Sunday, September 17, 2017

Tug LeeLoo Finishes The Loop!!!

Tuesday September 12, 2017.  After nearly two years on the Loop, today we crossed Lake Michigan from Grand Haven, Michigan to Racine, Wisconsin and “crossed our wake”.  It was exciting but also a little bittersweet.  Our traveling companions Paul and Taffy (Catalina) and Eric and Robin (Robin’s Nest), along with several other looper boats, continued south from Grand Haven while we turned west towards Racine.  We wish them safe passage and are excited for them for the many new adventures they will soon have.

Our crossing was stellar!  For the first four hours, we had less than one foot following seas.  And then the lake turned flat calm with barely a ripple.  We left at 7:00 am just before sunup and arrived in Racine 4:40 pm; the trip was 82 statute miles.  Over the course of nine plus hours, the captain was able to take four shot naps while Nancy operated the boat.  We were out of sight of land for about five hours.  There were no radar or AIS targets at all except for one great lakes freighter.

 Flat, Calm Lake Michigan

Our arrival in Racine low key, to say the least.  This is because we crossed mid-week and no one knew we were returning.  On well.  Our good friends Hal and Wendy drove our car up to us on Wednesday and took our picture with our new Gold AGLCA Burgee.  Once you complete the Loop, you retire your white burgee and deploy the gold one.  We are now known as Gold Loopers!  (If you complete the Loop a second time you retire the gold burgee and deploy a platinum one).

 Gold Loopers!

The Great Loop is a most excellent adventure!  We visited 15 states, two countries, and went through over a hundred locks.  We saw things you wouldn’t see on land.  Boating provides a whole different perspective.  And we met countless new Looper friends, many of whom will be friends for life.  Our advice for those considering the Loop . . . . just “Do It!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Grand Haven, Michigan

September 11 - We once again left at dawn.  it was going to be a long cruising day - 67.5 statute miles.  Our destination was Grand Haven, Michigan  where we were meeting up with our friends Tom and Julie Van Hall on Sum Escape.  We were once again traveling with our Looper friends on Catalina and Robin's Nest.   Most of the other Looper boats were also in our flotilla.  There is something comforting and fun about traveling with so many other Loopers!

We kept close to shore most of the day to have calm water.  Our cruise was fine, just a long day.  We had been to Grand Haven by car, but never by boat.  The Municipal Marina was nice with linear docks along shore.  Again, easy in, easy out. 

We so enjoyed seeing Tom and Julie again!  We hope to catch up with them again some day!

 Grand Haven Municipal Marina

Ludington, Michigan

September 10 - We left Frankfort at dawn for Ludington, Michigan (52 statute miles) with Looper boats Catalina and Robin's Nest.  The weather was clear so it was a good day for travel.  

Sunrise South Of Frankfort

By this time, we had also picked up a few other Looper boats who where traveling to the same destination so we a flotilla of boats traveling down the Michigan lake shore.  The lake shore of Michigan is a beautiful sight with all the sand dunes and summer homes.  

Big Sable Light House

There was a Boat and RV Show in Ludington close to the marina when we arrived.  A few of the Loopers walked to it and explored.  We had never stayed at the Ludington Municipal Marina before so this was a new experience for us. It is a nice little marina with good facilities.  It was easy to get into the marina - and easy to get out! 

Our friends Jim and Connie on Patriot (32' Nordic Tug) joined us for dinner.  They are Gold Loopers, having finished in 2015.  It was great to see old friends!

Frankfort, Michigan

September 9 - Finally, after a week the water was calm enough for us to cruise to Frankfort, Michigan.  We left Northport at 7:30 a.m. and cruised for about 6 hours (68 statute miles).  We traveled with Looper boats Robin's Nest and Catalina.  It felt great to be traveling with other Loopers!  Our cruise started out well - only 1 foot waves on the bow for the first 4 hours.  Then, for about an hour we had rough water, but things finally settled down as we got closer to Frankfort.  We had been to Frankfort a couple of times before so we knew the marina and town well.  We only spent one night in Frankfort since the water the next day was was forecasted to be good for cruising.

