Saturday, August 30, 2008

Grand Haven, Michigan

Today is Saturday, August 30th, Labor Day weekend—how sad, the official “last” weekend of summer. We’re all aghast at how quickly the summer has flown by—even our children at home can’t believe it! We have been here in Grand Haven now three nights and we will stay until tomorrow, Sunday. Then we hope to anchor in Saugatuck and enjoy that “artsy” little town for a couple of days. We hope the crowds of this holiday weekend will lessen after Monday, and we can continue working our way down to Chicago with calm winds.

Grand Haven is a busy place! There’s lots of boat traffic here with several marinas all feeding through this one inlet onto Lake Michigan. We are happily parked at the town’s Municipal Marina along with over a dozen other Looper boats—all deciding to stay put for a few days. We hustled earlier this week, traveling long days—three in a row—and we’re all tired. So sitting still is having its’ rewards! We’ve “slept in” (7:15am!), worked on the boat, done laundry, Louis has waxed the inside hull and cleaned the teak cockpit, we’ve rented a car for Wal-Mart, West Marine, Napa, Home Depot, Staples, Hallmark, etc. Another Looper has had a birthday: Robert from “C-Life”—Happy Birthday Robert!—and many more. We’ve had 2 “pre-dinner get-togethers” so far, and we’re having a Looper hamburger cook-out tonight—color Louis happy—he gets to be the official cook over charcoal! As of this writing, there are 23 people signed up to come--yipes! Everyone is looking forward to the cookout because we've all been using gas grills now for months—and there’s nothing better than a burger over coals! (Thinking of you, Bean!)

We’ve taken the trolley on a tour of the town—it also took us to the State Park end where the pretty, sandy, beach is that we saw coming into the harbor here. There were trailers, campers and people everywhere. We were amazed to see so many people out on the beach and some actually in the water (burr!), but then we learned that one and a half million people visit that particular beach/park every year! Amazing—where do they all come from? The “season” here is so short that it makes it even more unbelievable, considering how much longer the season is where we come from.

Right behind us there is a coal-fired electric power plant—reminding us of Lake Hyco—but with only one “stack”. Barges that are 500-600 feet long bring in the coal to fuel the plant--the barges come right behind our boats! We’ve been here now three days, and I have yet to see any smoke coming out of the stack—must be a lot cleaner than home—and it’s very quiet too. It’s now Saturday (as I’m continuing to write this), and the boat traffic today is the craziest to date—I think everyone who has a boat is out on the water today (as they should be!) and they are all HERE! It’s a cool, clear, and beautiful day. TYJ. I am so glad we’re in a slip.

***Something of interest: Even with the “main street” (nicer shopping & restaurants) of Grand Haven being just across the street from us, our marina is part of a long, wide, concreted boardwalk that follows along the water’s edge for a good, long distance. There are all kinds of tee shirt and clothing shops, ice cream stands, trolley stops, hot dogs, popcorn, and taco stands, and a nice stretch where lots and lots of people: walk, bicycle, jog, rollerblade, walk dogs, push baby carriages, look at boats (“tied up” like us and “profiling” up and back, up and back, behind us), sit under beautiful shade trees, sit on benches and watch everyone else just going by. People watching is always fun! The parade of boats today has been especially spectacular. There’s even a grand-stand area where people gather every evening to watch the light show across the water--or dance, if the DJ is there—which he was Wednesday evening. The town of Grand Haven sponsors a sound, light, and “dancing waters” show every evening at 9:30pm—it lasts about 20 minutes. The music changes nightly, so it’s been fun to watch it each evening. It takes place right behind this marina (we sit on our stern and watch it from a bird’s eye vantage!), and we’ve watched it now for the last three nights. What fun—and what a good incentive for keeping the hordes of tourists downtown until 10pm! Tonight will be the last show for us, as we’re leaving tomorrow morning for Saugatuck. The nightly show is every evening from Memorial Day to Labor Day—and then only on weekends through the end of September--just another sign, along with the changing leaves here, that fall is right in our faces. Ugh. Also, there is the fabulous farmer’s market which is held right here on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. It is something we’ve all enjoyed and it’s been fun to be right in the thick of things for a few days. Happy Labor Day everyone!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fishing on Lake Michigan-or-Trying At Least!

Today is Wednesday, August 27th. We have been blessed with three beautiful, calm days on Lake Michigan in which to travel. Although cool in the mornings (47 degrees early Tuesday morning!), the winds and waves have died down—allowing us to ride comfortably for these three days another 160+ miles further south. Lake Michigan is approximately 307 miles long and 118 miles wide—all beautiful and clear fresh water—we have also seen depths of over 500 feet. Amazing!! We will be going all the way down the eastern shore of the lake to Chicago—taking us along the western coast of Michigan. This time of year the lake gets especially windy and rough—so we have to be careful when traveling and choose our days to travel wisely. And after reading the blog of our good friends, Liz & Bob Stagg on “Second Wind” who completed the Loop last year, we find ourselves feeling mighty lucky! Their weather was not as favorable as ours has been—to date!

We left Charlevoix Monday morning and traveled 65 miles south to Frankfort. We got there late in the afternoon, and were greeted by a full flock (20+) of beautiful white swans, swimming very near our boats—the first large number of these to date! We didn’t have time to see much of the town, but we all ate ribs that night and skipped the nightly ice cream! We were all so disappointed to learn that the local bakery that we had heard about would be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays—we were leaving early the next morning—and we all were hoping to have some nice, fresh, hot breads to take with us. Soooo, coming up with plan B—like all good Loopers do—we made a quick early morning run to the nearby convenience store for fresh, hot donuts for all five of our boats—our “diets” are all going to hell—but no one seems to care! We left the quiet lake in Frankfort, which was full of fog—all the Captains were glad that the fog seemed to be only in our cove area— hanging low and full on the early morning water. A sliver of a moon was still shining brightly, and it was as picturesque as could be. Fishermen were already out (before daylight!); slow trolling in our cove and in the inlet leading into it. There’s lots of fishing going on here—more than we’ve seen to date.

