Lake Superior Paradise, Isle Royale National Park

You may think of paradise as a tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific. But we have paradise right here in our own back yard. Its a remote island that’s hard to get to. Our goal for the month of July was to cruise Lake Superior and see some of the remote areas of the lake. So we set our sights on Isle Royale National Park. It is a set of more than 400 islands which make up the archipelago. The park covers 894 square miles of which 75% are underwater. Isle Royale National Park is the least visited National park in the lower 48 states. The area is only accessible by boat or seaplane. There are 165 miles of foot trails and 36 camp sites. Most visitors come to the park to hike and primitive camp. Everyone must obtain a permit ahead of time to enter the park and give a detailed timeline of your travels within the park.

The red dots show our anchorages for the week. The Map is a little hard to read, but you can blow it up. I will give the details of each stop during our stay.

First Stop after we crossed from Copper Harbor, MI about 50 miles to the south was to the Rock Harbor ranger station to check in. We also wanted to gather information and get the lay of the land. We stayed at the small marina for a night. Rock Harbor has fuel, boat rentals, kayak rentals, small store, ranger office, cabins, and a small restaurant. This area is the busiest area of the island. Once you leave here its true wilderness everywhere else.

The next day we traveled to Moskey Basin a fairly short run down the Rock channel. On the way with Morty’s help (see earlier post), Dorothy spotted our first Moose in the wild. We were so excited. She was a cow swimming right in front of us from Tooker Island to the main island. We later learned she probably had a calf on the island and was swimming back for food. Moose will have their young on the small outer islands to protect them from wolves on the main island. She will return to the calf until its strong enough to swim across on their own.

After setting the anchor, we launched the dingy and we were off in search of more moose. Dorothy’s research lead us to visit a couple of historical sites in the area. The first stop was the Edisen Fishery. This site is a very well preserved fish homestead of the Edisen family. It looks as if they walked away yesterday. A volunteer caretaker lives in the house during the season, talks to visitors, and maintains the grounds. The picture of the sign gives you the details of their lives. We were amazed at the well preserved equipment and buildings.

Next we hiked to the “Moose Man” cabin. Rolf Peterson is the leading authority on moose in the world. Think of Jane Goodall and her gorilla studies. He along with his wife Candy have been studying moose and wolfs on Isle Royale since 1960. They moved into the Bangsund fishing cabin. A couple of Pictures will tell you the Bangsund story. We were the only two visiting at that time of day and the Petersons were so welcoming. We talked with them for an hour about their studies, life on Isle Royale, and current events effecting the environment around us. They expressed such enthusiasm and passion as they talked about their work it made you feel like we should jump right in and help out. After we left their home, Dorothy and I were even more determined to see moose in the wild. A few interesting facts to share;

  1. The Bull moose with the biggest antlers gets the girls
  2. Cows will swim to outer islands to have their young, safe from wolf predators.
  3. The cow will swim to back to the main island each day to eat and then return to the calf at night to nurse.
  4. The calf will stay with the cow for about a year until the cow one day just says, Goodbye.
  5. Moose are very good swimmers and can dive up to 30 feet deep.
  6. Underwater they eat seagrass and have special nostrils which close during underwater feeding.
  7. Moose have terrible eyesight, if one is coming towards you just stand behind a tree.

Dorothy playing tour director for us driving the dingy.

Another boater gave us 2 fresh lake trout filets for dinner. The fish slept in Lake Superior last night. A little seasoning and butter on the grill. They were delicious.

After leaving our anchorage at Moskey Basin we traveled to Chippewa Bay for the night. The next day we took a dingy ride and hiked a few trails. We found an island on a lake on an island on a Great Lake.

SEASONS at anchor this was 8 o-clock in the evening and the sun was starting to set.

Hay Bay was the next destination for anchoring. We had to navigate a narrow channel which then opened up to a very peaceful serene setting. Only one other boat in our anchorage. It just happened to be a Grand Banks from Hancock, MI. Photo is Sunrise the next morning. The haze and color are from the wildfires in Canada.

