Lake Michigan

It took eleven days to cruise south down the eastern shore of Lake Michigan to Hammond, Indiana where the Calumet River meets the lake.  Only six of those days were actual travel days and the others spent in harbors watching the wind whip the lake’s waters into a froth.  Beach alerts were up and down the coast and on those days and we stayed in port, getting to know the towns and the ice cream shops.

We left St. Helena Island at 0830 and by 1030 it became apparent that the predicted storms were traveling faster across the lake than anticipated.  As the waves heightened, we altered course to Beaver Island, a delightful, lightly populated island in the north part of the lake that was 20 miles closer than our original destination of Charlevoix, Michigan.  The first storm hit as we approached the lee of the island and we slipped through the raindrops north to the protected harbor on the northeast shore.

After the storm, the setting sun highlights the cape on Beaver Island.

After the storm, the setting sun highlights the cape on Beaver Island.

We sat out two days of high winds and thunderstorms on Beaver Island waiting for a break in the weather.  On the third day we dropped our lines at 0600 and cruised 55 miles to Leland Harbor and Fishtown.  More storms approached and we took another two days off from our journey.  Leland Harbor was once known as Fishtown and many fishing fleets worked the lake from its harbor.

A rainbow between two storms at daybreak; Fishtown, Michigan

A rainbow between two storms at daybreak; Fishtown, Michigan

As the weather cleared, we looked forward to several sunny days of glorious cruising amid  light breezes.  The first run was 63 miles (7 hours) to an excellent anchorage in Portage Lake, a fisherman’s paradise.

This part of the Michigan coast is lined with large sand dunes with many lakes behind them.  Often there are dug inlets back to the lakes to allow for boat access.  These are kept open with walls and breakwaters to hold back the sands that would build up across the openings.  These harbors of refuge were built with state funding and provide excellent stops for recreational boaters.  The lakes have many well protected anchorages with great holding in a sand/mud bottom.

From Portage Lake we visited Pentwater, MI, another lake harbor behind dunes. There we tied up at Snug Harbor Marina for two days while several rainstorms blew through.  This is a delightful stop with a great restaurant and a waterside promenade.

The skies again cleared and we piloted 45 miles to Muskegon, Michigan.  Here we anchored in the stilling basin, an entry area behind outer breakwaters and before the inlet to the lake behind the dunes.

This chart does not show the breakwaters that protect the stilling basin.  We are anchored within them yet out of the channel accessing the inlet through the dunes to the lake.

This chart does not show the breakwaters that protect the stilling basin. We anchored within them yet out of the channel accessing the inlet through the dunes to the lake.

We anchored late on Sunday afternoon behind the north breakwater.  Local boaters streamed through the basin, racing homeward from the many beaches along the big lake’s shore.   Their raucous wakes had the stilling basin anything but still.  Arkansas Traveler rocked and rolled at her anchor until the last of the boaters entered the inlet.

A sailboat enters the walled inlet to the lake behind the sand dunes.

A sailboat enters the walled inlet to the lake behind the sand dunes.

The upcoming weather report heralded light winds and seas of less than one foot.  We grabbed the chance to make the 128-mile crossing to Hammond, Indiana, which lies at the bottom of Lake Michigan, just east of Chicago.  After a four-hour nap, we raised anchor at 0215 and slipped through the dark into Lake Michigan, setting a course of 200 degrees.  We ran for 15 hours across a very friendly lake with mostly clear skies and light winds.  We changed our course to 230 degrees for the last 40 miles, entering the Hammond Harbor Marina happy and tired.

Sunrise on Lake Michigan

Sunrise on a very calm Lake Michigan


Posted in O- The River System | 2 Comments

Goodbye to Lake Superior

It was after 1100 by the time we got around to raising the anchor.  I suppose that we needed the rest and a hearty breakfast after the rollicking day at sea.  This one, however, was an easy day with northeast winds less than 5 miles per hour and mostly calm seas.  As we approached Copper Mine Point, the winds picked up and it rained.  We piloted through the following white caps from the lower helm the final two hours of the 65-mile trip.  The rains cleared when we passed Pancake Bay and slipped into Batchawana Bay.   We anchored in sand in 25-foot depths for a beautiful night – our last in Lake Superior.

This bay was our first anchorage on the lake in July of 2015; it was bittersweet to make it our last.