I watched all day (and yesterday too!), from Frankfort to Ludington (46 miles), as the waters calmed and the fishermen were everywhere. Once we arrived in Ludington, a state-of-the-art fish cleaning area was right at our marina—color me happy—maybe I could persuade some fisherman to part with “just a little piece” of his catch! No such luck—they’re not allowed to “sell” any fish caught, and the man and his wife did not seem to want to barter with me either—sadness!! No fresh fish for us today.

We talked later on in the evening with a local guy who was going out early tomorrow morning to fish. It seems the salmon are finally running—and good too—and the fishermen hope it will last until late September. I do too—maybe there’s a chance for me after all. Up here, you’re allowed per boat: 3 of any one species, and five fish total per person. 5 people = 25 fish! The locals up here put children aboard, tell them to turn their electronics on and stay still (please!), and then the older guys put the fish onboard!! Good idea. Good mathematics.

So, like I said….today is Wednesday. We are almost in Grand Haven, Michigan, having traveled 56 miles today. I have put my fishing gear up and am now on the computer, on the flybridge—totally exasperated. Back about 40 miles, the water was flat, we had seen fish jumping, and lots and lots of boats had lots and lots of lines out. I couldn’t stand it anymore!!! I got my hastily packed box of beach tackle (all salt water, of course!) and found my largest lure, a #1 Clark Spoon, and my largest planer, a #4 one. I got Louis to slow the boat down so I could set the planer, and VOILA, I was fishing!! Color me happy. We were in about 40+ feet of water, and we had been told that the salmon were in about 100+ feet, but I didn’t care—I was finally fishing!!—thinking that maybe some stray fish would like to bite on what I was skimming in this pretty clear water. Our traveling Looper boats knew I was fishing, and they kept calling on the radio and asking how many I had caught and what time the fish fry would be tonight—ha ha! Not tonight, for sure—no such luck for me—but I was really trying! And when I finally pulled my hand-line in, my lure was gone!! Something either took a bite of it (which I hope/prefer to believe) or it became tired of being dragged for 40 miles! Everything else in my box was way too small, and I believe, way “not shinny” enough. So fishing was “over” for me for the day, but Wal-Mart is calling us tomorrow and I’ll surely get some fresh water tackle for my box! I really do hope to catch a fish before we get out of Lake Michigan—and they’re biting like crazy right now. Thankfully, Robert from “C-Life” was able to cajole his neighbor’s boat in Ludington into giving him a nice big piece of fresh salmon, so I’m going to cook it for him when there’s not a huge crowd around us.

***Something of interest—we have been traveling between ½ and 1 mile offshore today all the way to Grand Haven, and just today we have seen for the first time lots and lots of monarch butterflies migrating, all going from south to north—what a beautiful sight—I wonder why they’re traveling north and why so far from the land. We’ve never seen so many monarchs before and it reminds me that this time of year (around Labor Day) at Atlantic Beach we always see thousands of small yellow butterflies migrating, always west to east—I look forward to seeing them each year.

We wound up pulling into the Municipal Marina in Grand Haven around 4pm Wednesday, along with 11 other Looper boats—and you betcha—another cocktail party tonight—25 people!! What fun all these great people are—and they do like to have a good time around food and drink—I wonder why we fit in so well. We actually met 2 more Looper boats this afternoon that we hadn’t met before: “Our Turn” and “Kiwi Explorer” (they’re from New Zealand!) We plan on taking a tour of the area tomorrow, probably renting a car too. There’s a Cabela’s nearby, Wal-Mart and a West Marine, Staples and Home Depot—they’re all calling us. Plus a Verizon store, Louis needs to get his phone fixed, or get a new one—I’m tired of sharing mine!

Charlevoix to Frankfort

Monday, August 25th.

We left the lovely Charlevoix this morning, getting up before sunrise (6am--ugh), putting on our jeans and sweatshirts (it was 55 degrees!), wiping the dew from the boat, untying our power cables and lines, and waiting in a 8-boat line to cross through the only bridge out onto Lake Michigan again—which would open for the first time at 7am. Thankfully, I can’t say I’ve seen as many sunrises as Louis, but this one this morning was especially beautiful. It was a crystal clear morning. The winds of the past four days had died, Lake Michigan was beginning to calm down, and 5 Looper boats were ready to travel and take advantage of the good weather: “Wanderin L & M”, “C-Life”, “Sunshine”, Phantom….” , and “Bella Luna”. “Southern Comfort” and “Ithaka” decided to sleep in and take the 8am bridge opening, but they were ready to travel too.

We got out on the clear waters of Lake Michigan and it was a little rough for about an hour, but then the “seas” calmed down, and the lake became as flat as it could be—and we’re thankful too—we will be going 65 miles today, almost twice as far as we’re now used to going. We’ve been spoiled—as I’ve said here before—we really like 30-35 mile days! It’s so calm that right now I’m sitting on the flybridge (1:15pm) and writing this in Word—to be “posted” at a later date!

On our port (left) side are these humongous sand dunes—600-feet-high—and a half mile off shore, the water’s depth is 350 feet deep! It’s hard to imagine just how high these dunes are, and how much fun it would be to slide down them! Back about a mile, there was an abandoned, rusty tanker off to our starboard—it must have mistakenly been in waters too shallow or been caught in one of these notorious Lake Michigan storms or fog—it’s listing heavily and stuck solidly very close to the shoreline. I wonder how long it’s been there—none of us Loopers know!