 Leaving At Dawn For Frankfort

We enjoyed Frankfort.  We took a walking tour around the town.  Nothing much has changed since our last visit.  There was a couple of new restaurants, but everything else seemed the same.  We got together with our Looper friends in the evening and played cards.  

Northport, Michigan

September 1 - Our plan for the day was to cruise to Northport, Michigan to spend Labor Day Weekend.  It was a much shorter cruise - only 25 statute miles.  We did not leave until 9:00 a.m. - what a luxury!  It was a sunny day and we only had 1 foot waves on the bow.  A very comfortable ride.

Prior to leaving we moved over to the fuel dock and took on fuel (140.5 gallons).  The last time we took added fuel was Orillia, ON, mid-way through the Trent-Severn Waterway.  Tug LeeLoo is very economical to operate, she usually get 2.5 statute miles per gallon, sometimes more!  We also pumped out the holding tank, something we had to do about once a month.  The pump-out fee was $20.  How's this for logic?  The local towns and cities along the lake don't want you to discharge your waste overboard (would never do that anyway), but then they charge you for the pump out.  Pump-outs were also expensive in Canada.  

We had been to Northport 7 years ago while on our way to the Nordic Tug Rendezvous in Charlevoix.  We remember the visit well because it was beastly hot!  The marina was ok, but a little run down.  The downtown area was very small with only a couple of stores and a couple of restaurants.  Imagine our surprise when we found a new and improved Northport!  The marina has made a lot of improvements in their docks and facilities.  Nice clean and updated bathrooms and showers, a spacious boaters lounge, and clean laundry facilities.  There is also a nice boardwalk along the shore.  You can tell the Northport really takes pride in their marina.

 Northport Municipal Marina

The town itself was bigger with many new shops, including a nice grocery store and bakery, several restaurants, and a post office.  The last time we were there we had to go to the gas station to buy ice cream.  Now they have an ice cream shop that was constantly busy!  Yes, the gas station is still there but no one goes there for ice cream any longer.

 Beautiful Flowers In Northport!

Our good friends Hal and Wendy drove all the way from Galena, Illinois to spend time with us in Northport for the Labor Day Weekend.  We had a great time with them, but what a long drive for them!  We had lots of laughs, card playing, and exploring in their car.  We toured  Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, and Traverse City.  We love their visits!!

 Visit To Grand Traverse Lighthouse (North Of Northport)

 Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Along The Shore At Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Wendy and I were sitting on Tug LeeLoo's bow on Sunday.  A 48-foot Sea Ray Sedan Bridge was coming into the fuel dock which was just a few docks over from us.  The boat was trying to do a U-turn so that their port side was against the fuel dock.  Midway in the turn, the boat suddenly went forward with the bow coming partially out of the water and up onto the dock.  The boat broke off a post on the dock and bent the I-beam that supports the dock.  Thankfully, they did not hit a fuel tank!  They slid back down off the dock and proceeded to try and back up, only to hit the rocks on the other side of the channel and ruining a propeller.  Then they turned off the engine and started to drift back into open water.  This all happened so fast and Wendy and I were just stunned.  No one was hurt, there was no explosion, but obviously the boat was badly damaged.  They just kept drifting away.  A couple of hours later they were able to come back to the marina on one engine and tied up to an outer wall.

We walked by the boat the next morning and talked to the captain and his wife.  Apparently, the electronic shift controls on at least one engine were stuck in forward gear.  So he couldn't stop the boat.  And once you turn off an engine that is in gear you can't start it up again.  So this explains the erratic maneuvering that took place.  We later learned that they had only had the boat one week!  Operating a new boat is hard enough when things go right, it would be nearly impossible to know what to do to recover from this event with such little experience.  They had to wait for Labor Day Weekend to end to have their boat towed and pulled at a nearby boat yard for repairs.

Hal and Wendy left on Tuesday, but we had to wait until the following weekend to leave because the water conditions were not favorable.  We were not ready to revisit the waves we had between St. Ignace and Charlevoix.

While we were in Northport waiting for good water to cruise south, our Looper friends Paul and Taffy on Catalina and Eric and Robin on Robin's Nest arrived.  It was so great to see them and share experiences.  We got together for a couple of meals and played cards at night.  One night we even stayed up until 11:30 playing cards - very late for Loopers!    

