July 16, 2014

Day 305 - July 16, 2014: Crossing our wake and completing the Great Loop!

The weather cooperated with sun and light winds out of the northwest, and we headed out towards Little Sable Point. I'm not sure why it is call "Little" since it is physically much bigger than Big Sable Point which we passed north of here two days ago. Later, with the wind on our stern, we passed White Lake and Muskegon Lake, which are both good ports of refuge.

Little Sable Lighthouse
We began to see the Grand Haven Pier at about noon, and at 1:15 p.m. we made the turn east, entered the channel, and crossed our wake! I stopped to mount the new gold burgee and tooted the horn, and we high-fived our accomplishment of 305 cruising days covering a 6,850-mile circumnavigation of the eastern U.S. and parts of Canada.

Flying the new Gold AGLCA Burgee
Friends and family came out to greet us and get pictures of the event. Our friend Susie was on the north pier, my sister Shari and her husband Jim were on the south pier, and our friend Bari was further down on the south pier boardwalk. Our neighbor, Bob, came out and took pictures as we arrived at our home dock, as well. Thanks to them for being a part of our return home celebration.

Pausing after crossing our wake in the entrance to the Grand Haven Harbor

Showing off the burgee to our friends
After another 6 miles up the Grand River and into Spring Lake, we were backing into the slip. We'll have to get used to not having marina dock workers meet us to assist in tying up again.

Now the unenviable task of carrying our clothing, food, electronics and other personal items up the 33 stairs to the deck and another 13 steps into the house. No regrets though, it was well worth it.


This blog was intended to keep our family and friends up to date on our Great Loop adventure, and we hope it has been of use to others looping or planning to loop in the future. I know we followed other boaters' blogs for the same purpose. My writing became a ritual each day, and sometimes seemed like work, but it did preserve the trip for us to relive again and again in the future. Thanks to Anne for all the help in making this a complete, accurate, interesting and readable record. We will now sign out until our next adventure.

July 15, 2014

Day 304 - July 15, 2014: Anticipating completing the Great Loop

With the hazardous weather on the lake, we spent today in Pentwater mostly on Great Laker anticipating completion of the Great Loop. After 1 1/2 years of researching, looking for boats, and deciding to purchase the American Tug; 1 1/2 years researching the Great Loop and outfitting the boat; and starting our trip in September 2012 (taking 10 months off over the winter of 2013/14), we are about to complete our dream adventure.

The culmination of the trip will be marked by "crossing our wake" at the end of the Grand Haven Pier and replacing the current America's Great Loop Cruising Association burgee, which has a white background, with one that has a gold background. The gold background signifies to other boaters that we have completed the loop.

The Gold AGLCA Burgee!
One of our routines during the trip was recording data about our travels. Both of us kept fairly detailed spreadsheets, mine mostly focused on the logging of boating data, and Anne's on tracking travel and expenses. In addition, I maintained a daily blog, and Anne kept a daily diary. This rainy cold day was the perfect opportunity to bring these up to date, do some reminiscing, and compile some overall statistics. Since Anne has a banking background and I have an engineering background, this data collection/analysis/processing comes naturally.

Summary Data:   As of tomorrow in Spring Lake, we will have...

  • Spent 305 days living aboard Great Laker
  • Cruised 6,850 miles (the basic loop of 5,250 miles, plus 1600 miles on side trips)
  • Taken over 11,000 pictures, saving about 9,000 of the best
  • Visited 17 states, 2 countries and 2 provinces
  • Traversed through 147 locks
  • Stayed one or more nights in 179 places
  • Dined out 152 times
  • Trekked to the laundromat 28 times
  • Toured 72 museums, battlefields or forts
  • Visited 20 family members and 34 friends along the way
  • Took a break to travel home and back 4 times
  • Accumulated 914 hours on the boat diesel engine
  • Averaged 7.5 mph (when including all engine-on hours)
  • Consumed 2191 gallons of fuel, averaging 2.4 gallons per hour
We took a break to eat lunch at our favorite place called the Cottage Garden Cafe on Third Street. Tomorrow looks like low winds and sun, and we plan to depart at first light. 

