Friday, August 22, 2014

Day 2-284 still enjoying Milwaukee (in the fog)

     The fog started last evening, and it didn't started to burn off until around 10:30 am today. The Admiral set off early to the Metro Market, but when she got to the Trolley stop, she found that it did not start running for another 40 minutes at 11:00 am. Undaunted, she set off on foot and was done with her shopping by 11:10 am. She was lucky because there was a Trolley stop right in front of the market. I was lucky also since she called me to meet her at the closest Trolley stop to Lucky Us. Good thing too. She had 4 heavy cloth bags of goodies. I was also lucky again since she "allowed" me to carry the 2 heaviest bags. So much "luck" even though most of mine was bad...
     The big event for today was to go to the Mexican Fiesta at the Summerfest Grounds just across the boat basin from Lucky Us. We would not normally have gone out of our way to go to a Mexican Fiesta in Milwaukee, but since it was so close and admission was free until 3:00 pm, we decided to go have Mexican food for lunch. The picture at the right shows my lunch of chicken fajitas with corn tortillas (instead of flour), rice and beans along with a diet coke. No, that big green thing in the lower left is not a cucumber but a jalapeno pepper. I do not like really hot peppers, but I did take two small bites. The first was very mild, but the second one was a real flame thrower...
     There was live entertainment on two different pavilions. We had lunch while watching various dance groups perform on the stage at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse (pavilion).  Yes, Milwaukee has always been the home of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.

     After lunch, we strolled briefly around the grounds to see some of the colorful sights. I took the picture on the right because it shows some of the vendors. There were both moveable food trucks and trailers as well as permanent food concession buildings. The building had changeable signs as the different festivals obviously have different ethnic foods. The picture also shows a tower with more motorcyles and the H-D sign. In the background is what appeared to be the only permanent ride, which is a aerial tram that runs the length of the park.
     The Admiral was anxious to leave since she was going to pick up an early (by 2 days) birthday gift. It was supposed to be ready at 2:00 pm, and she was not about to be late! You may (or may not) be wondering what the gift was? Well, you will just have to stay tuned to find out...

     Tomorrow, we plan on a short trip down the coast to Racine, Wisconsin. The fog never went completely away today, and it was back with a vengeance by 6:00 pm this evening. Since it is a short trip, we plan to wait until it has hopefully burned off be about mid-morning.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Day 2-283 enjoying Milwaukee, WI

     It should be no surprise that we both slept well and also slept in fairly late. Then about 10:00 am it was off walking to the Discovery World Science and Technology Center. It would have been a swim of only 100 yards, but we chose to walk about a half mile around the marina. The main building really had too many exhibits, which is probably an odd criticism. Many great examples of gears, pulleys, automation, etc.  Part of the overload for me was that there would be an exhibit showing the mechanical advantage of one pulley, then two, etc. up to 5 or 6. Then the same thing for different types of gears, etc. Then it was time for lunch at the cafeteria and a good chance to sit for a while. The second building featured a large aquarium with both fresh and salt water tanks. There was also a big 3-dimensional representation of the Great Lakes, which must have been 40 by 40 feet. It showed the elevation changes as the water flowed through the lakes and out the St. Lawrence River. With push buttons you could make it rain in the Georgian Bay and have fog over another part. As you walked around it, there were smaller tanks with different fresh water fish.
     The second (and final building had great views of the lake and the harbor. The picture at the left shows the State Marina with Lucky Us sitting all alone at her dock.

     The building also featured a life size replica of the schooner Challenge. The picture at the left shows the schooner sort of suspended in air in the middle of the building. The masts only went up about 15 feet to the ceiling, but you could walk completely underneath the boat and see the centerboard in the down position. The original ship worked in the local area transporting building material, like lumber, cedar shakes and nails, to the surrounding communities.

     The picture at the right shows the helm and a man coming up the ladder from the galley. The galley was pretty Spartan with a wood stove for cooking. The small house behind the wheel had a clear plastic panel in the roof so that you could see the gears turn as you turned the wheel.

