Door County, Wisconsin

Warning: It’s a long one

We entered Door County Wisconsin thru the Sturgeon Bay Canal from Lake Michigan. We had completed our first Lake Michigan crossing from Manistee Michigan without much problem. Just a slight wind and rollers of 2-3 feet moving from south to north on the lake. We cruised at about 10 knots or almost 12 mph. I had measured on the chart the distance from Manistee to the Red buoy at the entrance of the Sturgeon Bay canal at about 68 miles so figured a trip of 5 ½ hours. When I checked the time I was surprised to find it had only taken a little over 4 hours, I forgot the time change and the phone changes automatically. Duh.

Entering the canal we realized that there is a good distance yet to go before the town of Sturgeon Bay. There are marinas on both sides of the bay. Now the decision had to be made. We had decided that we wanted to stay on the North side of the bay to be closer to the town proper. Dearest began her calling for price and availability Prices varied between $1.65 per foot and $2.00 per foot. Our waterway guide being 2009 still had phone numbers and after a while we decided upon Stone Harbor, a city run marina on the north side and with a lower cost.

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After some confusion as to the marina’s location We found ourselves missing the bridge opening and waiting in front of the Palmer Johnson facility with plenty of time to watch the fitting out of large futuristic, gold-colored yacht. The yacht was the talk of the harbor, rumored to have been purchased by a person of Russian decent and now living in Texas, the cost is supposed to be in excess of 50 million US dollars. With something like this there are lots of stories, but most confirmed the Russian and the approximate cost.


What we found upon entering the Stone Harbor Marina was tight conditions, floating docks and no one available to help with docking. We managed the tight conditions but were having difficulty getting a line on a cleat from almost 4 feet above the dock. Cynthia use a “Mom voice” and hailed a dock worker for help. He hadn’t seen us come into the marina. I personally found that a little hard to believe, no tip for him.

Floating docks give us a problem because we are about 4 feet higher than the dock itself. We remedied the height difference with a set of folding steps that make it easy to get on and off the boat. I usually strap a bungee around a dock cleat and then to the ladder to add some stability to the steps. Later that afternoon I saw a gentleman interested in my steps and asked if I could help him. He said he had the same problem with his boat and was curious as to where I purchased the steps. I have my name and phone number engraved and marked on the ladder and he noticed the 616 area code. “Are you from the Grand Rapids area?” he asked. I replied “Grand Haven” “I live in Spring Lake.” For those that don’t live know my local home port Spring Lake is just across the river from Grand Haven. We began to talk more of the home area than the ladder. I turned out that he is a member of the Spring Lake Yacht Club and also Muskegon Yacht Club. Knew my and knew of my nephew Scotty Miller. Can I remember his name now? Know way. But we passed the evening talking with him and his friend.

The next day we began our cruise up the western side of Door County and headed toward Egg Harbor, only a few hours north of Sturgeon Bay. We had contacted the municipal marina and advised they would have space for us at the end of the gas dock, if that was OK with us. The water was smooth and the views of the coast very nice. It made for an easy run. We were met at the dock by an attendant and being the lowest price for fuel I’ve seen, $3.64 for diesel, we topped off the tanks and pumped the head.
The location was fine for us close to the office and a short walk to town.

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Our waterway guide-book told us of a good grocery just a short walk from the marina, however, it doesn’t say its up a very steep hill. The climb was quite the excercise for all of us. But it was worth the climb. At the top is a terraced amphitheater and park. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the city the park was full of sculptures of eggs. Not the brightest bulb, it took me a while before I put it together Egg Harbor, egg sculptures, Oh I get it. Another Duh moment.

That evening there was music in the park. A couple played an amazing range of music that included, bluegrass, jazz, children’s tunes, pop, gospel, folk and even music from the PBS series “The Civil War”. It was a very pleasant evening.

In the morning Toots and I walked the opposite direction from the grocery store an found a bakery. Fresh goods were brought back to the boat that morning.
Being a small popular area we were not able to stay longer to explore more and moved on up the peninsula to Sister Bay.

A much larger marina we tied up on an outer pier and were helped by two dock attendants that after helping get us in the slip gave us a little background about the area and directions to the office. We ran into a few boaters that we saw in Egg Harbor and a quick boaters moving community began. Nothing serious but we spoke and shared stories of the different marinas. I was able to gather a lot of information in these non-formal chats along the docks. Toots is always helpful in starting a conversation. People want to know what breed of dog she is and Toots loves the attention.

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As with all of Door county, Sister Bay is a vacation destination and the area makes the best of it. The town of Sister Bay has many eating and drinking establishments, a beautiful park just down from the marina and a large green way for walking the dog. We were able to stay a couple of days in Sister Bay and we did do a little exploring. I pulled Cynthia’s bike off the boat and she made a trip around town checking things out while I stayed with Toots and kept our walks a little closer to the home base. Toot’s range of walking is getting smaller with her getting older. When she gets tired she just sits down and refuses to move for a while. It is OK I’m like that also.

