Mackinac Bridge Is Lighting Up

Wednesday August 15, 2012

Having another early morning and leaving South Manitou Island departing around 6:30 am just before the sun rose we knew our next stop would be Mackinac Island having read in a charter guide for Northern Michigan that there was a decent spot to anchor there. Free is always good and it’s a beautiful place to spend a day even if it is made up mostly for tourist. We were expecting it to be a 24 hour sail which meant one more overnight passage on Lake Michigan. Surviving the first one just fine I wasn’t as worried and just wanted to make up time. Motoring into the straights we had a lot of wind at our back and as soon as we were on course we unfurled the headsail. Right on cue the wind died out and we were forced to turn on the motor. This continued until early afternoon where there was finally decent wind behind us and we could raise the spinnaker. Only one twist in it this time which was much easier to fix than the last time and let the autopilot take over while we tackled a few small projects like measuring and cutting for our new Amsteel lifelines. (Ok, Matt did that while I kept watch to make sure he didn’t fall overboard)

 Getting up to Beaver Island we changed course after hugging the coast all day to start heading out into more open water and picked up some speed at 5-6 knots which I was hoping would put us through Gray’s Reef before dark. Making some rice and adding it to our Jackie meal we spend the evening soaking up the last bit of sun the sky had to offer until it clouded up just before sunset. This was also around the time that the wind shifted to right on our nose and mostly died out. On the motor goes again. Just as the sky was getting dark we could begin to make out the markers for Gray’s Reef and I decided to delay my first shift 9:00 bedtime until we got through it. Once the sky was completely black we could see red and green flashes on the horizon and tried to match them up with what we could see on the charts. For some reason this reef was made out to be a big deal and I’m sure it is for the big tankers that pass through the area, but in all actuality for us there was no way we’d run aground because the shallowest spot was about 16 feet and that’s actually the deepest part of Lake St. Clair that we’ll be passing through in a few days.  Either way we positioned ourselves to pass through the blinking path and were out of it within 30 minutes.  Bed time for me!

While trying to get some sleep below I could tell the wind was picking up and Matt was fiddling with lines, letting out the headsail.  Right away I could tell we picked up a lot of speed, probably 6 knots, and was a little worried about him handling that alone in the dark.  He was harnessed in as we always do on night shifts and knew not to leave the cockpit without having me up there to ‘supervise’ and I think he also quickly realized it was too much sail because a few minutes later I could hear it being rolled in again.  Somehow I drifted off quickly after that and didn’t wake again until it was time for my shift.

By this time the bridge was less than 20 miles away and we were in full view of it, completely up.  Since we were also now in the straights and I knew a lot of traffic passed through there I had visions of dodging tankers all night but the water was empty.  There was only on tanker that passed by on my shift and it was on the opposite side and no last minute maneuvers were necessary.  There were a few shipwrecks listed on the charts which I’d be passing over but they were all listed as submerged and non dangerous.  By the time my shift was over only five miles separated us from the bridge and I knew I’d be asleep when we went under it so I had Matt promise me he’d wake me up in time.

An hour later I was called out of bed and rushed to get my heavy jacket on to brave the 50 degree temperatures while I went out to see the bridge.  Since we still had some champagne left from our departure I pulled that out as well and as soon as Serendipity was under we toasted our victory for having made it this far since some people (ahem, Rod) had bets we wouldn’t even make it this far. All kidding of course.  At least we think so.  Once the champagne bottle was empty and some blurry photos were taken I went back to the warmth of my bed until my next shift started in 90 minutes.

Being woken up the next time, around 5:30 am, there was a grayish light in the sky and we were less than a mile from the harbor at Mackinac Island.  Not wanting to anchor in anything but full light I was instructed to circle the area for the next hour and wake Matt up at that point and we’d finally be able to go into the harbor.  Keeping a watch for traffic which there was still none except for one little fishing boat I tried not to fall back asleep on watch until my hour was up.  As soon as it was, and I made sure we were very close to the island at the time I woke Matt up and we navigated in and through all the boats out on mooring to drop our anchor in the only open spot in the harbor which happened to be right next to the rocky breakers and our butt almost swinging in the channel.  As soon as we saw that the bottom was rocky and would not hold our anchor well I called the marina to see if any mooring balls were available for the night.  I was told they were all privately owned but there were slips available and for only $44 a night for us.  Not shabby at all!  We jumped right on that deal and as soon as we were tied off and paid for the night we both passed out in a happy bliss, ready to wake up in a few hours and play the eager tourists.

