From Ice Pellets to Palm Trees

After about a five month break, on February 27th we arrived back in Grand Rivers, Kentucky for the third leg of our Great Loop excursion. We had planned an early departure this year to ensure we had enough time for a comfortable cruise from Kentucky to Florida, and to join the PDQ flotilla leaving from Miami for the Bahamas at the end of April.

When researching the weather for Kentucky at this time of year, weather almanac information indicated typical temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s, with the occasional dip into the 30’s (usually overnight). Although cool, we thought we could comfortably manage this for a few days before we departed for the warmer spring weather further south. Well, not in 2014! Like much of Eastern Canada and the north-eastern U.S., the southern states have also had a much colder than normal winter this year. Temperatures were below freezing when we arrived, and overnight temperatures often reached the teens or even lower.  To further liven things up, mother nature decided to give us a big blast of ice and snow just as we were launching and preparing His Idea for the trip south.

Some of the following pictures give an indication of the severity of the storm, which left about 6 inches of heavy ice and four inches of snow over a 24 hour period. The Captain spent many hours into the night repeatedly shoveling the decks to keep the weight down, but even so His Idea was sitting 4-6 inches lower in the water when all was said and done. In the end though we dug ourselves out with no major damage (some of the marina docks were not so lucky), and managed to depart only a few days behind schedule. Such a beginning was sure not what we expected!

Although cool at first, the trip south was uneventful. Other than the occasional tow and hardy fisherman, we had the rivers and lakes pretty much to ourselves for many hundreds of miles (665 statute miles in total for this section). We found delightful anchorages, and the marinas where we stopped were friendly and helpful (especially the electric space heaters). We watched spring reveal more of itself as we moved further south and time passed; by the time we reached Fairhope, native pear trees, azaleas, camellias, and magnolias were in full bloom.

We will spend a full week in Fairhope, a very lush and picturesque place with a robust and active historic downtown (something of a rarity these days). As a result of a recall, when we arrived we picked up brand new, replacement folding bikes at the local West Marine, and we’re looking forward to using them to explore the local area. We have also had a very enjoyable visit with our cruising friends John & Marsha Belford (Kadadi), of Gravenhurst, Ontario. Their beachside condo at nearby Gulf Shores was a delightful change from His idea for a few days, and their assistance in driving us around has been greatly appreciated. Thanks John & Marsha!

We hope you enjoy the pictures….

His Idea returning to Barkley Lake after four months ashore; we had a sunny but cool day for launch.

His Idea returning to Lake Barkley after four months ashore; we had a sunny but cool day for launch.

The morning after the storm; the crew spent hours removing thick chunks of ice from the decks and canvas, often with the help of a hair dryer to loosen things up.

The morning after the storm; the crew spent hours removing snow and thick chunks of ice from the decks and canvas, often with the help of a hair dryer to loosen things up.

The ice was very hard on the canvas, which required a few repairs when we reached the warmth of Mobile.

The ice was very hard on the canvas, which required some repairs when we reached the warmth of Mobile.

After waiting a few extra days for the weather to improve, we finally departed Green Turtle  Bay on March 5th;

After waiting a few extra days for the weather to improve, we finally departed Green Turtle Bay on March 5th; it was still cold, with daytime temperatures in the mid-thirties. but warmer climes beckoned.

Approaching the Kentucky/Tennessee border at the south end of Kentucky Lake.  cool conditions

On the Tennessee River approaching the Kentucky/Tennessee border at the south end of Kentucky Lake. 

Besides than the odd tow, the only other creature we saw on the river during our first day.

Besides the odd tow, this deer swimming across the river was the only other ‘cruiser’ we saw during our first week.

Our first destination,  was Pebble Isle Marina, 75 miles south of Green Turtle Bay; still cold and snowy!

Our first destination was Pebble Isle Marina, 75 miles south of Green Turtle Bay; still cold and snowy!

We saw many wintering American White Pelicans along this section of the trip; they are large birds and majestic gliders.

We saw many wintering American White Pelicans along this section of the trip; they are large birds and majestic gliders.

A  typical river scene; the snow finally disappeared by mid-day of our second day heading south.

A typical river scene; the snow finally disappeared by mid-day of our second day heading south.

Day 3 - it finally became warm enough to con from the upper helm when we reached Pickwick Lake, about 200 miles south of Green Turtle Bay; this was a very pretty section of the trip.

