Lionheart Cruise: Drummond Island to Peoria, Illinois


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It has been longer than usual between web page postings because this leg of our trip was like a summer vacation.  From the time we reentered the USA at Drummond Island, Michigan, on August 10, until we exited Lake Michigan on September 5, we were either cruising or enjoying the sites of the Great Lakes area, leaving little time for trip reporting.

First of all, arriving back in the US is always a good feeling for us Americans, and the islands of Michigan are truly beautiful.  We stopped for our first night in DeTour Village, Michigan.  It is a rustic little resort town that is truly a long way from anywhere.  There is a ferry that goes between islands as well as bridges, but this area is remote and sparsely populated.  In the summer it is sunny and Lake Michigan is usually calm.  However, it is subject to big winds which change the lake conditions very quickly.  This makes listening to the old weather report key in getting from island to island, or port to port, without a rough ride.

The Great Lakes (in descending geographical order) consist of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  They cover a surface area of 94,676 square miles (roughly the size of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined).  The shore line of the lakes extend for more than 10,000 miles (about equal to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US).  Lake Michigan alone is bounded by 3,200 miles of coastline and that is where we spent most of our Great Lakes time.  We had crossed Lake Ontario (50 miles) from New York to Canada in June.  While in Georgian Bay and the North Channel we were in Lake Huron.  We did not enter Lake Erie or Lake Superior because we just did not have time in one summer season to do so.  From the beginning of the industrial revolution in the US, the cities on the shores of the Great Lakes pumped industrial waste and all manner of waste directly into the lakes.  By the 1950's the lakes were terribly polluted and the fishery was imperiled.  A huge cleanup effort has been underway for 50 years and it has paid off.  The Great Lakes are now clean and pure.  There is no dumping from pleasure craft, industry, or cities.  Much of the lakeside industry has been replaced by small craft harbor waterfronts, towns have been refurbished and face these harbors, and resort living abounds on Lake Michigan.

From DeTour Village we crossed the last part of Lake Huron and stopped at St. Ignace.  St. Ignace is the town on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge which crosses the Straits of Mackinac.  We planned to reprovision here but learned that the store was up the hill which is always a transportation problem when you don't have a car.  The Captain was undaunted:  He attached our dock cart to his bicycle and pedaled off to get supplies.  This was a most unusual contraption and I am sorry I did not get a photo.  We celebrated the Captain's birthday on August 11 at the dock in St. Ignace with our friends on Why Knot.  We had a lovely lamb roast in honor of the Captain and in honor of the lamb roast that had inadvertently gotten pitched overboard by the Captain of Why Knot earlier in the summer (but that's another story).

We had not intended to visit Mackinac Island, which is just across the way from St. Ignace, because we had understood that it was impossible to get a dock there in the summer, and that the anchorage was a real rocking and rolling situation.  We heard from other boaters that both rumors were wrong, so we went to Mackinac Island and spent 3 lovely days at the dock.  This is a picturesque town with no cars allowed.  One gets around by foot, bike, or horse.  We visited all the sites, including Fort Mackinac on top of the hill, and a bike ride around the entire island which is only 8 miles.  The Grand Hotel is located in Mackinac and there are many beautiful old mansions that date back over 100 years.  The good news is that these have all been maintained and are surrounded by beautiful flowers, trees and landscaping.  Two of the 3 days we spent in Mackinac were really windy and no pleasure boats came or left during that time.  We could see from the fort how rough the water outside the harbor actually was.

On August 16, the wind had died and the Straits beckoned.  We crossed the Straits of Mackinac going under the Mackinac Bridge, which is one of the modern world's engineering wonders, and headed for Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.  It was a lovely calm ride and the town of St. James Bay was another sleepy hamlet.  Walking down the main street only takes a few minutes unless you stop in to see the old fellow who makes handmade wooden lake dories and canoes.  He has several on display and they are truly works of art.  Looks like he pays the rent by making wooden flower planters.  There is also a toy museum featuring lots of really old toy trucks, an artist's studio and a maritime museum.  There are lots of insects in the evening so the old AC comes in real handy to keep the bug bites down.

