Entering infamous “Lake Washing Machine”, AKA Lake Michigan. September 11 – October 6, 2019, when we landed in Chicago.

We left Mackinac Island at 8 am along with a number of other Loopers.  Most were headed to Harbor Springs, on the eastern shore of Lake MichiganNo Schedule and Misty headed to Petoskey, just across the bay.  We had read about this charming town, and were looking forward to spending a couple of days there.

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Our view of Petoskey, MI

We had lots of overcast and rainy weather in Petoskey, but explored nonetheless.  We stayed at Petoskey City Marina, which is located in a beautiful waterfront park.  There’s a lot of activity on this waterfront, with a lovely grassy park and playground, gardens, an active boat ramp, bike trails and popular fishing spots.  The salmon were running and jumping, and the fisherman were out in full force!  We could actually see the fish jumping out of the water all over the harbor from our boat deck.  It was a lot of fun to watch!  There is a small creek with little rapids on one side of the park where the fisherman and cormorants congregate.  This, along with the walk out on the breakfront to the lighthouse, are both favorite gathering spots throughout the day and into the sunset.

Busy fisherman, trying to get the last of the salmon run

The Cormorants were remarkably tame.  The fisherman told us that we could get close and they wouldn’t move or be upset by our proximity.  So, camera in hand, I went for it! Note that no zoom was involved, so you can get an idea of how close I was to them!

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Sunning Cormarants

We have been watching these fascinating birds for most of our trip, from Florida to Canada.  They’re everywhere.  Cormorants are recognizable due to their distinctive spread winged pose.  These are swimming and diving water birds, but they don’t have the oils to keep afloat like other birds, so they do this to dry their wing feathers in the wind between swims.

The weather was predicted to be bad, and it was.  We had lots of wind and rain while in Petoskey, but enjoyed it despite the weather!  There’s a well – maintained bike path all along the water here, and if you’re so inclined, you can ride the trail for 8.5 miles to Harbor Springs.  So we set out on the bike path our first morning, and it wasn’t pleasant.

Views along the bike path

We were riding into a pretty wicked wind, so we decided to head back into town and explore the beautiful Gaslight District, and have some lunch.

Glimpses of Petoskey’s Gaslight District

Symon’s General store had a little bit of everything, but their sandwiches were amazing!  We went there three times for lunch, and enjoyed our sandwiches in the nearby park, where the old railway station and tracks are located, along with a statue of Ernest Hemingway, who spent his first 22 summers at a family vacation home in nearby Walloon Lake.

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Hemingway in City Park, with the restored railway station and beautiful gardens

We had read about the adorable Palette Bistro, so we decided to give it a shot.  Good decision, as it was wonderful!  Nancy had delicious French Onion Soup, and half of a Mediterranean Shrimp Wrap, and Rob had an amazing burger, smothered in mushrooms sautéed with Worcestershire sauce and blue cheese.  Is your mouth watering? We liked it so much, we went back again for dinner, and it was wonderful.  We were thrilled to be there for their delicious scallop special!

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Petoskey is probably best known for “The Petoskey Stone”.  These pre-water historic fossils are over 350 million years old, from when this land was located near the equator and covered by warm sea.  They are what remains of the coral that once thrived in the shallow, tropical reefs.  When the corals died, they were covered with sediment and became part of a “e rock unit” known as the Alpena Limestone. This fossil is unique to the Traverse Bay area, and is Michigan’s official state stone.  Petoskey Stones are everywhere in the stores in town, in their raw state, polished, in jewelry, on key chains, refrigerator magnets, etc.  Get the picture?  Unfortunately, it’s aa particularly pretty stone. Despite this, you can find people out on the beaches every day looking for them!

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Searching for Petoskey Stones

We were planning on heading out on Sunday morning, the 15th, as the weather was calming down. We were only planning to run about 21 miles south to Charlevoix.  While Nancy continued to batten down the hatches, Rob went down into the engine room for the usual check before starting the engines.  Immediately, he knew there was a problem. Our normally pristine engine room had spatters of dirty water, and there were pieces of the port engine wet exhaust hose scattered on the floor.  On closer inspection, Rob found a hole in the hose he could fit his fist through.  Clearly, we weren’t going anywhere, and since it was a Sunday, there was nothing to be done.  

Rob did reach out to some fellow boaters on our boating forums, and the general consensus was that the hose overheated and burst.  There could have been a clog in the exhaust, or the hose just aged out.

So, since we couldn’t move forward any further until Monday, we took advantage of the nice weather and did some more exploring on our bikes.  After all of the rain, the water was rather high.

