in a very tight space, had been removed and replaced the right way around, allowing access to the coils, and, we hope, eliminating the icing problem we had been experiencing.  The failed side by side fridge freezer had been replaced.  The broken igniter for the gas cooktop had also been installed.  Dick had found the replacement button, but been unable to install it.  What a treat now to be able to push a button instead of using a gas lighter on the stove!

She’s glad to be back in the water!

Another job to be done was to refresh the paint on our anchor chain.  We have 200 feet of all-chain rode, and when we anchor, it is important to know how much rode has been paid out.  The calculation is 7 to 1, that is for every foot of depth, you need 7 times that amount of rode.  This means that as the anchor chain goes out, we need a way to know how much is going.  Two-foot sections painted in alternating red, white, blue, green, every 20 feet, is how we can work out how much is out.  Then if we see the yellow section, we know that is all we have!

Unfortunately, the requested replacement water pump had been forgotten.  Our three-day stay allowed time for one to be ordered and installed.  One of the shower heads needed replacing, but Dick found one that fit at the local hardware store.  The dinghy motor was tested, and now runs well after an initial issue with water in the gasoline sight glass was sorted.  Dick spent a few hours changing the oil on both engines.  One of them is relatively easy to access, albeit in a small space, but the other engine, rather than being reversed as one might expect, is in the same orientation in its space, meaning that all the places Dick needs to get to are tight and out of sight.  There was much groaning that evening and the next morning as muscles unaccustomed to the contortions required to fit a large man in a small space complained about their treatment!  As on our previous visit, we enjoyed excellent meals in both of the local restaurants, and found the supermarket was well stocked for our initial provisioning.

It rained hard on Wednesday night, and Thursday we woke up to find the entire outside deck coated with dead and dying stuck mayflies.  These creatures live only a few hours, but they are so light that any rain brings them down onto any surface and they stick fast.  Impossible to walk without grinding them into the deck.  Once it warmed up and dried a bit, I took a broom and swept as much as possible, but Dick still had to go after it with water and a brush to make Nine Lives look as nice as she did when we first arrived!  On subsequent days the mayflies finished, but clouds of small flies hitched rides when we were out on the water.  The things that you don’t even think about when you plan the Great Loop!

On Saturday, June 12, Nine Lives finally left Drummond Island after her 20 month stay, and we headed through the DeTour passage and across the top of Lake Huron to Cheboygan. I had been concerned about the passage, as every ferry crossing had been quite rough, but that morning the water was perfectly smooth and it was a very comfortable ride.  Less so as we came into open water in Lake Huron, there were swells that had Nine Lives moving with a slight corkscrew, making me feel quite unhappy.  Fortunately, it was a fairly short journey to Cheboygan, Michigan.

DeTour Reef Lighthouse

No to be confused with Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Cheboygan is a small, tidy town on the south shore of the Straits of Mackinac, across from Bois Blanc Island.  We arrived to discover 4 other Looper boats in the harbour.  All are travelling as we are, on a multi-year Loop.  Two of them are hoping that the Canadian border opens soon so they can enjoy Georgian Bay and the North Channel.  We had not expected to meet other Loopers until late summer, so we were pleasantly surprised.

Cheboygan was originally an Ojibwe settlement.  In 1846 a group of settlers from Fort Mackinac established the town of Duncan on the site of the native camp.  By 1889 the settlement was large enough to be incorporated as a city.  It was the port for ferries to Bois Blanc Island, and is still the home port of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw.  The town is very tidy, with small but well-kept homes, and several attractive parks on the Cheboygan River.  We launched the dinghy and took a ride up the river past the industrial areas near the river mouth and through the town with homes and parks on the banks.

The marina is about a mile from town, so we rode our bikes to dinner.  The Nauti Inn describes itself as a “barstro”, a wonderfully descriptive noun, perfectly suited to a gourmet experience in very convivial, if somewhat noisy surroundings.  The food was delicious and innovative, with interesting flavours but not strange!

Dick had rack of lamb at Nauti Inn

Sunday morning, we headed out for the very short trip along the Straits to Mackinaw City.  We stayed one night in a beautiful new marina, and rode our bikes through the town.  This is the jumping off point for the ferries to Mackinac Island, so the town caters mainly to tourists.  Yet more t-shirt and souvenir shops, as if there hadn’t been enough on Mackinac Island!  Just outside the town and below the Bridge, lies the restored Colonial Michilimackinac and the Old Mackinac Point Light Station.  The beautiful lighthouse was in operation from 1890 to 1957. The light was visible for 16 miles, critical for safety in the frequently fog-bound Strait and at night for the ferries and Great Lakes shipping.  In addition to carrying people, and later cars, the ferries also carried railway cars to the Upper Peninsula from the 1890’s until 1984.  Construction of the Mackinac Bridge ended the usefulness of the light station, as the well-lit bridge is more useful for navigation.

Old Mackinac Point Light Station
Mackinac Bridge from Mackinaw City

Next morning, we passed under the bridge (not without a certain amount of calculation as to the best location to avoid the possibility of construction debris falling on us), heading for Beaver Island.  With a permanent population of about 800, the island is the largest in Lake Michigan.  It was settled in the mid-1800’s by a strange religious group, related to the Mormons, headed by the self-styled King Strang.  Although the island was already inhabited by Irish immigrants, the Strangites founded the town of St James, and became an important political power in the area. Initially a progressive fleeing religious persecution, Strang became increasingly autocratic and erratic, and his sect clashed often with other settlers.  In June of 1856, Strang was assassinated by two former adherents, who Strang had sentenced to flogging because he did not approve of the way their wives were dressed. The men escaped on a conveniently docked US Naval gunboat, and were never detained or charged. The Strangites, by then numbering about 2600, were subsequently driven from the island by angry mobs, and fled.  A branch of the church founded by Strang still exists today, with about 300 adherents living in Wisconsin. One hopes that flogging is no longer one of their customs.

