Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Two Perfect Days on South Manitou Island

On Sunday 6/22/2008 we headed out to South Manitou Island, a distance of about 30 miles from Frankfort. South Manitou is part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and there are no marinas - or any modern facilities - on the island. There is only a scenic crescent bay on the east side of the island that can be used for anchoring.

After our experience in Port Sheldon, Bernie was a more than a little apprehensive about anchoring overnight on an island about 15 miles from the nearest marina (Leland). And last year’s experience on South Manitou didn’t help. It had taken us a couple of tries to anchor due to a weedy bottom, the anchor line kept snarling on the way down, and then the generator wouldn’t work because, unknown to us, the intake was clogged with mud from Meridian’s stay on the Chicago river.

But we really wanted to see the ancient cedars that are on the west side of the island. It would be a long hike from the anchorage, so we left Frankfort early enough to get to South Manitou in time to anchor, hike to the cedars, and return that afternoon. We then planned to head over to Leland the next day.

As it turned out, our experience that first day (and the weather) was so good that Bernie suggested we stay in the anchorage for a second night. So we did. Here’s a description of those two perfect days on South Manitou Island.

The Trip Over

We left Frankfort early and the weather was beautiful - sunny, calm and perfect for being on Lake Michigan. During the trip over, we had several freighter sightings. Two passed by each other less than a mile away, then one of them crossed our bow about a quarter mile away. It seemed closer than it looks in the picture - we slowed Meridian down in order to give them plenty of room.

As we neared South Manitou, we got a pretty good view of an old ship wreck - the Morazan - which is off the southwest coast of the island. We would hike to it and see it from South Manitou later that day.

As we rounded the point and headed into the anchorage, we got a really good view of the old lighthouse.

We were the only boat in the anchorage, so we got to pick our spot. We chose the sand shelf that is about 2/3 of the way around the crescent from the lighthouse. We've had trouble with the windlass in the past - the anchor rode doesn't fall into the locker at a good angle and sometimes it kinks up and snags when trying to lower the anchor. However, we had earlier received some really good advice from the great folks at the Chris Craft Commander Club and everything went smoothly. However, after our experience at Port Sheldon, we were taking no chances. We set a second anchor for additional safety and to reduce swinging. Here's a photo of Meridian safely at anchor, with Pyramid Point (and some thunderclouds safely moving away in the opposite direction) in the background.

The Cedars

After becoming comfortable that Meridian was safely at anchor, we immediately rode into shore on the dinghy and began our hike. The cedars are some of the oldest and largest in Michigan - virgin Cedars that were never logged for timber back in the 1800s. They are on the opposite corner of the island, a hike of about nine miles round-trip, so we took plenty of water and snacks.

The hike was well worth it. It took us past many points of interest (that we'll describe in later sections). When we finally reached the cedars, the trail was a bit rough and a little buggy. But there were many photos taken - here's only a few . . .

The Shipwreck

On the trail to the cedars, there's a short turn-off that leads to an overlook where you get a good view of the wreck of the Morazan. The wreck is covered with cormorans and seagulls and looks very foreboding.

The Farms

There are a number of abandoned farms on South Manitou. We took a slight detour on our cedar tree hike to swing by the farms. A couple of them have been preserved pretty well, with many of the buildings still standing and farm implements scattered about. There are other sites on the island that we visited last year that contain ruins of old buildings that have fallen down. We didn't go to them this time, as the hike to the cedars was long enough.

The bottle tree . . .

After we returned from our cedar tree hike - which took about six hours - we relaxed on the aft deck of Meridian. We were fairly exhausted, but it had been a good day. This is when Bernie really surprised Phil by suggesting a second night at anchor. As it turned out, she had an ulterior motive. Yes, she was really enjoying South Manitou, but Phil later realized that staying here a second night just happened to place them in Leland while a Farmers Market would be in progress!

Hiking the Dunes

The next morning was extremely foggy in the anchorage, but it was expected to clear up by late morning. It did, so we took a hike along the crescent beach to the north side of the island. The walk took us through an area of dunes and led to a nice sandy beach.

Boats at Anchor

During both days and nights at anchor, the harbor was exceptionally calm. Other boats came and went, and the second night we were one of six boats spending the night. Here are a few photos of the anchorage . . .

Our favorite . . .

Various scenes

Here are some miscellaneous scenes from our stay at South Manitou

A loon making it's way through the anchorage. Not the best loon photo, but this was the first time either of us has actually seen one, so we were excited about it!

Florence Lake, in the center of South Manitou Island, which we passed on our hike to the cedars.

The crescent shaped beach that lines the anchorage. It's a sandy beach - sort of. The first ten feet or so is completely stone. Then the sand begins.

A view of Pyramid Point on the mainland.

After our two really excellent days on South Manitou, we hauled anchor and headed over to Leland on the morning of June 24 (Tuesday).


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great pictures of your stay on South Manitou. I was over their for four days earlier in June helping restore the Jenk's cottage in the village. My great grandparents, Aaron and Julia Sheridan, were the lighthouse keepers there from 1866 to 1878, when they drowned in a storm coming back to the island from Glen Arbor in March of 1878. South Manitou is just the best place there is.-- Steve Sheridan

bonnie jean said...

Hello, Thanks for the memories. my grandfather John K. Tobin was a lighthouse keeper on the island. my great great grandfather George Hutzler was one of the first farmers. My grandmother owned the General store, & was the post mistress. I attended the one room schoolhouse in 1042. Blessings, Bonnie Bellmer

bonnie jean said...

A correction. I attended the school in 1942. Sorry about that. Bonnie

John Cauffiel said...

Thank you so much for this post. We are thinking about taking our boat there this summer and overnight. The info on the anchorage helped.