Beaver Island, Michigan

Now it is September and it is time to think about the end of the season. September 3rd still found us in St. Ignace,  Michigan and approximately 250 miles from home port in Grand Haven, Michigan. Some that live in Michigan are thinking, it’s not that far, but this is by water and I took my mileage from the cruising guide that follows the coast. I already took out the additional 100 miles that would be covered if we went into Grand Traverse Bay to Traverse City. We can talk about that bay later, now we are going to focus on St. Ignace to Beaver Island and our adventures around the island while waiting for winds to settle.

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I watch the weather a lot while in the harbors we stay. I look at winds and waves and rain and waves. The Great Lakes are different from oceans. Wind driven “swells” on oceans can be huge. But compared to the Great Lakes they are relatively” far apart. Instead of “swells” we have “rollers”. “Rollers are close together because the lakes are not as big as oceans. Just not as much room to develop. Trust me it’s different.

There are plenty of web sites that give forecasts of weather. I primarily use NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for wave heights and wind directions. What we have to take into consideration is when NOAA says its going to have 2-3 foot waves it doesn’t include the “rollers”.  We could get into comparisons of oceans and lakes and size and distance between wave troughs and crests. But to keep this where we all enjoy the reading I will just say that usually when NOAA says 2-3 foot waves with winds at 10+ knots out of the West – Southwest for more than a day the waves will be 2-3 foot high, but they will be included with rollers 3-4 foot high with an occasional 5 footer. What makes it bad is they are close together, meaning that in the space of 46 feet there can be 2 or 3 four-foot waves either lifting the front of the boat up to crash down into the next wave or letting the front come down the wave into the front of the wave to make the boat plow through the next wave. Lets just say it makes for an uncomfortable ride. Worse if the waves are coming from the side of the boat and making it rock side to side. At times the wind is out of one direction and the waves from the wind coming from one way and rollers coming from another. Dearest says it makes the boat “hula hoop”. Not a fun ride.

Lets just say one of my main jobs while cruising is to avoid these conditions. But sometimes it is just impossible.

We left St. Ignace and headed for the Straights of Mackinac and under the Mackinac Bridge. I can say I’ve been under and over the bridge. Not a great accomplishment but one that a lot of people haven’t done. Once out into the straits the waves are right on the nose of the boat or coming from due  west. We are traveling southwest so we angle into the waves to get the smoothest ride. Not going to happen today. I had hoped to stay within the lee of the land and keep it as smooth as possible but the wind has changed enough to make that impossible. What we do is add power and speed. We move into the waves and with the extra speed lift the boat a little more out of the water. The boat doesn’t lift too much more, it weighs 40,000 pounds (not quite 20,000 kg). Whether this makes a real difference or not it makes a difference in our minds and we move from 8 knots to 16 knots, and that gets us either in the lee of an island or off the water sooner. In this case in the lee of Hog and Garden Islands just to the north of Beaver Island. Once tucked in behind the islands the waves got smaller. There was still wind but not like before. It made for a much nicer ride and I was able to get Toots, the dog, off my lap.

Beaver Island is the largest Island in Lake Michigan. It has a population that lives on the island all year round, and you get there by boat, or airplane. The main harbor is on the northeast end at St. James. Islanders are an independent breed. They have to be able to live as secluded a life as this. At dinner we overheard a local tell someone, “The island has 9 months of winter and 3 months of relations.” We had arrived after the Labor Day weekend and most of the residents were ready for the tourist season to be over with and to have their island back to themselves.

I’m not saying people weren’t helpful, but if they didn’t want to, they didn’t. Here’s an example; I posted that we were tied up safe on Beaver Island on Facebook and received a reply from a friend that he had an old car in storage and if we could get the guy to pull it out we could use it. I called the gentleman and explained the situation. We were weathered in and had a car offered. His answer was “Not gonna happen on this short notice.” so we looked into rental. Didn’t realize the same man ran the rentals. No luck there either. I figured we were on foot until a lady at a store asked if we tried the other rental. “What other rental?” “Down at the marina across from the grocery store. Would you like the phone number?” Back in business.

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After phone messages were returned I was picked up at the Municipal Marina and brought back to fill out the papers. Now we are ready to explore. The harbor master asked if we had any idea of what we were looking for. My answer was that we had heard of a “Big “F”ing tree and a Big “F”ing rock”.

His answer, “There is more on the island than those “F”ing things.” So with a copied map of the island, cameras, camera phones, and water for us and Toots we headed out on another adventure.

Heading southwest out of St James we looked at the map and saw “Protar’s Tomb”. Our first question, “Who the Hell is Protar?” We found out.

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On we went in search of the Big “F”ing tree and rock.

And then there was the tree.

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Here is something for size perspective.

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That’s a big birch. We each had a turn.

Now onward to find the rock.

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That’s not so big. I guess the story is that the road was going through and the rock was supposed to be moved. But, what is showing is only the beginning. Most of the rock is underneath the ground. Like an iceberg most is not shown.

From the rock and tree we headed south and found Miller’s Marsh

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Out of the south central part of the island and back to the coast we found Beaver Head light house.2013 Mom's Beaver Island 0772013 Mom's Beaver Island 098

View from the top. Mom is claustrophobic so wasn’t up there very long and the steps were difficult also.

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Makes you dizzy just looking at them.

Back into town and a refreshment stop at “Donagal Dan’s”. There is a large Irish population on the island, or, they just like to think they are all Irish.

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I’m not suppose to drink so this was staged. I wonder how that O’Hara’s Irish Red tasted?

Really the people at the pub and restaurant were very helpful. We got there in between times that the kitchen was open and they set us up with some munchies and drinks, then told us to make sure we were on time for diner.

From here we traveled on back north past the town of St. James and past the Beaver Island light house.

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That’s it on the far left. It is in the process of being restored. The buildings with the red roof used to be Life Saving Stations and now belong to the Central Michigan University, and are used as fishing and biological research facilities.

Around the corner we watched this eagle fly in and perch in the tree. Good luck for us.

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Now at the North end of the island the road heads back to the west and the sunset. The end of a long day of exploring.

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Next up Charlevoix and points south on the way back to home port, Grand Haven.


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