     One of my favorites was the huge (at least I thought so) windlass that was used to raise and lower the anchor (picture at left). The windlass seemed almost over-sized for a ship that was only 87.5 feet long, but since she only made short cruises with lots of stops, I suppose that the windlass was used a lot (?). I enjoyed looking at many different splices and knots that were in use on the boat.

     Then it was time to return to Lucky Us and take a well deserved (my opinion) nap. Much to my surprise, the Admiral even joined me for one of her few naps. I guess that we are catching up from the 12 hour trip across Lake Michigan yesterday.

     We set off about 4:00 pm to walk to the historic 3rd Ward. This area is bordered by the Milwaukee River, downtown and Lake Michigan. Most of the factories and warehouses have been converted into lofts with stores and offices on the main floor (picture at right).

     We had an early dinner at the Water Buffalo Restaurant overlooking the Milwaukee River. We watched small tour boats and water taxis cruise the river while we had dinner. The restaurant is on the lower left, and there is a water taxi (blue canvas) stopped on the wall. There is a river walk that goes for a long distance along the river, and it is visible between the buildings and the water. The whole area was quite nice, and we had an enjoyable time walking around looking at the sights.

Before long it was time to return to Lucky Us, which by this time was at least a mile away, although I have occasionally been accused of exaggerating... Anyway, it is way past time to sign off for today. See ya!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Day 2-282 Surprise! We crossed Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, WI

Well, as I said yesterday, we planned to cross Lake Michigan at some point, and today turned out to be the day. The National Weather Service had essentially the same forecast at 5:30 am as it did last night. Light northwest winds changing to light southerly winds in the afternoon. In crossing the lake we went through four of their forecast zones, and all predicted waves of 1 to 2 feet or less. The light fog last night was much thicker this morning, but fortunately the SS Badger arrived on time at 6:00 am. Once she was safely past our marina, we departed at 6:10 am for a trip of 96.1 miles to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We knew that it would be about a 12 hour trip, but we had forgotten that we would cross into Central Daylight Savings Time at the state line in about the middle of the lake. So, we gained an hour if you can actually call it a gain...
     As we cleared the harbor we could see a dozen or more fishing boats within about 3 miles of the harbor mouth. Thus, we went a little slower than normal until we were past (most of) them. We only actually saw one boat, but the radar seemed to be working very well. Visibility was about 0.3 miles so we had plenty of time to avoid anyone who happen to pop up in front of us. About one hour after sunrise, the fog rapidly burned off. There was some haze, but we did see tow lake freighter 5 and 10 miles way so the haze was minimal. The first 6 + hours were spent in essentially no wind but residual waves (or a dead sea) with waves of 1-2 feet out of the south. About 1:00 pm CDT the wind shifted to be out of the south at about 5 mph. Over the next 2.5 hours the wind increased to about 15 mph and the ripples grew into 1.5 foot waves. This is a lot of detail about the weather, but it is difficult to take a picture of fog or of a lake freighter 5 miles away...
     We both managed naps, but after the early start and 12 hours on the water, we are both very tired tonight. Plus, with the time change it is only7:50 pm right now and way too early to go to bed.
     We approached the shoreline at Milwaukee at about a 45 degree angle, and we could see the first skyscrapers about 20+ miles out. The picture at the right is the skyline from about 8 miles out from the port.

     The next picture (at left) is about the same view from much closer to port. Our destination was the marina at Lakeshore State Park. The waterfront in the downtown area seems to be mainly parks with museums, etc. That is the good news, but the bad news seems to be that this area is separated from downtown by super highways with limited opportunities to cross them. Thus, we ate on board tonight.