A lighthouse on the route from Mackinaw City to Beaver Island

Irish fishermen from the area and a group of former tenant farmers evicted from their homes in Ireland made up the next settlers on the island, and the Irish heritage proudly continues to this day.  In addition to a small airport, the island is served from spring through fall by ferries from Charlevoix.  Tourism is important, but the economy also depends on fishing, logging, farming, and government services.  We met several other boaters in the marina, and enjoyed chatting on the docks.  It may be my imagination, but it seems as if people are even more friendly than usual this year.  Perhaps a year of social distancing and fear of covid means everyone is just so happy to be able to get out and meet people again.

The waterfront at St James on Beaver Island

We ate dinner on board, and had ideas about staying up late to see the night sky.  However, Looper midnight is 9pm, and by 10 it was still not dark enough for stars, so we gave up and went to bed.  Looking out at the harbour, we were amazed at the number of ducks in the water all around the marina.  There must have been hundreds.  Surprisingly quiet, but other boaters had mentioned that they do like to peck at your hull, and sure enough, there was a certain amount of tap tap tapping as we drifted off to sleep!

A house with an interesting chimney on Beaver Island

After a bike ride to breakfast and a grocery shop, we left Beaver Island, destination Harbor Springs, on the Lake Michigan eastern shore.  This was our first really nice passage, with smooth water and no rolling as we crossed the lake.  On our arrival at the marina, suddenly Dick made a loud and incomprehensible exclamation.  You may remember that for docking and maneuvering we wear headsets (so we can give each other information and instructions I mean suggestions quietly without shouting).  I was concentrating on getting lines ready to throw to the waiting dockhands, and watching to see whether the slip really was 20 feet wide, so I had no idea what Dick was shouting about.  Once safely docked, I was able to look up and see the Wexford burgee flying proudly from the prow of a large yacht two slips over.  The last thing we expected this summer was to meet other Wexford boaters!  We chatted on the dock, and were invited later for docktails and to meet the rest of the group of friends from Charlevoix, where they spend summers.  A most enjoyable encounter!

the marina at Harbor Springs

Harbor Springs was described by one reviewer as having become “too uppity” for his taste.  We thought that sounded promising, and we were not disappointed!  The town and the shoreline are  occupied by beautiful turn of the century homes and businesses.  Along the lakeshore out of town are lovely mid-20th century large summer homes with well-kept gardens leading down to the water.  The town offers many nice shops, and we enjoyed a very expensive exploration our first day there.  In addition to several special foody items, Dick bought two very nice shirts, and after watching the glass artist in his studio it was necessary to buy an art glass vase to join our small glass collection in Hilton Head.  Dinners in two of the restaurants were less satisfactory, but breakfast at a small bistro was delicious and we have hopes for another restaurant on our last night.

A garden in Harbor Springs

Little Traverse Bay is one of the many inlets on the eastern side of Lake Michigan.  Harbor Springs is on the north side of the inlet, and Petoskey is on the south, while the area between is mainly occupied by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. Initially the site of a Jesuit mission, the area was subsequently occupied first by French traders, and then by settlers from the Eastern seaboard of America.  By the mid-19th century, the area became famous for summer resorts for wealthy American businessmen and their families.  Certainly, Harbor Springs still has a very wealthy presence, given the high-end shopping opportunities and the beautiful waterfront homes.

One of the beautiful Harbor Springs waterfront homes

On Friday we rode our bikes the 9.5 miles around the bay to Petoskey.  Most of the ride was along the road and through forests, but once arriving in Petsokey there were special bike trails through the town and along the shoreline.  We enjoyed another shopping day.  In addition to more gourmet foody treasures, I found a sunhat, after quite a search so far on this trip.  While I paid for the hat, Dick’s eye was caught by an interesting necklace, featuring an anchor, some beads, and red enamel.  Very nautical, ideal for a Looper!  Unbeknownst to Dick, it came with matching earrings, and of course one must have those as well to complete the look.

The Bear River in Petoskey

In Chandlers, another “barstro” style restaurant we enjoyed a wonderful lunch, truly great food although noisy surroundings.  So far this trip it does seem as though the more romantic “fine dining” restaurants do not have the outstanding food that these modern bar-restaurants offer.  Somewhat similar in concept to some of the gastro-pubs we often enjoy in UK.

Smoked whitefish tartine at Chandlers
Dick enjoyed a spicy pork fried rice at Chandlers
I chose a caprese salad with grilled shrimp at Chandlers

Back on our bikes to return to Harbor Springs, I decided on a comfort stop on the way out of town.  For the second time, my bike decided to knock me over as I attempted to get my leg high enough to clear the bar between the wheels.  I am very grateful for 1st, my helmet (I felt it bang on the concrete), 2nd, my usual outdoor sun garb, that features long sleeves and limited the scrapes, 3rd, the extremely hard-wearing Duluth clothing that resisted tearing, and 4th the excellent Corning Gorilla Glass on my new smartphone (I felt the bike land on that as it collapsed on top of me).  Passers-by made exclamations and offers of assistance, but Dick is made of sterner stuff, and after helpfully lifting the bike off me, he allowed me time to catch my breath and decide I was not injured before offering a hand so I could get up.  A couple of paracetamol on our return to the boat and apart from a bruise here and there I am fine.

