Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 2-251 to Put-in-Bay and Perry's Monument

Another short travel day. The good news was that diesel fuel was only $3.899 at the Catawba Moorings so we filled up the tanks. The bad news is that we only needed 90.45 gallons. We then headed out into Lake Erie to go to South Bass Island, which is the location of Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. In doing so we bypassed Kelly's Island off to the east. South Bass Island has a large, well protected, natural harbor, and the monument has over 200,000 visitors per year. It is also home to many regattas and a popular spot for boating vacations.
     As we rounded the west side of the island, we got an excellent view of one of the newer additions to the local scenery. When the lake freighter "Benson Ford" was being scrapped, the whole upper section of the bow was cut off and preserved. It was then transported here by barge and lifted into place on top of this sea cliff. I have seen articles and pictures in boating magazines of the beautiful wood work inside, including private quarters that could be occupied by Benson Ford.
     We continued around the island to the north side where we entered the harbor. Perry's Monument is 352 feet tall so we had been seeing it in the distance for the past 3 days, but we now got our first close up view, It is the fourth tallest monument in the Us behind the St. Louis Gateway Arch, San Jacinto and Washington Monuments. It commemorates Commodore Perry's victory over the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. After this battle, the US controlled Lake Erie for the remainder of the War of 1812. One last snippet is that the flags of all three countries (US, Canada and Britain) are all flown at the same height to commemorate the peace.

Our big (boating) event for today was to use a mooring field for the first time. The idea is to grab a ring at the top of the mooring ball with the boat hook. Then you lift up the ball and run a rope through the ring and tie off both ends of the rope on the boat. Sounds easy enough? On most smaller boats someone just lies down on the boat and reaches out to loop the ring. On Lucky Us the bow rail is about 7 feet above the water and the chain weighs about 10 pounds per foot. We had to approach the mooring ball back closer to the stern, but somehow the Admiral did it! Just about then one of our fellow Loopers from the Erie Canal, Gerald, showed up in his dingy. He ably assisted the Admiral in getting some kinks out of the line (Thanks!).
     We arranged to meet Gerald and Cheri for docktails later. We had a wonderful time exchanging experiences since we last were together. Later, as we were waiting for the water taxi to take us back to Lucky Us, we were treated to a wonderful sunset over the harbor.

Day 2-250 to Catawba Moorings Marina

We departed Cedar Point Marina a little before 11:00 am for a short 13.1 mile trip to Catawba Moorings (marina). First, we went across the bay/harbor to downtown Sandusky, Ohio. The major ports along the south shore of Lake Erie used to ship out a lot of coal from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but most of the huge coal loading facilities are now gone. The railroad cars were pushed in one at a time. Then they were lifted up and tipped so that the coal would slide out and into a chute that directed the coal into lake freighters. As a kid in Lorain, our parents would take my brother and I down to the coal dock to watch this process for what seemed like hours. I guess that it was a good way to put my brother and I to sleep, but no matter how many times we went it was always fascinating to watch...
As we left Sandusky Harbor, we went out past Cedar Point one more time and got some great views of the roller coasters.
     The north side of Sandusky Bay and Harbor is formed by the Marblehead Peninsula. Rather than marble, the peninsula is formed by resistant limestone. Further to the north, the limestone forms a series of island and shallow shoals, which were very dangerous for shipping on the lake. The eastern tip of the peninsula is marked by the Marblehead Lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper's home is just behind the light. This would easily be the most famous lighthouse on Lake Erie.

The peninsula and the islands to the north is the area is where we will be spending the next few days. After rounding the tip of the peninsula, we headed west along the shore. After a half mile, we passed the small town of Marblehead where we saw this lake freighter being loaded with crushed limestone. In large areas of the interior of the peninsula the limestone has been quarried out to below lake level. The red hulled ferry in the foreground is one of the passenger and vehicle ferries to Kelly's Island, which is the first island to the north, and it had also been extensively quarried in its interior.

After a couple of miles the shoreline abruptly heads north at what is now East Harbor State Park. The park is on a long, often narrow spit of sand. The beaches are not wide, but the water gets deep VERY slowly. It is the kind of place where you could walk 100 feet out into the water and still be in only 1 or 2 feet of water.
At the north end of the several mile long park we reached our destination at the Catawba Marina. As usual, the Admiral did an excellent job of picking a marina. This one had a nice, large pool and restaurant.  ...and oh, did I mention that they had fried Lake Erie Perch???

