August 25 thru 31

August 25-Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, MI

It was a cool morning of 61 degrees, but sunny. We had breakfast and then walked up to the railroad tracks to lay some coins down. Did you ever do that when you were a kid? It’s pretty cool. Bob taped 3 coins to the tracks and then waited for the trains.

We were lucky. We didn’t have to wait long.

We found two of them, flattened like a pancake, but we couldn’t find the penny. The dime was so flat you couldn’t see any of the details on it at all. After that excitement, I worked on the blog and emails and Bob adjusted our movable fender track on the boat. We took a dinghy ride down the northernmost arm of the river to find the River Island Bar and Grill. It was barely there and there was no place to dock the dinghy so we gave up. Next to it was a really cool boathouse and cottage though.

We passed a dredger going out and stopped and watched for awhile. On the way back, we ran into Bill and Mary Anne in their dinghy and so we decided to go for a beer at St. Joe’s Boathouse.

We sat there talking “boat talk” and sharing stories. We made plans to go out to dinner tonight at Clementine’s-across the river. We’ll meet at 6:00 and take a cab. Three boats doing the Great Loop came in to the marina today. One was from Sarasota, FL. I imagine we’ll see more and more of the Loopers in the next few weeks. Bob got some gas for the outboard motor once we got back. Later, I rode over to the beach on my bike and watched the boat traffic on the lake for an hour or so.

There wasn’t much happening, but the waves were really crashing on the shore.

We cleaned up and got ready to go to dinner. We met Bill and Mary Anne up at the office to wait for the cab that arrived 30 minutes late. It was the only cab company in town, so we had no choice. When the Advantage Cab arrived ( a van with the name written on the side and a seedy looking passenger in the front seat) we began to wonder, but we got to our destination in due time. The waitress at the restaurant laughed when we told her how we got there and informed us that the Advantage Cab office is a rundown shack that could get blown down in a strong wind and next to the office is a pool hall where the cab drivers hang out. No wonder it took them so long to get there! They had to finish their game of pool first. Our cab back to the marina arrived much quicker, so we got back around 8:30. Bill wanted to show us a little apparatus that they used in the locks on the river. He called it the “happy hooker”. What it is basically, is a stiff lasso to put around the bollards that move up and down with the water level in the locks. We had heard about it, but Bill was nice enough to give us some rubber hose to make one for ourselves. It will come in really handy. We sat and had an after-dinner drink on the bridge of their boat and then retired early. We were both heading south tomorrow-they are going to Michigan City and we are headed to New Buffalo. We hope to meet again on the river or in Green Turtle Bay, Kentucky where they will be building a house.

August 26-St. Joseph, MI to New Buffalo, MI

It was a chilly morning of only 55 degrees until the sun rose above the trees and warmed things up. We got our holding tank pumped out and were on our way by 9:00. Bill, Mary Anne, and their dog, Kilby left about 8:00 so we waved our goodbyes and watched them leave.

We headed out of the breakwater and were on our way south. The seas were under 1′ and the wind was 5-10 mph. It was a smooth ride and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We passed the three other trawlers that left our marina 40 minutes earlier than we did. Bill and Mary Anne left an hour earlier than we did and we passed them shortly before reaching New Buffalo. You could see the smokestacks of Michigan City in the distance. It’s kind of exciting to see the southern end of Lake Michigan. The sunlight glistened on the water as we neared the New Buffalo breakwater.

We entered the channel at 10:00 after finally getting someone to answer the radio at the marina office. We had made a reservation on the Michigan Reservation System and were told to take slip #22.

People came over to ask us about conditions on the lake. After yesterday’s winds, many people were anxious to leave. We met more people doing the Loop. There was even a couple from the Netherlands who had gotten their boat here somehow to do the Great Loop. We settled in and took a walk into town to check out the grocery store and all the other shops as well.

This little town has some nice restaurants and stores. We stopped in the Dollar Store and liquor store and then came back to the boat to relax. We enjoyed the quiet of the day and watched boaters coming and going from the marina from the back of the boat.

We can watch people on their way to and from the beach as they cross the bridge. It was a laid back kind of day. We had a later dinner, eating out back in the cockpit, watching the people streaming to the beach to wait for the sunset. The winds totally calmed off and it was a great day. (We did some research on New Buffalo and found out that New Buffalo is the southwestern gateway to Michigan and the capital of Harbor Country. Harbor Country is the designation for the southwestern portion of Berrien County. The harbor boasts the largest number of slips on the coast at 1, 100. There is a public beach, riverside park and the marina. The main street, Whittaker, is named after the captain, who lost his sailing vessel on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1835, and founded the town of New Buffalo, after Buffalo, NY where he sailed from.)

