Irish Boat Shop (Jul 30)

The waters today were calm and as clear as glass and the weather was perfect!  This was an unusual phenomenon for us on Lake Michigan so we thoroughly enjoyed our two hour boat ride back to The Irish Boat Shop in Charlevoix.  Since we had scheduled a few minor repair items to be done there, it was back through the blue waters of the Charlevoix channel, back through the crystal clear waters of Round Lake, back by the gorgeous homes and landscaping that dotted the shoreline, and back into Charlevoix Lake.



We learned that the colorful units along the Lake Charlevoix shore and beach are actually storage/dressing units assigned to individual members of the country club.  Charlevoix is a rather upscale community and the residents don’t have to carry their stuff to the beach, but rather use these personal beach units for storing their chairs and umbrellas.  They also have private floating garages to protect their boats.



We docked (for free – yea) on the maintenance wall at Irish Boat Shop.  Although it was all steel and concrete on the shop side, we had a nice water-front view on the other.


Covert operations in Lake Michigan- who knew?

Repairs are scheduled for early in the morning – then we will boogie to Frankfort, 75 miles down the lake…..

Traverse City (July 28-29)

The Traverse City area is the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States.  Near the time of harvest, the city hosts the annual week-long National Cherry Festival that attracts around 500,000 visitors.  We missed the cherry festival by a few weeks…but our trip to – and stay at – Traverse City was fun!  We had choppy water from Charlevoix to Traverse City with 2-3 foot swells.


After our arrival in Traverse City Joe earned his “First Mate” stripes helping to dock and secure the boat.


The busy downtown included water gardens and a canal that was active with canoeing and paddle boarders.  After our walk around town we had dinner on the boat.  Karen made shrimp jambalaya in the crock pot and a side salad.



Reba gave Santa some love – he had been ignored lately since we have had company.  We enjoyed another beautiful sunset with friends.


After daybreak we had breakfast burritos before venturing out into the city.


Our favorite stopping place was the Cherry Republic!  It had nothing to do with the free samples – but – it was kind of like being at Costco after church on a Sunday morning.  We sampled cherry jellies, cherry flavored nuts, cherry salsa, chocolate covered cherry flavored “everything”, even the cherry wine…..ALL WAS GREAT!  Karen picked up some cherry coffee beans.  We enjoy fresh ground coffee while sitting on the back of Kara Mia on our quiet mornings on the water.


Our last dinner in Traverse City was at The Mackinaw Brew and Pub where we reminisced about our time spent together and discussed Joe and Reba’s travel options for the next morning.



You fill in the blanks…..


….but I do feel a Jimmy Buffett song coming on!

Charlevoix (July 25-27)

Pulling out of Beaver Island this morning was perfect!  Low winds and calm waters made for a great cruise across the Lake to the mainland.


Having stopped in Charlevoix in 2016 (bringing Kara Mia home the first time) we were anticipating once again the beauty of this special Michigan port.  The harbor is among the most beautiful and protected in all the Great Lakes and is known as a playground for the rich and famous.  The entryway into Round Lake is lined with impressive homes and even more impressive landscaping.  Entering Round Lake, the water is as pretty as any in the Florida Keys.




The gateway is an iconic double-leaf bascule bridge in downtown Charlevoix that was constructed in the late 1940’s.  It will open on the hour and half hour for larger watercraft.  Boats of every size and price range were entering and leaving.



We passed through Round Lake and into Lake Charlevoix to arrive at Irish Boat Shop, our marina for the next few days.  The following morning we awoke to ominous clouds that dominated the day but produced little threat.



We toured the village, finding expansive homes, exotic cars and were pleasantly surprised by a Venetian festival going on in town.  We ran through the Farmer’s Market, picking up some fresh greens, cherries and blueberries, and then walked through the fair and several boutiques.




We stopped for brunch at a waterside restaurant near the bascule bridge.  Watching the drawbridge go up and down is a highlight for visitors and us!  We enjoyed boat and people watching as well.



It was mermaids in Norfolk, sailboats in Orillia and in Charlevoix it’s “Bike Art”.