Hay Bay was the gem of the Isle Royale National Park. We were treated to some of the best moose watching just 200 yards from our boat. For hours in the evening Bull moose would come and feed on the sweet grass which grew underwater in this shallow bay. They would appear out of the low brush on shore and wade into neck deep water. Then dipping their heads underwater for a few minutes collecting mouthfuls of grass they would come up for air and chew the tasty grass. A moose has a digestive system similar to a farm cow, they will chew their meal at least 3 times over. We watched this process over and over for hours. I must have taken a hundred pictures. Here some of the better ones. We did see a cow moose and other bull moose feeding that night, but it was to dark to snap a photo.

I caught this bull shaking water off his back as he came up with a mouthful.

2 Bull moose and a couple of geese.

Other wildlife during our stay.

A Gaggle of Geese

Common Megeser Ducks, Mother and babies

Great camouflage for this family

A couple of hundred toads that just matured from the water.

Some sunrise and sunset photos. The colors were fantastic because of the wildfires in Canada. At times we could smell the burning wood.

Traveling on Lake Superior

Grand Marais, Munising, Marquette, Copper Harbor

With Morty our new Mascot on board, our plan is to spend the month of July 2021 on Lake Superior. We know there is no way to see everything on the Lake. With the Canadian Boarder closed due to Covid concerns we planned to just visit a few areas. We also know the weather can get ugly and we could be stuck somewhere for a few days. Our goal is to spend time at Isle Royale National Park, to get there we made a few stops in the upper peninsula of Michigan on the way.

Grand Marais, MI – Woodland Park Marina – This was a great stop. They have wall space only, but its nice. Power, water and fuel. Restrooms are OK. Great little Up North town within easy walking distance. I would recommend eating one meal at “The DINER”. The restaurant is a restored 1949 Paramount “Road King” dinning car. All stainless steel and glass. Ellen the owner is very nice and book author. Dorothy can’t put her book “South of Superior” down. Dorothy had a homemade Pasty the crust was very flaky and buttery. The pecan pie was fantastic.

Its a short 2 mile bike ride outside of town to Sable Falls. Very nice waterfall and hiking trails.

Sometimes the tourists get in the way


On our way to the next stop, we passed by Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We were able to get fairly close and take some great photos. Its just a beautiful shoreline only visible from a boat. The colors, textures and depth created by various rock and minerals were spectacular. There were several tour boats, kayak companies and pontoon rentals taking passengers past the shoreline.

I have avoided taking pictures of all the lighthouses we pass. There is so much published material on lighthouses, however, this abandoned light on Grand Island caught my eye because it is all wood and still in good shape. It looks like something from the old west.

Munising, MI – Murry Bay Anchorage – Grand Island – we anchored in a little bay here largly because its been awhile since we were on the hook. There is a 1800s ship wreck that is in 10 feet of water and visible from your dingy, its marked by a couple of buoys. Glass bottom tour boats bring people out to see the wreck.

Bermuda. Also known as the Murray Bay wreck, the Bermuda was a 130 foot long wooden schooner that sank in the Bay off Grand Island on October 15, 1870. She is popular with sport divers because of her depth and condition. The wreck is upright in shallow water and the top deck is reached at just 12 feet. Three large hatches open to the cargo hold and two companionways. A large cabin trunk, where the cabin blew off while sinking is near the stern.

Shipwreck tours are a top summer attraction | | tctimes.com

We did take the dingy into the town of Munising, MI, it is a nice little town that rebuilt itself on the tourism industry.

Marquette, MI – Cinder Pond Marina is probably one of the nicest facilities we have stayed at. Very clean with a pleasant staff. This is a working ore town. Great Lakes ships still arrive here to load iron ore for the steel mills. Ships dock at large trestle like structures and loads of iron ore drop from rail cars above, thanks to gravity. Unfortunately we missed a ship loading at 2 am in the morning, he was gone by daybreak.

A stop at Thill’s fish house for fresh and smoked whitefish. We picked up 2 filets from a whitefish that slept in Lake Superior last night. Dorothy lightly seasoned them and they were delicious on the boat grill.

