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Arrival

Selkie with us in her slip at Straits State Harbor in Mackinaw City, Mi, Photo by cousin Ron Cooper

We entered the US after 6 weeks of crossing southern Ontario a few days ago.

Crossing the border between St. Joseph Island and Neebish Island was a seminal moment for us. We felt like it was coming home.

It really was coming home.

The people, water, terrain and scenery were the same. The difference was the flags flying in front of cottages along the waterways.

The check-in with US Customs and Border Patrol was on line (once we found cell service), and required a 5 minute phone call to confirm a couple of details of our boat and our crossing. If only traveling through airport customs was so easy.

We anchored in the St. Mary’s River and did a little housecleaning, getting Selkie presentable for the relatives we would see the next morning. 

It’s not that we let Selkie go, but as anyone knows, when you live in a house or apartment, there is always dust that accumulates, and dishes to be washed, and just general living debris that accumulates. So, we cleaned up.

The next morning, we moved Selkie to an anchorage very close to my uncle’s and aunt’s home. They invited us for breakfast.

That was the first time we’ve been in someone’s land home since we started the Loop on May 12.

My aunt and uncle served a great breakfast, and we sat on their deck above the St. Mary’s River overlooking the river with boats going by. As always, stories were told.

We gave them a tour of Selkie, and then headed off to complete this year’s part of the Loop.

Family time is the best time

We headed to Cedarville in the Les Cheneaux Islands on the northern shore of Lake Huron in the UP (pronounced “yoo pē”, not “up”) of Michigan.

My mom’s family had been in Cedarville on and off all my life, including the fishcamp my grandfather had on the northeast side of Big Lasalle Island.

I have many fond memories there, including the cabin that Libbie and I honeymooned in for a few days.

As we left, my uncle texted me, “You have a friend about 6 miles back following you out.”

He was referring to a freighter that was coming down the river from the locks in Sault Ste. Marie that we would have to make room for as the freighter passed us.

Typical Great Lakes freighter. Some are more than 1,000 feet long

I looked up the AIS who it was coming down (it was a big tug/barge coming through).

I noticed one of my favorite freighters, the 70 year old Arthur M Anderson, heading north towards Lake Superior on the other side of Neebish Island.

The Arthur M Anderson, the freighter that had a visual sighting of the Edmund Fitzgerald when she sank in Lake Superior in the mid 1970’s

You may recall the song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot.  One of the lines in the song goes, “… and later that night, when her lights went out of sight, came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

It was the Anderson that had the Fitzgerald’s light in sight when she went under that cold stormy night on Lake Superior over 45 years ago, only about 100 miles away from where we were now.

The thought still gives me chills when I see the Anderson or think about her.

Several freighters passed us that morning.

An ocean going bulk carrier
A Great Lakes bulk carrier

We entered the mouth of the St. Mary’s and anchored for a lunch break.  The winds had been strong, but were forecasted to die down. 

We picked up anchor, and headed out onto Lake Huron, turning right and heading towards Cedarville.

The winds did not die down, and in fact picked up, along with the waves. We decided to run for cover in a bay we’d passed, St. Vital Bay.

It proved to be a good anchorage, except for the waves coming around the point, causing us to roll all afternoon and evening. Sleep was not the easiest, but we got through the night.

Thunderstorms at sunset from our anchorage

The next morning, we decided to forgo Cedarville and just head to Mackinaw City. We had made reservations in Straits State Harbor for a month while we were in Mackinaw.

Sunrise next morning, photo by Libbie

We were disappointed we could not make it to the Les Cheneauxs. However, the weather was not proving to be very cooperative based on the forecasts we were receiving, so we decided to bypass the islands for now.

Our course towards Mackinaw City

We also felt pressure to get in, as the Chicago to Mackinac Yacht Race had the boats scheduled to depart that Saturday, and slips were few and far between. 

A herd of sailboats was headed our way in the first wave, with many more ready to leave Chicago

We headed out onto a much calmer Lake Huron, accompanied by the Edwin Gott, one of the bigger ore carriers on the Great Lakes. The Gott is one of the “thousand footers”, freighters constructed to just fit inside the locks in Sault Ste. Marie between Lakes Superior and Huron.

