The rendezvous point for the 2019 Summer Cruise was in northern Lake Michigan at the Fayette State Historical Park docks, part of the State Park there, with the fleet to meet there on Sunday, July 21, 2019.
A pre-rendezvous point for boats trailering to the area was on Saturday, July 20, 2019, at the public marina at Escanaba, Michigan, where the boats could be launched after lengthy highway travel and prepared for a short jump of about 25-miles over to Fayette.
Two or three boats coming from Michigan gave some thought to making a lengthy open water crossing of Lake Michigan to get to Fayette, but ultimately only LUCKY TWO, a 25 WALKAROUND that actually had no trailer, decided to make the run from their home port of Cheboygan, Michigan.
For CONTINUOUSWAVE, some thought was given to running across to Fayette from departure at Leland, Michigan. The winds had been unusually calm on Lake Michigan in the several days prior to July 20, but ultimately we decided to haul the boat on the trailer to Escanaba on Saturday morning.
Fig. 1. On Wednesday, July 17, four days before the scheduled rendezvous at Fayette, I used the application WINDY to predict the winds on Lake Michigan for Sunday, July 21, 2019. As seen above, very low, four-knot winds were predicted, which made a crossing from Leland directly to Fayette something to consider. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and images are by the author.
The long highway drive was uneventful except for the weather. We departed Northport in fair weather, and we were towing the boat without the cover (so as to reduce wear on the cover from the high-speed travel). Several hours later while heading west in the upper peninsula on highway US-2, we could see ahead there was a very significant storm front approaching. We stopped briefly in Manistique to put on the boat cover. As we resumed our westing, we encountered heavy rainfall.
Fortunately the front blew through the area in about an hour, and when we arrived in Escanaba the rain was much lighter. As usual, we had pulled the boat on the highway without much fuel aboard to reduce the towed weight. A retail gasoline station with a nice hard canopy over the pumps gave us a place to ready the boat for launching without having to stand in the rain; we also bought some highway fuel, although not very much as it was a blended gasoline-ethanol fuel. From there we proceeded to the marina and thence to the boat launch ramp. The ramp is located across the anchorage from the marina and docks, and about a one-mile-long perimeter road connects them.
At the boat launch we found the ramp and parking area had many tree branches obstructing passage, and he had to drag them out of the way to position the boat in the launch preparation area. By now the rain had stopped completely. Without much difficulty we launched the boat. Rather than leave the truck and trailer in the launch area, we had pre-arranged with the marina to park them in the marina parking area. Chris drove the trailer back to the marina while I drove the boat across the anchorage to a pre-assigned slip.
Already at the marina were David and Kathy aboard MANIC MOMENT, who trailered from their summer place near Barbeau, Michigan, in the upper peninsula, and Hal and Margaret on their 255 CONQUEST named SUMMERSONG that they brought over by trailer and highway from Ludington on Lake Michigan on the Michigan coast after completing the deal to buy the boat there. This would be their shakedown cruise.
Fig. 2. By Saturday afternoon three boats were launched at at their slip at the public marina at Escanaba. In foreground, CONTINUOUSWAVE, MANIC MOMENT behind, SUMMERSONG at back. Note the sunshine and fair weather, just following the storm front passing through a few hours earlier.
We were all awaiting the arrival of the HOLLY MARIE and crew from Minnesota—via highway, of course. They pulled into the parking lot a hour or two later, and told an amazing story. Traveling east from Minnesota, the HOLLEY MARIE and crew were overtaken by the big storm front, and since both the storm and the boat were heading east, stayed in the storm much longer than we did. To everyone's amazement, the boat was struck by lightning while on the trailer and on the highway. The truck was fine, but was electrical damage to the boat, the engine, and the trailer. After about an hour of investigation, a determination was made: there was no chance to fix any of the damage so the boat could be launched for the cruise. A quick solution was proposed: John, Holly, and Emmarie would join Hal and Margaret on SUMMERSONG. Arrangements were made with the marina to leave the HOLLEY MARIE on the trailer in the marina parking lot.
