Friday, September 26, 2008

Officially summer is over. We hope that everyone enjoyed the autumnal equinox on Monday heralding in the beginning of Fall. Our weather here has been holding up very well; sunny days in the high 60’s or low 70’s and not many storms. It looks like we have lucked out.

That is more than we can say for our Steelers. We think the offensive line missed the bus to Philly. Big Ben was surrounded all night by guys in green shirts instead of the familiar black and gold. Thank goodness the defensive unit made the trip or it would have been an embarrassing blow out. Next week it is Monday Night Football against the now first place Baltimore Ravens. You can bet that they will be blitzing on every down. It is a home game though, so there shouldn’t be any buses to miss.

We only spent one short day in St. Ignace last week. Our apologies to all of our friends there, none of who we got to see. Linda was able to run over to the laundromat and wash all of the heavy spreads and pillows. We left the next morning for Mackinaw City, our purpose two fold.

First, we wanted to see the Steelers game on Sunday. Mackinaw City has cable TV that we could watch if the game was broadcasted locally. If not, we got the motorhome out of the barn, so we could fire up the satellite dish and watch it there. It was broadcasted locally, so we could watch it on the boat. It was definitely not one of their better days.

Second, when we put the motorhome in the barn last June, there was a problem with the inverter. Mike wanted to check it out and make sure it was working before we had to get in and use it. What he found was all four house batteries stone dead. That seemed strange as we charged them all up completely before we put the coach away. Mike figured that one of the batteries went bad and drained the other three. After sitting all summer, they were probably all shot now to we headed to Wal-Mart and got four brand new batteries. It was almost three years to the day that we replaced them last time. Happy Birthday to Linda again.

On our way out of St. Ignace we saw our old charter boat, the Rec Diver. We called them and our friend Larry McElroy, who bought the business from us, was running his last charters of the season. He came over to Mackinaw City and we had a great dinner with him and re-capped the summer.

We took advantage of the nice weather on Saturday and unloaded most of the boat. You know, all the things that we put on at the beginning of the summer, but never used. By the end of the day, the Blue Chip was sitting two inches higher in the water.

Sunday was football day. But we already talked about that.

Monday we were getting ready to head back to Mackinac Island for one last time. Before we left Mike wanted to start the generator in the motorhome and charge up the new batteries. He was up there quite a while and when he came back he announced why the batteries had gone dead. The inverter had malfunctioned as we thought. What we didn’t know is that apparently the cooling fan on it ran all summer until it totally drained all the batteries. We do turn off all the 12 volt power in the coach when we store it, but we now know that switch doesn’t kill the inverter. To kill the fan Mike had to disconnect the batteries. When he tried to charge the batteries, he got a fault that said there was an AC back feed. Impossible he thought because it worked all the way up. When he opened up the unit to check the wiring, he found a wire nut had melted and probably shorted out on the case. He replaced the nut and the unit appears to be working great. After leaving the batteries charging for an hour and a half, we shut down the motorhome and cranked up the boat to head to Mackinac Island. There are almost no other boat there, this late in the season.

Our friend, Capt Pete from Munising, called and he was going to join us on the island. He drove over to St. Ignace and caught a ferry to the island and spent Tuesday night with us. We enjoyed his short visit, before he had to return back to his Shipwreck Tours business. The weather was again perfect. We had the bikes down and were able to do a few around the island rides in t-shirts and shorts; although it was a bit nippy riding into the wind. Wednesday evening we had our last supper at the Island House Hotel. It is not the Grand, but the food is just as good and half the price and the view is better. Besides it is close to the marina and was easy for Mike to hobble to. Jake was elated because he knew it was his last night on the darn boat! Thursday morning, Linda got in her big walk with the dog for the last time and we departed at 11:00 for Mackinaw City.

Once we got to Mack City it was all work. The first order of business was to pump and flush the holding tank, always a joy. Next, was to unload everything else that was still on the boat. That was followed by a thorough cleaning of the boat, inside and out. We finished before dark, but we both really beat. We then moved into the motorhome, which appears to be running very well now.

