Our search was extensive, as we were determined to be out in the fresh air all summer after a trying fifteen months of regulations in our country and state. Early this Spring we got a little crazy one day and said, “Hey, why don’t we see if the boat will sell and get a bigger one so we can live on it more?” Our boat was viewed and sold within two weeks. So, Cliff was on the Boat Trader website every day looking for a new one. We soon realized that boats are in very high demand! People want to be outside to soak up Vitamin D and experience freedom on the water after the challenges they’ve endured. We finally found a boat near Toledo, Ohio, and our visit was encouraging. Cliff went to do the sea trial and survey a few weeks later and was pleased with the results. We purchased the 42 foot Silverton motorboat and made plans to drive it home on the water around Michigan via the Great Lakes. We planned the trip around the entire “mitten” of Michigan, from the southeast tip, all the way around counterclockwise, to our home, Holland Michigan.
Our son Andrew drove us to Toledo Beach Marina near Toledo bright and early on a Friday morning, mid-May. After arriving at the Marina, I haphazardly unpacked our tubs of supplies, clothes, and food into the boat so that he could take the empty tubs back home in Cliff’s truck. I would have ample time during the four days on the water and in marinas to put my things away and clean the boat. Cliff’s sister Laurie, and her son Michael went with us on the boat trip, which was a great help when mooring. This boat and the waters were unfamiliar to us so extra hands were welcome.
We went to the marina gas dock and filled up both tanks. The weather was cool but sunny. Lake Erie was our first lake and it barely produced a ripple. As we enjoyed the sunshine, captain Cliff settled into his charted course. He is close to receiving his captain’s license, so he prepared a carefully plotted course from the charts he purchased of each of the lakes and rivers we planned on traversing. This beautiful ride led into the Detroit River. Since it was early in the season and cool, we were one of the few pleasure boats on the water. We often spotted a large cargo ship. There’s an interesting app which tells you what the name, location, port of origin and destination of the ship.
Just before downtown Detroit, we went under the Ambassador Bridge, which reaches across to Canada. Detroit’s tall and stately buildings then come into full view. Many photos were snapped, as we enjoyed taking in the scenery. Soon we entered into Lake St. Clair. If you hold up your left hand to look at the back of your hand, you can envision the shape of the state of Michigan. After scooting northeast across Lake St. Clair, we entered St. Clair River which feeds into Lake Huron. All of this first day, we had completely quiet water.
About sixty miles into Lake Huron, we pulled between the curvy rock breakwaters as high as our boat, into our first night’s port, Port Sanilac. Since I had called ahead, two dockhands were on the dock ready to help us moor up. That was welcome because it was already 8:30 at night and the sun was about to set. It had been a wonderful, but long day. It took us about 8 hours to arrive there. It was quiet and calm in the slip overnight and sleep came quickly to all of us.
On Saturday morning, we pulled up to the gas dock where three assistants were standing on the dock with their hands behind their back. The dock master was training two female teenagers how to do it professionally. She chatted about the outpost stand there, preserved after WWII, where the US military watched for possible Nazi submarines which may have been sent through Canadian waters.
We often could see Canada on our Starboard side. There’s an imaginary line close to the middle of these lakes and rivers, where Canada and Michigan meet. We normally stayed about ten miles off from the Michigan shore. Cliff wanted to keep the boat on his straight line course that he had plotted. He had the “autopilot” on during the trip, so most of the time he just had to keep his eyes on the water in front of us to make sure we wouldn’t collide with another boat or any other obstacle. Since it was cold, he often traveled with his hands in his sweatshirt pockets, but the bridge was mostly enclosed and was not uncomfortable. The temperatures were usually in the high fifties or low sixties. Turning the generator on, enabled me to prepare meals with the microwave, and I also cleaned the inside of the boat. The calmness of the water was amazing.
Off into Lake Huron for the day, it was peaceful again. The air was cold, but it was sunny and gorgeous. Later in the day we had six inch waves but this boat is wider and heavier so that didn’t really phase us. The only time we couldn’t see land during this entire trip, was a short period of about an hour, when we crossed over the tip of the thumb area. The air turned colder during the day because we were heading north where the water is colder.