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 2-249 ride up the Huron River then off to Cedar Point

Our actual boat trip for today was only 15.1 miles to Cedar Point Amusement Park, which bills itself as the "Roller Coaster Capitol of the World". We launched the dingy (picture at right) and took a leisurely cruise up the Huron River. As a kid, our family had a part interest in a cabin a few miles up the river. We spent many weekends there fishing, swimming, water skiing and seemingly endless hours rowing boats. "Rustic" would be an over statement for the cabin, but for my brother and me, it was a kid's wonderland.

After 50+ years, I wondered if it might still be there, but the answer appears to be no. It was on the outside of a bend in the river and was subject to erosion. It had been moved back from the river at least once, but alas...

We went about 7 miles up river, and even though there has been development of some areas, much of the river is still natural.

Speaking of development, here is our pick of the "most outrageous" view of the day. This rather large and very pink flaming boat easily won the prize. From another angle, we could see that it is pedal powered, but it also has a mounting bracket for an outboard motor. Now if you are a real Red Neck, it comes on a 4-wheel trailer so you could pull it in parades with your lawn mower.
ha ha.

When we got back from our tour at 11:00 am, Lucky Us was waiting patiently for us in the Huron Boat Basin (picture at left).

We loaded the dingy onto the davit on the swim platform and left the dock more or less before the official check out time of Noon. As you can see in the photograph, the sky had largely cleared, and the breeze was a light 8 mph as we started our voyage for the day.

On one side of the main channel there were huge piles of gravel that I presumed had been delivered by ship. Gravel piles are inherently boring, but these were covered by very large numbers of my (least) favorite bird, seagulls...

We covered the 15.2 miles to the marina at Cedar Point in about 2.5 hours at a leisurely speed. The amusement park occupies about a half square mile at the end of a 5 or 6 mile long sand spit. The picture above was taken from Lucky Us as we rounded the end of the sand spit and are in the shipping channel into Sandusky Harbor. The spit begins about half way between Huron and Sandusky, Ohio. It goes slowly out into the lake and forms a large, natural harbor for Sandusky. Cedar Point Amusement Park (1870) is the second oldest amusement park in the US, and as I mentioned earlier, it has a worldwide reputation for its roller coasters. It has a total of 16 coasters, including 4 that are over 200 feet tall. It also is the most visited "seasonal" amusement park in the country.

They have a huge marina that has both seasonal and a large number of transient boats. They had a very nice pool and hot tub at the marina, but we also had access to pools at the hotels and to the beautiful beach on Lake Erie. The marina was about in the middle of the long array of roller coasters, which meant for exciting views, but that was about as close as we wanted to get to the actual rides... The rushing noise of all of the coasters made it sound like we were in the middle of a practice session for something like the many jets planes that make up the Blue Angels. The picture above shows "Famous Dave's BBQ Restaurant" along one side of the marina where we had dinner. I had a salad with chopped Georgia style BBQ pork. While a salad for dinner sounds healthy, this salad was waaaaay too good tasting to be very healthy. This picture and the following one were both taken at night. Night time pictures require a long exposure, so the camera must be very steady, but that is impossible on the flybridge of a rocking boat. Thus, the pictures are blurry, but they show something of the night time light show.

The last picture shows four lighted columns with a roof like connection at the top. The columns are round, and they have "cars that surround the columns. The cars are raised up and then dropped. We could hear the screams from Lucky Us.  It is a very good thing that the rides were well lit because there was supposed to be a fireworks show at 11:00 pm. After a long day outdoors, it is very difficult to stay up late at night, but we stayed up because we had a prime viewing spot on the flybridge. HOWEVER, the fireworks never materialized...

Oh well, it was a small disappointment at the end of an otherwise great day.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 2-248 to Vermilion for lunch then on to Huron, OH

After four busy days in Lorain, we left about 9:30 am and headed west to Vermilion. The sky had several dark clouds, but they had passed by when we cleared the Lorain Lighthouse. The winds were 5 to 8 mph out in the lake, which meant that the waves were less than 1 foot. It is only 11.3 miles dock to dock for our stop for lunch in Vermillion so we throttled back and enjoyed the scenery along the shore.

After giving us a tour of the Black River on her boat, Ann came along on the trip to Vermilion for lunch. She took a turn at the helm of Lucky Us and did quite well. She plans to join us for a week in northern Michigan so she will get a lot more practice then. 
     Amazingly enough, the Vermilion River flows through the town of the same name and forms a nice harbor for pleasure craft. In the past it also had a fairly large fleet of commercial fishing boats as well. There are beautiful manmade canals that are lined with lovely waterfront homes, and the downtown area has many interesting shops and restaurants.
We had arranged to meet another long time friend (Helen) there for lunch at a waterfront restaurant that is called "Quaker State Lube". The good news was that we got a waterfront table right alongside Lucky Us. That is also the bad news since Lucky Us then blocked most of our view... However, the sky hard cleared, and the temperature was in the low 70s so it was perfect for eating outside. Plus, they had fried Lake Erie Perch on the menu.

