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A Visit to Mackinac Island and Cruising Lake Michigan to Chicago

Posted by on August 17, 2013

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.

4 Responses to A Visit to Mackinac Island and Cruising Lake Michigan to Chicago

  1. Doug

    Great pictures and description of your continuing adventures. The size of the pictures did not distract from their subjects. The one of the beach and the dunes looked like it should include surfers. Looking forward to the continuation in September. Enjoy the festivities of the wedding!

    Cheers,

    Doug

  2. Anne

    Just caught up on your blog from the last couple of months. Looks like you are still having a wonderful adventure on ‘His Idea’! Looking forward to keeping more up to date when you return to your travels after the wedding… congrats to all!

    Oh, and wanted to mention… my son Andrew is looking for new accommodation on the lower mainland so if anyone you know in the Burnaby/New West area has a basement suite or similar space available October 1st for reasonable rent and close to transit, I’m putting feelers out for him anywhere I can! Thanks!
    Anne

    • John Evans

      Thanks for the good wishes Anne.

      We’re not aware of anything for Andrew at the moment, but we’ll ask around when we’re in Vancouver and let you know if we learn of anything that sounds suitable.

      Cheers,

      John & Ria

  3. Roy and Sue

    Hi guys, We are enjoying your pix and the accompanying commentary. Keep posting. Roy and Sue

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