August 27-New Buffalo, MI

It was a cool morning, breezy and sunny so it warmed up quickly. Bob did some reading on the river trip information and I checked emails. We worked on a few boat projects until noon. Bob cleaned out the shower sump (ich!), made a “happy hooker” for going through the locks, and remeasured the height of the boat for going under some bridges on the river. I did some ironing and brushed Murphy’s teeth which he wasn’t too happy about. He had to take a break after that.

After lunch we took a dinghy ride, with me at the helm, around the marinas and condos in the area.

There were some very interesting housing arrangements.

We have been monitoring the times the trains come through town (at 60 mph) so we can be up at the RR crossing to see one go by, up close and personal. They are truly amazing! Tomorrow we’ll see if we can be quick enough to meet a train. We sat on the bow of the boat when the sun disappeared from the cockpit and listened to music until supper. Bob grilled dinner and we ate supper watching a DVD. There was a nice breeze blowing all day and boats were coming and going. It was about 83 degrees and very pleasant. We took a walk after supper and just enjoyed the rest of the evening watching some TV. The day went by really fast.

Cute boat name #26 (for Tim)

August 28-New Buffalo, MI

It was kind of a hazy day with rain in the forecast, but not until later in the day. I did some wash in the morning, while Bob did some business on the Internet. We literally ran up to the train tracks (less than a block away) to see the 11:00 Amtrak buzz by. We heard it’s whistle faintly in the distance and then louder as it approached….and then we ran.

There were about 8 cars in the train, but it goes by so fast, it’s hard to count. Bob sent out an email to Amtrak this morning, asking them how fast it travels through New Buffalo. I guess you could say we are a little obsessed with the whole idea. It’s truly gone in a flash! He got an answer to his email–it travels at 70-80 miles an hour. Wow! That’s really something! We decided to take a bike ride around town after lunch. We explored the condo developments along the water and then rode south through the residential area of the edge of town. Then we rode east to the Chamber of Commerce and Railroad Museum and back north to the beach.

It was kind of an overcast day and as we were finishing our ride it began to sprinkle. Nothing much, just a drop here and there. We discovered a couple of cool restaurants and additional stores to poke around in. There was an open house for a condo development near the marina that intrigued us, so we stopped in to take a look. It was a narrow 3 story, 3 bedroom, 21/2 bath, 1,450 square foot condo with 5 balconies and lots of stairs. There was a heated 2 car garage, as well, all for the low price of $465,000. Unbelievable! We asked the realtor why there are so many condos in New Buffalo. She said it’s mainly people from Chicago looking for a weekend retreat. I believe it! Before dinner the sun came out and the lake calmed off like glass. We took a dinghy ride south along the shore. Oh my gosh! One house was bigger than the next! There is definitely Chicago money around here. We must have gone 2 miles south and a mile north and all along the coast we saw huge mansions. I would never have thought! We grilled dinner and relaxed sitting in the cockpit. We took Murphy for his evening walk and watched TV after dinner. It rained a little before we went to bed and we listened to the rain on the hatch as we fell asleep.

August 29-New Buffalo, MI-Michigan City, IN

Bob woke up early and I laid in bed reading awhile. I got up and Bob went to pay the dockhand (Bob called him “Skippy”) for another day of dockage. He returned to inform me that Skippy gave our slip to someone else and we would have to leave!! OH..MY…GOD! (Well, let me tell you a little about Skippy. He only speaks in one word sentences, cannot carry on a conversation, and is basically no help whatsoever. He came to work late and left early and never answered the radio when people called for help.) Bob was irate and had a few choice words for Skippy and his boss. Skippy kept telling Bob that we could stay for the weekend when he went in to pay every morning so obviously someone screwed up and we LOSE! So we took our grocery list and made a mad dash to the grocery store, spent 30 minutes speed shopping, and returned to the boat pushing our groceries in a shopping cart down the street. We checked the weather and the wind was NW 5-15 mph, waves 2-5′. Yikes! We called the next marina south and didn’t get an answer. Where would we go in these conditions? (Blood pressure rising) Meanwhile, we kept preparing the boat to leave. Finally we got through to Michigan City marina and they had a spot for us. Now we had to deal with the lake! We pulled out of the slip at 10:00. The waves were 2-3′ with an occasional 4 footer on the stern quarter. (Blood pressure rising) It was a short 8.6 miles and we were there in 45 minutes. The ride was a little tipsy-turvy. The opening to the channel was wide, but the actual marina opening was narrow.