In the picture at the left we saying our goodbyes after lunch as Ann was going to go back to Lorain with Helen. Special people, special time with both of them!
We left Vermilion and headed 11.2 miles west to our stop for the day at Huron, Ohio. Huron is more of a commercial port and in the past both coal and flour were shipped out on large freighter.  The picture at the right is the modern automated light at the start of the dredged channel. As the result of urban renewal and a large fire, Huron has a modern waterfront with marinas, 2 motel/hotels and restaurants. We stayed at the Huron Boat Basin, which is owned and operated by the city. In one corner of the marina is a small earthen amphitheater that seats several hundred.
We always check out the local calendar of activities in small towns. Sure enough, there was a play at 8:00 pm at the Huron Playhouse only 3 blocks from the marina. The play was "39 Steps" based on the original book by John Buchanan and a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. The play has some 33 scenes, and it was written so that only four actors play all of the parts. The Huron Playhouse has been around for 66 years, and the summer theater is almost all college students getting experience. You may remember that we went to the musical "Wicked" when we were in New York City, and this is the fifth time that we have gone to a local theater production on our boat trip. All have been well worth while, and they have contributed to the amazing voyage that we are doing. 

Day 244-247 in Lorain, OH -my home town

We spent 4 nights in Lorain, Ohio, which is where I was born and raised. I went to school here K-12 and graduated from Lorain High School in the class of 1961B. One of my fondest memories of Lorain is the beautiful sunsets over Lake Erie (picture at right). I remember as a kid thinking that we should see steam rise from the water when that red ball hit the water.

The second sunset picture (below) shows Lucky Us at her dock at Spitzer Lakeside Marina in a very well protected portion of the outer harbor.
I will spare you many of the non-marine related details, since the Blog is about our Great Loop Adventure. Lorain has long been an important port shipping out coal and receiving iron ore.

The major industries were US Steel (World's longest continuous tube mill), Ford assembly plant (cars, vans and light trucks) and American Ship Building (built many of the lake freighters, including 1,000 footers). The shipyard and Ford are now closed, and part of the steel mill is owned separately by US Steel and Republic Steel, who together employ about 70% fewer workers. Economically the town has suffered, but its greatest natural resources (Lake Erie, the port and the Black River) offer great recreational opportunities.

No visit would be complete without a swim in Lake Erie... There is a very nice sand beach adjacent to the marina, and the water was 73F, which is about as warm as it gets. If you think that is cold, then remember that the other Great Lakes are all much deeper and colder... When I was growing up, the lake was badly polluted, but today the water is much cleaner although the fishing is still no where near as good as it used to be. Charter fishing boats are numerous, but commercial fishing industry is virtually gone.

Our friend Ann took the Admiral and me on a tour up the Black River to see the changes. She has a 24 foot Sea Ray (aptly named "Sweet Retreat") with a cuddy cabin, which was an excellent venue from which to view the river. The picture at left shows Ann and me discussing something of (no doubt) great importance. Much like the Cuyahoga River (the river that caught fire), the Black River was once heavily polluted. I never remember seeing wildfowl of any kind, except for the ubiquitous seagulls...
On our trip we saw one bald eagle (picture at right) as well as ducks, geese and Great Blue herons in abundance. In one stretch of about 100 yards I saw 21 Great Blue herons along the river bank with 4 more flying above. Also, a short distance further down stream we had passed a huge dead tree with 8 heron nests in it.

One of my favorite photos of the day is this one that shows an Anhinga drying itself on a log while a Great Blue heron stalks the riverbank.

Along with some grocery shopping, we did mange to see two movies ("Jersey Boys" and "Begin Again"). Also, starting back in Erie, PA, I have had fried Lake Erie Perch for 5 straight days! Just gotta feed that addiction whenever I am in the area.

Another pretty picture is of a flock of Anhingas also on some large pieces of drift wood in the outer harbor.  As a kid, I had never heard of an Anhinga let alone ever seen one. Such is the Black River today. Much cleaner with far more and diverse wildlife.

The picture at the left is of a Canvasback that spent a lot of time hanging around Lucky Us in the marina. Sorry about all of the bird pictures, but I just cannot believe that there are so many different birds, in particular, here now...