One hopes the sculpture is advertising the remodeling business, not the dentist!

Today is the first laundry day, so Nine Lives is festooned with hangers drying various t-shirts.  It is a very pleasant day to be on the water, and later we will give another fine dining restaurant a try.  Tomorrow we head for Traverse City.  It will be our longest passage so far, 8 hours.  We are being very conscious of the notoriously unreliable weather patterns of Lake Michigan.  Dick has built longer stays in most locations into our plan, so we can easily adjust for conditions without changing the overall length of the trip.  Already we have shortened our stay at Beaver Island, and decided to skip Charlevoix entirely, as there were no good days for wind and waves that would work for us.  We expect to stay in Traverse City for 4 nights.

August 16 to September 9: Gore Bay to Drummond Island

We left Gore Bay on a calm morning.  The water was as smooth as glass, and, unusually, continued so all the way to Meldrum Bay.  We had read about the restaurant at Meldrum Bay Inn, and decided that, with so many Loopers raving about it, we had to try it.  Fortunately, we made a reservation.  It is a difficult dilemma for Loopers.  On the one hand, making, and trying to follow, a schedule, is something of a no-no.  It will tend to lead to poor decisions with respect to weather conditions and sea state.  On the other hand, marinas fill up during high season, as do the nicer restaurants.  Dick and I try to take a middle road.  We have a plan, with rough dates, but the plan is adjusted as we travel, to allow for weather delays and to add some flexibility to destinations.  For holiday weekends, or if there is to be a festival in town, we make marina reservations several weeks in advance, since they can always be cancelled.  Most other marina bookings are made less than a week ahead, and we also make restaurant reservations as soon as we know there is a reasonable chance that we will get there on the day we expect.

This has stood us well this summer, both for the marinas and also for the restaurants.  We felt bad for several boaters who arrived in Meldrum Bay expecting a great dining experience, only to be told that the restaurant was fully booked.  There are no other eating out options, and not much reason to stop there without the restaurant.  Later we were surprised to discover that in fact those boaters could have been accommodated, had we known.  The owner takes bookings for tables, most of which seat 4 to 6 people, and once her tables are booked, she refuses reservations.  I overheard her saying “I let the boaters sort it out among themselves”, in other words, we could easily have asked the people on one of the other boats to join us, had we known, as almost all of the tables had only two people seated.  A strange way to do business.  As it happened, the meal was reasonable but not the exceptional experience we had been led to expect.  A night in one of the anchorages we had chosen to miss would have been more enjoyable.

Yes, because we had a schedule, we skipped some of the highly recommended experiences of Georgian Bay’s North Channel.  Dick’s mother’s 90th birthday party was coming up, so we needed to be in Sault Ste Marie by a specific date in order to pick up a rental car and return to Trenton for the festivities.

Gore Bay early morning 2
The marina at Gore Bay in early morning

Gore Bay early morning
Gore Bay anchorage, water like glass and perfect reflections

Meldrum Bay key lime pie
Key Lime Pie at Meldrum Bay Inn

Meldrum Bay shortcake
Berry shortcake at Meldrum Bay Inn

From Meldrum Bay we were expecting an easy crossing of the North Channel to Blind River.  Sadly, both the wind direction and the wave heights were quite different from what was forecast.  We had a very uncomfortable ride, with the waves broadside, causing a corkscrew motion that was most unpleasant.  We ran fast, and were in by 10:30am, after which I needed to just sit still for a couple of hours in order to feel more like myself!  Blind River has little to offer boaters, as the marina is about a mile from the town, but we were delighted to get a message to say that our friends Brenda and Bruce on B-Side were on their way.  Their upcoming plans required a weather window that was likely to close if they didn’t make some adjustments, giving us an unexpected reunion.

Like much of Georgian Bay’s North Channel, the area was first settled by fur traders, loggers, and miners.  A sawmill was built at the mouth of the river originally known as the Penewobecong.  Europeans named it the Blind River, because the mouth of the river was hard to see along the canoe route of the voyageurs.  The protected estuary with deep water offshore was a good location for a mill at a time when all trade was carried by water. The copper mine at nearby Bruce Mines was a good customer for the logging industry and sawmill, providing timber and planks for the mine.  For 40 years from 1929, the McFadden Lumber Company operated the largest white pine sawmill east of the Rockies.  The mill finally closed in 1969, but a few years earlier, uranium was discovered in the area.  While a local mine was short-lived, a refinery was built nearby in 1983 and still operates, producing uranium trioxide and providing employment for the area. The Trans-Canada Highway runs through the centre of the town.

Blind River early morning
The old burner unit from the sawmill at Blind River

That evening we all decided to ride bicycles into town to the best rated restaurant.  We got our bikes off the boat, and after walking them along the dock we were ready to ride them along the boardwalk towards the road.  As my companions headed out, I prepared to get on my bike when it decided to lean affectionally towards me, rather like a large and friendly dog.  There was a moment where I realized what was in my immediate future, and then I subsided gracefully to the boardwalk, with the bike landing on top.  At this point I was very glad I had decided to carry my bike helmet on my head!  I was also glad the landing surface was wood instead of gravel.  The only damage was to my dignity. And I did subside gracefully, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

We rode to the restaurant and enjoyed such a convivial last evening together that we rather lost track of the time and ended up riding back in the dark.  Fortunately, we were able to take back roads with little traffic, since the bike lights I had purchased had been deemed unnecessary by the man who would have had to take the time to clip them onto the bikes.

