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Our dream of cruising on a boat Around the Great Circle Loop and beyond has the drawback of leaving our friends and family far away from us for an extended time. This blog is intended to keep you up to date on our travels and adventures, and encourage you to join us for some part of our trip as we make our way around the waterways of the eastern US, Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Click on the archived posts below to follow our journey. Our dog, Ben, has been helping us write this blog since he has more time!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ahhh...the Aroma of Fudge and Horse Poop

Hi All...Ben here from Mackinac Island,
This could be a dog’s heaven. I LOVE the smell of this town! There are 350 horses here on this small island, 17 fudge shops ( all claim to be the “Original” or “Famous”), and 18 bars. Something for each of us…and all within walking distance of our boat! And good thing, because there aren't any cars here. Can you believe it? Real safe for walking your dog. I was glad when it got windy and rainy so we had to stay an extra night. Jeff and Izzy said they were happy too, mostly because of the wind change. Guess they're not so fond of the smell of fudge. The only other big business, besides t-shirts, is bike rentals. Sometimes the stores offer a combination...like fudge, ice cream and bike rentals. This is the harbor as we entered. And here is the view from the harbor to our boat.The only down side of this great smelling island is that I think they don't like it when people (or dogs) sleep. The white building in the background overlooking the harbor is Fort Mackinac where some soldiers shoot off a cannon several times a day for no apparent reason, and scare the heck out of tourists, like me, while they're taking a nap. Go figure... Sometimes they blow horns from the Fort too, just to be sure you're still awake. I guess they just want everyone to go and buy some fudge, ride the horse drawn carriages, or drink in one of the 18 bars.

Here's OD after being jolted awake by one of those cannon blasts. He decided to go to the Pink Pony for a beer and a burger. Guess it works.We took a walk up the tree lined hill along with others riding bikes or horses, to the Grand Hotel ...aptly named because it sure is "grand". It has the biggest balcony of any hotel in the country, full of rocking chairs so you can sit out there with your dog and rock while you watch the boats. They have fancy carriages drawn by horses to take you around town, with a guy in a funny outfit driving.Horses are very popular here. Even the big lawn in front of the hotel has a horse and carriage sculpted out of plants growing in it. Probably don't need the pooper-scooper for them.But, since the real horses can't wander into the grass when they have to "go" like Izzy lets me do, they just "go" in the streets. There is a special group of workers picking up after them all over town, riding bikes with big wheel barrows and shovels. They need a particularly large pooper-scooper for this job.Izzy said she'd rather work in a fudge shop flipping chocolate like this guy.We walked along the golf course, then down the hill through the woods back to the harbor. We saw this big statue of Mr. Mackinac, I guess, with a bird on his head. Looks like he's not the first bird to sit there! Must be a good view. The next day it rained and washed some of the bird poop from his head, and cleaned up some of the horse poop from the streets too.Jeff, Izzy and OD had dinner at the Village Inn with Randy and Nancy from Prime Time V and John and Vickie from Lady Victoria. I stayed back at the boat as the Homeland Security guy, and rested.

The next day we took a 7 mile trip across the Straits of Mackinac, from Mackinac Island to Mackinaw City. It's not very far, but the route is through some notoriously rough waters if there is a storm or if the wind is strong.

Now spelling isn't my strong suit, but this Mackinac - Mackinaw thing had me puzzled. It seems that Mackinac Island was inhabited by Indians who named it. When the French first came here they pronounced Mackinac with a typical French flair and dropped the last letter so it sounded like Mackinaw. For some reason for all these years, they haven't been able to agree on the same spelling for both the city and the island, even though the French did win out on the pronunciation and we call them both Mackinaw. Just something else to confuse the tourists.