From the entrance you could see the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore with all its sand dunes.

It is 18 miles long and features wooded hiking trails and beautiful beaches. You will find Mount Baldy there, a 123 foot tall “living” sand dune that actually moves south 4 to 5 feet each year. As we entered the marina entrance, we blew the horn to warn anyone that was coming out, that we were coming in. We found slip #204 down near the gas dock and office. The dockhand helped us get into our slip since the winds were blowing us away from the dock and we got in safely. We tied up, registered, and were so glad to be here… anywhere. (Blood pressure returning to normal) This is a picture from our slip.

This marina is huge with about 600+ boats docking here and almost every slip is filled.

It just so happens that Michigan City is having a Labor Daze Festival this weekend with 3 stages of entertainment, arts and crafts, food, and rides. A very tense situation turned out all right in the end. Maybe Skippy did us a favor after all. We had lunch and took a bike ride to explore the city. First we rode over to the festival grounds to see what they had and then to the zoo. Maybe we’ll check out the zoo tomorrow. We rode across the blue bridge to check out the three restaurants in the vicinity.

One was Galveston Steakhouse, another was Swingbelly’s in an old train depot building, and the last one was Matey’s Restaurant, where we stopped for a beer on the third story tiki bar.

For our boating friends, we saw this sign that tickled our funny bone.

We passed Millennium Plaza on our way back, which had a cool fountain along the river.

We understand that there is a tri-state regatta taking place here this weekend where lots of sailboats will come to tie up on this river wall after the race. There was a welcome sign for all of the boaters hanging on the river wall.

There’s also a nuclear power plant here and we appear to be at “ground zero” if there should be an explosion. We’ll be the ones glowing in the dark. (Just kidding!)

We also discovered a restaurant at the defunct Michigan City Yacht Club building and a Dockside Cafe serving breakfast and sandwiches right in the marina parking lot. We’ll treat ourselves to dinner out tonight and maybe breakfast this weekend sometime. There’s a big Labor Day sale at the Lighthouse Place Outlet Mall near the marina that we might check out. We sat on the bridge of the boat after our ride and watched the action at the gas dock. As Tim would say, “You can’t fix stupid!” There was a lot of poor driving to watch. The Coast Guard at the marina were doing some “Navy exercises” for some high school kids for the day. They were taking them out on their motor life boat and letting them drive. That was pretty exciting to watch.

After all the excitement ended, we cleaned up and took an easy walk to Galveston Restaurant for a great dinner. We came back to the boat to get a jacket and walked through Washington Park to the festival grounds to hear the music. We heard a pretty good group called the Boogie Men who did rock and roll. We had a beer under the music tent and watched the sunset making bands of orange and yellow in the sky. It was gorgeous! We took a slow walk back to the boat looking for Mars in the sky near the moon. At the end of August, Mars is supposed to be closer to the moon now than it will be in the next 50 years so it should appear very large. The moon wasn’t out yet, so we will have to check again tomorrow night. We got back and took Murphy for his final walk. I worked on the blog a little and watched some TV before we went to bed.

Cool boat name #27

August 30-Michigan City, IN

We had breakfast and I worked on the blog. It was a warm, sunny day with a forecast for the mid to upper 80’s. The humidity is up too. We made a few phone calls home before taking a bike ride to the outlet mall. We wanted to check it out before it got too hot. We rode around there, but didn’t stop to buy anything.

We rode farther into town to see what was around and then back to the boat as the heat of the day started to take over. It was getting so hot, we decided to take a dinghy ride down the river as far as we could go. I was at the helm to get more practice throughout the marina and down the river.

We passed a huge floating casino and marinas all along the way. The casino was built as a boat so it could operate in the state of Indiana. It floats but is permanently afixed to land. There is a captain and boat staff on board as well. They used to drive it away from the dock about 5 feet to be legal and then they worked out some deal with the state so they can stay where they are and just start up the engines daily.

Bob drove us out onto the lake and down the shoreline toward Mt. Baldy, the sand dune in this picture. The little specks are the people trying to climb it and that isn’t even the tallest section.

We dropped our dinghy anchor offshore (because you can’t beach anything on the National Shoreline) and waded onto the beach.