Taking an afternoon walk, we visited the unique “Fairy Houses” and the “Mushroom Houses”, which resemble storybook fantasies of whimsical, irregular stone with wave-like roof-lines.  They were built in the early 1900’s by local architect and realtor Earl Young and are considered works of art.  They vary in sizes from tiny to huge.  Young’s homes are known world wide and can be seen in only one place:  Charlevoix!

The mushroom houses are located where, in the 1930’s, Young dragged an 80,000 pound boulder out in front of Boulder Park.  Forty years later, he up-ended it where it sits today, proclaiming the beginning of Boulder Park.  You can access this area adjacent to the lake shore, with a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan.


Unique, unusual, quirky, elf cottages, hobbit houses, fairy houses, gnome houses, fairy tale houses – are all terms that are used to describe the mushroom houses created by builder Earl Young.  In his early years, Young’s houses were of arts and crafts style, a bit like Frank Lloyd Wight.  Later the shapes became more rounded with a blend of hobbit and fairy tales.  Like Wright, Young designed each home to blend into its surroundings.  This is what makes each so unique!


young_house_1        young_house_2

Karen and Reba took an afternoon dinghy cruise to the beach.



Next day we were joined by Bru and Sandy on “Coconuts” for dinner.  We were treated by a valet cart pickup from Gray Gables Restaurant.


It was a chilly but fun ride from the marina to our well appointed table at Gray Gables – with a cool up-scale, yet comfortable, atmosphere.  Dinner was perfect!



The Venetian Festival was capped off with a fireworks display.  Ron and Joe unfortunately didn’t get to see it – they crashed early!


We pulled out of Charlevoix the next morning and it was “Off to Traverse City”!



Yes, this man is actually sleeping in a lounge chair placed on his bike carrier.  I supposed the wife and kids left on the bikes?  And the cow is grazing in a flower garden at Boulder Park!


…..and….after our walking tour of Charlevoix, our Fit Bits registered over 15,000 steps today!  Yea!

Beaver Island (July 23-24)

This post is much like Beaver Island, “ECLECTIC and RANDOM”.

Today’s travels took us on a 40 mile trip from Mackinaw City to Beaver Island.  The water was a bit choppy but tolerable.  Beaver Island is Lake Michigan’s largest island and the tiny town of St. James, with a population of 657, is its entry point.  There are only two ways to get to Beaver Island – by air or by boat.  On “weather permitting” days, the Beaver Island Boat Company provides ferry  transportation to the island.  Reservations are on a first come – first serve basis and it has been know to get there and have to wait several days for a return trip from the island.  We were glad to have Kara Mia for our escape – if needed…..



Irish immigrants settled much of Beaver Island during its early history, and for that reason it’s sometimes called “America’s Emerald Isle”.  This same heritage applied to the ferry which is why the ship sported green accents and a large shamrock on the smokestack.



In the mid 1800’s James Strang founded a Mormon settlement here and crowned himself King.  His reign however was short-lived.  His followers assassinated him.


There are no words for the town’s Toy Store.  No signs, no parking lot, just a weeded trail to the main cabin – full of new, used and antique toys.  There were a number of shoppers and it was too cluttered to take pictures!


We never knew what we would run into in town!



After several hours of walking the town, we felt like soaking our feet in the cold Michigan waters.  It was only later that we saw large water snakes near our boat!  YIKES!

One of our most pleasant experiences was dinner at “Circle M” Restaurant.  It was the old Catholic priest’s home and through the open screened windows we looked out over the cemetery.


….and….breakfast the next morning on the front porch of “Dalwhinnie” was a delight.


After breakfast we rented a jalopy from the marina and toured the island.  90% of the roads were dirt/chert down beautiful covered lanes that circled the island.  First we found the airport a couple of miles away from town.  It has a well-maintained asphalt runway but a dirt road entrance.  Many Beaver Island residents fly their own personal aircraft.


James, a local resident, thought we might be lost and gave us not only directions, but some fun local history.

Two major highlights of the island we were told we could not miss were “The Big Rock”  and “Big Birch”.  Here they are!


