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The Great Lakes: Huron and Michigan 9.10. - 6.11.2001

9.10.2001 Alpena, Michigan, USA
At last we crossed the river in Port Huron and are in the USA now. In spite of the rumours we did not have any difficulties getting into the country, on the contrary, we got an excellent service by the coast guard officer, who drove us to the customs and immigration office, because they were too busy to come down to the marina.
After the formalities, we took a bus to the shopping mall to get some food. There were a lot of other stuff as well, including bicycles. The cheapest were only 60 dollars, i.e. two nights in a marina. So, we bought bicycles. A blue one for Hannu and a girl-color for Auli. They have 18 gears and thick tyres. And they are very handy giving us also a bit training. That we need after all the sitting on the river.

When we were still on the River St. Claire, on the Canadian side, we met two extraordinary boats. The other was russian, Saint Paul, a replica of the explorer Bering's boat. In 1741 Vitus Bering discovered Alaska and the Northwest Territory with other russian explorers. The Bering Strait is named after him. Saint Paul is 50 feet long and built in 1991. That year the vessel left it's homeport Vladivostok with the crew of three: captain Michael, Irene and Koozya-cat. They crossed the North Pacific to the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, continued down the west coast of Canada and USA, visited Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica - not always without problems and dangers. They sailed in Mexico and Florida, from where they followed the coastline and canals to the Great Lakes. At the moment the motor is broken and no money to buy a new one.
The other boat was more typical, a 37 feet steel sloop Seven Roses, but it's crew was far from usual: two dogs and a woman. Laura from Italy has been sailing for 13 years. Now she has the same route to Chicago and Mississippi than we do, so we'll meet her on the road.


Three Europeans

On the Columbus Day (8.10.) we started to conquire our thrid lake, Lake Huron. Again the sun was shining and we had the wind with us. We hoisted the spinnaker and speeded towards the North. Huron is 200 miles long and formed like a glove. In the narrow end it's only about 35 miles wide, but the other side is 150 miles wide.


Lake Huron and a new bike

The forecast promised 30 knots for the night, so we took the spinnaker down. Back home or at sea a 30-knot wind is not bad, but here the waves went grazy. Kristiina was hopping and rolling. The waves seemed to come from every direction, as well as the wind. The autopilot couldn't hold the course during the worst hours, so we drove by hand, turning the wheel like mad. Now we understand all the warnings about these lakes, I wouldn't like to be hit by the lake waves during a storm.
In the morning we sailed in to Alpena, but we couldn't get into the marina, it was too shallow. We found dockage from the city marina, no facilities, but free. The harbours seem to be very shallow on the lakes, average being 4-6 feet.

 

16.10.2001 Mackinac Island, Michigan, USA
After the smooth spinnaker weather we experienced a different Huron as well. From Alpena we sailed with comfortable tail winds to the Presque Isle, and anchored in the sheltered bay for two nights. We enjoyed ourselves by riding the bikes in the beautiful autumn forest. Our next destination was Cheboygan, about 50 miles away, located on the North end of the Lake Huron. Again the wind was favourable for us, it turned East. But otherwise the weather wasn't so nice, it was a pouring rain and wind was blowing 30-40 knots. Kristiina was darting with bottom reefed main and jib, sometimes surffing 12 knots. Our average speed for that day was 7 knots. We moored to an empty and closed marina in the centre of Cheboygan in the afternoon.


Presque Island lighthouse

In the evening we wanted to go out and taste our first American beers. We walked in to a bar opposite the boat, and ordered two beers. Instead of serving we were told to show our ID's. What, do you have to prove your identity to drink beer in the USA? I just do my work and follow the rules, was the rude answer. I had my driver's license in the wallet, which I showed to the lady, but Hannu didn't have any ID with him. So, no beer. Well, we didn't give up that easily, we went to another bar nearby. Right away at the door we asked about the ID-thing and explained what we just had experienced. The waitress said, that only in that case she would  think someone is underaged, she would ask for an ID. The 21-age-limit was clearly marked at the door in the first bar. Either we look 20 years younger after 5 months in the fresh air, or the whole epsiode was to spite foreigners. But we got a laugh, anyway.
For those who are interested in prices, a bottle of beer costs 3 dollars in a bar.

