Back to Grand Haven:
Sault Ste. Marie to Government Cut:
We have an easy trip down the St. Mary’s River to Lake Huron. Having made this trip now several times, we are beginning to know the route pretty well. Once on Lake Huron, the wind is brisk and seas a little bumpy. We have an interesting experience today. An old Chris Craft passes us towing a nice 13’ baby blue Boston Whaler.
We are admiring the condition of this vintage Whaler when all of a sudden we watch as its tow line parts. The Chris Craft isn’t watching behind and goes out of sight leaving the Whaler bobbing in the two foot swells. We continuously try hailing the Chris Craft on the VHF with no answer. We alter course and begin circling the Whaler.
Just as Jeff is beginning to think he has a new boat, we see the Chris Craft appear on the horizon headed our way. Maybe they finally heard us on the VHF. We circle until they arrive to retrieve their dinghy. Continuing on the Chris Craft is once again passing us with their Whaler in tow. Never once did he wave or call to say thanks for saving his boat.
We spend our first evening at a new to us anchorage called “Government Cut”. This is one of a group of islands called The Cheneaux Islands or “The Snows”. There are several boats already in this popular anchorage. The bay is huge with room for many more boats and we have an easy time anchoring. An enjoyable evening is spent on the hook.
Total miles traveled Sault Ste. Marie to Government Cut: 70
Total miles traveled year to date: 1165
Government Cut to Charlevoix:
Leaving Government Cut we make our way through the Straits of Mackinac and back into the waters of Lake Michigan. Today we must bypass one of our favorite stops, Mackinac Island.
The water is again choppy with three foot seas and lots of boat traffic. Along with the pleasure boats, there are several freighters going in both directions. We divert to get out of their way. Out in the middle of all this chaos, we pass a lone kayaker bobbing up and down. What in the world is he doing way out here?
We shake our heads and continue on through Grays Reef. We once again remember the sailboat that capsized a few weeks ago in this area. Two people lost their lives during that event. Once past the shallow reef area, the seas begin to calm and we have an uneventful trip into Charlevoix.
Charlevoix is a top destination for boaters and August is the prime cruising month for this area. The marina is completely full and then some. Boats are everywhere. After several phone calls, the marina finally finds a spot for us. Not your normal slip but a tight spot wedged against their break wall and tucked in behind the big tour boat. Jeff is able to wiggle us into the space and we are just thankful that the marina was able to find us a spot.
We spend several days here while Shay from Charlevoix Boat Works comes aboard to do some boat repairs. Shay had fixed our stressed holding tank earlier this year. To prevent this problem from occurring again, we are adding a one way vent on the top of our holding tank. He also replaced some hydraulic lines for the auto pilot with new heavier gauge lines. The final task was to do a test on our batteries. IT has 6 AGM batteries onboard. These batteries supply all of our power while at anchor. They are now six years old. Although they seem to be working great, six years is about the life expectancy for batteries such as ours. Sure enough, our batteries are only showing about half of their normal capacity. We are hoping they will last the rest of this cruising season but they will need to be replaced next spring. IT is now ready to continue on.
Total miles traveled Government Cut to Charlevoix: 82
Total miles traveled year to date: 1247
Charlevoix to Frankfort:
Boats are circling everywhere in tiny Round Lake waiting on the 9:00AM bridge opening. The weather has had the boats pinned down for the last few days and everyone is taking advantage of this weather window. We take our place in line and exit into Lake Michigan promptly at 9:00 AM.
After raging for the last few days, Lake Michigan is once again docile. It is amazing how quickly she can change. While enjoying the nice calm waters, we continue to monitor our batteries. We have been running the generator since leaving Charlevoix to finish charging them. After doing the battery test this morning they had lost some of their charge. One of our rules is never to leave the dock until everything is working properly. Today we broke that rule and decided to leave before the batteries were charged. In order to make the bridge opening and Frankfort today we needed to leave when we did. Otherwise we would be in Charlevoix for another day. In hindsight, we should have stuck to our rules. For some reason, even with the generator running our batteries are not charging to 100%. We make several phone calls to Shay and also to Scottie our electronics guru. Both experts don’t feel that the battery test would have affected the battery charge. But yet it seems awful coincidental that after doing the battery test they are all of a sudden not charging as normal. Not wanting to burn up our alternator, we continue to run the generator the entire eight hour trip.
