Home Sweet Home

Since we talked last the Team Joy Girl trajectory was modified. After weeks of discussion and prayer we decided to return home to Colorado for the winter!

What?! Why?

Primarily, we both have parents in their 80’s (two are holding their own at 88) who we want to spend time with and provide assistance to. My folks are in Colorado and Craig’s Mom is in Chicago, so we can visit her easily.

Secondarily, Hurricanes Florence and Michael put a dent into our plans. After floating down the rivers we would hit the Florida Panhandle which is, of course, in emergency status. It’s unclear when the marinas down there will reopen, so other Loopers are stuck in a holding pattern in Tennessee and Kentucky right now.

Even if we made it past the horrible hurricane destruction, the sugar sand beaches of western Florida would not be waiting for us. The Red Tide temporarily ruined many of them to the point where our friends cancelled their Sarasota beach condo reservation because of the filth and stench.  And, we had hoped to spend a month on Bald Head Island, home of Cape Fear, in North Carolina this winter. That beautiful area still needs time to repair and rejuvenate after Florence.

And last but not least, this year we’ve read horror stories of boats damaged and even sunk (!) on the rivers. Tales of debris from flooding, shallow water, crashes with tow boats, added on top of our general disinterest in traveling the midwest rivers all worked together to help us decide to head home.

Since we decided to store Joy Girl “on the hard” so late in the season, EVERY marina we called was booked solid already. Thanks to a tip from our friends Tom and Julie Van Hall we lucked into a spot at North Shore Marina in Grand Haven, Michigan. North Shore was only able to accommodate us because of a cancellation that morning. Providence was with us.

So, off we went, back across Lake Mean-chigan. It was a tough two days of pitching and rolling – poor Scully got seasick both days. Thankfully, Grand Haven turned out to be a lovely spot with a fascinating mix of pretty beaches, sand dunes, Fall colors and coniferous trees, too.

During our three weeks in Grand Haven we had dinner with boater friends, celebrated both our birthdays and our 3rd wedding anniversary.

Unfortunately, after a week of great weather, Fall came upon us and it turned cloudy, cold and windy, with winds as high as 30 knots and waves up to 14 feet. No worries, we only watched them from ashore.

Winter is long on the Great Lakes so we won’t see Joy Girl again until next May. She’ll be hibernating in a heated storage unit and having some maintenance work done. We will miss her and our adventures but we’re sure this is the right thing to do during this season of our lives. We are now home in Colorado, enjoying the delightful weather!

We get a lot of questions about our favorite places, so look for our Top 10 Locations post coming up next to wrap up this segment of our adventure.

Pure Michigan

Did you know they call the western Michigan coast the “Riveria of the Midwest”? We had no idea this area was that beautiful. Craig always visualizes Detroit when he thinks of Michigan, but just like New York, these states are so much more than their famous cities.

Way up north, Mackinaw Island is surrounded by rocky beaches, but as you head south into Lake Michigan the beaches turn sandy. The water is still a breathtaking mix of aqua, sea green and bright blue, depending on how the sunlight hits it. For us girls, there are only tiny, clam-like shells to collect, including the zebra mussels that have cleaned the lake so thoroughly that it’s see-through 20 feet down. But there are multicolored rocks to sort through, including Petoskey Rocks that bear fossil markings from long ago.

The coastline is studded with delightful resort towns, each rightfully claiming a bit of fame, from Hemingway’s haunt in Petoskey to Sleeping Bear sand dunes near Frankfort.

The sunsets were stunning (!) and we were treated to fireworks right off the stern (back) of our boat in Charlevoix during their Venetian festival. There are more lovely towns south of Frankfort, but we’re saving them for another trip as we needed to head across the lake to Wisconsin, Craig’s adopted home state.

We’ve met some fantastic people along the way but there are no friends like old friends, so we were thrilled to have my wonderful college buddy Deb, and her husband Dave, aboard Joy Girl in Petoskey. We introduced them to anchoring out in Lake Charlevoix, strolled through gorgeous Harbor Springs, grilled, dined out and were not ready to see them go!

Biggest challenge on this leg of the trip: Lake Michigan. Home to approximately 2,000 ship wrecks, this beastie is enormous, unpredictable, and prone to squalls and wicked wind that can produce waves that range from uncomfortable to terrifying. Our days were filled with chart watching to identify the weather window when we could venture out without being tossed in the ocean-like swells and waves. We did make it across her, from Frankfort, Michigan to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in 7 hours without bodily or boat injury!

The good news: Michigan is usually the “lee” shore, meaning it typically gets blasted by winds from the west. Wisconsin is the “windward” shore, so it shouldn’t be as rough since the wind rolls over it, headed east. Here’s hoping!

Future Plans: We’ll slow down for the month of August and take our time cruising Door County, Wisconsin.

This peninsula is surrounded by Lake Michigan and the waters of Green Bay, and is well known for its quaint resort towns, beautiful sunsets, and thriving arts community including painters, musicians and excellent theater. As theater people, we’re excited to see a few good shows. In early September, we plan to leave Wisconsin with a big bang by attending the Green Bay Packers home opener against the Chicago Bears in Lambeau Field on 9/9. Go Pack Go!