We should reach Frankfort by 4pm this afternoon—making for a long, but pleasant day on the water. Frankfort was supposedly named for Frank Martin, who arrived in the area in 1855. He promptly built a log stockade around his home to ward off the winter snow drifts and his neighbors called it “Frank’s Fort”—the name stuck. The town sits on Betsie Bay, which is fed by the Betsie River (thinking of you Betsy!). Five boats hope to stay at the Municipal Marina tonight and have ribs for diner at the locally famous restaurant, Dinghy’s. Yum—we haven’t ordered ribs yet on our trip—what with all the great fresh fish up here! “Ithaka” has decided to go into Leland for tonight and “Phantom wants to anchor out in a pretty spot. (We’ll all catch back up with each other in a few days.) “Prime Time” seems to be about a day ahead of us, and we have no idea where “Victory”,"Sandpiper", and “Mojo” have gone! If tomorrow is another day like today, we’ll be on the move again south—days like today will get “fewer and far between” as August comes to a close.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another night in Charlevoix

Today is Sunday, August 24th. I shudder to think that four months from today is Christmas Eve! Where does the time go--our "golden years" are just flying--and I want to throw out the biggest anchor I can find and hold on to now! Any suggestions, anyone?

All seven boats decided early this morning to stay put one more day here in Charlevoix--a good decision in the minds of all us girls. The winds were predicted to pick up later today and then die out tonight--so we'll all be up early tomorrow and on the move. The Captains have decided to skip Leland and head straight to Frankfort--possibly traveling several days in a row to make up some time. This upcoming weekend is predicted to be "iffy", so we might be laid up again then. We need to travel when the winds are low.

We wound up yesterday (Saturday) taking a short walking tour of Charleviox. We went to see the "mushroom" houses, designed by Earl Young--"a dreamer, designer and builder of unique and fascinating stone houses, making a lasting impression on Charleviox." To us, they all looked like gnomes or smurfs had lived in them! They had uneven shaped and low shake roofs, tiny windows, large stone-built on the outside, and chimneys that had cement poured/dripping around the tops looking like snow was still on them! They all were precious and unique. After taking lots of pictures of the cute houses, we went for a tour of the local library. Talk about an inspiration for every town, this one here is a benchmark for every community that has old, outdated school buildings. Having been built originally in 1909, it was first just a school, then a lower school, then a middle school, then in the late 1990's deemed "out of date". The community got behind the push to make it a "downtown" library, pooling 2 million dollars through donations and a 6.2 million dollar bond. They built a state of the art, fine, fine, fine library--coming in under budget and finishing construction ahead of time! We were lucky enough to get a guided tour, compliments of one of the trustees (former student, former teacher, and former President of the Library Guild--talk about a true legacy!) and we were all totally blown away with what they had done there. We even went upstairs and bought "gently" used books in their used book room--all sales going into a fund for buying children's books. I could go on and on about how impressed we were with what a small community can do with an old, outdated, centrally located building!

Saturday night we all went up to the local deli and had another delicious dinner--thankfully skipping the nightly routine of the ice-cream parlor for dessert. We all went back to our boats thinking we were getting up early today and leaving --that didn't happen. That seems to happen a lot being a Looper! So Sunday, today, has been spent washing and waxing and odds and ends on every boat. Maybe a movie this afternoon--Olympics closing ceremonies tonight.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mackinac City to Charlevoix

We wound up staying in Mackinac City four nights--the winds were just too strong and the waves too high for us to travel comfortably when we wanted to leave, so we waited for "calm seas". Lake Michigan can be very treacherous, and boaters need to err on the side of caution when traveling. In fact, all along the coast, approximately every 20 miles, Lake Michigan offers "Safe Harbors"--places specifically designated for stormy weather and marinas that cannot turn you away in the case of bad weather--even if it means rafting up--which we really like to do. This is a much appreciated service for all boaters and comforting too. So we didn't mind staying in Mackinac City another couple of nights--a touristy town (but not as bad as being in the rocky waters of the island) and we enjoyed the conveniences of having a car (Thanks Ron!). We were able to see the quaint town of Harbor Springs by car, traveling 20 miles through the tunnel of trees on a winding one-lane road, seeing the coastline from the opposite side of the water, and enjoying the locally famous "Bar Harbor" restaurant for lunch--where they make their own hamburgers and onion rings, and cook them anyway you like--yum! Color Louis happy!

Tuesday morning, August 19th, we left Mackinac City on a beautiful, calm morning and headed for Petoskey, Michigan--we'll be staying in ports along the eastern coast of Michigan all the way down to Chicago. After spending one night in Petoskey, we awoke to a calm morning. Time to get moving! So we fueled up and all 6 of us boats were ready to head to Charlevoix, Michigan--an easy run too. As we slowly traveled the shoreline, we saw the first--of many we hear to come--sand dunes!! Nice soft sand--yea! "Bella Luna" has had enough of rocks. As we approached the bridge leading into Charlevoix, the water turned crystal clear, aqua blue--so unexpected and beautiful. I looked for fish, because you can see so far down, but saw none--and I don't know why except that maybe the larger fish can see as clearly as I, and the little ones are hiding in the weeds!

Both Louis and I remember that his parents used to talk lovingly about Charlevoix--a lot. Neither of us can recollect when they were here or how often they came--and that's sad--we both wish we had paid better attention. But we can certainly understand their happiness for this place--it's so very beautiful and picturesque--we hope that they are looking down on us and smiling now that we're here. Louis even remarked that this was his favorite spot to date!

We're here with "Sunshine", "Ithaka", "Southern Comfort", "Wanderin' L & M", "C-Life", "Phantom of the Aqua", and this marina's resident Loopers, "Kismet". We've had two fun-filled days with these great people, enjoying breakfasts at "Judy's", where Judy's Mess and pancakes were a hit, lunch at the local Chinese (we all got our "fix") and Subway (color Bruce happy!), shopping at the great little boutiques, 4 Loopers getting haircuts, women doing laundry, enjoying having a nearby grocery (you can buy beer, wine, and liquor in the supermarkets and 7-Elevens!), shopping at the local Thursday morning farmer's market, having a Looper cocktail party in the wonderful newly decorated marina's lounge, enjoying ice-cream nightly, and celebrating Margie & Larry's 39th wedding anniversary--congratulations to them both! There was even a concert in the little clam-shelled pavilion right at the end of our dock on our first evening here! This is a special place indeed--no wonder it's so popular and hard to get a reservation here! We've loved it.

