Monday, June 27, 2016

Day 83 to Jackson Harbor, Washington Island

      Reluctantly we left Fish Creek this morning at 8:55 am. The Admiral was up way too early, but she managed to take this lovely photo (at right) of the sunrise over our marina. Our route today is 39.2 miles and includes stopping at Sister Bay for lunch before continuing North to Washington Island, which is a couple of miles off the north end of the Door Peninsula that separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan.  Jackson Harbor is on the northeast corner of Washington Island, and it is going to be our jumping off point for crossing to the other side of Lake Michigan.  Tonight we will review the weather for the next few days to determine when we leave.  Wind is the big factor in choosing the day to cross.  With the early sunrises we have already discussed getting a very early start to take advantage of the usual morning calm. 

      The next photo shows us backing away from the T-head where we were docked. About two hours after departing, we reviewed the weather forecasts and decided to cancel the stop for lunch at Sisters Bay and go directly to Washington Island.  This changes the trip from 39.2 miles to 34.2 miles.  Our main reason is a weather update that forecasts an increase in wind to as high as 15 to 20 mph this afternoon. That much wind would certainly be at the upper end of our comfort range so we decided not to take the chance.

      We have mentioned before that Lake Michigan is up about 4 feet over just a couple of years ago. The photo at the right shows some of the evidence that we regularly see for that rise. This line or shrubs and small trees is in several feet of water just off the end of a small rocky island. They would almost certainly never start growing there nor will they likely live much longer.

      As we continued up the west coast of the Door Peninsula, we saw some scenic sea cliffs formed by the (Silurian) Lockport Dolomite. The Door Peninsula is formed by these resistant rocks while the glaciers eroded away other less resistant formations above and below the Lockport Dolomite. This is the same rock unit that forms Niagara Falls, islands in western Lake Erie and several other features around the Great Lakes.

     At the North end of the Door Peninsula there is a channel between the peninsula and several islands to the north that is known as Death's Door (photo at right). Evidently dozens of old shipwrecks occurred here as ships tried to reach shelter in the lee off the Door Peninsula during storms. It looked peaceful enough in 8 to 10 mph winds today, but with gale force winds being funneled though a narrow rock passage it would be very tricky.

      We arrived at Jackson Harbor at 1:00 pm, and this was our view of Jackson Harbor as we approached the marina. My first thought was that we had somehow been magically transported to New England (photo at left), as we saw salt box style buildings and the gaff rigged, cat boat, etc. 

      The Jackson Harbor Maritime Museum has several building that fit nicely into the New England maritime theme (photo at right).

      We did not go into any of the buildings, but they had some nice exhibits on the grounds of the museum, which were more to my liking. The old US Coast Guard patrol boat is the Plum Island, which reminded me of the recent movie "Finest Hours" about a Coast Guard rescue off Cape Cod, which was done in an all wood boat about this same vintage.

      The also had four gill net commercial fishing boats in the harbor, and at least 2 of them are currently active. They also had this well preserved gill netter displayed on land (photo at right), and I had a good time walking around and peering into it.  There is no cell service here so the Admiral had to find wifi at the nearby inn that is associated with the marina.  No one was around, but the password was on the chalk board so she helped herself. However, I was not going to sit outside as the evening got cool and work on the blog. So, I very graciously gave myself the day off from blogging...

      After we had lunch on the boat we struck out walking to what the Admiral thought was a fiber arts museum.  It turns out that it is a store associated with a fiber arts school, and of course, instead of a little over a mile, it turned out to be a little over 2 miles one way. She did alert her sister that they might have to spend some time here in the future. She also managed to purchase a basket that fits on a shelf above the sink in the galley and will hold potatoes and sweet potatoes. She thinks that the basket is perfect, and the 4.1 miles from that one walk made my Fit Bit very happy for the day. As for Lucky and me, we were happy to be back in the air conditioning on Lucky Us.
      The photo at the left is a old lifeboat that is also part of the museum's collection. It looked nice, but I surely would not want to be caught out in a severe storm in it. On the other hand, if it were the only thing afloat, it would look pretty good.
      We have checked our usual weather sources, and tomorrow we will be heading out to cross to the other side of Lake Michigan with plans to leave no later than 4:30 am.  The wind is supposed to slowly shift from NE to SSE and not to build up any higher than 8 to 10 mph until long after our arrival. Our destination is Northport, MI, specifically the G. Marsten Dame Marina.  This is a 79.5 mile trip which should take slightly less than 10 hours, and depending on how the weather looks, we may speed up a little and take an hour off the trip.  Also, we lose an hour tomorrow as we leave the Central Time Zone. 