The next night we headed south in Lake Michigan to Charlevoix which is on the east coast of the lower peninsula of Michigan, south of Grand Traverse Bay.  Charlevoix is a lovely little town that seems to have cornered the bright summer flower market.  However, as we moved down the coast from harbor town to harbor town, we discovered that Michigan in general seems has wonderful summer flowers which are a delight to the eye.  These towns also offer clothes, antiques, restaurants and ice cream shops in wild profusion.  In keeping with our plan NOT to gain 100 pounds on this adventure, we managed to eat aboard most nights and skipped all the ice cream shops.  Thus we passed August in the ports of Leland, Frankfort, Ludington, Muskegon, Grand Haven, Holland and Benton Harbor.  A highlight of the trip came in Muskegon where we finally met Dr. Robert Van Gemert and his lovely wife Marne.  Robert is not a known Van Gemert relation but he is a dentist who owns a DeFeever boat.  He and the Captain met through the internet based upon the DeFeever Cruisers Association and they have been in touch for several years.  Dr. Bob had provided a wealth of information on Great Lakes cruising and we enjoyed our evening with them on Lionheart very much.  Then, of course, we went with him to his marina where we got to see his pride and joy, Tusen Takk, a DeFeever 41 that he has totally restored with all the precision of a dentist and love of a sailor.  It's a beauty.  Hope to see them in the future in the Caribbean where they have a home.

By the time we reached Holland, Michigan, on August 25, the situation with the Captain's knee had really taken a turn for the worse.  In July in Canada he had been suffering from a bursitis in the knee which was really painful and looked like a giant Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer nose right there on his knee.  It had improved but not gone away.  Then he whacked it by accident and it really flared up with a big blood blister on top of the red knob.  As we were checking into the marina in Holland, the Captain asked about the location of the emergency hospital facility.  My ears pricked up because I didn't know he was hurting enough to go to the doctor.  He had actually been threatening to operate on it himself for weeks.  Long story short, we rode our bikes about 8 miles into the emergency room where they cleaned out the dead tissue caused by the swelling and packed it like you would a dry socket.  This procedure caused moi to feel quite faint and needing to lie down on the floor for the duration.  When we were both good to go, the Captain declined a taxi ride, and we rode our bikes (thank you very much!) into town to get the required medicine and then 8 miles back to the boat!  I was glad that Brother Bob Van Gemert, a physician, was due to join us in Chicago on the 31st just to see how this chapter in the knee saga would turn out.

On August 29, we left Benton Harbor, Michigan, and crossed Lake Michigan (about 50 miles) in rain and rough water.  About every 5 minutes we would hit a bad set of waves, which were on our aft quarter and coming from 2 directions.  Nikolas would find himself sliding off the pilothouse seat.  After resettling a number of times, he gave us a very stern look but he never gave up his lunch!  We arrived in Hammond, Indiana, by mid-afternoon in a pouring rain and tied up with no assistance from the marina staff, leaving moi looking like a drowned cat and in just about as good a mood.  My mood was not enhanced by the laundry facility which was about a mile from the dock.  All-in-all, the Captain and crew agreed that we needed a break from cruising and that we will probably be up for 3 not 5 years altogether!  I was already counting down to my first trip to California since leaving almost 11 months ago on this great adventure.  With the next day came the sun, a rental car and a visit to Costco in Merrill, Indiana, and then a visit with our friend Linda Tarrson in Chicago.  Overlooking the lake from her beautiful home on Lake Shore Drive on a sunny afternoon in Chicago, it is easy to forget those times when nothing seems to be going your way.  On the 31st, Bob and Laurie Van Gemert flew into O'Hare and joined us on Lionheart for Labor Day weekend.  They were on the boat last November when they joined us in Cabo San Lucas and got married aboard Lionheart.  We all had a blast touring in Chicago with sunny days and warm evenings.  We took the Architectural Boat Tour of Chicago (talk about a busman's holiday!), visited Navy Pier, shopped until we dropped on Michigan Avenue, drank at the 95th Floor, ate at Heaven on 7, and went to The Second City Comedy Show.  We also drove up to Kholer, Wisconsin, to visit a Van Gemert cousin, Chris (Conan) and her husband Keith Garnett.  He is a big game hunter and had an amazing collection of trophies from his world travels.  On September 4, the Van Gemerts went home to Colorado, and on Tuesday the 5th, we started our inland river travel.