We hope this afternoon, when the rain subsides, to go see the "Mushroom Houses"--I don't want to miss them. If the rain continues, the girls may go to see "Mama Mia" which is close--two of us have already seen it, but will gladly go again! Tomorrow, Sunday the 24th, we sadly will leave this great town, but my seeing goldenrod blooming and leaves dropping makes us need to keep moving south. Every store front is full of fall and winter clothing--depressing!

As soon as we were "checked in", Louis put the dinghy in the water and off we went exploring. After touring this small lake filled with many boats, numerous huge boathouses, "Architectural Digest" homes and condos, we found a narrow and shallow "ditch" that took us in a horseshoe shape direction around the backside of the small lake where we're "marinered". Then, we went on to the very large and absolutely gorgeous Lake Charlevoix, a roundish immense lake, surrounded by large homes and beaches--and a mountain range in the far distance. It's one of the prettiest settings that we have ever seen! One beach in particular we liked--the one with all the little multicolored huts all lined up in a row--possibly owned or rented out for the summer. No one was on that particular beach, and it was a beautiful day, so we don't know exactly what it was--we can only surmise. But it's late summer here--August 20th--and the water is still so cold. We haven't seen but just a handful of people swimming at all during this entire trip, and I know why--65 degree water. Burr! We'll wait for warmer waters before we break out the bathing suits!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yea!, we're back in the USA!

We had an easy crossing from Canada to Drummond Island, Michigan. The water was almost flat enough to break out the water skis—if we had had any on board! “Phantom”, “Golden Lily”, and “Bella Luna” came out of our marina and in about an hour met up with “Wanderin’ L & M”, “C-Life”, and “Adagio”—all three of them electing to anchor out last night. The six of us looked like little ducks—all lined up in a row—for miles! As we were just about to cross into American waters, “ETC.” joined up—having come from the southern shore. We were a convoy of 7 boats—looking like a proud invasion of Loopers! There is a designated line, on the chart we use for navigation, showing where we actually would come into American waters, and as we passed over it, I quickly headed below for my “Ray Charles Sings America” and John Phillips Sousa CDs! We played 2 songs from both of them for our flotilla, and it was a really great feeling hearing those songs. As much as we hated leaving Canada, I must say we felt an unexpected and overwhelming joy upon returning “back home”! We all raised our yellow quarrantine flags, Custom officials came to all of our boats, and we had an easy transit back into the country. Whew!

We spent the first night in Drummond Island, going to dinner with all of us who had crossed that day—all 14 of us—and we had a great time, in spite of most of us who had left the windows in our boats open, left in 2 cars, drove a few miles away from the marina to a delicious restaurant, and half-way through dinner, looked out to see it pouring rain—ugh! “Welcome Home Everybody”!

Friday, we left for a marina at St. Ignase, Michigan—about 40 miles (?)—and had an easy crossing there too. We walked the streets in the small town, had dinner at an outside café across the street, and saw a beautiful sunset—“red skies at night, sailors delight”—plus a glorious, full, bella luna! The meteor shower had been this week for three nights, but we saw not a single one—the moon was just too bright. Sadness!

Saturday, August 16th, we crossed the lake 8 miles and settled into the Mackinac City Marina—a great spot in a busy town, with lots of shops and restaurants, fudge and ice cream. We are also just across the bay (16 minutes by ferry) from the famous island of Mackinac—pronounced “Mac-a-naw”—home of the Grand Hotel (one of “100 Places to See Before you Die” book and “Somewhere in Time” movie). We spent all of Sunday on the island, taking over there a jet boat ferry (complete with a huge rooster tail!), taking a horse drawn carriage tour of most of the island, having a delicious lunch outside (yea Rudy!) overlooking the bay—at the Fort, and going to the Butterfly House (disappointment—not that many varieties). The island does not allow cars, so the only means of transportation are horses (over 600 in the summer) or bicycles (thousands of them!). We were told that the “pooper scoopers” who go along behind the horses are some of the highest paid workers on the island—they’d have to be—imagine 600 horses—“road apples” are everywhere, but not for long! There are fudge shops almost on every corner, tee shirt shops elsewhere, and people, people, people everywhere—what a “must see” for all the tourists up this way. (Once is enough for us!) But The Grand Hotel is aptly named, painted the whitest of white, sitting high on a hill having a commanding view of the lighthouse and water, possessing almost 400 rooms—all decorated differently, and declaring proudly of having “the longest front porch of any hotel in the world”. The word huge does not adequately describe it—but “so beautiful” does.

I am now sitting in The Bean Counter, a small coffee shop, because our marina does not have wireless. Our marina is right across the street from dozens of these small shops, and we’ve had a great time peeking in and out of them. We had planned to leave this morning, Monday, but the winds are just too high for a comfortable 45+ mile ride to our next destination—we’re told Lake Michigan will likely be this way a lot—so we’ll just have to wait and be ready to run when the winds get down. So, “Bella Luna” got a great 3 hour bath this morning from the water level to her top and we all went out at lunch for pizza at Mama Mia’s—great! The Olympic are—sadly for us—winding down, and we’ll take advantage this evening of good TV reception to watch them. As of this posting, “Phantom of the Aqua”, “Grace Full”, “Etc.”, and “Bella Luna” are waiting in this marina for the winds to die down. “Wanderin’ L & M”, “C-Life”, and “Ithaca” are in the island marina at Mackinac. “Southern Comfort”, “Sunshine”, “Golden Lily”, "Adagio", and “Blue Max” are in the marina at St. Ignase—all 12 boats just a few miles apart. We will all head out as soon as we can, so more later, as we work our way south. We’re still thinking we’ll be in Chicago the week after Labor Day.

Leaving Canada

Goodbye Canada

Thursday, August 14th. How befitting that on the morning we left Blind River, Ontario and headed for the USA we would see a beautiful eagle perched on a jetty rock just outside our marina! It was right at 7am, and he must have known we were leaving—his beak was pointing the way for us! (We hadn’t seen as many eagles as I had wished we would, but I felt this sighting was especially poignant.) We had spent the night at the marina, eating on board, watching a little of the Olympics, and choosing to go to bed early in preparation for our crossing The North Channel Thursday—it looked to be a favorable day to cross this wide body of water. We’ve become so spoiled with calm waters, having been in small canals almost since coming to Canada, protected from the winds and waves by cliffs and trees.