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Day 82 exploring (and eating) in Fish Creek, WI

      Short night last night, as I was up late working on the blog, and then Lucky decided to get up about 4:00 am. After some yelling on my part, she went back to sleep for one whole hour when I final gave up and took her for a walk. After the walk, she fell right back asleep, while I was up long enough to see the sunrise about 5:08 am. Finally I got back to sleep for a couple of hours, but I only got 6 hours and 10 minutes of sleep according to my Fit Bit.

      We set off for town around Noon in search of food, but we just happened to pass an Alpaca fiber and apparel store. In fact, the owner has raised Alpacas for their fiber since he was 14 years old. At age 15 he started selling yarn at local craft fairs, and he has parlayed that into a store today. He still makes the fiber into yarn and sells it. The clothing in the store was almost all made of Alpaca, and some of the clothing was actually made by his mother who happened to be tending the store today. The Admiral fell in love with this unique hooded long coat, which if it had fit better would be sitting somewhere on Lucky Us at this very moment. For my part I purchased her a much more modest item made of Alpaca as a Christmas gift. Wish me luck in trying to "hide" it on the boat for the next 4 months or so...
      This morning I worked on the blog while the admiral did wash and cleaned the head (bathroom). Not a very exciting morning, but then we set off in search of food about Noon, and things quickly looked up. We settled on Summertime Restaurant and Loft. The building is one of the oldest and most architecturally unique buildings in Fish Creek (photo at right). We had our choice and picked eating outside. It was warm and sunny plus we had not just finished spending hours outside on the boat travelling. Usually after a travel day, I want to eat inside in air conditioned comfort, but today was different.
     Here we are just having been served our lunches. I chose perch that were lightly battered and fried along with french fries and cole slaw. In my own modest opinion I made an excellent choice as the perch were very moist and tender. In fact it was the best perch that I have had on the trip so far. A lot of the perch that I have had so far were heavily battered, and the fish taste was minimal. In fact in one restaurant I actually scraped the batter off of one side of each fillet to get a little more of the fish taste... The Admiral had a lobster and crab salad that not only looked great, but she shared a bite with me to prove that it was as good as it looked.

      After lunch it was back to the boat, but not before we stopped at one of the local ice cream stores. As we were headed to the store, I suddenly heard the Admiral say "Are you an Aggie". Sure enough headed toward her was a member of the Aggie Corps of Cadets in his full uniform, including his senior (leather riding) boots. We stopped and chatted briefly, and it turns out that he is spending the summer here doing recruiting for the Corps. What a "tough" assignment. Anyway, it was fun to see a representative of Texas A & M University where we both retired from about 5 years ago. Shortly, we wished him luck and continued to the ice cream store where we both had the best ice cream of the trip so far.

     Then we headed back to the boat for more chores. I worked on re-caulking the front window of the lower helm station. The boat is 32 years old, and the old rubber gasket has shrunk leaving gaps at all four corners of each of the four windows. Several weeks ago when the admiral was on her trip back to Texas, I had done about half of the job with positive results. The photo at the right shows me finishing off one corner with a putty knife. I will have to come back and do some cleaning with a razor blade in a couple of days when the caulk has set up.

     The caulking is an easy but very messy job, including digging out the old caulk from a repair by some previous owner. I had a disposable surgical glove on my left hand so it was perfectly clean, but you can see the thick layer of black caulk on my right hand. I had put hand lotion on both hands before I started so that made it harder for the caulk to stick, and I keep a good supply of acetone on board for just such difficult clean ups. Thus, in just a few minutes my hands were probably cleaner than when I started the job.

      Every job seems to have some observer/critic, and here is my faithful helper Lucky. She seems to be able to lie down around my feet when I am standing, and when I was sitting on the fore deck doing one of the front windows, she managed to get between me and the window. Well, at least it helps keep her awake so she will (hopefully) sleep longer at night.
      For dinner we headed back into town to try our fourth new restaurant in two days. We had been in the Fish Creek market, Deli and Spirits Store yesterday and had bought some sundries. However, at that time we had failed to note the sign for the Mr. Helsinki Restaurant. The food was pricey, but the Admiral started with a cup of green curry cauliflower soup followed by Kimchi Korean Beef with Jasmine rice.  I had a 12 Oz. ribeye steak that was very tender along with corn fritters and asparagus. It was great food, but it was also easily the most expensive meal on our trip so far. I must say that 4 out of 4 restaurants were all among the best so far. I am afraid that I would be putting on lots of weight if we stayed here much longer...