Normally we would anchor in Frankfort Harbor but with our battery problem we decide it prudent to pay for dockage at the marina and hook up to shore power. Jeff spends the next few hours down in the hot engine room trouble shooting our problem. He can find nothing wrong. After several more phone calls, he decides to depower the entire system and let it rest before powering back up. Once doing so, the system comes back up to normal almost immediately. Evidently our battery monitor and charger was confused from the testing and just needed to be reset. Computers, don’t you love them! It turned out to be a simple fix but it sure did cause a lot of anxiety and effort. Oh well, all is good once again.
Total miles traveled Charlevoix to Frankfort: 76
Total miles traveled year to date: 1323
Frankfort to Grand Haven:
We are up early and pulling away from the marina at first light. We have a long trip of 117 miles to reach Grand Haven. Today is uneventful and we have no more issues with our batteries. Our one excitement for today is passing by the famous old schooner “The Pride of Baltimore”. She is under full sail and looks quite stunning out on the summer lake.
Our peace and quiet turns into mayhem as we approach the Grand Haven break waters. Boats are everywhere. It is Friday afternoon and we were expecting a lot of weekend boaters to be out. Never in our wildest dreams did we expect this many. As we enter the harbor, we realize that this is the week for Grand Haven’s big Coast Guard celebration. It is one of the busiest weekends all summer long on Lake Michigan. Inside the harbor, we find boats traveling every which way. The big Coast Guard Cutter, Mackinaw, is in port. Along the sea wall, boats are rafted 20 deep. Somehow we manage to weave through the crowds and into the safety of North Shore Marina. Whew! What a way to end our trip.
IT is now safely secured in her slip. We will leave her here while we head back to Tennessee for a land based break. We will return in a few weeks for our next journey of exploring more ports along Lake Michigan.
Total miles traveled Frankfort to Grand Haven: 117
Total miles traveled year to date: 1440
Grand Marais to Sault Ste. Marie:
Grand Marais has become our favorite stop on Lake Superior. It is a great little town and everyone here is so friendly. The locals are very proud of their little harbor and they should be. Although we would like to stay longer, the forecast for today is too good to pass up. Chuck, the local dock master, is on the docks at 6:30 this morning to see us off.
As we exit the Grand Marais breakwater, Lake Superior welcomes us with a fantastic sunrise.
We have a long but uneventful day around White Fish Point and into the busy Sault Ste. Marie. We again have the choice of using either the American or Canadian locks. Mistakenly, we decide to use the Canadian locks thinking that it would be much quicker. Well, just after we call the Canadian Locks, the local tour boat exits the American Locks and is headed to the Canadian locks also.
Had we chosen the American side, we could have gone right in just after he exited. After a 20 minute wait for the locks to fill, the Canadian Lock Master instructs us to wait on the tour boat before going in. This causes another 15 minute wait while he does his tour. Meanwhile we patiently hover in the canal. The tour boat finally arrives with a packed boat and is secured in the locks.
Another boat has also arrived so we will have a crowded lock. As we enter the lock, the lock master asks if we feel comfortable enough to pull up beside the tour boat. We have hundreds of spectators aboard the tour boat watching as we squeak in beside him with only a few feet between us. Just as in NASCAR, everyone is watching to see if we crash. Once secure we have a quick trip down. We slide out before the tour boat and cross the St. Mary’s River to Kemp Marina.
Suzanne and Marty aboard the Krogen Alizann are at the marina waiting for us. They are heading into Lake Superior tomorrow. We spend an enjoyable evening with them at the local Mexican restaurant. We wish we were heading back into Superior with them. Maybe next year. We freely admit that we were nervous going into Lake Superior because of her reputation. She treated us well and we never experienced any dangerous seas. By picking your weather and cruising during July and August, the lake can be enjoyed by smaller boats.
Total miles traveled Grand Maries to Sault Ste. Marie: 93
Total miles traveled year to date: 1095
Munising to Grand Marais:
We try to quietly slip away from the docks without disturbing any of the other boaters as we are getting another early start. The loud growl of our bow thrusters probably woke everyone. Anyway, we have a smooth departure and are soon in South Bay passing once again over the many ship wrecks around Grand Island.
We are fortunate to find the seas calm and have a magnificent cruise along the Pictured Rocks National Seashore.