The winds were still howling, and the water was rough, but the skies were sunny and clear.  We enjoyed having a lazy afternoon, and capped off the day with a fun dinner with Carol, Ken and their Grandson Malachi aboard No Schedule at Duffy’s Garage and Grille.  We all had their pizza, which was OK, but it was good to get out and get our minds off of things, and we had great company!

When we returned from dinner on Sunday, we started to hear scurrying around in the engine room below us.  Upon further inspection, there was now a chewed wire and some insulation scattered around.  Someone had mentioned that our problem could be the result of an animal climbing into our exhaust, and chewing through the hose.  Even our friend Malachi thought something had gotten caught in our exhaust. Originally, we were skeptical.  Now we knew.

No Schedule left early Monday morning to head down Lake as far as they could go before the Lake churned up again.

Malachi, Carol and Ken aboard No Schedule heading out

We set about chasing Walstrom’s Marina in Harbor Springs to come take a look at Misty and assess the damage.  Additionally, we found a trapper to come take a look, and see if he could help us capture this stowaway!  Unfortunately, there is no real way to get a small animal in an engine room…there are just too many places to hide.  While the trapper was on board, it became evident that the scratching sounds we were hearing were no longer moving, despite our disturbances just on the other side of a wall.  Our critter was stuck behind a wall in the galley!  That’s good, as it meant he would not be damaging our engine room any further.  However, it meant that we would soon have a dead animal in our hull, with no way to remove him, as he was stuck deep in the engine room. UGH! Needless to say, we were a little creeped out about spending time in the galley cooking with a critter in the wall behind the cabinet, so we used it as an excuse to give the highly rated Orchid Thai a try for dinner.  This was a great find!  Excellent food, huge portions (leftovers for lunch the next day!), and VERY reasonable.

Now that we knew what our problem was, we worked with Walstom’s to get our wiring and exhaust hose repaired.  Tom came out on Tuesday to check things over and remove the shredded heating/cooling wires so new wiring could be ordered.  The exhaust hose was ordered, and everyone was well aware that we were anxious to get back on the water. Of course, on the days we had planned to be moving, and were now stuck, the weather was beautiful, with little wind early in the week!  The middle of the week was expected to be windy again, but Friday & Saturday were looking good for a run south.

So, while we waited for our work to be completed on Misty, we took time to head over to Harbor Springs for a change of scenery.  It was a short ride along the lake to this charming little town.

Harbor Springs waterfront

Beautiful homes and Inns in town, Harbor Springs

We were hoping to have a late lunch/early dinner, but our timing was off.  No one was serving at the time, so we decided to head back to Petosky and had dinner at Park City Grill, sister restaurant to Palette Bistro.  It wasn’t as good as Palette, but it suited our needs at the time!  We were home in time to relax aboard Misty and enjoy the sunset.

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Thankfully, Tom came on Thursday morning to replace our wiring, and Tracey would be coming first thing Saturday morning to replace the exhaust hose.

Tom rewiring our heating and cooling system, and our replacement hose

Once Tracey was done installing the exhaust hose on Saturday morning,  we took Misty for a trial run and she was good to go!  After a quick pump out, we were off to Charlevoix, a short 21 mile run, and we were there by 1:00 pm! It was a calm run, and we enjoyed a sunny day on the water, admiring the spectacular color of the Lake.

Calm waters on Lake Michigan

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The inlet at Charlevoix

We have found the Michigan State Marinas to be absolutely great.  The facilites are clean and updated, conveniently located just off the Lake, and close to town, but most importantly, the staffs at each and every one of them is outstanding.  When we arrived in Charlevoix, we had a lovely conversation with the Dockmaster, Pat.  During our chat, our critter story came up, it led to a discussion about how to battle the smell.  We had tried several places in Petoskey to get activated charcoal (which had been recommended) or any sort of “odor eater”, without success.  When we returned to the marina after exploring Charlevoix, Pat came down to the boat.  While we were gone on our tour of town, he had gone to the store in search of something to help us, and came back with some organic odor packets for us.  Unbelievably nice!  Thank you, Pat!

Wandering in downtown Charlevoix

Charlevoix is known for an amazing architectural collection of homes built by self-taught architect Earl A. Young, commonly known as “The Mushroom Houses“.  Each one is completely different and unique in its own way, but share similar stylistic details and materials favored by Young:  prolific stonework, undulating lines in the stonework, roofs and walls, and certain detailed finishing touches (i.e. planters built into the top of stone walls, and capping stone walls with cement that looks like it’s flowing down the wall).  Young began building here in 1919, and continued into the seventies, having completed over two dozen structures.  All of his buildings are designed to blend into the natural lay of the land where they are built.  While there are a number of his homes within walking distance of the marina, we opted to take a tour, as we were only here overnight and wanted to see as much as possible.   The tour was great, as it really gave us a history of these buildings we would have missed exploring on our own.

