Friday, August 9, 2013

Mackinac Island to Petoskey and Leland

Our original plan after leaving Mackinac Island was a couple of days at Beaver Island, which leads me to the topic of planning marina stops as we head southbound along the western shoreline of Michigan.  This could be helpful if you are traveling the Lake Michigan shoreline, or BOOORRRIIINNNGGGG if not.  If you are not interested, just jump down to where the pictures start!  I do that a lot myself.

We had always heard that the beauty of boating the Michigan shoreline is that there are ample stops every 20 to 40 miles, they all use a state-run reservation system, and if you don’t have a reservation you can duck in anywhere, and they have to accept you in these "harbors of refuge."  Well, apparently we misunderstood what we thought we heard.  We’re about a third of the way down the shoreline now at Leland, and here’s how we understand it now.  (We hope this is helpful for those behind us on the Loop).

  1. There are two groups of marinas.  Those that operate on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reservation system and those not in that group.
  2. The DNR system gives total priority to their online or toll-free phone reservation system. Reservations can be made 6 months in advance, so it appears to us that there are probably some “forgotten” reservations that would free up space for a lot of short-notice transient boaters like us.  I think there is a $4 cancellation charge if you have to cancel or don’t show up.
  3. For the online system, you simply have to register, get an account and password, follow the directions, and make your reservation.  For the phone-in system, be prepared to wait about 20 minutes to talk to someone. 
  4. If you opt not to use this advance reservation system, you can call the marina direct on the day you want a slip, and they will fit you in if there is anything left. (The problem with making a reservation in advance is that the weather seems to change several times a day here, and the weather forecasts can vary drastically!)  The DNR system says that the harbormasters should be able to tell you what is available after 8 AM Mon-Fri and after 9 AM on Sat and Sun.  That has not been the case for us – none would guarantee anything until after noon or 1 PM.  The problem with this is that Lake Michigan is a huge body of water and can jump up and eat your lunch in a heartbeat.  So, as the conservative boaters that we are (and one of the reasons Rhonda has chosen to remain married to me), we do not like heading out into a 40-mile stretch of Lake Michigan waters not knowing if we have a place to stop, with nowhere to go but another 20 to 40 miles to the next marina, not knowing if we have a place to stop, etc. etc., which brings me to the harbors of refuge policy.
  5. Not all of the marinas are designated as harbors of refuge, so be sure you understand which ones are in that group.  These harbors are required by Michigan law to accept you regardless of availability, and they have to provide you the best means of security and safety they can offer.  They are usually designated as harbors of refuge because of strategic location (long distance from the next stop) or as the result of federal/state money received for construction of facilities, breakwaters, etc.  I just spoke with the harbormaster here, and he says it’s a killer for them here at Leland because too many boaters expect accommodation and don’t even bother to call to check availability.  They just show up as did the last 3 that just arrived here and a 47-footer that just called without a reservation.  Six-foot waves are forecast for this evening so “here they come.”
  6. The marinas not in the DNR reservation system are a mixed bag of nuts.
    1. Some require a reservation with non-refundable payment in advance.  That was the case with Beaver Island so we chose not to go there – too many variables in boating to pay that kind of money and possibly never get there.
    2. Some will make a reservation with an obvious understanding that you may have to cancel due to weather, mechanical problems, etc.  So far, those have not required a deposit in advance.  Most of these seem to want to wait until after noon to commit to a slip for you.
    3. Some will not make a reservation or commit until you are pulling into the marina. 
All that to say this – it’s a bit hard to plan.  Just be sure you understand the above before you cast off lines and “assume” you have somewhere to go. So far all of the marinas in Michigan have been first-class stops.

Instead of Beaver Island, we passed through Grey's Reef and headed for Petoskey, and a great choice it was.  We called well in advance, they assured us that they had plenty of slips, and the town is first class.  In our typical mode of operation, we got docked and headed out for a bicycle tour of the town.  We needed a couple of things from West Marine which was only a few blocks away.  We got a recommendation for dinner at the City Park Grill and it was outstanding.  I needed a meat and potatoes "lift" so I got the 16-oz ribeye special.  No, I did not eat the whole thing in one sitting!

And these always crack us up - things that "probably" happened or have been "rumored or reported to have occurred."  It's kind of like there is nothing historic here so let's make something up!  By the way, it's been reported that Larry The Cable Guy spent some time on "Help Me Rhonda" a couple of months ago and ............well, you can make it up as good as we can!

Flowers are everywhere in Petoskey.  Lots of the bridges have planters as was the case so often in Canada.

We have become admirers of the evergreen trees in this part of the country - beautiful.

This bike statue is particularly appropriate.  Petoskey has a 36-mile long bike trail that follows the shoreline here from Harbor Springs to Charlevoix (the "voix" is pronounced "voy").  Petoskey is about the mid-point of the "Little Traverse Wheelway."