The majestic sandstone bluffs of this area offer some of the most picturesque cruising that we have seen along the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Just past the pictured rocks, the Grand Sable Dunes begin to rise from the horizon. Rising over 500 feet from the shore, these dunes are very impressive.
We have an easy entry between the two breakwaters into Grand Marais and are in luck to find the long metal dock along the town wall empty. No dock attendant is here but we have an easy docking pulling alongside the bulkhead. To summon the dock master there is a telephone which rings directly to his house in town. Chuck, the dock master, soon arrives in his golf cart and collects our fees. Chuck gives us a complete briefing on the small town and things to do.
Grand Marais received its name from the French explorers and means protected bay or cove. At the turn of the century, this was a boom town with lumbering and fishing supporting a population of over 3000 people. As lumbering declined around 1910, Grand Marais became a ghost town. Today the small village has a population of about 200 people with many more during the summer. The Coast Guard has been stationed here since 1899 and this port is still a harbor of refuge for this section of the lake. Many ships have run aground over the years on the rocky Au Sable Shoals just north of here.
We quickly fall in love with this quaint little village. Lining most of the harbor is a wonderful public beach which is constantly full with locals and tourists. The most unique structure in the town is a little house known as “The Pickle Barrel”.
This barrel shaped house was built in 1926 for a Chicago Tribune cartoonist, William Donahey, and served as the inspiration for his cartoon “The Teenie Weenies”. The locals seem to take great pride in their little town and everything here is keep spotless. The big news for the town is that they have just been awarded a six million dollar grant to rebuild and extend their breakwater. This is something they have been trying to get done for over 40 years as their harbor has severe silting problems. Everyone is so excited about this news.
While here we enjoy several fantastic bike rides through the Pictured Rocks National Park. Our first stop is to a place known as “The Log Slide”.
This section of the Grand Sable Dunes was once used by loggers to slide their logs down to the water. It is now quite a popular attraction within the park and many people make the vertiginous slide down the chute. What takes just a few minutes to go down requires a lot of effort and over an hour to climb back up this 500 foot sand dune. Although the slide is tempting, for once we use better judgment and save our energy for the bike ride. We continue our bike ride to the waterfalls. The next day we retrace our steps, this time continuing another 8 miles to the Au Sable Light House.
The National Park gives a great tour of the light house.
From the top cat walk, we have a completely different view of the lake than that we have experienced from the water.
We end our stay in Grand Marais with a fish and chips dinner at the local brew pub in town. Ken and Ellen aboard AUK join us and we enjoy our time spent with them. It turns out, they may be wintering their boat in Chattanooga this year. Hopefully we will see them again there.
Total miles traveled Munising to Grand Marais: 42
Total miles traveled year to date: 1002
Houghton/Hancock to Munising:
As usual, we check the weather first thing this morning before pulling away from the docks. The forecast is not as good as when we went to bed last night. The seas are forecast for 1-3 foot today and briefly building to 2-4 feet then subsiding to 1-3 feet this afternoon. Last evening all the forecast were for calm to 2 feet. We are hesitant to leave with this new forecast but the winds are from the north/west so we will have a following sea. This makes for a much better ride than when beating into the waves. The seas also drop this afternoon so it should get better the farther we go. We decide to give it a try. If we don’t like it when we exit the canal, we can turn around. We also have a second bail out option of Marquette which 40 miles from here.
The first 10 miles of our trip is through the Portage Canal. It is nice to enjoy the calm waters of this protected waterway.
Reaching the lighthouse marking the Portage Canal entrance, the seas look calm as we exit into Lake Superior. The forecast was correct and the seas do build the further east we travel. We never have more than a three foot swell and since we are traveling with the seas the ride is not too bad.
Reaching Marquette, our second bail out option, we make the decision to push on. The seas do build for a few hours but IT handles them nicely. You can constantly here the whirr of our stabilizers working but they keep us nice and steady. It is another beautiful clear day with no other boats out. Unlike our first passage in the fog, today we have an excellent view of the Huron Mountains off to our south.
With its huge expanse of crystal clear water, traveling on Lake Superior seems just like being out on the ocean. It makes for a very enjoyable cruise. No voyage is ever worry free and we have to constantly remind ourselves that the water temperature is a frigid 60 degrees. Without a survival suit, one would last less than an hour. Although we do have a life raft and our dinghy is a Boston Whaler (unsinkable), wet have not equipped our boat with survival suits. If we continue to cruise in these cold waters, it is a piece of equipment that we should consider.
