Close to Closing

We’re just 100 miles or so from De Tour Village in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where the Mainship Many Moons will close the loop — i.e., finish The Great Loop — and then continue a few hundred more miles to her home port. Loopers call this closing of the loop “crossing your wake” because when a boat make a circle, it crosses its own wake. In this case, that circle (loop) is at least 5,400 miles long, more if you choose the longer options or detours. And if you have to travel and from the designated route, as we did, it’s even longer.

By the time Many Moons returns to her home port in Lake Superior, she will have traveled about 6,000 miles at 8.5 mph. She’s been on-the-move for almost a year. It’s hard to believe, and it’s weird to be nearing “The End.”

This sinks in as we spend two nights in a well-maintained marina in the small town of Harrisville on Michigan’s east coast, just two days’ cruise from De Tour. It could be a one-day cruise in the right weather, as we’ve done more than 100 miles in a day before — but the “right weather” is hard to come by on Lake Huron these days. (See previous post.) This horse-and-driver have been hurrying for months to get “back to the barn,” but me…I’m in no rush. Soon I’ll be living on land again, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I can wait a little longer!

I’ll use this pause to register a few more milestones for Many Moons from the past week:

  • Fastest-ever speed: 15 mph, while sliding down the front side of a five-foot wave (maybe it was four but it looked like five to me) and getting pushed from behind. That’s almost twice our normal cruising speed. Jeff spun the helm this way and that to keep the bow going where he wanted it to go. I was grateful for his boat-handling skills and felt inadequate about my own. I hope to never repeat that particular experience.
  • Earliest-ever check-in: Port Austin. After our aborted cruise the previous day due to those high seas, we left Harbor Beach at 0515 for the 30-mile trek up the east coast of Michigan’s thumb to Port Austin, where we checked in at 0900. I promptly took a nap. Stress has a way of tiring a body, once you let yourself feel it.
  • Slowest-ever speed: 3 mph, passing under the Blue Water Bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada. That’s where the waters of Lake Huron squeeze into the St. Clair River. We encountered a similar effect on the Ohio River last fall but didn’t get quite as much push-back.
  • Longest Great Lake crossing while out of sight of land: Saginaw Bay, 26 miles wide at its north end. We’ve done longer cruises on Lake Michigan but weren’t out of land-sight as long. We never lost land-sight on Lake Superior since we stuck closer to shore. (Due to the earth’s curvature, you lose sight of land about three miles out when standing at sea level.)
  • Most unusual buddy-boat: Redemption. Unusual because its crew is two couples, which we haven’t encountered before. I call it our “buddy boat,” even though we haven’t been cruising together, because we met years ago in Michigan and have been tracking each other since Buffalo (N.Y.). We anchored near each other in Erie (Pa.) and are finally at the same port here in Harrisville (Mich.). We plan to leave together tomorrow — weather permitting! — for points north.

Photos and captions of our Saginaw Bay crossing and arrival at Harrisville, below.

The pink dot on top was our destination while crossing Saginaw Bay. (We headed toward land first, to take advantage of its protection.) The other dots are our ports-of-call on Michigan’s thumb; Port Sanilac, Harbor Beach, Port Austin.
When we left Port Austin at 0600, two other Looping boats left behind us. They were much faster than us and passed by us quickly.
The skies were moody as the fast boats passed us in early morning..
Skies began to clear as we crossed Saginaw Bay but I watched them carefully and checked my weather apps too often. This is what happens after you rely on weather-app accuracy (as we did a few days before) and end up in high seas anyway. I’m still not sure if it was an accuracy issue, a miscalculation on our part, or an eagerness to move when the wiser course was to stay put. Possibly a bit of all three. In any case, our eventual crossing was smooth.
As the seas remained calm, we relaxed more and more. The wind did shift to north as predicted but remained light. We were going to make it across in comfort. Yay.
Arriving at the harbor-of-refuge in Harrisville, Mich. A harbor of refuge is a government designation that means “sheltered from heavy seas by land, in which a vessel can navigate and safely moor.” (46 CFR 114.400. CFR = Code of Federal Regulations.)
Many Moons docked behind s seawall in Harrisville.
The setting sun lights up the sailboat masts in the Harrisville marina.
This marina is a great shape, complete with picnic tables along the shoreline.
It even has toiletries baskets in the bathroom, for boaters to share with each other — and a take-one/leave-one library in the boater’s lounge.
We used the free bikes at this marina rather than our own. They were three-wheelers, with baskets on the back…hard to get used to and amusing to use on narrow sidewalks.
Boo seems unimpressed with our pending “crossing-the-wake” milestone. She was off the boat for hours last night but was back by 0400. I think she’s figured out that the boat usually leaves by sunrise. (Good kitty.)
The pink dots show our stops on Lake Erie, the Detroit River, and Lake Huron (so far).
I still take the board out, but not as often as I used to do. My own board popped a leak a few weeks ago (it’s inflatable) and I’m using Jeff’s (also inflatable), which is larger and more cumbersome. It also “catches the wind” easily and we’ve had a lot of wind lately.
The map of The Great Loop. National Geographic called it “the adventure most Americans have never heard about,” or something akin. Well, readers of this blog sure know about it now! See:

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