The plan to get off Lake Superior has us hopping across the south shore, from harbor to harbor. Some of the hops are pretty short, but we don’t want to skip one and then have the weather turn on us. We figure on 10 stops: 10 travel days, plus weather stops.
We left, as scheduled, on Wednesday morning, June 21, 2023 at around 8:05am. We had a nice send-off from dock neighbors, who also took some pictures of us leaving.
The trip the first day was 28 miles and took us to Saxon Harbor, Wisconsin. We are travelling around 9 miles per hour so that was a three hour trip. Saxon Harbor is a county run marina and campground. We stayed on a “wall”, as opposed to a “slip”. The wall was right beside the driveway to the boat ramp and small beach, so we had a lot of people walk and drive by. Several stopped to look at the boat. The “Tacoma, WA” hailing port is always a conversation starter!
It was here that we met a young man, Kyle, whose family owned this boat during his childhood. He was driving by and thought the boat looked very familiar. He stopped the car and asked what the previous name had been. When we told him, he got a huge grin and said, “We used to own this boat when I was a kid.” Their family spent a lot of time on the boat, so he enjoyed coming on board and feeling nostalgic.
From Saxon Harbor, we went 20 miles east to a semi-abandoned Forest Service park and harbor at Black River Harbor, Michigan. The recent literature was uncertain as to whether it is still open, and after being there I still am not really sure. The docks are there, but the electrical pedestals are not live. The indoor toilets are closed; fortunately there is one of the nicer Forest Service pit toilets on the property. The Forest Service maintains the grounds of a nice park and they collect the parking fees for the people who park there and walk to the nearby beach. But the boating side of things seems pretty shut down.
We were on a wooden dock wall that was kind of like a boardwalk with people strolling past. It was very green, with lots of mosquitoes.
The beach was pretty amazing. The driftwood is stacked into huge teepee cones. The beach sand and pebbles are dark brown, from the same type of stone that they quarried to make brownstone houses back in the day. It was in the 60-70 degree temperature range and many people were there escaping the heat inland.
Lake Superior was very calm that day. It made for a great cruise and for enjoying the natural beauty of the area.
The calm waters lasted all day and all night and even through our cruise the next morning, 40 miles to Ontonogan, Michigan. One of Ontonogan’s claim to fame is that it is the western-most point of the Eastern Time Zone. It is the beginning of copper country. There are/were many copper mines from there east across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
We stayed there in the Ontonogan Village Marina. A few years ago, they moved the bridge across the river from right in town to further upriver. The result is that there is no easy way to get to town from the marina, at least on foot as we were. But no problem, because we had provisioned quite well before we left. (Provisioning is a fancy word for grocery shopping! LOL)
There was an old lighthouse within walking distance, so we strolled over for a short tour before it closed. It had sat unused for 30+ years before it was given to the historical society along with a $100K grant to do some restoration. They stretched the money with volunteers and have done an amazing job with it. It is entirely volunteer run now.
The next morning we left very early, at 5:46am to make it to our next stop before the wind came up. It was foggy for the first hour and a half and we were very thankful for our Navionics navigation program which shows us where in the world we are and which direction we are travelling and the radar which lets us know what else is out on the water. Between those two, we were fine. It was nice that there were no fisherman or other boats out that morning.
In the fog, the protocol is to blow your horn two long blasts every two minutes. That is your way of letting others know you are there. Then you listen to see if anyone else is out there.
The seas stayed calmand clear until our next port, Hancock/Houghton, Michigan. The upper peninsula (UP) of Michigan has a smaller peninsula protruding north, the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Keweenaw Waterway cuts across the smaller peninsula. This waterway makes our way significantly shorter and less subject to big-lake waves. Hancock/Houghton are half-way through the peninsula. They are two separate towns on either side of the waterway.
We will stay in this port three or four nights until a storm passes by. We met a fellow looper whose boat is home ported here. He shared with us a good website for looking at wave heights. It looks like it might be 4 nights before the lake settles down enough for us. This new friend also let us use his truck to pick up a Walmart grocery order!
We were in Houghton over a Sunday, so we decided on a church to attend, Hope Fellowship. I sent them a message on Facebook and the pastor came and picked us up. Very kind. We lucked into a potluck after church! Lots of friendly folks, many of them boaters.
There is a very interesting lift bridge right outside the marina. There are two “decks”. It was historically used for both railroad and vehicles…trains on the bottom and cars on the top. Train service stopped in the 1980’s. Now, in the summer, it remains in the “up” position (about 32′ ft above the water) and cars travel on the lower deck, with the upper deck unused. If a tall boat comes along, they raise it further and the cars have to stop. In the winter, they lower the bridge; cars then travel on the upper deck and snowmobiles use the lower deck.
First Fuel Up
We had fueled up before we left Washburn and then fueled up here in Hancock again. We were looking forward to seeing what type of mileage we are getting. We are travelling at 1100 RPM on the engines, which gives us ~9 miles per hour.
We drove 142 miles and were able to take on 61 gallons. That means we got 2.34 miles per gallon on this first leg. Although that may sound atrocious compared to car mpg, for a boat this size it is very good. Anything over 1 mpg is good. Over 2 mpg is really encouraging.
Each day of travel we receive a report showing where we went, how fast we went and start/stop times. This same piece of equipment will allow you to see our location at any time. Just use this link (which is also in the sidebar of the blog…if you happen to be using a computer to view it). LINK