On Sunday morning, July 21, 2019, we added more fuel, getting pure REC 90 gasoline at the marina fuel dock. About 11 a.m. our three-boat fleet set out for Fayette from Escanaba. The wind had switched to the East with the passage of the front, creating some head seas for us. However, for LUCKY TWO coming from Cheboygan, there would be a mostly following sea.
MANIC MOMENT, SUMMERSONG, and CONTINUOUSWAVE arrived at Fayette about 1 p.m., and found plenty of dock space available. We had made a formal reservation and received a slip assignment, but the slip numbers were not visible from seaward; we just took an open slip. Curiously, there was another Boston Whaler boat already there; a 170 MONTAUK that had launched at a nearby ramp, and was just on a day cruise.
About 3 p.m. LUCKY TWO with Don and Elsa aboard came around the corner and entered the Snail Shell Harbor inlet, having made a very nice 137-miles run from Cheboygan. They left at 9:35 a.m. and arrive at 2:57 p.m. dock-to-dock, making the run time five hours and 22-minutes for an average speed of 25.5-MPH. That is excellent cruising speed.
And about 6 p.m. OUTRE arrived with Bob and Sam, coming over from Escanaba. The fleet was now together:
- MANIC MOMENT, 23 WALKAROUND notched transom, Twin 150-HP, David and Kathy
SUMMERSONG, 255 CONQUEST, twin 225-HP, Hal and Margaret, John and Holly, and Emmarie
CONTINUOUSWAVE, REVENGE 22 Walk-Through Whaler Drive, Single 225-HP, Chris and Jim
LUCKY TWO, 25 WALKAROUND Whaler Drive, twin 250-HP, Don and Elsa
OUTRE, OUTRAGE 22 notched transom, 300-HP, Bob and Sam
On Monday, July 22, we enjoyed very fair weather and much less wind. In the morning all crews explored the many original buildings, furnaces, and facilities of this pig iron smelter that flourished after the Civil War for a brief period between 1867 to 1881. The location offered all the necessary ingredients for making pig iron:
- an excellent harbor so iron ore could be brought in by ship from close-by mines in the upper peninsula
- plenty of surround forrest with hardwood for building and turning into charcoal for the furnaces
- limestone on site for adding to the iron furnances
After lunch at the docks, we departed for Wisconsin, heading south across Lake Michigan in very small seas, running on plane for 25-miles. We took a small detour to inspect the harbor on the south side of St. Martin Island, but found the dock there was filled with birds and visual and olfactory evidence of birds, and a large sign notified potential visitors that the island was a wildlife refuge and to stay off. The shallow bay looked like it would make a good anchorage to shelter from winds from Northeast through North to Northwest.
In the early afternoon we arrived at Wisconsin's Rock Island and approached the small harbor there. To our very good fortune the harbor was empty, and there was space for all five boats. We had to tie up in a limited amount of space in order to maintain access for the Park Ranger's boat and the larger ferry boat that brings visitors. We spent a very nice afternoon exploring, and had a cook-out dinner on some picnic tables nearby.
Overnight the wind picked up and by early Tuesday morning, July 23, it was blowing with some force from the North-Northwest. Due to the high water level, the concrete piers which were protecting us from the open lake were only a few inches above the lake level. As the seas built up with the wind, waves were washing right over the ten-foot-wide pier, splashing against the hulls of the boats, and draining into the harbor.
Other than the strong winds, the weather was fair and clear. We enjoyed a fine morning on the island. The park rest rooms are about 100-yards from the dock. I was walking over to visit the facility, and ran into John, waiting under a tree. John commented, "A guy went in there about 15-minutes ago, but he hasn't come out." My needs were getting a bit urgent, so I went ahead to investigate what was causing the delay.
As I approached the door to the Men's room, I could see the problem: the tail end of a snake, about three feet long was projecting from under the door to the outhouse. The snake was apparently stuck under the door.
I hailed the guy inside. He replied with some desperation, “I am stuck in here and there’s a big snake trying to get in under the door.”
[To be continued]