The next day was a perfect day for a little dingy ride. We went up the coast about 3 miles to find the black cliffs and watch the kids jump into the water. It’s a local thing that has garnered some social media notoriety. People come from all over to jump 30 to 40 feet into the cold Lake Superior water. Dorothy and I were happy to just watch.

We had dinner in town at Lagniappe – a Cajun Creole Eatery owned by a chef who worked in New Orleans for many years. The food was awesome. I even took a Muffuletta home for lunch the next day.

Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery, Marquette, Marquette

SEASONS is the “Pot – O – Gold”

A few sunset photos from this portion of the trip.

Whitefish Point Harbor

After the Soo Locks we stopped at Whitefish Point Harbor. This is a harbor of refuge just to get off the lake, if the weather turns bad. Very bare bones, no facilities, power, or water. In the past there was a fish processing building here where fish tugs would bring their catch. Now a days there are just some small commercial Indian fishermen working the cold Lake Superior waters.

The big attraction is the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum about a mile away. After we docked the boat, Dorothy and I stretched our legs and headed for the museum. The reasonable $14.00 entry fee allowed us to enter the museum, keepers house and the lifesaving building. We have visited quite a few museums on our adventures and this is one of the best museums to date. the displays are presented nicely. The narratives are concise and convey the information well. The setting is somewhat reverent which is good because a lot of sailors lost their lives on Lake Superior. The self guided tour ends with a detailed account of the famous Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald in 1975. They have the bell and other artifacts recovered from the wreck. ( The Valley Camp Ship museum also had quite a few items from the wreck.) The museum also serves as the gathering point for the annual remembrance ceremony for family and friends of the lost sailors.

SOO LOCKS

If you are a big ship fan, this is your place in the US, the volume of Great Lakes Freighter traffic is amazing. What makes it special is the Big ships have to slow and stop to go through the locks and you can get very close to watch them. The whole town of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan is built around ship watching with free viewing platforms and gift shops loaded with ship merchandise. At the viewing platform an announcer broadcasts facts, statistics and destinations about the ships in the locks.

The city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is very nice and is geared toward history and tourism around the locks. We were there over the 4th of July weekend. The area was busier than normal with visitors. We toured the Valley Camp ship which is now a museum. You get to walk through the entire ship, crew quarters, the bridge, engine room, and even the cargo hold. Well worth the entry fee. The big black ship is the Valley Kemp museum and SEASONS is docked in left center of the photo.

The city had a 4th of July Parade. Dorothy and took our lawn chairs and grabbed a spot on the curb. The parade turned out to be mostly a motor vehicle drive by. Law enforcement, various organizations, and some businesses made up most of the parade. There was no marching band, but the parade marshal was Jeff Blashill coach of the Redwings hockey team. The best part were the 4 antique tractors. We watched a very nice fireworks display from our boat that evening.

We stayed at the George Kemp marina with a front row seat to watch the big Lakers go by all day long. Photo is of 2 ships from the same company passing each other. The one on the right just left the locks and the left one is entering.

And another ship right behind it headed to the locks.

Fun Facts; 100% of the iron ore used in the US steel industry passes through the soo locks, 7000 to 10,000 ships pass through the Soo locks each year, it takes 22 million gallons of water to lock a boat through, ( that means our little boat, Seasons, used that much water to go through the lock). There is no charge to pass through the lock, thank you American taxpayer. We used the lock on the right.

Amazon.com: The Soo Locks - Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Vintage Original  Postcard #2669 - 1960's: Everything Else

If you are inclined you can even ride a tour boat into the locks just like the big ships do. We of course have our own tour boat with SEASONS. Our trip through the lock was easy and the lockmasters are very nice to work with. Here is a time lapse video with a little music. We never caught the big ship.

While in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan walking through the many gift shops, I decided we needed a Lake Superior Mascot for good luck and to attract Moose sightings. Dorothy’s main goal to see a moose in the wild. We named him “Morty the Moose” and he sits in the front window keeping an eye out for his friends.

Lets go Morty! our Lake Superior adventures begin.

