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