Not enough wind to fill these sails.

Just about to pass under.


Lighthouse at Round Island, just as we were entering Mackinac Bay.



Mackinaw Bridge


At 4:12 this morning we crossed under the Mackinac Bridge! Woohoo!, out of one Great Lake and into another. More ‘real’ post to come once we get a decent Internet connection. For now, I think some sleep is in order, and then a tour of Mackinac Island.

Pure Michigan

Monday August 13, 2012

When we pulled into the harbor at South Manitou Island I was estatic to see the sun coming through patches in the clouds and thought maybe we’d actually be able to do some real sightseeing instead of bundling up in winter gear for a 20 minute trek to the lighthouse  before going back to the boat and spending the rest of the day inside as I had envisioned. Looking at the chart for a good anchorage we steered clear of the only other sailboat in the harbor and dropped our anchor in 40 feet of clear aqua water. Cleaning up the mess we managed to make in the cockpit I glanced around for our best bathing option since neither of us had showered in two and a half days. We definitely needed to clean up. Since the three containers of deisel were taking up the floor of the cockpit and we don’t have our watermaker set up yet, a cockpit shower was not looking good. Checking the temperature of the water it was reading 66 degrees and I thought there was absolutely no way I was going to jump in and a bucket bath on deck may be the only option. But looking into the tantalizing clear bay I knew I couldn’t give up a chance to swim in these waters. We threw on our suits and although I prepared myself for a dive off the side I couldn’t muster up the courage and ended up slowly going down the ladder and took the plunge half way through. Let’s just say the water was refreshing enough to leave me short of breath. While I was busy paddling around and trying to get used to the cold, Matt made his way down the ladder as well but was out again as soon as he had submerged. Soon we were both clean and felt a million times better. I’m not missing the call of a hot shower just yet, but it probably won’t be too long.


After throwing on fresh clothes and eating a quick lunch of PB&J we jumped in the dinghy for a shore excursion. I didn’t know much of what was on this island except for a lighthouse that I really wanted to climp to the top of. Walking up the ferry dock as it was loading to take passengers back to Leeland we found a visitor’s stand next to the ranger’s house with a map of what was on the island. Looking through the options there was the lighthouse, the Giant Cedar Forest, a shipwreck and a path to the top of the dunes, apparently the highest one in Michigan. We assumed the shipwreck was viewable from the dunes and the path showed the cedar forest on the way so off we went on the unmarked roads, trying to remember which direction the map had pointed us since they were all out of the paper maps to take with you.


Walking a good 2 ½ miles we came across the path for the shipwreck and turned on it. Winding through the woods we were let out to the top of a bluff overlooking the water and a very large ship sticking out of it. I had thought it would just be a small portion protruding out of the water, maybe a smokestack or something of the sort, but this was basically the whole boat. Matt knew a little bit about it and told me it was from the 60’s and accidentally came aground on the rocks lining the island. Now falling apart it just sat in the shallow water with hundreds of birds perched on it’s deck.


Going back out to the trail we followed it for another half mile until we came to the trail for the cedar forest. Neither of us knew if we should just be looking around as they’d be on the path or if there would be a marker once we arrived at them. Sure enough once you got to it there were cedar planks and benches laid down, following a path to bring you around to all the indeed giant trees. Some of them were very wide and some just very tall, but they were all warped and knotted and beautiful. We followed the cedar path until it deaded ended into a dirt trail and followed that hoping it would lead us back out to the main path. The dirt trail took us by a few more cedars in the woods and one very large cedar that had fallen and had a circumfrence almost taller than me.