Day 3 – it finally became warm enough to con from the upper helm when we reached Pickwick Lake, about 200 miles south of Green Turtle Bay; this was a very pretty section of the trip.

In Tennessee we visited the site of the Battle of Shiloh , where almost 24,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were lost over two days of battle; a very sad and moving place.

In Tennessee we visited the site of the Battle of Shiloh , where almost 24,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were lost over two days of battle; a very sad and moving place.

Sunset from our berth at Grand Harour marina, Pickwick Lake.

Sunset from our berth at Grand Harbour Marina, Pickwick Lake.

A peaceful sunrise from our anchorage at the Natchez Trace Recreation Area, on Big Springs lake, Mississippi.

A peaceful sunrise from our anchorage at the Natchez Trace Recreation Area, on Big Springs Lake, Mississippi.

Getting ready to do a 'one toot' pass of the Patricia M. Neal; because these tows go 24 hours a day (and we do not), we passed this tow multiple times on our way down to Mobile.

Getting ready to do a ‘one toot’ pass of the Leslie M. Neal; because these tows go 24 hours a day (and we do not), we passed this tow several times on our way down to Mobile.

We had both clear and damp nights along the way; an evening's rain usually brought a  misty morning to ur anchorage.

We had both clear and damp nights along the way; an evening’s rain usually brought a misty morning to our anchorage.

Being in the heart of Coca-Cola country, Ria couldn't resist a shot of this original billboard; based on the price it could be almost a 100 years old!

Being in the heart of Coca-Cola country, Ria couldn’t resist a shot of this original billboard in Demopolis, Alabama; based on the price it could be more than 100 years old!

Coffeeville Lock, the last of the thirteen we traversed on the Tenn-Tom Waterway this year; only 100 miles to the Gulf Coast!

Coffeeville Lock, the last of thirteen we traversed on the Tenn-Tom Waterway this year; only 100 more miles to the Gulf Coast!

Another misty morning on the hook, shared with the ghost of old Lock Number One on the Mobile River.

Another misty morning on the hook, shared with the ghost of old Lock Number One on the Mobile River.

Mobile, Alabama, riverfront; although not seen in this picture, this is one busy port.

Mobile, Alabama, riverfront; although not seen in this picture, this is one busy port.

Approaching the entrance to Eastern Shores Marina, in Fairhope, Alabama, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.

Approaching the entrance to the marina in Fairhope, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.

From ice and snow to tropical downpours; we  made it to Fairhope just prior to the arrival of a major storm which packed high winds and lots of rain.

From ice and snow to tropical downpours; we made it to Fairhope just prior to the arrival of a major storm which packed high winds and lots of rain.

Finally, the palm trees; this is the Gulf Shores resort where we stayed with our cruising friends John and Marsha Belford of Gravenhurst, Ontario.

Finally, the palm trees; this is the Gulf Shores resort where we stayed with our cruising friends John and Marsha Belford of Gravenhurst, Ontario.

The sand dunes, beach and rollers from our balcony at Gulf Shores.

From our balcony at Gulf Shores, the sand dunes, miles of beach, and high rollers from the gulf ; note the double red flag – no swimming today!

More palm trees and beaches to come over the next few weeks as we head east along the Gulf Coast Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW).

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Rollin’ Down the Rivers

Chicago to Grand Rivers, Kentucky

With relatively narrow waterways, heavy commercial traffic, often restricted vistas, and a more industrial feel, cruising the inland rivers of the U.S. has been an interesting experience. This was particularly true for the 218 mile section we traveled on the Mississippi River. Highly influenced by human intervention through dams, locks and weirs to control the channel, home to many industrial sites such as quarries, loading terminals, barging depots, power plants, etc., and very busy with tows, this is the king of inland maritime highways. We’re glad we had the opportunity to do it, but for most this would not be a preferred cruising destination.

On the rivers our average daily distance turned out to be considerably longer than for other sections, partly because of our timetable, but also because good stops are not frequently available. Very hot weather also played a role – when the temperature and humidity are both approaching 100, plans to drop anchor at 2 pm are quickly overtaken by the desire to maintain a 14 knot breeze! On the hottest days we often cruised until late afternoon.