After a very long 12 hour day, we round Grand Island and soon have the Munising docks in sight. The many tour boats are again all packed with tourist for the Pictured Rocks tours. As we tie up to the dock, several of the local residents welcome us back. It turns out we have arrived just in time for the weekly farmers market.
There is also a concert tonight at the lakeside pavilion. It seems like the whole town has turned out with their lawn chairs for this event.
After our long travel day yesterday, we decide to spend an extra day here in port. Our day is filled with necessary boat chores. The boat is cleaned, water tanks filled, fuel transferred from side tanks to center tank, and groceries bought. We also find time for much needed hair cuts. This afternoon we are surprised to see a fellow Krogen heading into the harbor. You don’t see many of us on the Great Lakes. It turns out to be the Krogen Manatee, AUK with Ken and Ellen aboard.
We had met them several years ago while in Oswego, NY. The boating community is small and you never know when you will run into an old acquaintance.
The weather forecast looks good for us to leave tomorrow for Grand Maris.
Total miles traveled Houghton to Munising: 115
Total miles traveled year to Date: 960
Copper Harbor to Houghton/Hancock:
It is overcast this morning but none of the forecasted storms are showing up on the radar. The seas have calmed down nicely so we have a green light to go. I think everyone here at the docks is leaving today also. The weather has had all boats pinned down for the last few days and everyone is anxious to get going. Copper Harbor has become one of our favorite spots visited this year, but about four days anywhere and we are ready to move on.
We have a beautiful cruise down the west side of the Keweenaw Peninsula and are soon entering the breakwaters of the Portage Canal.
This 25 mile long partially man made canal cuts through the Keweenaw Peninsula saving boaters the 100 miles around the point. During the 1800’s this was the preferred route used by the ore carriers from Duluth. As these Lakers grew in size, navigation on the winding canal became more difficult. Today the big boats rarely use this route and instead opt to go around the peninsula.
Just after entering the canal, someone hails us on the VHF. We are a little startled as no boats are around. It turns out to be a fellow looper, “Summer Dreams” who lives along the canal. He saw our gold looper burgee as we passed his house and kindly offered to take us around for any necessary shopping. The looper community is far reaching and ever helpful. We have an easy 10 mile trip down the canal to the twin cities of Houghton and Hancock. We tie up to the free town wall on the Houghton side just below the massive double decker lift bridge. This impressive bridge is reportedly the heaviest lift bridge in the world.
The town offers free wall dockage along the riverside park. It is a great location just below Main Street with a paved bike and walking path which goes for 5 miles along the waterfront. We are constantly entertained by the multitude of walkers, many with their dogs, and also bicyclist. We stay busy as many people stop to talk with us.
Our Krogen trawler is not a common sight in these areas and everyone is curious about her. We answer a lot of questions and also get many compliments. People always want to know how we arrived here from Chattanooga, TN. We have been asked these same questions many times and can pretty much tell you what they are going to ask before hand. We never mind answering them as we appreciate their curiosity.
The twin cities of Houghton and Hancock have a combined population of about 12,000 people. Both cities flourished during the late 1800’s from the copper mining boom. The prosperity of that era is evident in some of the ornate buildings which are still remaining today. There is a large ethnic population as a result of the work in the mines.
On the Hancock side is the only Finish College in the U.S., Suomi College. There is a multitude of ethnic restaurants and we enjoyed a great Finish breakfast one morning at the Suomi Bakery.
One of the highlights of our stay here was a tour of the Quincy Mines. Quincy Mining Company was started in 1848 and operated for almost 100 years becoming the second largest copper mine in the Lake Superior region.
The Norberg Steam Hoist here in Hancock was the world’s largest steam hoist. Our tour was of the No. 2 shaft which at one time was 9260 feet deep with 85 different levels.
We were transported 2400 feet into the mine and 300 feet below the surface to the seventh level. All levels below this are now filled with water.
The tour really gave us an appreciation for how hard life was for these miners.
We are again treated with boater kindness by a fellow mariner whom we met in Copper Harbor. Dr. Beasley, a dentist here in Hancock, was the port captain for the Great Lakes Cruisers for over 20 years. He was in Copper Harbor aboard his boat when we were there a few days ago and knew we were headed this way. After seeing our boat at the docks, he called offering to take us out to dinner. On our last night here, we enjoyed a great meal at a local steak house with Dr. Beasley and his wife, Susie. Their wealth of cruising knowledge for this area was invaluable to us and we enjoyed hearing their many stories of boating on Lake Superior.