Being spit out back on the path we made our way to the last stop on the trails, the dunes. Making our way up some steep dirt steps it opened into a sandy path that still led up and up. Getting quite out of breath as we had now been hiking over three miles up and down all kinds of hills we took a quick break, letting the breeze of the open air flow over us. Not sure which direction to head since there were now small sand trails going everywhere we picked one that looked like it had the most travelers and continuted to walk through the sand. (By the way, we did not see one other person on our hike on an island full of campers, very strange)


Going up and down a few more small dunes we came to the shore on top of a bluff about 400 feet above the water. Instead of walking back through all the trails we had just taken to get back to the bay, Matt suggested we go down the dune/bluff to the water and just hug the coast to get back. It may not have been shorter but the surface would be flat. Not wanting to go uphill anymore and knowing I’d have a constant breeze on my face by the water I agreed and down we went. After unloading the piles of sand we accumulated in our shoes we continued down the shore. Walking for at least a mile and rounding a few corners and not seeing the shipwreck we wondered if we made the completely wrong decision and would be walking all night. One more corner though and it was jutting out of the water so we figured we couldn’t be too far since it was only a two mile walk to this point from the inland trails. On and on we walked, now starting to get blisters on our feet and ready to get back to the boat for a nice dinner of grilled chicken and rice.


It seemed like every corner we turned was not putting us any closer to home but we just kept trudging on. Finally we could see the lighthouse in the distance which was a relief because it sat at the opening to the bay. Knowing the end was now in sight we picked up pace and soon climed the path up to the lighthouse (which was closed for visitors!!) and back out to the boat house and ferry dock. Happy that our dinghy hadn’t washed away (we had to rescue one earlier that was floating in the middle of the bay) we shoved off and went back to Serendipity fully exhausted. It was too late and we were too hungry for a dinner of grilled chicken so we settled on macaroni and cheese which tasted even better at that moment. It was a long day and I knew I’d be out the moment my head hit the pillow but it was completely rewarding to have spent five hours and close to 10 miles experiencing all the beauty that is Pure Michigan. (Thanks Tim Allen)

I knew he was starting to become a little bit of a hippie, but now a tree huger?

Matt at the bottom of the dune.

And So It Begins

Sunday August 12, 2012

You’d think that the night before departure my nerves would be running like crazy and I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep, but somehow I managed to sleep soundly through the night and was even disappointed when the alarm went off at 5:30 am.  It may have been that we had friends on board past midnight, forcing them to drink all our beer to empty our fridge and lighten the boat.  Surprisingly there wasn’t the mass excitement you normally get before a big trip, it just felt like we were getting ready for another day sail.  Just while it was still dawn.  Trying to clean up some of the last minute clutter we organized the cabin slightly and then went into the dinghy dock where Matt’s mom and step-dad were waiting to say goodbye to us and bring a few things we couldn’t fit in the car the day before.  With hugs and photos we said goodbye and Matt’s mom joked through her tears that we better like our new lifestyle because our bedroom was going to become a scrapbooking room that day.  Putting the rest of the belongings in the dinghy we loaded up and got ready to push off so Matt’s mom could take photos of us leaving the channel.

Looking around the marina for the last time I was sad to say goodbye to what had been our home for the past few years but also excited to finally get underway.  While motoring out to the channel I went below and fixed us a mimosa with some sparkling wine a friend had got us so we could celebrate the occasion as we passed through the channel one last time.  Navigating through the dozens of fishermen that thought it would be the perfect place to troll we made it near the mouth of Lake Michigan and waved to Chris and Jack at the lighthouse.  And as soon as we were in the waters of Lake Michigan I may or may not have dropped my phone in the water, hurtling at full speed directly toward the lighthouse.  No use for that thing now.

Getting into the lake the water was calm and glassy and there was no wind.  Leaving the motor on we set the autopilot for north and Matt took a nap in the cockpit while I kept a lookout.  After an hour we switched although I of course took my nap in the comfort of the v-berth below.  The engine was kicking warm air through the heater and it was nice and toasty down there.  When I woke up I found Matt busy working on reefing lines on deck, getting them ready so that we’d be able to run all three from the cockpit.  I sat and looked on, handing tools here and there and trying to soak up the sun that was rising over us.