In contrast with the rivers, Barkley and Kentucky Lakes – formed by damming the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers – and the land between them are popular recreational areas for cruisers, fishers and campers. Green Turtle Bay Marina, located on Barkley Lake and our final destination for this year, was a perfect base to explore the area.  And explore we did, first with a cruise up the lake and Cumberland River to Clarksville (as in the Monkees’ song  ‘Last Train to Clarksville’), and then on to Nashville. Music City, as it is called, certainly lived up to its name. This was followed by a road trip through the backroads of Kentucky and Tennessee. While on the road we made stops in Bowling Green (for the Corvette Museum), Chattanooga (where we happened upon the 3 Sisters Bluegrass festival – live, free and the best bluegrass we’ve ever heard), and Memphis.

Cruising large, industrial rivers is quite different from the coastal cruising we are used to. We hope our pictures have captured the right flavour of this experience.

End of Season Statistics and Other Items of Interest 

  • Statute miles traveled (Kingston, Ont to Grand Rivers, KY) – 2285
  • Hours of motoring – 231
  • Diesel fuel used (not including generator) – 2633 litres (579 imperial gallons)
  • Average MPG – 3.94
  • Average fuel cost – $1.15/litre
  • Average fuel cost per mile – $1.32
  • Average daily moorage cost – $29.10 (over 119 days)
  • Provinces & States visited – Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee.

Plans for Next Year

Our plan for cruising in 2014 is to head south on the Tennessee and Tombigbee waterways beginning in early March and reach the Gulf Coast at Mobile, Alabama about 3 weeks later. From there we will cruise the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway until we reach Ft. Myers on the west coast of Florida, and then traverse central Florida via the Okeechobee Waterway to Stuart. This will complete the Great Loop for us.

From Stuart we head for Miami to join a flotilla of PDQ’s departing in late April for the Exumas (Bahamas). We expect to cruise there during May and June before returning to Florida to store His Idea on the hard for hurricane season.

If you have been visiting our blog and wish to be notified when we start publishing again next year, please drop us a line at jaevans100@gmail.com. We’ll then send you a short email in advance of our first post.

Thanks for following along. We hope you’ve enjoyed travelling with us aboard His Idea.

John & Ria

Our inland river trip has so far taken us down the Illinois and Mississippi, and up the Ohio and Cumberland, to Grand Rivers, Kentucky.

Our inland river trip has so far taken us 650 miles down the Illinois and Mississippi, and up the Ohio…..

…..and Cumberland Rivers to Grand Rivers, Kentucky.

The warning sign for the electrified 'fish barrier' designed to keep invasive Asian Carp from reaching Lake Michigan.

The warning sign for the electrified ‘fish barrier’ designed to keep invasive Asian Carp from reaching Lake Michigan…..

We had few encounters where these ugly, slimy fish whacked the underside of His Idea, but nothing as bad as this (borrowed photo).

…..fortunately, we had only a few encounters where these ugly, slimy fish whacked the underside of His Idea (borrowed photo).

Our first anchorage on the Illinois, at Sheehan Island, just past the town of Ottawa......

Our first anchorage on the Illinois River, at Sheehan Island, just past the town of Ottawa…..

.....where we watched the 'tows' go past from a safe distance.

…..where we watched the ‘tows’ go past from a safe distance.

Passing a mid-sized tow along the Illinois; before overtaking, and sometimes head on where there is little maneuverability in narrow sections; it is common and wise practice to ask the tow captain 'one whistle or two?' to determine which side to pass.

Passing a mid-sized tow along the Illinois; before overtaking – and sometimes when approaching head on where the river is narrow – it is common and wise practice to ask the tow captain ‘one whistle or two?’ (i.e. starboard vs. port) to determine the safest side to pass.

Approaching one of the many locks along the Illinois; we transited a total of 12 locks from Chicago to our final destination at Grand Rivers, Kentucky.

Approaching a lock and dam on the Illinois River: we transited a total of twelve from Chicago to our final destination at Grand Rivers.

Tied to a bollard awaiting a tow to clear a lock on the Illinois river; sometimes waits were short (less than half an hour), others much longer up to 3 hours).

Tied to a bollard awaiting a tow to clear a lock; sometimes waits were short (less than half an hour), sometimes much longer (up to 3 hours).

A view from the bluffs overlooking the Illinois River, just before it joins the Mississippi.

A view from the bluffs overlooking the Illinois River, just before it joins the Mississippi.

The entrance to Grafton Marina, our first stop on the Mississippi; Grafton is one of a number of river towns trying to prosper through tourism, and it was a very lively place during the weekend we were there, with plenty of boaters, bikers, suds and music.

