Post #22 – TURN LEFT! – Day – August , 2014. On Board: Jerry & Sheila Solomon, Pat & Paul Coates, Jim & Trish Koningisor
In the last post, I stated that every once in a while one discovers a place that is truly special. Likewise, every once is a while, one also meets some people that are truly special. Such was the case a month ago when we happened upon Tom & Tim in Trenton, Ontario – they also have very special story.
Tom is an octarian who has enjoyed a successful business career. He’s also been an adventurer, with a number of experiences as a mountain climber. In fact, he climbed the back side (not the tourist side, but the rock-cliff side that requires ropes and climbing gear) of Mount Kilimanjaro when he was 74 – at the time, he was the oldest person to do so (his record was broken a month later). Several months ago, after being informed of the actuarial lifespan of a person of his ilk, Tom decided it was time for a change – so he turned over his business to his management team and decided do something radically different. A month or so later, he had bought the first boat he looked at and was ready to depart from North Carolina on the Great Loop. However, Tom did not want to “drive the boat” – either figuratively or literally (“I’ve been driving the boat (figuratively) all my life – now I want someone else to drive the boat”). And he needed a companion. So Tom called his twenty-something year old grandson, Tim, who was working in Colorado at the time and was ready to consider a change. During the call, Tim asked Tom if he could have 48 hours to think it over. Less than hour later, Tim called his grandfather – “I’m in”. Neither had any significant boating experience, and they were about to set off on a year-long boating adventure on a 49′ boat, the likes of which neither of them had ever driven. Tim’s mother (Tom’s daughter) concluded that they both must be on a suicide mission. To help them get started, they hired an experienced captain to be on board for the first two weeks. By the time we met them in Trenton, they were both seasoned “old salts”. Tim handles the boat like a pro, and Tom jumps around the boat handling the lines, fenders, and other chores like a thirty year old. More important, they are wonderful, fun, interesting people whom we have had the pleasure to cruise with, talk with, and be with. They are both free spirits who embody the challenge of adventure – they were willing to step WAY outside their familiar sphere of activities and immerse themselves in something totally new. They are an inspiration to everyone they meet. TomTim (as we call them) are now a little bit ahead of our pace, but we hope to catch up with them again.
So I received a nice note from a very good friend of mine, who commented that she liked the pictures on the blog, but referring to my hair, she said “you, by the way, look like an aging hippie” – which, of course, is true. I decided not to bother cutting my hair through the summer, just to try it out. The problem is that my hair seems to grow out instead of down – sort of like Bozo the Clown. Maybe that sort of fits. Anyway, a day or two later, I came upon this sign next to the door of a shop:
After clearing customs on Friday, August 1, we spent the afternoon and evening at Drummond Island. The manual for our diesel engines recommends changing the oil every 250 hours of use, so it was about time to do so – the marina on Drummond Island pumped out the old oil and replaced it with new, along with new filters.
Here are some pictures from Drummond Island:
On Saturday morning, we ran 15 miles to DeTour Village, which marks the western gateway to the North Channel. On land, DeTour is little more than a widening in the road, although it has a very good casual, reasonably-priced restaurant, a great boutique/gift shop, a small but interesting museum, and really friendly people. On the water, however, DeTour is a crossroads between the North Channel to the east, Mackinaw and Lake Michigan to the west, and Lake Superior via Sault St. Marie to the northwest. Here are some pictures from DeTour:
So we learned an interesting story while exploring the museum in DeTour. In the early 1880’s, the Moiles Brothers built a sawmill in DeTour to take advantage of the vast timber resources of the area since there was a huge demand for lumber from a growing nation. However, they were not very good businessmen, and by the Spring of 1889 the bank in Buffalo that held their mortgage was about to seize the mill due to non-payment of their debt. So as soon as the ice started to break up in the channel, the Moiles Brothers brought in a tug and two large barges and disassembled the mill – machines, building, and all – and loaded them onto the barges. The next morning, they intended to take them to Canada. Some of the townspeople did not was the sawmill to go, so they tried to telegraph the sheriff to stop them. However, the Moiles Brothers had cut the telegraph lines. Not to be deterred, they sent a young man, Bill Jones, on horseback to Pickford where there was another telegraph station. Upon learning what was happening, the sheriff organized a posse of 20 men and set out by train to St. Ignac and Cherboygan, since the all-water route was still blocked by ice. In Cherboygan they boarded a steamer for DeTour. However, by the time they arrived, the Moiles Brothers and their sawmill were in Canadian waters and beyond the authority of the Americans. Canadian Customs taxed the incoming mill and allowed it to enter the country. The Moiles Brothers then set up the sawmill on John Island, where it continued to operate for many years (no doubt debt-free). There is a museum on St John Island that contains artifacts from the old sawmill.
