Next stop, Erie, Pa. where we anchored out in a wonderful bay protected by the state park peninsula. The next day, off to Geneva On The Lake where we spent a week watching the walleye charters come in with boat loads of fish. The town is a charming place, firmly grounded in 1964.
Sandusky is our next stop where we cruised past the roller coasters at Cedar Point into Sandusky Harbor Marina. Another surprise, in that the facilities were over the top well done. Outdoor grills under a pavilion and restrooms that looked like the lobby of a brand new Hilton. Here we left the boat and rented a car to attend my grandson Zach’s high school graduation in Michigan. What a great time catching up with family and hearing him talk about his dreams of becoming a surgeon.
With separation anxiety sneaking into our consciousness we hustled back to Shangri-La. One of the great things about boating in Lake Erie is the wildlife. There’s really nothing quite like waking up in the morning and sipping coffee while looking over the transom at the swim deck to discover snakes, yes plural, curled up in the morning sun. Nothing like it. While Jan watched from the dock, I teased one off the swim platform, only to realize he’d crawled inside the exhaust pipe. Arrggghhhh!! My 8 channel IMax imagination already has him trying to get through the turbocharger into Sarah, the starboard engine.
No choice but to fire it up and hope the fumes chase him out. And he does come out – only to turn around and scoot right back inside. Apparently black snakes also love the smell of diesel in the morning. Finally, he made his way out and plopped into the the bay. Later that day, we learned another boat, with owners out of town for a bit, was found to have six snakes inside when they returned. That scene from Indiana Jones came to mind and I could only imagine the fun those snakes had watching the owners reactions.
Next up Vermillion, Oh. The docks are right downtown so once again we are convenient to anything we need to provision as well as nice waterfront restaurants.
For a side trip, we motored out to Kelly’s Island for one night before continuing on to Toledo. Quiet and really well kept, we tooled around in a golf cart enjoying the views from each part of the island. Kelly’s Island is very near Put-in-Bay. We elected to skip Put-in-Bay. I spent 8 Spring Breaks in Panama City, FL and when my liver heard we were near Put-in-Bay it nearly jumped ship.
Toledo would be our last stop in Lake Erie and here we were able to meet up with Jan’s son and his family for a Fourth of July celebration and some time ashore. We were joined by another couple, Don and Mary, close friends for the journey from Toledo to Bay City, Mi.
Leaving Toledo on July 4 we expected heavy boat traffic in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, but other than being chased by a couple of freighters north bound – it was a delightful ride to Jefferson Beach Marina. We were joined there by a hunting and fishing buddy Rob and his fiance Nancy for an evening of drinks and lies. Fueling up in the morning we were off to meet Lake Huron.
The trip through Detroit and under the Blue Water Bridge started to get my adrenaline going. I fished much of Lake Huron for years and now here we were, returning to familiar water from the Sea. It was exhilarating! Up the coast on our way to our next stop, Lexington, MI. we had another great day on the water. Well, most of it. The Lord has been with us this trip, giving us such joy in day after day of good weather. As we near Lexington however, the persistent East winds that followed us down Lake Erie are now on our starboard beam.
Our guests, Don and Mary retire below while we log the last hour to Lexington in a rolling beam sea that whips Shangri-La left and right wave after wave. Ducking into the marina with no reservation we’re told we may not have a slip as many boats are calling in, wanting to get off the lake. In Michigan, the state run harbors are about 50 miles apart. They are considered ‘harbor of refuge’ and cannot turn a boat away in ugly weather. We are assigned a slip, but told we may have to move or raft off inside the break wall if too many boats show up. As it turns out, we get to keep our place. For the next several hours we watch the lake churn up some serious waves. Reports are coming in they are reaching 5-7′ and more boats arrive. We watch the waves crash over the break wall and are thankful this harbor was here for us.
The weather stays blustery through the next day. We’ve planned 5 days to make the 4 day trip to Bay City, Mi. and now we’ve burned the extra one already. It turns out Lexington is a great stop. We enjoy fresh perch and walleye in a local diner, returning to the boat in time to find out we will have a front row seat for their fire works display. Unbelievably, the winds stall and the show does proceed. A perfect photo op for a great show right in front of us!
The next day dawns calm and we head out with no particular port in mind, hoping to get a good distance under the keel before day’s end. We pass by Harbor Beach and decide to make the turn over the tip of the thumb to Port Austin for the night. Anchoring in the harbor, Don and I launch the dink for some smallmouth bass fishing along the break wall. After catching some very nice smallies we head back to the mother ship to get ready for a quick trip into town. Port Austin, as we’ve seen so many times before, offers up a charming downtown an easy walk from the dink dock. With our bags of beverages and some fresh ice it’s back to the boat for dinner on the grill.
Our last day of this leg is the run from Port Austin to Bay City. It can be long or short, depending on whether one wants to challenge the Sand Point cut, or go out around Charity Island. I call the Tow Boat captain in Bay City and ask for his suggestion. “You can make the cut, the water’s high and with no wind you should be fine.” Should be fine – a phrase that rings like ‘trust me’ from the guy selling diamond rings sewn inside his coat outside Cobo Hall. Checking the charts and double checking the weather we decide to do the cut.
After all the angst about getting through it was just fine. Sand bar on one side, rocks on the other and a good 6 feet of water under us most of the way. We’re coming home now. Entering the Saginaw River at Bay City gives me goose bumps. I can’t even guess how many trips I’ve made out of this river in our 18′ runabout. Coming home in Shangri-La is an incredibly emotional moment for me. After a few miles of no wake zone, we make the turn into Wheeler Landing Marina and dock after another great day on a calm sea with amazing friends doing something Jan and I could only have dreamed of before now.
After a week visiting with my sons and grandson in Bay City – including a perfect Saturday afternoon anchored out at Boater’s Beach – we bid adieu to Saginaw Bay and headed north. Up North we call it in Michigan. That place where I spent so much of my free time for over 50 years. Where I learned to Eat Life.