The entrance to Grafton Marina, our first stop on the Mississippi; Grafton is one of a number of river towns trying to prosper through tourism, and it was a very lively place during the weekend we were there, with plenty of boaters, bikers, beer and loud music.

The early sections of the Mississippi were very broad, however this didn't last long.

The early sections of the Mississippi were very broad, however this didn’t last long.

Although much of the cruise through the inland rivers had an industrial feel, particularly on the Mississippi, there were many pretty sections as well.

Although much of the cruise through the inland rivers had an industrial feel, there were many pretty sections as well.

The Gateway Arch at St.Louis; it was very busy with river traffic along this section, with no place to stop,

The Gateway Arch at St.Louis; it was very busy with river traffic along this section, with no place to stop.

Our berth at Hoppies Marina, downriver from St. Louis; this rustic  stopping point has been serving mariners on the Mississippi since 1937.

Our berth at Hoppies Marina, downriver from St. Louis; this rustic stopping point has been serving mariners on the Mississippi since 1937.

A typical somewhat gritty scene during one of our grey(er) days on the Mississippi, but.....

A typical somewhat gritty scene during one of our grey days on the Mississippi, however…..

......if we waited awhile there was always something interesting to see.

…..if we waited awhile there was always something interesting to see.

There are few decent places to stop on the Mississippi; the tie up to the Kaskaskia Lock was a quiet and welcome respite from the traffic of the river.

There are few decent places to stop on the Mississippi; the tie up to the Kaskaskia Lock was a quiet and welcome respite from the traffic on the river.

Sharing the anchorage with Journey, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers; at 116 miles, this was our longest daily run so far.

We shared a somewhat exposed anchorage at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers with Journey, one of our cruising companions along the way; this was the end to our longest daily run so far, 116 miles.

At Cumberland Island, where the Cumberland and Ohio rivers meet, we enjoyed one of of nicest river anchorages.

At Cumberland Island we enjoyed one of our nicest river anchorages, where the Cumberland and Ohio rivers meet.

Arrival at Green Turtle Bay Marina, His Idea's for for the coming winter.

Arrival at Green Turtle Bay Marina on Lake Barkley, His Idea’s home for the coming winter.

After seeing many tows, it was a interetsing change to be passed by one of the paddle wheel cruise ships which crusie these waters; this is the Queen of the Mississippi, heading up the Cumberland River towards Nashville.

After seeing many tows, it was an interesting change to be passed by one of the paddle wheel cruise ships which ply these waters; this is the Queen of the Mississippi, heading up the Cumberland River towards Nashville.

The Nashville skyline from the Cumberland River.

The Nashville skyline from the Cumberland River.

A portion of the Nashville entertainment district, where a great selection of excellent live music can be found at cafes, pubs, theatres, and on street corners; our choice was BB King's, where we had a fun time listening to the (very good) house band wind up the crowd with Motown, soul and R&B hits from our past.

A portion of the Nashville entertainment district, where a great selection of excellent live music can be found at cafes, pubs, theatres, and on street corners; our choice was BB King’s, where we had a fun time listening to the very good house band wind up the crowd with Motown, soul and R&B hits from our past.

Farewell from Nashville - we'll see you again in 2014!

Farewell from Nashville – see you again in 2014!

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Sweet Home Chicago…..

We have visited a number of great American cities during our trip – e.g. Savannah, Charleston, Washington, New York – and have to say that Chicago has turned out to be one of our favourites. No doubt the great summer conditions helped, but we found it lively, outdoorsy (much like Vancouver due to its excellent public parks and beaches), down-to-earth and friendly, with many interesting things to see and do. A very good transportation system, including an excellent lakefront bikepath/park, made getting around relatively easy for such a big city. We used the ‘El’ system to commute to and from town on a number of occasions, as well as to take us to and from the city to the airport; it was efficient and much cheaper than a taxi.

Both Ria and I enjoy Rhythm and Blues – hence the title of this post – and we visited two clubs (Buddy Guy’s Legends; the House of Blues) that provided great local entertainment and good food. Highly recommended if you enjoy R&B.

The pictures and captions say a lot about our new-found love affair with Chicago. If you’re thinking of visiting a big American city, give Chicago a try!

A sunset view of the Chicago skyline from our marina; we stayed at the 31st Street Harbour facility, which was modern and clean, and only about 3 miles south of downtown.