I thought the water was a nice temperature, but Bob thought it was cold. We walked along the beach for a ways. Boats were anchoring offshore and people were climbing the dunes. It was a beautiful day to be on the water. On the way back, we saw the Coast Guard out with their big boat checking jet skiers and other boats.

Back at our boat, the shade had overtaken the cockpit so we relaxed watching the boat crashes (oops, I mean traffic) at the gas dock. We’ve seen a lot more ladies driving the big boats with the men handling the lines. Go ladies! Some people were doing a dinghy scavenger hunt and came by and asked us for a few items: a white ladle (we had blue and black), a cocktail onion (we had olives and cherries), and a 1999 flair ( we had flairs from ’96, ’07, ’08, ’10). We weren’t much help! We took a walk on the docks and over to the festival grounds to see what was going on. It was really hot to be out in the sun so we came back to the boat. Bob took a nap….

and I worked on the Internet (and maybe dozed off a little too.) We cleaned up before dinner and just relaxed in the AC. It was really hot today and the sun got the best of us. We had dinner and watched a little TV before going over to the festival grounds at night to listen to a group called Eight Days a Week-a Beatles Triibute band. They were fantastic and even dressed the part. The crowd really got into it. We sat with our dock neighbors and their friends and had a great time. We walked back to the boat under the starry sky and still saw no moon. We took Murphy for his last walk and went to bed.

Cool boat names # 28, 29

You can probably guess what the big boat is called. We saw another name. See if you can figure out what it says: DABOTOVUS.

August 31-Michigan City, IN

Today there is a predicted high of 90 degrees. It is already warm and sunny. We paid some bills via the Internet and checked the status of Gustav and Hanna out in the Gulf and Atlantic. Gustav doesn’t pose to be a threat to FL, but it’s too early to tell with Hanna. We took a long dinghy ride up the coast about 3 miles toward New Buffalo. We passed the public beach and it was full of people. Yesterday I guess some discharge from the river put bacteria in the water and the beaches were closed to swimming. The life guards put out the red flag to warn people about the situation. We didn’t know, but where we got in the water to swim yesterday was far down the coast and so it was not a concern. Today the white flag was out, so we stopped on a sandbar, not far from the shore, anchored, and went swimming. I thought it was very refreshing. As Bob put it, “refreshingly numbing”. The beaches all along the shore in front of the homes are private, so the only way to be legal when walking on the beach is to have one foot in the water and the other one on the beach. We just swam in the water near the dinghy. A lot of Michigan shoreline is like that and some people really give you the eyeball. We’ve heard stories where people take it to the extreme. While we dinghied along, we kept getting bothered by jet skiers who came too close to us and a conservation warden who kept going back and forth handing out citations and waking us as he went by. The water action outside the breakwater was chaotic, to say the least. The water was abuzz with activity and the marina was like a ghost town. Back at the boat, we got out of the sun. Sitting in the shade we nibbled on some snacks for lunch and then I headed off to see the zoo on my bike, while Bob watched the action at the fuel dock. It’s a a small local zoo with a limited number of animals.

In most cases, it’s just a male and a female of that species. They all seemed hot (as I was) and the majority were resting in the shade taking an afternoon nap. The most active were the Bengal tigers. When they weren’t pacing, they were laying down panting. One of the tigers was laying on the top of a ledge in a waterfall.

Now that looked refreshing! The zookeeper said it was getting close to feeding time at 3:30. I couldn’t stay for that, but it would have been interesting. I saw a car show going on in the park and lots of people picnicing as I rode back. I noticed an extreme difference in temperature as I got nearer to the water. The breeze was blowing and it was much cooler. Bob was napping, so I sat in the shade of the cockpit and read, hearing the music from the festival grounds in the distance. We cleaned up and walked over to the yacht club where the sailboats from the regatta were coming in. There were boats of all sizes that were tied up to the wall.

The Tri-State Regatta goes from Chicago (IL), to St. Joe’s (MI), to Michigan City (IN), and back to Chicago. We decided to go to Matey’s for dinner and sat on the tiki bar level. We walked back to the yacht club to see what was going on with the sailors.

There was a live band, so we bought a couple of beers and listened to the music for awhile. We watched the sunset from the marina. Another beautiful one creating an orange, red, and yellow sky.

Back at the boat, we watched the news about Gustav and then went to bed. As Bob said today, “It’s hard having day, after day, after day of sunshine. It wears you out!” I guess we better get used to it. Isn’t that what Florida is like?

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