A few of Earl A. Young’s Mushroom Houses

After our tour, we wandered around town a bit, and went over to Stafford’s Weather Vane Restaurant and Inn, as they are also Young’s creations.  Characteristic of Young’s imaginative stone work is the glacial boulder fireplace built in the restaurant’s main dining room. Found by Young in the Charlevoix area, the 9-ton key stone resembles the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The meteorite lying at the hearth is only a quarter of the keystone’s size, but it weighs about the same.

The Weathervane Inn and the fireplace keystone

There are two lovely Mushroom Houses right in the harbor, and we got a good look at them on our way out in the morning as we waited for our bridge opening.

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Mushroom Houses on Charlevoix Harbor

We were getting an early start, as yes, once again, the winds and waves were going to kick up in the afternoon, and we had a long run up to Frankfort (74 miles).  We were out of our slip early, and caught the 7:30 am bridge opening.  We enjoyed a spectacular sunrise as we headed out into the Lake.

As sun came up, and the sun began shining, the incredible color of the Lake was on full display.  We were again amazed at the color and clarity of the water.  It literally sparkled in the sun!

Our run began smoothly, but as predicted, the winds started kicking up, and when the winds kick up on Lake Michigan, so do the seas!  We were beginning to see white caps, and our wake was getting bigger pushing agains the waves.  

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We were wise to leave when we did, as we watched (from our dock!) the crashing waves on the break wall get larger as the afternoon progressed.  We did enjoy seeing the massive dunes of Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park on the north side of Frankfort.  They’re huge!

Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park 

Just north of the inlet into Betsie Bay in Frankfort, you’ll see the Betsie Point Lighthouse.  Dating from 1858, the lighthouse is still an active navigational aide.

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Betsie Point Lighthouse complex

By the time we reached the inlet, it was getting pretty snotty out on the Lake.  Just inside the breakfront, the wind surfers were having a ball, and putting on quite a show, with a backdrop crashing waves.

The weather deteriorated as the day went on, but we were able to get a walk into town and check out some of the cute stores.  A particular favorite was Lynn & Perin, which had everything from gourmet food items, wine, kitchen and dining accessories and more.  And, they have a “Welcome Back Loopers” sign in the window, with some boat cards stapled to it…some we knew!

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That’s our card on the upper left!

The expected rain came that night and rained most of the next day.  We could hear the wind howling during the night, and Misty was getting bounced around.

With the pouring rain, it was a good day to stay on the boat and get some projects done. It did clear up enough for us to have a lovely sunset over the marina.

We had all intentions of leaving Frankfort the next morning.  We pulled over to the fuel dock, and as we were fueling up, we kept an eye on the inlet, the waves crashing over the break wall, and the white caps out on the Lake, and decided to head back to a slip and spend another night.  While the rain had stopped, the winds remained fierce, and the Lake was far from settled.  We did  enjoy a bike ride down to the inlet and beach, and enjoyed the lovely residential area around downtown.

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Lovely Frankfort neighborhoods

There’s a mineral spring in the park along the marina.  The water is said to have healing powers, but it just tastes bad!

At the recommendation from several locals, we decided to have dinner at Stormcloud, a local restaurant known for their Belgian-style craft beer and flatbread pizza.  We had a great meal, and enjoyed our leftovers for lunch the next day!

Pizza and beer at Stormcloud

We enjoyed a relaxing evening onboard after dinner, watching another lovely sunset.

The weather was reported to be good the next morning, and if so, we were going to make a run across the Lake to Manitowoc, WI.

We woke to calm winds and what was predicted to be a clear and sunny day.  So, at 6:35 am, we set out to the Lake in the dark.

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The Lake was fairly calm for our 74 mile run to Manitowoc, and it looked like this would be our only shot of crossing the lake all week, so we went for it.  

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In the middle of Lake Michigan

The closer we got to the shores of Wisconsin, the windier and bouncier it got.  It wasn’t awful, but we did a bit of splashing, so we were glad to get tied up in our slip.

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When we got settled, we set off on our bikes to explore town.  We had intended on going to Cedar Creamery, but the further we peddled, the worse the neighborhood became, and we still had a good way to go.  After a long day on the water, we decided to head back into town and explore there before heading back to the boat.