We have been in Canada now for two months, and we will remember being here for so many reasons:

First and foremost, we left a sweet part of our lives, and a member of our family, in Penatanguishine—our precious dog, Buddy. I put it all in his obituary, but his absence is still felt, achingly, everyday. Our hearts will always have in them a special place for Canada.

We’ve had the absolute coolest summer of our lives! Take for example this morning, it was 52 degrees when we woke up, and the highs in the afternoons have been only in the mid 70’s, with very low humidity—fabulous! Although Canada has had a record breaking summer of rain, it hasn’t hampered us or detracted from our enjoyment one bit. Most days have been beautiful to travel, with rain coming in late afternoon—or storms overnight. So far, wind has not been a major factor, making us “lay-over” for days on end. We’ve seen glorious sunsets. It’s very tempting to want to spend every summer here.

We’ll take with us flashes of color—brown cottages with red roofs, wind-bent green pines and cedars, pink granite cliffs and rocks, “snow” topped mountains—actually huge boulders of white quartz, tall scarlet flowers in Hopewell Bay, aqua waters in Topaz Lake, white and blue sails, red canoes, orange moons, jet black squirrels, brown sea gulls, multicolored flowers in the locks, black and white loons, silver domed churches in Quebec, green-topped buildings in Ottawa, “pretty” colored paper money, fireworks in Montreal, and red mushrooms in the forest path—to name only a few.

We’ll take with us tastes of freshly caught pickerel and white fish, pea meal, poutine, freshly picked tiny wild blueberries, Fouquar’s (sp.?) ice cream, numerous “potluck” dinners, Canadian Labatt beer, and the very best fried chicken livers I’ve ever had in my life at Drummond Island (are you reading this Claire and Judy?!)—all so unexpected and delicious to us!

Loons singing their special song—the rushing sound of waterfalls—bag pipers so graciously piping us into a small town—sitting in the basilica in Montreal listening to an all French mass—ospreys chirping constantly overhead—small town church bells—having “Mama Mia” play through my head for days, after seeing the movie—all sounds of this particular summer. Blissful quietness being anchored in coves—all so wonderful.

I’ve saved perhaps the best for last; because it’s the faces I want to remember the most and will probably have the hardest time doing so. Smiling faces everywhere—from the exceptionally trained and staffed Parks Canada men and women in the lock system, to the helpful locals pointing the way for us “tourists”—the people of Canada have been wonderful hosts. Smiling faces of children when their eyes lit on Buddy—“a dog on the boat”! Smiling faces so interested in our journey, unbelieving and envious that we’ve come so far. Smiling faces of store clerks and restaurant waitresses, fuel pumpers, dock hands, and everyday people—there seems to be an attitude here of happiness—at least from our perspective. Even Canadian television appears to have an uplifting attitude and “take” on the daily news programs. There’s not one single occasion that either of us can remember where we’ve been slighted in the least—everyone has gone out of their way to make us feel welcomed. And all of it makes me want to be a better ambassador of my own country—making me more tolerant of, and patient with, others visiting where we live, and not just Canadians either--all "tourists". It’s not the big things we’ve seen and done so far on this trip that I will remember the most, it’s the kindness shown by total strangers at every turn that will keep me smiling with fond memories. After all, it’s an attitude—eh?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The North Channel

August 11th. We left Little Current Monday morning—all of us scrambling for a “pump out” at the same time. There must have been 10 boats, all lined up, and waiting for only 2 attendants to get lines on, pump each one out, take money, and get lines off. What a zoo!! The staff should have known that after everyone being “socked in” for the weekend with 2 & ½ inches of rain in 24 hours, that at the first sign of good weather, everyone would be itching to get back on the water! Oh well.

So we all finally got serviced, and off we went—to The Benjamin’s—a funny name, but a beautiful spot. Pink granite cliffs and huge rocks surrounded us—patches of wild blueberries were everywhere too! We rafted with “Phantom”, “C-Life”, and “Wanderin L & M” in a quiet little cove—had it almost to ourselves for a while. But with the wind the way it was for that day--it was a popular anchorage—a few sailboats came in, and then our other friends came to join us. We were so happy to see them too—these were the boats that were at the other marina in Little Current: “Sunshine”, “Southern Comfort”, “Blue Max”, “Ithaca”, and “Golden Lily”. After an impromptu cocktail party on the bow of our boat, we all settled in for the night—or at least we thought we had—until Larry and Robert decided to go just behind our boats and build a campfire on the big rock. (A round rock pile had already been formed by former fire-builders!) Louis and Bruce couldn’t stand that the others were having all the fun, so they joined them too—what a cute sight that was, all four guys sitting around a campfire—what stories/lies must have been told!! Alas, no one, on any boat, had marshmallows!

Tuesday, August 12th. We awoke this morning with Bonnie bringing us homemade blueberry muffins!! What a treat for the four of us boats rafted together—and what a labor of love—the wild blueberries up here are plentiful, but tiny, tiny—you have to stoop and pick a lot to even get a cup full! It was a beautiful morning, and we all wanted to take it slowly. But while the weather was pretty, we needed to move westward—so off we went—landing in Bear Drop, John Island, in the early afternoon. We’re all hoping that late afternoon today or very early tomorrow morning, we’ll see a bear!! Don't think so though because there are five of us rafted together for this night—“Adagio” has joined us. Most all of us run our generators at night, so we'll be making too much noise for any wild animals to come near us for a drink of water. As I write this, Louis, Larry, and Robert have gone out on the dinghy scouting—for what I have no idea!! Bonnie and Bruce have also gone looking for more blueberries! (Pancakes tomorrow?) There is an inukshuk right behind us—overlooking and guarding our boats—someone else has decided to decorate this beautiful cove! This afternoon, we’re all purging our refrigerators—because you can’t bring fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats into the USA—we will all gather and eat tonight on “C-life”. Thanks Kay and Robert! Tonight is also the beginning of a 3 night meteor shower, and we’re all hoping the clouds will stay away—so we can see the shooting stars, we’re certainly not worried about any city lights up here getting in our way!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I got this email from mom this morning (a picture of the girls!):