Blind River sunset
Sunset at Blind River

Our planned very early start the next morning was somewhat delayed by fog.  After about an hour it cleared, so we set off, only to have it close in again.  For only the second time this season we needed to run with the radar on a split screen with the chart, luckily no other boats were around.  It is a strange and eerie feeling to be out on the water with nothing to be seen around you except your wake!  The fog lifted fairly quickly and we were in Thessalon by 11:15. In the afternoon the wind and waves really kicked up and we were glad to be off the North Channel.  There was one other Looper boat in, Idyll Time, and we enjoyed docktails later that evening aboard Nine Lives.

travelling in fog 3
Travelling in fog means using the radar on a split screen with the chartplotter.

travelling in fog
Looking back, fog all around us

travelling in fog 2
A hole in the fog shows there is blue sky above!

Our passage to Richard’s Landing on August 20th was very pleasant, although the wind picked up later and again, we were glad of our early start.  Richard’s Landing is a tiny but well-kept town with a very popular Italian restaurant on the dock.  It was completely filled outside on the deck and a fair few tables occupied inside even though it was a Monday night.  We enjoyed a wander around the town and spent some time in a very nice shop that featured all kinds of local arts and crafts.  After buying a beautiful new wooden chopping board and a pair of moccasins for Dick, both destined for our home in UK, we felt the need to refresh ourselves with ice cream!  The next morning, we departed for Sault Ste Marie and a two-week break.

North Channel lighthouse 2
A historic lighthouse on Georgian Bay’s North Channel

North Channel 2
The North Channel on our way to Richard’s Landing

North Channel lighthouse
Another historic lighthouse on the North Channel

North Channel
Pretty scenery in the North Channel

Richards Landing
The village of Richard’s Landing built this picturesque lighthouse on their harbour

Richards Landing 2
A gardener in Richard’s Landing with a sense of humour

Mum’s birthday gathering went very well, with all members of the family present including Dick’s sister Judy’s family.  They made the long trek from northern Alberta, camping on the way.  It was wonderful for Mum to be surrounded by all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren for this momentous birthday!

Dick and I enjoyed the trip very much, returning by road to some of the special locations we had visited earlier by boat.  We stocked up on chocolates in Lakefield, and finally managed to try Cassis Bistro there.  We also returned to Picton to collect our beautiful sculpture and enjoyed a very nice afternoon chatting with Paul Verrall and his wife Donna in their garden.  We picked up our vehicle from Dick’s brother, and returned in convoy by a different route, that took us through the heart of Ontario’s cottage country.  I may say that I enjoyed the Kawarthas, Muskoka, and Haliburton much more from the water than I did driving.  We stopped for a night at the Log Cabin Inn at Parry Sound, having had such a nice meal a few weeks earlier.  Sadly, I think we had the b-team in the kitchen on our second visit.  The meal was acceptable but nothing to write home about.

Nine Lives was waiting for us in Sault Ste Marie, having snoozed for a week.  Other boaters had kept an eye on her, and even adjusted her lines on a rough day without asking, just another example of how helpful and considerate the boating community can be.

Sault Ste Marie marina
The marina at Sault Ste Marie is brand new, but there were very few boaters by the last week of August.

The twin cities of Sault Ste Marie sit across from each other on the St Mary’s River.  The Ojibwe used the location at the bottom of the rapids as a meeting place during whitefish season. The treaty that ended the War of 1812 set the border between United States and what was to become Canada along the river, dividing what had been one city into two. The rapids drop the level of the water from Lake Superior to the lower lakes of Michigan and Huron by 20 feet, so a canal and lock was built in 1798 to solve the problem of having to portage around the rapids.  This first canal was destroyed during the War of 1812, and after the treaty, trade passed through Soo Locks, on the American side of the river.  In 1895 a Canadian canal was built after an unfortunate diplomatic incident between the two countries.  At the time it opened, the Canadian Sault Ste Marie Canal contained the largest lock in the world, and the first to be electrically operated.  This lock was shut down in 1987, and a new, much smaller lock was built within the old lock, completed in 1998.  Today the Canadian lock carries recreational and tour boat traffic, while the much larger commercial ships use the Soo Locks.  The Soo Locks are the world’s busiest canal in terms of tonnage, in spite of being closed each year from January through March.  We watched a number of freighters and tankers pass into the locks from our vantage point in the marina.

Dick spent a summer working at what was then Algoma Steel in Sault Ste Marie when he was a student.  At the time it was a huge and important steel mill, today it is owned by an Indian company, and is a much smaller operation.

Sault Ste Marie bridge
The international bridge connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste Marie

Sault Ste Marie Gliss
Steak and shrimp at Gliss Restaurant in Sault Ste Marie

Sault Ste Marie marina at sunset
Nine Lives in Sault Ste Marie marina at sunset.