July 14, 2014

Day 303 - July 14, 2014: Pentwater, Michigan

We are getting close to home, and anticipating "crossing our wake" and celebrating the completion of the Great Loop. But, I digress. First, we must get there...

The route home takes us along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, and one of our favorite ports, among many, is Pentwater. Since it is about halfway to Spring Lake, we chose this for tonight. After leaving Frankfort, there is a long curving stretch where we passed ports such as Arcadia, Portage Lake, and Manistee. This led to Big Sable Point, where we turned south, passed Ludington, and headed for Pentwater. 

Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Like most ports along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, Pentwater is a summer tourist and boating destination and also a port of refuge. A port of refuge is a place that is required to take boats and provide shelter when the captain believes that to continue the voyage would put the boat and passengers in peril. Most of these ports of refuge are inlets with a channel into a small river-fed lake that provides natural protection from winds and waves. Here, the Pentwater River feeds Pentwater Lake which outflows into Lake Michigan. 

The Pentwater beach on Lake Michigan
Pierhead in the Pentwater channel
View of Pentwater from Pentwater Lake
The most disastrous day in the history of Lake Michigan shipping occurred here in November 1940, when 75 mph winds and 20 ft. waves and a raging rainstorm destroyed three ships and took the lives of 59 seamen. Two freighters sank with all hands lost, and a third freighter ran aground, losing two seamen. That night a snowstorm arrived, hampering the Coast Guard rescue efforts for three days. 

We docked at the Snug Harbor Marina, and after Anne's especially healthy dinner of baked catfish and asparagus, we walked a couple of blocks into town and  treated ourselves to some Amaretto Cherry Chocolate Moose Tracks ice cream before retiring for the night. We are expecting a small craft warning with high winds and waves tomorrow and won't know until dawn whether we will make the run for home. 

July 13, 2014

Day 302 - July 13, 2014: Frankfort, Michigan

I awoke to the noise of high winds and rain during the night, and it was howling early this morning as well. West winds of 15 to 20 knots gusting to 25 knots were registering at the Grand Traverse Light. It looked like this would be a "weather day" for sure. In looking at all of my weather sites online, it became apparent that both south of us, in Frankfort, and north of us, in Petoskey, the winds were lower, and that didn't seem to make sense. Local boaters said it had something to do with how the winds became focused on the Leland area from passing in between the north and south Manitou Islands a few miles to the west.

Win, Anne and I spent a good deal of time studying weather data and listening to the NOAA forecasts hoping for a cruising window later in the day. Around noon, a couple of large cruisers departed, followed by a sailboat or two. We thought they might turn back, but not so. Then there seemed to be just a hint of the slackening of the wind, as the flags standing at attention started to drop a bit. By 2:30 p.m. the weather reports reflected the reduction in winds and gusts, and we said our goodbyes to Win and Susan and departed south for Frankfort. They left north for home an hour or so later. As always, we enjoyed being together, and cruising together just makes it even more special.

With the waters settling down, we passed Pyramid Point and then rounded Sleeping Bear Point, seeing the first evidence of the massive sand dunes.

Hundreds of mature pine trees dwarfed by the underlying massive dunes
The sun was out, and we took this opportunity to stay along the shore and get close-up pictures of the same Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore sand dunes we had walked to four days ago. You can see the steep dune that Rachael and Anthony climbed down and back up, and those current hikers appear like ants on the 1000 ft. high dune. We had watched from the wooden observation deck barely visible in the top left third of the picture just left of the cluster of trees.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Rachael and Anthony's dune climb location, with climbers strung out on the vertical trail
Point Betsie came up next, and here we made the turn south to Frankfort, welcomed by the breakwater and the Frankfort Light. We stayed at the Frankfort Municipal Marina, which is on a nice park just a block from downtown. After a somewhat stressful beginning, the day turned out fine, and we capped it off dining on a shrimp and homemade pesto pasta dinner that Anne prepared. It was especially tasty and really hit the spot.

Pt. Betsie Lighthouse
Frankfort Lighthouse

July 12, 2014

Day 301 - July 12, 2014: Leland, Michigan

It was another calm morning with an overcast sky but was quite warm. We moved up the Grand Traverse Bay, rounded the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula at the Grand Traverse Light, and passed Cathead Point on the way south. Win and Susan left later, but with a faster Tiara easily passed us and got to the Leland Harbor Marina first. We began to see evidence of the steep high dunes that lead to Sleeping Bear Dunes, which we will see by water tomorrow.