Then we ran into fog. 

I could see the Gott as a huge smudge on the radar. I turned Selkie to be behind the stern of the Gott to not put us in a position to be run over.

We ran like that for about ten minutes, and then the fog cleared. There was the Gott, less than a half mile away from us. We turned parallel to her as she was going our way and let her pass us.

Once we passed a couple of reefs and their associated lighthouses, we put the nose of Selkie on “The Cut”, the passage between Mackinac Island and Round Island. 

We were on our way home. 

Libbie at the helm on the way to Mackinaw, with an audiobook.

As we came into The Cut, a lot of memories flooded my mind.

The Cut

The time I swam in the Grand Hotel swimming pool and then raided the lobby of the hotel for snacks before heading back to Mackinaw on the ferry (it’s because of kids like me that the Grand Hotel now charges $10 to just visit the hotel grounds).

The Grand Hotel

The times we biked around the island.

Good times at the Pink Pony, right by the ferry docks.

Being a deck-hand in the late 1970’s on one of the ferries, the Straits of Mackinac II. That same ferry was the night boat when the regular night boat broke down. We were running the regular schedule starting at 7am seven days a week, but then we continued our shift through midnight as the last boat back.

One of my best memories was sitting at the Island House bar drinking tea and having a song dedicated to “The Nightboat Crew” before heading back to the ferry to get her ready to return one last time that evening to the mainland. That’s the only time anyone has ever dedicated a song in my honor.

The best memory was walking back to the ferry one starlit evening past the private yacht harbor, listening to a phenomenal trumpeter quietly playing jazz on the transom of his yacht.

The music echoed across the harbor under the stars.

It was awesome.

It was Herb Albert.

Round Island Lighthouse at the east side of The Cut.

We continued and put Selkie’s nose on Mackinaw City, her home for the next month, but where I’ve considered home for most of my life, and where I’ve spent at least part of the summers of my life for all my life.

As we rounded the breakwater entrance to Straits State Harbor, I could see a familiar form waving at us and taking pictures. It was my cousin, capturing the moment of us wrapping up this part of our trip.

Selkie, arriving. Photo by cousin Ron Cooper
Selkie making her entrance into Mackinaw City. Video by cousin Ron Cooper

We docked, did our arrival routine, and got Selkie ready for a well deserved rest for the next month.

Then we went to the family cabin on our bikes to sleep on land beds the first time since we boarded Selkie on May 12.

We’ve been outside Mackinaw City in the family cabin for the past two days, reflecting on what we’ve accomplished on our trip so far.

We really did not know what we were in for, although we had an idea.

But the friendships we’ve developed, the beauty, the experiences in the waterways in the US and Canada, the skills we developed with Selkie moving, docking, anchoring and even just quietly and confidently communicating between the two of us about what to do when situations with Selkie got tense are elements of our trip we will never forget.

We plan to bring Selkie around occasionally and anchor her for the day off in the bay in front of our cabin.

We plan on taking her for a couple of weeks later in August down to Grand Traverse Bay to visit more family along the way.

But for now, we are going to enjoy the legacy my grandparents left us, our family cottage.

We have seen literally thousands of summer cottages in all shapes and sizes over the past two months.

But I like ours.

Our grandsons arrive in a week. They are the fifth generation living on our beach.

Me, on our family beach, taking it all in at sunset.
Our bay. I’ve enjoyed 64 years of this view. My hope is that my family can enjoy it for a long time.

I’ll continue to blog here about Selkie as we move her here on http://www.mvselkie.blog.

For now, I hope you enjoy this season as much as Libbie and I have.

By Tad Sheldon

I'm a retired Silicon Valley Technologist and Director. I teach skiing as a 4th (5th? 6th?) career for fun, and am passionate about Boating. I'm even more passionate about my family and friends. I volunteer occasionally for non-profit Boards, and currently serve as the Secretary of the Board for Western Division of the Professional Ski Instructors of America / American Association of Snowboard Instructors.

2 replies on “Arrival”

Has been great to follow along on this great adventure via the blog. And to check your progress on apps. Looking forward to being introduced to Silkie in person in awhile.

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