The commentary on the Agawa Canyon train told some of the story of the visionary businessman Francis Clergue, who arrived in Sault Ste Marie, backed by a consortium of Philadelphia businessmen, in the early 20th century.  A hydro-electric dam, a paper mill, the steel plant, part of the Algoma Central Railway, and two mines were all part of the interconnected empire he created.  Sadly, like many fast-growing businesses before and since, cash flow was insufficient to fund the growth, and while most of his enterprises continued, some to this day, Clergue was unable to maintain the empire and in 1903 he was forced out.  He left Sault Ste Marie and never lived there again.  The paper mill closed in 2011, and has now been repurposed into a mixed-use cultural and tourism hub.  The Algoma Conservatory of Music occupies one of the restored buildings, while another contains several restaurants and an events venue.  A farmer’s market is also on the site, and a new station for the Agawa Canyon Railway Tour is planned.  We ate in the steak house and also the pizza restaurant, and enjoyed both the food and the ambiance.  It is so nice to see beautiful historic industrial buildings being preserved instead of knocked down.

Sault Ste Marie converted mill
The beautiful converted paper mill in Sault Ste Marie now houses several restaurants and an events venue

pizza at Breakfast Pig
We enjoyed breakfast one morning at The Breakfast Pig, I tried a breakfast pizza, it was delicious!

On August 30th we set off very early for the famous train journey to Agawa Canyon.  The Canyon was not formed by glaciation as one would usually expect in this part of the world.  Instead it is part of an ancient rift valley, created through faulting 1.2 billion years ago. This trip is 8 hours of travel for a 90-minute stop.  It was nice enough, but not worth it.  I believe that 15 or 20 years ago it was a very different experience.  We could see that the brush and small trees have been allowed to grow up all alongside the tracks, so that the scenery is almost entirely a green tunnel punctuated with very quick glimpses of the views that would be marvellous if you could actually see them.  The trip is likely nicer once the fall colours develop, but even that will not change the complete lack of the views of the rivers, lakes, and Lake Superior that we had looked forward to.

Agawa Canyon train depot
At the depot on board the Agawa Canyon train

Agawa Canyon train 2
A glimpse of one of the lakes as we ride the train towards Agawa Canyon

Agawa Canyon train
The best moment on the train, as we passed over a trestle and could see the power plant far below

Agawa Canyon park 3
Agawa Canyon park

Agawa Canyon park 4
The train and Agawa Canyon park

Agawa Canyon river 2
Agawa Canyon River

Agawa Canyon river
Agawa Canyon River

Agawa Canyon from viewpoint
Dick climbed the 372 steps to the Canyon Overlook

Agawa Canyon park root cellar
A root cellar in Agawa Canyon. We have no idea who or what it was for.

Agawa Canyon waterfall 2
One of the two waterfalls you can visit in Agawa Canyon

Agawa Canyon park
The train waits to begin the 4 hour return journey to Sault Ste Marie

A few days later we went for a drive along the route taken by the train.  We had hoped to see the railway trestles from the land, as well as the dam and possibly some of the fall colours, but we were frustrated in those goals.  However, it was an enjoyable drive and we did get to see some of Lake Superior and the very pretty Chippewa Falls.  The Falls demonstrate some of the fascinating layers of geology that we were told about on the train.  We could see ancient rocks smoothed by glaciers, and darker areas that were laid down by lava flows.

Chippewa Falls 4
Chippewa Falls. Notice all the different kinds of rock.

Chippewa Falls 3
Clear water and a hint of autumn at Chippewa Falls

Chippewa Falls
Another view of Chippewa Falls, popular with fishermen.

wildflowers by the roadside
Wildflowers by the roadside

SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an America Great Lakes freighter that sank in a storm in November 1975 with the loss of all aboard.  When launched in 1958, she was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, and is still the largest ever sunk there.  Although the story was later immortalized in Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” the following year, I can definitely remember listening to the radio as the tragedy and the search for the missing freighter unfolded.  The sinking led to improvements in Great Lakes shipping regulations and various safety practices.  As we looked out into Alona Bay at the deep blue waters and endless horizon of Lake Superior it was not hard to imagine very different conditions in November.  We have experienced changing forecasts, and conditions that are not as expected, often enough on our own voyages to be able to understand how it is possible to run into problems.  Whether it is the ocean, lakes, or even rivers, it is important to respect the dangers and remember that boating is nothing like driving on roads.

Alona Bay viewpoint
This was the view from the scenic outlook at Alona Bay. Why they build a pullout on the highway and don’t cut down the brush so one can actually see something, I do not know.

Lake Superior
A better view of Lake Superior from further down the highway

The Trans-Canada Highway began construction in 1950, intended to provide an unbroken transcontinental route across Canada.  In several places along the route there is more than one designated route, and the numbering is not consistent from province to province.  However, the entire length and all the variations carry a white on green maple leaf route marker.  The highway officially opened in 1962, and was completed in 1971.  At Chippewa Falls we read about “The Gap”, a 56-mile portion of the highway that was considered one of the most difficult parts to construct due to topography and the hardness of the granite.  Construction was stopped until 4 men from Wawa walked the route through the bush to Sault Ste Marie and met with officials to demonstrate the desperate need for the highway for the residents of Wawa.  This area is considered the half way point of the transcontinental highway.  Dick and I found the story interesting, having driven nearly all of the highway, including most of the variations, over the years.  One day we will have to complete the piece in Newfoundland and the last part of Quebec that we have not visited.

We enjoyed great docktails aboard Nine Lives one evening with other boaters, not Loopers this time.  One couple are Sault Ste Marie locals.  He is a commercial diver and instructor, and owns a restored tug as well as a large trawler.  They seem to divide their time between his work and a farm, and live partly aboard the boat as well.  The other couple are from Ohio, he is a firefighter.

