Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Gold Loopers at Last!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Before we actually set off on our Loop adventure from Sturgeon Bay, WI in August 2013 we took several short cruises to get used to our then new to us boat. We travelled across Green Bay to Menominee, MI; north to Escanaba and Fayetteville; and across Lake Michigan to Leland. So we could have crossed our wake in any of those places. Lake conditions were our deciding factor- Our preferred destination of Menominee was a go!

We spent an extra day in St. Ignace waiting for the best weather, then on July 10 cruised about 50 miles to the small isolated Beaver Island near the top of Lake M. We arrived in time for lunch at Delhinney's, a short walk from the marina. We topped off our fuel for tomorrow's trip, noting that diesel here is more expensive than in Canada.

Weather and wave forecasts were spot on. Wednesday's waves were less than .1 meters- it doesn't get much better than that! We untied our lines at 5:20 am to begin our 120 mile trip. We did not see another boat during the first 70 miles. Our tug performed like a champ today and every day on this journey. We actually crossed our wake near Jackson Harbor on Washington Island, but did not touch land there on either end of our Loop. We returned to Menominee, MI around 1:20 pm to officially complete our Loop. We love the marina here- it has the most well-appointed boaters' lounge we encountered, and the rest of the facilities are equally impressive. We immediately felt we were "home." Fellow snowbirds Pappy and June met us at the marina and took us out to dinner and a visit to their lovely northern home.

Our daughter-in-law and her father drove our truck and trailer to us the next day, and we loaded up the boat and headed for our land home.

What a journey! August 2013-July 2018

  • 9,826 miles including various side trips
  • 190 locks
  • 3 boats: Mara Beel I, our 42' Ocean Alexander; Short Vacation (with John and Pam Short) from Deltaville, to Georgetown, VA to take possession of Mara Beel II, and of course Mara Beel II, our 27'  Ranger Tug. The decision to downsize was a long-term plan that happened sooner than anticipated when Mara Beel I sold right off the bat. Its a long story!
  • We lost 3 of our parents during the trip, all in their 90's
  • 3 grandchildren were born during our trip.
  • We gained numerous life-long friends.
Gold Loopers at last!

Mara Beel is for sale!

During the nearly 2,000 miles we covered this summer from the Chesapeake to Michigan, our Ranger Tug (2014, 27' ) performed perfectly, having no issues whatsoever while we pushed her pretty hard for 9 solid weeks. We have not regretted our decision to downsize at all- this boat is a champ! However, we have decided our cruising days are over due to Mark's back problems. The herniated disk he sustained a year ago makes living on a boat less than ideal. We are going to concentrate on being around for our kids and grandkids and enjoying life on the banks of the Mississippi River, rides in our pontoon boat, and wintering in our Florida home where the water is "soft" all year.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Blind River and Mackinac Island

Blind River was our final stop in Ontario, and we felt right at home in this small but well-appointed marina.

We spent 2 nights here.
We cruised through the North Channel quickly- it seemed to us that the best scenery is out in the many anchorages rather than along the route we traveled. We did not want to anchor because taking our dinghy off and on of the boat could easily hurt Mark's back. And anchoring without a dinghy to explore is not nearly as much fun.

Modern day voyageurs

We left Blind River at 4:30 a.m. to take advantage of the calmest winds crossing over to the United States. We checked in using an app called ROAM, which was a piece of cake- no need to stop or make a phone call.

We didn't travel in the dark very long.
The cruise to St. Ignace, MI, took about 7.5 hours.  Here we met our friends Bob and Kathy who are on their sailboat heading to Canada. St. Ignace is just across the water from Mackinac Island, so of course we had to visit that famous tourist spot. I was a bit skeptical but the island is absolutely beautiful! Even though it was a perfect Sunday, the ferries carried very few people and the island was not crowded. About 500 people actually live here, and who knows how many tourists stop by. I learned that the name is pronounced with a silent C- "Mackinaw" even though it is spelled "Mackinac". That clears up years of confusion for me!