We left Hammond Marina and traveled 2 miles to the mouth of the Calumet River at 9:30 AM.  The first lock in the system only raises you one foot.  The major purpose of this lock is to buffer Lake Michigan from the inhabitants of the river.  There is a great deal of barge traffic on the Calumet River and the Cal-Sag Canal.  We spent that night at the town dock wall in Joliet, Illinois, which is on the Des Plaines River.  The next day we were up at dawn to get to the next lock ahead of commercial traffic.  Alas, the tow boats and barges were already in action.  We waited 7 hours at the Brandon Road Lock (the Captain was not happy but he didn't throw a rod) before they locked through a flight of pleasure craft (called PCs by the lockmasters).  Therefore, we lost almost a day in our travel plans.  We also had a tense few moments in a narrow section at the Marseilles Canal where a tow boat captain told us to wait for him to pass in an area that was way too narrow for both of us.  If that situation comes up again, we will just turn around and flee!  We traveled 2 more days down the Illinois River to Peoria where we stayed at the Illinois Valley Yacht Club.  This was as close to St. Louis, Missouri ,( as we could get by boat in order for me to make my September 10 plane reservations from St. Louis to Los Angeles. )

We spent 2 days in Peoria getting me ready to take my first vacation from Lionheart in 11 months, and preparing for new crew in the person of our friend Karl House from Seattle who accompanied Richard for the next 2 weeks on the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, and Cumberland Rivers on his way to Nashville where I would return in 3 weeks.  We rented a car for the trip to St. Louis and had dinner at a fabulous Italian restaurant we had been to while in St. Louis with the Nolls on our Delta Queen paddle wheeler trip in 2001.  It was a miracle we found Curnettis because we couldn't remember the name.  The food made the hunt very worthwhile.

Since leaving Long Beach in October, 2005, we have traveled 9,984 miles, and we have been gone for 322 days.  It has been an adventure for sure!  The next leg of our journey will end in the Florida Keys in early December.  The Captain will then get his R&R in California and Colorado before we go heliskiing over the Christmas holidays.  For inquiring minds; the Captain's knee is almost healed (as far as we can tell by looking) and he should be good for the ski trip.

 NOTE TO READERS:  This segment begins a new photo format for our website.  While there are 4 more photos on this page (below) there is an additional page of photos which can be accessed here.  Let me know if you like it.  Nick is the last photo below.










Drummond Island Customs Entry to USA

THE stop sign in DeTour

Fast ferry from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island, passing in front of the Grand Hotel.  The plume is to make ferry visible, because they are so fast.

Mackinac Harbor and Fort on top of the hill.

Musket shooting demonstration at Fort Mackinac

Heading for the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge

Dr. Richard, Marne, and Dr. Bob Van Gemert in Muskegon

The Captain decides to get his knee fixed.

Bob and Laurie Van Gemert join us on an architectural cruise in the Chicago River.

A view of  Chicago and the Chicago Harbor from the top of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel.


Lionheart crew meets Chris Conan Garnett and Keith Garnett   and Mr. Lion in Kholer, Wisconsin.   Shhhh! We never showed this to Nikolas.

Entering the Cal-Sag Canal in Hammond, Indiana

Docked in downtown Joliet, Illinois

Deer in the Illinois River.

Nick takes the river system lying down.  It's his kind of cruising.