I cleaned today again, in the bathroom and bedroom, sorting things and putting them away. I had Michael help me vacuum in the boat and up in the bridge with the central vacuum. Later Laurie and I played some games inside with Michael. We neared Rogers City and I made a couple of phone calls to the marina. We traveled about eight more hours today. When we arrived, we drove through a curved rock wall again, and could pull up right on the back of the gas dock. After filling up with gas, we couldn’t go outside the rest of the evening because there were so many gnats or May flies. They covered the entire boat and door. They were so thick that we got into the boat and shut the door by 7 pm. After I made supper, and we played a few games, we fell into bed early. The fresh air of the day made it difficult to keep our eyes open.
Since our gas tanks were full, we could just pull right out to the lake on Sunday morning. Again we were amazed at the favor of the Lord, to have completely calm waters. Many lighthouses and ships were spotted in the distance.
Late morning the mighty Mackinaw Bridge came into view. This is the five mile long bridge that connects Upper and Lower Michigan. We took many photos and videos while we approached and went under the bridge. We could see Mackinaw Island and Shepler’s ferry boats in the distance. It was a cloudier day, but the water was still smooth. We were thankful because this area of the straits of Mackinaw is notorious for being rough. Under the bridge we officially entered Lake Michigan. The boat was a mess with those gnats we had last night, so Michael helped me vacuum the boat again. It was helpful to have one person holding the hose while the other vacuumed. At least that took care of most of the bugs, but the boat had black streaks everywhere.
Later, while Laurie, Michael and I were inside eating brunch, all the sudden Cliff pulled the throttle all the way down. He had the entire trip charted out but then decided to try a little bit of a shortcut in the Traverse City area. That was scary because we were driving over a very shallow area with a rocky bottom. The Petoskey stones were beautiful but that’s not the way we wanted to see them. We floated carefully over this area hoping we wouldn’t hit bottom. The water was very clear. After about 10 anxious minutes we could no longer see the bottom and ran out of it. Soon we got back on course and could regain our normal speed about 20 miles per hour. The stones were pretty but way too close to the bottom of the boat! We were very glad that Cliff was paying such close attention.
Mid afternoon we ran into thick fog. Laurie sat up in the bridge with Cliff to be an extra pair of eyes. Since Cliff didn’t have radar and you could only see about 50 to 100 feet. He backed down the speed a bit. I played games with Michael inside the cabin. I texted several of my prayer warrior groups to pray for us. This lasted about three hours and then lifted slowly. Good thing Cliff had the autopilot set so we didn’t get lost. Praise the Lord we got through it fine without colliding with anything, or anyone hitting us. The Lord was our radar.
They watched for the pier of our next port. Finally it popped out through the fog, and we arrived at our third port of the trip, Frankfort. When we pulled into the channel, there was no longer fog and it was a sunny evening. The marina manager and a man in the next slip were out there to help us tie up after our nine hour trek. We arrived just before 6 pm, and decided to walk the mainstreet in the quaint little town. We enjoyed french fries, hot dogs, and chicken tenders at a local restaurant. We appreciated our dinner and occasional conversation with the kind young owner. When we were back in the boat, we read for about an hour. The stress of the foggy hours took its toll and we fell into sweet dreams.
After we got ready on Monday morning, we pulled up to the gas dock where the owner also helped us with our bug filled boat. He didn’t have a scrub brush for us to borrow or buy, but he had a brush broom. We filled our little pail with lake water and poured around on the bow, the bridge, and the cockpit to cleanse the worst of the mess from the bugs. We pulled past the pier and lighthouse just before nine on our last leg to home. The weather was cool, sunny, and quiet once again. This side of Michigan was much more familiar to us, and we were counting the hours. Often we gazed in amazement at the glass-like water during the final seven hours. Finally we spotted the Big Red lighthouse of Holland, Michigan, which was a welcome sight. A half an hour later we backed into our slip at our Marina where many friends and family were there on the dock. What a nice surprise to be so warmly welcomed home. We didn’t have ropes on our poles yet, so it took some time to tie up correctly.
We praise the Lord for calm waters, safety through the fog and rocks, no storms, no rain, enough warmth, good running motors, no accidents, and good health. Thank you Father, for your great favor of light winds. We are looking forward to having many family and friends enjoy this boat and fresh air with us this summer.