Island Hopping

  • Horseshoe Island
  • Washington Island
  • Beaver Island
  • Mackinac Island

We made our way up the lake to Sturgeon Bay, WI and stayed for a couple of days just to relax a little and complete some boat tasks. Then on to Peninsula Bay State Park were we anchored in Nicolet Bay for the night. This was a task we needed to do to check anchoring systems and some other stand alone systems on the boat. Everything worked well. After launching the dingy we when to Horseshoe Island and walked the perimeter. Not much to see, it was just something fun to do.

Horseshoe island at sunset from the anchorage
Plaque on Horseshoe Island.

Next stop Washington Island, WI. This Island is located at the top of the Door Peninsula. The Visitors booth used to be on wheels so they could roll it around town. We rented E-bikes for the first time to try them out. Dorothy and I are considering purchasing electric bikes for the rest of our trip. They are really nice especially on the hills. We rode to some of Dorothy’s old family vacation spots. Schoolhouse Beach, Sand Dunes Park and Jackson Harbor. At the end of the day we had gone about 25 miles all over the island. My behind was sore, but that’s probably too much information.

Old visitors center Washington Island
Schoolhouse Beach
Jackson Harbor

There is always some boat project to do. I worked on the riser for our upper helm seats. This will give us better visibility when driving.

Mr. Otter eating some sea grass near our boat

Next is big hop across to Beaver Island. The trip was 92 miles and took us a little over 9 hours. Dorothy and I take turns driving and relaxing on long passages. Beaver is always a fun little Island with a lot of interesting history. Including Piracy and a theocratic monarchy with a self appointed King. In looking through my photo files it seems I did not take very many pictures on Beaver Island because of the heavy fog. This is looking east towards the harbor entrance. Taken from our dock.

Here is a photo from the web. We stayed in the harbor on the lower left side.

On to the next Island. We had to pass under the Mackinac Bridge. Always impressive from the water and even more fun when a Great lakes Freighter is in the area.

Round Island Lighthouse, this is the finish line for the Chicago to Mac sailboat race.

Mackinaw Island was a little different for Dorothy and I this time. We are usually on the Island because of the sailboat race, Chicago to Mackinac Island. This race runs every year during the month of July and takes anywhere from 3 to 5 days to complete. The Island is swarming with sailors having a good time. This visit was a little calmer on the streets, although there was still a lot of day tourists who came over via the ferry boats. Dorothy and I remarked to each other, we did not know anyone on the streets. During the race we could not walk 100 feet with out knowing someone to talk to.

The one person we did spend time with was my son Garrett. He came to the Island on his new boat. It s 2021 Ranger Tug. This was his first big travel adventure on the water.

We spent time biking around the island, visiting Fort Mackinac, eating fudge and dinning out.

Fort Mackinac with SEASONS at the Marina

The bike ride around the Island is about 8 miles. This year there was a bit of a detour into the inner Island, the high lake levels have caused complete washout of the road along the shore on the north end.

On to Detour, MI and the entrance to the St Marys River.

Ready to set Sail

Dinners, Boat Visits, and Provisioning

For the last couple of weeks Dorothy and I have been getting SEASONS ready to take off on our next traveling adventures. Moving clothes, staples, and other supplies we will need as we travel. We have also been taking things off the boat that we never used in our previous 2 years of cruising. This is the problem with a boat like a trawler. There is plenty of space to carry extra stuff and I must admit, I am the guilty of bringing to much stuff.

One of activities before departing is getting together with family and friends. Dorothy and I will be gone for quite awhile. So its great to catch up and share our travel plans going forward. Breakfast, lunch, and dinners with friends and family gatherings with birthday celebrations. We even had breakfast with our Pastor.

This time period always seem to go to fast, but if you don’t set a date for departure you would never leave. So on June 15, 2021 we dropped our lines in Port Washington, WI and set sail. We headed north on Lake Michigan to Sheboygan, WI. Its a short distance, 28 miles, but necessary to shake the cobwebs off us and the boat. SEASONS ran great and Dorothy and I slowly got our sea legs back.