Scenes around Manitowoc

There’s a fun fact about Manitowoc and the Russians.  On September 5, 1962, a 20 lb. piece of the Russian Sputnick IV satellite landed in the middle of the street on the corner of N. 8th and Park Streets in town, right in front of the Rahr-West Art Museum.  There’s a plaque on the sidewalk, and a metal ring in the road pavement where the fragment was recovered.  Every September, there is a weekend celebration the crash landing called “Sputnikfest”!  The festivities include a Wacky Costume Contest, the Miss Space Debris Pageant, entertainment, food, refreshments, music, and lots of kids activities.  Sputnikfest was named one of the Top Five Funkiest Festivals in the country by Readers Digest, and has become a community and regional family favorite!  “Sputnikfest is our way of bringing the community together to celebrate this momentous event.  Sputnik landed here…Why don’t you?”

The Rahr–West Art Museum is a small art museum, housed in the Joseph Vilas Jr. House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is a significant example of Queen Anne Style architecture, and is worth the visit. You’ll also find the Sputnick IV marker in the street out front!

The Rahr-West Art Museum

Oh, and just across the street…

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There’s a huge breakwall around the harbor, and they have a walkway that is accessible off of the bike path, and it goes all the way out to the lighthouse at the entrance of the harbor.  We had a great bike ride out there, and were amazed at the furor of the Lake!

Views from the Manitowoc break wall

The Wisconsin Maritime Museum has a well deserved reputation.  It’s a well presented overview of area boating, and has a must see exhibit of model ships.

We were thrilled to see that the America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Asspociation (AGLCA) were represented with a wall panel explaining the route!

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We’re not quite sure how we went out together with all of those stripes!  Evidently there wasn’t a memo!

Outside, the USS Cobia, a 312 ft. WWII submarine is docked and open for tours.  It was a great visit!

The U.S.S. Cobia

One thing that has remained constant on this trip, is ICE CREAM, and Manitowoc was no exception. Beerntsen’s is an old fashioned luncheonette, with a soda foundtain and booths, right in town.  We stopped in and bought some of their homemade cherry and also cinnamon ice creams, and some chocolate covered pretzels.  Everything was fresh and delicious!

The morning of the 26th was cool, but sunny and clear when we left Manitowoc at 7:40 am.  Once again, the winds were expected to increase, so we were happy to get tucked into Port Washington Marina at 1 pm.  

The town of Port Washington is adorable.  There are several good restaurants to choose from, cute shops and a wonderful Polish butcher, Bernie’s Meats.  

And, thanks to Nancy’s boyfriend, Bobby Flay, we had a delicious spiced rubbed pork chop dinner!

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Up the hill (100 steps, they tell you!) from town is both St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and the 1860 Light Station, which is open for tours. 

1860 Light Station

St. Mary’s Church

As with all of the lake marinas, there is a break wall, and yes, we explored that and watched the crazy lake do it’s thing!

Based on recommendations from locals, and things we had read, we decided to have dinner at Twisted Willow, just a block up the hill from the marina.  It was a toss up with the well regarded Pasta Shoppe, but the farm to table at Twisted Willow was more appealing.  The space is lovely, service was good, and the food was outstanding…highly recommend it!

Dinner at Twisted Willow, and a Thank You note on our leftovers!

We were super excited to get down to Milwaukee, as we had been hearing wonderful things about this city.  It was a cool and cloudy day when we left the marina at 8:30 am, following a fuel and pump out. While Rob was fueling the boat, he glanced down at the air vent on the port side of the boat and noticed small pieces of plastic on the ledge. Upon further inspection, he noticed a hole in the screening of the vent.  A hole likely created by our Muskrat/Mink!  Good news!!!  He DID escape! Maybe?  While the engine room has smelled a bit like a litter box, the smell hasn’t been bad at all. Certainly not what we thought it would be if we had a corspe in the engine room!  Now we know why!

The winds were out of the north at 10 – 15 mph, and the seas were 3 – 4″+.  Fortunately, they were “rollers” and we essentially surfed all the way to Milwaukee!

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Well, hello, Milwaukee!

It’s only a 26 mile run down the Lake, so we were docked at 10:15, and ready to explore the city!  We hopped on our bikes and headed over to the Milwaukee Art Museum.  It was a beautiful ride through the park, and along the lake. Our goal was to be there by noon, as there is a wing of the museum that is a moveable sculpture that “performs” several times a day.  The modern, white structure resembles a bird, and it’s “wings” lift when the museum opens, flap at noon and descend at closing time.

The museum collection is wonderful!  Our favorites included a good showing from the Hudson River School, Impressionists, Picasso, Renoir, Rembrandt, an impressive collection of Georgia O’Keefe, and much more.