The Grand Traverse Light
Cottage looking over the steep dunes along Lake Michigan
Leland is located where the Leland (Carp) River flows into Lake Michigan. It was the site of a large Ottawa Indian settlement years ago because the river dropping down over the rocks formed a natural fish ladder. White settlers began to come here around 1830 and built a sawmill and 12 ft. high dam on the river in 1854. This increased the level of the upstream lakes and allowed transportation of goods up to ten miles inland by boat. 

Downtown dam on the Leland River
Around 1900, wealthy industrialists discovered this area and began to build cottages and eventually hotels. Today, Leland is largely a summer resort and a vibrant charter fishing location, welcoming tourists by car and by boat. It is a "must stop" for Great Loop cruisers coming from Charlevoix to Frankfort. 

A quaint collection of restaurants, cheese, fish, art, and clothing stores
Early restored fishing trawler

Out exploring the shops
After a relaxing day, Win, Susan, Anne and I went to dinner at the Riverside Inn, located two blocks east of the marina. This is an honest-to-goodness fine establishment with a real chef. The sea bass was very unusual and delicious.

July 11, 2014

Day 300 - July 11, 2014: Northport, Michigan

The overnight temperatures were in the low 60s which makes for great sleeping, and we arose to find a mixture of sunshine and clouds. By mid-morning we were ready to cruise north, along with Win and Susan in their boat Swift, to Northport.

Northport, in the heart of the Leelanau Peninsula, has a reputation for being an area where the rich and famous can live quietly and anonymously. The first cherries were planted here, and there are still farms and vineyards in the surrounding hillsides. We had come here before, but were unprepared for all the changes underway. Since the town put in a sewer system, it has attracted a significant investment by businesses in the downtown. There are new marina buildings, a new bowling alley bar and restaurant, a restaurant/bar about to open in the old train station, a combined wine tasting, restaurant and inn, and a general sense of awakening throughout.

The Northport Marina

View from the upper deck into downtown

Great Laker in our slip

Anne and Susan enjoyed the farmers market, while Win and I explored the new establishments and came back to reminisce about the good old college days at the U of M. After hors d'oeuvres on Great Laker, we ate delicious pulled pork and ribs at The Garage Bar and Grill in town and listened to an amazingly great jazz concert in the park just adjacent to the marina. Another great day with good friends.

Day 299 - July 10, 2014: Wine tasting on the Leelanau Peninsula

Today we rendezvoused with Win, my college roommate, and his wife Susan at Suttons Bay. They are boaters out of Harbor Springs, and we have cruised with them before, so we were anxious to spend some time with them while here in Grand Traverse Bay. Suttons Bay lies midway up the Leelanau Peninsula on the West Arm, and we cruised there this morning in sun and glassy water.

This peninsula is long and narrow and lined with rolling sandy hills covered with trees and some lakes. It has turned out to be ideal for growing cherries and grapes. The shoreline reveals small tourist towns, hillside cottages, year-round homes and vineyards.

Leelanau Peninsula
We took our bikes up into town and took a bus a few miles to a cluster of wineries to do some wine tasting. The bus was designed for bike and ride, meaning the rear seating of the bus had been removed and replaced with eight bike racks. So we loaded them on and got off at the first winery which was south along the coast road. From there we rode up some very steep inclines, stopping to walk as necessary, to three other wineries. Today was warm, still, and sunny, and the views from up top were spectacular. It reminded Anne and me of areas we have seen in Tuscany.

Anne and Susan high up on the Leelanau Peninsula

Vineyards overlooking the bay
We enjoyed sitting on the patios of the wineries, tasting various wines and catching up. Michigan wines are no match for California wines but are getting better each year. The dry whites are the best in my opinion, with only a few reds of interest. The harsh winter is reported to have caused some setbacks for this year's production, and time will tell. Then we rode over to the Leelanau Bike Trail which is on an old railway roadbed and followed it back to Suttons Bay. Fortunately, it was a gentle slope down all the way. Today was relaxing and fun.