But – more entertaining – we found this:

The “UNDER WHERE” tree, the “FOUND SOLES” tree, and the “STILL DEVELOPING” tree.


On the western shore of Beaver Island are beautiful beaches with clear aqua waters and The Beaver Head Light House.  Karen and Reba decided (since it was unlocked and unattended) to climb to the top of the light house – NEVER AGAIN!






On the morning of our departure, Joe found “Jim” roaming the docks.  Seems that when Jim went to shower, thinking he was still in his cabin, his boat left without him.  Jim joined us for coffee while the sun rose and we hailed his boat to see if they were missing a crew member.  We waited as his boat turned around to retrieve him – they had already been underway 30 minutes.  On a side note – Jim was part of the sailboat crew that took third place in the sailboat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island (in an earlier posting).  Maybe not Jim, but the rest of us had quite the chuckle out of his misfortune.



Mackinaw City & Mackinac Island (July 21-22)

It was our pleasure to have good friends Joe and Reba from Nashville (Gallatin) make the trek to Mackinaw City to join us for a few days on Kara Mia.  Despite a rainy start, it didn’t dampen our spirits.



Reba brought Kara Mia a gift of “Cara Mia” wine – who knew?  A great surprise!


We quickly got into the tourist mode to see what FUDGE CITY  had to offer.  We found “Tin Man” at the mall and the The US Coast Guard Museum was nearby.  Before returning to the boat for the evening, we found a Shoneys style buffet, THE PANCAKE CHEF, with $4.00 wine for dinner.



Next day we boarded a ferry shuttle to Mackinac Island.  There was something similar to a cattle-car feel to the 15 minute ride!


With priorities in line, we started our tour with a snack and Bloody Marys at the Pink Pony.


Being void of motorized vehicles, the only modes of transportation are walking, biking or horse-drawn carriage rides.




We shopped, sampled and surveyed the island and found the architecture and landscaping impressive.




After a healthy tour around the island, we chose the waterfront “Carriage House Veranda” at Hotel Iroquois for lunch.  Its garden setting is designed with brilliant color and foliage overlooking a private beach and the harbor.


And Karen and Reba found refuge from the afternoon heat……


We were not able to dock at the marina due to Chicago Yacht Club’s annual 333 mile sailboat race to Mackinac – all of the slips were booked.  Because of weather delays the sailboats were all behind schedule and the marina was empty.


Since we did not bring a jacket to dine at the upscale GRAND HOTEL, it was time to bid adieu to the island and re-board the ferry for the short trip back to mainland.


We had sandwiches on the boat, toasted our “Cara Mia” wine and were treated with a beautiful sunset over the harbor.



The FBI…….

and Auburn’s WAR EAGLE……




CROSSED OUR WAKE – the first time, Macinaw City (July 19-20)

We left Drummond Island and traveled through the Strait of DeTour into Lake Huron, where we crossed our wake.  “CROSSING YOUR WAKE” means you have completed America’s Great Loop by returning by boat to the place you’ve been before.  We passed through Lake Huron and Mackinaw Strait when bringing Kara Mia home to Nashville in 2016.


When you “CROSS YOUR WAKE”, as an AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association) member, you are identified as a “Gold Looper”.  This is when you remove your white “in progress” flag and replace it with your “Gold Looper” flag.  Flag identity and etiquette is an important and fun part of cruising.



As we headed to Mackinaw City, we passed Mackinac (pronounced “Mackinaw”) Island.  The ferry shuttles were fast and furious crossing the lake, giving other boaters little concern.  We were rocked and rolled!


Mackinaw City (also known as fudge town) is a great little port that has a Gatlinburg feel to its shopping and restaurants – two fudge shops and four souvenir shops per block!  Due to serious winter weather, they only have about a 4-month season.


This is a tourist designed town with a quaint mall as a centerpiece.


And of all the places we could pick to eat – it was The DIXIE Saloon!  Great burger and reuben sandwich!


After a beautiful Michigan sunrise, we walked to the local Mackinaw Family Market to pay triple for a few groceries.  There are no Krogers or Walmarts here!