      However, I do not have to worry since we are taking off in the morning and heading north up to Washington Island. The island sits just off the north end of the peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. It has ferry service, but it is not heavily populated so it will be a change of pace for us.

      Oops! The Admiral just developed a craving for one more scoop of the wonderful, rich, local ice cream. I graciously gave in and volunteered to accompany her.

See ya!

Day 81 - across Green Bay to Fish Creek MI

      Today we dropped the lines at 6:55 am, and the view about an hour earlier is the sunrise looking back down the fairway where we are docked is shown in the photo at the right. Obviously (?), the Admiral took this picture as she was graciously allowing me a few extra minutes of sleep.  Our destination is Fish Creek, WI back across Green Bay, and we will once again be back in Door County although only about 17 miles along the coast as the crow flies north of Sturgeon Bay.

      The second photo was taken as we backed out of the fairway where we had been docked on the wall in front of the Dockmaster's Office with a park and the non-movie theater in the background. The route this morning was only 17.9 miles or just over 2 hours, and we left early while the wind was down because it is suppose to pick up later in the day. The wind had been blowing us toward the dock so it was easier to back away from the dock with the bow line still attached so that we could use it to pivot around. The Admiral had looped the line around the cleat and back aboard so that when we finished pivoting around all she had to do was drop one end and pull the other end to get the line aboard. 
     After backing out of the fairway, we had room to easily turn around and head out of the marina in a straight shot. The photo at the right was taken just as we cleared the breakwater around the marina and as we said goodbye to Menomonee. Once again we started in clear skies, but a few clouds had begun to form by the end of the trip. Even the clouds were welcome since we were headed directly into the sun for the whole trip, and the reflection of the sun off the water made it nearly impossible for me to see the chart plotter until my eyes adjusted to the lower light.

      The photo at the left shows Lucky Us moored at a T-head at the end of a pier. This is a good location since it cuts down on the foot traffic, but we are subject to loud boaters passing close by us.  T-heads are often used for transient guests since they are not as good for tying up the boat as is a regular slip where the boat can be secured slightly off the finger pier, which keeps the boat from rubbing or even worse doing damage to the dock during storms.

     We arrived at 9:15 am, which was well before the wind strengthened a little, and we both immediately opted for a nice long nap. When I take a nap alone, I always set the alarm on my phone for something between 1:15 and 1:35, but when the Admiral joins me, her rule is no alarms. After our naps, we headed out for a leisurely, early lunch. Catch the theme for today?
      Well, I carefully maneuvered the Admiral so that we had lunch at the same restaurant where we had eaten lunch during our road trip a few days ago. I really wanted to have the same lightly battered Whitefish again. Yes, it was as good as I had remembered! We also had the duck wontons (with cherry and chili chutney sauce) as an appetizer (photo at right). This dish is to die for!!! As a child, the Admiral's father was stationed in Hawaii for three years, and fried wontons was part of her introduction to Chinese food, and I was really glad that she knew enough to order this delicious dish.
     After lunch we returned to the boat to get Lucky and continued our walking tour around the shopping district, and we happened upon an afternoon concert in the park. Evidently, this is a regular weekday happening in Fish Creek during the summer. It was fun, but we only stayed a short while since it was interfering with the goal of shopping. I cannot say that the shopping was a rip roaring success, but the Admiral did buy us both very nice Door County sweat shirts.

      Ultimately, we headed back to the boat to clean up, leave Lucky behind and head out to dinner. The Admiral suggested that we go to a family style fish boil. They do the boil every 30 minutes, and it is a performance as you watch the Whitefish and red (or new) potatoes being boiled for your dinner. Just before the picture at the right was taken, the chef had rung a bell and yelled to the expectant crowd that it was the one minute bell. The boiled whitefish is ready when the water boils. How did he know that the huge pot would boil in exactly one minute?

      After the announcement, the chef quickly stacked pieces of wood around the fire and the pot (photo at left) with the goal of trapping in the heat. Then, and this is really cheating, he threw about a quart of kerosene on the fire. The kerosene erupted in a burst of flame as seen in the photo above. The extra heat trapped under the pot by the stacked boards resulted in the pot boiling in a matter of seconds. So, of course, the one minute bell was pretty accurate, but they really did "cheat" to do it.