     The state marina has no facilities (bathrooms, gas dock, etc.) so we stopped at another marina for a pump out on the way into our marina. They charged $13.00 for a pump out, but it was free if you filled up. Having just filled our tanks at Ludington when we had arrived there, we only need 43.5 gallons of diesel fuel, but that counted as a fill up so we saved the cost of a very expensive pump out. This also gave us a good check on our fuel mileage, which remained at 2.2 mpg. Remember that Lucky Us is 43 feet long and weighs over 20 tons so it is very good fuel mileage for that big a boat.
     Across from our dock is the Discovery World Science and Technology Center. The picture at the right shows part of the center and a three masted schooner that was just leaving the dock as we arrived. A very pretty sight to end a long but very good trip today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Day 2-281 resting (?) in Ludington, MI

    Ahhhh! Sleep, beautiful sleep. Nothing like waking up with a nice relaxing shower after a good nights sleep. After a late breakfast, we took off for a nice walk around town. We passed this local art gallery, and you can see the large painting of the SS Badger, which is the car ferry that I showed arriving in yesterday's post. Like most local towns that have a symbol of some kind, the Badger seems to dominate t-shirts, post cards, etc around Ludington. Indeed, she is an impressive sight, and tonight it is foggy so her arrival was even more impressive.
     We found a good place for salads for a late lunch. My chicken Caesar salad was very good even though the dressing was more like a lite Italian. The downtown is very clean (and graffiti free), and I particularly liked the combination of this very patriotic mural above an Irish pub.

     I finally left the Admiral and went back to the boat to nap when she found this (mainly) bead store, and it seemed like she was going to buy the place out. I sense some very busy days ahead with projects galore.

     There was also time later to do the engine room checks before tomorrow's departure. We have been watching the weather as we have moved south along Michigan's west coast. We plan to "hop" across Lake Michigan at some point and experience some of the Wisconsin shoreline. Tomorrow may be the big day! It will be a long trip of 90+ miles or about 12 hours so we need to watch the weather closely before and during the trip.

     The Admiral rode her bike about 1.5 miles to an Ace Hardware to get some CPVC pipe and fittings for yet another project that she is working on. Along the way she passed this wood sculpture being created. It appears to have been a dead tree that was cut off about 10 feet above the ground. Once again, you just never know what you are going to see next...

     The last "interesting" sight of the day was this building front . You can see what looks like alternating doors and pieces of a mural of the SS Badger. The pairs are on triangular pieces of wall that project out from the front of the building. If you stand over to the left, all that you see are the doors, and if you stand over to the right, you see the complete mural of the SS Badger.

     Here is a picture (on the left) taken from the right looking back at the wall. You can see the north side light house on the jetty with the SS Badger approaching the entrance to the channel into Ludington.

Day 2-280 to Ludington, MI

     We departed from Frankfort and headed into Lake Michigan for a straight shot route to Ludington, Michigan. Well, that is not entirely true as you shall see we made a slight turn at Big Sable Point, and this lighthouse (yup, you guessed it) is the Big Sable Lighthouse. As we made this turn, we headed directly to Ludington. As you can see, there were people on the beach, and the catwalk around the top of the light looks asymmetric because one side was full of people. The are many small dunes in this area, which is at the north Ludington State Park. The "Point" is more of a rounded corner, but you can see that the shoreline has a steel bulkhead with large stones in front so the storms here can evidently get fierce.
     The total distance for today was 51.7 miles and we arrived at the marina about 2:30 pm. The picture at the left shows the Northside Channel Marker at the entrance to the outer harbor at Ludington. If you look at the left side of the base of the tower, you will see what looks like a big, black snow plow. The "plow" is designed to deflect waves during the severe north winds in winter storms.

     As we headed up the channel into the inner harbor, we passed this picturesque US Coast Guard Station. The other side of the channel had some very attractive condos. At the end of the channel it opens into a large inner harbor, and our marina was the very first one on the port (left) side. We stopped at the fuel dock since the Admiral had called ahead to learn that they had diesel fuel for $3.879. We could only hold an additional 145 gallons, but this was the lowest price that we have seen in at least 3 months. We also got a pump out since we were getting close to full. The marinas that are part of the Michigan Harbors of Refuge Program have really spoiled us. They are clean, well maintained, etc., but most importantly the pump outs have worked at every one where we asked for a pump out. Along the Gulf and East Coasts, it seemed like the pump outs at more than half of the marinas were "out of order".
     We set off on a walking tour of the downtown area at about 4:00 pm. Ludington is big enough to have real shopping centers, etc. so the downtown is not quite as busy as the small towns that we have visited. However, there were more than enough stores to satisfy the shopping urge for today, and I even managed to get a haircut. Wow, isn't that exciting???