BACK IN THE USA! Drummond Island (July 18)

After witnessing our last Canadian sunrise, we pulled out of Gore Bay at 8:00 a.m. anxious to see US waters again!  It was another chilly morning (Karen in sweatshirt, earmuffs and gloves) that later turned into a warm gorgeous day.  The Canadians were very gracious people and we were impressed with their friendliness.



We traveled 70 miles through the North Channel today, crossing the border around 10:30 this morning.  While underway, we removed our courtesy Canadian flag and remounted our “Q-flag”, the one you fly until you clear customs.


We arrived at the township of Drummond Island, MI. around 11:00.  Drummond Island is a necessary “Looper” stop to check in with customs.  Our check-in was non-eventful but the couple behind us had Border Patrol officers show up to greet them.  Our check-in was at a small video kiosk where Ron communicated with Border Patrol via video to check in and make our declarations.  Although we had one lime, one apple, and two cucumbers, Ron forgot and told them we had no fruits on board.  We will have them all for dinner tonight!


Once we cleared customs, we removed our yellow quarantine flag and mounted our “Conch Republic” flag.  This was given to us by Allen and Sharon while in the Florida Keys, and we also mounted it in honor of our upcoming guests, Joe and Reba.  We had visited with Joe and Reba in the Keys earlier this year.

Drummond Island is a quiet marina.  Town is a few miles away and the marina will “rent” you a pick-up for $12.00 to visit town.  We chose to have sandwiches on the boat and enjoy the serene surroundings.





Our first US sunset since mid-June……

    Tomorrow Mackinaw City!

Gore Bay (July 16-17)

Gore Bay is a popular stop with the Loopers because of its protected harbors.  It is nestled in a quiet little village between two ridges.


Our journey through the North Channel today was pleasant with deep water and little traffic.



The marina was well run with a great young staff and a well stocked ship store.  Even ice cream and chocolate!


The view from our slip of the sun both rising and setting on the ridges was vivid and colorful!



Our leisurely walk through town was short.  We hit all three spots – the grocery store, the hardware store and the liquor store – and we re-provisioned from them all.  The museum was closed!  The local brewery was busy and we finished the evening at Buoys Eatery, a great little burger and pizza joint with live music.




On the following day’s wanderings we encountered a yoga session in the park’s pavilion, pickleball, and a chair – full of fun – for obvious reasons…..    

We had planned on leaving early that morning but the strong winds and rocking boats delayed our  travels…..several boats left the marina only to return because of rough seas…..that was enough to convince us to stay put another day.

We found Rocky Raccoon Cafe with global cuisine, primarily Thai food.  It was a one-man operation from start to finish.  Even with a nice crowd, Chef Robin Pradhan greeted us, seated us, took our order, cooked our food, served, checked us out and cleaned up afterwards.  Ron had Thai Chicken, Karen had dumplings.  The windows were open and the breeze from the bay was cool.  We were quite impressed and it was a perfect evening.  It was an eclectic place and we noticed several Beatle posters on the walls – we figure the restaurant name came from the Beatle’s song “Rocky Raccoon”.  It didn’t fit in with Thai food but – what the heck!  We are in Gore Bay, Canada!




Port of Little Current (July 15)

Sorry for the delay in our postings (Sue), we’ve been having too much fun with friends in various ports!

To continue:

Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. we pulled out of Killarney Bay  in a warm sunny breeze.


Since we had plenty of time we decided to take a side trip through Frazer Bay and up Baie Fine (pronounced “bay fin”).  Baie Fine is one of the largest freshwater fjords in the world with beautiful views of quartz mountains and shoreline and is a popular side trip for sailors cruising the North Channel.


There was very little boat traffic and, as usual, we dodged rocks just beneath the surface of the water.  With the increased height of the landscape (mountains) formed by glaciers years ago, the scenery was a dramatic change.



There is only one eastern access to Little Current and The North Channel and it is controlled by a one-lane railroad bridge, converted into a highway.  It only opens once an hour during daylight hours.  It was tense timing the bridge and traffic, but we made the hourly bridge opening with five other boats and were ready to dock at Port of Little Current.