Sunday was a warm, sunny, and windless day, so we had a pleasant 40 mile passage to Cheboygan, MI, a good sized town for this area, with a movie theater. We couldn’t resist going to see “Jersey Boys” Sunday night – afterwards, we had drinks on the bridge while we downloaded and played Four Season’s songs – the songs “Sherry” and “Rag Doll” are still running through our heads!
Monday dawned cool and cloudy, but we set out mid-morning for Mackinaw Island, 15 miles away. Shortly after we left the harbor, fog closed in. We were crossing a major shipping lane, so we kept a close eye on the radar. By the time we reached Mackinaw, the sun had come out and the rest of the day was sunny and warm. Jerry took his turn at the helm:
Mackinaw Island was an important summer settlement for Native Americans for thousands of years before Europeans arrived, due its rich fishing grounds. After voyageurs arrived in the 1600’s, fur trading grew to dominate activities on the island. By the 1820’s, million of dollars in furs were being traded on Mackinaw every year. When fur trading declined in the 1830’s, fishing came to dominate the economy. After the Civil War, however, Mackinaw became a tourist destination for the wealthier upper class. In 1887, the Grand Hotel was built and Mackinaw became the most fashionable summer retreat for the rich and famous:
In 1875, as development pressures grew, Mackinaw Island was designated by Congress as the nation’s second National Park, just 3 years after Yellowstone was designated as the first. However, in 1895, when US troops withdrew from Fort Mackinaw, the Park was transferred to the state and became Michigan’s first State Park. In 1898, the first automobile was brought onto the island. However, the loud noise, hissing, and backfiring scared several horses, so the carriage drivers got together and petitioned the Town Council to ban automobiles. In a decision that would have lasting impact on the island, the Town Council passed a bylaw on June 6, 1898: “Resolved that the running of horseless carriages be prohibited within the limits on the village of Mackinaw”. To this day, no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island – all transportation is by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage.
The military history of Mackinaw Island is equally rich. Due to its strategic location at the narrow confluence of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, a fort that had been built by the British on the highlands overlooking the strait was an important American position when the War of 1812 broke out. The British occupied a nearby fort just over the border in Canada. Word reached the Canadian fort that war had been declared, but that information had not yet reached the Americans at Fort Mackinaw. The British acted quickly, surprising the Americans:
The Americans attempted to recapture the fort on August 4, 1814 – coincidentally, 200 years to the day when we visited the fort. The Americans suffered heavy casualties and were forced to withdraw and the fort remained in British hands until the Treaty of Ghent was signed ending the War of 1812. To commemorate the battle, a re-enactment was held while we were there:
Here are some pictures of the fort:
Mackinaw Island today is another world. The island is a tourist center, and I’ve never seen so many bicycles in one place. The Village is surprisingly large, with a quaint Main Street and many restaurants, shops, hotels, historic attractions, etc. It has a Disneyesque quality to it, but there are rich, genuine historic sites mixed in as well, since the island was an important crossroads and settlement for Native Americans before European contact and became an important military post and fort as described above. However, many people don’t realize that the vast majority of the island is a beautiful nature preserve, accessible with a network of bicycle and walking trails throughout the island. We spent two days here, but we couldn’t begin to see everything the Island and State Park have to offer in that time period; however, we did cover a lot of ground. Here are some pictures:
On Wednesday, we moved on.
When I sent my first e-mail to family and friends last winter describing the Great Loop trip, I included a crude map of the route. It basically showed that we would run along the coast from Boston to New York, then the rest of the trip looked like a big rectangle, with the upper right hand corner at the St. Lawrence, the upper left hand corner at the northern end of Lake Michigan, the lower left hand corner at Mobile, Alabama, and the lower right hand corner at Florida. So our friend Bill Burke sent back an e-mail which basically said: “So what’s the big deal – you just go down to New York, turn north up the river, then take four left turns, and you’re back in Boston.” So – on Wednesday, we took our second left turn – after heading west through the Mackinaw Strait and under the Mackinaw Bridge, we entered Lake Michigan and started our journey south – another major milestone!
The Mackinaw Bridge is incredible (I know – here I go again…). Connecting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the rest of the state, it took 3 years to build and was opened in 1957. The bridge is 4 miles long, and the center span is the longest span in North America:
Our next stop was Harbor Springs, Michigan, an upscale town on Little Traverse Bay (part of Lake Michigan) with large, stately homes overlooking the lake, an attractive Main Street lined with art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants, and a wonderful sandy beach where we took a refreshing swim in the lake. Here are some pictures from Harbor Springs:
Next stop – Charlevoix!