Monday, September 17, 2007

Waves to the Left! Waves to the Right! Frankfort, MI Here We Come

Well, we finally made it out of Petoskey. A weather window opened on Saturday afternoon (September 15) so we dashed on down to Leland. The cruise out of Little Traverse Bay, south past Charlevoix, past the mouth of Grand Traverse Bay, then down to Leland was pretty uneventful. The waves were in the two to four foot range, which was manageable, and we hit Leland about 6:00 pm.

The marinas are now on "off-season" hours, but we had called ahead of time to get a slip assignment ("Oh, take anything between 1 and 11 that is open") and the shower/bathroom code.

A couple of people at the dock helped us with lines and we settled in for the evening. Leland was a spot that we couldn't get internet, so we got up early and went over to the Stone House Bakery Cafe for their baked goods (yum!), coffee and to use their wi-fi for a weather forecast.

The weather looked like it would be good for a travel day down to Frankfort: 1 to 3 foot waves, with 2 to 4 footers in some places, but easily do-able. Another good sign was several other boats leaving when Bernie finished her run (she didn't get lost this time!) We left Leland at 10:30 for an "easy four hour cruise" to Frankfort.

Now, you'll notice from the last leg in the map that our path to Frankfort wasn't exactly straight. No, Phil and Bernie weren't fighting over who was going to drive. And, no, Bernie didn't find a cute magnet that she thought would look great on the compass. And, no, we certainly haven't traded Meridian in for a sail boat. But, upon reaching Sleeping Bear Point, the waves got so bad we had to tack back and forth in order to avoid hitting the waves head-on. Or, more accurately, being hit by the waves head-on.

You'll also notice that some of the photographs in this blog are pretty crooked. No, Bernie isn't getting sloppy with her photography. It's just that, with those monster waves (at least they felt that way), she didn't often have a chance to hold the camera level. But, she sure kept telling Phil to hold the boat steady when she wanted to take a picture. He just looked at her funny when she asked that. Basically, you're seeing the world the way we were seeing it that day. Except, of course, the camera lens doesn't really do justice to the waves. They were MUCH larger than they appear in these pictures.

The waves were so bad at Sleeping Bear Point that we had to slow down to between five and six knots in order to keep the bow from slamming. But that just made it worse, because it felt like we would NEVER make it around the point and into the relative calm behind Point Betsie. And we definitely didn't want our little four hour cruise to turn into eight hours in this mess. While Sleeping Bear Dunes is very scenic, we got pretty tired of staring at that big sand dune while the boat was going up, down, left and right - pretty much every way except in a straight forward line. (Phil thought it was pretty funny to say "Look! There's Sleeping Bear Dunes" every 10 minutes. That's when he started getting the funny looks.)

Here's a photo of the typical waves we were seeing. Now, the photo doesn't really do them justice. And it certainly doesn't capture the adrenaline and nervousness (somewhere between fright and terror) we were feeling. OK, seriously, we never felt in danger, but we were definitely concerned about what it would be like if the waves got any worse - even just a little.

Eventually, we made it around Sleeping Bear. We stuck close to the coast hoping to take advantage of the calm waters by staying behind Point Betsie in Platte Bay (the waves were coming from the south). Luckily, it did calm down enough (only four or five footers here) that, combined with our slight change in direction, we could start making seven or eight knots in some semblance of comfort.

This is where we saw a really interesting sight. About half way between Sleeping Bear Point and Point Betsie is something called Empire Bluffs. All you Chicagoans probably won't be surprised to see that it has a big phone number on the side. You may have to click on the photo in order to see it.

The Platte Bay calm couldn't last forever though. We eventually had to deal with Point Betsie, where we'd feel the full fury of the south winds, and the waves they were creating. About the only positive aspect of this was we knew that Frankfort was only about five miles south of the Point.

And as we reached Point Betsie, the waves definitely got worse. Phil told Bernie to wait for a calm period so she could take a better picture. She must have been paying attention to those funny looks he gave her earlier, because she seemed to be pretty good at giving them too.

And that's when we saw an amazing sight. There were four wind surfers and a kite boarder out in the lake at Point Betsie. Here we were on a 41 foot motor yacht getting knocked all over the place - and there was a sailboat behind us not faring any better - and this guy was out there having the time of his life.

After making it around Point Betsie, we saw - off in the distance - the most wonderful sight of the day. The entrance to Frankfort! Bernie was a little skeptical because, earlier, Phil had pointed to the Point Betsie Light and proclaimed it to be the entrance to Frankfort (I was just trying to keep Bernie's spirits up. Yeah, she didn't fall for that one either). But this really was the Frankfort entrance. And it couldn't come soon enough, as the waves were still getting larger. And, as you can see from the camera angles, Bernie had started hitting the rum in order to deal with the waves.

Frankfort has a large outer breakwater system, with a wide entrance that makes it easier to enter during large waves. We were soon in the safety of calm waters.

A few minutes later, we were in our slip. The "four hour" cruise took us six hours. From the tranquil look of things, you would never have known what we had been through. However, after speaking to the other boaters who came in that afternoon, we found out we weren't alone in our ordeal - everyone was talking about those "one to three foot waves" that apparently took a second helping of Wheaties that morning. In fact, the first words Phil heard from one of the boaters was "You guys came from Leland? Boy, you must have been getting knocked around out there something fierce!"

We were lucky enough to find this drinking well located in the park across from the marina. Take a close look at the sign over it. Phil took a REALLY BIG drink -- then said "Let's go on to Ludington tonight".

Bernie's gotten really good with those funny looks.

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