A sunset view of the Chicago skyline from our marina; we stayed at the 31st Street Harbour facility, which was modern and clean, and only about 3 miles south of downtown.

Our first excursion was a bike ride along the excellent Lakeshore Bikepath to the city centre.

Our first excursion was a bike ride along the excellent Lakeshore Bikepath to the city centre.

The Admiral's first desire upon arrival in Chicago was to ride the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier; this is a view from the top.

The Admiral’s first desire upon arrival in Chicago was to ride the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier; this is a view from the top.

The roof of the Cisteen Chapel? No, this is the mosaic tiles roof of the Tiffany Dome of Macy's Department store, where shopped and then lunched at the elegant but reasonably priced Walnut Room.

The roof of the Sistine Chapel? No, this is the mosaic tiled ceiling of the Tiffany Dome of Macy’s Department store, where we shopped and then lunched at the elegant but reasonably priced Walnut Room.

We were very lucky to arrive in time for the two day Chicago Air Show, which is held on the lakefront before thousands of spectators and many hundreds of boats - what a scene!!!

We were very lucky to arrive in time for the two day Chicago Air Show, which is held on the lakefront before thousands of spectators and many hundreds of boats; what a scene!!!

We were also fortunate to be joined by Dominic Linder, our website technical guru who was in Chicago on extended business.

We were also fortunate to be joined by Dominic Linder, our website technical guru who was in Chicago on extended business.

If you have an interest in architecture, Chicago is a feast for the eyes; not only does it have an incredible diversity of both historical and modern buildings, the river running through it provides excellent perspectives for viewing; this is a shot of the Wrigley Building.

If you have an interest in architecture, Chicago is a feast for the eyes; not only does it have an incredible diversity of both historical and modern buildings, the river running through it provides excellent perspectives for viewing; this is a shot of the Wrigley Building.

We had another memorable dining experience from the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower (with the (twin spires).....

We had another memorable dining experience from the restaurant on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower (the black one with the (twin spires)…..

.....which provided excellent views of the surroundings....

…..which provided excellent views of the surroundings….

.....which provided excellent views of the surroundings....

…..and perhaps a touch of vertigo.

The House of Blues entrance, where we heard some great local R&B artists.

The House of Blues restaurant and stage, where we were entertained by some great local R&B artists.

Public parks and artwork abound in Chicago; one of the neatest pieces we have ever seen is 'The Bean', which is located in Millenium Park.

Public parks and artwork abound in Chicago; one of the neatest pieces we have ever seen is ‘The Bean’, which is located in Millennium Park.

Outdoor concert venues are free events are also prevalent; this is Pritzker Pavilion, one the most sophisticated venues of its kind in North America; we listened to opera with many thousands of other spectators one lovely evening.

Outdoor concert venues and free events are also prevalent; this is Pritzker Pavilion, one the most sophisticated venues of its kind in North America; on a lovely September evening we listened to opera here with many thousands of other spectators.

There are many excellent indoor venues too; the one we chose was the Museum of Science and Industry, where one could spend days; this is the pavilion for U505, the German submarine captured during WWII (got to hand it to the Americans- they are amongst the best at doing museums on a grand scale!).

There are many excellent indoor venues too; the one we chose was the Museum of Science and Industry, where one could spend days; this is the pavilion for U505, the German submarine captured during WWII; you’ve got to hand it to the Americans, they are among the best at doing museums on a grand scale!

A display of all different types of bicycle seats (as frequent bicycle riders, this very close to our hearts, as well as other parts of our anatomy); this was from an exhibit about the history and development of the bicycle.

A display of all different types of bicycle seats (as frequent bicycle riders, this very close to our hearts, as well as other parts of our anatomy); this was from an exhibit about the history and development of the bicycle.

Finally and reluctantly it was time to go; entering the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal, start of our journey down the Illinois to the Mississippi River.

Finally and reluctantly it was time to go; entering the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal, start of our journey down the Illinois to the Mississippi River…..

.....which included our much anticipated route through the centre of the city (and many, many low bridges).

…..which included our much anticipated route through the centre of the city (and many, many low bridges).

Farewell sweet home Chicago.....

Farewell sweet home Chicago (this big black sky scraper is the famous Sears Tower)…..

Coming up in the next installment will be lots of river travel – the Illinois, the Mississippi, the Ohio and the Cumberland, ending at our winter destination in the Kentucky lakes.