So it seems fitting that we were stopped by the US Coast Guard half way to Sheboygan. They will stop boats and perform a vessel inspection for safety equipment and proper registration. The US Coast Guard is the only enforcement agency that can stop and board without cause. By law you cannot refuse them. We welcomed the inspection conducted by 2 very nice young members. They look for lifejackets, flares, fire extinguishers, boat registration and other safety items. 1 item I am glad they check for is overboard discharge of black water (toilet water). This helps to insure boaters are not polluting our fresh water resources.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. All systems on SEASONS worked great. It sure feels good to be traveling again. Now we just need the weather to cooperate.

Launch Day – Hooray

After a long winters / Covid nap SEASONS has reappeared on the boating scene. We put our Grand Banks trawler into storage on July 2, 2020 at Great Lakes Marine in Port Washington, WI. Dorothy and I had aborted our second Great Loop trip due to the Pandemic restrictions. So after 11 months of boat projects she is floating again in Port Washington Marina.

Some of the major projects completed;

  • Complete varnishing of handrails and caprails
  • Varnishing the transom
  • New bottom antifouling paint
  • Complete replumbing of the fresh water system
  • Deck seams recaulked
  • Dorothy made equipment covers and fender hangers
  • Varnished upper helm wheel
  • Swim platform cleaned and resealed
  • Topsides buffed and waxed
  • Numerus small upgrades and maintenance items

The big item I really wanted to accomplish the past winter was the varnishing. I took the rails all the down to bare wood, teak bleached them, sanded, and started building layers of varnish. Multiple steps involed sanding between each coat. I built up 12 coats of varnish over about 250 man hours. The finished result looks like you poured honey or liquid glass over the wood.

Before, Teak is fully stripped and sanded
After, 12 coats of varnish

The storage Barn is about 3 miles from the water and they move the boats with a truck and transport trailer. Its a fun trip from Great Lakes Marine to the boat launch at Port Washington Marina. The trip down the road can be a little intimating for the boat owner watching your floating home go flying around corners, but Mike knows what he’s doing.

We will dock the trawler in Port Washington, WI for the next couple of weeks. We have to finish a couple of projects and provision for our future adventures.

Stay tuned for our travel plans

Respect the Gulf, Part II

After we arrived in Marco Island and collected ourselves. We put the boat back together and set our sights on moving up the west coast of Florida.

Dorothy had been looking ahead for weather windows to do the big crossing from the upper west coast of Florida to the panhandle. This is a long open water trip out of the sight of land for many hours including traveling overnight.

There was going to be a period of high pressure across the upper gulf in about 3 days. The wind and waves were predicted to be light for a period of 48 hours or more. This was great news because you may have to wait for days to get a good crossing window.  However, we had to get moving up the west coast to be in position to cross the Gulf.  Unfortunately this meant missing visits with our friends along the way.  We traveled 120 miles in 2 long days to Sarasota, Fl and grabbed a mooring ball for the night. The weather window was looking good starting the next day.

We decided to cross from Sarasota, FL to Apalachicola, FL in one shot. The route was 240 miles and would take 24 to 26 hours. We prepped the boat, checked all the safety equipment and filed a float plan with the boys. At first light we were wide awake and ready to go.

Sunrise over Sarasota, a great start to the day

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Less than 200 miles to go.

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This time as predicted the entire crossing was perfect. Light winds and calm seas the entire way.

We are half way across the route.

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The boat ran great and we hardly touched the autohelm. We saw dolphins, sea turtles, and two large squadrons of Manta Rays.  We actually split one of the squadrons with the boat.  Awesome. When Manta Rays swim and feed together they travel in a SQUADRON.

A pre-sunset show

Dinner underway, Dorothy made a ham and scalloped potatoes in the oven. Delish.

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Sunset on the gulf.

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The stars at night were awesome with out light pollution. The next morning we anchored off the city of Apalachicola, FL and just enjoyed the rest of the day on the hook.

Sunrise as we approach land.

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Celebrating our safe passage after we anchored. Apalachicola in the background.

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Respect the Gulf

We did our homework, honest we did! We checked all of the regular weather resources and listened to VHF weather radio.