It was already late afternoon by the time we docked and checked in and we decided to take a tour of the small town.  Being Sunday afternoon, most of the town was closed.  Tom and Patty on board “The 7th. Day”  arrived and we visited with them and a few local boaters on the dock before calling it a day.


Killarney (July 12-14)

We were happy to pull out of Killbear and be on our way.  Not knowing what to expect in Killarney, it turned out to be one of our favorite stops.  Our travels through Georgian Bay brought us to the Killarney Channel where the water became a beautiful clear aqua.  We passed a number of lighthouses along the way and one marked the entrance to the channel.  The small community of Killarney sits along the mainland side of the mile long, hundred yard wide channel that separates George Island from mainland Ontario.



Along the Killarney Channel we were impressed with the history.  Until 1962, Killarney was only accessible by water, therefore the local businesses had docks rather than parking lots.  Before Killarney became the township it is today (population of less than 500), if you wanted groceries, you pulled up to “Pitfield’s General Store”  dock.  Pitfield’s is the only grocery store in town.  The local LCBO (Liquor Control Board Ontario) was next.  We watched a seaplane pull in for a bottle of wine and beer.



“World Famous” Herbert’s Fisheries is located along the water in the center of town.  All of their fish is caught in Lake Huron by its fishing boat “Playfiar II”  that docks here as well.  They only have fish on the menu – you can order a 2-piece dinner with fries and slaw, or you can order a 6-piece dinner to share.


A short distance later was our destination, The Sportsman’s Inn, with docks on both sides of the channel.  We docked on the island side and had a perfect view of all the comings and goings in the channel.  Sportsman’s Inn has a drive-inn movie theater, which is actually a boat-in movie theater.  During the summer months they project movies on a large white billboard across the channel from the Inn.  Inn patrons and boaters tune in their radios for sound and watch the movie on the large screen.



This was our view East and West.  Out to the east, where we entered, is Georgian Bay.  Out the West, our exit, would be the beginnings of the Killarney Range mountains.


The channel was busy with floatplanes, a small sailboat parade (I think they were all homemade), more floatplanes, kayaks, paddleboats, canoes, peddle “bikes”, dozens of dinghies, and every kind of boat imaginable.







Karen playing in her dinghy……

This is Nick, our favorite employee at the Sportsman’s Inn.  Nick, along with helping boaters dock, fuel, etc., would shuttle us back and forth across the channel in “Tinker Bell”, the Inn’s pontoon shuttle.


Since each dock was outfitted with two bright red Adirondack chairs, it was the perfect spot for us to watch the traffic on the channel.



The waters were so clear we thought we saw a sunken treasure here……still not sure……


The variety of boats continued to entertain us……..



…and same for the houses that dotted the shoreline…..


Ominous clouds rolled in the next day but we didn’t let that stop us.  We packed our umbrella and walked to town.  It was a short walk and we got to see the same businesses from the street side.  We decided to walk to the general store to pick up a few things, but along the way ran upon a farmer’s market where we picked up some fruits and vegetables.



This was “The Hermitage”, not exactly the same as the one in Nashville, but caught our attention all the same…..


Everyone recommended the souvenir store to pick up a few local gifts for the grandkids so we walked down Waterfront Street, took a right on Charles, passed the OPP (police station), only to find a little one-room house with nothing more than a few sundries and nick-nacks.  We left empty handed and chalked the walk up to “exercise”.  And we got to visit the small stone Irish Catholic church.


On our last day we took a walk to the Killarney Mountain Lodge.  It was a very nice resort and it also had it’s own marina.


In their bar we ordered our first order of “Poutine”.  Poutine is very popular in Canada and, like butter tarts, we had to try it while there.  Poutine is a bowl of french fries smothered in brown gravy and topped with cheese curd!  Was not our favorite way to eat french fries – but we can say we had it!


Back at the Sportsman’s Inn we had dinner in the pub – a Killarney burger and flatbread pizza.


It’s sad, but a big part of our entertainment each day is the sunrise and the sunset.



RANDOM STUFF:  Here is a perspective of the loopers in this area.