Eleven Looper boats gathered for Happy Hour on the docks of the Sportsman Inn in Killarney Channel the evening of 8-6-08. The following boats were present: C-Life, Southern Comfort, Ectra, Wanderin L& M, Ithaka, Bella Luna, Sunshine, Graceful, Golden Lilly, Phantom of the Aqua, and Blue Max. Victory had left in the morning and Prime Time was at the docks. A good time was had by all as we swapped tall stories of our adventures and plans for our future travels!
**Addition from Diane, the picture of "the girls" is far better than the one of "the boys"!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

another picture from Geni

I got this today from Boo...
"Geni, you might post this - our looper group travelling together. This is cocktails at Killarney, Ontario."
Keep sending 'em to me and I'll post them!
Their *favorite* daughter,

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Killarney to Little Current, North Chanel

After the horrendous storm of last night, the four of us boats very carefully "un-rafted" on a clear, beautiful morning and headed towards the end of the Georgian Bay at Killarney. When we left Mills Bay where we had been rafted and traveled the narrow channel that morning, we saw so many trees that had been snapped off, and others simply felled, high and low, and for several miles too. We knew the storm was really bad, but to see all the damage it had especially done just around us made us believers for sure! As we progressed that day, evidence of the storm waned and we knew that whatever had hit us was definitely the worst part of the storm.

As we were making our way, we passed huge, pink, granite rocks--we had heard they were up here, but had not seen them yet. The cliffs were so tall and pretty, and occasionally we would see a waterfall--something we probably wouldn't have seen the day before, but with the storm the night before--water was definitely streaming off those cliffs! All of a sudden, we were at the end of the channel, and the waters opened up to a beautiful bay with aquamarine water--just like in the Caribbean--what a surprise! And in the distance, a mountain range looked like it had snow on top--only it was white quartz boulders peeping through the trees. What a preponderance of colors--blue sky, white top/tree covered mountains, pink cliffs, aqua water, and us! Yes, we took lots of pictures.

Killarney, Georgian Bay, is a wonderful little town--where we spent two nights in the Sportsman's Marina with a bunch of other Loopers. We all were spread out over three marinas--all within walking distance of each other--the town is just about three blocks long. The first night there, all us Loopers gathered at the dock for an impromptu party--I counted 24 people--what fun! Killarney's claim to fame is the Red Bus Fish and Chips. Now we have really been eating a lot of fish up here, but this was definitely the best we'd had to date. In fact, it was so good--we ate lunch there twice!! (We have not done that on this trip until now.) And I would have eaten there again and again--it was that good. They sell only two things, fish and fries. No slaw, no hushpuppies, no crackers or bread, no nothing else--even the drinks are sold out of 3 drink machines (with only two working!). And the fish is sold out of an old red school bus! People are lined up, day and night, eating is outside at picnic tables only, and the servings are plentiful--with the ice cream shop just next door--amazing. Ice cream is everywhere in Canada.

While we were in Killarney, we took our dinghies to Covered Portage to look for the Indian Chief rock and hopefully, some wild blueberries. We found the Indian Chief but no berries. The animals or other boaters must have picked them all. But we were determined to find them--sooner or later! And we would.

We left Killarney with "Phantom" on Friday, August 8th--8 other Loopers had left the day before. We headed for Baie Fine--a long ride up an off-course route--to see and spend the night at anchor in "The Pool". We had an easy ride to the Pool--"Bella Luna" getting probably as close to a fjord as she will ever be. We anchored in a cul-de-sac bay, rafted up with "Phantom" and launched the dinghy. We were headed for a walking trail that led up the mountain just behind us, through a creek bed, through the forest, and up, up, up to the top--where we would find "Topaz Lake". The lake there is definitely the most pristine one I've ever seen--the water was the color aquamarine, and you could literally see 30 feet down into it. I'm sure it's all fed by snow and rain, so unspoiled by man, and truly breathtaking in beauty. We all stopped at the top to reflect on the journey so far, and said our thanks. We also found wild blueberries! It's been quite a while since I've been on such a hike, and I must admit I got winded a few times, but the views were spectacular! Bruce found me a "walking" stick, and it really helped me with my uncertain balance--living on the boat now for 3 months has made me unsteady, to say the least!

Saturday, August 9th, we left the Pool in the rain--we had left our hatches open again--it being such a beautiful evening the night before--and yes, our comforter and other things got soaked again! UGH. But our short time there was worth it--we had seen an eagle, a huge beaver, picked wild blueberries, seen Topaz Lake, and had a wonderful evening under millions of stars with good friends. Wow.

We got to Little Current, North Chanel a little after 1pm--tying up at the town docks along with "Wanderin L & M", "C-Life", "Prime Time", "Phantom of the Aqua", "ETC.", and "Grace Full". The other 5 boats, "Southern Comfort", "Sunshine", "Blue Max", "Golden Lily", and "Ithica", had reservations to be at the marina at the end of town--Spider Cove. We were lucky to get a spot here, as this "marina" does not accept reservations--just a first come basis. We really like where we have been now for 2 days--right beside the laundry, near 2 grocery stores, an LCBO and beer store, and just across the street from cute shops and restaurants--just like being on the town docks at Beaufort, NC. Lots of people walk the docks, and it's been fun being here--plus great wireless!! Just poor cell phone reception--guess we can't expect it all, right?! Little Current is the eastern most spot in the North Channel.

We've had more rain today, but we expect it to clear this evening and all 12 boats plan to leave in the morning headed west to The Benjamin's--great anchorages and pink rocks. Then on to Gore Bay and another anchorage. It will probably take us 5 days to reach Drummond Island, where we'll clear customs, and be back in the USA. From there, we'll be working our way down the western coast of Michigan to Chicago, arriving there sometime mid September. For lots and lots of reasons, I'll be sad to leave Canada--I'll try to do a special posting on our reflections of this special place and time in our lives.