Sister Bay was an enjoyable stop. When it was my night to cook I borrowed Cynthia’s bike and rode up to Husby’s restaurant for Pizza. Husby’s was suggested as the best local pizza by the marina employees. Again it mostly up hill and with some small sidewalks plenty of traffic and lots of people walking it made sense for me to just walk the bike the last block. It seemed people got a kick out of seeing me strap a 16” pizza onto the basket and head back down the hill toward the boat. Traffic wasn’t moving very fast through town so I got in the lane and rode along with them. I made it back on my downhill run in record time and with still warm pizza.

With the low docks and Toots not sure of the ladder/steps we have a regular routine that we follow for getting on and off the boat. Toots waits by the entry of the back deck and I get off the boat lean into the walk way and have her come out. I usually help her under the life lines and down to the dock. Sometimes the routine gets a little out of whack. Toots decided to jump off the boat before I was ready and went into the water between the boat and the dock. Unhurt she started to swim to the wall and look for a way out. I ended up on another boats swim platform pulling her out of the water. We were offered plenty of help and after many people asked if she was OK. She was fine and enjoyed the cool dip, and later followed it up with some wading at the boat ramp. While she recovered fast it took me an hour or so to get my heart to settle back to its usual rhythm. Lots of friendly people were concerned for a stranger and his dog and we all were closer afterward.

We left Sister Bay and passed the Sister Islands, still heading north. The shoreline of Door County stops abruptly with some impressive bluffs with rock cliffs that ended right at the water’s edge. Less than a ¼ mile off shore and in 100 plus feet of water. Our destination this day was Washington Island. But first we had to pass Portes Des Morts Passage, “Death’s Door” a route between the island and the peninsula that was at one time very difficult for sailing ships to get through. Wind and waves funnel through the area and can make for a difficult passage through the inlet. We had no problem and were able to follow the ferry into the harbor at Washington Island.



IMG_6441We stayed at Kap’s Marina and stepped back into the 50’s. A family owned and operated facility Kap’s gives you the feel of the old style motor court. We were greeted upon entering the small harbor by father and son. Directed to stern in but not to far because it gets shallow fast. Kap’s is an older style facility with limited amenities but the bath

houses were better than what I expected. Definitely do-it-yourself upgrades but still pretty clean and up to date.

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We had heard that Will, the owner and father, could be cantankerous and was not liked by many. I found him to remind me of good friends back home. We got along well, swapped stories and I found out that he was stationed at Navy Pier in Chicago at the same time as my oldest brother. More small world coincidences.

Washington Island is accessed by ferry that run through out the day. Not as fancy as the Mackinac Island ferry, these carry vehicles, but just as many. There is a constant flow of ferries entering and leaving the harbor. I wondered where all the cars and people were going. Where we stayed it was quiet and not crowded.

Being a 3 mile bike ride into the small town I ventured out in search of the Post Office to mail some of Cynthia’s post cards. I swear it was uphill all the way. I followed the directions on my phone map but could not find a Post Office and when I got to the grocery store it was closed. The only thing that kept me going was the smell of grilling chicken wafting on the air. Finally I turned around and admitting defeat headed back toward the boat. I stopped at a gas station to see if they might have milk, but it was also closed. While taking a break and chatting with some others a nice lady came out of a gift shop and offered to just put the post cards in her mailbox and they would be picked up tomorrow. “Just remember to put the flag up” “You got it and thanks again.”

We stayed another day due to rain a lot of wind. The rain passed early but left us with 20 mph plus winds and water that we didn’t need to travel upon that day. This gave Toots and I time to walk the area around Kap’s, the ferry dock, the Coast Guard Station and the business area at that end of the island. And gave Cynthia time to take another bike ride. She covered much the same route as I did, but only without as much stress. Her bike must be better than mine. She did meet the same woman who let me leave the postcards in her mailbox. They hit it off with much in common and Cynthia arrived back at the boat with items that will be sent home for Christmas.

A couple of stops that need to be done if going to the island are the Ships Wheel restaurant and The Island Outpost company. The restaurant is part of Kap’s Marina and owned and operated by the same family. I walked in one night and there was Will the matriarch, at the sink doing dishes. Island Outpost has fishing supplies clothing and things you might need. Quality goods at fair prices. Both Cynthia and I found shoes and some other items that will be sent home for the Yule time.

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That’s as far north as we traveled on the Door Peninsula. Our travels were limited to a small area around the different marinas. But we met some very nice people and learned many useful ideas about places to stay and things that we could do even with the dog.
As we leave Washington Island we begin to head south or really southeast toward Menominee, Michigan, But that’s another story

Until next time; when some one says “how do you do?” let them know but then ask them the same “and you?” You will be surprised at their answer. They will be surprised that you asked.


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