Finally turning off the engine around 2:00 we raised the spinnaker to do some actual sailing.  There must have been some lines twisted in there somewhere and what ensued was a hectic 10 minutes of untying and retying lines, twisting sail cloth, and making my hands raw from pulling on lines (I have gloves but was not wearing them at the time).  Once we finally had it properly set we were exhausted and retreated to the cockpit for a lunch of cold pizza.  Soon after it became overcast and the temperature took a dramatic dip.  I had already changed from a fleece to a heavier jacket but this was cold enough to make me take the blanket from our bed and wrap ourselves in it.  At this point neither of us felt like being productive and spent the rest of the afternoon in the cockpit hiding from the wind.  I did put my bibs on after just a little bit which helped dramatically with the cold but not with the laziness.  When dinner time came near I thought a nice hearty oven cooked meal would make us feel better and started pulling out ingredients for what I have coined ‘The Jackie Meal’, something she had fed us on her boat a few weeks before.  It’s basically a tin foil dinner with slices of cooked sausage, meatballs, zucchini, squash, potatoes (which we substituted for onions), sprinkled with seasoning salt and garlic powder, topped with a spoon of butter and wrapped in tin foil.  So delicious.  I could smell it cooking in the oven long before we pulled it out and it completely hit the spot.

Dousing the spinnaker as the sun was going down I prepared myself for bed since Matt had the first shift on watch.  This was the first time I allowed myself to get a little scared about what we were doing and the vast waters we’d be traveling and I’d be alone on watch that night on a very big lake.  Winds were picking up and I was worried something terrible might go wrong in the middle of the night.  I just had to keep reminding myself that I knew what I was doing (for the most part) and I’d have Matt there to help me if I needed it.  It still took me awhile to fall asleep but when I did get up for my shift the winds had calmed down to about 10 knots at our stern and we were following along calmly at a steady 3.5 knots.  Oh, I could totally handle this!  As we switched the harness over to me I sat in the cockpit, bundled up in the blanket that was still up there and kept a lookout for any lights on the water.  Most of them were from shore but after an hour on watch I saw some directly in front of the bow and even after I’d do a good sweep out the side of the fabric of the bimini they did not look to be getting any closer.  I warned Matt about them when he woke up for his next shift and I went back below to quickly fall asleep this time.

Waking up again at 7 am the sun should have been coming up but alas it was clouds a second day in a row.  Being filled in on the mysterious lights I found out there were not actually boats but also shore.  We had been headed at a point that jutted out in the lake, and although Matt had been aware of this the whole time and planning on changing course before then you just happened to be able to see the lights from miles and miles away.  Taking my spot under the blanket a second time I watched the sky turn from dark to gray as we came upon one of my favorite places in the world, the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  This day though they looked dark and dreary and not as dreamy as I remembered them and definitely not living up to the title of The Most Beautiful Place in America that they had been given the year before.  I was a little disappointed but just had to tell myself that there are going to be so many beautiful things along the way that I can’t be put out by one cloudy day.  And I did still have the climb to the top of the lighthouse at South Manitou Island to look forward to, clouds or not.

Leaving the dinghy docks.

Last day at the mooring.

Breakfast of champions!

‘Bon Voyage!’

‘The Jackie Meal’

Confined to the cockpit

Our first stop!

6:53 am

At 6:53 this morning, we left our Muskegon mooring for the last time. We are officially cruisers!

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye, But So Fun!

Sunday August 5, 2012

I think the broken part on our boat may have been a blessing in disguise as the extra time in town is giving us plenty of time to say proper goodbyes to family and friends.  In our previously packed schedules our goodbyes were either going to be divided into large group parties without much one on one time, or a 20 minute visit scheduled in between other visits or on the way out to the boat.  Our extra forced time on land is now allowing for many more lunches and dinners to spend quality time with people and remind us of how much we’ll miss them.