     For dinner the Admiral chose the Blu Moon Restaurant (picture at left). We at on the main floor, but it also has a roof top dining room/bar. The range of items on the menu was amazing. We had Shrimp & Grits as an appetizer, and I had Sheppard's Pie as an entrĂ©e. The menu went from steak, seafood, to sushi and Asian fusion to ???
      As we were about to board Lucky Us, we heard the horn blasts from a large ship. It was the SS Badger, which is a passenger/car ferry that makes two round trips daily to Manitowac, Wisconsin during the summer.  In the picture at the right, the Badger had just passed by my location and was starting to turn around to back into her dock across the inner harbor. It was quite the spectacle with a Coast Guard escort, two small tour boats and numerous pleasure craft watching.
     The next picture shows the Badger with the stern door raised to prepared for loading/unloading vehicles. You may be able to see the symbol for US Highway 10 on the raised door as she officially connects that US Highway across Lake Michigan. There has been ferry service like this for over 60 years, and for some drivers it saves several hundred road miles during a relaxing 4 hour voyage across the lake.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is kind of "iffy" at this time so we may be in Ludington another day.  If all goes well, we plan to cross Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin when the weather forecast is acceptable. After Milwaukee, we will continue to work our way down the west coast of Lake Michigan to Chicago!

Day 2-279 passing Sleeping Bear Dunes on way to Frankfort, MI

     We left Leland at about 8:00 am for a trip of 41.1 miles to Frankfort in a light haze and a southerly breeze of about 8 mph. Normally this would be perfect weather, but there were residual seas from the west, which were left over from the storms 24 hours earlier. The rollers (or dead sea) were about 3 feet and caused us to roll from side to side for much of the trip. Several of our new Looper friends departed about the same time that we did and one of the boats had stabilizers that really kept them from rolling (Akasha, at right). Stabilizers are large rectangular fins that swivel about a central axis. There is one on either side about halfway between the bow and stern, and they are hydraulically controlled. They turn to apply pressure much like a rudder, but they are used to stop the side to side rolling motion. This was the first time that we had the opportunity to observe the results, and judging from our what we saw, they work very well. For now, we will add stabilizers to our wish list for when we win the lottery...
      Back on Day 2-272, we had driven to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on the Lake Michigan coast, and today about halfway through our trip we went past Sleeping Bear Dunes in Lucky Us. As we passed along the north end of the park we got great end or cross sectional views of the north-south trending dunes (picture at left).The dunes have a gentle slope on the upwind side and a steep face on the downwind side. These dunes have been stabilized by vegetation, and the bare face that we see has been cut by waves eroding at the base.
     In another mile we turned south to follow along parallel to the elongate dunes. This is the area where we visited by car. In the picture at the right there is an observation deck at the trees in the upper left. I posted several pictures from the top of the slope looking down the 300+ feet to the water. This view gives you a good idea just how steep the slope really is. The signs at the top warned how strenuous the climb back up the hill is, and they also warned that it is very expensive if you need to be rescued... Now you can see how strenuous a climb it would be with poor footing on the loose sand.
     It was fairly deep quite near the slope so we went in close to get good views of the fool hearty climbers. The picture at the left shows a slightly different view of the steep slope as seen from the flybridge on Lucky Us.

   The close up picture on the right shows some of the climbers resting on the beach and two groups in the process of climbing/crawling back up the slope. The people also serve as a convenient scale to show the huge size of the slope. On the boat at this position we would have been somewhere on the gentle west dipping (up wind) slope of the dune. Most of the dune has been removed by wave action, and we can see some near horizontal lines in the slope. These are the layers in the dune that are actually dipping gently toward us.

