Friday, August 17, 2007

Any Port(age Lake) in a Storm . . .

It was a dark and stormy night … No, that’s not right …

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the Big Lake they call Gitchee Gumi … No, that’s not right either …

Oh we were tossing and turning … twisting and sliding … tossing and turning all night … That’s getting close.

OK – so we come back from the Manistee Historical Museum and listen to the weather forecast . One to three foot waves, gradually building to two to four, with ten to fifteen mph winds. We only had 37 miles to go . . . sounds doable. We unhook the water and electric, give a quick tour to an interested passer-by, release the lines, say “Ahoy” to the Manistee Riverwalk and head out the Manistee River.

Hmm! Why are all these boats coming in and we are the only ones going out? Must be the end of the early morning fishing cruise.

Yeah! That’s it.

No, that wasn’t it. The waves were much worse than one to three feet. They were also very steep and moving fast. Worst of all,
they were just going the wrong direction for us. The photograph doesn’t really do them justice. They were hitting us from behind, causing a really bad roller-coaster ride. Think Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride meets Six Flags’ Super Turbo Hurricane Smash. And to make matters worse, we would need to turn to port (the left) in order to complete the next leg of our journey – which would result in the waves hitting us almost broadside. Think “Weebles wobble … “ Very bad, very bad . . .

It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t spent the previous hour at the Manistee Historical Museum reading about shipwrecks! Thoughts of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Pere Marquette 18 and the Eastland fueled our over-active imaginations. Bernie readily put on the big orange life vest instead of the cute blue one she usually wears.

Although the plan was to go from Manistee to Frankfort, we went a whopping eight miles before yielding to Lake Michigan’s power and calling Portage Point Inn on Portage Lake. They had a slip, albeit without water or electricity. We took it without hesitating. We were only on Lake Michigan for less than an hour.

There aren’t any pictures of us entering Portage Lake because it was just too rough. The waves were pushing us towards the breakwall and the channel itself has a very small margin of error regarding depth. While this is all probably a no-brainer for experienced boaters – we’re not experienced boaters. When we finally got in and settled, it was a Pyrat Rum toast to Meridian for getting us in safely although we suspect she enjoyed surfing the waves. And, in all honesty, the surfing part was kind of fun. Or maybe that’s just the rum talking.

Anyway, Portage Point Inn was a nice refuge for us. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and has very helpful dockhands (thank you again, Eddy). Throughout the common areas are antique pictures of the “old days” when large cruise ships docked in the very same area that Meridian was tied up.

It’s a short walk to Lake Michigan (shorter if you are eating ice cream whilst walking). Marina guests are allowed to use all the facilities, which include Exercise Room, Indoor Pool, Hot Tub, Shuffleboard (?!?), Game Room, Wi-fi lounge, and can sign up for horseback riding, yoga, and other activities. It reminded us of the lodge that was featured in the movie “Dirty Dancing” (alright, it reminded Bernie of that lodge as Phil won’t admit to ever seeing that movie) or, perhaps, a mini-Mackinac.

We spent the afternoon reading, blogging (the two Manistee blogs), and recovering from our rough ride.

We only have one quibble with the Portage Point Inn. There was no differentiation in nightly charge ($1.50/foot/night) between the North Dock slips that we were on, which have no water or electricity, and the South Dock slips which do have electricity and water. We were lucky that we filled the water tank up in Manistee and have an inverter and generator to keep the refrigerator running.

We left Portage Lake early on Wednesday and decided to make a 60 mile run to Leland to take advantage of the good weather and small waves. But not before putting our lesson learned - do a visual of Lake Michigan to confirm the weather forecast – into practice. (Phil got to see wildlife – finally – a doe and fawn crossed the road in front of us on our walk to check out the wave activity on Lake Michigan.)

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