Total miles traveled Copper Harbor to Houghton/Hancock: 55
Total miles traveled year to date: 845
Marquette to Copper Harbor:
Today’s journey is to Copper Harbor. We leave just before sun rise as we have a lengthy 75 mile trip across the open water. As we round the long breakwater of Marquette harbor, we hit the fog bank. The fog horn is turned on as we again rely on our radar and computers for navigation. Our trip takes us due north to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Huron Mountains are to our west but they are obscured from our view by the fog. The Keweenaw Peninsula is a land mass looking like a thumb jutting out into Superior from the Michigan shoreline. There is a canal that cuts through this landmass but today we opt to go around the entire peninsula to the north side.
As we approach the tip of Keweenaw, the fog begins to lift. This is good news for us. The entrance into Copper Harbor is between two rocky outcroppings and the marked range must be strictly adhered to. We were concerned that this range would be fogged in and obscured from our view.
We really did not want to enter this strange harbor for the first time in fog. We soon see the outside bell buoy and make our turn into the harbor making sure to line up with the two orange and white range markers on shore.
It is a relief to be safely through the treacherous shoals and into the protected waters of Copper Harbor.
Copper Harbor is a small remote little town with a winter population of around 100 people. It is Michigan’s northernmost town and was established in the 1800’s during the copper rush of this area. Hidden in the hills of the Keweenaw Peninsula was one of the richest caches of copper ever found.
This copper find brought more people to this area than gold did to California a few years later. The town now seems to be a beehive for outdoor sports activities. The network of mountain bike trails are said to be some of the best in the country. During winter months, cross country skiing and snowmobiling draw people from all over.
Everyone we have talked to about Lake Superior has told us that we must visit a restaurant here called the Harbor Haus. This German restaurant has a reputation among the boating community as being the best restaurant on Lake Superior. We make this our first stop for the evening and are not disappointed. Our German pork and beef dinners are as good as any that we had when we visited Germany.
A long standing tradition of the restaurant is for all the waitresses and waiters to greet the returning tour boat each evening with a can-can welcome dance outside on the pier overlooking the harbor. It is entertaining to see enthusiastic dance.
The one drawback of Copper Harbor is that the high bluffs block any cell phone or internet service. The only place to get cell service is from the top of Brockway Mountain, four miles straight up from the marina. We ask several people about riding our bikes up the mountain. Everyone emphatically tells us not to ride up the mountain. It is way to steep and the roads are not very good. Sounds like a challenge to us and away we go. The mountain climb does get our hearts thumping but being from the hills of Tennessee we survive the climb. Not only are we rewarded with cell service, but the view from on top is spectacular.
Isle Royale is located 60 miles north of here. It is the largest island on Lake Superior and also a National Park. The only way to reach the island is by boat or float plane. We would love to take our boat there but the park has a strict rule that no pets are allowed within five miles of the island. The ferry boat “Isle Royale Queen IV” makes the trip each day from Copper Harbor.
Since we can’t go in our boat, we decide to take this day trip and check out the island. It is a three hour boat ride to Rock Harbor. Once ashore, a park ranger gives us a briefing on the island. There is a hotel on the island however most people arrive with their back packs and are camping out each night. There is a large network of trails throughout the island. Having only three hours here, we hike the 4.5 mile trail to a beautiful overlook called Scoville Point. There is a large moose and wolf population on the island but we see neither. We do have a beautiful hike. It is a special island and we look forward to returning someday when we have more time.
We had an interesting time at the docks one evening. Another wicked storm passed over the area with ominous black clouds and lightning. Just after this storm, we experienced our first seiche on the Great Lakes. Seiche is a French word meaning “to sway back and forth”. It is a standing wave that oscillates as a result of atmospheric disturbances creating huge fluctuations of water levels in just minutes. Since arriving on the Great Lakes we have been joking of these Seiches which occur on the Lakes. Well, tonight we experienced one first hand. All of a sudden the water level dropped three feet here at the dock. Our boat was suddenly touching bottom. Within 10 minutes the water level started rising. It was like being on an elevator as we watched the boat rise three feet in just the mater of a few seconds. Wow!! What an experience!!