     They then passed a big pipe through the handles of the strainer in order to lift it off the fire. There are actually two big strainers with the top or inside one containing the Whitefish. The lower one with the red potatoes goes on the fire first, and it takes 30+ minutes for the potatoes to cook while the fish was actually cooked only a few minutes. Yes, if you look closely, you can see that boiled whitefish is actually white.
      After the scene at the right, everyone adjourned to their tables to await their dinners. It was a good show and even better dinner.
      After a very filling dinner, we strolled leisurely back to Lucky Us where aside for another walk for Lucky, we were settled in for the evening.
      Lucky and I went out for her final walk around 9:30 pm, and shortly we were treated to this wonderful sunset. Today is the official longest day of the year as well as the first day of Summer, and we did a very good job of making the most of it.

Day 80 a busy day exploring Menomonee, MI

      Well, here we are in the Upper peninsula of Michigan, which is well off the beaten path for most Loopers. The photo at the right shows Lucky Us moored to the wall right in front of the Dock Master's Office, which also contained the bathrooms, which was extremely convenient. On our first Great Loop we went down the east side of Lake Michigan to Ludington, MI about halfway down the east side of Lake Michigan then we crossed the lake over to Milwaukee, WI. We missed this area all together, but we were running out of time as one of our few deadlines on the entire Loop was to be off Lake Michigan around Labor Day when we got to Chicago. This time we started in Chicago so it seems like we have plenty of time to explore, which means that we may be a little rushed at the end of the summer...
     After we had docked, I looked across the shore front park, and I could not believe my eyes as it looked like a movie theater in a restored 4 store building. Wow, I thought. However, I was soon to be disappointed when I took Lucky on her obligatory first walk while the Admiral checked us into the marina. When we got so that I could see the marquis, I was very disappointed to see the sign (photo at left). Well, I could have been the eternal optimist since there is one official day left in Spring, but then reality set in. Maybe next time?
      For lunch we found a nice old fashioned dinner. It was a step up from a true greasy spoon dinner called the Lighthouse Grill, and I had a great salad with dried cherries and nuts as well as grilled chicken. They also have some interesting variations of my favorite balsamic vinaigrette dressing. We are in cherry country, and I have learned that they serve them in several delicious forms. For example, the dried cherries can range from tart to fairly (artificially?) sweet. The restroom signs (photo at right) for this place were really unique both for the crossed legs and hands symbol and for the mirror backed cutout of the figure.
      Well, you can tell from the look on the Admiral's face that she was a satisfied customer. I should also add here that whenever I am not being a satisfactory conversationalist at a meal, she will start taking pictures of us. I guess that I had failed the test yet again...

      We had dinner at Murray's Pub and Grille, which for a pseudo-Irish Pub had a pretty good menu. It also had plenty of TVs in the bar section as well as a more real dining room and even an outdoor patio. This is yet another of the many buildings in the downtown that have been very nicely restored. The ones that had a sign were all restored seemingly with private monies.
      Along this same waterfront street, we came to several whole blocks that had been "yarn bombed" (two photos above). All of the light poles and trees had been covered for several vertical feet in knitted wraps. We asked several locals who had done this, but apparently the wraps just appeared over night. Beautiful? I think not; however, it certainly is not something that I had ever seen before, and it definitely is eye catching. There were people walking along looking at each one as well as cars stopping to take in the view. I guess that it might have something to do with people being trapped inside during long cold winters???
      We also passed some beautiful buildings, such as this church that had been constructed out of local limestone. The irregular shape of most of the stones indicates that they must have had some really good stone masons do the work. Once again, this church seems to have been lovingly restored to its original beauty. Menomonee and its twin city of Marinette across the river have a long heritage of ship building that continues today. The Marinette Ship Yard is constructing a whole series of new littoral combat (stealth) ships for the US Navy. In the 19th Century there were as many as eight steam powered saw mills in town, but ultimately they cut all of the hardwoods and the lumber industry moved further north.
     A unique feature of this marina was an absolutely great boater's lounge. Most marinas have a boater's lounge, but the d├ęcor is more like modern salvation army resale store. They had taken an old water works plant and converted it into a lounge and meeting rooms worthy of an upscale yacht club. They had also prominently placed a sign stating that this had been done entirely using profits from the marina with no public funds involved.
      The city had also made its own contributions to the beautification of the waterfront park (photo above). The stainless steel fish wind vane was pretty cool although the shiny surface made it difficult to photograph. The band shell is older, but they have regular concerts scheduled on weekends in the summer.
      In the afternoon the three of us walked about a mile inland to a K-Mart, Mighty Pet and Ace Hardware for some supplies for that seemingly never ending stream of projects for the boat as well as a new walking harness. It seems that Lucky recently chewed up her "favorite" harness. The Admiral and I were both very tired after all of our walking today, but Lucky seemed to be going strong until about 8:00pm when she went to bed for good. I did offer to take her for a walk later, but she gave me her look that said don't push it or I'll bite... For once I really wanted to take her for a walk since my destination along the way had been the store in the photo at the left, but such is life. I guess that I will have to wait for an ice cream fix until after our short trip back across Green Bay to Fish Creek, Wisconsin tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Day 79 across Green Bay to Menomonee, MI