We haven’t had a night off since Wednesday when we went to dinner with Matt’s sister and her boyfriend, which ended up in hours of after dinner drinks which I knew it would.  So is your night when you go out with bartenders/servers who’s profession is staying out late and drinking.  Matt and I were introduced to Bazooka Joe and Applesauce shots and I was using Bahama Mamma’s and White Russians as chasers.  All of that plus only six hours of sleep, somehow I still rocked it out at work the next day.  Thursday night was a nice relaxing dinner with my uncle and grandparents in a quiet little bistro.  We related all the information of the trip they may not have caught a family gatherings, the route we’re taking, where we’ll sleep at night, how we’ll wash our clothes.  Making sure our jump off point to the Bahamas wasn’t too far north of their town of Sebring, FL (guess I haven’t paid attention to midland Florida geography) we made plans to meet up for a day when we’re passing down the coast.  Before hugging and saying goodbye we also showed my grandpa how to locate and read text messages on his cell phone.  I’m sure my dad will be happy to hear that he wasn’t being ignored on purpose.

Friday was my last day of work and there was no way I’d be allowed to go home without having a few last drinks with coworkers.  Gathering on the patio of one of our favorite happy hour restaurants we talked about the politics of work and funny stories that were not safe for our instant messages.  It was a smaller group, but made up of my best friends there and we could have sat talking until the place shut down but I was on a borrowed car that I needed to get home for others.  As much as I was looking to get out of a cubicle and spend a few years seeing the world I know I’ll have moments where some random thought is on my mind and I’ll want to quick message my friends but they won’t be at my fingertips anymore.  I won’t see them five days a week and I may never actually see some of them again.  That’s been one of the hardest nights to leave so far.

Saturday was a double eventer, lunch with one group of friends and dinner with another.  Driving out to our old neighborhood we met up with Matt’s oldest friend Kevin, they’ve known each other since kindergarten, and his wife Cindy.  They treated us to a delicious and filling lunch at a restaurant called The Crooked Goose that just opened and features many Michigan specialties.  It was an amusing little place and I could see us becoming regulars there should we have stayed in our area.  Matt and Kevin’s other good friend Korey joined us at the restaurant and after we had our fill of fried bologna sandwiches and flash fried pretzels we made our way back to Kevin & Cindy’s for games.  Just like we used to do years ago when Matt and I would stroll over from our backyard to theirs we sat around the table and played games of Apples to Apples and Dominoes.  Somehow Matt was able to lay down a red ‘Local Police’ card for Kevin’s green ‘Lazy’ card (Kevin is a local cop) and I hijacked their cards by filling out a few blank ones myself.  One of them may not have been a noun, but I love it all the same.  Then for Dominoes I won the first game while Matt won the next two and we were not allowed to leave the house until someone other than the two of us won.  Leaving here could have been a very hard goodbye as well, even now I miss all the time we used to spend together, but there are already plans for one more dinner this week so I can hold back my tears until then.

Rounding out Saturday night was dinner with another group of friends, no strangers to being posted on this site, Tyler and Ken and Mindy.  After stopping by Ken & Mindy’s newly built house which we’ll probably have to live in the basement of when we come back, we met up with Tyler for dinner at the same place we had just been Wednesday.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this place is only a mile from our home.  I have a feeling that everyone might be trying to get us good and drunk their last time out with us.  Since all the guys used to work together they dove right into conversations about sales while Mindy and I talked about girly things like what kind of clothes I’m packing, and again, how we’ll do our laundry.  A surprisingly popular question that I get from a lot of people (we’ll be taking our clothes to laundromats and very rarely actually washing anything on board).  We didn’t get to finish it out with a crazy night like we normally would with this group but with Mindy being 6 months pregnant and the two of us going at it all day it was just one last relaxing dinner with good friends.

Rounding out the weekend was dinner with Matt’s dad today.  After a few failed attempts at finding a restaurant (Captain Jack’s on the beach is still closed??!!) we ended up at a tropical themed restaurant a few miles from the marina and caught up on lost time.  It has been absolutely amazing spending so much time with friends and family before we leave.  Everyone has been so kind with thoughts and words and even going away gifts.  It makes going away that much harder, realizing what we’re leaving behind, but we couldn’t imagine a better send off.  Thank you all so much!

The culprits for my almost workday hangover.

Bazooka Joe shot

Yes, it was as good as it looks.

Hijacking the Apples to Apples cards.  They’ll be happy to have it after we’re gone.

Even their dog Izzy was partaking in the good times.

Just a couple of unemployed bums now.