Penatang to Killarney

****This is the posting I was trying to get to the other day!!! Our good friend, Guy, from "Southern Comfort" has been sitting beside me now helping me do this--while the rest of the group has been having cocktails!!. Thank you Guy!

Thursday, July 31st.
We left Penatange with 8 other boats this morning. “Sandpiper” had arranged a Captain to lead several boats on a flotilla for 12 days ending in upper Michigan sometime around August 12th. This is a once in a lifetime trip for us, so we decided that we didn’t want to be on quite that tight a schedule, so we opted out of the flotilla—us, “Phantom of the Aqua”, “Traveling L & M”, and “C-Life”. We four would all work our way through the Georgian Bay and North Channel—after all, with our great Captains, we ought to be able to navigate! As it turned out, all the boats from three marinas left around the same time in the morning—so we wound up being in the flotilla after all, until after lunch!
Traffic on the water has really picked up and at one point in the morning, there were 18 boats, all lined up like baby ducks, weaving and winding through these narrow cuts and islands—it was quite a sight! We all, plus many more others, were headed to Henry’s Fish Camp for lunch on the island of Sans Souci—the only spot to stop for miles! Float planes were flying people in to eat, big and small boats were jockeying for a spot on their many docks, and dogs were barking, children were running all over the huge rocks — it was a real “happening” place! We sat at picnic tables inside a huge screened room (although there were tables outside as well), and ate baskets of delicious pickerel, whitefish, and perch. What a treat—what an institution here—and one we’re glad we didn’t miss.
After lunch, we split from the flotilla, and headed to a beautiful anchorage in Echo Bay—where the four of us boats all rafted together to spend the night. Dinghies were launched, Louis grilled brats for all of us, and just at sunset, Bonnie saw a moose! A beautiful/surprise ending to a great day!Friday, August 1st.
After a calm night at anchor, I slept in late—8am! Louis had been up since 6am, checking the engines, listening to the weather, charting our course for the next several days, and making sausage rings! What a treat for us to wake up in a beautiful, quiet spot smelling sausage cooking—just like camping! The Captains were worried that bad weather was coming in from the west, so a decision was made to move to Parry Sound. Around 11am, we pulled up our anchor, and we were on the move again.
We had an easy run to the town docks in Parry Sound, passing small, red and brown cottages with lots of activity in and around them—turns out this is another holiday weekend for Canadians—a “Civic Holiday”! Interesting, since May 24th (Queen Victoria’s birthday!), the Canadians have had 3 more holiday weekends—love that summertime! As I mentioned before, the traffic on the water has increased greatly—now we have small, local boats (and some “go-fast” ones too) darting in between our line of slowly moving trawlers—sometimes it can get “hairy” in the narrow spots—making me nervous and keeping Louis on his toes!
The town docks where we are docked are right beside the Georgian Bay Airways—float planes. All afternoon we watched these planes take off and land—ferrying people for scenic tours and taking them to Henry’s Fish Camp. If we hadn’t already eaten there yesterday, we might have been tempted to take to the air for a different perspective! But we decided instead to wash the boat, take showers, put more water onboard, relax, and go just across the street to Bay Street Café for dinner. A good choice! There are four boats here—“Victory”, “Phantom”, “Paradigm”, and us. And it didn’t storm after all that worry and discussion!

Saturday, August 2nd.
We had expected bad weather today, but woke to a beautiful morning with a 10% chance of storms. We were thankful, but confused! We spent the day charting, cooking, exploring the town, peeking our heads in and out of the cute stores (we found Louis’s Crocks!), and going to the movies—the new Mummy movie. The guys loved the movie; the girls still like Mama Mia the best! “Prime Time” has caught up with us, and we’ll be traveling again with them tomorrow.

Parry Sound was named after the arctic explorer, Sir William Edward Parry (population @ 6,500). First a logging town, Parry Sound became a busy transshipment port for oil and salt. Today, salt is still delivered by ship to several spots on the water. One such place was directly across from our marina, and we watched as this huge ship docked and off loaded a tremendous Hershey-kiss shaped pile of salt. The pile was then covered with this equally huge black tarp, and everybody went home! Fascinating.

Later, we had take-out Chinese food for dinner and went to bed early. The sky tonight then was the clearest yet, with millions of stars—I’m really hoping I’ll get to see the Northern Lights sometime while up this way—I keep looking every night. Louis has seen them several times before on his hunting trips in Canada, lucky guy!

Sunday, August 3rd.

With a float plane in front of us, and one behind us, we left Parry Sound and headed northwest. It’s been so interesting to intermingle with these float planes—just business as usual up here! I remember seeing the first ones somewhere around Montreal—and it still gives us a thrill to see them take off and land. We saw one yesterday that was all red, and instantly thought of the Red Baron! It was a beautiful morning, calm waters, and cool.

We traveled to a spot that “Southern Comfort” had told us about—Hopewell Bay. We set the anchor, rafted up with “Phantom”, launched the dinghy, strung a long rope from the stern to a nearby tree, and took off exploring in this beautiful cove. We saw several small inukshuks—a man-like stone figure the Indians used as a marker when traveling—and we decided to make one of our own. So, we found a spot that looked good and fairly flat which had small stones nearby, and we proceeded to build this inukshuk—not an easy task! But we did, and we all loved it—took pictures of HER—and had fun. We called her “Lady Loop”. While exploring, we also found small, wild blueberries—which the bears had eaten most of, but we were able to find enough to satisfy our taste buds. Also in this cove were two small ice-fishing houses (just like in the movies!), pulled up on the rocks with cables, stored safely for their owner’s winter entertainment—the first we’ve seen of them. It’s hard to imagine this area being so frozen that you can drive snow mobiles from town to town on the ice—and be able to pull these seemingly heavy “huts” out over enough water to actually catch fish below. I’d love to come back and see it in the wintertime!