As we approached the brand new marina at Mackinaw City, we saw some windmills that reminded me of California. Good place for them here, because it's usually breezy.Jeff had to do some fancy driving to get into our slip in this curvy entrance.Nearby there was a decommissioned Coast Guard Icebreaker on display. I could see Jeff's eyes light up at the thought of touring it, so I guessed I'd be spending the afternoon on watch dog duty for the "Izzy R".Sure enough, they tied up the lines and took off for a tour of the big boat. OD took me for a walk so we could pal around in the harbor for a while after they left.Izzy took some pictures of the icebreaker and showed me when they came home. This is the size of the propeller on that boat...I bet Jeff's glad he didn't have to cut off a crab pot from that one.We could have used this big winch to tow us off the rocks when we were stuck in the Rideau Canal instead of our 25 HP dinghy motor.Here are Jeff and Izzy standing on the icebreaker with the Mackinac Bridge in the background. They call it "Big Mac" around here. I remember a Big Mac that I had once when we ran out of Purina while we were driving across the country to buy the boat. Not the same I guess. Mine came with fries.When they finished the tour, they had a beer and a burger and looked at the shops down town.That night there was a concert in the park next to the marina with a girl and a guy playing folk music with fiddles, guitars, sitars and banjos. We took our lawn chairs, blankets, wine and dog biscuits and listened to the music as the sun set over the harbor. Forgot our camera...sorry.

Harbor Springs, MI was our first stop along the eastern side of Lake Michigan.We had a choppy ride there with about 3 - 4 foot waves for some of the time even though it was a bright sunny day. After tying up at the marina and stretching our legs in the grass, Jeff and OD got the bikes out. It was a nice town for a ride along the harbor looking at the big old houses with inviting cozy porches, beautiful lawns and big trees where squirrels and dogs could have a good time. The lake has clear clean water and some sandy beaches where we could take a dip if it were warmer.Randy and Nancy from Prime Time V pulled in to the same marina, so we all gathered on the Izzy R for drinks at 5 o'clock somewhere. Everyone was having such a good time that we decided to continue the party and put the barbecue on for a little dinner.It was late when everyone decided to call it a night. I'm glad I can sleep most of the day tomorrow.

We're very impressed with Michigan so far. Since the lake can get very rough without much warning, and create big waves that can be dangerous to recreational boaters like us, the state has created "harbors of refuge" every 25 or so miles down the eastern coast of Lake Michigan. Boaters can pull into one of these inlets and find a friendly town, calmer water, a safe place to rest until the weather improves, and a place to walk your dog. So on our trip south down the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, we stopped in many of these small towns for the night.

The first one was Charlevoix. After the long breakwater that formed the entrance to the harbor of Charlevoix, there was a big bascule bridge. (Nautical term I learned meaning the bridge lifts up in the middle like this.)We've been through hundreds of these on our trip, so I surprised Izzy even took a picture of it!Anyway, after that bridge, we were in Round Lake where we decided to anchor so we could save some money! The lake was 50 feet deep here but calm. We're used to anchoring in 10 or 15 ft of water, and we only have 200 ft of anchor chain, so we were glad that the wind and current weren't an issue here dragging us all over the lake by morning! We had a great view of the town and could dinghy to the city docks and shop and party with the other boaters. That's us out there behind Jeff and OD in Round Lake in Charlevoix.Charlevoix is known for its fairy tail houses that are scattered around town...mushroom houses and gingerbread looking houses. Here's one of them on the lake across from us.This store on the main street tells you where we are on the charts...half way between the equator and the north pole. Jeff and Izzy met up with some of their Looper friends, Dan and Biddi on "Biddi and the Beast",and went to their boat for drinks and story telling with some other boaters. Here's a picture. Sorry...I wish Izzy had asked me to turn around...it's not my best side...

The wind picked up and we had rain for the next day, so Jeff decided to stay for a couple of days and get some work done on the boat at the Irish Boat Yard in Lake Charlevoix while we waited for calmer water. This is where we would exchange crew members too. OD would head back to Bend, Oregon via some long involved trail like when he came, and Parke Davis would join us for the trip down the rest of Lake Michigan.I'm going to miss OD. He's gotten real good at the walk thing - early in the morning or late at night. And he likes to take dinghy rides with me. Maybe he thinks I'm a chick magnet...doesn't really matter. Good for both of us!