We spend our last evening on the island enjoying another great meal at the Harbor Haus with some new friends Rich and Jane.
We first met Rich while at White Fish Point. He arrived there by sailboat and we had mentioned that we were headed to Copper Harbor. Rich’s family has lived in Copper Harbor for many years. When we arrived in Copper, he and his wife Jane came knocking and spent one afternoon giving us a tour of their town. We feel fortunate to have crossed paths with Rich in White Fish and then spending time with them here in Copper.
Total miles traveled Marquette to Copper Harbor: 76
Total miles traveled year to date: 790
Munising to Marquette:
Happy Birthday Jeff!! The day starts off great with calm seas for our next leg of the journey. Leaving the docks, we round Grand Island in the haze. This is one of the largest Islands on Lake Superior and is now a nature preserve. We are again alone on the water other than one fisherman out tending his traps.
We keep a vigilant watch for the orange flags marking the fish nets.
The haze makes them difficult to spot. The seas remain less than two feet for our entire trip and we have another easy cruise on Lake Superior. Rounding the lighthouse at the tip of Marquette’s incredibly long breakwater, we soon spot our marina, Cinder Pond.
Summer has finally arrived to Lake Superior and we are dripping in sweat as we secure IT in her dock slip. The A/C is turned on for the first time this year.
Marquette is the largest town along this stretch of water with a population of 22,000 people. The town was named after Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary who in the 1600’s was one of the first explorers in this region.
A bronze statue of Marquette overlooks the harbor today. In the 1800’s, Marquette became the first shipping port on Lake Superior for iron ore. Dominating the harbor are the remains of an original shipping terminal. The huge concrete and brick structure can be seen for miles. An active terminal is still in use today just a few miles north.
These shipping facilities are known as “pocket docks”. The name comes from “pockets” or bins which are built into the docks for storing iron ore. A train filled with the ore would pull on to the top deck of the dock and dump their ore into the pockets. A ship would then pull alongside the dock and the pockets would be lowered filling the ship in a given order to assure that the ship is balanced correctly. Each pocket could hold 375 tons of ore.
We find the town very pleasant and enjoy a walking tour admiring all the old unique stone buildings many of which are on the Historic Register.
There is a fantastic paved bike path which runs for many miles both north and south along the shoreline. The maritime museum was very informative and here we learned that the name Lake Superior came from the French Explorers designated name “Le Lac Superior” which translates as “upper lake”, lake above Lake Huron. Jeff celebrates his birthday with a blueberry beer and smoked whitefish from a local tavern, The Veirling, which has been in existence here for many many years.
Also a local institution here is Bonkers, and old fashioned candy store and ice Cream Parlor.
Sebastian insists that we cap off Jeff’s birthday with an evening walk for ice cream. President Obama also stopped in here during his visit to Marquette earlier this year.
Just after turning in for the evening, horrendous storms began approaching. The deafening lightning was crackling all around us. Our marina and also a good portion of the city lost power for several hours. Sebastian made a bee line for our shower stall where he hunkered down until it passed. We later learned that this same line of storms continued south onto Lake Michigan causing a tragedy. The 130th annual Chicago to Mackinac sailboat race was occurring during this time. At 1:00 AM, a 31 foot sailboat capsized in 5-6 foot seas just off Charlevoix. All eight crew members aboard were thrown into the frigid water. Two people drowned in this tragic accident. Our hearts go out to them. We were very thankful to be safely in port when these storms came.
Total miles traveled Munising to Marquette: 42
Total miles traveled year to date: 714
White Fish to Munising:
The sun is just peeking above the horizon as we pull out of White Fish Harbor. After being here for four days, we are anxious to leave this isolated little refuge. The two other sailboats left yesterday. Unlike us, they want the wind. We were happy to stay put one more day and let the seas calm down. Today is a much better day to be cruising.
It is a nippy 55 degrees this morning and we are bundled in our sweatshirts. The water temperature is 56 degrees. It is hard for us to imagine the 100 degree heat back home in Tennessee. The lake is calm and there is no fog today so we have an easy cruise north. Sebastian remains asleep in his blanket for our entire trip.
We see no other boats on this lonely stretch of waterway. It is not boater friendly as there are very few ports for boaters to duck into when the weather turns nasty. The closest harbor of refuge is Grand Marais, 40 miles north of White Fish. We bypass this small village today as we plan on stopping here on our return cruise. Just past Grand Marais, the high bluffs of Au Sable Dunes rise hundreds of feet out of the chilly lake.