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A Visit to Mackinac Island and Cruising Lake Michigan to Chicago

From Sault Sainte Marie we travelled down the main shipping channel of the Saint Mary’s River to return to Lake Huron near its western end, a distance of about 50 miles. It was then a turn to the west, and roughly another 50 miles to Mackinac (pronounced mac-in-aw) Island, which is located in the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet.

This island has a long and interesting history as a fur trading centre, military fortification and tourist destination. Most noticable among its unique features is the lack of motorized transportation of any kind – horse drawn carriages, bicycles, and foot power rule (pretty much in that order). Suffice it to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this interesting historical place.

When we left Canada at Sault Sainte Marie we also left behind the warm and mostly sunny weather we had so far enjoyed. During the first two weeks of August the state of Michigan experienced unseasonably cool (and sometimes record low) temperatures for summertime. This often meant we wore layers of clothing while on the bridge, sometimes with a blanket added for good measure, especially if it was a particularly windy day. Why don’t we go below to use the comfortable and completely suitable lower helm, you ask? The better to see and experience the sights and environment around us, we say! (Unless it’s raining, then discretion becomes the better part of valour).

Despite the often cool and occasionally blustery conditions while cruising on the big lakes, our anchorages were usually calm and pleasantly warm, with good protection and holding (and sometimes, swimming). Only when a very serious set of thunderstorms ripped through northern Michigan in the middle of the night did we get up to ensure our security (there were 40-50 knot gusts for a while, but the anchor held fine). And what a light show we saw!

We admit to preconceived notions about much of Lake Michigan being somewhat industrial and perhaps a bit dreary.  Boy, were we wrong! Although the very lower end becomes heavily populated and industrialized, the majority of the lake’s east coast is not. And although they have industrial roots going back to the 1800’s, most of the towns we visited – Harbour Springs, Charlevoix, Frankfort, Manistee, Pentwater, Grand Haven, Saugatuck – are neat and tidy, green and clean, and bursting with flowers. A definite resort flavour now rules the day (at least in summer). We were also extremely impressed with the clarity and cleanliness of Lake Michigan, which is generally a beautiful shade of turquoise blue. This is especially true close to shore, because of the very sandy (not rocky) conditions that extend for most of the east coast shoreline. Who knew it would look so much like the ocean, and a somewhat tropical one at that.

As always, pictures can say more than words, so here they are…….

PS In order to make it easier for some of our viewers to see the pictures without have to scroll from side to side, we have reduced their size. We’re not sure if this will enhance (more convenient) or detract (less scope to the pictures) from the site, and we would appreciate your feedback on this question. Thanks!

Soft evening light after a showery day travelling from Sault Sainte Marie - Harbour Island, Michigan

Anchorage at Harbour Island (Michigan), bathed in soft evening light after a showery day travelling from Sault Sainte Marie.

A stormy trip to Les Cheneaux Islands; it was rough enough to slow us down to slow cruise, and tough it out for a few hous.

A stormy trip to Les Cheneaux Islands; it was rough enough to slow us down to slow cruise and tough it out for a few hours.

Entering Mackinac Harbour; the fort is on the bluff above the town.

Entering Mackinac Harbour; our marina slip is dead ahead and the fort is on the bluff above the town.

The village main street, filled with horse drawn carriages and bicycles, bicycles, bicycles (and tourists of course).

The village main street, filled with horse-drawn carriages and bicycles, bicycles, bicycles (and tourists of course).

A closer view of the fort: we had a lovely lunch beneath one of the yellow umbrellas.....

A closer view of the fort: we had a lovely lunch beneath one of the yellow umbrellas…..

.....where we had a great view of the harbour and the Straits of Mackinac.

…..where we had a great view of the harbour.

There's lots of activity at the fort - rifles firing, cannons booming, and bugles playing.

There’s lots of activity at the fort – rifles firing, cannons booming, and bugles playing, all of which you could hear clearly from town.

After our carriage ride around the island with Rick and Deb Chabot.....

After our carriage ride around the island with Rick and Deb Chabot (What’s Next??)…..

.....we had high tea at the Grand Hotel, a famous fixture at Macinac Island since the 1880's.

…..we had high tea at the Grand Hotel, a famous fixture at Mackinac Island since the 1880’s.

Heading west towards the Straits of Mackinac bridge, and entry to Lake Michigan.