From Cheboygan we motored the 10 mile passage to the Mackinac Island, which is really special and beautiful place. Motorvechiles are not allowed on this island, so the small streets are full of horse carriages and bicycles. The island is very popular during the summer, the little guest harbour full of boats, hydrofoils bringing tourists. Some wealthy people have their summer houses here. Most of the houses are wooden, built in 1900th century decorated style. There are a number of hotels of which the most famous and expensive is the Grand Hotel. You cannot even get into the lobby without paying 10 dollars, and there is a very strict dressing code (men: tie and jacket, women: no slacks). The interests include the Fort Mackinac, which was built by the British in the 1800th century. The luxuriant forest, with huge cedar trees, is full of paths and narrow roads for riders and bikers. The Mackinac Island is a bit higher from the surrounding low lands, and the uphills give you a nice sweat.
Now in the middle of October, there is a different atmosphere than during the hectic peak season. We were the only boat in the harbour, the rental bikes stand without riders, and many houses have shutters on windows waiting for the winter. But tourists keep coming the year around, and also this weekend the streets and souvenier shops were full.


Transportation on Mackinac Island: horse and bike


There are huge villas on the island

23.10.2001 Port Washington, Wisconsin, USA
After Mackinac Island we made a wasted call to Mackinaw City. In the empty harbour we had to pay the full 35 dollar fee in spite of using only the clumsy dock. We cycled to the stagnate library, where e-mail was not allowed in their internet. The teenager next to me was using the net for looking at tv-soap-opera stars, but we were not allowed to read our mail or update the homepage. Rules!
Early next morning we left the place and after passing the one kilometer long Mackinac Bridge, we were on the Lake Michigan. The harsh Northwesterly remained of winter coming, we even got a few grains of hail on the deck, although the skies were mostly clear. In the afternoon we arrived to the Beaver Island, which was settled by the Irish in the 1800th century. We stayed two nights on the island because of the hard wind, and for the second night we had to move to anchor, it was blowing directly to the dock. The autumn seems to have arrived with the hard winds, which blow from Southwest, our heading direction. The waves on the Michigan are as nasty as on the other lakes, sharp and short, and it's impossible to motor against them. But on the contrary to the other lakes, here are deep enough harbours on the both shores of the lake in every 30 miles.
The wind obstructed us from visiting one more special island, the Manitou. We didn't want to bang against the suddenly rosen hard wind, although there was only 15 miles left. Instead we altered the course a bit and sailed in to the small village of Leland. That was a nice turn, since the place was very attractive with old fishing shanties and a small river. Nearby was a forest track, and we had a wonderful walk in the autumn colours. Adding the finishing touch for our conveniece, we were allowed to stay free in the marina, although it was open. A hot shower was a pleasure after a while.
On Sunday morning at 3 am we left Leland under the stars. The forecast promised light winds and we wanted to take every advantage of it. The day turned out sunny and calm, but with only 10 degrees C. After a hundred miles and 17 hours we stopped for the night in Two Rivers, on the West shore of Lake Michigan. Crossing the lake ment also crossing a time zone, and now we are eight hours behind Finland. With the sun we were on the lake againg, making our way towards the South. The mornings are cold now, +3 C outside and +16 C inside the boat. In the afternoon we were in Port Washington. There is 90 miles to Chicago.

26.10.2001 Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Port Washington
turned out to be a pretty place with a helpful and nice marina staff. We got many things, e.g. updating our website and a call to the consulate in Chicago, done. Ordinary matters can be really tricky. We take for an example a phone call.