    Today we are heading 22.8 miles across Green Bay to Menominee, MI. We tossed the lines and headed out slowly since we have to wait for the top of the hour at 8:00 am for a bridge opening. When we arrived at the City of Sturgeon Bay after exiting the canal we went under the main bridge that bypasses the city, which is useful for traffic heading up further into Door County to the north. Of course, this bridge happened to be closed entirely, but it was high enough for us to get under. The remaining two bridges are about two blocks apart and are right downtown so they have extra traffic with the one bridge closure. We passed under the first of these bridges with plenty of room. This brings us to this (photo above left), the third bridge, which only opens on the hour and half hour, and we are sitting there patiently (?) for about 5 minutes.
       After passing through the third and final bridge, we will pass the Bay Shipbuilding Co., and I would like to get a good view of the 4 lake freighters that are there for service. The photo at the right is a close up view of the stern of the Roger Blough. Two weeks ago she was grounded on rocks in Lake Superior, and it took about 5 days to get two empty lake freighters to come and take on enough of the Blough's cargo of iron ore so that she floated free.
      She needs to have a bottom inspection and if necessary some repairs, but she will have to wait for at least 2 weeks for the big dry dock to become available. The photo at the right is of the forward half of the Blough. She was built in my old hometown of Lorain, Ohio. After the launch in 1971, she had a massive fire in the engine room and was delayed entering into service.
      The photo at the right is of the Lee A Tregurtha also at Bay Shipbuilding to have scrubbers added to her smoke stack to reduce emissions. She is a very classic design and the favorite ship of many fans of lake freighters. In about a week we will be leaving the Green Bay area crossing over to the east side of Lake Michigan and then head up to the Straits of Mackinac, where we will begin to see more of these massive ships under way on the lakes. You can see that the bottom paint is well above water level as is part of her propeller, which means that her ballast tanks are empty.
      Across Sturgeon Bay from the shipyard, there were 5 of these tugs moored at their dock (photo at left). It took two of these tugs to help position the Blough at her dock at the shipyard. Another one of these tugs had escorted the Blough here from Lake Superior after she was freed from the bottom. The shipyard is very active, and over the winter lay up, there will be as many as 12 lake freighters in for repair, repowering, 5 year inspections, etc.
      Just when you think that you have seen it all.... Here is the tug "Spuds" sitting up on a dock. It does look like it needs new tires, but I guess that she has been retired at least for the moment. Lots of interest in private ownership of tugs so hopefully she will be put to good use. They have rendezvous, races, etc. for tugs on the great lakes and other areas like the Erie Canal.
      Our last view of Sturgeon Bay (both the city and the bay) was through the haze as we motored out onto a fairly smooth Green Bay (photo at left). The wind was only 6 to 8 mph out of the SSW, but there were some 1-2 foot rollers coming from the same direction. In spite of this we had a lovely cruise of less than 20 miles to Menominee, Michigan. The center of the photo looks "low" because there we are looking into the bay.
     After about 5 miles, the west side of Green Bay became visible through the haze. As we approached the city of Menominee, we bypassed the main harbor and ship channel to go to our marina, which is about a half mile further north. The marina is adjacent to the old downtown, which means that there were about a dozen restaurants within jus a few blocks. Like many other cities, the marina and waterfront parks were built on fill into the water (Green Bay in this case).
     Here is the north end of the marina with Lucky Us being further along moored to the shore bulk head right in front of the Dockmaster's Office. Guess that we will have to curtail the wild and crazy parties... We did not see many tricked out fishing boats with multiple down riggers and 20 or 30 rod holders like we saw on the west side of Lake Michigan. Perhaps that is because at least Green Bay where we crossed it is fairly shallow, i.e. less than 100 feet deep. The fishermen that we passed on Lake Michigan were all fishing in water 120 to 150 feet deep. The fish probably have already moved out of here to deeper colder waters and won't be back until the water gets cold again. This would make it hard for commercial guides to make money here.

We arrived in time to check in and walk almost across the street to the Serving Spoon for lunch. I threw my diet to the wind and had a side salad and a wonderful flat bread pizza with dried tomatoes, chicken and just a dusting of parmesan cheese. Somewhere in here Lucky and I took a long walk and I had a nap... Then it was time to explore more of the waterfront.