There is a large clock tower here at the marina that sounds (clangs) on the hour and half-hour.  It is actually positioned straight up but maybe the wind was blowing hard when whoever took this picture took it.  It is "rumored" to be Rhonda.  Very pretty at night.

Originally we planned to bike 3 miles to the little town of Bay Harbor rather than going there by boat, but after reading that the Petoskey State Park with a beach was only 5 miles away, we headed in the direction of Harbor Springs (10 miles away) instead. There was a nice waterfall right after we got on the trail.

There were miles of Victorian style homes along the way, especially in the community of Bay View.  This one was more of a cottage and was particularly charming to us - the stone walls and the yellow trim were pretty.

We finally made our way to the beach, and even though we had read about the beaches in Michigan, we just did not appreciate how pretty they would be until we saw them.  As we have already noted, the water here is as clear or clearer than any we have seen and the beaches have a very soft sand.

 Some of the sand dunes along the shoreline are 400 feet tall - the most impressive ones are still south of us.

Rhonda likes this colorful home we spotted on the way back to the marina, but complained that the power lines should be somewhere else so as not to mess up her picture!!  It is possible that Thomas Edison had the wire placed there just to irritate her.

We left Petoskey and headed south for Charlevoix, a very popular stop.  According to the reservation system, they had a slip available, but according to the dockmaster, he would not be able to commit anything to us until 1 PM, so we had no choice but to continue on.  The fact that Charlevoix's city water was contaminated from the previous day's storm also helped in our decision making. E-coli and boating don't go together. About 10 miles after we had passed Charlevoix, they called to tell us they had a slip available (aggravating).  It is reported and is probable that the DNR reservation system does not work so well.

Northport guaranteed us a slip but it was a little out of the way for us, so we called and got on the waiting list for Leland.  Leland is not in the reservation system, and they later reported that several of the boats had decided to leave, and they would be able to accommodate us.  Here's an aerial view of Leland.

And here's a little gem that we were not expecting.  It is rumored that James Bond rode in this as a test vehicle and precursor to the more advanced cars we have seen in the 007 series.

Here it is on land.

Leland is a big tourist stop and is known for "Fishtown" (and possibly experimental testing for 007 vehicles). As early as 1880, commercial fishermen sailed out of the harbor to catch trout and whitefish, building wooden shacks where they processed their catch and serviced their fleet. Up to eight powered tugs once sailed out of "Fishtown," as the buildings came to be known. Today, the historic fishing settlement and two fish tugs, Joy and Janice Sue, are owned by a non-profit organization, the Fishtown Preservation Society. Fishtown is home to a working fishery and a thriving charter fishing business. The riverfront is lined by a boardwalk and quaint shacks that have been converted into tourist shops.  There is a possibility that the above paragraph was copied from Wickepedia.

Is it possible that this is overkill?  I mean just how many fishing lines can one boat handle?

Leland has its share of flowers and a nice beach also.

The owner of this boat collects and maintains old outboard motors.  Mr. Evinrude at "The Pool" would be proud.  He had a 3rd one on the back of his big boat to which the dinghy is reported to be attached.

This is an interesting way to warn tourists of poison ivy.  Not sure that something along the lines of  post-it notes is an effective method.

Rhonda found a large and assorted group of ceramic tiles, the favorite of which was of course, a cow.

She also found a sandwich shop, The Village Cheese Shanty, that is known on the Food Network. There is usually a line out the door for these great sandwiches. It is possible that some of these sandwiches are healthy for you, but not probable.  

And this takes us back to Petoskey, which is home of the Michigan State Rock, the Petoskey stones.  They are coral fossils and are very expensive if you buy them in Petoskey, much, much cheaper if you buy them in Leland, which is reported to be what Rhonda did. (Galen, not only are we picking up rocks, we are now paying for them. Just a warning for when you get back to the boat.)

Rhonda found many other beautiful and varied rocks that are common to Michigan.  Becky, if you and Galen ever catch up with us again, Rhonda might be willing to share.

The Leland Marina has a nice long porch with numerous rocking chairs pointed in the direction of the sunset. 

 It is rumored that there will be another sunset about the same time and place tomorrow evening.

The underwater lights on this boat show the beauty of the water here.  Makes for a nice picture also.

We hope to continue southbound tomorrow, weather permitting, to Frankfort.

By the way, I've compiled the above in the lobby by the marina office to get decent WIFI coverage and now know the truth about the harbor of refuge program.  I can report to you that it is probable and extremely likely that it doesn't work as advertised.  Once enough boats without reservations piled in here to get out of the high seas, the manager started calling boats that had reservations for this evening to tell them that he had no room for them. He clarified that he could not turn them away and would accept them, but the reality was that he had no room for them.  They all went somewhere else, possibly and probably with a very bad attitude.  And that my friends is  "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Michigan."  

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