All and all it has been a wonderful summer of boating. We had almost no problems with the boat; a battery problem early on and then one of the refrigerators quick a couple of weeks ago. It was the one we used for beverages so we just moved those to a cooler on the fly bridge. Mike thinks it is a control box and we want to get a new one put on before they pull the boat. We will finish a few small things on the boat this morning before it gets pulled and then we will head towards Detroit. We have business meetings this weekend with Jim and Diane Richards and Tuesday Mike is getting his tooth capped in Conneaut Lake, PA. We will be in Pittsburgh the following weekend.

We hope that you have all had as good a time this summer as we have.

Take care, love,

Linda, Jake and the Fat Man

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Summer is gone

Hurricane Ike stayed south and west of the Keys, but we did have tropical storm force winds for two days. Our neighbor checked the house and found a couple of small trees and a whole lot of coconuts down. We had no damage to the house at all. It does sound like a new chain saw might be an appropriate gift for Linda’s up coming birthday.

We ended up spending five nights in the Canadian Soo. Three of those days we ended up eating at Jake’s Grill at Reggie’s Place. It is a downscale bar with pound and a half hamburgers for $5.95. Needless to say, Mike was in heaven. Most people split a burger, but Mike was good for the whole thing. For the adventurous eater they also have a double and a triple burger; that would be 3 or 4 and a half pounds of meat. Even Mike didn’t try that. For a dollar extra you can get a basket of fries that would feed four people and still have some left over. The grill is run by a very friendly elderly lady and all the restaurants in Ontario are non smoking, so it was actually very nice dining there. We would eat lunch there and then still be full and not able to eat any dinner.

Thursday we pushed off and headed back down the St. Mary’s River out of the Soo. Floyd and Maggi were still with us so we took the scenic route and went around and through Lake George. They had never done it before and there are some narrow shallow spots that you have to be careful at. We went first and they figured that we would find any problems before they hit them. We managed to keep it in the channel and didn’t have any problems at all getting through. We then crossed over the north end of St. Joe’s Island and through the St. Joe’s channel. It is one of the prettiest rides that you can take in a boat. We ended up that night in Hilton Beach on the west end of the island. The marina was still open, but there was no one around that night to take our money. We had dinner that night in a new restaurant near the docks.

The next day we ventured out into the North Channel to the little town of Thessalon. The Dockmaster here was right there to help tie up the lines and collect for the dockage. It was the first time that we had paid for a dock in a week, so we couldn’t complain. Lincoln and Shirley North, mutual friends of ours and the Lewis live in Thessalon and invited us all for a wonderful dinner at their lovely home on the bay. The Norths have a boat just like ours and we all belong to the same club, the Great Lakes Grand Banks Owners Association. The next morning we all went out to breakfast and then out to buy some wild rice. Shirley made wild rice for dinner the night before and it was the finest that we have ever eaten. It was special rice she said that came from Saskatchewan and a store up the road sold it. Unfortunately they were out of it and wouldn’t get any more in until next year. Shirley was gracious enough to give us a little of her treasured stash.

That afternoon we said good bye to the Norths and then parted ways with Floyd and Maggi Lewis. We were heading to Meldrum Bay and they were heading back to Drummond Island and pulling their boat for the season. New owners had taken over and re-opened the Meldrum Bay Inn and Floyd and Maggi had eaten there earlier in the summer and recommended it. We had dinner there Saturday night and enjoyed it. They had a small parlor at the Inn and it had a TV hooked up to a satellite. We asked them if they could get NBC from the states and they assured us they could. We then told them there was a football game on Sunday night that we would like to watch if possible. They assured us it would be no problem at all. We told them it might be late, but again they said no problem. Just to be sure, Mike went in and tuned in NBC. We would again be able to catch the Steelers!