Sunrise, August 14, Batchawana Bay, Ontario

Sunrise, August 14, Batchawana Bay, Ontario

It is a 50-mile cruise from the anchorage to Sault Ste. Marie, and it took us 7 hours to complete, including the transit down through the lock.  We tied up on the north side (Ontario) of the St. Marys River at the Roberta Bondar Marina.  After two days enjoying the town, we crossed the river to the U.S. side, cleared customs, and spent two days at the George Kemp Marina.

Waiting while unbound boats exit the McArthur Lock on the U.S. side of St. Marys River.

Waiting while down-bound boats exit the McArthur Lock on the U.S. side of St. Marys River.

At 0630 on Thursday we fired up the engines to make the trip down the St. Marys River to where it empties into the western corner of Lake Huron.  The dawn was calm and beautiful.  At 0650 we encountered a bit of fog on the river but it wasn’t too bad; we could just make out the Lakers as they ghosted by us.  And, we had their mournful fog signals, AIS, and radar to give us a heads-up.

By 0815 the fog was extreme and after another 45 minutes of white-knuckle navigating, we finally found a safe spot to anchor well off the main channel and far-removed from passing Lakers.  We enjoyed a pancake breakfast and the lack of anxiety during the next two hours as the fog lifted.  The rest of the trip to De Tour passage at the river’s mouth was delightful.

De Tour Light welcomes mariners to Lake Huron.

De Tour Light welcomes mariners to Lake Huron.

Mackinac Bridge - the gateway to Lake Michigan

Mackinac Bridge – gateway to Lake Michigan

From De Tour Passage, it was a hop, skip, and a jump to the Mackinac Bridge, gateway to Lake Michigan.  A few miles west of the bridge, tiny and uninhabited St. Helena Island shelters boats from southerly winds.  As the sun set, we ducked in the lee of the island to anchor for the night.  It was a 97-mile day.

The 300-mile journey south through Lake Michigan to the river system lay ahead.


Posted in P - Lake Superior | 3 Comments

It Was The Weather Report That We Were Looking For… But It Was Wrong

VHF reception is spotty in Otter Cove and other remote anchorages in Ontario.  It is impossible to get a weather report through the static.  This year we equipped Arkansas Traveler with a satellite device that comes with a data/phone package.  We access it through the laptop or the iPhone.  It works like a charm and brought us our email and took us to the various weather sites that we use to make cruising decisions.

It was time to leave Otter Cove.  Environment Canada lowered their wind and wave forecast for Friday.  We were looking at 10 knot winds from the southeast and 1- to 2-foot seas.   Passage Weather predicted 3-foot seas before dawn, dropping to 1- and 2-foot seas after sunrise, and southeast winds of 5 to 10 knots easing through the day and backing to east and then northeast over night.  Our route plans took us 75 miles, heading south and then southeast as the wind and waves lessened.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 8.10.01 AM

I, of course, wanted to stay an extra day to play and fish.  The grown-up within said that we needed to move south before the winter winds came and that we had a good weather window and should take it.

Expecting improving conditions, we did not hurry for a sunrise departure, and raised the anchor at 0745.  The first two hours were smooth cruising as we headed south along the protecting Ontario shore.  At 1000 Le Petit Mort Rocks were on our port beam and the waves picked up to 2 feet from the southeast.  Angry skies lowered over the water.  We changed our course to southeast, toward Gargantua Harbor, 40 miles away.   Arkansas Traveler  happily plowed into the waves, flags flying; the wind picked up to 15 knots and then 20 knots. The waves grew to 3 footers with some 4s interspersed.  We wedged ourselves into the helm chairs on the flybridge, deciding to make a run due east to the protection of the closest shore – Brule Harbor, 30 miles away, taking the wind on our starboard bow.

Rounding Le Petit Mort Rocks

Rounding Le Petit Mort Rocks.

The wind backed to east and kept up its force.  The waves grew and we were seeing groups with 5- and 6-foot waves.  A large wave would approach, top breaking.  The trawler rode up the face and down the back in fine style, but the second wave would swell up, looming larger than the first, hitting the bow with a thud, stopping the boat.  We were at times lifted off of the helm chairs.  Water was spraying over the deck constantly, and up over the flybridge with frightening regularity.

Stymied by the seas, our average speed reduced from our typical 8.7 knots down to 7 knots and slower.

Arkansas Traveler in the quieter waters close to Brule Harbor.

Arkansas Traveler in the quieter waters close to Brule Harbor.  At this point we turned south and cruised close-in. 