Between Grand Marais and Munising is an area known as The Pictured Rocks. These bold-face cliffs, caves, and arches of sandstone have been carved out by the wave action of Lake Superior.
This is one of the most beautiful areas of the lake and was designated the first National Lakeshore in 1966. They get their name Pictured Rocks from the streaks of mineral stain from iron, manganese, copper, and other minerals. As water trickles down these cliffs it leaves streaks of stain on them.
These caves and cliffs all have different names such as Miners Castle, Indian Head, Flower Vase, and Chapel Cave.
The water is deep close to shore and we have a beautiful cruise along this stretch of water and into the town of Munising.
There is one spot left for us along the fixed dock inside the L shaped breakwater. Most of the docks here are taken up by the Pictured Rocks cruise boats. We parallel park just in front of Dream Catcher the sailboat that was with us in White fish.
Just up the hill from the marina is the small town of Munising. While spending three days here, we are amazed at all of the tourist who line up every few hours for the Pictured Rocks cruises. The Pictured Rocks Cruise Company certainly has a great business. They have three boats and pack in about 100 people on each boat on all six of their daily trips. At $30 per person, you do the math.
We spend several days exploring the area and one day do a 30 mile bike ride out to the Pictured Rocks National Park. Although still impressive from land, The Pictured Rocks are much more brilliant from the water.
The waters around Munising are home to many shipwrecks. This area is part of the Alger Underwater Preserve. Uncharacteristic for us, we decided to take the shipwreck cruise on a glass bottom boat one afternoon. The clear cold waters of Lake Superior are perfect for viewing these underwater relics with visibility of over 40 feet.
We visited three separate shipwrecks and were able to mark their coordinates with our handheld GPS. If we every come back to this area, we will know where they are for snorkeling or diving.
While exploring the area, we discovered two new culinary delights. The first being Muldoon’s Pasties. A Pasty consists of a filling made of beef or chicken, minced onion, potato, and root vegetable along with seasonings. This is wrapped in pastry dough and baked.
The Pasty was originally made for miners in Cornwall, England. It was a simple meal that they could eat with their hands while down in the mines. When the mining industry began to flourish during the 1800’s in Michigan’s UP, many of the miners moved there from England and brought the Pasty with them.
Our second newly discovered treat was “Trenary Toast”. We kept seeing these brown paper bags of the toast in selected stores. Our curiosity got the best of us and we bought a bag to try. It is cinnamon bread which has been toasted to give it a crispy crunch for dunking in coffee. It too is very good. It is made by a local bakery in Trenary, MI which has been producing this product since the 1930’s. The store owner told us that people come from all around to purchase this unique toast and he can not keep enough in stock.
We are well fed for next leg of our journey.
Total miles traveled White Fish to Munising: 93
Total miles traveled year to date: 672
Sault Ste. Marie to White Fish Point:
The sky is ominously black this morning when we awake. We had planned on an early departure for the locks but those plans are now on hold. Lightning is flashing in the distance and thunder rumbles. This soon passes. After a few hours things improve and we make the decision to go.
Boaters have the choice of using either the US locks or Canadian locks when coming and going into Lake Superior. The US lock system is much larger and handles all of the freighter traffic. The Canadian locks are for pleasure craft only. We had originally planned on using the US locks only because the Canadian locks do not open until 9:00AM. With our delayed departure due to weather, we now opt for the smaller Canadian locks. Boaters coming from the US do not have to clear customs if going through these locks. Even though they are in Canada, the waterway is considered international and if we do not anchor or dock, no clearing of customs is necessary.
We hail “VDX-23” (call sign for the Canadian locks) on the VHF promptly at 9:00 AM and request a lock-thru. Within a few minutes, the red steel doors open and we are soon raised the 21 feet and exit the locks into Lake Superior.
We have 12 miles of busy industrial waterway of the St. Mary’s River along Sault Ste. Marie before entering the huge expanse of White Fish Bay.
Passing Gross Cap Light, we are in awe of the vastness of this huge body of water. Thankfully, the seas are calm and we have an easy trip to White Fish.