Charlevoix, Michigan

August 30 and 31 -  We said goodbye to St. Ignace and headed to Charlevoix, Michigan at 7:00 a.m. on August 30.  When we first left St. Ignace, the water was calm and peaceful.  In fact, the first 2-1/2 hours were great!  We passed under the famous Mackinaw Bridge without incident.  There were a couple of freighters we were watching, but they never caused us to change course.  

 Cruising Under The Mackinaw Bridge

As we cruised through Gray's Reef, we turned south and the water got very rough with the 1-2 foot waves hitting us on the beam.  It was a very uncomfortable ride.  When we finally got to the entrance to Charlevoix, we had a 20 minute wait for the Hwy 31 draw bridge to go up.  It was very windy in the channel waiting for the bridge and the captain had to "station keep" the boat while waiting.  Initially, we were the only boat in the channel, then about ten minutes before the bridge opened two other big boats came in behind us.  They did not crowd us, but that 10 minutes felt like hours!  Especially after such a rough cruise.  We were exhausted and just wanted to be tied up in a slip.  Finally, the bridge opened and we were able to cruise to our marina.  

 Overlooking Charlevoix Marina

The town of Charlevoix is located on Round Lake and the marina is just to the right after passing under the bridge.  We had been there 7 years ago when we attended our first Nordic Tug rendezvous on "little" LeeLoo.  Charlevoix has really grown in 7 years - many more new shops, restaurants and bars.  We were there right before Labor Day so the marina was crowded.  In fact, we tried to make reservations there for the Labor Day weekend, but were told the marina was full.  There were several Looper boats in the marina. 

Charlevoix is known for the "Mushroom Houses".  We walked several blocks and found them.  There are probably about 8 houses of this style.  They looked very "hobbit" like.  Very interesting.  Some house were huge; some houses were tiny.  There's even a tour available on a golf cart that explains the history of these houses.

One Of Larger Mushroom Houses

Round Lake is very small and very beautiful with lots of homes with boat houses.  Charlevoix would be a great place to live if their winters weren't so long!

Beautiful, Upscale Homes Along Round Lake

We spent 2 days in Charlevoix waiting for good water before cruising to Northport, Michigan  to spend the Labor Day Weekend.

St. Ignace, Michigan

August 29 - After waiting a couple of days at Drummond Island for good cruising weather, we were finally on our way to St. Ignace, Michigan.  We departed at 7:20 a.m.  It was a very cloudy and dismal day, but we had 1-2 foot following seas which meant the waves were on our stern.  A much more comfortable ride than if the waves are on the bow or the beam.  We made good time and arrived at St. Ignace 6 hours later (52 statute miles).  The highlight of the trip was seeing a large bald eagle perched in a tree shortly after we left Drummond Island.  We had not seen bald eagles for a while.

We passed by Mackinac Island on our way to St. Ignace and that was a treat.  Many Loopers stop at the Mackinac Island Marina.  But we have been to Mackinac Island many times so decided to head to St. Ignace.  We just had to watch out for ferries from the mainland to Mackinac Island.  One thing we did see that was interesting was a slow boat that was following about a half dozen people who were swimming from the mainland to the island.  The swimmers had wet suits on, but I'll bet the water was cold!

 We have been to St. Ignace before so we knew the town well.  Being the end of the season and in the middle of the week, the marina and the town were not crowded at all.  We did enjoy walking down the main street and seeing the changes since our last visit.  There are still many restaurants and bars - and, of course, Carey found ice cream! 

Interestingly, there was a Ranger Tug named Independence that we "met" in the North Channel.  We never really met them in person but we did see them at several anchorages and while cruising.   Independence was already anchored in our "horrible" anchorage in the Benjamin's the night we rocked and rolled (literally!) all night long.  After we arrived in St. Ignace, Independence pulled in and docked nearby.  We finally got to meet the crew of Independence; we had dinner together at a local restaurant and shared many stories.  It was nice to finally meet them in person!

 Tug LeeLoo In The Distance At St. Ignace Marina

 Beautiful Flowers In St. Ignace