Heading west towards the Straits of Mackinac bridge, and entry to Lake Michigan.

Here is a simple map of Lake Michigan showing some of the places we visited along lake's the east coast.

Here is a simple map of Lake Michigan showing some of the places we visited along lake’s the east coast.

Dawn at Harbour Springs, our first stop on Lake Michigan; the water was exceptionally clear and a beautiful turqoise blue - in some ways it felt like the tropics!

Dawn at Harbour Springs, our first stop on Lake Michigan; the water was exceptionally clear and a beautiful turqoise blue – it felt like the tropics, without the palm trees.

Our next stop. Charlevoix, was equally neat, clean and pretty.

Our next stop. Charlevoix, was equally neat, clean and pretty.

All of the towns we visited are situated on either rivers or lakes connected to Lake Michigan through prtoected channels; here we are in procession from Charlevoix after the opening of the bascule bridge.

All of the towns we visited on Lake Michigan are situated on waterways connected to the big lake through protected channels, and usually guarded by colourful lighthouses ; here we are in procession from Charlevoix after the opening of the bascule bridge over the channel.

This is a picture of Sleeping Bear Dune, one of the largest along the coast.

This is a picture of Sleeping Bear Dune, one of the largest along the coast.

There were lots of interesting lighthouses along the way.

We saw many interesting lighthouses along the way – this is the Manistee Light – most established in the 1800’s  as the area developed; although not seen, there are very many shipwrecks beneath the waves as well.

At Manistee we were visited by a very large Canadian laker which was stopping by to load salt at the local Morton's plant.

At Manistee we were visited by a very large Canadian laker which was stopping by to load salt at the local Morton’s plant; these ships always draw a crowd to watch them maneuver up the very narrrow channel.

Morning visitors who used His Idea as a rest stop while skimming the Kalamazoo River for insects.

A picture of our visitors who used His Idea as a rest stop while skimming the Kalamazoo River for insects; nice to have them for a visit, although the daily ritual to clean up overnight bug residue was a bit more onerous on this particular morning.

Our anchorage in Saugatuck, adorned with swallows; this represented a typical anchorage for us most nights - calm and well protected from the winds on the big lake(just 2 of 14 nights were spent in marinas while travelling from Mckinac Islnd to Chicago).

His Idea in Saugatuck, adorned with swallows; this represented a typical anchorage for us  – calm and well protected from winds on the big lake; because of the availability of good anchorages, we spent just 2 of 14 nights in marinas travelling from Mackinac Island to Chicago.

Thousands of years of prevailing westerlies means a predominantly sandy sholine all along the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, as well as great beaches (in the summertime at least).

Glacial activity and thousands of years of prevailing westerly winds have created a predominantly sandy shoreline and some spectacular sand dunes along the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, as well as great beaches …..

.....where we spent some quality time with fellow Canadian loopers Gary and Christelle Donovan (Time and Tide)

…..where we spent some quality time with fellow Canadian loopers Gary and Christelle Donovan (Time and Tide).

We had a perfect day for our approach to Chicago from the water - its always a thrill to reach a major  destination this way.

We had a perfect day for our approach to Chicago from the water – its always a thrill to reach a major destination this way.

We’ll be taking a break from cruising for the next few weeks while we visit Vancouver for the wedding of our son, Ryan, and his fiance, Joanne. When we return in September we’ll leave Lake Michigan and begin our journey down the inland rivers, eventually all the way to the Gulf Coast. Look for our next post, which will include pictures of our Chicago adventures, sometime around mid-September.

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Lake Huron, Part II – North Channel (Killarney to Sault Sainte Marie)

The next section of our cruise, called the North Channel, is considered by many to be the best cruising region in the Great Lakes (for a map of this area, go to http://thenorthchannel.ca/map.html). With great scenery, many islands, excellent anchorages, and generally more protected waters than the eastern sections of Georgian Bay, it certainly has the right stuff. Another feature we enjoyed, perhaps because it reminded us of B.C., were the rocky hills which predominate here. Not only did they provide some excellent hikes and stunning views, they also offered an extra treat – abundant and delicious blueberries! Bushes were everywhere on the hillsides – without too much effort, we (well, Ria actually) were able to fill our pint container in less than an hour.