     Altogether we have seen the top by car and the bottom by boat. We got to do all of this without the exhausting climb in between. This works for me!  Personally, I think that this is also why helicopters were invented... Back in my ancient history of doing geological field work in the US and Canadian Rocky Mountains, I found it very much easier if one started at the top of a mountain with the aid of a helicopter and only had to walk down...
     There were sand dunes along the shore on most of today's trip. About 8 miles from the end of our trip we passed the Point Betsie Lighthouse (picture at left) and turned almost directly south to Frankfort. The lighthouse is protected by a steel break wall, and the slope is armored with concrete. The black "spots" on the concrete are steel plates designed to create turbulence in the waves that are running up the slope. The turbulence helps to slow the rushing water, and the circular slopes deflect the water around the lighthouse. Like the locals say, the storms here can be fierce.
   The picture at the right shows more of the dunes along the coast as we approach our destination of Frankfort. Like I said, it was a day for sand dunes...

     This is the light on the jetty as we were about to enter the harbor at Frankfort. The lighthouse was a welcome sight after 5 and a half hours of rocking back and forth, since you can see the calm water in the channel behind the jetty.

     After securing Lucky Us at the dock, we set off to explore the town. We had not gone very far before we were surprised to see this movie theater. Guess what? There was a movie stating in about 15 minutes. No, this was not planned but rather a lucky find. The inside had a wonderful painted art deco style, which had been restored largely by donated local labor. I particularly like the period style clock. We saw "A Most Wanted Man" with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. The movie was quite good but hardly uplifting. Anyway, the popcorn and drinks were refillable, although there was a small charge on the drink refills.

     After the movie we were pretty much too tired to tour much more of the town. The marina had a very nice park between the marina and the main street. The park had many kids enjoying all sorts of climbing, sliding and swinging. The local high school football team was selling BBQ dinners as a fund raiser, and the whole place was a wonderful family setting.
 The picture at the right shows some of the nicely restored downtown. Much of the original architecture seems to have been preserved, which added greatly to the setting.

   As we walked back to Lucky Us, we talked about how many great views that we had seen today. Great day!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Day 2-278 in Leland -scrubbing boat and also some fun

     We had lots of rain in the morning along with strong 15+ mph winds out on the lake. The rains stopped by late morning, and the winds died down over the afternoon. However, we had made the right decision by deciding to stay an extra day in Leland. I wrote and mailed post cards for the Grandkids while the Admiral caught up on paperwork. On the way back from the post office I got this great view of Fishtown looking out toward Lake Michigan in the background. 
      Given the uncertain weather we had lunch on board, but by mid-afternoon the Admiral decided that it was nice enough to scrub the exterior of Lucky Us. I put on my usual boat washing garb of swim suit and water socks along with a long sleeved shirt and sweatshirt to fend off some of the cool wind. We gave the flybridge a good scrubbing as well as the walkways around the salon on the main deck. It was at that point that my scrubbing muscles gave out.
One of our fellow Loopers had come by the boat earlier to invite us to "Docktails" with a bunch of the Loopers at 5:00 pm. We got out our trusty collapsible chairs and headed out to join them. It turned out that we did not have far to go since it was on the dock behind the boat in the slip next to us. There were a total of 13 people from 6 boats. We had fun exchanging stories about our adventures so far on the Great Loop. One of the couples had even built their own 28 foot boat especially for the Loop. Around 7:00 pm, someone wisely suggested that it was time for dinner. We ended up with 8 people (picture at left) at the Cove Restaurant in Fishtown. Altogether it was a very fun evening, and for the Admiral and I it was our very first docktails on the Loop. Until we reached Mackinaw City we had seen very few other Loopers since we were out of synch with the general schedule that most Loopers follow. Now it seems, there are lots of Loopers in every marina that we stay at. The view behind out table is out the Fishtown channel.
From the other side of the dining room, I got this great picture of the dam at the end of the Fishtown channel. As you can see, there is a lot of water coming over that small dam. As a result, the restaurant was quite loud with the background noise from the spillway.
     We stopped at an overlook to see the sunset on our way back to our boats . Not the greatest sunset picture, but many of us could see our boats in the marina in the foreground as we watched the sunset.
     Obviously the skies have really cleared and the wind was under 5 mph so we hope to be on the water again tomorrow headed to Frankfort, MI. We will know for sure when we check the forecasts in the morning.