Sunday evening we went up and had dinner. We went into the parlor and turned on the game. They served us dessert and coffee there while we watch the Steelers humiliate the Browns for the tenth time in a row. Just after half time we were the only people left in the Inn and the owner came in and said she was going to bed. If we would be so kind as to turn the TV off, shut off the lights and pull the door shut when the game was over, she would appreciate it. Needless to say, we had to be a bit subdued on our cheering and antics.

The weather had turned and we had a lot of wind and rain. Monday it was still blowing and we decided to stay another day to let it die down. Unfortunately the Inn was closed on Monday, so we had to fend for ourselves. Actually Mike made a wonderful pasta with Italian chicken sausage in a tomato sauce with onions and green peppers.

Tuesday the wind was still blowing, but from the south west. We made an early morning departure (7:00 AM, you thought we were kidding) and ran along the lee of Colburn and Drummond Islands to Detour. A good friend of ours, Chuck Feltner, who lives on Drummond Island, was coming back from Detroit and saw our boat in the harbor. He stopped to chat and we all went out to dinner at the Mainsail in Detour, before he caught the ferry back to Drummond.

The wind was blowing again Wednesday, this time from the North West. The winds are normally lighter in the early morning than later in the day, so we made another 7:00 AM departure. We skirted the coast of the Upper Peninsula into the Les Cheneaux Island and back to Hessel. The last time we were here we were the only boat in the harbor. This time the harbor is almost full. Officially the harbor is closed, but the power and water is still on and the docks are free. Mike wants to stay for a week. Unfortunately our favorite restaurant (the only one in town) is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so we finished our left over pasta. We left this morning and are now in St. Ignace in the Straits of Mackinac. We need to start cleaning the boat up to put it away and to start looking for somewhere to watch the Steelers game this Sunday.

All this wind and weather is to be expected in September. That doesn’t make it any more fun for Jake, the world’s worst boat dog. Oh, he loves it when we are docked and all the people come around and greet him. He just doesn’t like it underway. Here he is begging Maggi not to untie the line and just leave us tied to the dock.

We hope that the fall has been kind to you all.

Take care, love,

Linda, Jake and the Fat Man

Monday, September 8, 2008

What a difference a day makes!

We tried to go over to Beaver Island for the Labor Day weekend and to our dismay the marina was full. We tried Mackinac Island, but they were full too. The Dockmaster at Beaver did say to call him back in the morning and he might have a spot for us. We did and he did, so we went over Beaver Island on Saturday. We got a late start as we had to fuel before leaving Petoskey. We put on another 140 gallons, bring our consumption for the entire summer up to 340 gallons. Not bad for 2 ½ months of cruising.

We arrived at Beaver and tied up. We got the only slip that was left. We expected it to be a slow summer, but the docks have been very busy all summer on this side of the lake. We did a lot of biking while we were in Petoskey on their wonderful bike trail and then did more on Beaver. We also enjoyed our last meal of the season at the wonderful Beaver Island Lodge.

The weather was nice on Labor Day and we decided to make the run for the Straits. The wind was supposed to kick up on Tuesday. The waves were starting to build already before we could get through Grays Reef Passage and Jake was again not happy. Once we got through Grays Reef and in the lee behind Waugoshance Point the seas calmed. Jake still wasn’t thrilled, but at least the ride smoothed. We were coming under the Mackinac Bridge before the annual bridge walk with 50,000 people had finished, so we had to be escorted by a Coast Guard vessel to keep us away for the bridge supports and any chance of mischief.

Mackinac Island was still bustling, but a few of the boats had already left, making room for us. We were early enough that Linda wanted the bikes off and to ride around the island. Mike had wised up by now and just got them off and peddled. That turned into the daily routine. By Tuesday however, the island activity had almost come to a stand still and the marina cleared out. What a difference a day makes, Labor Day everything is going full strength and the day after it is dead. The weather also changed after Labor Day. Our warm days with good sleeping weather, changed to cool days and cold nights. Fast moving fronts with wind and rain are now the norm. Our hopes for a late summer seem to have been dashed.