We also enjoyed our three day stay in the small village of Little Current, which is located at the northeast corner of Manitoulin Island (the world’s largest in freshwater). After anchoring out for 10 days straight (a record for us) it was a neat little place to re-provision and socialize with other cruisers. Speaking of other cruisers, we are finally seeing other boats out and about, including many from Michigan and Wisconsin. Lucky for us though, it’s still not crowded.

Many cruisers cross the Canadian/U.S. border at Drummond Island (at the southwestern end of the North Channel) however we chose to travel another 50 miles or so west to Sault Sainte Marie and make our crossing there. We had a number of reasons for doing this, including the opportunity to visit the Bushplane Heritage Museum there, and to travel through the Soo Locks so we could ‘dip our toe’ in the waters of Lake Superior. We liked Sault Sainte Marie, and spent four enjoyable days there.

After 13 months cruising and wintering His Idea in Canada, and a 5 minute crossing of the Saint Mary’s River, we entered into the U.S. at their Sault Sainte Marie. Our U.S. cruising documents were ready when we arrived (the Captain had provided the necessary information to U.S Customs a few days earlier) and we were on our way in less than an hour.

One of the primary reasons for embarking on our Great Loop adventure was the chance to spend quality time exploring eastern Canada from the water. We have not been disappointed, and consider ourselves very fortunate to have had such a wonderful experience.

Less than 2 miles past Killarney is the anchorage  called Covered Portage.

Less than 2 miles past Killarney is the anchorage called Covered Portage; this is the view from the water……

.....and this is the view from above.

…..and this is the view from above.

From the hill atop our anchorage, looking west towards Frazer Bay.

From the hill atop our anchorage, looking west towards Frazer Bay.

The bounty from our blueberry picking!

The bounty from our blueberry picking!

Our front yard view from our anchorage in Mary Ann Cove, Baie Fine.

The ‘front yard’ view from our anchorage in Mary Ann Cove, Baie Fine……

.....and our 'back yard' view (sometimes we can safely get in very close with a good anchor set and a stern line).

…..and the ‘back yard’ view (sometimes we can safely get in very close with a good anchor set and a stern line).

The view north from a hill near Mary Ann Cove towards island filled McGregor Bay; Baie Fine in the foreground.

The view north from a hill near Mary Ann Cove, towards island filled McGregor Bay; Baie Fine is in the foreground.

This the view south.

This the view south; Manitoulin Island is in the distance.

The view of Baie Fine to the west (with some obstructions in the foreground); if you look closely, you can see His Idea tucked into Mary ann Covein the top left of the picture.

The view of Baie Fine to the west (with some obstructions in the foreground); if you look closely, you can see His Idea tucked into Mary Ann Cove.

The waterfront boardwalk in Little Current.

The waterfront boardwalk in Little Current.

Sunset reflected on Little Current bridge, the only land connection to Manitoulin Island (and  as a former railway bridge, one lane at that).

Sunset reflected on Little Current bridge, the only land connection to Manitoulin Island (and as a former railway bridge, one lane at that).

Whaleback Channel, fairly typical of the north channel cruising grounds.

Whaleback Channel, fairly typical North Channel cruising grounds.

A few boats at anchor in Beardrop Harbour.

A few boats at anchor in Beardrop Harbour.

The Bushplane Heritge Museum was another highlight of our North Channel explorations - from iconic bushplanes like the Norseman (and many others)....

The Bushplane Heritge Museum was another highlight of our North Channel explorations – from iconic bushplanes like the Norseman (and many others)….

.....to modern waterbombers like the CL 215, the displays highlighted Canada's aviation leadership in bush flying and fire fighting.

…..to modern waterbombers like the CL 215, the displays highlighted Canada’s aviation leadership in bush flying and fire fighting from the air.

While in Sault Saint Marie we rented a car and explored Lake Superior's wild eastern coast; the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lies  19 miles offshore.

While in Sault Saint Marie we rented a car and explored Lake Superior’s wild eastern coast; the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lies 19 miles offshore.

Locking through the Canadian Soo locks, now a National Park and used only by recreational boaters.

Locking through the Canadian Soo locks, now a National Park and used only by recreational boaters.

Fifteen miles from the locks we came to the entrance to Whitefish Bay (so big, it gets it's own marine weather report).....

Fifteen miles from the locks we came to the entrance to Whitefish Bay (so big, it gets it’s own marine weather report)…..

......where the Admiral just had to go for a swim!

……where the Admiral just had to go for a swim!

Coming up – Lake Michigan, the Mississippi, and other waters of the U.S. interior…..

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