We took the classic (slow) ferry to the island with friends Bob and Kathy.

The famous Grand Hotel

If you are not a guest here, it will cost $10 to walk across the porch!

Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan all connect in this vicinity. The water is a beautiful blue and crystal clear.

The marina area with a wigwam in the foreground 

Of course there are no cars on the island, but there are lots of bicycles and horse drawn carriages.

The pooper scoopers valiantly try to keep up with the horse poop. There is still a definitive odor in the air.

Flowers are everywhere.

It feels fantastic to be back in the U.S.

Stone church
Fort Mackinac

I love history, so the fort was a must-see.

The fort as seen from the harbor

The fort changed hands between the British and the Americans after the War of 1812.

These actors, sang, danced, shot the cannon, etc.

Looking through a peep hole

We had lunch at this tea room, catered by the Grand Hotel.

The "Mesabi Miner" headed to Duluth.

One of innumerable fast ferries 
We need 2 good weather days to finish our Loop! At this point July 10-11 looks promising. We have flexibility in choosing our end point. We purchased our original boat in Sturgeon Bay and then crossed Green Bay to Menominee, MI, and later crossed over to Leland, MI, Escanaba, and Fayette. So we can legitimately cross our wake in any of those places. If the current wind/wave forecast holds, we will go to Beaver Island tomorrow and then have a long ride to Menominee the following day where our son can meet us with our truck and trailer. We will see- nothing is definite yet. But we are so excited about finishing!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Penetanguishene to Britt

We left Penetang after a terrific visit with Susan and Jeff on July 2 knowing that hordes of holiday boaters would be returning to their marinas in full force after the long Canada Day weekend. So we were not surprised to meet dozens of large cruisers stirring up big wakes and rocking us. Between the wakes and the wind, I was not able to take any photos! We spent the night in Killbear Marina, an isolated spot.

We took off early this morning- July 3 -  and enjoyed an almost smooth Lake Huron. We were in open water part of the the time and in protected passages most of the way. The scenery along this part of the Canadian Shield was nice- granite everywhere. Some passages were extremely narrow, twisting,  and lined with boulders.

We are spending the night in Wright's Marina in Britt on the Byng Inlet. Their boater lounge is fun- we've played many games of table shuffleboard after walking to St. Amant's Restaurant for fish and chips.

One of the 30,000 islands in the Georgian Bay

The original site of a barrel placed here  to mark safe passage through turbulent waters.


Thousands of cottages dot the rocks, but this one is unique.

A traditional Great Lakes style boat

Rocks are everywhere

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Orillia to Penetanguishene

  June 29-July 2

Pop the champagne corks- we have finished the Trent Severn Waterway and therefore all 102 Canadian locks on our trip!!  From here on it will be beautiful open water- and rocks of course. Rocks are fine as long as we don't hit any of them in this region of 30,000 islands!

We left Orillia around 7:15 am and made the 9:00 lockage at Couchiching, followed eventually by Swift Rapids, the Big Chute Marine Railway, and the Port Severn locks. 

Big Chute is unique- it allows us boaters to “portage” over land without ever stepping off our boats. 

Next to the Railway

We drove Mara Beel into the railway car and a sling was put underneath us. Our cruising buddies on Sourciae were placed right behind us. 

We had to wait for this boat to come up from the lower side.

We were moved along a railway track, lifted out of the water, carried over a road, and a waterfall, and then carefully placed back into the water 60 feet below.

The boat traveling over the road

And back into the water on the other side

Our turn- Sourciae is loaded in behind Mara Beel

This thing looks way too much like a roller coaster for boats.

Looking ahead from our bow

The “Oh s*** "moment

What an amazing experience! 

From here we moved on a bit to the Georgian Bay and Penetanguishene, home of our Looper friends Jeff and Susan. We spent the Canada Day long weekend here in Harbor West Marina. This is the biggest summer holiday here, and is just as busy as the 4thof July is in the States.