Bye OD...come back and play again soon!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

OD 's Safari- Georgian Bay and North Channel

Hi All... Ben here in the Georgian Bay and North Channel,
As you must realize if you have been watching our route, sometimes our location is just not that easy to find for our visitors. Most have to use two or three modes of transportation to get to our boat. Well, our friend Dennis Garbutt (“OD” to us) gets the award for the most complex route to the “Izzy R”.
OD's Travel Schedule:
On August 7th at 8 AM, OD left Bend, Oregon by plane arrived in Vegas for a 6 hour layover, then to Chicago, and then to Toronto, followed by a bus to downtown, then another bus to the side of the road somewhere, followed by a hitch hike ride in a truck with an old toothless guy, before being picked up in a wet dinghy in the rain for the last mile run to the boat, arriving in Byng Inlet in the Georgian Bay on August 8th – a mere 35 hours later.
He must have really needed a vacation! I’ll bet he didn’t know that Jeff will put him to work right away. I hope he got a nap on one of those legs of the trip. (Probably not with the old toothless guy.)
As OD he got out of the dinghy and climbed aboard the Izzy R, tying the dinghy line to a cleat on deck, it mysteriously came untied from the other end, leaving the dinghy free to float away in the current. Guess it’s just going to be one of those visits! I'm sure to be blamed for something this time. If I'm lucky, OD will take the heat off me for a while. You know, I have to keep an eye on that Jeff all the time. Jeff didn’t even give OD a chance to shower or rest, but whisked him off to dinner at the Little Brit Inn. By the time we got back to our anchorage in the shallow river, surrounded by marsh land, we were being attacked from all angles by the Canadian Corps of Mosquitoes.
I think Izzy and Jeff have found that a good antidote for the mosquitoes is called "wine", because they always seem to get it out when the mosquitoes start coming out. OD has opted to try something called "Glenlivet". Sometimes Jeff uses another one called “beer”.
The first day with OD – like the first day with many of our visitors – was a rainy, foggy one as Jeff steered the Izzy R through rocky waters to an anchorage called Gun Barrel Channel in the Bustard Islands on the north side of the Georgian Bay. Some of the trip was a little scary in the fog with all the rocks around. The water was shallow with only hard granite beneath our hull.
Some rocks were real big and real close to the sides of the boat as Jeff moved us around slowly like a snake in the water between the markers and the rocks.Jeff and OD took turns putting out the fire in Izzy's hair, and we made it safely into a pretty cove with several other boats anchored in the fog in the early afternoon. As soon as we were anchored, Jeff and OD took the dinghy down and went for a spin. After a while OD took me for a spin too. I think he misses his dog, Lincoln. That worked out well for me, because during his stay with us he took me on lots of dinghy rides and walks! We became real "buds". The fog lifted just in time for a beautiful sunset in Gun Barrel Channel.We were a little concerned that our anchor might move on the rocky bottom as the wind picked up later in the day,and we were in a narrow channel with other boats around. But the chart plotter showed an nice donut shaped pattern of our boat around the anchor all night as we swung in a circle along with our neighbors. The Loons liked this cove too and their songs awakened Izzy early in the morning so she could take pictures of them. Here are a couple of babies waiting for a ride on their mother's back. Loons are lucky like that...they get to ride on their mom's back in the water until they get bigger. I tried that with Sandy in the river last week, but I slipped right off.
We avoided the little narrow channels the next day and went out in the open water to Killarney, where we had a lunch of fish and chips at the famous Herbert’s Fisheries. It’s a red school bus converted into a take out style eatery with lots of picnic tables around on the water’s edge, right beside the fishing boats that are bringing in the fresh catch to be immediately put in the fryer. Can’t get much fresher! In the afternoon Izzy and Jeff sat in the sun and swam in the chilly water of the pool at the Killarney Mountain Resort. I watched the boat while they all went to dinner and then to the Sportsman for drinks, and music by a piano player named Frank and his sidekick George who sang “oldies”. (apropos, eh?)
Not much going on in this little town, but there were some interesting critters playing on the dock in the morning. Izzy called them Otters. They were having a lot of fun until I started barking at them, then they jumped back in the water and swam away.
The other interesting spot here apparently is the city dump, where visitors go to see the black bears. . That explains the sign that Izzy saw in town warning that loitering at the dump was not allowed. We didn't want to visit the dump, so we just pretended this bear was real and then checked off "bear sighting" from our Must Do list for Kilarney.After a confusing conversation about the lack of our mail arriving at the right place and the right time, we decided to continue on and have the mail catch up with us at another harbor. Mail, and most other things, happen more slowly here in this remote location. Internet and cell phones are pretty useless here. We left Kilarney and the Georgian Bay and headed for the North Channel the next morning to a town named Little Current. Sounds ominous. I was hoping that Jeff had been brushing up on his docking techniques for the "little current" we might be experiencing at the next stop.

