Back in Michigan! (Motor City)


We’re sitting in a marina in downtown Detroit, hearing music from all directions and from various vehicles…cars, boats, motorcycles, bicycles, scooters…a constant musical parade going by! Plus the sounds of a live concert nearby. This city sure loves its music. (I guess that’s why it’s also called MoTown?) There’s a prominent but friendly police presence here and our marina is secure so we feel very safe. We took our bikes to a store, then rode Detroit’s impressive Riverwalk, then sat by the nearby outdoor amphitheater to watch the parade of people in various forms of dress – and undress! (Maybe I’m a prude. 😄) Everyone seems happy and polite, and it’s been more entertaining than irritating, but one evening in Motor City/Motown will be enough…at least on the weekend.

I’ve been to Detroit often, on trips with my family. Dad made the eight-hour trek here from our home in the Upper Peninsula to visit his brother and attend big church meetings. (He was in demand because of his ability to do simultaneous translation of sermons from Finnish to English, or vice versa, “back in the day” when sermons were given in both languages.) But we never saw this side of Detroit. I wonder what he would think of it. Nothing good, I assume! Though he may be pleased at how clean it is, compared to the 60s and 70s. I wonder how it was in the 40s and 50s, when many of my elder relatives – including my mom – came here to work for awhile.

We hoped to anchor out tonight after two nights in a marina, but anchorages on the Detroit River are hard to find. It’s ok with me. I’m pleased to be in the William Milliken State Park Marina. Milliken served as Michigan’s governor for many years. I interviewed him privately in his office at the state capitol in the 1980s while a budding broadcast journalist. I felt a bit intimated by the trappings of his office — but by that time had done a private interview with First Lady Roslyn Carter and a brief one with then-Vice President Bush. When you’re a small-town journalist, such opportunities drop into your lap! There’s not a lot of competition.

How strange it feels to be back in Michigan, where we started this journey almost a year and 5,600 miles ago. But then, these Michigan waters are strange to me and we still have nearly 800 miles left before Many Moons returns to her home port in western Lake Superior.

It took us 8.5 hours to travel 56 miles today as the current of the Detroit River pushed against us. Photos and captions below of our cruise from the Bass Islands in western Lake Erie up to Detroit.

As we left Middle Bass Island State Park Marina behind, we were sad to leave our friends on Rachel Ann. We traveled with them through most of the Erie Canal and Lake Erie. They’re selling their boat–that pretty red Ranger Tug–and won’t have any trouble doing so. What an adventurous and fun couple!
The water was mirror-calm as we passed the winery ruins on Middle Bass Island – a good omen for the long trek to Detroit. I had a “bad stomach” and slept only 5 hours last night so wouldn’t be much help for awhile. (You have “bad days” on a boat, just like at home, and usually find a way to muscle through them.)
And this little critter on our eisenglass reminded me that the mayflies are still with us. (See last post.) Female mayflies live just minutes while the males live a few days. They spend this brief time reproducing. They may “bug” us but they’re good for fish and fishermen. Or so I’m told.
This light marked our initial entry into the long Detroit River — and, soon, the Michigan border!
The Detroit River is 28 miles long and flows southward from Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie. I was at the helm when we first encountered its turbulence and it was hard to keep the boat going straight – partly because the current (pushing us southward) competed with the wind (pushing us northward). It’s been awhile since we’ve dealt with conditions like that.
We read that this waterway is one of the busiest in the world but didn’t see much commercial traffic other than this barge and one cargo ship.
This lighthouse marked the Detroit River’s dividing channel. Channels multiply in this area, and we needed to pay attention to make sure we didn’t stray into Canada. What would happen if we did? Probably nothing, but it’s been a confusing year or two for boaters on the border. We do know we should not anchor in Canadian waters without permission. (We may be good friends, but we’re still different countries.)
The green arrow here represents Many Moons, staying just inside the international border.
It was nice to see the Michigan Trader pass by. Yes, it does feel good to be back in Michigan!
The Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor is the busiest international border in the U.S. See all the trucks?
Detroit’s skyline is quite beautiful through the window….
On this hot Friday, the pleasure traffic is not yet out…but it would come out later.
Many Moons tied up in William Milliken State Park Harbor Marina in downtown Detroit.
We’ve been seeing Canada geese for months. This guy was busy eating seaweed inside the marina.
The marina is marked by a lighthouse at the entrance. That’s Windsor, Canada across the river.
Detroit’s Riverwalk is truly impressive, and well-used on this Friday evening. I noticed several bi-racial teams of policemen -(one white and one black) patrolling on foot…a wise move by the local police chief in a city that’s seen its share of racial tension. We didn’t notice any such tension during our short visit. We were in the racial minority here, but greeted everywhere in an open and friendly manner.
A cargo ship passes by on the Detroit River, Windsor’s waterfront casinos in the background.
We smelled wafts of marijuana regularly while exploring. I know it’s legal now but I’m still not used to it. These popular peddle-taxis advertised why it’s apparently a good thing…!
Nightime view from our downtown marina.

3 thoughts on “Back in Michigan! (Motor City)

  1. Mary, when you leave port in the morning , I would suggest that you all hang to the right. The current is strong in the channel until you get to lake Huron . Close to the Canadian shore is much better. I was on Beachfront. There is a very eclectic bar in Port Sanilac in the back yard of an antique store that was amazing.

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    1. Hi Terry! We are in Port Huron tonight. Indeed you are right, the current was strong. Hope to head to Port Sanilac tomorrow, so your comment is timely! Hope you are well.

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    2. Hey Terry! Your advice was very timely as we left Port Huron to head into Lake Huron. What a current! We did go to that “eclectic bar” in Port Sanilac last night. Memorable indeed!

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