First time we tried to call on Presque Isle. Because it was my first time on an American phonebox, I did not know what kind of tone to expect. I tried to read the small print on the apparatus, finding out that first you dial (long distance with the country code 1), then you wait for a voice to tell you the charge. Insert a dollar and 75 cents for your call, I heard, so I stuffed the seven 25-cent coins in. Nothing happened. I tried again. And again. Several times. On this phone and on the next phone. I went back to the boat and checked the number. I tried with the country code and without it. I tried with the area code and without it. I checked out the area code from the phone book. Nothing else than a silence. Then a man came up to me, he wanted also to make a call. I told him about my misfortune. He listened the quiet humming of the line for a while and said that the phone was closed. Off-season, you see. We walked to a shop nearby in a hope for a phone, but they didn't have one.  After the weekend we grasped the handle again on the Mackinac Island. Similarly, the phone was in the closed marina area, but now I knew to expect a tone. Ha, I heard it! I dialed the number, the voice told me the amount, I inserted coins, and remain hopefully waiting. Your call did not go through, please try again, said the voice. I did as told, no result. Maybe the phone was closed after all (only the Voice was overwintering inside...). We went bicycling, and tried a phone along our way. Negative result. I asked a park worker on the spot about the secrets of the American phones, but he couldn't help. The next try was in the harbour, and yes, the call was connected! The person I wanted to talk to would be back in the office after a week. So, after a week, in Port Washington, we called again. The voice said: insert 4 dollars and 85 cents for your call. What!? On the Mackinac Island the price was 1,75 and now, even nearer our calling destination, almost five dollars. We didn't have 20 pieces of 25 cent coins, and would not pay that much for a call, anyway. We were wondering the price at the harbour office and were told that the various phone companies price their calls as they like, there is no rational in it. We were allowed to make the call from the marina office. The phone acted as phones are supposed to act, and we got our matter in order. Thousand thanks! (The marina staff did not hear this story before they let us to use the phone.)

From Port Washington we sailed to the million-city Milwaukee on Tuesday 23.10. We entered the first marina, McKinley, just to hear that they are closed for the season and don't have a dockage for us. We stayed the night at the end of a dock under a demolishing work. The workers were so far away that we thought we were ok, but in the morning we were told to leave. However, we could stay at the short-time dock beside the gas station. Unfortunately, that was too shallow. So, the marina manager allowed us to dock at the slip for a day. We were off to get a glimpse of the city. During the day the wind started to blow and the forecast warned about 40-50 knots, at the open seas 60 knots, SW winds. These figures are not terrible at the sea, but here the winds of 20-25 knots rise waves, which are - if not dangerous, so uncomfortable. In addition, the forecast has always been careful with the prediction, and we have learned that even the 20-25 knot, which is "only" 10-12.5 m/s, means reefing the sails. So we would not go out to 40-50 knots wind against us. Kind enough, the marina manager let us stay.

Milwaukee is comfortable city to be so big, at least what we discovered on the bike back. The cold and stormy weather made inside sightseeing preferable. We wondered the Art Museum, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and admired the cupola ceiling and marmore columns of the library. At the Museums and IMAXtheatre complex we discovered a film on Shackleton. It was fantastically done, combining Hurley's authentic photo and film material, fictive parts, and shootings of the amazing and desolate nature of the Antarctic. Both of us had read Caroline Alexander's brilliant book on Shackleton, and back to the boat we took it out again. This book, translated also to Finnish, is highly recommedable, although the uncredible story of Shackleton and his 22 men - a story of leadership and unyield - is interesting as such.
We walked until our feet ached at the huge Public Museum, which illustrates different eras, continets, nations, nature and wildlife in an interesting way. There is also a butterfly garden in the museum, and you can walk among the beautiful "papillons". The humid and warm air of the garden was an enjoyable contrast to the icy wind outside.


The Chicago Sears Tower is the tallest building in the world, 435 metres

6.11.2001 Chicago, Illinois, USA
The week in Chicago has gone with work and sightseeing. We are settled in to the only open marina, Burnham, which is near downtown, but behind big parks keeping the noise and fumes away. A bikepath is running along the lakeside, so bicycle is again the best transportation choice. Some of the most interesting sites are just in a walking distance, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Planetarium and the Aquarium (which has also dolphins and belugas, and a wonderful Amazon river set up).
Just opposite the marina is the huge, 60.000 seats homefield of Chicago Bears. Last Sunday we experinced the pre-play of a American football game: hours before the game the parking lot was filled with cars and people, unpacking barbecues, chairs, tables and coolers, and loads of food and drink. Beside their camp is hoisted the favor team's flag, and in addition the support is showed by wearing sweaters and caps. Loud "boos" can be heard when supporters of the other team are in sight. The beginning of the game is waited by drinking and eating and throwing the ball.

In a couple of days we got the sails stuffed into the boat and the masts down. The weak-looking crane worked okay, but the charge was uncredible to us: 240 dollars. For one hours work. On the other hand, if we compare it to the dockage fee for one season, 3000 dollars, it's about in the same ratio than at home, Yacht Club Sindbad, where the use of the crane is 120 FIM (17 dollars). We had a wonderful, abnormal weather during the days of unstepping: +25 Celsius!! We had waited for snow and sleet, but it was nice to work in a t-short instead of cold, clumsy fingers.

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