Hometown Visit With Sid


Have you ever noticed how two trajectories can meet unexpectedly in your life? That’s how it was when we joined Looping Sid on a visit to my hometown this week.

We met Sid in North Carolina in late March just before entering The Great Dismal Swamp. We were more than 4,000 miles into The Great Loop and he had just started. We liked him right away. He was sometimes cruising alone and sometimes with scheduled partners. In spite of those complications, he’s easy-going.

We traveled the Dismal Swamp together, trawler and catamaran, and parted ways after Norfolk. We tracked him as he headed north into Canada while we took the Erie Canal. Our paths intersected again in Sault Ste Marie, where Canada and the U.S. meet, at the eastern end of Lake Superior.

And this week, about 2,000 underway-miles after we met, we joined Sid again on a visit to my hometown in western Lake Superior.

Great Loop-meets-hometown. Unexpected, because Lake Superior isn’t on The Loop. (Sid is making a detour on his way to the Mississippi, where he’ll rejoin the Loop route.) And fun, because I think of The Loop as one thing and my hometown as another. (I left my small hometown after high school.) In my head, they don’t meet.

And yet, they did. Photos and captions of the port visit to Hancock/Houghton by Many Moons and Tranquility, below.

It sure felt good to be under way again on Many Moons, flying her gold burgee (meaning she’s completed The Great Loop.) This feeling was unexpected, too. I was SO ready to leave this boat a month ago! Sometimes you just need a “time-out.”
Sid on his sailing cat Tranquility entering the Portage Canal, which intersects the Keweenaw Peninsula and passes by my hometown. Camp Many Moons, on the shores of Huron Bay, is about 25 underway-miles from this spot. Many Moons has been anchored there since completing The Great Loop. Sid told us when he was heading our way. We met him at the mouth of Huron Bay and cruised the rest of the 40 miles together. Navigation skills intact! 🙂
Tranquility and Many Moons bow-to-bow at the free wall in Houghton, on the Portage Canal.
Jeff and Sid getting reacquainted in front of a waterfront mural. Nana the golden-doodle travels with Sid.
Like many small towns we saw on The Loop, Houghton has improved its waterfront in many ways – including these wonderful murals that depict local history. Can you see the sauna scene? (When I was a kid, our sauna was in the basement.) You also see mining scenes. The first mineral boom of the U.S. happened here. Copper.
Many Moons at the wall in front of the Hancock-Houghton lift bridge. I recall riding that bridge up and down at least once when I was a kid. I assume I “snuck on” because it’s hard to believe they would have allowed it. (Certainly not today!)
A Viking cruise visited, the first cruise ship here in decades. This is its tender. (The ship was too large to dock here, so anchored out a few miles away.) Some of the locals seemed upset to see cruise ships back. But it’s good for the economy and the visitors were super-polite. I remember a very large ship, the South American, visiting regularly when I was a kid. We used to run to an overlook to watch it go by.
One tour group from the cruise ship stopped for a briefing right in front of Many Moons. I enjoyed listening to the guide’s explanation of local history and national impact.
Sid and I took a tour of the Quincy Mine and Hoist. The mine shafts descended almost two miles into the earth. (We went down less than 400 feet.) This tram took us from the top of the hill down to the mine entrance, at a 30% grade. It looks like we’ll land right on the lift bridge, doesn’t it!
This is just one of many mine entrances. This mine produced almost 730 million pounds of copper from 1856 to 1925, serving America’s industrial and domestic needs. (Copper wire, bronze, etc.)
Our guide, an alum of Michigan Technological University, explains how minerals are created by the action of rock and water. (This rock is about 2 billion years old.) Houghton is best-known as the home of MTU, one of the nation’s top small universities. It began as a mining college. Both my brothers studied there. (I went 100 miles away, to a less daunting university. Technology wasn’t exactly “my thing.” Still isn’t, though I manage!)
The mine was cold…about 43 degrees…and wet.
The guide turned off the lights to show us how early miners did it–by candlelight. They used sledge hammers in these conditions! No wonder the casualty rate was once about 30%. (And, no wonder my grandfather didn’t stay long. He was a copper miner here shortly after arriving from Finland. He soon shifted to farming.)
After more than an hour underground, it was a relief to reenter the sunlight.
Many Moons is parked behind the Viking ship’s tender, Tranquility behind us. The white covers over the windshield helps reduce the heat of the sun and adds privacy. (The boat behind Tranquility has a large gash in its bow and a scrape along its side. It’s been there for weeks. Nobody we talked to knew who owns it, or how it got that way.)
Very cool that they left the tree here when building this pedestrian dock.
Flowers are in full-bloom in August. The blooming season is short here on the 47th parallel! (We are at about the same latitude as Seattle and the northern tip of Maine.)
During our two nights at the Houghton wall, we saw a variety of watercraft pass under the lift bridge — including this sailing ship replica we couldn’t identify.
This ship we knew. It’s the brig Niagara, homeported in Erie, Pa. We visited it at its homeport two months ago! What’s it doing here? (Read the fascinating history of the Niagara here.)
Jeff’s brother arrived in his boat, also homeported in Huron Bay, and joined Jeff and Sid (and Sid’s current boating partner) for waterfront conversation while Nana chills out nearby.
I never tire of this bridge. Like so many things that you grow up with, I didn’t appreciate its beauty when I lived here.
Houghton-Hancock Lift Bridge at night, as seen from our berth.

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