September 3rd was very rainy and windy.  Dick visited both the Bush Plane Museum and the historic lock while I made a set of prints of the birthday gathering for Mum.  We were also watching the progress of Hurricane Dorian as it threatened the east coast and Hilton Head. After a few days of increasing concern, I am glad to be able to say that our area was essentially unaffected, apart from the inconvenience of the mandatory evacuation.

Arturos red snapper
Dick enjoyed red snapper with pumpkin ravioli at Arturo’s in Sault Ste Marie

Arturos shrimp pasta
Excellent shrimp pasta at Arturo’s

Eventually it was time to leave Sault Ste Marie and continue the last week of our summer voyaging.  Our first stop was the very picturesque town of Bruce Mines.  The mines here were known to the First Nations, and early explorers arrived in search of the copper.  The first copper mine was opened in 1846, and was worked by miners who emigrated from Cornwall. The mine managers would not allow any stores to open in the town, instead settlers were forced to buy everything from the company store.  The enterprising Marks brothers from Hilton Beach would load fresh produce and various goods onto a barge that they would anchor off the town because they were not allowed to dock.  The townsfolk would row and paddle out to the barge to shop.  The copper was worked for about 100 years before it played out. Today the mine is a quarry for an exceptionally hard rock that is used for road building.  The town is a few miles west of the quarry, and I was surprised at how pretty it is.  It is also right on the Trans Canada Highway, and boasts several restaurants of previously excellent reputation.  Dick was particularly looking forward to the Bavarian Restaurant.  Sadly, the restaurant has been sold.  The current reviews of both that and the other local eatery were so bad that we decided to eat on board.

Bruce Mines
The pretty village of Bruce Mines

 

leaving Bruce Mines
Calm seas as we leave Bruce Mines

Our last night out was at an anchorage in Milford Haven, a long narrow inlet, still in Canadian waters.  We anchored near a picturesque abandoned boathouse.  We were surprised to be completely alone in such a pretty spot, usually we would have expected a few sailboats and possibly some Loopers to join us.  It just shows how much the weather has changed since the middle of August.  We are seeing far fewer days of fine weather, and the nights are now considerably colder.  I imagine most boaters that are still out prefer to stop in marinas with power, rather than anchoring out.

Milford Haven anchorage
We anchored near a deserted boathouse in Milford Haven

We arrived in Drummond Island Yacht Haven just before noon, followed by several other Loopers.  We were invited for docktails on board Vitamin Sea, together with the crew of Misty.  It turns out that we had met both couples before, last year at Rendezvous in Norfolk and then Misty again on the Hudson.  They are all great storytellers with an excellent sense of humour.  Afterwards we went to a local Tex-Mex restaurant for an outstanding meal.  It is fortunate we have our vehicle here, because the town is several miles from the marina.

Drummond Island Yacht Haven
Drummond Island Yacht Haven

Drummond Island sits between the Georgian Bay’s North Channel and the open waters of Lake Huron.  It is the seventh largest lake island in the world.  The Canada United States border runs north and east of the island, so it was our port of entry for our return to USA.  It used to be necessary to meet in person with a US Customs and Immigration officer, but these days technology has improved things, at least for boaters.  Dick has an app on his phone that he uses to notify Border Protection of our entry.  An officer may ask to have a short video conversation, and will then approve our entry.  A few minutes later a number is emailed, that we enter into our online profile details and that’s that!  We did learn last year from other Loopers that answering all questions accurately is important.  For instance, when asked if you have any fruit and vegetables on board, the correct answer is yes.  If you lie and say no, they will know you are lying, because boaters of course have food on board!  When asked, you simply tell them you have “ship’s stores”.  As commented by a fellow boater the other day, Loopers, who tend to be retirement age, and travel at 7 knots on trawlers do not exactly fit the profile of drug dealers and smugglers.

Drummond Island stormy weather
Stormy weather approaches Drummond Island

Drummond Island is connected to the mainland by a ferry that runs all year round.  There are around 1000 permanent residents.  There is a small air strip, and a primary school, but most children are bused to school on the mainland via the ferry.  The island is a year-round tourist destination for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits, boasting miles of trails for off-roading, more than 13 unique ecosystems, water trail systems for paddling, access to both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan for boaters, and excellent birdwatching.  Dick and I caught sight of sand hill cranes as we drove to dinner one evening.  The underlying rock is dolomite, used in several industries including glass, paper making, agriculture, and even medicine, but the main use is for steel manufacture.  The Drummond Island Quarry, now owned by Carmeuse, ships out nearly a million and a half tons of dolomite each year.  The quarry is located inland, and we could just see a road specifically created to support 75-ton capacity haul trucks that bring the quarried rock to the processing plant on the shore.

Drummond Island Potatoes
Crispy potatoes with bacon, cheddar, and green onions was a specialty at the Drummond Island restaurant

The Yacht Haven where Nine Lives will stay for the winter, has a number of huge buildings, one of which is heated.  This means that we can leave much of the food (pantry items), clothing, bedding, etc on board.  We also do not have to put chemicals into the fresh water and blackwater tanks as we would if we had to winterize the boat.  There is quite a bit of work done even so.  We take home flour, since it does not last well, also anything that needs refrigeration of course.  I like to take large laundry items like bath mats and some of the bedding home, so it can be washed (and ironed) in my big machines at home.  Dick took samples of the oil from the engines, which are sent away for analysis.  The report will tell him whether there are any problems with the engines, and also whether he needs to change the oil when we return in June for next year’s voyaging.  We like to take the carpets home for steam cleaning.  A final cleaning of bathrooms, the salon, and galley gets the boat ready for a winter rest, although of course another cleaning will be needed when we return.  Dick gets together the various spares and parts that he will ask the boatyard to install, and also spends a lot of time making lists of needed maintenance and replacements.  Boating is not an inexpensive lifestyle!  This winter we will need a new air conditioning unit to replace the useless forward unit, a replacement side by side fridge freezer, and a new water pump.