Our trip from Marathon, Florida to Marco Island anchorage is about 100 miles. Our heading was almost due north. We went past the Everglades and the furthest we would be offshore is 30 miles. The first 5 hours of the 10 hour trip went as planned.  Southeast winds with 1 to 2 foot following seas and clear skies. The next 5 hours of our journey was anything but pleasant. On the horizon ahead was an ominous black shelf cloud that stretched as far as you could see from left to right.  It was moving right at us and we were driving right into it. We were the furthest point from shore and a safe harbor for the trip.

Dorothy and I have seen these shelf clouds on Lake Michigan and we knew what was coming. So we battened down the hatches, secured everything, and moved to the lower helm station to drive from inside.

Boats head into shore as storm clouds move along the coast towards the city of Sydney, Australia

This photo is from the internet. This is what we saw.

At first the winds clocked to the north and picked up to 40 mph. The seas were relatively flat with small white caps. Wind on the bow is good in a trawler. We were handling the storm front as it passed over us. Then the wind really picked up. Our wind reading peaked at 57 mph true plus we were moving into the gusts at 8 mph. The real feel or apparent wind on the boat was 65 mph. Then the seas became ANGRY my friends. The waves built and fortunately for us they were coming from the north. This is the direction we wanted to go so we took them head on.  (For non boaters we would’ve had to turn the boat into the waves to ride out the storm no matter the direction. Trawlers do no handle big waves from the sides or from behind very well.)

The seas built to 6 to 8 breaking waves with short periods, in other words the waves were very close together. The trawler would launch off the back of a wave and then crash into the next one. At least twice we buried the entire bow pulpit into a wave and the decks were awash with Gulf water. SEASONS handled it like a champ and just keep steaming along. The crew did not manage so well. Both Dorothy and I became seasick, I think it was because we had been in a marina to long and lost our seas legs.

After about 2 hours of a fun house ride things began to settle down. The winds lightened and seas laid down to 3 to 4 foot waves.  Land started to appear and we started to feel a little better.

After Anchoring  by Marco Island we began to access the boat and ourselves. That is when we discovered the upper canvas did not fair so well. At some point the top came loose and the only thing stopping it from completely coming off was the mast.

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We had the upper deck decorated with crab floats we found and Dorothy painted. The damage is fairly light. Some zippers and snaps will have to be repaired. The frame work is fine and all the crab floats survived.

We did our homework on the weather, but you always have to be ready for anything. Dorothy and I were calm thru the whole affair. I contribute that to our years of sailing on the Great Lakes. We have been in these conditions before. We had our safety equipment available and SEASONS was well prepared. I wish I had taken some photos during the storm, but I was a little busy.

This is a story we will remember and tell many times over.

We are on the Move, Bittersweet

Dorothy and I left our safe harbor at Marlin Bay Resort in Marathon, Florida on April 30th. We had been there sheltering in Place since March 1st. Our original plan was to stop there a short time and then start moving up the east coast and on to finish our second loop. Do to the Covid-19 pandemic, we decided it was best to stay put. The Marina is gated and they stopped all new boaters and guests from entering. We felt very safe during our stay.

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The sweet part is we are on the move again. After all its all about seeing new places, traveling by boat, and meeting new people. The bitter part is the fact we have decided to abandon our quest for a Platinum flag. This signifies you have completed 2 or more Great loop Routes. Our goal now is to get “SEASONS” back to Milwaukee anyway we can.

For several reasons we are not going to travel up the east coast of the US. 1. large population areas with Covid-19 issues. 2. Services are currently limited or restricted. 3. The Erie barge canal across New York is closed and may not fully open this summer. 4. Canadian border is closed. We are going to miss a lot of our friends along the way.

We have decided the best way home is to travel backwards on the route we came. Which means we are going up the west coast of Florida, across the gulf, then north bound on the river system. We will probably have the boat trucked from Grand Rivers, Kentucky to Milwaukee.  Because of the high water on Lake Michigan, we are going to put “SEASONS” right into storage. Our slip at South Shore Yacht Club is not usable in the near future do to a storm earlier this year.

We are limiting all exposure as we travel. “SEASONS” is set up to be self sufficient for 10 to 14 days. We will anchor as long as we can and only touch land when we need fuel, water and to empty the holding tanks.

It seems like the best plan for now given the the current state of the world.

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