We took the outside route that day to take a break from the shallow rocky channels we had been in the past few days, and bypassed many pretty coves and anchorages that many people come here to see for the whole summer.

When we arrived at Little Current, we saw the swing bridge that opens only on the hour. It turns around a post in the center so boats can pass. This picture shows it partly opened.We were a little early, so had to float around in the water and wait for the opening. We found the town to be very boater friendly, with lots of stores, ice cream stands (of course), parks for me, and even a local cruisers net broadcaster named Roy, every morning at nine on the VHF. There was a grocery store up the hill where we stocked up on supplies. It's handy taking the guys to shop, because they carried the heavy groceries home from the store up on the hill overlooking the harbor, while Izzy and I just enjoyed the view and walked empty handed. Jeff busied himself fashioning a screen for the side doors while we waited for our friends Hank and Ann from “Queen Ann’s Revenge” to arrive at the harbor. We had a cocktail party with them as well as some new friends on the boats near us in the marina, followed by dinner at the Anchor Inn. Izzy made a peach pie for desert. Yum!
After talking to the rest of these boaters, we decided that by taking that big open water route from Kilarney, we had missed a nice little section called Baie Fine, so we went back to see it the next day.

Our route took us back into the rocky shallow water, but it was real pretty with clear water, making the rocks easy to see! There were several police boats patrolling in the Northern Channel stopping boats looking for drinking and driving and for polluters who might dump their holding tanks overboard.The water here is crystal clear and they want to keep it that way. We didn't get stopped. I wasn't allowed to bark at them. Izzy told me to just look "cute" and be quiet. OD got a front row seat looking for rocks in the narrow channel leading into the fiord called Baie Fine (pronounced Bay Fin).It's about five miles long and leads to a "pool" at the end where we anchored. Here's the Pool with a few sail boats anchored.After we got settled in our anchorage in the pretty pool, we put the dinghy down and took a ride to the shore and hiked up the rocky hill to the hidden Topaz Lake. Izzy was looking for blueberries, Jeff was watching for bears, and OD was on the lookout for snakes. We didn't see any of the above. I felt like a pup again as we followed the river trail up the hill in the woods,then climbed a bunch of granite boulders (I needed a little boost on the butt for that part) then down the other side over the rocks to a beautiful clear lake. There were some other people jumping off the rocks into the clear water and having fun.We were all hot by then, so we all had a beer (well, actually I had some water from Jeff's beer can) and took a dip in the cool lake.After we were all refreshed we headed back to the dinghy. My furry paws were pretty dirty after that walk, so OD got the job of lifting me into the boat after I rinsed off my feet....pretty embarrassing - for both of us. We dinghied back home across the "pool" and OD took some pictures of Jeff and Izzy on our boat.I guess I was taking a nap at the time.