On Monday morning the head tech from the boatyard came on board to go over the to-do list with Dick and see where everything was located.  At last Nine Lives was ready for haul out.  We have not seen her hauled out since the survey when we bought her in 2016, so we made a point of staying to see it.  The boat is driven into a narrow channel, and is positioned above two large slings under the travel lift.  Slowly, the boat is lifted in the slings, and then the travel lift drives away from the slip and conveys the boat to its destination on land.  The heated shed was not quite ready for Nine Lives, because boats are located in the shed in reverse order to when they are expected to leave.  Instead she was positioned on blocks of wood so the travel lift could be unhooked and driven away.

haulout positioning
Positioning Nine Lives on the slings of the travel lift

haulout lifting
Nine Lives is lifted out of the water

haulout leaving the slip
The travel lift leaves the slip

haulout driving away
Nine Lives is taken down the road to the boat sheds

The first thing we wanted to check was the status of the sponsons, the extra flotation that is unique to Nine Lives, and that had the hole in it last year.  To our surprise and dismay, we could see that in spite of having taken considerable extra care this year, the starboard side sponson was cracked, and so was the one on the port side.  Dick had arranged for plugs to be installed last spring, and as soon as they were opened gallons of water gushed out from both sides!  So not only was the extra flotation not doing its job, we were hauling around all that extra weight of water!  This impairs fuel efficiency, and also creates an imbalance on the boat.  Water puddles in the showers and the kitchen sink, and the ice maker gets iced up as the automatic refill spills out of the back of the tray and onto the bottom of the unit. Dick will be getting in touch with the boat builder to find out exactly where the extra flotation part begins and ends, and of course the Drummond Island boat yard will need to make repairs.  We will have to look into some different fenders to try to protect this vulnerable part of the boat in future.  Apart from that, Nine Lives is in good condition, props and rudders looking good.

Nine Lives tunnel
Placing blocks of wood for Nine Lives to rest on above the concrete.

Nine Lives oops
Oops! Water pours out of the sponsons once the plug is removed.

We were able to stay overnight in cabins associated with the Yacht Haven.  They were rustic, but well equipped and absolutely spotless.  There was a lovely view over the bay and beautiful sunsets.  The only inconvenience was a dearth of power points, including in the bedrooms.  In fact, one of the bedrooms had a very nice bedside lamp, but the cord was left lying on the bed because there was absolutely no place to plug it in!

Drummond Island meat pie dinner
A last dinner cooked on board, shepherd’s pie with vegetables and garlic cheese bread to accompany.

The next morning, we finished packing up the car and said goodbye to Drummond Island until next summer.  It has been a wonderful voyage this year.  The weather could not have been better, not too hot, and very little rain.  The rain we did get was mostly at night.  We seldom needed the air conditioning, and when we did, the aft unit was sufficient.  This was fortunate, since the forward unit is not working and is scheduled for replacement this winter!  We had few weather delays, only one major (more than a day), and there were also few days when the forecast for wind and waves was not as expected.  We met many Loopers this year, because we were travelling at the same time as most of the “pack”.  Lots of enjoyable docktails and dockside chats.

This will be the final blog update for 2019.  Look for Nine Lives again some time in June, 2020.

August 1 to 15, 2019 – Henry’s Fish Camp to Gore Bay

Henry’s Fish Restaurant, on Frying Pan Island, is considered a must stop on the Great Loop.  We knew it would get crowded, so we set off in good time and arrived around 11am.  It was quite something watching all the arrivals, including seaplanes, a large charter group, and pleasure boats as large as 50 feet and as small as wave runners.  Arrivals were wrangled by the new owner’s father acting as dockmaster, and wrangled is the right word.  Only the larger pleasure boats call on the radio and ask for dock assignments, the smaller boats just zoom in and park wherever they please, regardless of whether they are blocking other boats.  The docks are long fingers, designed to hold several boats one behind the other, so it matters who ties up where! Henry’s is on an island, and typically serves about 350 meals on a weekday, and over 700 every day on weekends.  Lunch is busier than dinner.

Henrys 3
The busy dock at Henry’s, before the lunch rush begins

We met a few Loopers who stopped for a meal and then anchored elsewhere.  Carefully timing our dinner for a less busy period, we enjoyed our fish, although portions were huge and we certainly didn’t need the appetizers!  Something strange is going on with the reviews.  The owners took over the restaurant last year, and locals have been trashing the place on both Trip Advisor and Active Captain, and even spreading unfounded rumours at nearby marinas.  We enjoyed our visit very much, and felt bad for the owners, who are certainly putting great efforts into making it a great experience.

Henrys fish chowder
Dick enjoyed fish chowder to start

Henrys smoked fish
A large portion of smoked salmon with cream cheese was too much with what was to come!

Henrys fish and chips
Fish and Chips at Henry’s, battered pickerel, chips, coleslaw, and baked beans!