After a good nap (we had worked so hard on the rocks!), we opened the refrigerator and shared our leftovers with “Phantom’s”. We were in a cove, neither a light nor sound around us, and for the last time @ 11pm, I checked the sky—looking for shooting stars or the Northern Lights. None were found, so I called it a night!

Monday, August 4th.

Today we were up early and on the move again. It takes a good amount of time, work, and effort to “un-anchor”—but we really are enjoying being on anchor—choosing your own “spot” and staying as long as you want is a freedom we’re just not used to having. Plus the quietness and sheer beauty of all around you is breathtaking, making the days and nights at anchor just the best! We’re both still hoping to see some wildlife when we’re anchoring, but so far, nada.

We traveled “outside” in the big, deep waters of the Georgian Bay—about 5 miles off shore. It was a short and very enjoyable respite from all the narrow, shallow, rocky, and winding channels we’ve been in for such along time. The outside water was flat—such easy traveling—and a day we all were thankful for. We were headed to Wright’s Marina—and we passed “Prime Time”, “Wanderin L & M”, and “C-Life” as they were headed out of Wright’s. We should catch up with them in another day or two at Killarney.

Wright’s Marina is a quiet little spot, with not much there. I tried to do our laundry, but they only had 2 washers and 1 dryer—and I needed to do 4 loads. That would have taken all afternoon, so I only did 1 load—will try again in Killarney. We did, however, go to dinner at one of Canada’s top 10 restaurants—The Little Britt Inn—wow. Hard to believe a place like that could be this remote! Jim, the owner, came to our marina and picked the four of us up and took us to his restaurant—and we can’t say enough good things about the food, service, the reasonable pricing, and décor. Jim is quite a character, has many funny stories to share, has an eclectic taste in his furnishings, and has an excellent chef—his wife! The menu there is hilarious too—one section in particular (kids) I’d like to remember. The menu says; “Noisy kids: Fried liver & onions with broccoli & a side of olives. Priced according to noise levels. Messy kids: “Uncle Jim” will make them clean up after themselves—no charge!” And finally, “Polite kids: Macaroni & cheese & free ice cream!” (There were no kids there the evening we went!) We came back to the boats in time to see an orange sliver of a new moon just rising over the trees—our moons at home don’t get that color until the fall—so pretty!

Tuesday, August 5th

We left Wright’s Marina @8am, and headed out into the Georgian Bay, where we would be off shore 5 miles for about 25 miles in distance. The boat channel goes out there, with no inshore route available—so we had to “pick” our day to travel. “Phantom” and Louis decided it was a “calm enough” day—so, off we went. We had a side-to wind the whole way, making us roll and roll and roll—very uncomfortable after all the calm waters we had been in for the last several weeks, but fairly common in the waters of North Carolina. After about 4 hours, we reached the inlet where we could go inside and find anchorage for the night—Collins Inlet.

We got “Phantom” and “Bella” anchored and rafted together just before the worst storm we’d ever witnessed (while being on the water) hit us head on. Neither of us has a wind gage on board, but Louis estimated winds of over 60 MPH. Rain was blowing sideways, visibility was limited just to the bow of the boat, and lightning was cracking all around us. It got so bad that Louis and Bruce both turned on the engines and pointed our bows into the wind—and we were still at anchor! I understand from daughter Catherine that this is the same storm that hit Chicago yesterday and that Wrigley Field had to be evacuated in the middle of a game. It truly was something else!

After the storm passed, “Wanderin L & M” and “C-Life” came into our cove and rafted up with us—they had waited out the storm in a safe place about a mile away. We all laughed about what we had just witnessed, and were so thankful that we had not been out in open waters when it hit. Margie wound up fixing homemade pizzas for all eight of us, Bonnie and I emptied our refrigerators of salad fixings, and we had a great time on “Wanderin”. After supper, Louis made another batch of his now famous ice cream for us all to enjoy!

We were sitting there finishing the ice cream when Larry looked out of the boat and up the channel where we had all come from. Lo and behold, another storm was coming down the channel—a huge white curtain of rain was about to descend upon us again—ugh. If someone had yelled “FIRE!” we couldn’t have scampered off the boat more quickly! We all hurried back to our boats, hopping on and off our “raft”, to get back and prepare for more rain. Sure enough, in about 5 minutes it hit—although this storm was nothing like the previous one. But it was now late enough for us all to be safely tucked in for the night. What an interesting day this has been!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lost in Killarney!

I have been blogging daily since July 31st on Word--saving daily accounts each night since we're finding wireless so infrequently. I have been sitting in another marina's reading room now for a while (a good 15 minute walk from our boat since our marina doesn't have wireless), and feeling like a complete idiot. (I really need Computer 101.) I have tried and tried to copy and paste--and am doing something wrong--I can't get it to work! Neither Geni nor Catherine are available at their cell phones, and there is no one around me who can help! So, I'll try again in the North Channel with my friend Robert from "C-Life" beside me--that should be in a few days. I hate that I cannot post now, because a lot has been going on--all positive. TYJ.

We are in the western most part of the Georgian Bay (Killarney), and will cross over tomorrow into the eastern most part of the North Channel. Little Current is where our next big stop will be, and I should be able to get wireless then. From there, we'll have @ 100 miles before we reach Drummond Island, Michigan, where we'll clear customs and be back into the USA. We have no idea when we'll reach the tip of Michigan--we're having the most wonderful experience up here!

All is well with us and the boat and others--the weather is perfect--Canada is really the place to be in the summer! We're with about 15 other Looper boats, off and on, and all of us are sharing this amazing adventure with such pleasure. We miss our family and friends--and wish each of you could be on this journey with us!

Friday, August 1, 2008

pictures from Geni!

Hey everybody! Since mom & dad are having a hard time with my "lessons" on posting, I figured I'd post some pictures that were emailed to me! One of their friends took these as they were passing through some locks last week. I have no idea where they were, someone will have to let me know.
And no, I do not write anywhere near the level that my mom does, but at least I know how to post pictures... LOL. Enjoy!
Their *favorite* daughter,
Geni (