We will be leaving Lorain in the morning and heading west to continue our journey. When we leave, we know that the marina will be in good hands since this Great Blue heron seems to patrol the seawall most of the day!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 2-243 Onward to my hometown of Lorain, Ohio

After looking at the weather reports for tomorrow, we decided today to bypass Cleveland and head on to Lorain, Ohio. We left Mentor-on-the-Lake at 7:00 am to follow the shoreline to Cleveland, OH.  Given the early departure, our farewell salute from Mentor Yachting Club was made by this lone Blue Heron along the channel out into Lake Erie (picture at right). As you can see, the wind was very light with only a very gentle off shore breeze.
As we left the harbor at Mentor, almost immediately were able to see the skyline of Cleveland, OH about 25 miles to the west. The lakefront is protected by a long breakwater parallel to the shoreline that forms a very long inner harbor. We stayed just on the outside (or lake side) of the breakwater so that we could get very good views of the city. The picture at the left shows some of the downtown skyline. The "shorter" tower in the center is the Terminal Tower, which for many years was the tallest building and a signature symbol of the skyline.
Barely visible in the lower right of the picture above are The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Browns (nearly) new football stadium. In the picture at the right the Hall of Fame is the building with the slanting roof just on the left of center. The complex of buildings on the right, including the dark grey dome, is the Great Lakes Science Center. The Hall of Fame , which was designed by famed architect I. M. Pei, opened in 1988 and is a signature part of waterfront redevelopment.

Just to the right (west) of the above picture is the nearly new Cleveland Browns' football stadium, which is also the new home of "Johnny Football" (Johnny Manziel). The Texas A&M football star was drafted by the Browns in the first round of last Spring's NFL Draft. Gig 'em Aggies! There are going to be a lot of Browns fans in Texas now.
Shortly after this we passed the main entrance to the outer harbor and the (infamous) Cuyahoga River. Yes, that is the river that burned back in the 1970s... The picture at the right is the lighthouse at the entrance.

Then it was time to continue along the south shore of Lake Erie for about 25 miles to Lorain, OH. The light off shore breeze continued so we actually stayed only about a mile from shore in very calm waters. Yes, it was a really nice day for this trip!
The signature view of Lorain, Ohio from the waterfront is the lighthouse. I was born and raised in Lorain where I graduated from Lorain High School in the class of 1961B. Yup, that was indeed quite a while ago...

Like many lighthouses, the Lorain Lighthouse was deactivated and replaced by an automatic light over 40 years ago. It has now been restored outside and inside.

So, now that we are in Lorain for several days, I am going to not post for a while. In the meantime I will be eating lots fresh Lake Erie Perch and visiting a couple of long time friends. Pictures and memories to follow...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 2-242 onward to Mentor-on-the-Lake, OH

We left the dock at Wolverine Marina in Erie, PA at 6:50 am. Our first adventure was to once more pass under the walkway between the Sheraton Hotel and the convention center. It has an amazing 71 feet of vertical clearance, which is not a problem for Lucky Us, but it is also so big that it is hard to photograph. The hotel is on the right in the picture and the convention center on the left. We are headed out of the channel and about to go under the walkway. This whole trip has really been a voyage of discovery. We have been to some of these places before, but they ALWAYS look different from the water. Then there are also all of the many unexpected and sometimes strange things that we see. The whole trip has been much more than we ever expected...
     The trip for today was 79 miles and was mainly designed to "put miles under the keel" rather than sight seeing. Thus, we stayed about 4 miles off the south shore of Lake Erie. This had the advantage of less wind since the winds were mainly thermally generated along the shore. We started in a light off shore breeze, which turned into an onshore breeze as the land heated up. It gradually increased in velocity, but it never got over 10 mph. By staying off the shore we had less winds (and waves). We did get some nice viewing angles of the Fairport Harbor outer lighthouse (picture at left). It is a "classic" Great Lakes style lighthouse.
     By this point we had crossed into Ohio, which is exciting for me since our next destination is Lorain, OH where I was born and grew up. Tonight we are staying in Mentor-on-the-Lake, OH, which is about 30 miles east of Cleveland, OH. The Admiral had made a reservation for a transient slip at the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club, but she had somehow failed to note one very important thing about the facilities... You should have seen the huge smile on her face when I told her that they have a swimming pool! It is only about the third pool that we have had so far this year, and boy was she ready. I had seen the elevated (on a small hill) pool from the flybridge, but she was down on the deck handling lines so she could not see it. After docking, she already had her suit on when we went to the club house to register. The photo above is of the large pool, and yes the Admiral was the first one in it! I quickly followed after taking this photo.
     It continued to be a day of surprises. It is a private club, but they do take credit cards for registered guests. Thus, the last picture is of the Admiral and I at dinner on the terrace overlooking the pool (and Lake Erie, the harbor and the marina). Note the extra big smile on the Admiral's face. As for me, I was having a bad hair day after swimming...