Henrys dock
After dinner at Henry’s you can sit on the dock and watch the world go by

 

Leaving Henry’s, we had a pretty trip to Parry Sound.  Georgian Bay was unusually calm, so we chose to avoid the white-knuckle channels and go around outside.  In Parry Sound there were 8 Looper boats in the first evening, and a get-together for docktails on the shore.  Among the stories exchanged was an experience with Canada Customs.  The wife happened to have some CBD oil on board, which she declared when asked.  They were immediately told to stay on the boat and wait for an inspection.  Said CBD oil was confiscated.  What made everyone laugh, was the helpful Customs inspector told the lady she could buy a replacement at a shop less than half a block from where they were tied up!  The chuckles were not over, we next heard that upon arriving in the store, the husband noticed pre-rolled joints for sale.  Suddenly feeling nostalgic for his student days, he decided to buy one.  Returning to the boat, he smoked a little of it, concluded that the experience was not quite the same as his memories, and tried to put it out.  He had us all laughing as he described trying to get this thing to go out, without success.  A great storyteller!  He concluded “they don’t make ‘em like they used to!”

Parry Sound marina
Stormy skies over Parry Sound Marina

Parry Sound sunset
The sun sets behind one of Georgian Bay’s distinctive tall pines on Parry Sound.

While in Parry Sound we booked a meal at Log Cabin Fine Dining.  Dick discovered that Trip Advisor had the location wrong, instead of a .8-mile bike ride it was 4 miles away.  For only the second time in our Looping travels we had to call a taxi.  We were joined by our friends Brenda and Bruce from B-Side, and the meal was worth the taxi and then some.  In fact, we are booked to stay there when we travel south later in the month to attend Mum’s birthday party.  The next day was occupied with general maintenance, Dick changed the oil on the generator and replaced a burned-out fan, while I did the laundry.

Log Cabin elk carpaccio
Elk carpaccio at Log Cabin Inn

Parry Sound waterfront 2
The trestle bridge that crosses the river in Parry Sound is the longest east of the Rockies. Built in 1907, it is 1695 feet long and 105 feet high. It is still in regular use. A tall ship can be seen leaving the docks.

Parry Sound tall ship
Another look at the tall ship leaving Parry Sound. It left the docks entirely under sail, no engine.

Monday was a holiday, so we continued our stay in Parry Sound. Boat cleaning day, inside and out, and then Dick did a provision run on his bike while I scrubbed the white ball fenders of all the grunge that had accumulated in the locks.  The barrel fenders got their covers back on (we take them off for locks, because we find the knit fabric hangs up on the rough lock walls), and Nine Lives again looks shipshape!  In the afternoon we took a seaplane tour of the 30,000 islands.  It was an interesting experience seeing where we had been from the air, including flying over Henry’s, but we both agreed that the very limited sight lines of a Cessna compared to a helicopter make it not really worth the trip.  I have never been in a seaplane before though, so it was a new experience.

Parry Sound refuelling seaplane
Refuelling our seaplane before we got on board.

Georgian Bay from the air 1
Georgian Bay from the air. Note the boats rafted up in one of the many anchorages.

Georgian Bay from the air 2
You can see all the small islands of Georgian Bay

Georgian Bay from the air 3
Some of the protected bays and inlets of the 30,000 Islands

Georgian Bay from the air 4
From the air you can see how clear the water is, and how many rocks lie just below to catch the unwary boater!

Georgian Bay from the air 5
Many of the islands have large homes on them, often built and maintained at great cost and only visited for two or three weeks a year.

Georgian Bay from the air 6
A last look at 30,000 Islands!

I have been musing over boat names lately.  It is interesting to speculate on why someone names their boat as they do.  Some are clever, such as our friends Brenda and Bruce on their catamaran B-Side (you gotta be old enough to remember 45rpm records).  Last year we met Loopers whose boat was Fun.  When calling marinas or bridges, they of course follow protocol, repeating the boat name 3 times.  They told us half the people who hear something like “Lock 23, Lock 23, Lock 23, this is Fun Fun Fun” have trouble responding they are laughing so hard.  (Not to mention hearing The Beach Boys in their heads for the rest of the day). Apres Sail ensures that everyone knows there are former sailors on board, and of course Nine Lives is named because she is a CATamaran.  Red Boat is a beautifully kept sailboat with a bright red hull and matching dinghy.  Some names clearly have meaning to their owners, but are not so obvious to the observer.  A boat called French Toast?  Sailboats are often evocative, North Star, Windrunner, Orion.  But I could not believe the one I saw at Henry’s.  This was a large, sleek, fast motor yacht, about 45 feet, (the kind that throws us around as they speed past us, throwing wakes that rock our boat madly from side to side), with a middle-aged couple on board.  The name?  Grand Wazoo.  Now I realize there is a recording by Frank Zappa by that name (quite nasty lyrics), but I cannot imagine the owner has actually looked up the meaning of Wazoo.  And what’s more, he is boasting that he is a really big one!  (my gentle readers are going to have to look this up for themselves).

Hole in the Wall
We ventured through the narrow channel known as Hole in the Wall as we left Parry Sound.

On August 6 we were again underway, this time hoping to tie up at what was called a “Government Dock” in Point au Baril Station.  After traveling a long way up the channel, we arrived in what looked like an interesting village to find no evidence of the so-called government dock, and a clear sign on the public dock saying that boats longer than 30 feet are strictly forbidden from docking.  Retracing our steps part way, we found a very pleasant anchorage in Kitsilano Bay for the night.