White Fish is a state run harbor of refuge and an important safe harbor for boaters on this part of the lake. Unfortunately, this harbor continues to silt in and entering could be a problem for our five foot draft. There are no other harbors that we can enter for the next 40 miles. The harbor was just dredged last year but we are still concerned about our entry. I had sent an email out to other boaters in the Great Lakes Cruising Club earlier this month asking if anyone had been in the harbor this year. A sailboat had just been in and found a depth of 9 feet at the entrance. We should be good.
We cautiously enter the harbor finding 9 foot depths just as reported.
The harbor is small and rustic. There are nine slips for boats; four are for transients, the rest belonging to commercial fishermen. There is no power or water but the slip use is free so we can’t complain. There is not a soul around when we arrive and we are the only transient boat in the harbor. Most of the commercial slips are empty also. A fishery used to operate out of this harbor but it is closed now. There are several derelict fishing boats rusting up on shore.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located just a mile from the harbor. We spend one day touring this fabulous facility. It is housed along White Fish Point in the old White Fish Point Coast Guard Station.
The lighthouse here is the oldest on Lake Superior and celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.
White Fish Point is known as the graveyard of Lake Superior. There are over 300 shipwrecks in this area alone. More vessels have been lost in this one area than on any other part of Lake Superior. At the museum, we learn that most of these sinkings were due to fog and poor visibility. This area is very congested as the lake narrows down like a funnel and ships going both up and down bound pass through this narrow but busy shipping channel. In addition to not having the navigational equipment available today, there were many more ships traveling in years past. In the 1880’s, over 3100 vessels were traveling compared to less than 200 today. During a “Northwestern” seas can build up to over 30 feet making this area extremely dangerous. The Edmond Fitzgerald was lost just 17 miles from here during one of these storms in November 1975. The ships bell has been recovered and is on display at the museum along with a movie of its recovery.
Reliving all of the tragedies that have occurred in Lake Superior gives us an extra dose of caution for the next part of our journey. Back in the harbor, one of the local fisherman returns for the day with his catch.
For $5 we purchase one of the white fish and enjoy a great meal of fresh baked fish for dinner.
We spend two more days at the docks as a cold front comes through and the winds blow hard from the north.
The seas build to 5-7 feet out on Lake Superior. After visiting the shipwreck museum, there is no way we are going out in these conditions. We get the bikes down and bike to the nearest town, Paradise, which is 11 miles away.
Paradise is small but has everything one would need, grocery, post office, bank, gas station, hardware store, and two restaurants. We spot a local fish house along the route. There is a line of people waiting outside for the noon opening. You know it must be good! And it is!! The white fish is some of the best we have had. It is probably some of the same fish we saw being unloaded from the fishing boats last evening. It was well worth the 30 mile bike ride. In fact the fish and chips are so good we end up biking back here the next day for seconds.
Two other sailboats, Dream Catcher and Rubicon, come into the harbor this evening. It is good to have some company on the docks. We were beginning to feel quite isolated here. We have also had several visitors from the Shipwreck Museum. Terry, the director, was very kind to stop by and give us a book on their shipwreck research. It was fascinating listening to his stories of diving on the Edmond Fitzgerald and other wrecks. Another museum employee stopped by when she heard that we were weather delayed and offered to pick up groceries for us if we needed. She conquered her fear of walking on the narrow finger piers to get out to our boat and we appreciate her efforts. Everyone has certainly made us feel welcome here in the small harbor. The one guest we did not welcome were the black flies. These biting pests are horrendous. We don’t dare go outside without long shirt and pants. It will be a relief to leave these behind.
Total miles Sault Ste. Marie to White Fish: 41
Total miles year to date: 579
The Indian name for Lake Superior is Kitchi gami.
Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes by both surface area and volume. By surface area, it is the largest freshwater lake in the world.
Lake Superior contains more water than all the other Great Lakes combined. It contains 10% of all the earths’ fresh surface water.
The average underwater visibility is 27 feet making it the cleanest and clearest of the Great Lakes. In places the visibility is up to 100 feet.
It is the deepest of the great Lakes with an average depth of 500 feet and the deepest 1335 feet.
22,000 ships travel Lake Superior for 8 months of the year.
Lake Superior is 383 miles east to west and 160 miles north to south.
The average temperature is around 40 degrees F.
November 11th is not a good day for Lake Superior. 12 ships sank during a storm on 11/11/1913 killing 254 people. On 11/11/1930 another storm sank 5 ships and killed 67 people. The Edmund Fitzgerald was caught in a terrible storm on November 10th, 1975. 29 men went down with that ship.