By Thursday we were ready to leave the island and start heading towards the Soo. We left early, at least by our standards, 9:00 AM, and started across the top of Lake Huron. Mike mentioned to Linda that it looked like the wind was blowing a little more than forecasted, but she assured him that it was OK. A half hour out we were into 3-5 foot waves and Jake was not a happy camper. By now you know the routine, if Jake isn’t happy…….

The Admiral called for a change of course and we headed into Hessel in the Les Cheneaux Islands. We were greeted by the Dockmaster, Gail, who it the most enthusiast community supporter that we have ever met. Everyone is greeted on the radio with “Welcome to beautiful downtown Hessel”. We were the only boat in the marina, so she was happy to see us. After helping tie up the boat, she took Jake running down the dock and into the park where she threw a ball for him. Afterwards she took him into her office and gave him dog treats. Needless to say, Jake thought that we had just arrived in dog heaven. It was very hard to get him back on the boat the next morning to leave.

The wind had shifted to off shore, so our ride to Detour wasn’t very bad at all. Our destination was Lime Island. It is an old coaling station that is now part of a Michigan State Forest. There is an old wall where the freighters used to dock to fuel that we could tie to. On the island are the remnants of old town, along with walking trails all over the island. Again we were the only boat there, so the dog could run free. Lime Island has always been a favorite stop for us. Floyd and Maggi Lewis on Bonnie Banks joined us later that afternoon. They were coming to the Soo with us to watch the Steelers game.

Saturday, Mike made breakfast for everyone and we ate on a picnic table next to the boat. We later had a nice ride up the St. Marys River to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, commonly referred to as the Canadian Soo. We were again the only boats in the marina and it was closed. Last year we stayed after they closed and had power and water. This year everything had already been winterized, so all we have is a protected place to tie up, which is much better than a sharp stick in the eye. That night we had an elegant dinner at one of our favorite places in the Soo, Thymely Manner.

Sunday we dressed in our Steelers garb and arranged for a cab to pick us up at 12:30 to take us to the Canadian Nightclub so we would be there for the 1:00 kickoff. This is where we watched the first game last year and had a wonderful time. The bartender and the cook are huge Steelers fans. The cab was late and didn’t get to us until 12:50. That should have told us something. It was only a ten minute ride and we arrived at 1:00. Something was wrong though. There was no tail gate party happening on the deck and when we went in the place was subdued, no football games on any TV’s. Mike asked the bartender what was going on and she said that they still had the NFL ticket, but the first two games where blacked out. We told her that we came all the way up from Mackinac to see the game there. She said she would check the channels again and see if it was being broadcast on one of the standard stations. No such luck as they were carrying the Jets and Miami game, featuring Brett Favre’s debut. She then found the station that was supposed to carry the game and it said it was pay for view, $12.95. She hit the pay button and up came the game. Mike offered to pay her, but she said that she wanted to see the game as much as we did. And it was on the new big high def TV in the center of the bar. We had a wonderful time watching a great game; the Steelers really looked good. Of course they were just playing Houston and were widely favored, but still they played well.

With the game behind us, we are now focused on Hurricane Ike. When we went to bed last night it was a category 4 storm and was tracking over Cuba towards Key West. Now it is down to a category 2 storm and appears that it will go south of Key West. We still will get at least tropical storm force winds and a lot of rain, but hopefully not a direct hit of the hurricane. We should know by tomorrow.

It is blowing 20, gusting to 25 so we are going to sit today in the Soo to see what happens with Ike. We can walk down to the Holiday Inn to get online. We are not sure about internet connections after that. If we are lucky and Ike stays south, we are going to continue to cruise into the North Channel. If we are not lucky we will probably have to go back to Mackinac to pull the boat and head back to the Keys to clean up. We hope that you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. To our friends in the Keys, our hearts are with you.

Take care, love,

Linda, Jake and the Fat Man