After four hours of pitching and pounding, we reached protected waters in the lee of the shore.  We turned south at 1430 and easily cruised the last 3 hours to Gargantua Harbor.  We dropped anchor at 1730 in 30-foot depths with a sandy-mud bottom. The skies were still stormy, but the winds had lessened and the waters benefited from the protection of the shore.

Entering Gargantua Harbor  in the lee of the shore.

Entering Gargantua Harbor in the lee of the shore.

There are no photos from the flybridge.  Sorry.

Arkansas Traveler was a champ.  She never buried her bow.  She cut through the water with the beauty of her lines and the power of her engine.  She never skipped a beat.  Her crew, however, was frazzled.  We think that Lake Superior just wanted one more bite out of us to keep us humble.  We are.


Posted in P - Lake Superior | 6 Comments

Otter Cove, East

Throughout the winter, thoughts of returning to Otter Cove sustained our dreams of cruising. This Otter Cove is on the Ontario eastern shore of Lake Superior.  It is difficult to describe its draw. Perhaps the high rugged cliffs, the songs of waterfalls and Loons, the curious Bald Eagle that follows us as we explore by dinghy, the beauty of the sunsets, or the brilliant orange of the lichens on the exposed rocks of the cuestas pull us with their majesty. Each one beckons, calling boldly, “I am the world. You are welcome here.”

Leaving the uncertainty of the wind and waves of the big lake, Arkansas Traveler skirts rocky shoals through a series of islands and rock outcroppings to protection deep inside Otter Cove.  Cliffs and forest surround us. There are no roads to this haven. You can only get here by boat.

The mud bottom provides excellent holding for the anchor and the wide cove allows plenty of swing room. The high sides of the cove protect us from wind. There is serenity here.  There is nature at her happiest. Enduring. Unfolding.







We stayed in Otter Cove for four nights. We left one day too soon.

Posted in P - Lake Superior | 4 Comments

Last Days on the Canadian North Shore

From Salter’s Bay, we traveled to Rossport for one night before heading southeast on the long journey out of Lake Superior. The Serendipity Gardens Café features fresh Lake Trout and highlights local artists by hanging their work on the walls. A Douglas Hunt watercolor called to us as we ate dinner.   He is an exceptional Canadian artist and works mostly in landscapes of the Canadian north shore.

Walking through town we found a pie maker who only uses fresh-picked, local fruits for her pies. For the next several days we would feast on a delicious strawberry, rhubarb, and apple pie!   It is a great combination.

After the evening out in Rossport, and a night tied to the dock, Arkansas Traveler took us ten miles to Chubby Harbor, on the south side of Salter’s Island. We spent a magnificently quiet night hovering gently over the anchor.

Leaving the anchorage early, we watched a Bald Eagle catch breakfast on the fly. It looked so effortless – envy seethed from my pores.

Fly fishing at its best!

Fly fishing at its best!

The Battle Island Light was well-lit by the morning sun as we cruised by on the 33-mile run to the group of islands known as the Slates.   These islands formed when an ancient meteorite hit the earth and caused a volcanic event. Through millions of years of erosion and scouring by glaciers, the Slate Islands are the evidence left to tell the story.

Battle Island Lighthouse

Battle Island Lighthouse

Arkansas Traveler at anchor in South Bay, Patterson Island, Slate Islands

Arkansas Traveler at anchor in South Bay, Patterson Island, Slate Islands

Typically we like to anchor in a large area with lots of swing room in case the wind changes overnight. Additionally we prefer to put out extra anchor rode, thus decreasing the angle of slant of the line between the anchor and the bow roller. This helps an anchor dig in during high winds; with a short rode, the anchor may dislodge during a blow.

You can see in the picture above that the boat is very close to the cliffs of Patterson Island with little room to swing.  The anchor line does not have much of a slant – it is not exactly straight down, but still not the way we think is best.   You will also note that while there are some gnarly rocks to stop her, Arkansas Traveler’s anchorage is quite open to Lake Superior. The anchorage, however, is striking; an attentive eye to the wind/weather forecast, guarantees glorious exploration among the coves and islets and perhaps even some luck with fishing.

Ah, sweet success...

Ah, sweet success…








Posted in P - Lake Superior | 4 Comments

The Slow Cruise Southeast, or, I’m Not Ready to Leave Lake Superior Yet

Every anchorage has colors to post, its distinctive bird songs, its own unique reflections.   The sun rises over Salter’s Bay to the song of the White-throated Sparrow. Loons patrol the bay, with haunting calls.