Then they took some pictures of OD in the dinghy, I think Jeff was making OD go in and check the anchor or something in this picture. Here he is after he got a surprise face-full of weeds with that dive! Poor guy. I'm glad I'm not the low man on the totum pole anymore! In the morning the water was real still and Izzy got a bunch of pictures like this, that look the same right side up or upside down.When we pulled up our anchor that morning, we found it had been attacked by weeds during the night, and we needed to cut them off the chain and anchor before we could go anywhere. As usual, the captain assigned that job to OD since he's the newest crew member. He had a real sharp knife and a hose to clean all the stringy stuff off. Somehow he got confused and cut his leg too, so Izzy got out the First Aid kit and cleaned it up, then super glued the cut back together again. OD didn’t even yelp like I would have done. He sat real still the whole time. I think I’ll give him one of my treats. Jeff said he was glad he didn't poke the dinghy.

Near the Benjamin Islands in the North Channel, we anchored in a place called Croker Island and had to tie our stern to the shore to keep from swinging into the other boats near us. The captian decided that the newest crew member had to take on that job, too. Here is OD in the dinghy tying the rope to a tree on shore. Because mice and rats can crawl across the rope to get into our boat, Izzy insisted on putting these paper plates on the ropes to keep them off. Of course, OD got that job too while Jeff supervised. Pretty soon it looked like we had a party boat! We took a short dinghy ride a couple of miles to South Benjamin Island to see the anchorage there and the famous pink granite rocks. There were lots of small boats anchored with people climbing on the rocks here and there looking for blueberries. A funny pontoon party boat was cruising around with a whole bunch of people having a good time. It didn’t have a bathroom on board, so it had to stop here on this giant pink rock to let the girls off the boat to “go”. I guess the guys just lift their leg off the side of the boat while they’re riding.…?
I haven’t tried that yet.
That night we had a BBQ on the sundeck back at Croker Island and saw two snakes swimming by the boat. I’m glad we didn’t decide to swim here.
One day as Izzy and OD raised our anchor they were surprised to see that we had hooked onto something that looked like a cable. They quickly stopped pulling on it thinking it might break and create a big problem. As it turned out, the "cable" was actually a long, straight, water-logged tree branch that had been resting on the bottom. It took us a while to figure out how to dislodge it from our anchor, but soon we were on our way to Bear Drop Bay to find another anchorage for the night. Here is the view from a rock island where we dinghied to find blueberries. We didn't find any blueberries(again) but we climbed around on the rocks for a while and enjoyed the view of the anchorage and other rock islands around us with a snack and a beer. This bird was drying his armpits for about two minutes just like this. Our last stop in the North Channel was at a place called Meldrum Bay. It's a nice protected bay if the water is unfriendly, but there is NOTHING there. The marina is quite dilapidated with remnents of an old pier poking out of the water that Jeff had to avoid when getting in or out of the slip.Well, there is a small hotel with a restaurant called the Meldrum Bay Inn where we had a quiet dinner on the front porch. They have a cute rain spout that Izzy liked made out of little copper buckets without bottoms all hooked together leading from the upper spout to the ground.That afternoon we saw a big Sea Ray there named Prime Time V, and it was flying a Looper flag, so Jeff went over to introduce himself and invited Randy and Nancy Whaley over for drinks. Jeff and Izzy and OD hit it off well with them, and we all had a nice time, so we made plans to travel for the next few days together as we headed toward Lake Michigan. Nice to have traveling buddies.

The next day we said good bye to Canada and left for Drummond Island - our entrance back into the USA. When we arrived it was real windy and we were being pushed around getting into the dock in their shallow water. The young guy that was sent out to help us was pretty new and he got a few lessons from Jeff during the process of tying up. At the same time the customs agents were right there trying to check us in, and didn't want anyone off the boat until the paperwork was done. They wouldn't let Izzy take pictures of them...security, you know! After all the excitement, we got together with Randy and Nancy from Prime Time V for cocktails. They had already arranged for the marina car to go to dinner at a place they knew called Bayside Resort, where Izzy and Jeff and OD joined them for a great dinner. I was the OWD (Official Watch Dog) and kept the boat safe while they were gone, and got treats when they got back. Well, I'm about done for this segment, so I think I'll just rest up for the next post and enjoy being back in the good ole USA.Love,