Reflections at the day's end

Reflections at day’s end

We anchored in Salter’s Bay on Wednesday in the early afternoon after a 35-mile cruise east through Nipigon Bay. The cruise was lovely with a suspended fog obscuring cliffs and outcroppings along the way.

Fog in Nipigon Bay

Fog in Nipigon Bay

There is shelter in Salter’s Bay from all but northerly winds. The mud bottom insures excellent holding. While the topo map below shows a wide and unrestricted passage into the anchorage, the detailed nautical charts onboard disclose a broad rock shoal extending far into the northwest half of the entrance. They also note the decreasing depths as you approach the head of the bay. We entered cautiously, as always, and chose a spot to drop the anchor where we would have plenty of swing-room, regardless of wind direction.

 Arkansas Traveler at anchor in Salter's Bay

Arkansas Traveler at anchor in Salter’s Bay

The fishing/hunting app on the GPS suggested that Wednesday was an excellent day to fish in our location. With the anchor well set, we lowered the dinghy and headed out. We tried near-shore and offshore. We tried rapala lures and spoons.After three hours battling the Dipsy-Diver and flat-line fishing, we returned to Arkansas Traveler empty-handed.  For dinner we had a spicy sauté of potatoes, kale, onion, chopped cilantro, and scrambled tofu – very tasty, but no Lake Trout!

We stayed two nights at anchor in the bay. This morning at 0400, Arkansas Traveler woke us with a not-so-gentle rocking. The wind had veered to the northwest about five hours earlier than was forecast and the bay was developing a chop. By 0600 we could see whitecaps in the outer bay that lead to Rossport. We fought the wind and wave action as we raised the anchor and set out to a rolling ride with 3-foot waves on our port beam across the 4-mile stretch of water. Once inside Rossport Harbor, the waves abated and we tied up at the marina without incident.

Serendipity is a very special restaurant in Rossport. They serve Lake Trout. We will be dining out tonight.

At the dock in Rossport, Ontario

At the dock in Rossport, Ontario

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More Ontario Anchorages

On Friday morning we cruised out of Otter Cove to anchor in Agate Cove, just ten miles to the east.   After exploring the beaches by dinghy, we raised the anchor and continued east to an unnamed bay on the west side of Fluor Island. We watched sailboats cruising in the channel from the solitude of our well-protected and isolated anchorage.

Arkansas Traveler's galley in the early morning light

Home: Arkansas Traveler’s galley in the early morning light

The slant of the Saturday morning light was beautiful. We were not quite ready to head north to civilization and the Township of Red Rock. Thus we cruised south around Fluor Island and then east to Agate Island for another day of relaxation and exploration. The anchorage at Agate Island was not suitable for the apparent wind direction and it had insufficient room to swing.   We backtracked to the west and then north to a group of islands and islets on the eastern side of Fluor, anchoring just north of Willard Island. A bowl of islands and rock outcroppings protects this enchanted anchorage from wind and waves.

Looking west at the series of smaller islands with Fluor Island in the background

Looking west at the series of smaller islands with Fluor Island in the background

Wildflowers on Willard Island

Wildflowers on Willard Island

A meandering stream trisects Fluor Island. A dinghy can navigate most of this stream, though not completely in the east-to-west portion where it is overgrown with trees and marsh. This wilderness (part of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area) is thick with birds and other wildlife.   Bob maneuvered the dinghy slowly all afternoon through the stream and around the nearby islets.   I sat on the edge of the dinghy with my feet in the water and pretended to fish.

Exploring the stream

Exploring the interior waters of Fluor Island

An eagle lands in a tree above the dinghy.  He must be questioning our intrusion into his domain.

 Questioning our intrusion into his domain, an eagle lands in a tree above the dinghy.

Five wonderful nights at anchor renewed our spirits and our love of Lake Superior.

Sunday morning sunrise

Sunday morning sunrise

Sunday morning delivered a magnificent sun rising between the islands to the east.   We reluctantly raised the anchor, left the pristine Willard Island anchorage, and motored four hours to Red Rock Marina where we took on fuel before tying up at a slip.

For the last three days we enjoyed the company of Canadians, waited out inclement weather, and replenished our stores of fresh produce.   Tomorrow we begin the 300-mile cruise back to Sault Ste. Marie where we leave Lake Superior.  The lake shores ahead are wild and undeveloped. We drop our lines in the morning and look forward to this last bit of respite.


Posted in P - Lake Superior | 1 Comment